Open Relationships

(The guy in this picture is in a wheelchair; I just noticed it and I think it's note-worthy because how often do they include obviously disabled persons in professional pictures like that?)

Open relationships. I've never been in one, but as I understand them, they are essentially relationships with no rules. They are supposed to be every commitment-phobe's dream scenario: all the benefits of a relationship with none of the sacrifice.

I mean, let's face it. Relationships are sacrifice. But we sacrifice to get something better. Allow me to take an uncharacteristic stance and suggest that when done right, relationships can be like a slice of our best idea of heaven. The current problem our society is falling into is that we don't want to do that "done right" part. But I digress. In any case, we sacrifice our time, our emotional stability and even our hearts for the chance at getting this slice of heaven. If you've sacrificed for nothing in return enough times then this whole idea of sacrifice is tragic; comical at best.

Enter the idea of an open relationship. Perfect for people who can't bear the thought of being done wrong again, but yearn for that special someone. I mean, can you blame them? It's like Coke Zero. All the taste of Coke with none of the calories. All the returns with none of the investment. It's perfect... or is it?

I actually just read today that Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were in an open marriage and we all know the rumors about Will and Jada (though, I think that's a rumor people have thrown out because they can't believe a high profile black marriage is actually working). In any case, Ruby and Ossie were together for 50+ yrs, presumably happily. So having never been in an open relationship and seeing that at least one open marriage worked, I can't actually dismiss it as valid, but I do wonder about a few aspects.

First, let me explain where this post came from: I was having a conversation with someone and the topic of open relationships came up kind of randomly (had something to do with facebook, I think, lol). My general stance on life is: I have my opinion, you have yours and I can have mine without agreeing with yours and vice-versa. So my reaction was "I've never been in one and from what I can see, they're a whole lot of extra and seem to only be headed towards a bad place." She countered that they were good for the commitment-phobe in all of us. "What if I meet someone and take a liking to them, get in a relationship with them and then I realize I don't like them anymore? Then I have to deal with all of their attachment issues and emotions. Why not just skip all that and have an open relationship?"

I can take that argument and even agree with it a little, but here's my thing: Relationships are, in every way, an investment. You put a part of you in, hoping to get a good payoff. Many of us leave relationships in the negative. Not only did we not get anything out of it, but we also didn't even get back what we put into it. That's a rough loss to take. But the deal with investments are, the less you put in, the less you can get out. Relationships are the same way. Go for the open relationship and the type of relationship you have with that other person won't be close to what you could have in a serious, committed relationship.

I also look at it this way: there's just as much of a chance that someone will get hurt in an open relationship as there is in a closed relationship. All it takes is for one person to forget the real deal and let their emotions get in the way and it's all downhill. That's all bad break-ups are ever really about. Someone got their feelings trampled on. The frustrating part about open relationships is that if your feelings get trampled on, who's there to blame but yourself? Not that this is about blame, but that only compounds your feelings: "you did it to yourself."

I think open relationships are like playing with fire and managing to delay the inevitable. Somebody will get burned; I think Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were the exception to the rule, not the standard. I think most of us aren't ready for what it really means to be in an open relationship, mostly because many of us aren't ready for what it means to be in a committed one.

Having said all that, I think that open relationships can be good if used as a short-term solution. Perhaps you and your flame are going through a transitional period; one of you is moving or is having a hard time, perhaps moving to an open relationship until you figure out the best next option is best; or perhaps you have just met someone and you think you might really be into them so you two agree to try an open relationship to feel each other out. And really, isn't this what most people do anyway? So I suppose it's those open relationships that go on with no end. The ones that start off and never change and so at some point, it's just confusing because if you're not talking about it then each person is left to make their own decisions about the relationships and what's happening. And that's when feelings get trampled.

So I say: open relationships that are purposeful and intended to be short can be good; it's the open relationships that have no boundaries and no purpose that cause problems.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there!

I just wanted to add that Ruby and Ossie did the open relationship thing for a short period of time in their marriage. They were monogamous for the most part.

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