Redefining “Open Relationships”
or An Essay on Mindful Freedom
Note: This is an “essay” I wrote in the beginning of my writing career, which was also the beginning of my journey into polyamory.
My partner and I have started an exciting experiment.
We decided to establish goals for our relationship: Support, Intimacy, Self Growth, Creativity, and Having an Amazing Life Everyday.
This means that we have created an intention. These goals are not to be “achieved”, but rather “pursued”; the real goal is to keep them in our awareness, while striving to get closer to them everyday. I like to think about them as a direction, rather than a place in time.
We have an OPEN relationship, not an OPEN RELATIONSHIP
What comes to your mind when you hear the expression “open relationship”?
Having lots of sex with multiple people other than your partner, STDs, detachment, jealousy? I know that’s what it triggers for me. And yes, I know that these things can be a reality for many relationships, but I also know that they are not how I want to define mine.
When we deconstruct this expression, it makes sense. I like the word “open” and I like the word “relationship”. However, I don’t like what they evoke when put together.
So let’s focus on the particular. What my partner and I are doing is really applying openness to our relationship. Here is what this looks like:
3 Principles for Applying Openness to a Relationship
1) Open Possibilities: Remaining open to all the possibilities brought by each present moment, staying aware of our freedom to respond to them and being mindful of the impact of our response on ourselves, on our partner(s) and on our relationship.
2) Opening Up: Willingness to open up with ourselves and our partner(s) regarding our feelings and our needs, to identify triggers and to research common solutions;
3) Open Perception: Accepting our partner(s) as their own unique self/selves, with their own freedom, responses, feelings and needs, putting ourselves in their shoes and being open to give and receive, to live in reciprocity.
I am grateful for the expression “open relationship”: it has facilitated the creation of these three principles, which we intend to use as the wind on our boat as I sail towards Support, Intimacy, Self Growth, Creativity, and Having an Amazing Life Everyday.
However, I still don’t really like it. It still makes me think of loads of random sex with strangers, chlamydia and swinging clubs for couples in their 60s. I want to use words that excite me; I want words that motivate me in the pursuit of those goals, words that push the right buttons in my brain, words that are more than just words because they are a tool. Living words.
This is why I prefer “Mindful Freedom”.
“3 Principles of Mindful Freedom”
— now that sounds good to me. It makes me vibrate. To me, this expression reflects those principles much more effectively, and it triggers just the right feeling for me. Mindful Freedom is so accurate, so close to palpable, that it is easy for me to be in the state of mind it represents, and it also allows me to access it at all times from an empirical point of view, rather than from the subconscious influence of a label full of connotations that I didn’t choose.
And that is why my partner and I choose Mindful Freedom as a way to relate to each other, as a compass that re-calibrates our path towards our goals, as a way to be, as a tool.
And now you might ask: why is this important? And what does it look like in real life? Well, let me give you a practical example.
You are probably wondering how this applies to sexuality and sexual interactions in relationships.
There are no limits to mindful freedom: this means that you are free to set your own limits, using them in a purposeful and mindful way. You can choose to place sex with other people within or outside those limits, depending on your own feelings and desires.
In our case, connecting with others on a sexual level is not a necessary condition to our relationship. This doesn’t mean that we exclude the possibility of it; but whenever it surfaces, we want to address it with mindful freedom:
1) Open Possibilities: If in a certain present moment one of us feels and expresses the desire or need to sexually connect with another person, or if one of us shares any other thought or feeling around this topic, we will be open to this possibility, celebrating our freedom to embrace it.
2) Opening Up: We will try our best to share our feelings and our needs with each other, looking into any challenging emotions that may come up and figuring out creative solutions to accommodate each other’s emotions and desires (this is also a good opportunity to check in and play around with our goals: how can these solutions be aligned with our pursuit of Support, Intimacy, Self Growth, Creativity, and Having an Amazing Life in that moment?)
3) Open Perception: We will get in touch with what the other person is feeling and how we impact them, remaining aware of their freedom to fulfill their own needs and desires.
This is still a new field for me: I have a challenging relationship with sexuality, and I am still working on integrating some trauma and taboos that have been imprinted in me throughout my life, therefore I don’t have much experience to share and I am not comfortable to give advice or make detailed suggestions.
But that is perfect, because I don’t want to zero in on sexual connection with this essay. I recognize the importance of sex in relationships and how healthy it is to talk about it, but this post is focused on a much broader subject. This is why I chose to steer away from the label “open relationship”, and why I found the need to use different words to address this way of living.
Mindful Freedom: a Compass for Navigating Togetherness
You can practice Mindful Freedom in each and every relationship you have: with your girlfriend, with your mom, with your children, with your friends. You don’t need to identify with terms such as “polyamory” or “polygamy”: Mindful Freedom applies to all aspects of life, not just sex.
To me, Mindful Freedom is a navigation tool for pursuing my common goals with another human being.
You can do the same. Any relationship — whatever goals or intentions it might be based on — can follow the principles of mindful freedom. You can choose to try it today:
- Pick common goals with your partner(s) — or person you have a relationship with (even if your goal is solely to have fun and enjoy life together, what matters is that you are on the same page!);
- Decide that you want to apply the principles of Mindful Freedom together;
- Live your life, focus on your goal(s), and bring yourself to the state of Mindful Freedom as often as possible.