When Open Relationships End (but not as we know it, Jim)

LouisaBook Reviews, More Than Two, Relationship Fluidity & Beyond, Self-Help5 Comments

[Edit: as of 2019, Franklin Veaux is the subject of multiple reports of harmful behaviour. I've left my reviews up for his work as it was co-authored with Eve Rickert who wrote the book in good faith and as a recognition of my own complicity in this matter.]

Imagine you are a successful blogger, happy at work (since you do it from home) comfortable and well paid. Then like a bolt out of the blue, the phone rings. It's Hollywood. They've picked up your little-known book and want to pay you to write the script for their next blockbuster. But it requires a big commute (since you live in Sweden - hey, it's my imagination and I can always dream) and significant time away from your family for a period of a year.

What a difficult decision! But in the end your partner says to you,

'You know what honey? I know that if you didn't take this opportunity to grow, and explore, you would regret it for the rest of your life. Let's figure out a way this thing is possible for all of us.'

Now imagine that Hollywood call is instead a new relationship that catapults your life and the lives of your family clean out of the water. It's a game changer. In all relationships, it's an ever present danger. But in polyamorous relationship, it's an openly acknowledged opportunity ...and risk. In monogamy it means the end of your relationship. But in polyamory it doesn't have to.

And yet the game changing relationship is less often explored than it should be, because a) we fear change and b) all humans protect themselves from judgement. The possibility of a polyamorous relationship ending means even more vilification from the mainstream world. It is often assumed the relationship ends due to the fact it is polyamorous and not due to the natural evolution of the growth of its participants.

More Than Two by Franklin Veaux & Eve Rickert redresses this balance. From game changers...right up til the 'end' (but not as we know it, Jim).

The Game Changer

A game changer is a relationship that causes us to rethink all our relationships and maybe even our lives, entirely. It may be a relationship with someone who fits with us so naturally that the person raises the bar on what we want and need from other relationships...

A game changer doesn't even have to be a good relationship. It can be one that's dysfunctional on such a deep level that it changes what we look for thereafter.

More Than Two

Just as the Hollywood script offer may mean the end of your relationship - after all it will introduce your partner to a whole new world of people and a whole new life - so a new relationship, say the authors of More Than Two, may 'alter the landscape of life.' Because game changers do not necessarily spell the end of your relationship, but they do mean the end of your relationship as you know it.

I'm not denying that within polyamory the participants may risk transitioning their relationships more often because of their 'open' belief system (although with rising divorce rates, I would question even that) but in my aspirations, the transition happens with more integrity, more acceptance and more awareness than it might within traditional 'closed' monogamy. Alternatively monogamy might mean, that participants stay physically together, looking to all intents and purposes as if nothing has changed and having what society judges a 'successful' marriage, unable to explore connections with others and remaining unfulfilled until they die.

It's human nature to sometimes exploit a get-out clause. I know because I've done it. And yet, the consequence of my doing so within a polyamorous configuration meant pain, growth, a four person relationship for 2 years and the rebirth of two new spectacularly happy couples with children. If I had to choose, I would do the same thing all over again. Because as Franklin & Eve so eloquently put it, 'there is nothing noble in trying to preserve the status quo from things that can make our lives better.' Sometimes you have to rebuild your relationship in its new configuration from the ground up. It's hard, but not impossible.

But Relationships Do End

...and we must acknowledge this.

A fundamental premise of ethical relationships is that all relationships are consensual. That means people are free to enter relationships without coercion and free to end relationships that are not meeting their needs. An ethical relationship is one where nobody feels compelled to stay against their will.

More Than Two

Coercion, we can all agree, is abusive. But it takes a thousand forms. From violence and emotional blackmail to an implicit relationship dynamic or an explicit expectation (which is why unicorn hunters are so often criticised by seasoned polyamorists). There are few who intend to be coercive, but by defining the way that other people will act in order to get their needs met, they are.

My Own Example

'I'm a home maker not a home breaker. It's in my nature.' said my mother. 'I could never live the life you do knowing the repercussions that it might have on my children.'

'Your choice has brought you many lessons. I understand it and I respect it.' I said 'But we must all do what we believe is best for our own journeys and our children.

You've showed your children that they should remain in a sexless, and unhappy marriage at all costs. You've also showed them patience, fortitude and responsibility. But I couldn't do what you've done. I don't want to do it. I want to show my children that they should remain in a relationship only if it enriches their lives. I think both our examples have their unique lessons.'

'And what of the pain it might cause them if you break up?' she said. 'How will you live with yourself knowing the pain you've caused them?'

'Their father and I, we're both committed to parenting and to creating the healthiest environment for our children. But just not at the expense of ourselves. I'm not a fool, I know that if we ever split up it might cause them pain. But does it mean I should shield my children from the reality of relationships? On the contrary, it is our duty as parents to show them how to handle relationship changes the best way we can. We'll minimise the pain, but we can't eliminate it.'

When Open Relationships End - Kimchi Cuddles

Used by kind permission of Kimchi Cuddles

And so in More Than Two it's acknowledged wholeheartedly. Relationships end and it hurts, often everyone involved. But part of our life journey is to realise that reality is not always the way we wanted.