Open Relationships: Too Hot to Handle?

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By Kalifa Clyne and Karel Mc Intosh

If you think like most of Trinidad and Tobago, then you are probably under the impression that open relationships, like long distance relationships, DO NOT WORK.

Most people smirk, grunt or just plainly disagree with the entire concept of an open relationship. They think it’s for individuals with low standards and even lower morals. But if people are so diverse, how can one type of relationship be standardized for all?

A while ago I changed my relationship status to ‘In an Open Relationship’, despite the fact that I was in no kind of relationship at all. Blame it on idleness. A friend of mine saw this, and immediately messaged me, saying that being in an open relationship is just the socially acceptable way of saying one is a whore. I was neither offended nor shocked, although I did laugh, as all I could think was, “who made you Facebook relationship police?”

Relationships can be overrated. I have friends who are in serious relationships. They often bitch about their boyfriends and girlfriends, cry, and develop a temporary partiality for Jah Cure or Ne-Yo during relationship drama, and I breathe a sigh of relief that I’m dodging that bullet. The single life rocks, and fits my lifestyle.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know many happy people who are in great, monogamous relationships, people who seem as if they were made for each other and who complement their partners well. I applaud people who can do it.

“They spend more time making up lies than actually connecting, and I see a simpler solution.”

Then I look at the fellas who have three or more girlfriends or the girls who are horning their man. They spend more time making up lies than actually connecting, and I see a simpler solution. A solution that is based on honesty and respect for self, as well as respect for your partner(s) – an open relationship. I have to admit, I’ve never been in one myself, but I’ve decided this type of relationship would be perfect for me. And I know people who can agree. Being a single working girl in pursuit of fulfilling my goals, I have neither the time nor the inclination for a  ‘serious relationship’ nor the drama that comes along with it.

What one lacks in experience, can be made up for with knowledge. So, I did some research, and took a look at some of the pros and cons of open relationships.

Basically, an open relationship exists where you’re involved with someone, but you aren’t exclusive. You each have full permission to see other people. The crux, though, is you have to be ‘open’ with each other, and be honest about your other relations. Your ‘open’ partner has to be in the know. There are no lies or attempts at manipulation. You care about each other, can go out and socialize openly with this individual, and have substantial conversations, yet you still maintain your freedom, while satisfying your sexual needs.

Fact is, there are several open-relationship models. The main ones are the ‘no strings attached’ model, where it’s purely a sexual relationship, and the ‘we love each other’, but can screw other people, as long as we do it discretely and with discretion’ model.

In order for an open relationship to work, both sides have to be on the same page. That’s the ideal situation.

If you make the choice to go this route, you’ve got to be sure you’re ready to take it on. One needs to be analytical and sensible. I’d suggest all persons who grew up reading Disney stories and daydreaming of being Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty to stay away from this type of relationship.

Open relationships aren’t for everyone, and they also aren’t as simple as they would seem.

“Sometimes, it can get complicated.”

The major pro of this arrangement is that you have guaranteed companionship and a steady supply of bedwork sensation, and you still have free reign to openly pursue Sexy Susy or Fine Freddy who you met last Friday. The cons are that sometimes, it can get complicated, which, ideally, it shouldn’t. You just might ‘catch’ feelings, or get your ego bruised. The premise of open relationships is that the other person would always let you know when they’re seeing other people. They don’t always tell you, however, and because you expect them to be completely honest with you, you might get even more upset than usual at them for not telling you what’s up.

Then, while you may be ok with sharing at the beginning, what if you start being a little greedy with the other person’s time? You’ve got to have other alternatives to occupy you, so you don’t get too attached or clingy.

According to David Barash, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington and co-author of “The Myth of Monogamy”, while an open relationship can work well for some people, human beings are also “inclined to be sexually jealous of a partner being with someone else, and from a biological standpoint, we’re resistant to that partner having another relationship”. It might be fine if your ‘open’ partner has multiple relationships, but what gives when you start to wonder whether you’re the best of the lot performance-wise, and want to rate yourself or become uncomfortable with the idea of being shared, and viewed as just another option on the menu?

Additionally, you’ve got to do like sportsmen and play in your league. If you’re a first timer like I am, it mightn’t be so wise to pursue this arrangement with a hella sexy, experienced player, with ridiculous swagger, who can run rings around you. You might end up playing level Maxwell tunes, and stalking him from San Fernando to Sangre Grande, begging him to put the closed sign on your open status, and make you his one and only.

The key to being in an open relationship is ensuring that you’re in the right frame of mind for it. You need to be open firstly with yourself and know your needs, sexual or otherwise. If having a boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t right for you, or monogamy isn’t your thing, open relationships might be an option. However, like the old people say, doh play with fire if you don’t want to get burned. This sort of arrangement is not for everyone. Both people have to want it; otherwise it can be a complete disaster.

“Your ‘friend’ is not your man or woman.”

Remember that your ‘friend’ is not your man or woman, so expect that whatever boundaries you do establish will not be restrictive. Rules and regulations govern our society and ensure order. Make up some rules to govern your relationship. Are public displays of affection acceptable? Do you introduce each other to family members? Create guidelines so that you can both avoid stepping out of line. You have to have your own code of conduct that you both stick to.

Having conviction in your decision is a definite must as well. The same way you would defend a relationship with someone your parents disapproved of, is the way you need to defend your choice. Open relationships are not meant to be promiscuous; the fact is that you have the freedom to date others, but neither of you are obligated to explore that freedom. So when your friends raise eyebrows, and call you loose, and your parents give you that disapproving stare, you should be able to take a stand easily, and be content, and hopefully, stress-free.

I’d also suggest that you both get tested before making your relationship physical, and check for everything, not just HIV. Condomise! I’m serious.

The way I see it, the benefits of the open relationship are many. Think about it, you come and go as you please, you won’t get lied to, and you won’t get cheated on. No dealing with anyone’s ego or insecurity, but your own. Ideally. The way I see it, an open relationship can work. You just have to know what you want from it.

 

Kalifa Clyne is a writer who spends all of her time writing or thinking about writing.

3 Comments

  1. Chanel

    February 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Sorry, I call it cheating.

    • Allison Tucker

      December 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm

      If both parties are in agreement for an open relationship, it is not cheating.

  2. Brendon O'Brien

    Brendon O'Brien

    March 12, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I won’t call it cheating at all, but I will say that those things have their own consequences that are never really worth it. Even if those people begin being okay with it, there is always a time and place where the two become either more affectionate with each other or with someone else. And once that happens, there will be conflict.
    All things are connected, on at least a principled, philosophical level. Something as simple as a test can teach us lessons in relationships. You can’t write more than one answer for a question and get marked for them all. And if the first choice is wrong, that’s the mark you’ll end up getting. And marks in relationships are a lot more emotional, and could end up hurting a lot when it’s wrong.
    And, even if you somehow end up being okay with it as long as it lasts, what happens when you decide to end it and have a serious relationship? That’s still a part of your relationship experience and history. It’s something you have to deal with when you have a partner that now demands exclusivity and a different mode of intimacy from you, and it’s something that your partner has to deal with when engaging with you intimately, knowing that at one point you firmly believed that monogamy ‘wasn’t for you’.
    No matter how much it might work in the moment, it has ripple effects. And, when you take the future of your relationship life and your entire life, it’s not something that I think anyone should truly choose in the spirit of complete and right mindfulness.
    But I’m a prude…lol

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