Posted on April 28, 2009
This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Benefits of an open relationship

During a group discussion that happened Sunday, one of the people present brought up the following question: “What image do you want to present regarding polyamory/non-monogamy?”  The idea that she gave was to narrate that image in a manner akin to a television commercial.  Several ideas came up from in that discussion.

I liked the idea because it allowed the group to come up with ideas on how to describe a poly/open lifestyle without having to tap into the sensationalized subjects (sex and jealousy).

This series will explore several of the ideas mentioned in greater detail.  As you read through this series, try to find the recurring theme in the images that are presented.

Before I go further, I would like to take a moment to define what it means to have an open relationship, versus a closed relationship.  The definition encompasses a lot more than simply romantic and sexual openness outside of the relationship.   I am going to paraphrase the definitions given in Nena and George O’Neill’s book, Open Marriage.

In a closed relationship, the focus is on the identity of the couple. The people involved not only forsake potential romance outside of the two of them, but they also give up any emotionally intimate friendships with those of the opposite gender. In addition, each person in the couple is emotionally, socially, and/or financially dependent on the other. If there is a social event, they must appear and act as a couple, and therefore if one of the two does not want to go, the other will sacrifice and not attend as well.

An open relationship focuses on the individual, so that the needs and development of those involved are not put on the back-burner for the sake of the upholding the relationship. This type of dynamic allows those involved to continue to grow and find happiness, without forcing the other partner to do something they don’t want to do, or become something they don’t want to be. The partnership between the people involved is built upon love and support, rather than dependence and dominance/submission.

It is possible to have an open relationship without being polyamorous (since openness doesn’t necessarily mean sexually open) but it is difficult to have a poly relationship without it also being open (in the broader sense).

Update (5/6/09):  This series will consist of 2 levels:

“Level 1″ (Benefits 1-3) are perks from basic open-relating  (no romance or overly complex dynamics required). As my boyfriend occasionally points out, if you take any romantic possibilities out, these can be seen as elements of a healthy relationship.

“Level 2″ (Benefits 4-6, and beyond) will start to delve into the more complicated dynamics that are associated with the more known concepts of open relationships and/or polyamory.

Posted on April 29, 2009
This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Benefits of an open relationship

While Corey and I don’t watch a lot of television, the two of us enjoy watching movies. He prefers to watch action or sci-fi flicks, or big franchise movies (Star Wars / Star Trek).  I prefer drama/comedies, independent films, mysteries, and the occasional thriller flick (as long as it’s not gory).  

While there are some movies that we would want to watch together (X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Star Trek, to give some recent examples), there are a lot of movies that I want to watch and he doesn’t.  I could choose to hold off until the movie comes out on DVD, but I’d prefer to see it in the theater.   Rather than watch the movie alone, I end up going with a guy friend that is as equally enamored with the particular movie as I am.

To give you some examples, here’s movies that I was able to see in the theater, without going alone, and without Corey having to “suffer” through watching it:

  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Finding Neverland
  • Hotel Rwanda
  • Eternal Sunshine on a Spotless Mind
  • La Vie en Rose
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Children of Men
  • Atonement
  • Juno
  • No Country for Old Men

Hopefully, you get my point ;)

Being in an open relationship with someone that has different tastes in movies doesn’t mean that you have to go to the theater alone.  You’re free watch the film with someone else who is interested in what you’re watching – and who knows, relationship boundaries permitting, you may also be able to snuggle with them ;)

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Posted on May 2, 2009
This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Benefits of an open relationship

Most of us have a limited number of vacation days, as well as a limited amount of travel funds. Therefore, when we make decisions to take time off and go on a trip, we want to make sure that our time and money are well spent.

One of the challenges of planning vacations as a couple is finding a location that both people want to go to.  There are probably some places that you and your sweetie enjoy travelling to together.  There’s also other places that you’d like to go to that your lover doesn’t care for, and vice-versa.  When this happens, one of two things typically occurs:

 

  • Both people go to the vacation spot.  Hopefully the person that was originally not interested in going ends up having a good time.  However, there’s also the chance that they not only don’t have fun on the trip, but they resent having to go (feeling it was either a waste of time, money, or both)
     
  • Both people stay home.  They aren’t able to justify the cost of having two people travel when only one of them is truly interested in going.  There is the risk that the person that wanted to go will become resentful.

