Dating Advice: Open Relationships from the Guy Who Failed At One

Open relationships are all the craze now. I talked about them at length in my series VERS or Otherwise. But if we determine that being “open” is just fucking someone aside from Bae, then most of us have been in some level of open relationship–whether we wanted to be or not.

My last relationship was open, kinda. He and I had made certain agreements that allowed for us to be completely honest with each other about our sexual desires (with each other or otherwise). Those agreements gave us space to be ourselves in a way that didn’t violate the other person or betray our commitments to the union. Let’s call what we had monogamish.

What I’ve found, though, is that when a couple commits to a template of relationship that is nontraditional, it’s like baking the cake you saw on Pinterest without the recipe that goes with it. You know what tastes good, generally. And you have a good idea of what the end result will look like, but getting from flour, sugar, and milk to a cake is a stretch. Which is why open relationships are the PITS.

I hate ambiguity. When he and I were together, I found myself ending our disagreements with “What do you want me to do?” I did that because I wanted to take the easiest track back to normalcy. But open relationships are not that. There is no easy track, nor is there “normal”. First, because the relationship is inherently unfamiliar. And second, because both people have to strike the balance of honoring themselves individually and the relationship equally. It’s a process that has no template, no rule book, no regulations, and no guidance. Just you, Bae, and a relationship.

For me, that’s why so many of my relationships were significantly more traditional. There was comfort in the familiarity that came with us as a couple. If I was the top, there was a job description to which I could adhere for the most part. I knew what I could expect from my partner and we just kinda went through the motions of building what we had. While nothing my exes and I went through was tremendously surprising, the relationships, looking back, ended on as anticlimactic a note as they started. We broke up because of boredom.

Open relationships are the antithesis of traditional. The untrained eye would limit openness to just sexual activity. But the truth is that every aspect of your relationship becomes opportunity for deeper understanding. When you’re given the opportunity to be honest with whatever your desires are, you then give space for introspection, growth, and deep, authentic connection.

That’s not to say these opportunities don’t arise in traditional relationships. I am not the open relationship police. I have no stake in your relationship journey whether it leads you to a monogamous connection or otherwise. But what I do know is that the lessons I’ve picked up along the journey of my relationships are ones I wish I had in every relationship before. Lessons like defining our relationship on our own terms, offering each other the absolute truth, even when it hurts, and taking ownership of the relationship not the person.

Open Relationships and Monogamy

These lessons have led my most recent partner and I to a level of openness that we called monogamish. That’s not the story for every one. In fact, that’s not the story for anyone aside from he and I. And perhaps that’s why I’ll love my next love affair–because I’ve thrown away the story and the template to embrace the Bae that will be in front of me. Wish me luck on love’s journey.

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