Open relationships Through a Narrow-Minded Perspective
“It’s not about sex only, it’s about loving more than one person. The more love you give, the more you get.”
That’s how a woman explains the foundation of her open marriage and I really, really tried to understand, to keep a very open mind, but as open as it is, I couldn’t grasp the idea of open marriages.
“It’s like having many friends. With one you go to the theater, with another you go shopping, with a third one you go to see a gallery. You have many friends, right? So what’s wrong with having a relationship open to other partners?”
In my mind I was thinking of my relationships and trying to imagine having a partner for going to rock concerts, another one for the cinema and another one for discussing books. I do all these things with friends if my partner does not want to be a part of it, but I don’t have to sleep with all of them, do I? I started felling dumb for being able of totally devoting myself to one person only. Is it so wrong to love romantically just one person, with all your heart? Obviously, I am an old-fashioned fool, who believes that if I needs something more from my partner, I sit and talk. I felt like a prize idiot for not being open-minded, for being monogamous, that if I want to be with someone else, I would not lead on the person I’m with and I will tell him the truth.
“People are polygamous. They move from one relationship to another, change partners one after the other, instead of staying together and allowing themselves to stay close and love each other and let more love in their lives through other people.” This was the answer, and a good one, indeed.
Can I love more than one person simultaneously? Sure, I love my family, my friends, I love many people.
Can I love more than one person intimately? I tried once. My partner and I were separated because he was honest enough to tell me he had feelings for another woman. Okay, I got that and it was fine. No, it was not fine. I went out with several guys I had known, but I could never bring myself to having comforting sex with any of them because I still loved my ex and I waited for him to come back to me, which he did.
“But you have to broaden your view. It’s about finding a core to a new relationship with a person, who can also be your friend, and who wants to find other people to share both your lives with.”
Then again, do I have to sleep with all of them?
The answer was: “No, you don’t.” So, I got even more confused. And then I remembered the day a man contacted me online and we met. It was a disastrous experience… I mean 30 minutes listening to an unhappy man moaning about his wife. Now, that couple was in an open marriage. “We talked about it, she said she wanted to experience sex and other stuff with other men and I was free to do the same with whoever I wanted. We care about each other, we love each other, she’s just more experimental… you know.” Of course I was invited to share a night with him, which I refused not so politely because after the fifth pint, he told me how impossible it was for him to make out with someone, provided he cared a lot about his wife and his child.
Right, where does the child stand in this open thing? What happens if a small child is involved? The man said the child was their priority and they were bringing her up in a healthy environment, no smoking near her, no sweets, no TV after 8 pm. Divorce, he said, was out of the question because they had too many properties, they had loads of money and they worked together in the same very prestigious institution with her being his boss. You get the picture – the man had accepted the open-minded approach of his wife and although free to do whatever he wanted with his life, he spent the nights babysitting while she was sharing her love with others. Surely, she was doing nothing wrong, she still loved him, she still loved her child tremendously, but she overlooked the fact that she had made her partner unhappy and had left him out.
In my opinion, open relationships are possible with people who have adopted the vision that instead of secretly cheating on each other, they can make it an official way of life. It makes sense, does it not? And yet… I am on the narrow-mined side of the matter. However, I do not see any reason for people who have adopted this lifestyle to shame the rest of us for wanting to have one partner only. What if that partner wants to come with you to all these places, what if your hobbies are pretty much the same? What if your sex life is satisfactory? Why should I not try to get to know the many personality levels in one person instead of finding substitutes of what lacks in him? I cannot imagine the scenario, where I have been screwing someone, a fuck buddy, just for the fun of it, and he has been doing the same, and in the evening we get in bed after kissing the kid good night and we cuddle and share.
Some years ago I watched a documentary about a woman who offered her partner an open relationship. The girl was in her late twenties, not what men would call pretty, not slim, but she had a great personality and her rather handsome boyfriend truly loved her. Why did she propose the open relationship? Because she felt unworthy, she felt he deserved someone more beautiful despite the fact that he had repeatedly assured her in the opposite. He was out on a date the first night, she wasn’t. No one invited her. He was out on a second date, she wasn’t. He was out on a third date, she wasn’t. And he wanted to stop because he was bored with other women, he wanted to be home and watch a concert on TV with her. Then she went out on a date and the strange man was abusive. She cried, but never told her partner. At the end of the first week he called it off, because he finally understood her motifs. Open relationship was not their thing.
Yet, 4% of Americans engage in open relationships with the clarification that more than a third of them are single. Consensual open marriages are a very small percent. Perhaps these people see and know things invisible to the rest? Perhaps they have mastered the art of loving many people at the same time, but why is consensual openness of the relationship so rare compared to nonconsensual one? Maybe these people have a view on life and loving which has been amputated in the rest of us? And for this, they feel superior, free spirits, understanding some deep matter which eludes me. I am not blaming them, not at all. I am blaming myself for being blind, obviously.
For sure, the relationship between Christina, Juan Antonio and Maria-Elena is perfect, they share the same bed, the same artistic calling, the same urge to experience things. But it was a movie. A great Woody Allen movie, exploring the choices and the consequences of these choices. Yet, Christina sees the fatal attraction between Juan and Maria-Elena, she knows they will never split up, no matter who comes in and goes out of their lives, and she moves on. It was a great experience, but short-lived and rather hypothetical.
Two years ago, my daughter came back from school and told me they started discussing this particular topic in English. She had to prepare a debate where she was given the task to talk on the pros of open relationships. She was at a loss, but the point of the task was to find pros even in something you don’t believe in. Her strongest argument was that every person is free to live their live as they see fit and since they don’t hurt anybody, they should not be judged. It was an excruciatingly difficult task for 15-year old children, but it taught her to see the good side of anything she was against.
I am trying to see the good side of an open relationship and to I do see it. I get it, I understand it, but my persuasions are not swayed. I tried to get some clear explanation not form Google, but from people who are engaged in such relationships. As vague as their answers were, I got one thing – I have not evolved enough. I do admire these free spirits, connected through the feeling of belonging, but when I listen to a song about love, I imagine the one person who has made me feel that connection and belonging. All the love I had in me was for him, I had nothing left to give to anyone else. He was all the people I needed. I am not Jesus to spread my love to everyone, and I don’t want to be. I am happy and foolish in my monogamy, and I am also happy there are people who have the knack for living carefree in larger than two-person romantic unities.
Eventually, we are all free to love whoever we choose, as many people as we choose, as long as we are honest with each other, as long as we share not only a bed, but all that is inside our vulnerable souls and admit to that vulnerability, the way as I just did.
–Text By Geri Decheva