04 Jun My partner wants an open relationship, what should I do?
Once again, I received one of those questions that I thought would be interesting to publish (usual changes to protect identities applied).
This is a tricky topic because it hits the very essence of our insecurities and preconceived notions about relationship rights and wrongs. You’ll find yourself asking questions such as: Is my partner just bored with me? Should I be happy because they say it’s everyone’s dream to get a pass to see others at will without getting in trouble at home? Even if we still want each other now, will this make us say and feel things with others that will lead to one or both of us not wanting to be with each other anymore? And so on. These are all valid questions that will crop up when thinking about this topic, however,
I think there is a much bigger question being asked here.
Firstly, I hope we can all agree that such topics can only lead to a happy resolution if they are being discussed by two very close friends who trust each other 100%, two close friends who in no way would want to hurt each other and two close friends who want to tell each other their wishes and fantasies because they don’t want to do anything behind each other’s backs. And therein lies the trickier question: is the request happening between:
A. two people who have reached such a strong bond and are so happy together that they don’t want to ever jeopardise their union by hiding any thoughts from each other. Therefore they feel they have to reveal ALL their desires because the minute they start to hide some of them, or discuss certain ones with their friends rather than with each other, then they will start going down that well-trodden slippery slope that leads to mental separation and boredom; or…
B. two people who are bored with each other (or at least one is) but do not want to break up their union due to money, kids, social status, habit or lack of extreme hatred?
If we’re asked to bet, most of us would bet on (B) because the majority of long-term relationships are not like (A), they are like (B). Most are about being careful rather than carefree. Most are based on doing duties and making sure you don’t get in the bad books. Most partners after a while become people who used to have fun together but now their interactions are more functional than fun; now they laugh far more with others than with each other.
So the question is not: should you have an open relationship, the question is this: is your relationship loving, laughter filled, and honest enough for you two to even have this discussion? Are you two married because time has proven that you are each other’s best friends? Has your certainty of love continually increased with time? If you make a list of people you have fun with, would your partner come first? Would you come first on your partner’s list? How about if you make a list of people you can talk to about anything exactly as it appears on your mind without any editing no matter how rude or pornographic or funny or politically incorrect, would your partner come first? Would you be top of your partner’s list?
If you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, then it doesn’t even matter if your relationship is open or not, you have bigger issues because your relationship is loveless. Your relationship has fallen into society’s trap of fooling people into thinking that partnerships are not the same as friendships therefore its ok to live with someone we don’t consider a true close fun friend.
Sadly, you would not be alone, in fact, you would be part of the vast majority. This is why 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce and 4 out of 5 relationships end up loveless. It’s not because of cheating or whether a relationship is open or not, it’s because the relationship is no longer fun. Mental cheating is the number one killer of love. The partnership is no longer a friendship when the partners are mentally cheating; in other words, when the partners begin to censor and edit thought due to fear that might invite unwanted trouble. Most children watch two co-workers bored out of their brains; they don’t see two life loving people, both with their balls still attached, both feeling so lucky to have found each other.
This is such a waste of an opportunity to truly be happy because most relationships end up dull not because the partners never loved each other, but because we practice outdated habits that ruin the love, fun and friendship. We teach people B.S. such as men are from Mars and women are from Venus when, instead, we should teach this message: if you’re from Mars, find a Martian. This is just one damaging misconception. There are many that we still believe in even though they no longer apply in our gender equal modern society.
I really hope we change things so that the majority of children see happy loving parents, not dull co-workers who no longer have fun together.
Back to the question, my answer is this: if you two have love as I described above in (A), if you came top of each other’s lists I mentioned earlier, then talk to each other and find a happy compromise based on total disclosure of all your desires and fantasies and dreams and wishes. Do not try and solve this by hiding your wishes or by only talking about them with your friends or by doing them in secret. True happiness is not about being open or closed sexually, it is about being 100% open mentally and making decisions based on full disclosure. Make your decisions honest rather than kind because the cruellest thing you can do to your partner is to deny yourself certain pleasures thinking you are being kind. All you are doing is building up a stack of IOU’s that your partner will owe you. In time, you will end up resenting your partner for this. Love is about feeling as if you give up nothing yet receive everything. Therefore, if you want to be truly kind, be uncompromising about how you want to live and find the partner that does the same and, hopefully, this level of honesty is the very thing that you find addictively attractive about each other.
However, if you don’t have love as mentioned above, then either find a way to get it back, or admit that your relationship is fake and accept this fact as your starting point when deciding how to move forward. If you don’t have children, split up and accept that you may be good friends at the ‘let’s see each other once a month’ level rather than ‘let’s live together and smell each other’s bad breath daily’ level. If you have children, then either stay together as house sharers and love your kids but allow the other to have a life outside the relationship, or split up in a way that causes the least amount of harm to each other and, especially, your children.
The moral of the story is that love is too wonderful a gift to fake.