I keep hearing about these questions about my open relationship from friends. From friends of friends. They are passed along as ‘relevant’ tidbits
‘I thought you should know what so-and-so was saying.’
But nobody asks them to my face, supposedly under the guise of politeness. Rude fuckers. So I’ve collected a few of them to answer (will it stop the gossiping? Probably not).
1. Do you have awesome group sex all the time?
I’m not sure when open relationship became synonymous with group sex. Or indeed what defines group sex as a noun with an absolute definition because obviously there are threesomes all the way up to an orgy. But I do know that the most common fantasy conjured up about group sex is one man, two women… preferably, if one of my boyfriends were to have a say in it, with a couple of famous Jennifers. So let’s ask that question instead.
Do my boyfriends (that would be two of them) have regular threesomes?
The answer is no (awww). Never, not with them at least. But there have been threesomes in my life. That one time. Oh and that time at midsummer. And that time… Okay, define regular. But it’s not like that happens every night, every week, every month or even every year. I can count the times on one hand (that’s less than five). So it’s kind of special occasion stuff. Other times, it gets boring. Especially if watching the ‘action’ is not your thing (unless it’s Law and Order. I love watching Law and Order).
Sadly I don’t have much time to watch Law and Order anymore.
2. Is one of you putting up with the open relationship status to keep the relationship together?
Ah, judgement disguised as concern. But it’s not really concern, because underneath what’s being asked is if one of us is an asshole and the other a victim. I’ve come to believe that these are the asker’s psychological projections on my relationship. The reason they are too ‘polite’ to ask this is because what they are actually asking is whether one of us is basically being a douche. Not many people are comfortable with asking that.
My relationship isn’t plain sailing by any means, but actually we’re consenting (and pretty happy) adults. Our goal in opening our relationship was not to keep it together, although as it happens this is a rather great side effect. Obviously you can’t depend on that. We are free to be with each other and others. And we both enjoy the benefits that being in an open relationship has to offer. All of them… yes, including sex.
3. How do you get over jealousy?
If there’s an issue to be worked through whether it is jealousy, time management or changing nature of the relationship, we talk about it.
In open relationships you have to talk about stuff you wouldn’t normally talk about. For example, consent is a big deal in every day life. Instead of fending off advances with the ‘Sorry, I’m with someone’ line you have to basically say, ‘No thanks I’m not attracted to you.’ (it’s the only thing that works since open relationship can be interpreted as a free-for-all).
This type of honest communication is difficult but it also filters through to your communication with other partners. If you ask the question ‘are you more attracted to her than me?‘ Then you better be ready to hear the honest answer (and not be a drama queen about it if you don’t like what you hear). Being honest and vulnerable does wonders to instill trust in each of you. And – in my opinion – that makes for a better relationship.
4. Do you compare your lovers?
Yes. And no. Truth to be told it is, especially at the beginning of relationships, difficult not to. But fortunately, humans have a brain which thinks. We know that falling in love is a heady mix of oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine and all that other good shit. We know that it screws with our rational intelligence. And we know that we will feel differently when it wears off.
Because we know, we can express our comparison, but not attribute too much importance to it. Without thinking that it’s the end of the world. Besides, not all comparison is necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it brings a lot more back into other relationships ‘Hey honey, I’ve discovered I really like this thing that I do with so-and-so, can we try it?‘ But so often it comes with… ranking.
In my relationships we’ve learned to appreciate and love what different lovers bring to the table. In fact it’s not so much about learning, it’s about undoing. All our lives we have been taught that the winner takes it all and that doesn’t have to be true in open relationships.
I think that in general people can live more happily if they forgo the ranking, the fear of which nips constantly at our heels screaming ‘you’re not good enough!’ (and that’s never a nice thing to feel).
5. What happens if he prefers someone else to you…and leaves?
This is without a doubt my favorite question. It’s particular relevance to an open relationship is questionable; why would you leave when you have the freedom to explore love, sexuality, commitment and intimacy with several?
There’s an underlying assumption here that if a partner ‘prefers’ someone else, I would feel bad. There have been times in my relationships, where my partners have preferred someone else or at least been so caught up in falling in love that I have definitely been put on the backburner. In the beginning it hurt, but then later I rejoiced with them instead of hating it and our relationship transitioned into something different.
The need to always be number one in someone’s life is a sign. A sign that you will have real difficulty being in – what I define as – an open relationship (although some polyfidelitous and hierarchical arrangements might work for you). You will find it difficult because you measure your self-worth by being number one in someone’s life. And that’s most likely due to insecurity and entitlement.
These things are part of our humanity. If you can live with them and be happy then all power to you. I couldn’t. I had to work on them. Whilst it might not have been my initial goal of an open relationship to work out my insecurity, entitlement etc. in order to be happy in my version of an open relationship, it is necessary. I don’t have to be number one priority in my partners life as long as they appreciate what I bring to the table, when we are together. As long as we choose to spend time with each other.
But I’m no fool, in some circumstances my partners may choose to end our relationship (as might I). So back to the question. What would happen if he left? Well,
- We would split up… I would cry and grieve and all the other things that people do but,
- I would also be happy that he went somewhere he was happier rather than staying in an arrangement where he was less happy
…because I love him. And I love myself too much to be in a relationship with someone who would be happier elsewhere.
What would be really unfortunate is if my self-esteem and happiness would be bound up in such a definitive way with the presence of this person in my life that I would think my world was over, without him.