I Don't Get Your Open Relationship

Help me understand it please.
Publish date:
May 16, 2012
monogamy, old fashioned ideas, open relationships

I recently met someone who didn’t believe that two people should be in a singular, romantically faithful relationship.

“Wait, do you, like, believe in monogamy?” the girl asked, her voice drenched in skepticism. We’d just met that night and had been getting along really well until that point when it seems my penchant for having relationships that involved a singular partnership threw a wrench into our fledgling friendship.

She looked at me as though I had chosen to be Amish. Her expression said, Lady, they invented these things called “washing machines” and you’re still out there scrubbing your clothes with a washtub and piece of plywood. “People aren’t meant to be monogamous,” she told me slowly, carefully, like she was explaining to a child the truth about Santa Claus. Well, we might not be meant for monogamy, I thought later. Fidelity has certainly has come up as a problem for nearly everyone I’ve known at some point. But then again, we probably are not meant to wear clothing made from plastic fibers nor jump out of airplanes for entertainment purposes, but somehow we’ve just evolved that way as a species. For better or worse we are inclined to do things that don’t make much sense. I haven’t brought this up before for fear of being deemed regressive and lame, but seeing as this woman already outed me, I might as well just come right out and say it -- I am just as mystified by her open relationships as she is of my closed-up ones. I’m certain that there are a lot of people who genuinely prefer to be with multiple partners and who can control their jealousy -- an instinct which, for me, would be more overwhelming than the ones that would lead me to have sex with multiple partners. I’m sure these people have reasons just as compelling, if not more, for keeping their relationships open. And they shouldn’t have to explain them to me, someone who has never had, nor particularly wanted a non-monogamous relationship. I’m curious, though. If these situations are now so common that I'm being derided for wanting monogamy, I'd like to at least hear how they work because I don’t quite understand, and I keep meeting people who think I should. So I’m asking you. Most of my real-world examples with people in open relationships have been when my women friends agree to it in order to keep their relationship going and in most of these instances, I can’t help but think they are getting the raw end of the deal. The way I’ve seen it go down, one partner is getting the milk as well as the burger for free and all the other one getting is a lesson in patience and heartbreak.

I’m not saying they are all like this -- they couldn’t be or I’d hope no one would want to be in one -- but the open relationships I’ve witnessed often seem to screw over the person who didn’t initially suggest it. That person, in turn, is inclined to have meaningless flings, which he or she doesn’t really even want, to prove that they are also utilizing the situation to their benefit.

If two people want to have separate sexual interests, I suppose I don’t understand the point of being a committed relationship at all. Why not just be friends who have sex and sleepovers sometimes and stay single? What about the feelings of the new partners who are supposed to be OK with remaining on the emotional periphery? Love is complicated as it is and it is hard for me not to see the added complexity of multiple partners as a recipe for at least one if not multiple broken hearts. I think that our bodies were perhaps not meant to be with one person but personally, I believe that my mind is. Who knows what we are meant to do, who cares, I guess.

Actually, no I do. I’m totally interested and it is going to keep coming up so I should have a better perspective on the issue. I know that lots of people are in open relationships and that in many cases they do work out. I just haven’t met an example of that. Has an open relationship worked for you? Are you honest-to-God not stomach sick to think of the person you love having sex with someone else? Am I going to get left behind because open relationships are the way of the future? Educate me please.