11 Lessons I Learned From My Disastrous Attempt At Being In An Open Relationship

11 Lessons I Learned From My Disastrous Attempt At Being In An Open Relationship ©iStock/izusek

Being in an open relationship is not for the faint of heart. You really have to be ready, and you really have to know what you’re doing. Otherwise, you might have to learn some brutal truths the hard way, like me.

  1. It didn’t fix my betrayal problem. When I found out my fiance was cheating on me, I was so stunned that to buy myself time, I said, “What if you could have us both?” But my short-sighted solution didn’t take into account that a major betrayal had occurred, and that taking the time to heal those wounds and rebuild trust was what we needed. So, in short, if your relationship is broken, it’s going to still be broken when you start other people. I can’t stress this enough.
  2. You Ain’t Got Nothin’ If You Ain’t Got Trust. A relationship without trust is like Oprah without Gayle. It’s a world you don’t want to live in. Because contrary to popular belief, open relationships aren’t a free-for-all. There are rules. Each couple gets to make their own rules, but they’re still rules that need to be followed. When you can’t trust the person you’re in a relationship with, you just feel out of control and emotional all the time. It’s no way to live.
  3. It’s All In Or All Out. You have to both want it equally. I read the books. I did the research. But while I was doing the work of trying to make us work, she was just focused on her side chick. Neither of you can half-ass it. Either you both jump off the deep end together or you don’t even bother suiting up.
  4. It’s A Line You Can’t Ever Uncross. Once we were in, there was no going back. Once it hits you that partner is currently having sex with other people while you’re alone in the bed you share, watching a Bob’s Burgers marathon in your underwear and crying into your large pizza, you’ll never be able to un-realize it.
  5. Jealousy Feels Much Worse Than Heartbreak. Jealousy is a real loser, and it got the better of me sometimes. Like if I came home and saw her dressed up, putting on cologne and spiking up her hair. When I thought about other women touching her skin or getting flowers from her, I wanted to light the world on fire. Sometimes it hurt so bad that I would have to take sleeping pills to knock myself out so I didn’t lay in bed and think about her on top of her mistresses. The struggle was the realest. Be ready.
  6. It’s Not Hard To Get People To Have Sex With You. It wasn’t all bad. There were parts of it that were really good for my self-esteem. Like, I never really considered myself a top-shelf hottie, but I might as well have been because women (and a few dudes) were lining up to have sex with me. I’m not bragging, but my dance card was always full. It was nice. Overwhelming and a tad creepy at times, but nice.
  7. Having A Free Pass Is Exciting. It’s not like being in a monogamous relationship is overly restrictive, but there is this part of you that kind of gets shut off. It’s that part of you that sees other people as potential partners instead of just other people. So being free to flirt, make out on the dance floor, sext with reckless abandon and go home with anyone I wanted, all while returning to the comfort of my long-term partner’s arms, was pretty badass. It made me giddy sometimes with excitement, like the world was full of endless possibilities.
  8. There’s Not Enough Of Me To Go Around. If you’re not a good time manager, you can’t be in an open relationship. Period. You’ll never have time for all the things you want to do. People will get mad at you. And even when you’re doing a rock star job of balancing it all, you’ll still feel pulled in a million different directions. This was the most surprising part for me.
  9. You Have To Be A Rockstar Communicator. Aside from trust, communication is the most important element in a healthy relationship. Well, the lesson I learned about that is this: it sucks. Because sometimes you’ll be in the throes of a jealous or heartbroken patch, and you’ll have to talk about stuff you really don’t want to talk about. Even when we enacted the “no details” rule so I could live in blissful ignorance, we still had to reconcile our joint budget, or figure out when to take the dogs to the vet. Plus there’s a lot of checking in to make sure you’re both on board and doing OK. There’s even communicating about communicating. Its exhausting.
  10. Your Partner’s Happiness Can Bring You Incomparable Joy. You’re not always jealous. There are lots of times when you’re perfectly content. In those beautiful moments, you’ll have the ability to see that your partner is happy — and that happiness can make you really happy, if you let it. You’ll be able to remember how you felt when you were falling in love, and be glad your partner gets to experience that, too. If you’ve never been in an open relationship, this might sound bananas, but it’s true. And wonderful.
  11. It’s Not For Everyone. Years later, I can confidently say that I’m much happier with just my new wife and my dogs; no side chicks to manage. But exploring non-monogamy really opened my eyes to possibilities I never imagined. Sure, it’s not for me, but I can see how others thrive. As long as they go into it with a strong foundation. And, if I’m being honest with myself, I knew from the beginning that ours was cracked. Which leads to probably the best piece of advice I can give you: trust your gut.

If I had trusted mine, a whole circle of people could have avoided a lot of heartbreak.

Teresa Newsome writes because she can't be a unicorn. She's the creator of the nail art blog Hello Glitter and the personal essay blog Lessons from Emotional Kindergarten. She's obsessed with mermaids, glitter, self-esteem, sassy feminists, lesbians (esp. her wife), nail art, sweet dance moves, snacks, fanny packs, and Amy Poehler. Most of her best friends are other people's dogs.