I was taught at an early age that a relationship was to consist of one woman and one man; emphasis on ONE. It was always pretty cut and dry – no additives, no adjustments, no customization whatsoever.
I think its safe to say that many of us were brought up under this same ideology. So why in heavens name the sudden surge of interest in open relationships as of late? Between the numerous Facebook discussion threads and celebrities going public with their polyamorous lifestyles, open relationships are practically being shoved down our throats.
But even with the pressure on millennials to reconsider their dating style, the idea has been falling on deaf ears. Millennials aren’t trying to hear it. Many of us have resorted to sharing ourselves and/or our partners behind closed doors. Yet not many of us are ready to do so in the open. We have given a strong ‘thumbs down’ to polyamory, a consensual open relationship while accepting the act of cheating or being cheated on instead.
Yes. Some of us go on dates with other people while in a relationship. Some of us engage in romantic activities with other people while in a relationship. Some of us sleep with other people while in a relationship. Some of us even start families with other people while in a relationship. Yet many of us still refuse to challenge the standards of love that we’ve grown so accustomed to. In these cases, rather than be honest with ourselves and our partners about what we want – we lie. Maybe its our way of trying to maintain our dignity or our morals but nonetheless, pretending to be monogamous doesn’t change the fact that you’re not.
The only thing differentiating an unfaithful person from a person in an open relationship is that one received their partner’s consent and the other didn’t. Regardless of my position on open relationships, one thing I can say with certainty. I would much rather my partner be honest with me about what they want rather than sneak behind my back to get it. Hearing your partner out doesn’t mean you have to accept their perspective or their desires. But creating a safe space might allow you to learn of those desires before they become a realty.
If we’re being honest though, how many of our relationships actually offer a safe enough place for this type of honesty? How many of our relationships welcome and encourage our partners to be forthcoming about their most intimate desires?
Think of how often we fly off the handle when just discussing sensitive topics on Facebook with strangers. Heck, some of you have probably been cringing, frowning and huffing while reading this article. If you can’t even tolerate discussing an uncomfortable topic with strangers, how (un)comfortable might your partner be discussing one of these topics with you?
With all of the problems you might associate with open relationships, creating a safe place for open communication most likely isn’t one of them. It’s those who practice monogomy who appear to struggle with this the most. Just the idea of sharing what we feel belongs to us can stir up more anger and hostility than we find ourselves ready for. Understandably. When we’re constantly being reminded of the competition for the limited pool of quality suitors, it’s hard not to become possessive.
But a relationship should never operate off of fear, control or possession. And as much as we might like our relationships to fit our own narrative, your partner is their own person. You can’t control their actions or desires – you can only control how to respond to their actions and desires. You can’t order your partner not to cheat – you can only express that you don’t want them to and you can choose whether to stay or to go. But it’s our partners who have to decide who they want to be – not us.
What we do have control over is making our relationships a safe place to be honest, upfront and open with each other. And in some cases, no matter how open we are, the people that we care about will choose to sneak around anyway. But if you chose to enter a relationship with someone, you could at least allow them the opportunity to both show and tell you who they are.
Not every man seeking an open relationship is seeking sex (nor is every person seeking an open relationship a man, for that matter). Some of us have forgotten that there’s also a romantic component that exists in relationships too. We hear ‘open relationships’ and instantly our mind is filled with images of male predators, sex parties, orgies (as if some of us “monogamous folk” aren’t participating in them already).
You don’t have to challenge the standards of love that you’ve grown accustomed to. But before criticizing open relationships as being a recipe for disaster, you might want to assess whether you’re already subjecting your partner to one. Because turning your nose up at polyamory is counterproductive if you’re just going to cheat on your partner instead.
How do you feel about open relationships?