Open Relationships and What I Mean When I Say That
It’s been an interesting couple of days over on Facebook where I recently did a review of my account settings. (If you’re my Facebook friend you can click over there and check it out.) I review settings from time to time because Facebook has sneaky ways of changing things when you aren’t looking. I realized that I had incorrectly posted my relationship status as “In a Relationship” instead of the correct iteration, “In an Open Relationship.” So I fixed it. I even caveated in the comments, saying, ” It was from the beginning. Just realized I didn’t have it on the right setting on here.” Well, let me tell you, in spite of my caveat, I got some expected and welcome replies that ranged from “What does ‘open relationship’ mean?” and “Define ‘open’ please.” to “Good for you!” and “SO happy for you!”
In contrast to that I had this little thread ensue as well:
JW: …and how will you feel if He drops the other shoe and ends your relationship? just a musing!
Me: We all risk that in every relationship
JW: …more or less…
Me: Not more or less. Absolutely we do.
J: You are correct, but I think in an “open relationship” it is more at risk because one or both parties can still “shop around”, so to speak and might think or discover the grass is greener.
K: Which never ever happens in traditional relationships. BRB laughing my butt off.
Me: It’s more about yes/and than it is either/or.
Me: I find there to be less risk.
J: I said I agreed with her. But if you are in a committed relationship, chances are, that if it ends, it is because one (or both) parties have come to the conclusion that this is not the situation they want to be in. (One is a slob, can’t manage money, does not equally contribute, or 1000 other reasons) At least that is what honest people with integrity would do. Not because they are attracted (or think they are) to someone else.
K: I think the biggest risk factor is whether the people are honest and have integrity, not the type of relationship or the label on it.
J2: Responses are fascinating.
And also this:
D: I get confused by that. If it’s open, is it even a relationship, or just a series of dates?
Me: In my case it’s very much a relationship.
D: I wish you nothing but happiness.
And in a separate comment thread another thoughtful friend shared her thoughts:
M: better than a “closed” relationship!!
M: or should I say, better than “open” but not with the other person [not] knowing, which is, unfortunately, the norm. Life is complicated and robust, and requires many shifts, turns, and deviations…staying open and nimble is not only very wise, it is simply honest.
I have to admit, I was genuinely surprised by some of the comments above, having been in open relationships since my separation in 2010 and subsequent divorce in 2011. It is so normal for me. And it’s mostly been genuinely amazing. I’m still great friends with most of them. And several of them we would still see each other if not for the logistic impediments of oceans, continents, time and money. We still talk on the phone, send messages to stay in touch and catch up. We say, “I love you.” And we mean it.
Enter my current situation. I met a truly lovely man online back in May. I really need to write our story down soon. It’s one for the history books. His very first line to me, “Wine and potato chips? Marry me!” And then he met me for “coffee” in Croatia. But I do digress. We did not plan to, but we fell quite deeply in love. I mean who plans these things anyway? We happen to live on different continents. I’m in Africa and he’s in Canada. It’s not so easy to just come over for dinner and a movie and snuggling on the sofa. (One of my favorite pastimes by the way.) And he is recently out of a very long marriage. These two factors alone make it nearly impossible to have a conventional, monogamous relationship. But I feel the need to say that even if we lived in the same city, we would wish to have an open relationship. Because that’s who we are. My love wants to be able to explore after so long in a miserable marriage. I respect that and would never consider asking him not to do so.
For my own part, I have zero desire to be in a strictly monogamous relationship. They don’t work for me. I think it is something about feeling like someone is trying to put a fence around me. DON’T FENCE ME IN! (I cannot help but see my mom imitating my uncle singing this when he was like 2 or something… “don’t pence me in.”) Lordy that’s a whole other post on its own right there! Anyway. If I even perceive that there might be a fence, I’m going to try and get out of it. I’ve been digging into the deeper “stuff” behind this for awhile and I think it comes down to this: I’ve been doing life my own way since 1967 (ask my mom) and I’m not about to stop now. Take your conventions and stuff every last one of them somewhere inconvenient to you.
Now before you go and get your feathers ruffled, here’s the real meat of the matter:
Let me explain how an open relationship is possible for me. Love. The real kind. The kind that is not based in fear. The kind that would never think to cling and grasp at another person. Respect. Deep respect for myself and for the people around me, for my needs and wants and for theirs.
These are the elements that make it possible and that for me make it a better option than some invisible fences like pieces of paper and mostly impossible to achieve vows of faithfulness for life.
We have some things that we do on a regular basis that permit us to have a beautiful, open relationship:
- We have from the beginning said that we will “let it be good.” This means staying out of our own way, remaining fully present with each other in the moment. This works incredibly well.
- We operate from the position of “Yes, And” and not either/or — from a position of inclusivity not exclusivity.
- If we need or want something we always ask and always try.
- We have committed to communicate in a loving way our wants and needs.
- We strive to do what is loose and natural, never forced.
And as I have meditated for years, I also use these breathing meditations. I use them for everything, not just remaining present in my romantic relationships, but in any moments when I need to return to mindfulness, to a position of love.
Breathing in, I see that I am clinging. Breathing out, I let go.
Breathing in, I expand myself. Breathing out I am love.
Let it be good, my friends.
I’d really love to hear your thoughts on open relationships. Please share!