By Anonymous SDS Member
Every February, we see the same articles about how to celebrate romance. From “Gift guide for every relationship type” to “Where to eat on your special night” or “How to move on from your ex and celebrate Galentine’s right!” What we don’t read about are the more complicated stories, like how to have an open relationship with someone you live with.
Love is complicated, especially when other people are thrown into the mix. An open relationship isn’t for everyone, but this Six Degrees Society member wants to anonymously share why she and her boyfriend decided to open up their relationship, embrace the complications and learn about themselves as individuals, together. This SDS member and her boyfriend were best friends in high school and started dating in their first semester of college. They’ve been together ever since, going on 5+ years. Here’s a candid conversation between the two of them on how they got started, the highs and lows, and what the future holds.
SDS Member: What made you want to be in an open relationship?
Boyfriend: I remember having two overwhelming, conflicting feelings going on at the same time. I was 21 years old and three years into a committed relationship. I couldn’t imagine my life without you. But the conflicting feeling was the limited amount of people I’ve met and dated.
I”ve always been one that hates complacency. I felt that we were becoming so perfect as a couple that we were losing sight of who we were as individuals. I felt that although this could last in the short run, eventually if we couldn’t learn how to become our own people and a couple at the same time, we wouldn’t last. I’ve seen it happen with many marriages, including my parents and their friends (and half of America).
Being in college— the best experimental playground for learning how to socialize and build EQ—is the dating game. And once I realized that any jealousy was just a product of my own insecurity, I realized this was a perfect way to build our relationship stronger while also building a stronger independence.
Boyfriend: We talked about trying to open our relationship for months, what made you finally decide to want to try it?
SDS Member: You were very supportive throughout this reflection process, telling me over and over that you would be okay with any decision I made. But I can’t help but think this conversation – the proposal of an open relationship – was going to be the huge elephant in the room for the rest of our relationship. So I reflected on the root reason why I had a problem with the idea of you with other women and it was insecurity. I was insecure that I wasn’t pretty, skinny, funny, (enter any other superficial adjective here) enough to still be number one in your eyes. And that scared me!
But interestingly, what scared me more was not going through with it. If we stayed monogamous and got married without the 100% confirmation that we don’t want anyone else, I was sure we would end up resenting each other. Or worse, one of us would cheat on the other.
I had and still have every intention of spending the rest of my life with you, but we’ll never have the opportunity to be in our early 20s ever again. And plus, you were my first serious boyfriend. I’ve never dated before! So that was an added anxiety too. I had no idea how to date or even flirt with a guy. So it was a mix of stepping out of my comfort zone and also reassuring our relationship is as strong as we know it can be. I’ll never forget what you said to me that I think really made me change my perspective on this. You said, “Cheating is only bad because it’s dishonest.” You made an airtight argument that I couldn’t deny or refuse! (Laughs)
SDS Member: Do you remember what our first set of rules were?
Boyfriend: It was weird, we didn’t really know how to talk to people about this. We almost wanted it to be our little secret, which was a little contradictory now that we look back at it. The first rule was to be honest, which we still follow today. No social media or phone numbers. We can’t hook up with our friends, but friends of friends were fine. No guy or girl could come in our bed without me or you present. Limit the conversations about me or you to the other person. No cuddling or sleeping over!
Boyfriend: What made you come around to refining the boundaries?
SDS Member: Everything’s still the same except for the social media and phone numbers rule. My reason for not wanting to share any sort of social media profiles or phone numbers was because it made it more real. She could see who I am, who your family is, all of that! The idea of the other person being able to call or text you whenever bothered me at first. But my mind changed when I realized how hard it was for you to secure a date.
My experience only communicating with guys through a dating app was so easy and they didn’t think anything of it. I guess because guys give no fucks and are always DTF, no questions asked. Girls are the opposite! It also wouldn’t work out that way because women naturally like to stalk! (Laughs). If you didn’t give her your Instagram handle or Snapchat or even your phone number, she would automatically unfriend you. I assume it was because it’s sketchy to be secretive like that! So I came around to the idea of exchanging social media and phone numbers to even the playing field a little. Which makes me laugh now that I look back at it!
SDS Member: How do you feel about the boundaries now?
Our rules are:
- No sleeping over
- No cuddling
- No talk of the other person while being intimate
- Our bed is off limits when the other isn’t home
- Dates are okay; trips are not
Boyfriend: Do you know how hard it is to not cuddle afterwards? Sleepovers would be cool too. I’m not jealous and I’m pretty open-minded so I’m cool with whatever makes you comfortable.
