The issue of cheating was discussed by #englishrosiee in her post on Ashley Madison scandal. Partially inspired by her post, partially by “Looking” (the series I’m currently watching), I decided to express my views on an open relationship AKA a relationship with a “permission to cheat” when partners reach a mutual agreement to have a relationship and at the same time have sex with other people.
First of all, there’s a part of agreement in an open relationship that just doesn’t convince me. I don’t think that people can just agree to feel fine with their partners sleeping with someone else and not feel bad when they’re sleeping with others themselves. The latter, often seems easier than the former and if you met a few fans of so-called open relationships, you probably noticed an interesting tendency of theirs – they want to have the full freedom, at the same time not feeling that comfortable with their partners using theirs.
Why is it so? Because human beings are not robots. We can promise someone not to feel in a certain way, but because of the nature of feelings we don’t have control over keeping the promise. We can’t just say no to the feeling of jealousy and let’s be honest, if someone’s having sex with our partner in front of us or we’re being told about it, it’s quite natural to feel it. The proponents of such solutions will tell us that their relationships are only getting stronger because they tell themselves everything, the escapades included. Of course… What happens, however, if they enjoyed the affair more than their current partner? Surely, the honesty principle is difficult to retain and if it is it just becomes hurtful (secretly, because one shouldn’t feel hurt to what they agreed to).
The above leads me to my next point – if they have the primary relationship, and only sleep with other people, their presence in their lives is purely reduced to their biological uses. I assume, they’re not allowed to like like the others and in particular allow themselves to have more feelings for them than for their primary partners as this is a clear breach of the agreement? Or is it okay to develop few relationships at the same time as long as the primary one is the most important one? And how is that supposed to be measured?
Last but not least, I’ve never encountered an “equal” open partnership in which both parties are to the same degree keen on pursuing this type of arrangement. Usually it’s one of the partners pushing the other one to test their boundaries. I think it’s definitely a better and more honest solution than cheating, but it’s a solution to the same dilemma of “I want to have a cake and eat it”. I’m sure that in long term life partnerships the temptations are stronger and that it’s difficult to keep it at the butterfly stage for thirty years. It must require a lot of work and if we tried to save the relationship and it keeps making us unhappy it’s probably just better to finish the relationship than get involved in a multiple partner scenario in which someone’s feeling will get hurt – be it ours, our partners or one of the “secondary” people involved.
Of course, the long term argument isn’t really the problem in many cases as the partners often just decide to be “open” from the beginning (I can’t help asking: what’s the point then?). Maybe it’s the problem of our times, that people get spoilt for choice and that they’re getting upset when they have to commit and can’t have everything at the same time. Maybe it’s human nature and people always wanted what the couldn’t have (let’s be honest, from a historical perspective, marriages only stopped being open arrangements for men recently). Either way, if what we want in life is a partnership and our partner tells us that they’d like to “experience other people sexually” or we’re the one tempted to explore the horizons maybe it’s time to be honest with ourselves and break up, before the emotional swamp destroys all the good memories and warm feelings.
What do YOU think about open relationships? Is it just a harmful fantasy and a scenario that can only go wrong? Or maybe it’s the way in which relationships will look in the future?