Monday, December 30, 2013

"Make your marriage the safest place on earth."

I saw something posted on facebook the other day that made my brain stall.

It was one of those pretty stock images of a happy couple wreathed in the sunset and the text read something like “Work to make your marriage the safest place on earth.”

I thought about it for a second because aside from the cheesiness and romance-noveliness of it, I can honestly say that I feel that way about my marriage. It is however, for a very different reason than why the picture was made.

Because I’ve seen a lot of those posts on facebook and they are all holding up the monogamous philosophy of dating and marriage. Which is fine. I have absolutely no problem with anyone who goes with monogamy. At one time I would have rather eaten a screen door than be anything but monogamous. I’m just saying that my marriage was strengthened beyond my imagination when we started talking about having an open relationship.

The thing that freaks me out is that even though the elements that make a strong marriage are the same in both open and monogamous relationships… no one ever believes me.

I happen to know quite a few monogamous couples on facebook that post things like the aforementioned picture along with articles and advice about how to make a (monogamous) relationship stronger. I’ve boiled it down to five basics:

1. Be completely 100% honest and open.
2. Respect.
3. Trust.
4. Communication.
5. Being thoughtful/considerate.

Which, of course, would be my five basic things if anyone asked what makes an open relationship work. But when I try to explain this, there are glitches on the radar. So, I’m writing a blog post about it (lucky you!).

1. Be completely 100% honest and open.

I can’t believe how many people I’ve talked to, women and men, who absolutely refuse to admit to their spouses that they still fantasize or masturbate. Because I guess the myth goes, once you find that one person you want to marry, all of those urges stop or are taken care of via your sex life.

I believed that, too, so it was very jarring for me to realize, even at the pinnacle of me falling in love with my husband, that I still got crushes on other people. I still wanted to read erotica. My husband still wanted to watch porn. We still wanted to masturbate. Ultimately, we still wanted to have sex or play with other people, too.

There’s a difference between saying “I don’t watch porn” and “I don’t want to watch porn.” One statement is honest, the other isn’t. I’m not saying it was easy to start being 100% honest instead of honest-but-lying-by-omission. But it was necessary to make our marriage strong.

2. Respect

Some people have asked how a couple can possibly respect each other if one partner or the other is having sexual escapades with other people. Well, first of all it’s because we know. There’s no lying or manipulating. We don’t do things that would make each other uncomfortable, but that doesn’t arise much because we respect each other’s desires and don’t take them as offenses. For me, that respect extends to his other partners. No matter what, I know he’ll be respectful to other women. And I really value that. I’ve known men who are monogamous to their wives but they objectify and disrespect other women constantly. To me, you aren’t respecting your skinny wife/girlfriend by wearing a “No fat chicks” T-shirt. I’d rather have my husband sleep with a lot of women and respect them all than only sleep with me and treat other women like shit or act like they don’t exist as friends, as people.

3. Trust.

Some people ask how I can trust he won’t leave me for another woman, especially if he’s having sex with them. But that’s something that happens in monogamous relationships all the time, partners cheat or leave for someone else, even if they AREN’T sleeping with other partners. When a couple walks down the aisle on their wedding day, does the audience get to moralize and make sure the couple really trusts each other not to leave? But for some reason, when you say you’re in an open relationship people think you magically cannot gauge the amount of trust you put on your partner not to leave.

The truth is, there are people I’ve met that I think could never handle an open relationship. However, those are the same people I think cannot handle a monogamous one, either. Some people just find it impossible to tell the truth or be trustworthy, ever. It’s about really understanding your partners and being secure in yourself and your relationship.

4. Communication.

Seeing as a lot of couples skate around point #1, most people ask us if we really talk about everything we want to do with other people. Uh. Yeah, we do. But we also talk about how we react. Insecurities and fears and emotions. Philosophy. It’s just as much self reflection as it is hashing things out. But things are always changing, so the conversation never ends. We’ve had some experiences, but there are so many more to come (pun intended??). And we’ll talk about that. And everything else after that.

5. Being thoughtful/considerate.

Some people think that because I am in an open relationship that means anyone has the right to access my vagina. Ha. Wrong. Not only do I have my own physical/emotional health to consider, I also have to respect that my husband is in a physical/emotional relationship with me, too. We’ve both taken on a very serious thing – that instead of avoiding it, we are putting ourselves in situations where we could lie, act selfishly, and neglect each other's needs. But we know to grow, we want to have these experiences along with our marriage. We have agreed to nurture our marriage while we take on new experiences. We must actively be considerate of each other, physically and emotionally. I stand up for myself, and in doing so, stand up for my marriage.

At the end of the day, when I’m at a play party or somebody who is not my husband is all up in my business giving me a ravenous orgasm, I’m really happy. Because that wouldn’t be happening without my marriage. The things I’ve learned, the experiences I’ve had, and the freedom we’ve given each other is a strong and healthy foundation that holds everything up. My marriage is where I can reflect on the experiences I’ve had and get advice, support, and encouragement from a man who is having his own experiences. And we combine that with the life we share with each other.

At the end of it all, a dirty magazine, finding another woman’s phone number in his pocket, or him finding a hickey on my neck he didn’t put there – none of those will be the cleft that topples our marriage to rubble. In fact, all those things make us more excited and bring us closer together. Just like any experience we have or share. And I can’t imagine being any more safe than that.

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