This post is in response to anonymous questions and comments that I receive via a SurveyMonkey form I set up. If you’d like to send me a question or comment just fill out the form at this website (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH)
- I am interested in what your specific rules for your open relationship are.
This comment is probably in response to my first post in this series. For those new to the blog, my partner and I do not have a traditional monogamous relationship. We aren’t polyamorous, but how we do see sexuality as something that can be open in a healthy and happy relationship. We have a few basic rules (or really, guidelines) that help us navigate physical intimacy with others that vary depending on the situation.
First, flirting and making out is perfectly fine. If physical contact happens with another person then we tell each other about it when a good opportunity arises. For example, if my partner makes out with someone in a bar then she may tell me later that night or the next morning. There is no reason to text from a bar bathroom or find me on the dance floor to report in. We just keep each other in the loop about what we do with others.
Second, if we are in a situation and the other person isn’t present (one of us goes to a party alone or one of us is out of town) then we don’t do any skin contact below the waist. Anything above the waist is fine for skin-to-skin contact but things below the waist need to have a layer of clothing involved, and no orgasms.
Third, if we are together in a situation where things are getting physical then we just need to check in with each other. In general, we don’t do more than oral with others but if everyone is comfortable with more than that then we are intellectually open to it. It is just a matter of communicating clearly (with each other and anyone else involved) what we are comfortable with and interested in.
Fourth, all same-sex stuff is all fine if proper safety precautions are taken.
Fifth, there are certain people who these rules don’t apply as much to. We have certain friends that we have a history with that allow for greater play. Some of these people are couples that we have done stuff with together and sometimes it is an individual that one of us used to hook up with in college or something. People with a history tend to be less threatening.
Sixth, if one of us wants to bend a rule or temporarily pause it then we just need to ask. Maybe my partner is away on a trip and really hitting it off with someone then all she needs to do is quickly check in with me and it’ll probably be approved (depending on how everyone is feeling about it). We also don’t see cheating as something that will end the relationship. Mistakes are sometimes made and if that happens we would discuss it openly and decide if rules need to be loosened or tightened for a time to address it.
These rules may seem kind of random and arbitrary but they are based on what is comfortable for us. We are constantly pushing our boundaries though and we are both committed to overcoming negative emotions. We also realize that neither of us can be everything to the other person. There may be sexual interests that one of us has that the other person is uncomfortable (or unable do to physical limitations) participating in. Being open to new circumstances doesn’t mean we are open to every circumstance or that we want to bang every person we see, but it does mean we won’t shut the door on any situation without discussing and processing it first.
Feelings of jealousy and such are valid and we respect them, but that doesn’t mean we want to be slaves to them. We both feel that life would be better without negative emotions. If one of us is feeling jealous or envious or uncomfortable in a situation (we have veto power over each other even when operating within the “rules”) then we will pause and try and figure out why it is happening. In my experience jealousy comes down to a couple reasons:
First, one of us isn’t getting our needs met or is feeling ignored. If we are at a party and my partner is really connecting with someone and things are getting physical then I might feel anxiety about it if I am alone in a corner. We try to keep things relatively balanced, if one of us has someone to play with then we want the other one to have someone too.
Second, safety is sometimes a concern. Physical safety (minimizing STI risk, etc.) is easily overcome with condoms or by being somewhat selective about interactions that get to the point of potential fluid exchange. Emotional safety is a little bit more difficult to navigate, but it can be done. Sometimes one of us will worry that a new partner may be a threat to our relationship or love. Realistically, the chance of that is tiny but it is still a concern that should be addressed. We usually stick with fooling around with other couples or people we won’t see often to help minimize that risk.
Third, the little dictator inside all of us wants to control a person. This is the most devious (and often subconscious) reason for jealousy. The truth is, we all want to control people and when we are in a position of power (like being a parent or having veto power in a relationship) that power can be abused. It is sometimes easier and satisfying to tell someone ‘no’ just because you can. This hasn’t happened to my partner and I, but if it did happen we would discuss it and try to find a solution.
I’m sure there are other reasons for jealousy, but those are the ones that come to mind for us. They can all be addressed and I really think jealousy is something we should all work to overcome.
- Peter, you’re such a lovely human. I feel like I learn so much from you. This isn’t really a question, I just wanted the opportunity to tell you that (again).
Aww, thanks! Messages like this really inspire me to keep living openly and sharing my experiences. Hearing support from people always brings a smile to my face.
- You’ve mentioned having some jealousy problems before. How did you work to solve them?
Overcoming jealousy (well… mostly overcoming jealousy, it still happens from time to time) was a pretty long process for me and requires a little history. Part of my jealousy came from being raised in an environment that had an unhealthy view of jealousy and relationships. Jealousy was seen as “natural” and even good, and the view of relationships was one of ownership, particularly ownership of the man over the women. This was particularly true while I was in the military where masculinity is defined by fucking and controlling women.
So, I was off to a pretty rough start. It didn’t help that the first women I was engaged to cheated on me, lied to me, and was emotionally abusive (and once physically abusive). That bad relationship really fueled my paranoia and jealousy over every little thing. For the longest time, the only time I wasn’t jealous about a partner was when I wasn’t really into them. After my engagement broke up I realized that I had a very unhealthy view of what a good relationship was.
The truth was, I wasn’t really in a healthy enough place to be in a relationship so I decided to take some time off from dating seriously. I ended up avoiding exclusive or serious relationships for about five years. I dated a little bit during that time and I had some great fuckbuddies, many of whom I loved, but I kept my jealousy at bay by refusing to view a person as my partner. To be honest, taking that time off and avoiding serious relationships until my late 20’s was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I spent time figuring out who I was, what I wanted in a partner, and my jealousy was reduced substantially because I knew my sexual partners were sleeping with other people. Jealousy, for me, stemmed from the unknown, from feeling like I wasn’t in control or that my feelings weren’t being respected.
So, over time it just started to fade. The cure for jealousy is transparency. It is easy to worry that some other guy has a bigger dick than me or that he is better at going cunnilingus or is more romantic if I never meet the other guy or if I never talk to my partner about her experiences, but if I am in the room or if I know that my partner will give me all the details I want then I don’t get jealous. It certainly took time to get to that point, we are brainwashed from birth to view our partners as our property and to take personal offense to any perceived slight. Jealousy is a sign of a healthy love, when really it isn’t.
As a side note, during this transitionary period I also discovered Ayn Rand, Stoicism, and mindfulness meditation. I believe all three of those things helped contribute to me overcoming jealousy. Rand was big on using logic to overcome emotion and acting rationally, stoicism teaches that it is a waste of time and energy to focus on things that our outside of our control (including the actions of others), and mindfulness meditation helps me control my mind, which includes negative emotions.
- Where in the world would you most like to travel?
Hmm, everywhere? That’s a cop out. Sorry.
Right now, the Nordic countries are on the top of my list, especially Iceland. I love everything I’ve seen of that area. I also really want to visit Ireland, for some reason I feel more attached to my Irish ancestry than any other part, even though I’m a huge mutt. New Zealand would also be amazing… maybe I have a thing for islands.
I think people tend to overlook the beautiful places within the United States. I really would love to go back to Santa Fe and the Redwoods, and spend some time hiking/camping in Zion and Glacier National Park. Oh, and Canada would be fun to spend more time in. My partner and I are considering doing a cross-Canada bicycle ride at some point.
Okay… that’s enough for today. I’ll have more to share later this week. 😊