How to Have an Open Relationship Without Annoying the Shit Out of Everyone

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By April Adam

non-monogamy

So you decided to open your relationship. Congratulations! Monogamy certainly seems tough, and since puberty, I have thought it profoundly wasteful to set up a game of chicken between commitment and the id. But I warn you: You may begin to find network television toothless, as so many plots lazily circle around infidelity, the threat of infidelity, or humor based in tension surrounding infidelity.

Also, you fantastic free-thinker, a poly lifestyle isn’t all Caligula all the time. The bacchanalian vibe you imagine may not come to pass, and you run some serious risks. I’m not talking about existential dangers to your coupledom, but a more mundane concern: namely that people in fresh open relationships can be annoying as shit.

I know what I’m talking about, because in my personal life I’m a target for a lot of open couples: I’m relatively promiscuous and think dating as a triad is cute and kinda hot. While I’m not saying there’s a right way to approach non-monogamy, there are definitely a few wrong ways. As someone who answered searchable poly questions on OkCupid honestly, those wrong ways frequently get aimed right at my face.

So before you screenshot Sex at Dawn for your joint OkCupid profile, allow me to provide you some tips for having an open relationship in the real world.

Getting laid still takes work

This goes out, I’m sorry to say, more to men than women. As I mentioned before, I answered a few questions on OkCupid truthfully: Yes, I would date someone in an open relationship. I would! That’s true. But now half the salvos I get on that dating site go something like this: “Hey April-I’m in an open marriage, and I love my wife. You’ve got a great ass! I’d like for us to become fuck buddies. Write back quickly.”

Ask yourself: Did you have to have game when you were single? Your wedding ring isn’t Spanish fly, and the fact that some woman likes you enough to share a bathroom doesn’t make you Justin Trudeau’s younger brother. Be polite, at a bare minimum.

Not everyone wants to hear about your sex life

The universe of people interested in the mechanics of your open relationship is almost certainly the exact same one that heard details of your pre-poly sex life. Your close pals, married wing-woman, that college roommate you ask about butt stuff—it’s wonderful to have a large pool of candid friends. But if someone isn’t in that circle, he or she doesn’t need to hear about “my wife’s lover.” You don’t need to bring up The Ethical Slut at Thanksgiving to your 75-year-old aunt. Your co-worker in the next cubicle isn’t being close-minded if they don’t want to hear about your foursome—he didn’t want to visualize you naked last year, and he still doesn’t. You don’t need to keep your new relationship status a secret; allude to it a few times, perhaps, and people who are interested will ask about it.

In most circumstances, a cold open request to fuck you and your partner is rude

It’s the same as asking complete strangers to pee on you, i.e. asking them to complete a fantasy of yours without first ascertaining whether they’re into it. That might fly at a sex party, but even if you’re on a dating site, a proposition requires preamble. Leading with an unsolicited sexual appeal is trolling. It doesn’t matter if you used the words “please” and “thank you.” This is still true if you’re a woman. Ladies, if I don’t know you, don’t assume that I’m interested in “slow sensuality,” or that I want to see your husband’s dick because “we’re sisters.” (We aren’t, and if we were that would be even weirder.) If you have a two-person profile, say hi and mention something we have in common, same as if you were single. I’ll get the idea, and if I’m interested, I’ll write back.

Baggage is still unattractive, even if it’s a couple’s set

Asking single people to date you singly, but describing yourself mostly in relation to your partner and how committed you are and how you’re in process with this whole non-monogamy thing isn’t going to turn people on or make them think they’d have a good time with you. The only thing less likely to get my panties in a twist than asking me for sex in your first five words is making it clear that you are a big ball of defensive, confused feelings, and you need free therapy that comes with head.

I understand that going from a lifetime of clear rules that can be spelled out with country songs to a new world of ambiguity is a big deal. My life is full of my big deals, too. Wait ’til the second date to wax large with the big deals, and try to understand that they aren’t my problem.

Low-stakes auxiliary sex Is probably easier with other non-monogamous people

When I tweak my dating profile to indicate “partnered but available,” the deluge of “third” emails slows to a trickle. The implications of this are nasty—it means that men (and couples) are looking for some kind of fantasy fulfillment robot with no life of her own, a convenient threesome partner and nothing more. That’s a lousy deal, especially for a single person looking for an emotional connection, not a role in a harem. This seems like a no-brainer, but I guess it needs to be said: If most of your emotional needs are covered by your primary partner, and all you really want is sexual variety and friendship, you might want to look for someone who is in a committed relationship of his or her own.

Non-monogamy isn’t the only way, and you don’t get to tell everyone else they’re doing it wrong

There are myriad reasons why people might prefer monogamy, including religion, ease of navigating the world, or because it just feels right. Respect that, even if you choose differently. You know how you complain all the time about monogamous bores telling you you’re going to hell/divorce court? They don’t need your advice, either.

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