Monday, September 15, 2014

“So… your husband is your roommate?” An open relationship rant.


I have not told very many people in my life that my husband and I share an open relationship. Sadly, too many people we know have been hurt by infidelity and any extramarital sexual or emotional contact is stigmatized by the social mores of monogamy, or, as most refer to it, “remaining faithful.”

I have found that bringing the subject up is met mostly with ridicule. One person blatantly proclaimed that the term “Open relationship” was simply invented by selfish and horny men as an excuse for having a reason to cheat on wives or girlfriends. Some have said it’s a juvenile term for use on college campuses and nowhere else. Another person called the term “pathetic” and no “real” marriage would allow such a status.

So, that is the first hurdle. Almost everyone that I’ve revealed that we are in an open relationship has immediately jumped on my husband: he must be manipulating me, he must want to cheat, I must be really stupid.

When I then say that I actually brought the idea up first and due to my involvement in the kink community, I actually play with more people and have more partners than he does, there is a moment of befuddlement followed quickly by this next assessment:

“So, you’ve basically reduced your marriage to a roommate situation. You do whatever you want, he does whatever he wants and you both make sure the rent gets paid on time.”

This is the part where I really have to bite my tongue to keep myself from becoming overly defensive. What I want to say is that from my experience, some roommates actually do have better relationships with each other than some married couples. Some married couples really hate each other, fight all the time, never support or communicate with each other. So to frame marriage as a “higher” or more dignified position than a roommate relationship I find to be laughable, at times.

The thing is, though, it is not for me to judge. No, I don’t know how some married couples are happy living in apparent misery with each other, but they have reasons they are together. They are responsible for their own happiness and things are often much, much more complicated than what outsiders see. Sometimes these couples do need serious help to get out of bad situations, but sometimes they are happy, or at least comfortable, with their brand of dysfunction.

In that same vein, it is not up to me to defend how much my husband and I love each other or how healthy our relationship is. I know the truth and if people would like to play off sexual non-monogamy as juvenile or an excuse to cheat, that is on them, not us.

But, really. It gets old. Because I feel my husband and I actually have a higher level of fidelity for each other than a lot of couples. In fact, though we share an open relationship, we take care of our relationship first, and do not let anything – hobbies, dates, THIS BLOG – take precedent when one of us needs the other – to talk to, for support, or just simply to be with. We need to be with each other. No matter how many other people we see or how many play parties I attend, we need to have each other in our lives.

A few weeks ago I was away from my husband for eight whole days. The absence was palpable. I felt a part of my body was missing. My husband reported similar feelings. The night I got back I flew into an airport three and a half hours away from home. Though I had arranged for a ride home he drove to that airport after work to pick me up at nine o’clock at night.

I don’t know many roommates who would do something like that.

Sure, we have petty arguments but we know how to make amends. We talk about it if we need to and we usually have empathy for each other – we are both working stressful jobs and trying to make our lives better. Not everything is sunshine and unicorns.

Our open relationship, like every open relationship, is unique. Yes, there is a hierarchy – at this moment, our relationship is primary and we have not delved into the world of polyamory. I completely agree that you can deeply love more than one person for a very long time and have wonderful, textural, complicated relationships. We just aren’t at that place and honestly may never be.

And no, he is not my 100% and I am not his. For example, he hates to dance. I love to dance. But at weddings and parties, I can dance my heart out with some lovely partners and at the end of the night my relationship with my husband is just as strong as ever.

The truth is, I never thought I’d be able to connect with another human the way I connect with him and he has had similar sentiments. We have a deep, intimate relationship. But we still want to be sexual with other people.

No, we are not roommates. We are husband and wife. We communicate, treat each other with respect, are honest with each other, and do not manipulate each other to get things we want.

Our relationship is about more than sex. Sometimes I wonder if some monogamous couples can say the same, when any hint at a sexual taboo has the power to destroy years of a committed relationship.

I hope I will be able to tell more people of our relationship status, because it is important to me that I have authentic relationships with everyone in my life. I do not like hiding or excluding things to keep my secret. I want more people to be able to communicate about sexuality and understand themselves, their partners and the people we all live with.

And if that means the people I love believe my husband is just my roommate, so be it. I don’t get mad when he eats my peanut butter. And I gotta start somewhere.

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