Warning… Opening Your Relationship Can Drive You Insane

They took me to accident and emergency because I was losing it. Hours earlier I had rocked myself crying in the bath, thinking… so this is how it feels to go insane. My marriage was ending, my relationship with my boyfriend was ending, my job was ending… my life as I knew it was over. And I was having a breakdown. Worse still, people I loved and trusted told me that I’d brought it on myself. I saw it in their eyes and heard it in their words. Blame. Accusation. Scorn. They turned their backs on me, until the only place left to go was the hospital. Because when everyone believes you’re crazy, you start to believe it too.

A year earlier my mother has spoken to me.  She was paralysed by fear, terrified at what we were doing. We were a couple in love with another couple. Her voice was high with the effort of keeping her tears in check and her hands squashed between her legs to keep from trembling. Or maybe just from shaking me as hard as she could.

You’re crazy. This is the very pinnacle of your self-destructive tendencies. It’s because you can’t let yourself commit. You’ll lose your marriage.

Now I can tell her

No, you’re wrong. You don’t understand how open relationships work. They’re simply another structure. One which is riskier for staying together, but one where if you stay together it’s because you want to and not because of any other reason. It gives you freedom, but it’s not less commitment, it’s more. You have to solve the problems you meet because if you don’t, you aren’t bound by any contract, it’s easier to walk away.

But at the time I wasn’t sure myself. I knew my marriage was failing so I took on board her fears and doubts, because it is in my nature to question everything. The very thing that drove me to challenge those conventions in the first place would be the thing that eventually drove me insane. My mother showed me her own prison of pain and fear, and because I loved her, trusted her, I wondered whether she was right and I was wrong. And I joined her in it.

But it wasn’t just her. Everyone thought we were insane. And it hurt. Because when everyone around you believes that you are doing something wrong it takes an awful lot of courage, and an awful lot of self-confidence to step out and say. No. You are wrong…this is right, for me.

And if you don’t have that self-confidence, then you must build it amid constant opposition. Like trying to build house in the middle of a raging tornado, it’s almost impossible.

So I sat in the surreal surroundings of the hospital. Looking at my new companions. The bleeding. The drunk. The miserable. For a time I was one of them.

It’s the utter anguish of losing your sense of self. Of not knowing if anything around you is true. When you challenge societal structures which are considered the ‘only way’ and the ‘right way’ people will call you insane (and not in a good way). They will attack you. And they will have no sympathy with your pain.

Opening your relationship is like nothing you know. But one thing I do know (now). From the hundreds of people I have talked to and my own small personal experience, opening your relationship is never, ever the cause of why you break up. It can be (but is not always) the act of two people in a relationship which isn’t working. Relationships don’t work because many people are drawn to one another to heal unconscious childhood wounds; eventually those wounds drive them apart either by healing (and finding out that they were the only things holding them together) or by reinforcing the pain. If only we had the relationship skills to solve the problems that arise and cope with the healing process. In the end, we did not.

We are not trained in relationship skills, in communication skills, in psychology. At school we learn geography. And biology. And English literature. School is an environment actively designed to erode self-esteem. It thrives on competition, division and superficial values. There are few ‘life lessons’ and even fewer relationship lessons.

So whilst the very act of opening our relationship brought us challenges we needed to grow the skills which might have enabled us to preserve our relationship, we were not able to cope with the magnitude of the problems it exposed. We did not yet have the skills. There were no support structures, just a whole bunch of people thinking we were mad… and rejecting us because of it. There were no training wheels, no baby steps, just one giant leap into a rabbit hole where nothing would ever be the same. And even I couldn’t commit to my course of action because I myself started to believe that I was insane.

The rejection, the loss of my relationships, the constant self-doubt. It’s to touch the table in front of you and sincerely wonder, ‘

How can I really be sure that this even exists?’

And when I found myself at the bottom, existing only in a world were nothing was true I found Neitzsche. Philosophy and insanity are good playmates.

“One’s belief in truth begins with doubt of all truths one has believed hitherto”

So over the years I have built myself back up from the ground. Knowing that the only person I could ever trust to know what was right for me, was me. Because when people call you insane, it’s simply a measure of how differently they are trying to achieve their goals compared to the strategy that you choose to achieve the same goals. It’s the struggle of your beliefs which are at odds with the ‘establishment urge to conform’. And I know one other thing.

You must believe in your insanity, because it is the only thing that will keep you from going mad.

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