An Update on My Open Relationship Life.
More than a year ago, I wrote “More Sex with More People: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Open Relationships.”
In it, I discussed both my desire for, and hesitations about, experiencing this type of relationship construction. At that time, my partner and I had still not fully committed to the idea. A few months after the article came out, we both agreed it was time to put what we theoretically believed into a reality-based practice.
We both felt that if we didn’t go for it, we would end up always regretting it; wondering what our lives would have been like if we hadn’t.
So, we went from being a monogamous couple to polyamorous partners.
I don’t think either of us was really prepared for what happened.
Sometimes theory is better than reality.
Sometimes theory put into reality helps expose hidden problems within said reality.
In other words, together we experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The relationship is over, but I’d like to take a moment to discuss what I learned from our experience.
A vital aside:
Now, let me back up for just a second and come out to you all…I am pansexual. This is a sexuality that most people may not have heard of or do not understand, but basically I am attracted to people regardless of their gender identity, and I do not believe in abiding by our current gender binary social construction.
Essentially, if you are beautiful (which is an entirely different theory I can go into at a later time), then I will probably be attracted to you.
The Good: More Sex with More People.
Polyamory is not just about sex. Polyamory basically means loving more than one, that is, developing relationships with people with a stronger intimacy level than friendship—whether it is sexual, emotional, spiritual or some combination of these factors.
Neither of us was looking to just go out and fuck. We were looking to expand intimacy. And, we did. We met a polyamorous woman and the three of us together developed a meaningful and intimate relationship.
The Bad: Flaws and Claws Exposed.
During this triad experience, it became clear that our existing relationship had some underlying issues that neither of us had seen before. The most important elements of any relationship—monogamous or otherwise—are open communication, honesty, and trust. In polyamory, very specific rules and boundaries are established; just like with monogamy, except that the boundaries extend outside of the primary couple and are supposed to be discussed with all parties involved.
All three important elements were eventually broken.
While I was at home visiting my family, my partner started seeing someone else without informing me. When he eventually said he was spending time with her, he failed to elaborate on what that meant. I told him that since I wasn’t there, I felt uncomfortable with anything happening between the two and that I would prefer he not see her until we could talk face to face about the situation. He did not care about what I preferred. He went out with her anyway.
His failure to communicate, his lack of honesty and his betrayal of my trust essentially was the push that ended our relationship.
(The woman who was in the triad with us was sad that all of this happened, but very supportive and comforting throughout, and is still a friend.)
The Ugly: Breaking Up is (kind of) Hard to Do.
Though those three important elements were broken (along with my heart), they effectively proved that we actually weren’t good together. I felt he acted out in a way that, consciously or not, he knew would push us toward ending our relationship instead of just ending it over “creative differences” or “outgrowing each other”—which we had. I know not all relationships have a “moment” like that to push them to their breaking point, but many do. I think it has to do with a fear of the unknown; a misunderstanding of love—both of oneself and of others; an apprehension, some confusion and the loss of an identity.
Of course I wasn’t perfect in the relationship; it would be wrong for me to pretend I did everything right. Relationships are supposed to help the others become their best selves; I feel that my biggest fault was that toward the end I started to lack interest in who he was becoming. I no longer had the same enthusiasm in his work and had a rather negative attitude about his desires for the future. Perhaps the negativity stemmed from a subconscious understanding that we were pulling apart. At the same time, we were together for over five years so another part of me thought it was just a natural wane in our long-term relationship that would return. I was wrong.
People always ask me the same question:
Do you think you two did this as a means to an end?
No, though I often wonder if he did—which is why I think it is probably easier to go into polyamorous relationships together as opposed to taking an existing monogamous relationship and trying to turn it poly. But again, it depends on the situation and the people involved.
Where am I now?
What am I left thinking?
Will I try polyamory or other alternative relationship structures again?
We broke up. I moved from Boulder to Denver and am now practicing the art of being an ethical single slut. I tell people I’m an Almost Ethical Slut because my arrival into singledom has brought me new challenges and situations that are forcing me to continually develop my communication skills. And it took me a while to figure out what I actually wanted and who I wanted to do what I wanted with.
I plan to be single for a while—maybe the rest of my life. This is not a dramatic statement made because I’m scared to get hurt again. It is a statement grounded in truth based on who I am as a person. And being single does not mean being alone. (It also doesn’t mean I won’t get hurt.)
I don’t think people give single life enough of a chance and I want to explore it more.
I’m enjoying going on dates with people and learning—about them, about me, about life.
I’m enjoying spending time alone re-configuring who I am and who I want to be.
I’m enjoying making new friends and developing loyalty, affection, kindness on a deeper level.
I’m not giving up on love; I’m just making it work for me—even if it goes against society’s expectations—because yes, I was really disappointed and hurt that both the relationship ended and the polyamory didn’t work out for us. I truly wanted the theory and the reality to go together. I still believe that it is possible, that many different configurations of relationships are possible if we are open to them; if we are open to experiencing the good, the bad, the ugly and growing, learning, transforming who we are and how we love each other. It’s not always going to work out, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.
Many people do not feel comfortable in monogamous (heteronormative) relationships, and through the practice of trying out different ways of being and showing love, we can each find what works best for our happiest, most joyful selves.
Suggested Further Reading:
The Ethical Slut: Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy
Undoing Gender: Judith Butler
The History of Sexuality: Michel Foucault
Queer Theory, Gender Theory: Riki Wilchins
The Creation of Patriarchy: Gerda Lerner
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