For the last two months I’ve been in an open relationship. We’re each other’s primary partners but we opted for non-monogamy because we’re both extremely sexually active. If we try to be exclusive we’ll end up cheating for sure. This is the only way for us to have a relationship founded on trust and respect.
The biggest enigma for my friends who are in traditional monogamous relationships is the jealousy. How can you stand it, they ask, knowing that he might be fucking another woman this very moment?
My boyfriend and I have instinctively developed a mechanism that allows us to minimise the jealousy problem. Firstly, we don’t talk about our other partners that much, only if it comes up in the conversation. Secondly, we both assume an ironic tone implying that the sex we have with other people can’t remotely match the sex we have together.
He says “None of these girls has any idea how to give head properly”, I say “I’m chronically underfucked in this country”, such like. We’re not telling lies but neither are we telling the whole truth. I do have some great moments with my lovers as I’m sure he does with his. However, this “selective truth” is makes us feel safer while still letting each one know what is going on in the other’s life.
The gentle mocking of other people we’re seeing doesn’t have to be about sex. I tell him my lover is boring, he tells me his lover is capricious, and so on. This somewhat artificial focus on the drawbacks is soothing for our self-esteem.
You can tell your primary partner about your new lover in a reassuring way, emphasising that it’s not a big deal and he’s still first priority for you. Or you can give the same information with so much excitement that it will make your significant other feel insecure. It’s a matter of presentation.
I remember being in a casual relationship where my partner often told me what a great time he was having with one of his other lovers. It made me uncomfortable but I didn’t say anything out of fear to seem possessive. Feeling jealous was positioned as an unacceptable weakness in that relationship. To think of it, that guy saw almost all kinds of feelings as a weakness.
If I could do it all over again I would have laid out my boundaries more firmly. There’s nothing shameful in asking your partner to spare your feelings and not to provoke jealousy in you. Controlling your possessive instincts, giving each other freedom to see other people and being able to talk about it is a big deal, it should never be taken for granted. An open relationship requires constant care not to hurt your loved one and to make sure they’re comfortable.
If your partner makes you jealous by praising his or her lovers too much, don’t be too proud to talk about your feelings. It might be unintentional – we don’t always remember to treat other people the way we want to be treated. “But we agreed to be honest” is not a reason to describe every detail of your other relationships and to go on and on about how great it makes you feel. You can explain that you’re not asking him/her to lie, but to adjust the amount of information and the tone used to give it.
If nothing helps and you’re still hurt, an open relationship is probably not for you. It’s time to either re-negotiate this one or look for another one which matches your needs better.
I’m very interested to learn about your experiences and hear your stories. Have you been in an open relationship? How did it work out? Is jealousy ever a problem for you and how do you deal with it? Please leave a comment.