Something that I never really tell anyone, is that my ex and I were in an open relationship.
Now that I’m post-breakup, I’ve been thinking a ton about my open relationship. What worked, what didn’t, and where we went wrong.
Here is the thing about Open Relationships, every single one is different. There is no one size fits all. It also doesn’t mean that you have a license to fuck anyone with no consequences.
All it means, is that in your relationship with your significant other you both understand and are open with each other about your attraction to other people. Together you come up with boundaries that you’re both comfortable with and what you’re not.
Why I had an Open Relationship
Around a year into my 10 year relationship, I found out that my ex had cheated. I guess a normal person would’ve walked away at that point. Instead I went into “Fix it” mode. I was curious about the why’s and how’s he cheated.
Then I found myself excited by parts of it. Which is when we figured out… hey we’re attracted to other people and that’s okay. We actually want to talk about it and be open about it. I felt happy and fulfilled in our relationship and yet was interested in trying out things with other people.
Something I didn’t realize until way later, that was that a small part of me thought he wouldn’t cheat again if we explored an open relationship. Why would he need to? He’d have everything he needed in our relationship. I ended up learning a really hard lesson, an open relationship will not fix any lying or cheating in your relationship. It only amplifies it.
Communication & Boundaries
The tough part about open relationships is that is requires a whole new level of communication and understanding. You have to communicate when it hurts and figure out why it hurts.
Over time trust is built, so some things that were off limits previously don’t hurt anymore. Other times, when trust is violated new things hurt.
Also, your relationship is only as open as your weakest link… and I was the weakest link in mine. My ex really could’ve cared less about what I did with anyone else. I felt really conflicted about that. Excited that I had no limits, slightly hurt he didn’t care.
I on the other hand, was a mixed basket. I was more okay with physical relationships then I was with emotional relationships. I understood that he physically wanted to be with other women, but I felt that emotionally I wasn’t willing to share him in that way.
For me, I was okay with him hooking up with some select people. As long as we had discussed it beforehand, he was being up front and honest about it, I felt comfortable.
And with that, we had a lot of fun for awhile.
When it went downhill
The issues started cropping up on my end, when I found out he wasn’t being honest.
That’s when things then began to change in our open relationship. A new boundary became, “Look you can do XYZ- but when I ask about it, you gotta be straight up with me.” He wasn’t. That freaked me out, so instead of ending things, we just ended up with more boundaries and I had more insecurities. In turn, he’d get more frustrated.
Also, I was super uncomfortable with involving coworkers in our open relationship. Coworkers were a sore point for me, since he originally cheated on me with a coworker. What’s interesting is that’s the thing that led to our big breakup, when my ex cheating with his coworker.
In the beginning, I really appreciated him being honest with me about a crush, and we were fine for awhile. Later, I didn’t really appreciate it so much when I found out he was lying to me about the extent he was talking to her or a lot of different aspects of their relationship.
I found out months later that he had made up his mind that our open relationship WOULD involve his coworker whether I liked it or not, but he just didn’t bother to tell me. That should’ve been a huge red flag there, communication should flow both ways.
When I shared, “Look I’m uncomfortable. I’m willing to have an open relationship with people that we both feel comfortable with. I’m not okay with you spending hours flirting with your coworker every single day. That feels like an emotional relationship. While I’m okay with a physical one- I’m not okay with coworkers and an emotional relationship is out of bounds to me.”
Him: “Okay, I’ll stop.”
Me: “Okay. I get she’s your coworker and there will be some interactions, but can you limit it to work and just promise not lie about it?”
Him: “No. I’ll stop.” (Spoiler alert: He didn’t stop, he increased it and continued to lie.)
(a few weeks later)
Me: “Hey, I think I’m about to start my period. I’m just really emotional. Can you take a break from flirting with your coworker? I can’t handle it right now.”
Him: “Sure!” (Spoiler alert: he didn’t stop)
(Side note: Something I found interesting was that my monthly cycle did impact our open relationship. There were times when I was just emotional and we’d need to pause things. That may not be the case for you, but be aware of your emotions.)
Now, I look back on all of those red flags and I feel very conflicted. Was the open relationship wrong? I don’t think so, there were some really really great parts to it.
Would I do it again?
A big part of me says yes. A small part of me is still crying inside. I think with the right person, in the right relationship it would be amazing. But when there is no trust… it’s torture.
I think what was wrong, was that if there is lying and no trust, there is no foundation to make an open relationship on. You’re with someone who really should be single and not in a relationship.
Anyways, that’s what I learned from having an open relationship.