Talking Openly About Open Relationships
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
During one of our recent weekend stay-cations, my husband and I engaged in a conversation about open relationships; what does it mean, in general? what does it mean to us? how would we envision it for ourselves? This was sparked by the (old) news that I discovered about the cancellation of one of our favorite shows called "Love Is__." Well, it was mostly my favorite show. Hubby watched it with me by default and eventually got hooked to the story line. But that's not the point. To the point, the very successful show's plot was heavily based on the true love story of the (black) producers of the show; all of which went down the drain to cancellation soon after a woman (the producer husband's 'other woman') filed a lawsuit of abuse she claimed occurred over the course of their 10-year extramarital affair, among other accusations. *Sigh*
We shared in the disappointment of how much was lost at the stake of the adulterous acts (the wife producer losing her stake in the show, the many actors/workers who lost their jobs, and its deprivation of so many fans, including myself). We exchanged thoughts on the many reasons why people cheat and why they shouldn't, until we eventually fell into the lap of open relationships. I should also put in the disclaimer that I actually wrote my undergraduate thesis paper on this very topic, so among the two of us, I naturally assumed the role of the expert. I was happy to lead our discussion and fill in a lot of facts, but ultimately, we walked away with a sense of where we stood about it all. I think there are some key gems to share here, which my husband and I agreed were most profound and connected with us.
To start, the term 'open relationship' is often taken way out of context. When I had approached my research years ago, I was eager to truly understand how my close friends, a married and loving couple who participated in outside relationships, could navigate what seemed so complex, yet remain so truly bonded to one another. I soon discovered that I, like many, had the wrong impression about what open relationships were all about. So, before you roll your eyes and stop reading, stick through this...I promise, you'll gain more than you will lose.
In short, open relationships is about a partnership built on unwavering honesty and security, so much so that a couple could truly be open to exploring and living a bond that is defined by their unique and individual needs. While it does NOT simply mean that you and your partner get a hall pass to do whatever, with whomever, and whenever, it also has nothing to do with relationships that are driven by social norms, outside expectations, and basically everything we are taught about the commercial version of love. It has everything to do with bringing your truest self to the table to be examined and evolved, while allowing space for your partner to do the same. Open relationships challenges those involved to honestly speak their truths, earnestly listen, and foster a judge-free and safe space to get to know each other alone, and together. Options are endless, but no choice is made without both parties involved and completely at ease in agreement. So, to my earlier point, you can practice open relationships while being fully monogamous and exclusive to each other. But if you decide to invite outsiders in, that's cool too. I would encourage that no matter what you decide, make sure that both parties are fully heard, and fully on board. Create the necessary boundaries to foster and maintain trust. And continue to be open to communicate and change, as needed. You may only learn through experience, so what might seem “cool” in the onset or in theory, might actually be uncomfortable when in reality.
We decided that for now, we were totally satisfied and enjoy being monogamous with each other. Yet we vowed that if it ever became a challenge for either of us in the future, in any way, that we would allow for honest and difficult conversations to take place before engaging in anything externally(that could damage our trust) or internally(that could breed resentment). We commend ourselves for being open in that moment to explore this idea and found solace that within our 5-years of marriage, we still have a strong physical and emotional attraction to each other. We recognize the unique connection we have and that our many accomplishments together have helped to sustain us; buying a home, birthing and bonding our blended family, and continuing our journey to becoming entrepreneurs and working towards financial freedom. The true gem is in being able to have that open conversation...is this something you think you and your partner could do?
I encourage you to try it...