Sunday, March 27, 2011

Open Relationship... What's that?

A friend from college noticed that I'd changed my Facebook status from "Married" to "In An Open Relationship."

"Does it ever get complicated?" he asked. "Like, for instance, if your husband's girlfriend decides she wants to be more than just a girlfriend. Do you ever worry that your husband might get sick of sharing you with someone else?"

Well, I have to admit that we're just starting this adventure together, so I can't yet declare that we've made it work for the long term. Nonetheless, neither of us believes that it's either realistic or fair to expect one person to meet ALL of one's intimate needs - be they emotional or physical. So, when he has another partner to meet the needs that I can't/won't meet, it actually takes the pressure off of me, and vice versa.

Am I worried that he'll ever get sick of sharing me? No, it's not something that he's doing as a favor, or a new toy that might wear out. He is committed to my well-being and satisfaction in our marriage, and I count on that as much as I share that commitment for him. A happy wife is a better wife, right? It's in his best interest that my needs get met! AND, if he asked me to be monogamous for a period of time while he/we processed something traumatic or deeply-impactful, I would accept and honor that request. We've agreed to put one another first.

So, given that I'm thrilled that I'm not his only sexual partner, what if she wanted to fill some of the emotional roles that are currently mine - like professional adviser and motivator, best friend, or meal-preparation expert? Honestly, I think I'd be happy to share some of the responsibility! I deeply want him to be happy and fulfilled, and I'm not attached to being the source of that.

At the same time, it's MY job to make sure that I still get MY emotional needs met, so there would be a period of navigation - testing things out, tripping over unrealized boundaries and then negotiating for/around them. In other words, getting upset, figuring out why, which includes totally owning my part in it, and then determining how to mitigate that. For example, is there a request I need to make for more time with him, or more contact of a particular kind, or a certain kind of communication, etc.? Sometimes it's easy, other times more complicated.

This kind of lifestyle requires HUGE personal responsibility for one's own emotions. As my friend Philip says, "The best thing about open relationships is that you get to really learn about yourself, and the worst thing about open relationships is that you get to really learn about yourself."

Anyway... in the end, neither of us believes (=fears) that we're replaceable. NOTE: it has taken a lot of inner work and communication to get there. So, our partner having another loved one/lover isn't a threat, it's a source of support. That's not how most people in our society are taught to think, and popular media does NOT support that, which is part of why I've chosen my professional path!

Crazy, huh? On the other hand, there's a LOT of freedom here, and I suspect that we'd be more likely to divorce if we didn't have an open relationship than because we Do. To each their own... :)

M. Makael Newby, 2011 - All Rights Reserved -

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