 

In either scenario, one member of the couple chooses to do something they don’t want to (either by going or staying). It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a third option to consider, one that’s possible by having a more open relationship:

The person who wants to travel goes on the trip, and the other person either stays home or travels to a location that they’re interested in (and the other partner isn’t).

Let me re-state this: it is okay for a couple to not share travel plans. 

To give an example from my own experiences:  Corey is a big fan of Disney World and the other theme parks in Florida. Me? I could take ‘em or leave ‘em. I am not much of a theme park person.  Meanwhile, I am interested in travelling for the sake of attending conferences or gaming conventions – something that isn’t Corey’s cup of tea.  Financially, we’re not in a position where the both of us could travel to all of these events. There’s also the PTO/work aspect to consider. One option would be for us to pick and choose where to travel to together (in which case, one or both of us has to cut back on our travel wishes). The other option is for the both of us to simply stay home.  The third option, which we’re doing, is he’s going with his dad to Florida next winter, and I’m still going to my various conventions and events.  While we aren’t going together, we’d still check in with each other during the trip, and then spend time together once the travelling partner returns home.

The other reason why I like this option – it encourages the travelling partner to bring home a souvenir as a gift for their sweetie ;)

Posted on May 8, 2009
This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Benefits of an open relationship

“Sadder than destitution, sadder than a beggar is the man who eats alone in public. Nothing more contradicts the laws of man or beast, for animals always do each other the honor of sharing or disputing each other’s food.”
Jean Baudrillard, French philosopher

Given the large number of restaurants in existence it’s easy to see that we (speaking for Americans in general) like to dine out.   Part of this is due to convenience. Given how busy our lives are between work, hobbies, and obligations, it’s sometimes hard to fit in the prep and cooking time needed for food.  For others, the choice to dine out is because they themselves only have basic cooking skills, and want to try complex dishes that are created by a professional. Others still seek to experience new and ethnic cuisines.

Regardless of the reason, dining out also appears to be a social activity.  Even if we are ordering different entrées,  we spend time together communing over a meal.   Mixing food with companionship not only makes the meal more enjoyable, but it allows us to reflect upon the experience of eating.  

Remember the Disney movie, Lady and the Tramp?  The scene in the back alley of the restaurant wouldn’t be as cool if it it was simply one of the characters eating alone.  Unless you’re the type that likes to reflect upon and savor experiences in private, you probably won’t have fun dining out solo.

The easy answer to this, if you’re in a relationship, would be to dine out with your significant other. This works if you have similar tastes, as well as similar schedules. What if one of you really enjoys a certain type of ethnic cuisine and the other abohrs it? How about if one member of the couple is a vegetarian (or vegan), and the other is a meat eater that enjoys going to Brazilian steakhouses?  In the old-school, closed relationship model, the couple would either have to go together (with one partner struggling to find something that fits their dietary preferences), the one that wants to go would have to go alone or not go at all, or they could go with same-gender friends.  (Note: This is assuming that the couple is heterosexual.)

Given the implied intimacy of companionship that comes with dining together, difficulties may arise if someone that’s in a socially closed relationship chooses to eat with someone that is of their gender of sexual preference.  Depending on the restrictions of the relationship, as well as the emotional security (or lack thereof) of the partners involved, the non-dining partner may feel threatened by the dining partner’s companion – even if nothing happened beyond sharing food and drink and exchanging a few stories.

The alternative here would be for the couple to mutually agree to open up dining companionship to allow each partner to dine with others that fit their gender of sexual preference, and to trust eachother so that when one says “we went out for food and drinks and that’s it”, it’s left at that unless proven otherwise. I know that this seems rather basic and common sense, but sometimes couples need to blatently state this and agree upon it before this concept can actually work :)

P.S.:  For those seeking dining companions – I like creative vegetarian cuisine.  The guys are more carnivorous (veggies are garnishes to flavor the meat!).

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Posted on May 10, 2009
This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Benefits of an open relationship

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”   ~ Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

I wanted to take some time to explain why I used a particular definition for “open relationship”.   I’m guessing that it may be different than what most of you think of when you hear that term.

(more…)

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