Open Heart, Open Mind

Being honest isn’t easy. I’ve joked that I’m so honest because I’m too lazy to come up with lies. That’s not exactly true, because there are still times when I choose not to say something I should, or keep information to myself. But generally, I don’t lie because it’s too hard to remember things that are made up.

And that’s for me, who is pretty comfortable expressing myself most of the time around most people. Some people don’t have that option. They are taught from an early age that there are right things and wrong things and if you don’t agree then you’re wrong too, and people will judge you for that. So children learn to lie, and they become adults who lie.

Open MindIf given the option, will they be honest? That’s what I want to find out. Well, not “they” in some theoretical sense. I mean, “he,” as in my boyfriend. Will he be more open and honest if he knows he will not be judged or abandoned for his thoughts, desires, opinions and behaviors?

I have received a lot of feedback from people reading this blog and/or in the Polyamory group on Facebook that I recently was recommended to by a close poly friend. Some feedback has been positive, but it’s mostly negative. Well, what should I expect, it’s the internet after all. People are judging and condemning my relationship already, even though they only know what’s going on from a few posts and comments.

People tell me that cheaters will never change, they’re not worth being in a relationship with, they’re flawed, and that our relationship is fundamentally dysfunctional because we have problems with communication. I’d like to congratulate all those people on their perfect relationships that have been 100% open and honest from the very moment they started. You are truly fortunate to have found the ultimate partner(s) who all understand the one and only way to make a polyamorous relationship work.

For the rest of us who are living one day at a time trying to make sense of this confusing life and all its complicated relationships, I’d like to take a moment to say that there is no right or wrong reason to start being polyamorous, there is no one way to have a successful relationship, and if your mind and heart are open, you can enjoy the amazing and wonderful world of open relationships no matter where you are right now.

I’m not an expert, and yes, I just started blogging because I just started the process of opening a previously (supposedly) monogamous relationship up to polyamory, but this isn’t my first rodeo.

In 2009, after a year or so of casual dating, I met a guy who I thought I wanted to  settle down with. He was everything I was supposed to want and I should’ve been happy, but I wasn’t. In fact, for a couple of months in 2010, I couldn’t get out of bed and function like a normal human because I was so depressed. So I decided to get back into something I used to be passionate about before I started living my life for other people many years earlier. That thing was poetry.

Thing about poetry is, there’s different groups of people who perform poetry, and I wanted to make sure and find the group that I would fit into best. In order to do that, I looked up an ex-boyfriend who I met at an open mic eight years earlier. It was all very innocent at first, and I told myself that I wanted nothing to do with my ex, that I was committed to this new guy. But I was lying to myself and I ended up cheating on the guy I was supposed to marry.

The thing was, I wanted both security and freedom, comfort and adventure, familiarity and new experiences. But we are taught that we can’t have our cake and eat it too. You’re supposed to have your freedom, adventure and experiences when we’re young and single, then “settle” into security, comfort and familiarity when we find that one person who fulfills all our needs, or enough of our most important needs that we will deal with those needs they can’t fulfill.

Dealing with those needs often means denying yourself, like I denied myself poetry for so many years. Or it means indulging those needs, often at the cost of integrity and communication with those you are supposed to love.

An open heart is an open mind - Dalai Lama

When I realized that I’m the kind of person who doesn’t want to “settle down,” I told myself I wouldn’t get into another shamonogamous relationship and decided being open was the way for me. But I only realized that after I cheated on someone repeatedly, hurt him in immeasurable ways, destroyed friendships, burned bridges, and lost everything (literally, I had a few bags of possessions and nowhere to go, even ended up sleeping on the street one night).

Since then, I’ve had so many amazing relationships, lovers, friends, experiences and adventures that I can’t say I did the wrong thing. Yes, cheating is wrong. But monogamy was wrong for me. It was wrong then, and it still is now. This goes against everything we are taught about love and relationships, but just because most people do something a certain way. it doesn’t make it right for everyone.

There’s a reason it’s called an “open relationship.” You have to be open minded to try it. You need an open heart to share love among many people in different ways. So forgive me, all you perfect people who have doomed my relationship before it has even started, I’m not going to close my heart to someone I love because they don’t fit your perfect way of doing things. I’m certainly not going to make things work between us by pretending to be monogamous when neither of us want that. I’m going to open myself up to the opportunities and see what happens.

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Self-Evaluation from “Opening Up: A Guide To Creating And Sustaining Open Relationships”

Opening Up Cover

Opening Up: A Guide for Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships

I pulled this self-evaluation from the book Opening Up: A Guide To Creating And Sustaining Open Relationships because I want to answer some of these questions in subsequent blogs, and also hear what others may have to say about these topics. I know it’s a long list and a lot to think about!

It’s funny, because I’ve been thinking about how I would react to my partner being in love with another person, and imagining how I would feel, but I’m not really going to know how I’m going to feel until it happens. Still, this is a great list of questions to ask yourself, write about, and contemplate before entering into a polyamorous or open relationship.

If you are considering an open relationship, first evaluate yourself thoroughly and honestly to determine whether venturing beyond monogamy is right for you. Here are some questions for you to contemplate, write about in a journal, or talk about with a friend, partner, or therapist:

What are your beliefs about monogamy?

• If you’ve been in monogamous relationships before, how did you feel in those relationships, and how did they work or not work for you?

• Do you believe that someone can love/be in love with more than one person at a time?

• What role does sex play in your relationships? How important is it to you? What does it mean to you?

• Can you have sex without an emotional attachment? How are sex and love related or not related?

• Have you ever had a “fuck buddy” or “friend with benefits”? What worked and didn’t work about the relationship?

If you are currently in a relationship:

• What is the state of the relationship? Does it feel stable and secure?

• What are your most common conflicts with your partner?

• Do both partners want to explore a different structure?

• Do you have sexual needs, desires, and fantasies that aren’t being fulfilled?

Imagine your partner having sex with another person. It’s important to be brutally honest, not censor yourself, and really let yourself feel what that would be like.

• What feelings does that bring up?

• What would be your worst fear?

• What would the best-case scenario for this situation look like?

• What would be an absolute deal breaker?

Imagine your partner having a relationship with another person. It’s important to be brutally honest, not censor yourself, and really let yourself feel what that would be like.

• What feelings does that bring up?

• What would be your worst fear?

• What would the best-case scenario for this situation look like?

• What would be an absolute deal breaker?

How do you handle feelings?

• Do you consider yourself a jealous person? How do you deal with intense feelings like anger, jealousy, and resentment?

• Are you able to determine what your boundaries are and communicate them to others?

• When something is bothering you, do you more often keep it to yourself or share it?

• Do you have the ability to communicate openly and honestly, even about difficult issues?

• When conflict arises, how do you usually handle it?

How available are you?

• Do you have the time to nurture and grow more than one love relationship?

• Do you have the energy to devote to several different people and juggle multiple lovers?

• Do you have access to potential partners who have nonmonogamy experience and strong relationship skills?

• Do you have the self-knowledge and communication skills to be in an open relationship?

Feel free to comment on any of these questions, and like I said, I’ll delve into my answers to them in more detail as we continue on this journey together.