Open Relationships Aren’t For Everyone
I remember lying in my bed with my girlfriend of three years. It was the first time we’d seen each other in months since she had moved down south for college.
“I think we should start dating other people.”
“You want to break up?”
We were each other’s first everything and I loved her with every piece of my soul. Despite our occasional dysfunctional fights and annoying bickering, we weren’t that bad together. People knew us as the fun couple who would dance all night and speak in jokes. So, when she decided to transfer schools and move to Florida, I was bummed but hopeful. I knew our relationship would be able to withstand the distance, but I was heart-broken at the thought of not seeing her every day. The weeks leading up to her big move were sad; it felt like it rained every day. We’d desperately try to plan as many dates and activities as possible, so as to keep our last days happy. But it never worked like that — one of us would inevitably get upset at the other. She’d get angry at me for not wanting me to move with her, I would accuse her of moving to get away from me, then we’d have depressing sex and eat pizza. Finally the day came and I cried like a little boy whose dog just died. It was the worst possible thing, in my mind, that could ever happen to a person.
For a few months, we made the whole thing work. We set up times to call each other, I visited her, she visited me, it was fine. Naturally, we started drifting apart. She wouldn’t pick up the phone when I called, I would obsess over her Facebook pictures — questioning any guy who appeared to be close with her. We were beginning to fall apart.
On one particular visit, I noticed something was totally off. I drove to her house, opened the door and hugged her. What I remember was not a hug back, but more of an obligatory body press. I shook off the weird feeling and went inside. She was incredibly awkward around me, which made me feel incredibly awkward around her. I felt myself sweating, mumbling my words, and desperately searching for things to talk about. At one point, I stuck my hand into her zebra purse and pretended to be the boy with the zebra hand. I was crashing and burning. After some seriously romance-free sex, things got a little less tense. We made dinner and started doping around on the Internet. She was showing me pictures on her Facebook and I was half-paying attention. Then she turned to me and said:
“Let’s change our relationship status.”
“As a joke. Jeremy and Amy are complicated.”
I half chuckled back and didn’t respond.
“It’s just Facebook.” She changed it. The weird feeling lasted for the duration of the trip and I went home feeling cheated and empty.
Cut back to the night we were in my bed when she suggested we see other people.
“Why?!” I asked.
“Because I don’t want you to grow to resent me and we should be able to explore other options. We’re going to end up together, so why does it matter?”
I should step back for a second and explain why I agreed with her:
A. I am very easily swayed. I am terrified at the idea of what I could potentially be convinced into doing. It’s just my reaction to nicely worded, calmly laid out arguments. I fold like those fainting goats.
B. I wanted, desperately, to maintain this relationship. I was young and anxious and, when you’re like that, you cling to anyone who gives you the slightest bit of attention.
So blah blah blah, I conceded and agreed to be in an open relationship. We laid out rules like:
1. No falling in love.
2. If one of us called while the other was with someone else, we would text back: “elsewhere.”
3. Be safe and no weird stuff that could cause bumps or crust or goo.
4. Sex was totally fine*
Let me explain the asterisk, as it comes into play a little later in the story. This rule was established after rule number three. We agreed that we could explore other means of pleasure with a person as long as it was safe. Then she hastily added in: “And sex is allowed too.” That stopped me dead in my tracks.
“Uh… I don’t think I want that.”
“That’s the whole point, though.”
The tension in that bed was awful. I felt my entire face burning up. I quickly said “fine,” thinking I could somehow convince myself it would work.
Flash forward a few months later, when this jet-turbine of shit is in full effect. For a short time, it actually seems to be alright. She started it off by calling me on night and laughing about how she had just made out with her ex-boyfriend who also attended her college. She made it seem…funny. And, oddly enough, that put my mind at ease. It didn’t seem real when it was funny. I imagined this scenario, over and over, where she would be kissing a guy before stopping him.
“I like you,” she would say to this poor schmuck, “but I love Jeremy. Sorry.” Then we could laugh about it over the phone and I’d ride my golden unicorn all the way to candy island.
Reality hit hard the week after she told me about her adventure with the ex. I decide to exercise my right as a member of the open relationship club and went on a date with a nice girl. Amy called me during the middle of it and I texted her “elsewhere.”
The result I got back was akin to every shit ever taken hitting the largest jet turbine in the world. She sent a barrage of mean, angry texts, she called my phone over and over, crying about how I didn’t love her anymore. The date was ruined.
I was blown away by the double standard she inflicted upon us and didn’t understand why it wasn’t working. Summer came and she moved back home for a while. We ended having a wonderful time and even joked about how our open relationship didn’t work out too well.
One night, after a particularly bad fight, we held each other in bed. She burst into tears and confessed that she had hooked up with someone at school.
I held her, shocked and hurt, and told her that it was alright.
“Amy, it’s ok. It was part of the deal, remember?” Eventually she calmed down and we began to talk it through. I asked her about it and she said she hated the boy and regretted every moment of it. Then I made the mistake of asking what they did. She was silent. They had sex.
Here’s where the asterisk comes into play. It turns out she had had sex with guy before everything. Before our big conversation about the open relationship, before she changed our Facebook status. Before everything. She cheated on me.
I’ll never forget the drive home the following day. I blared music in the car and was silent the entire time. She got out of the car and I drove to Burger King. I sat in the parking lot, annihilating my enormous burger and fumed. I got home, turned on the shower and screamed as loud as I could. I punched the walls and swore. I turned the shower off, called her on the phone, told her she was a “fucking whore who deserve nothing less than death by flaying” and broke up with her.
Nope, that’s a lie. Because I was a god damn pussy. The truth is, this story ends with a face palm. We went through this bullshit song and dance for another year and half. We would see other people, scream at each other when one of us drifted too far from the other, psychologically terrorize one another. It was a mess.
Finally, thankfully, we broke up and tried to remain friends. Every subsequent relationship I had was ruined by her late night phone calls. I would sabotage every fling she had, and we lived unhappy — separately for a long time. Amy and I were a disaster. We were Chernobyl, we were Apollo 13, we were that underground fire in Pennsylvania that has been burning for years.
So how does a story like this end? Did I grow and change and wise up on how to date? Well, kind of. For a long time I’d take out my leftover hostility from Amy on every girl I dated after. I would get drunk and send Amy texts like: “hey, remember that hilarious time you cheated on me with that piece of shit from Florida?” and generally regressed in maturity to that of a 16-year-old boy.
But what can I say? Had I manned up and realized I had testicles dangling between my legs, I would have ended the relationship the moment I realized things were getting fishy. I was weak willed, but I wasn’t a complete idiot — I knew something was going on, but like I said: when you love someone and you’re insecure, you cling. And I, ladies and gentleman, clung on to that sinking ship. I was the Titanic and the iceberg all at once. So let this be a lesson to everyone: don’t let your shitty girlfriend change your relationship status on fucking Facebook, ok?
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When I was a kid, I dreamed of my mid-20s. Seriously, you remember those awkward moments of junior high, high school, and even college when you just thought, “Goddamnit, I wish I were a real adult,” right?
10. Make sure your lips are always chapped by constantly licking them and never applying chap stick.
23. Respect that there will always be a few things in the fridge that are absolutely and completely off-limits, but share a bottle of wine or a couple beers every now and again in the spirit of friendship.
Pull them closer in their sleep.