I spent a lot of time looking for the “perfect guy”—ya know, a nice boy to settle down with and start a family. I also spent a lot of time running away from all of the guys I dated who seemed to want those things. It seemed like a weird-self destructive pattern, but turns out I didn’t actually want any of it—I just thought it was the only option. And it’s a strange fucking thing, to not want what everyone else around you seems to put on a pedestal. To turn to your boyfriend at a wedding and whisper, “Really, until death do them part? That seems unrealistic”. But you know what? Marriage and kids and monogamy just aren’t for me. And that’s fucking okay.
So, not wanting to get married is not like, revolutionary. And since I live in San Francisco, being in an open relationship isn’t either. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard as fuck to explain to most of the people in my life. Turns out it’s difficult for someone to look past what they would want for themselves, to get them to respect that while your life choices may be different, they can still be right. So I’m going to do my best to plead the case for open relationships, but before I preach do, let me start by saying this: If you are a die-hard fan of “till death do us part,” my open relationship is not an affront to your monogamy. You do what makes you happy. But your monogamy shouldn’t make my open relationship any less significant, because I’m gonna do what makes me happy too.
So here it goes, my somewhat experienced guide to a healthy, happy and fulfilling af open relationship:
Step 1: Commitment
Yes, in an open relationship you sleep with or date other people, but at the end of the day, your partner is your partner. You should be there for each other in crisis and want to celebrate with each other in happiness. Sure, you are not committing to only sleeping with each other, but you are definitely committing to being there for each other. And if you don’t have that, then gtfo because that’s not a relationship at all.
Step 2: Set Some Ground Rules
Navigating non-monogamy can be confusing af, and being open can mean something different for every couple. For some it’s “one night stands are okay” and for others it’s “anything goes”. But no matter where you are on the open spectrum, you need to talk to your partner about it. Share what you are comfortable with and where your boundaries lie. Commit to your ground rules in the same way you commit to each other, and check in every once in awhile to make sure you are still on the same page.
Step 3: Be Okay With Jealousy
Jealousy doesn’t go away when you are open, it just takes a different form. It becomes something you talk about and not something you fear. I am open, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get jealous—it means I don’t equate my partner being with someone else to them not being committed to me. So if I get jealous, I’ll tell my boyfriend and vice versa. And if it means we need to re-adjust our boundaries, then we’ll do that.
Step 4: Put Happiness First
A relationship should make you happy; it shouldn’t hold you back. That’s what makes being open so great—you have someone who brings joy to your life, but if you are out one night and you want to flirt with or go home with someone, and that’s going to make you happy, then you can do that too.
Step 5: Choice, Not Compromise
If you wanted monogamy and couldn’t find it, you shouldn’t settle for an open relationship. That doesn’t mean you have to be comfortable with it from the get-go (I wasn’t). It’s okay if it takes time (and numerous breakups) to figure out. But ultimately, it will only work if you feel like it was your choice, not your only option.
And for a final little-known fact about open relationships: You can be open and still choose monogamy. For some couples, it’s about having the option to be with someone else and less about actually being with someone else. So if you feel like you only want what you can’t have, try removing the “can’t” and see what happens.
Images: Aranxa Esteve / Unsplash; Giphy