Questioning Open Relationships: A Look At Alternate Forms Of Dating

Spring is upon us and it will soon officially become mating season. For those still single among the coupled lovebirds, it is increasingly apparent that monogamy tends to limit the pool of availability. Unfortunately, the most common solution to this problem is what we call an open relationship, or rather forming spiritual, emotional or physical connections with people other than your significant other. In my experience it’s better to just continue the search for “The One.”

My problem is not with openly dating a number of different people in general. In fact, I was a notorious dater for a while. I went out when asked, but never seemed to be attached to anyone. I think that’s where this judgment formed.

It has been a year now, but the details of the confusion that come with an open relationship have yet to leave the confines of my tortured mind.

From the outset of a particular relationship of mine, we agreed that we could see others if the opportunity presented itself. At the time, I didn’t like to talk to people about being with this guy because when I tried to describe what was going on between us, it didn’t seem like we were together at all. But we were, weren’t we?

We went out, spent a lot of time exclusively together, showed up to events together and definitely acted like a couple. But I didn’t push very hard to define our relationship because I was afraid of pushing him away, and as the serial dater that I am, I wanted to keep my options open.

There were times that I felt he wanted me to break up with him and take the burden off his shoulders. But in the back of my stubborn head I figured we weren’t really together anyway, so if he honestly wanted to end it he could do so himself.

In the end, it didn’t matter how many times I actively questioned the seriousness of this open relationship. Even though I was allowed to see others, my heart still hurt when he decided to announce what I already knew: that he just didn’t like me enough to be with me and me alone.

In retrospect, I should have known that it wouldn’t work. He frequently withheld the truth and couldn’t bring himself to say what he meant or what he wanted, though he ironically hated even the smallest lies.

Like I said, my problem isn’t the open relationship itself. My problem is calling what was happening a relationship at all. By saying that it was, I felt that he opened our partnership to the possibility of endurance and official status.

I like things frank and well-defined, and frankly, I find the definition of an open relationship to be fundamentally flawed. If the most appealing aspect of this form of partnership is the lack of obligation or ties to a single individual, then it seems to me that the word “relationship” as a socially accepted romantic bond between individuals has no place at all in the description. It seems to me there is no bond at all!

Extending this reasoning further, if sex is involved — which it often is —, I don’t think you should kid yourself by euphemizing. It’s only a hop, skip and a naughty little jump over a fuzzy grey line into friends with benefits territory. And hey, if that’s really all you’re looking for, at least be honest with yourself and call it what it is.

Flexibility and variety aside, how is an open relationship any better than a regular one? Security’s obviously not important if your significant other can see anyone, and if you’re just looking for a good time, commitment’s not an issue.

But maybe an open relationship will really suit you. Before you jump to it, I’d like you to consider these questions.
1)    How much attention do you need to be happy? Are you willing to share that attention with others or do you feel that you need to be the top priority?
2)    What do you expect to gain from being in a relationship? Do you just want to get physical or are you looking for something a little more personal?
3)    How willing are you to accept others and be flexible and accommodating with their time alone with your lover?

If these questions have assured you that an open relationship is still right for you, then by all means, go for it. But I implore you to make sure you and your partner set mutually agreeable limits and agree to be open and honest with each other.

In the meantime — maybe it’s the ever-living hopeless romantic within me talking — I’m holding out for the one who is willing to win me over and stick by me and me alone.