We meet someone we like. We go on three dates with them. We sleep with them. If we keep sleeping with them we agree to be exclusive. We date for 3-5 years and then get engaged. Then 12-18 months later we get married. Then we stop having sex.
That has always been my understanding of how my relationships were supposed to go – and if STEP ONE didn’t move to STEP TWO in the appropriate timeframe, then he didn’t love me and I was “wasting my time”. This fucked up formulaic approach to relationships has painted couples into unhappy corners for years. After exploring a huge variety of monogamous and open relationships over the last ten years I have finally discovered the perfect balance. And honestly – it sounds fucking awesome but has yet to be tested. And for people who are NOT into open relationships – this might be more interesting (and less gross) than you think.
MY MONOGAMOUS OPEN-RELATIONSHIP PHILOSOPHY
1. Treat your lovers as people, and let relationships take the shapes they want, instead of the forms forced on them by culture. Build mind-blowing friendships and partnerships that last, as sex and attraction ebb and flow.
2. I can’t be EVERYTHING you need. You’ll never have EVERYTHING I need. That’s what friends are for.
The “monogamy” part is easy to understand. One partner. One lover. One relationship. Forever. Understanding the open-relationship part can be murkier waters. We don’t hear about it often, and when we do it’s in the context of reading about a senator caught leaving a secret sex party, or listening to our parents tell us about their friends from Santa Cruz. What I am talking about is VERY different. The “open” may have nothing to do with sex. It usually is more about honesty and expectations. And sometimes it’s about sex. Opening a relationship is an act of defining or re-defining what you want from a relationship with your partner. In my open relationships we have literally sat down with a bottle of wine and no judgements and negotiated the terms of our ideal relationship. It’s actually really fun! Going in with an understanding that compromises will need to be made and I won’t get everything I want, is a crucial part of the deal. But love is easier to embrace and not a burden, I got a hell of a lot closer to happiness than I had before! There is another part of the conversation that is absolutely crucial, and resulted in my first aha moment. It taught me how to let go of major fears around relationships. We talked about our relationship in it’s entirety, including how things might not work out and that would be ok too. We might not get married and have kids, but if we create an amazing bond and lifelong friendship. That’s a win.
Be free to love your person, despite whatever non-ideal circumstances.
What do we want out of this relationship? Do you want to get married? Do you need a healing relationship after a broken heart? Do you want a sexually explorative but impermanent relationship? Because knowing those things allows you to enter a real-life relationship with honest expectations.
You are free to say “NO THANKS” I am looking for something a little more committed. Or “NO THANKS – I’m not into that right now.” That’s what we’re all thinking – let’s just get it out into the open!
I could go on and on about how broken the monogamy-system is. Why people are unhappy in traditional marriages and how easily these things could be fixed. But I have an equally lengthy (and jaded) rant from my experience in the fantastical world of open-relationships; where everything’s cool man, and whatever you want is ok with me. Monogamy got one thing VERY RIGHT. People fight for their relationships. People are committed and passionate and stay together even when shit goes down, things get derailed or someone gets hurt. And they work through their problems TOGETHER. In most of my open-relationships we never worked hard for anything – when things got weird or difficult, we simply moved on. We never fought to get any deeper or more connected. That gets old really quick. Open-relationships were awesome in my twenties. But over the last few years, my priorities have changed and I have become much more honest about what I really want.
THIS IS MY MONOGAMOUS OPEN-RELATIONSHIP
- I want a deeply passionate and committed relationship. Hell, I’d even get married!
- I want kids who have two loving and present parents. (stay at home dad?)
- I want someone who supports me and fights for me, even if they think I’m being annoying or bitchy.
- I don’t want to bang other people if we are having great sex (I was never as good at that part anyway).
- I would be willing to open our sex life up, if we get bored in our 40’s.
- I do want to have intimate friendships with other men and not feel like I’m cheating.
- I do want to have a long distance relationship or spend a weekend doing whatever, without having to answer for my whereabouts and my companions.
- I want a man who can easily maintain respectful and intimate relationships with other women.
- I want a man who is passionate, flirtatious and sexy and can bring that sensual energy to bed with me.
- I want a man who can put me in my place if I say something jealous. (because jealousy happens)
- I want a flexible relationship that ebbs and flows within a loving, committed and honest partnership.
I understand that it may be completely naive to assume this is even possible. That I could take the best of monogamy and the best (in my opinion) of open relationships and find a balance for myself. But I’m a goddamn optimist. It’s really interesting to see these things that I’ve been thinking about for years put into a list. Once your intentions are put on paper it’s a reality. Once it’s on the internet, it’s a reality my parent’s can read!