How do you feel about telling the other person about the open relationship?
Boyfriend: It depends on the scenario and the girl. Sometimes I use the open relationship as a seductive instrument. Other girls would rather not know. Other girls want to know but pretend like they don’t know. You just have to read the situation, it spices it up.
SDS Member: I go back and forth on this, but now I feel like I only tell them when I absolutely have to. Coincidentally, every guy I’ve been with since we’ve started knows about you – I’ll never lie. But I’ll never bring it up unless I feel it’s appropriate or you come up in conversation somehow. I don’t want to say the relationships are purely physical because I have to have somewhat of a connection with the person. I’m not gonna give the goods away to someone who isn’t making the effort to woo me a little. But my mentality with that is this guy is basically a stranger, he doesn’t need to know!
What are challenges you’ve faced picking up men/women?
Boyfriend: Some people think we’re weird. Some women think I’m cheating. A lot of the times, women don’t understand my sarcasm as much as you do you, so girls think I’m being an asshole. I also have a very low tolerance for playing games, so some flings would fizzle out because I wouldn’t play along.
SDS Member: I have no idea how to flirt! I see my single friends getting hit on left and right and I can’t seem to embody that flirtiness. I’m not sure if it’s the vibe I put out or how I dress or what, but I would much rather find someone in real life than on a dating app. I can’t seem to ever go through with a date set up on a dating app! It’s super irrational, but the idea of having a virtual conversation before meeting them in person makes me super anxious!
Boyfriend: You told me right from the get-go you want to know every little detail. Yet when I tell you, you get really mad at me…why and what can I do to prevent that?
SDS Member: Most of the time, it’s because I want attention and drama. I want to spice things up! Hence my obsession with reality TV. I recognize what I’m saying is irrational and silly, but it’s how I feel, kind of like a knee-jerk reaction. My real feelings are consistent with why I wanted to start in the first place, so everything else is just for spice. I try not to listen to or lash out on my jealous tendencies because it’s adds negativity to the situation and ultimately loses my frame as the confident, calm, cool, collected woman. I try my best to not let other people see that side of me, but you’re the person that gets stuck with the wrath when I can’t control it! All you can do is to keep being honest with me and never forget who holds it down 😉
SDS Member: Do you see us doing this forever?
Boyfriend: I take it day by day. After doing this for some time, the excitement and novelty wears off. But I don’t think we’re ever going to be the type of people to turn down an opportunity for fun.
What have you found throughout this process? What changed for the better or worse?
SDS Member: Quite literally, nothing has changed for the worst. There’s been nothing but positive changes throughout this process! I feel like a completely different person from when we first started this. I don’t need any love and affection from anyone but you, but it’s nice to have affirmation from men that I’m interesting and attractive. It’s nice to have the agency to explore!
Boyfriend: I don’t think there’s been anything for the worse! We’re more confident, independent, self-aware. We have more assurance that this is the right relationship for us. It’s so much easier for us to talk about any uncomfortable subjects, regardless if it has to do with relationships or sex. We’re more honest with each other and our communication is 10 times better.
How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Are you spending it together or are you currently seeing someone else to spend it with? If you choose to spend Valentine’s Day with each other instead, how will you address it with the other person?
We’ve spent every Valentine’s Day together, even when we opened our relationship. We’ve agreed to keep it that way unless we were both okay with spending Valentine’s Day with someone else. This means both of us would have to have a date and the boundaries still apply for the most part! This was the first time this discussion came up in our open relationship, which was really interesting and made us realize it’s probably best to keep the major holidays to ourselves.
In case you couldn’t tell from reading the beginning of this post, it’s hard to stick to the rules agreed upon due to gender and dating norms. We find this exciting for the most part! We’ll report back when it’s not…we’re always pushing each other to be more open and understanding.
Hypothetical Open Valentine’s Day rules:
- The other person needs to know about our arrangement before agreeing to go on the date as a courtesy (the romantic implications of the holiday are a little much).
- SDS Member and Boyfriend can’t spend the night.
Could an open relationship arrangement work for you? You may want to consider these questions with your partner prior.
1) Transparency. How much do you want to know about your partner’s activities? How much do you want to reveal to them?
2) Health. Can you confirm with your partner that they’ll be having safe sex practices to ensure your safe sexual health as well?
3) Confidence. Can you or your partner work through the natural jealousy so that you don’t feel secondary?
4) Intimacy. Can you separate lust and love?