The fundamentals of the relationship are changing and to some people that’s a good thing.
We can’t deny love when it hits us. When you find that one person that has everything you’ve ever wanted or dreamed about, it’s a glorious feeling. But just as fast as we fall into these “perfect” relationships, they can bring to light question or doubt. You realize you love that person, but there’s just something missing from the relationship, something that isn’t there. You want to find more, but you enjoy going to bed at night with them by your side. You are not ready to leave that person, risking everything that was built-in hope to potentially find that missing something or someone.
Relationships are ever-changing, just as our mindsets are. We hear it all the time from our friends, colleagues, even our parents (most of them) are aware of this. For those of us in our experimental stage of life where we go out and meet new people, hoping to find a match on any dating site. There seems to be an immense amount of options, so is dating just one person really the expectation?
By now you may have heard of the term “open relationship” and immediately thought of an affair or cheating, but that isn’t true. An open relationship is when two people are together in a relationship and have an agreement to see or date other people. Sounds crazy right? Not at all. The concept of the open relationship is still fairly new but has been recognized since the early 1970’s. And many people practice it. Yup, it’s not cheating if both parties agree to it.
So why do people agree to this type of phenomenon? For many reasons. There are rules and agreements made in the beginning to make both partners feel comfortable in this venture. Many times one person may not want to end the relationship, but still want to explore and meet new people. Often both partners agree to this feeling of having the company of another. Take for instance a friend of a friend of mine who believes that human beings are meant to explore and meet different people throughout their life. It’s human nature and it’s totally normal.
I couldn’t see myself being in an open relationship. It could be the way I was brought up, with traditional morals of exclusivity and privacy. Or it could be the underlying jealousy issues that can make me go batshit crazy in the head. Whatever the case may be, I am not alone in this mindset. The relationship prototype we were exposed to growing up through various Disney movies and grandma’s old pictures showcase this special, once-in-a-lifetime connection between two people. No one else. Just two people on a magic carpet ride (if you don’t know that reference, you’re probably too young to even think about dating).
On the other hand, Aladdin is a fictional character and point of views are progressing. We no longer live in grandma’s old school world where she cooked dinner for grandpa at the same time every night while reruns of “I Love Lucy” played on the boxed television set. This is a new generation with new thoughts and the everlasting craving of being out of the ordinary and finding the next new. Gosh darn it granny, get off of that plastic-covered loveseat and go explore the world!
Every relationship is different, with its own unique agreements and do’s and don’ts. It’s important to understand that not every open relationship means having sex with strangers. It could be a night out on the town or a nice dinner at the newest restaurant rated 4 out of 4 stars. Yes, sex can be a huge factor in it, but not everyone wants it. My roommate told me once about his ex and how they would see other people just for the company and thrill of meeting someone new. If it ever escalates to the potential of a sexual encounter, they would talk about it first so both parties were aware and in agreement.
The open relationship has grown popular in the LGBT community as well, although it is still kept behind closed doors. Fear of being judged by friends, family or just the world, in general, is the reason open relationships are kept so secret most of the time. Think about it – a gay man or woman spends so much of their time working to make themselves more accepted and equal to everyone else, so the fear of all that work being tossed away is enough to keep it a secret. Then there’s that reassuring old saying, “I don’t care what you do as long as you don’t do it in front of me.” Well, duh. Relationships like these aren’t meant to be a spectacle for the world to witness.
For many, gay and straight, finding the right relationship can become a draining task. To find comfort in one person for the rest of their lives seems unrealistic, especially with so many people in the world. Open relationships are the best option for these people, although it may not look that way to others. Not only do they face criticism from people who don’t understand their thoughts and feelings, but may find doubt in themselves. Human beings are social creatures by nature. Isn’t it seen as not being true to your natural self not to want to explore and meet others?
The sad truth is that finding the perfect match that will stay a perfect match in 20, 30 years is becoming less likely. We can blame new technology, dating apps or even social media for this, finding any excuse for the downfall of modern relationships. But are those things really to blame or it is there a deeper reason we can’t bring ourselves to admit? I have witnessed the end of many relationships because of infidelity and lies that started with a left-swipe or a heart emoji that slid into the DM of another. Social media and dating apps are accessible to anyone with the capability of pressing a few buttons and the start of temptations and natural desires.
I met up with a friend recently who had just broken up with her boyfriend of 3 years. They were very exclusive when they were an item, but had argued several times about him liking pictures of other girls and vice versa. She is someone who wouldn’t agree with being in an open relationship, so I brought up the option of having one with a future partner, knowing similar problems were likely to happen again. To my surprise, she seemed more open to the idea. When you begin to see someone new, you are more than likely not the only person they are interested or even talking to. That person is seeing their options and what they like and don’t like, so why deny the options? You are not an item until you are an item.
And then there’s sex. Numerous open relationships welcome the idea of venturing out and exploring other people. While one person in the relationship may be content in their sex life, the other may have a void they want to fill. This void may be from lack of pleasure to fantasy. Fantasies are often kept as just wishes or something not capable of happening and it shouldn’t be that way. Being able to express one’s wants and desire to your partner is a healthy part of the relationship. It opens communication and allows connection between the parties involved. What you do on your own time shouldn’t make you feel weird, especially if it’s with someone you enjoy being with.
One thing to consider is trust. For starters, if there is no trust in the relationship or no building of it, it’s probably not a good idea to invest time into opening the relationship to others. Trust can make or break any relationship, leading to jealousy issues or just making stupid decisions. The rules both partners make should hold value to the trust built and the mutual understanding that this is part of the relationship, not an excuse to cheat.
Sex drives differ from person to person. One partner may have a healthy, active sex drive while the other may not. This is perfectly normal and shouldn’t be frowned upon. Perhaps one person wants sex one night and the other doesn’t. Why shouldn’t that person be allowed to carry out their desire if both parties agree to it? In the traditional relationship, this situation would call for the sex driven person to just suck it up and deal with it. But the feeling is still there with no real solution to the problem. Wouldn’t you want you partner to be happy just like you would like to be happy too?
But not everyone understands this mentality. This is something many would argue about and to some extent with valid reasoning. The biggest reason being the risk of coming into contact with a disease and passing it along. While this is understandable, both people should be aware of the agreements made and include practicing safe sex. C’mon people, let’s not be stupid about this. Remember what sex ed taught us.
If I were to find myself in a relationship now as a 27-year-old, I don’t think I could practice these ideas. I don’t condemn the concept of the open relationship, if it works for you then it works for you, but it shouldn’t be something that is ignored or frowned upon. We are living in times where the norm is ever-changing. All it really takes is one person (or in some cases more than one) to change your perspective and open your mind. Don’t knock it till you try it, right?