Two twenty-somethings lead us down the rabbit hole of what it is like to question the traditional structure of “The Relationship” in exchange for “The Open Relationship”. With the influx of modern literature touching on the subject, such as the popular Sex at Dawn, we are supported in making these decisions more than ever before. It may not be a setting you are likely to find on your Facebook, but this disclosed style of dating isn’t just the ferris wheel adverse to a significant other — these are true serious bonds, they just aren’t monogamous. Guess what, they are working.
Meet Laura, a 24 year old based in New York City. It all began on a long summer day at a dive bar where Laura met her boyfriend for the very first time. While hanging out with an attractive lesbian acquaintance, they spotted a guy across the room that rose interest in both of them. By the end of the night the three had caught on to a pretty strong bond, ending up spending the night together. This was Laura’s first threesome. The trio continued to hang out for about a month together but soon the other girl amicably left the trifecta, and the duo were left with a two year tie ahead of them.
“We were all having such a good time and the dynamic really worked well. There wasn’t any jealousy I think mostly because she’s a lesbian and he’s straight so I feel like in a weird way I was the corner stone. I’m kind of a jealous person in a reactionary way but I feel like that’s why it worked so well, I didn’t have anything to be jealous of.”
For about six months it was monogamous, but during a trip to Costa Rica they met another couple they really clicked with, and by the time they returned home this was a natural element in the relationship.
Jealousy didn’t resurface as they were consistently communicative about equally being attracted to people that came into their lives. “It was never a shady thing, we would never go behind each others backs or use people for sex. It was an admiration or a respect. We always did it together. It was about being totally honest with your feelings and each other,” Laura explains “…and so many conversations of fleshing things out.”
The two stayed together happily, until they finally decided to go their own way, however the multiple-partners played no part in the uncoupling.
“I think it worked so well because it started day one like that. I’ve always been interested in exploring different relationship models but with boyfriends before it never felt right, you already have this agreement and if you work outside the bounds of that it feels like ulterior motives in a way. It can’t just be like you want to bring someone in that you know, and make it about a sexual thing. It has to be that we are both independently attracted to this person, their personality — and they have to be respectful of you guys as a couple.”
On another coast, a seven year alliance took a different approach to shifting the boundaries of what was between them. Dores and her boyfriend, both 30, began long distance. Two years in he relocated to California to be with her. The move brought a dose of pressure for both, and she came to realize that he had been seeking intimacy outside of their accord. She focused in on the fact that as a human she too had attractions to others, and being raised in a European household wasn’t as stigmatized by the guidelines of the classic American family. Knowing that this didn’t have to be the end, they started looking into other forms of structuring, while maintaining their strong intellectual, loving bond. Through copious amounts of reading and research, they found solace in the decision to reorient.
“It made us very close for a long time, you’re super open, it makes you really know this person. We were very scared — it was kind of weird but not as weird as you would think. For me I didn’t need to know the details, for me it’s knowing if I ask I can be told, having no lies.”
She made it clear that jealousy didn’t come from the other women but the fact that he had more free time to pursue than she did. As they had promised each other, they soon talked it out, creating a balance.
“You get to see them in a different light when you’re in an open relationship. When you’re very close to somebody you aren’t as attracted to them, it almost becomes platonic, but if they are across the room talking to someone they become more attractive. In an open relationship it makes you see them the way other people see them.”
What she learned from the years that they chose to live with this format was that the first rule is there are no rules — once you hit a hurtle you must equilibrate together and move forward. Did they tell the people they were dating that they had a live-in person? He did, she usually didn’t. She realized very quickly that as soon as you tell someone that you’re just there to have sex, they won’t stick around for long. However, her boyfriend helped her to see that after a few dates it was only fair to the other person to unfold the information.
“It’s not the third person that pulls you out of a relationship, it’s you that leaves.” Soon enough they found that their independence was keeping them more apart than together, and decided to end the things to grow separately. Dores had also realized that she had grown feelings for someone that she had been dating and wanted to pursue that connection. The two have stayed extremely close in their breakup, which she says was ideal, and continue to push each other forward as friends.
It’s exhilarating to be apart of a generation that is brave enough to question the cultural architecture of how we delve into our partnerships. Ask yourselves why you choose to either be in an open or closed relationship. It’s not for everyone, but looking inward to find what is right for you and your S.O. is the most important part of beginning. For neither Laura nor Dores was this format the ending of their love, both running its course naturally. However, it’s honesty and communication are what made it successful. “It’s harder to be monogamous than to be in an open relationship.” Dores says in closing.