I'm in an open relationship. In plain English, this means the person spooning me to sleep at night is not always my loving boyfriend of four years. Which is cool, because sometimes I'll get a text message saying, "Going home with X, love you," so we're both on the same page. It began when we were making it work long distance, and started mainly because it seemed to make more sense than cheating on each other and pretending that lying was a nice thing to do.
However, it's turned out to be super fun and brought us closer together in ways I wouldn't have expected. I now also feel like some kind of next-level sex genius because we've both learned, through trial and error, exactly what we want from each other—both in fun sex ways and in the more boring intimacy-and-trust ways. Sometimes I even use words and phrases like "partner" and "make love" now. Admitting it makes me feel like a pan-flute hippie nightmare, but who the fuck are you, Rutger Hauer?
Now, I know what you’re thinking (if you're one of my very good friends who I've told about this): "Don’t a bunch of London-based polyamorists hate you because of that thing you wrote that time?" Yes, they do. But my guy and I are doing a different thing to polyamory, anyway. Being full-on poly is about loving and dating numerous people and, honestly, who has the time to be in love with more than one person? This is more about being kind of slutty, as a couple—happily partnered sluts. There are lots of problems to the open relationship model, but only as many as with any other form of dating.
Of the issues we face as a pair, I’d say the most annoying one is knowing that, after divulging our relationship choices, it is the only thing that people want to talk about for the rest of the night. Just questions and stories and, "I had an ex who was in an open relationship for a bit, his name was Jason and it didn't work out, but here's an hour of stories about how that time in his life was for him emotionally..."
As much as I give zero fucks about the love-lives of complete strangers, here are things you should never say to people who are in an open relationship.
"DON'T YOU GET JEALOUS?"
The answer is: Yes, of course. Everything we have ever been taught about relationships is based on this body-ownership model, which is like, "With this ring, I thee neuter. Never look at another human again in a sexy way, ESPECIALLY not the really hot ones. Only me. Even though we will both get old and gross."
So it takes some getting used to not to be plunged into uncontrollable bouts of misery after hearing that your "partner" went to town on some other lady. But if you were asked to explain why your significant other was so important to you, would you say, “Mainly because we never touch other people”? Or would you list all the real, human qualities that attracted you to them in the first place? Jealousy happens in any relationship—monogamous, monogamish, or non-monog—and any type of romantic involvement could benefit from both parties trying to rise above possessiveness and insecurity. So one big WHATEVER to this.
"BUT DOES THAT REALLY WORK?"
Imagine someone told you they were dating a guy in the traditional way and that they were very happy and his name was Trevor and she was super into him. And then, midway through her anecdote about a cute thing Trevor did at their second anniversary dinner, you're like, "Cool story, but are you sure you're not just lying to yourselves and each other about being happy? Sounds like maybe everything you care about isn't actually real."
See—when you put it like that, you're a dickhead.
"THAT'S, LIKE, OBVIOUSLY AMAZING FOR YOU GUYS, BUT I COULD NEVER DO THAT"
This one is the most annoying to me, because it's so aggressively passive-aggressive. I get that my relationship set up is confusing and maybe a bit scary (because it’s different and change is hard), but I’m not asking you to prise open your relationship. I’m not even asking you whether or not you would be interested in doing something like this. We’re doing it, sure, but this isn't some kind of large-scale conversion project.
We’re just… literally doing it. Getting all condescending about how it’s sooo cute that we’re doing something different, but reasserting that it’s definitely not something you would ever do yourself, is just you being a real square and quietly policing the status quo, whether you’re aware that’s what you’re doing or not. So stop it, please.
"... YOU WANNA FUCK?"
A sometimes-fun, sometimes-weird thing about being a semi-open perv is that some of your friends (and many strangers) see you as a safe space to work out their own sex stuff. It’s hard to fault people for this, and I feel like I can’t accurately judge how I feel about it because—surprise surprise—I tend to be a great deal more sympathetic to the pervsperimentation invites of people I find attractive.
On the one hand, there are the strangers who presume that a chick in an open relationship is just DTF whoever is around and get accordingly up in your business, and that’s gross. On the other, there are interesting, in-depth chats with other humans about their own preferences and secret interests. And then there are the “Hey, wouldn’t it be weird if we all just made out right now?"s. Those are fun.
In summary, anyone who’s been single at a family wedding, or gay in a conservative household, or going through a break-up among friends who all seem to be in the throes of coupled bliss, knows that being defined by relationship status or sexual preference is boring and reductive. At the very least, it makes for bad conversation. If you want to have a big chat about relationship politics some time, that’s great, but I don’t always want to talk about it. Take me out for a coffee or, better yet, anything alcoholic, and we’ll get to it, OK? Until then, let’s talk shit on that dude’s ridiculously intricate facial hair. It’ll be more fun for both of us.
Follow Monica on Twitter: @monicaheisey
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