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12/17/2011

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Definitely gonna be anon for this one...

Totally agree that it's a continuum thing, and that no one should pressure someone else to be in an open relationship. Or that you should go along with something you're not comfortable with. You want what you want, whether it's a particular sexual activity, or the type of relationship you are comfortable with.

That said, it totally works for us. Like many people, there're lots of complicated reasons our relationship is open. I'm the only one of the two of us who has chosen to have another relationship, and that's been fine. It's much harder on my gf than my husband, honestly. I was very concerned that I was going to ruin my marriage, my life, yadda yadda but it turns out, not so much. Communication was key, especially when it came to frank discussion about what was and wasn't ok (including where; chez moi, our bed is *our* bed, exclusively).

The biggest thing I still worry about is the kids. It is very hard to navigate/balance talking with them about it. I do not want to lie to them ver, and they're too young for the sex aspect to matter, but they are still *very* perceptive about relationships, more so than I think adults give kids credit for generally. But they also don't have any judgement about who to talk to about things. And I want to minimize any social consequences for all of us about being *too* open.

In the end, my mom, a few close friends, and mutual friends of me and my gf know, and are discreet. Most of the rest of the world does not. And honestly I think what I do behind closed doors with another consenting adult is not the business of anyone outside my bed/household.

One more thing -- the way I think about it is, how is sex really that different from scrabble? It can be extra fun and special with someone you love and are in a long-term relationship with, but why would you ever expect that you'd stop want to play scrabble with others, or that doing so would threaten your primary relationship?

The practice does not appall me, but I know it ain't for me. I have always been a one-track-mind, nonmultitasking, tunnel-vision sort of person. I'd go insane trying to juggle two (or more) relationships and the social consequences thereof...and I'd suck at it to boot.

And I should say...while I'm not appalled, and I'm open to believing that polyamory could work under the right conditions, I haven't seen an open relationship work really well (yet). I have seen it NOT work.

As for the original question ("is this a thing we all have to do now?"), my personal opinion is HELL NO.

As part of my younger, punker, slightly slutty, more idealistic days I was in many a non monogamous relationship. Eventually I realized that I personally was making myself miserable. I just couldn't get over the jealousy of having my partner sleep with other women. While I may have been casually "dating" others as well, I found I was only ever really really super excited about one person at a time that being my primary partner and because of body image issues(I'm fat and just fine with that 99% of the time) the idea of my partner sleeping with someone who I perceived as more attractive then me hurt my feelings. I think this is more a reflection on me and my issues than anything else because I have seen others make it work beautifully. Now that I'm married my husband and I have settled on non monogamous rules that work for us. I can sleep with women, he can sleep with men, things with other people will be casual, when things happen with other people be very upfront and honest about the situation with them, and either of us can bring up the idea of changing the rules at any point but both of us have to be comfortable with it for anything to change.

M. Anonymous, I respect the fun and nonthreatening idea of Scrabble, as comparing sex to a fun activity that you can and have and will enjoy with others, but it's a bit disingenuous to say it's no different. There are emotional connotations to most sex, especially non-casual, but sometimes even more so with casual! If scrabble is being used to avoid or gloss over problems at home. Plus there is your regular scrabble partner to consider, who may expect to only ever play scrabble with you, and may be worried you enjoy scrabble more with others, or one other, or will come to find that you enjoy scrabble more with others. Just saying.

i think you should do whatever feels good to you. i believe that monogamy is a social construction. like all social constructions, it embodies certain norms which incentivize certain behaviors and sanction others. some people have abandoned monogamy and some haven't. for some people, sex is no different than scrabble. i've had completely meaningless sex that had no effect on my emotional state whatsoever. for some people, however, emotions are involved. it depends entirely on who you are.

personally, i'm the jealous type so open relationships aren't my thing. and, for whatever reason, i cannot abandon the idea of a monogamous relationship. plus, i'm super paranoid about disease and the more people you are seeing, the more likely you are to contract some horrible ailment.

also, trying to change who you are for someone (no matter how much you like them) or expecting them to change for you is a quick recipe for unhappiness. the most important thing is to be up front and honest about what you want.

Very interesting comments! And I thank you for the book recommendations. That's all I got right now, til I git more edjumacated on this.

There's a book called Opening Up (http://openingup.net/) by Tristan Taormino (of butt sex fame) that has a lot of good exercises and essays about non-monogamy and polyamory. I discovered that while I do not feel good being in an open relationship, I am pretty into being the other woman for someone in an open relationship. I like to know where I stand.

Right now I'm standing in a 14-month long monogamous relationship, which for me is a wonderful place to be. When we started dating, she told me that it wouldn't feel good to her if I was sleeping with anyone else and my response was, "Does that mean forever?" because after 3 dates, I was pretty into her and didn't think our relationship was going to end anytime soon, which has proven to be true. We have a deal that we can talk things out if situations ever arise where one of us might like to get it on with someone else. She is less sexually experienced than I am, and she would like to someday have a threesome. I have been down that road a couple times and wasn't so into it, so I said she could go ahead and do that with other people if the opportunity arose, which it hasn't.

