Non-monogamy: Do Open Relationships Work?
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Non-monogamy: Do Open Relationships Work?

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Delilah and I have been together for eleven years. She is my best friend, my partner, my girlfriend, the mother of my kids, and, of course, my wife. I say “of course, my wife” not with disdain but very matter-of-factly. Allow me to explain.

 

Delilah and I both share like-minded views on marriage. We are not exactly on board with the whole concept. Truth be told, neither of us could probably tell you the exact day we were married without having to refer to our marriage license, only that it was sometime in mid-winter. We tied the knot, so to speak, for reasons of legality. We filed a declaration of marriage with the clerk of district court. No ceremony, no ring. Just the two of us, a judge, and a highly overrated piece of paper during our lunch hour. As soon as it was over we retreated back into our normal routine; business as usual. And, I say “business as usual” because I want to make it clear we are not your average couple to begin with, but then again has modern day marriage not evolved into a business proposal anyways? A contractual agreement legally binding the two willing parties, merging all property, income, debt and benefits with the intent to improve the profitability of both parties.

 

Yeah, that is what we did; business as usual. I’ll be the first to openly admit our beliefs tend to rail against the institution of marriage and most other societal norms regarding relationships, love and sex. So much so, our lifestyle choices are completely unconventional but with that said, I’ll get to the point of this article. Delilah and I are non-monogamous, and yes it works.

 

What is non-monogamy?

 

Basically non-monogamy is like an open relationship. Delilah and I love one another immensely. We share a life long partnership and are emotionally invested exclusively to our partner as any monogamous relationship is. The difference between non-monogamy and monogamy is the fact we have separate sexual relationships with other individuals outside of our relationship. Unlike Swingers whom share sexual experiences and Polys whom share all romantic relationship aspects, we keep our sexual relationships separate from our partnership.

 

So, how do we do it?

 

Just as with monogamous relationships, there is no cut and dry manual, no sure fire method to navigating the perils of dating and/or fucking other people while in a committed relationship with someone who is also dating/fucking other people.  What I’ve got for you is coming from my own experiences, and what I’ve seen work with other non-monogamous couples.

 

In my opinion, a happy non-monogamous relationship requires a complete shift in how one views love and relationships. The ability to compartmentalize is extremely important, understanding that sex does not equal love, and that fundamentally the two things have absolutely nothing to do with each other. One also has to shed this western sense of ownership that seems to accompany commitment. I am committed to Delilah and love her very much. Yet I don’t own her. I don’t control her. One of us enjoying being physical with someone else does not lessen the love and commitment that we have for each other. The term “cheating” does not apply here because neither of us sees sexual activity a betrayal of our commitment. For us, that word only applies if one of us is doing something that we know the other would not approve of.

There is an unspoken contract that people enter into when they engage in a relationship, one where you are beholden to each other not because you have to be, but because you want to be. Whether we want to admit it or not, all relationships have conditions. For most modern societies, exclusivity is almost always one of those conditions. It’s part of the contract, a big part. Understanding the contract is very important, particularly when you’re thinking about branching out, as it were.

 

So with that in mind, there is a word that you need to get familiar with, that word is “compersion”.  Compersion is often described as the opposite of jealousy. It’s finding joy in your partner finding joy in relationships with other people, whether those relationships are romantic or purely sexual. This can be a tough one for people to wrap their heads around. It’s a kind of take on the “if you love something, set it free” idea, and not everyone is cut out for it. The primary thing to keep in mind is that you love this person, they love you. You’re both secure in this love and commitment, and part of loving someone is enjoying seeing them happy. I enjoy seeing Delilah enjoy herself.

Again, not everyone is the compersion type. For some people it comes naturally, for others it takes some getting used to, and many people just can’t get there at all.

That brings us to the big issue for most people, jealousy. Jealousy is normal. It is not a bad thing. Delilah and I still experience twinges (sometimes more than just twinges) of jealousy when seeing each other with someone else. That’s perfectly normal. What you have to remember about jealousy is that it comes from a fear of losing something or someone that you love. Jealousy itself is not a problem. It’s how you handle jealousy that matters, what you do with it. Acknowledging that you are jealous, and choosing to be constructive with it is very, very important. Repressing emotions is never a good thing. Lying about them is even worse, even if it’s only lying to yourself.

The biggest cause of jealousy for both of us has always been NRE. NRE is another term I’ve only ever heard in non-monogamist circles. It stands for “New Relationship Energy”. Everyone knows what this is. It’s the honeymoon phase. It’s those first few weeks with someone new where you’re still learning about each other, and you’re both excited and wanting to spend every waking minute together, mostly fucking. It’s always just a phase though. Things always slow down but for a partner, that can be tough to remember as you watch the person you love constantly texting and talking to this other person. The NRE phase is a big reason that many couples only try non-monogamy once, get cold feet and then back out. NRE fades. It does pass. I promise.

That bring me to the one major tool every relationship needs, communication. Communication, communication and more fucking communication. This is something that is vital to all types of relationships but for whatever reason, particularly in the long term, verbal communication tends to drop off. No matter how well you know someone’s moods and subtle nuances, there is no substitute for talking. Especially when one of you needs to know how the other is feeling about something like, for example, her stopping by a guy friend’s office on her way home from work to suck his cock, which Delilah has a tendency to do from time to time.

 

So, how do we keep probable issues at bay after all these years?

 

Even now, after being together for eleven years, and being non-monogamous for ten of those years, we still check in with each other every time we play with someone else. Yes, every single time. Sometimes it’s not until the next day, but we always check in and reconnect emotionally and usually physically. It’s what the kink community refers to as “aftercare”. It’s how we re-establish our own connection and it’s how we reaffirm our love for each other. That reassurance is vital.

Depending on their flavor of non-monogamy, many couples establish a set of rules about how they pursue other relationships or playmates. When meeting, talking or playing with other couples, we encountered rules that covered everything from no kissing to only meeting on Wednesdays. We started off with a small, hard and fast set of rules but over the years, as our experience has grown and we’ve got a better handle on how we like to go about things, those rules have all but disappeared. The only rules we still have from the old days are condoms and communication. We have to be safe and we have to let the other know where we are and what’s going on. Beyond that, things are pretty relaxed.

Withal, where relationship longevity is concerned, one thing I know for certain is that non-monogamy is most certainly a catalyst. If your relationship is having issues, “seeing other people” is not going to fix it. What it’s going to do is amplify those problems and bring to light issues you didn’t even know you had. So when I hear about relationships crashing and burning because a couple decided to try a three way, I’m inclined to believe that the relationship was having problems to begin with. The little experiment just hurried things along. Have Delilah and I had problems? It has happened and it has always revolved around one of us feeling disconnected from the other. Feeling left out or like we’re playing second fiddle to someone else. We’ve both been guilty of getting overly wrapped up in NRE, and we’ve both been nearly completely oblivious that we were doing it when it happened. Again, communication.

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