Open relationships, to me, have always seemed like a minefield of hurt. I spent my early teens educating myself on relationships using the ultimate gal's guide to love: a copy of Cosmo and a weekly dose of Carrie B. I thought I knew everything. I was the practically celibate, advice-giving, rosé-chugging, chain-smoking, northern, working-class amalgamation of “50 hot sex tips” and four fictional New York women, and on the hunt for the ultimate, the everything: The One.
Now, we all know "the one" is a myth, just like Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes. It implies that all relationships last happily ever after, when the truth is – most of the time, at least – they don’t. No one said “It just works”, “We never argue” or “We still have sex 25 times a week” without it coming back to bite them in the ass. Please. Today, finding “the one" – by which I mean a single, lifelong dedicated love – seems pretty unlikely. What if there’s not one, but four ones, and what if they come along all at the same time?
After speaking with five different people who have been conducting long-term, polyamorous relationships, I realised two things:
1. Perhaps open relationships don’t have to be for everybody, just like monogamy isn’t for everybody. Perhaps some people find openness to be the form of dating and sex that works for them and their partners. There’s no hierarchy or major level of enlightenment that people who are monogamous, or non-monogamous, have. It’s just a different viewpoint. Among circles of queer friends who are in open relationships, this is something I had felt before: that because I didn’t think non-monogamy would work for me I was somehow less queer, less radical, less enlightened. That’s not true. What was clear from all the conversations I had was that everyone works hard at their relationships in pretty much the same ways, no matter what form those relationships take.
2. That the open, poly, and non-monogamous community is very broad. It’s not restricted to gay people, queer people, hippies, kinky straight people: it is just another way of living that a lot of people opt into.
There’s far more to it, of course, but I leave that to the five voices to follow.