My ladyfriend was deeply hurt by an ex who insisted on a polyamorous relationship, and since she had been out of the dating scene for a while, she just thought that's what all the kids were doing these days and agreed, but wasn't actually comfortable with that idea. It's never a good idea to go along with what your date wants if that's not what you feel comfortable with.

I have a few friends who have agreed to be in more casual relationships than they really wanted because they really liked the person they were dating and didn't want to give up on that, figuring the person would come around eventually, but they never did, and my friends just fell harder and harder for the person until finally their hearts were totally broken. Ouch.

Oh, I wouldn't for a second say that as activities, scrabble and sex were the same. I just don't think there's a rational or innate reason that either has to be an exclusive activity. Would you dump your spouse because someone else was better at scrabble? I wouldn't. And I totally get that there are really deep societal conventions and expectations here. But I think that at their root, they're just that -- I'm not insulted by seeing the bottom of someone else's shoe, or by someone blowing their nose in public, and in other places, those are intolerably rude. Sex is a special and definitely emotional experience, but those things don't (at least to me) make it have to be exclusive. Any more than emotionally close platonic relationships are exclusive.

And opening up a relationship that has problems seems to me like it would only make things worse by adding another distraction when the focus needs to be on trying to make the primary relationship work.

I should also say that my experience with happy monogamy (measured in decades) outweighs my experience with monogamishness (measured in years). Given the choice between monogamy and my husband, I would choose the latter and live out my days contentedly. So I may be a poor advocate for people who really think of themselves as poly and are actively unhappy in only one relationship.

- the first anon

ms. ladymoist, "also, trying to change who you are for someone (no matter how much you like them) or expecting them to change for you is a quick recipe for unhappiness. the most important thing is to be up front and honest about what you want." -- YES. That there.

It ties in nicely with Gee Oh Vee's last line, too.

I am enjoying the Scrabble-metaphor discussion!

all i can say for now is that i love this discussion and i love the idea of anyone being 'of butt sex fame'

I know, right? I wish those could be MY credentials.

Or, you know, not.

Too late.

Side note on the Gay Talese book: the intro was written by Katie Roiphe. And I read the intro and thought, this is the first Roiphe piece I've ever read that didn't make me want to punch her! Wow! Awesome!

And then I read the book and...it was as though the intro belonged to a completely different book. The book was utterly fascinating but in no small part because it was, itself, an artifact of the time and of a certain way of thinking, and Roiphe just ENTIRELY MISSED THAT. Which tells me that her beliefs around sex and gender and culture are perfectly in line with a very establishment-y, definitely not-feminist man in the 1970s.

a note on scrabble: i think i've actually played scrabble games that i was more emotional about than some of the people i've slept with. when i play scrabble, i play to win. always. with some of the people i've slept with, i could care less either way.

ms. ladymoist -- ha! so true!

And I couldn't agree more with: "trying to change who you are for someone (no matter how much you like them) or expecting them to change for you is a quick recipe for unhappiness. the most important thing is to be up front and honest about what you want."

A wekk late to the TMI party but that's pretty much how I roll...
In my experience, my dalliance into an open relationship was (for me) an amazing, soul deepening experience that really helped me become a whole person. The problem was, that while all parties ageed BEFOREHAND that it was all good and that communication was key, my dear husband either
A.)did not realize
B.) didn't anticipate
C.) Couldn't handle, process and articluate
the feelings he would have afterwards. While I felt everything was fine, that I was communicating and having this wonderful experience, it wasn't actually going well for both of us. This resulted in some issues. I think that's a core issue to consider too. Nobody really knows how they will feel afterwards. Feelings are funny and can really manifest in ways we didn't expect, and then we're stuck with the messy business of clean up and repair to something we never thought was broken.

I am endlessly grateful for my experience. The other party involved is a close friend, trusted, considereate and loving, but to be honest I coiuldn't have done it with anyone who wasn't. I learned a good deal about owning myself, my body(!) my feelings and my life and I don't regret it one bit.

I also learned important things about my marriage and my husband. There were some pretty rough times there for a while, and I wondered if we would make it though. I felt like I had been set up and betrayed, that I had done my fair share of communicating and had played by the ground rules we had set together. The things, is, sometimes, feelings change, and you can't help how you feel. I am haqppy to say that we have been working hard on loving each other more, and it's working.

I still believe deeply in the concept of open relationships, but I KNOW for a FACT it won't work unless everyone involved is really saying exactly what they mean. That's the most difficult part of all. I am a girl who requires a variety of relationships with a lot of people to feel healthy and whole, and for now, those relationships must be conducted with our pants on. Do I hold out hope that one day we'll get to a place in our marriage where the open thing will work? YOU BETCHA. But I'm not going there again until I know it's the healthiest thing for both of us.

Scarlet A, aren't you lucky that we haven't posted a thing since? :)

Wise words, there.

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