Open Relationships

Posted by in Relationships on January 7, 2012 0 comments

I recently had a chat with another single mum who’s husband left her for another woman. She was older than her husband by seven years, but quite youthful in her look, demeanour and outlook on life. We had a chat about other’s perceptions of relationships – those who are in the ‘box’ and those who are open to being outside the box.

We could pinpoint those that are in the box as those from another generation, but after a little thought, it wasn’t our parent’s generation that are fixed on the fact that you get married, have a family and live happily ever after. It really is the ‘picket fence’ dream we all have, but unfortunately its not the reality for most. Those in their twenties still try to live to that dream, those in their fifties – if they have survived the teenage years of their children and still have a loving relationship with their husband/wife, they are living the dream, and those in their twilight years who have lost their life partner after decades of marriage remember the dream, and have all the treasures of loved children, grand-children and great-grand-children to remind them how wonderful the dream was.

Whenever someone introduces a new partner to their family and friends, there is always that common question when your family/friends are unsure of your new beau or wanting to see you live in the ‘box:’ ‘Where is it going?’ My answer to that is, ‘does it need to go anywhere?’ Can’t friends be friends and lovers without it needing to lead to marriage, more children or happily ever after? Can’t we just enjoy each other’s company for now, knowing that what we have makes us happy, makes us feel desirable, makes us feel loved? So many others want more for you… but it’s not what you want.

Unfortunately for the ‘box’ people, there is an under-lying subculture that is constantly growing and less accepted because it defies the family tradition that we all were ‘told’ that we wanted and set out to achieve. The open relationship. The relationship that says ‘I love my wife/husband’ as we have our family in common, we have our finances in common and we have a home together, but I need more and I have found more in someone else. I guess it’s having the courage to actually be honest within your marriage to say “Hey, something’s not working here. You aren’t here for me in the way I need. I’m not here for you in the ways that you need. Maybe we need to develop other interests around our marriage that won’t interfere with the true bond of our marriage, if we want to keep our marriage together.” Some can accept being outside the ‘box,’ other’s can’t. They worry too much about what other people think, how it would change the dynamics of their family unit or that they fear loneliness and betrayal when their partner is galavanting around with their lover.

We talked about a relationship she knew about, where the wife was having an affair, which the husband accepted. She suggested that he too find someone, which was hard for him at the start, but within a couple of years he too found a lover. They lived this life like this for about seven years before she suggested that they sell the house and buy their own homes. That was the cruncher for him. He thought that if they live in separate homes, they might as well be divorced and stop playing a charade to the family that they were still together. They were married for thirty years, and he now thinks back that they should have ended it when he first found out about her affair.

But there are also those relationships where one partner knows something is going on as they see renewed vitality in their partner but aren’t sure where it comes from, as they know it isn’t them, as they know that they aren’t the person they used to be for their partner. These couples also avoid being together alone. They are fine when family is around, and actually encourage family to visit or ask to be invited to their home, but put them in a room by themselves, and they struggle for conversation, they struggle for common hobbies, they struggle to be intimate and the only thing that keeps them excited about their future together is the next generation. They spend less and less time together as they find individual hobbies or increase their work commitments, and in their time apart, they find someone who makes them feel attractive, feel alive, feel like a person again, rather than a provider, a spouse or a parent. The partner who isn’t having the affair, accepts that someone else is doing this to their partner, fulfilling a role that they no longer can’t or wish to do. It’s an unspoken truth, an acceptance of the lack in themselves rather than an acceptance of their partner’s infidelities. They are prepared to live the lie to keep the ‘dream’ alive, but constantly feel hurt because they aren’t able to fulfil their partner’s needs. They have accepted their open relationship without the philandering partner being aware.

Then, of course, there are open relationships that consist of swinging, threesomes, cybersex, all sorts of unconventional love lives that go against the ‘picket fence’ dream. And really, if you talked to one hundred people in their thirties to sixties, you’ll find that at least twenty would admit to being in an open relationship, but there would be another fifty who have had some type or infidelity in their marriage, even if it was something as innocent (or risque) as having a drunken night with friends in close quarters and kissing your best friend’s husband in a loving way (or even kissing your best friend!).

Some call it flirting, some call it an infidelity. But we are all more prone to do it because we all want love in different ways or want some spontaneous fun, and some can’t find all the love they need in one person. And that’s OK. But what we all need to understand about humankind more than anything, is that every relationship is different, and what works for you may not work for others. You can’t impose your standards of life on another – I accept your way that you choose to live your life, and I expect you to accept the way that I choose to live my life. I’m not hurting you in the process, and you’re not hurting me. (btw, using the pronouns ‘you,’ ‘me,’ ‘I,’ & ‘your’ isn’t meant to be ‘me’ personally, it’s just a figure of speech, more of a chakra for those who are feeling the judgment).

We all need to be open to unconventional thought and action. The church is, not like they condone it, it’s more that they are opening their eyes to behaviour that’s against Christian norms. In our secular world, I find more people with religious backgrounds are less likely to preach than those with secular backgrounds. Regular congregators listen with an open heart and mind, but don’t put their own moral judgements on your life. They know it’s your decision in the end. But that’s another blog isn’t it?! 🙂