For three days now, I’ve been coasting on adrenalin. My heart rate is up, my endorphins are spiking and my energy is at an all time high. Last night I barely slept. And it started when he said,
I think I might have met someone.
We’re in an open relationship. He could meet someone, anytime, any place, any where. That we’re in an open relationship and have been for two years is a spine tingling ride that many can’t or at least don’t want to, handle. Yet across the world you can find adrenalin junkies, doing extreme sports, fighting fire, saving lives or investing in the stock market. I don’t do any of those things, I choose instead to get my fix through an extreme relationship.
But the word junkie lends unnecessary negativity to the common behaviour of thrill seeking. Most of us can appreciate the fairground and its rollercoaster, many of us seek contrast and create meaning in our lives. We seek it through life experience. As to why some of us seek greater thrills and others avoid them like the plague, I leave up to the neuroscientists. Personally I believe that if you can, you do because life is to be lived.
Whether you can stand the thrill – through rock climbing, firefighting, million dollar deals or open relationships – I think, is a matter of self esteem. High self esteem grants the security you need to be able to handle the rushed panic and high of adrenalin. Even thrill seekers need to feel safe, because no one would go on a rollercoaster if they believed it to be inherently unsafe, unless they were suicidal. People don’t mountain bike because they have a death wish, they do it because like me, they have a life wish.
Likewise I don’t ‘do’ open relationships because I believe they will destroy me. And until now they never have. The potential is there of course. But I’ve worked on improving my self-esteem for many years. Enough to know that I will be okay, no matter what. That I will be happy, that I will experience joy no matter whether a relationship ends or not.
When you have faith that you can handle the end of a relationship, that it will not mean an utter destruction of your sense of self, you might push the boundaries of your life. In my life, my partners have the freedom to love elsewhere. It’s not easy, just as climbing sheer rock faces is not easy. On the contrary it takes an extraordinary amount of work, on your communication skills on constructive management of your emotions so you don’t play the victim, rescuer or persecutor when the adrenalin kicks in. The initial fear that you will lose the relationship you love. To be able to use that adrenalin as a pathway to greater love, greater freedom and not give into fear. I’ve not always been able to do it. In fact my first relationship ended in an unmitigated disaster, full of drama and conflict. I climbed Everest on my first attempt with little training – not the most advisable way to start off.
My relationships now are far smoother; so smooth in fact that we’ve sometimes missed the traditional ‘conflict’ contained in monogamous relationship I used to confuse with meaning. That which stems from jealousy and insecurity. And if my relationships were full of those things, I’d say that my desire to be open was destructive. But like bungee humping which scares and thrills in equal measure, the reason people do these activities is because they operate from the underlying assumption that they will come out the other side, unharmed and maybe the better for it. Often they even say that it was life changing, and it adds a new perspective. That’s how I feel about my relationships. I am the better off for them, for so many reasons, even if they might one day end (and let’s face it, monogamy is no guarantee of lifelong commitment).
To be successfully open you need to feel safe. But you will not have the artificial construct of monogamy to lend you security. Nor the promise of a happy ever after. You must depend on yourself to supply this security. It requires self care, self love and high self esteem. Those are constructs which can be, must be developed through regular training. You reduce the risk of your activity to almost zero if you can develop those skills. And then all that remains is love – tons of love – laced with thrill. And that sounds pretty damn great to me.