Getting Closer Through an Open Relationship

By on September 22, 2014

My boyfriend and I have been together for the better part of nine years. I say “the better part” because I’m 22 and he’s 23, and the nine intervening years of high school and college were not consistently grand for us, as individuals or as a couple. We’ve split up over ideological differences, geographical distance, fear of commitment – you name it, I’ve cried about it.

But ever since we decided to open our relationship, we’ve been closer than ever. The decision came upon the heels of one of several periodic breakups, the result of my pressuring him for that long-awaited ring and his responding with fear of never being able to sleep with anyone else for the entirety of his adult life – a logical fear for someone who has spent most of his years of sexual awakening in a relationship with the same girl. During the split, we both hooked up with other people (specifically, women), and when we got back together, we confessed, forgave, and did our best to move on.

Since my fear was that he was going to leave me, and his only reason to leave was the threat of a lifetime of monogamous sexual monotony (a concern I had secretly shared), a solution was to go the way of the Bonobo and treat sex like a recreational activity without negative emotional repercussions. We realized that we were only trying to be monogamous because society expected us to be. Plus, when you consider my staunch feminism and the extremely sexist history of monogamy in which women are seen as prizes or conquests rather than actual human beings, I had to confess: it wasn’t for me. Essentially, the downfalls of monogamy outweighed its benefits in our relationship, so we chose to discard it.

It was scary at first. I cried a bit. It was tough to let go of something I had been trained to value since birth. But I had outlived its usefulness. The prospect of  “sharing” my boyfriend with other men or women as his tastes may dictate was frightening. But he is not mine just as I am not his, and I couldn’t “share” him any more than he could “share” me. I trust him enough to know that, no matter whom else he might be attracted to, he will never have our nine years of mutual growth and shared perspective with anyone else, and will therefore never feel about anyone else the way he feels about me. Our relationship is more than sex, and while sex is important, sexual monogamy or the lack thereof isn’t going to make or break us. As a matter of fact, its absence has made us stronger.

Before opening our relationship, I was incredibly jealous when he talked about other attractive women. Even if there was zero chance of anything happening between them – his high school crush on Scarlett Johansson comes to mind – I would still feel like I had to compete with her for his interest. I assumed he was comparing me to her and to every other beautiful woman, and I was convinced I couldn’t stack up.

In allowing myself to experience sexual attraction freely and without fear of crossing the line of appropriate behavior within my relationship, I was able to compare my boyfriend’s attraction to other people with my own. “She’s beautiful, and I’m attracted to her, but I would never leave you for her,” has become the unstated agreement when it comes to sex outside the relationship. I can’t continue to be jealous of him for feeling something I also unabashedly feel, and that kind of openness has brought us to a new plane of understanding and appreciation in our relationship.

I love being in an open relationship. I love the peace that comes in the absence of worry over “losing our passion” or being cheated on. I love that I will never need to resort to eating a donut off of his dick to keep things spicy in the bedroom. I love that the line is drawn clearly, with consent, contraception, and communication being the three rules guiding our arrangement. I love that I can be in a stable, healthy relationship with a man, and can still enjoy sex with a lady every now and again.

The absolute rightness of our decision for me hit home on my birthday this year, when my boyfriend and a close friend of ours treated me to my first ever threesome. Enjoying myself while watching them enjoy themselves and each other, I realized that sex, when stripped of power dynamics and inhibitions, is all about the mutual exchange of pleasure. My boyfriend is just as faithful to me while he goes down on someone else as he is when he invites me to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

For us, sex is not a pact or a promise or a problem. It is not earth-shattering or life-affirming. Above all else, it is not a betrayal as long as we don’t consider it one.



Do you think open relationships can bring people closer?