Sometimes people want to talk to me, or more formally, interview me, about my experiences as a nonmonogamous person. One of the questions that always comes up is about how difficult it must be, emotionally and logistically. There’s an assumption that the choice to have open relationships requires a great deal of ‘work’, that they are extraordinarily laborious and that all the partners involved spend much more time talking about the state of their relationship than doing anything else.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an extremely sensitive, soft, easily-wounded person, so if you’re assuming you have to be particularly cold and heartless to be nonmonogamous then you’re wrong. It’s not easy because I don’t care. I’m neither cold nor heartless, but I stand by the belief that it’s just not as difficult to organise your relationships like this as many seem to believe it is.
I’ve read the ‘key text’ for nonmonogamists, The Ethical Slut, cover to cover twice. Even the bits that were irrelevant to my situation, just so I didn’t miss anything. I read it once when I had a vague idea that this was what I wanted to do, and then I re-read it once I was cheerfully ensconced in an open relationship. What I found when I read it for the second time was that it was predicting lots of problems to come as standard that just weren’t happening to me. For example, it has still never occurred to me to set up boundaries in any relationship beyond ‘let’s see what we want from this and try not to hurt each other’s feelings’. Setting limits beyond my own is an alien concept to me. Aside from when a partner asked if they could ask out a colleague of mine, I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘I’d rather you didn’t do that’. It seems to predict massive scheduling conflicts and preaches the virtues of online diary-sharing. I’ve never found this to be a problem.
I’ve been asked the question ‘what if you’re out for a drink with your boyfriend and he goes home with some girl in the bar?’. I wouldn’t know because that has literally never happened to me. That’s not part and parcel of an open relationship!
I check in every so often (every few months), awkwardly asking if ‘everything is going generally as you want it to’, but it’s not a constant process of talking, negotiating, validating, reassuring. Most of the time my bonds just neatly tick along much in the way that friendships do- requiring deep analysis only when a particular obstacle comes up.
The truth is, there just aren’t that many obstacles. And even fewer obstacles worth turning into an object of discussion. (I’ll do some deep thinking and consultation before I write about the one part of my relationship that has caused me theoretical and practical angst rather than skimming over it here).
To reprise an earlier phrase: ‘it’s not easy because I don’t care’. It’s easy because I know what I care about. I don’t care what my partners do with other people, but I do care about what they do with me. And it’s just as easy to manage that bond as it is to manage any interpersonal relationship. I don’t care about seeing any partner more than once a week, but I do care if things are intervening to make this not happen. Knowing what’s important to me and what isn’t makes this whole enterprise pretty manageable.
It’s not always easy, but it’s not that difficult.