Having the freedom to develop emotional connections with as many people as I like is a beautiful thing, and I celebrate that my partner can exercise that same freedom. However, this is a new way of doing relationships for me, and as much as I love this lifestyle, there are certain aspects I still struggle with.
Splitting my time between multiple partners has its challenges. If I struggled to spend enough time with my partner when I was monogamous, that problem is only exacerbated when I have more than one person to be showering with affection—not to mention all the other things I need to stay on top of in my life. It’s tough to make sure I’m simultaneously meeting everyone’s needs and looking after my own well-being. It works in reverse too—sometimes my partners don’t have as much time for me because of their other relationships. It’s all a case of finding a balance.
Knowing what’s OK to talk about can be tricky. There’s a fine line between excitedly sharing something about another partner and violating their trust. I sometimes find I have to watch what I’m saying to avoid breaking the confidence of somebody I care about. Of course I want to share the important things in my life with the people that are closest to me, but sometimes it’s smarter to resist the urge and spill to my journal instead.
Dealing with jealousy is a constant battle. In a perfect world, jealousy wouldn’t exist and we’d all go around falling in love with each other and nobody would ever feel slighted by it. Unfortunately, I find myself constantly learning and relearning the skills that help me deal with it. It usually helps to focus on the opposite feeling of jealousy: compersion. Compersion is feeling happiness when a partner is happy, especially when it comes from another person. Asking the question “does this bring my loved one joy?” is usually helpful in snapping me out of my jealousy.
Seeing my partner with other people is something I’m still learning to take in my stride. Hearing about my partner’s other exploits is one thing; having it happen right in front of me is something else. This is always harder in the beginning and it’s something I’m slowly adjusting to. Still, I have to be honest and admit that my heart still skips a beat when I witness something as simple as them holding hands. It’s one of those opportunities for practicing compersion.
I’ve been confronted with my own insecurities. Until I was in an open relationship, I didn’t realize how much of my self-esteem was tied up in my partner. There are a lot of insecurities that can come up when my partner is with another woman. Am I attractive enough? Interesting enough? Good enough in bed? It can turn into an endless spiral of self-doubt if I don’t nip it in the bud with some good old-fashioned self-care.
My partner and I suddenly have secrets from each other. My boyfriend and I are in the habit of sharing pretty much everything with each other, so suddenly having other relationships that demand their own secrets feels weird. Our communication has changed a little to deal with the shift and we’re trying to focus more on speaking about emotional experiences rather than cold hard facts. It leaves room to be honest with each other while still respecting that we have other, separate relationships.
Sometimes my principles and my emotions don’t match. More love is always better and all beings are inherently free—I’d get these axioms tattooed on my forehead if it wouldn’t make me look crazy. It seems like I need constant reminding because as much as I believe in these principles, there are times that I’m so overcome with jealousy and fear that it’s a little hard to keep a hold of them.
Being surrounded by monogamy isn’t particularly encouraging. Open relationships are still a relatively new phenomenon and as much as the idea is gaining traction, we still live in a pretty monogamous world (at least in theory). Without friends who practice the same lifestyle, it can be a pretty lonely path and that makes it all the more challenging. Asking friends for relationship advice and learning from other couples’ examples is so much easier when you’re surrounded by people operating on the same fundamentals as you.
There’s no right way to do this. Every step is one we’re figuring out from scratch. Of course, there are others who have done this before us and who have written books that help eke out a path through the unknown, but every couple is different so the way that works for us is something we’re constantly discovering. Mistakes are bound to be made along the way. The important thing is that we act with love and compassion towards ourselves and each other.
It’s one big adventure in self-improvement. Open relationships are wonderful but they’re no walk in the park, especially when you’re surrounded by monogamy on every side. If there’s one thing I’ve realized from polyamory, it’s that it’s an intense learning experience. Nothing in my life has come close to shining the light on my inner workings like the challenges of an open relationship. It’s definitely something best suited to self-improvement junkies. Luckily, I happen to be one.
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