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I have written many articles about my positive experiences and perspectives on having an open relationship.
What about when you hit a rough patch? How do you decide whether to work through it or break up?
After the first few months of being open, it became important to J. to be able to date on his own. Up until that point, we had been swinging together exclusively.
I had to decide: Can I do this? Can I be OK with this?
We had our first really big upset because I felt so threatened and insecure about myself. Through a lot of self-exploration and introspection, I decided I wanted to be with him and I wanted to make it work.
In retrospect, I am very happy I went through this experience because it gave me the chance to consider if I wanted to date people on my own.
Ultimately what made a world of difference for me was the fact J. and I had a monogamous relationship for four and a half years, which had created a solid foundation of trust, intimacy and security.
I felt safe and secure with the idea of expanding our relationship further because of the foundation our past had created.
I had recently started seeing a woman, and she and J. very quickly became interested in each other as well.
This brought up some major insecurities of mine and shed a lot of light on the parts of myself that were least developed – emotional and interpersonal independence, emotional calm, living in the present and the ability to be honest and act with integrity when I feel threatened.
Communication between J. and myself became extremely strained and weakened. After just a month or so of group drama, I stopped seeing the woman. J. was still in communication with her, and I didn’t know if he and I were going to make it.
My triggers had also triggered his stickiest spot – the fear of being controlled. Our worst fears (mine of not being loved and his of being controlled) caught us in a downward spiral.
It took him and I another two or three months to fully reach back out to one another and repair the hurt we had done to one another and the damage we had done to our relationship.
I remember having several heated conversations with him during this time about whether our desires were compatible.
“Think about where you and
your partner line up on values.”
Were we just not compatible as individuals?
I remember coming back to even if we are in different places emotionally (he was totally fine with me seeing someone on my own, and I have a lot more challenging feelings come up when he wants to see someone on his own), that doesn’t change the fact the relationship we have is the relationship I want.
I see our relationship as a vehicle for personal growth, and even though we have gone through some really nasty and challenging situations and feelings, the benefits are extraordinary and I wouldn’t change it.
I also came back to I have yet to meet another person I feel as compatible with, and as long as our compatibility stays relatively high and we continue to love living our lives together, I can’t imagine why we would walk away from each other.
I also am incredibly happy and joyful when I am with him.
A few other times throughout our relationship, I have also questioned my ability to manage my difficult emotions related to jealousy and insecurity in a way that allows me to have little anxiety and stress day to day.
I have had the thought during these times: Maybe I would prefer a monogamous relationship.
The thought can circle my head for a little while before I remember to intentionally inquire into it.
Is it true I would prefer a monogamous relationship? No, it is not.
The benefits of an open relationship between myself and my partner are too great (more independence and freedom, expressing the full range of my sexuality and desires and having self-growth as part of my day-to-day life.)
I also become even more anxious thinking about my anxiety and being hard on and impatient with myself for feeling jealous, envious, excluded, angry and possessive.
I can cut off this downward cycle when I give myself the space to simply feel the way I feel without judgment, practice self-compassion, do nice things for myself and reconnect with J. in healthy and positive ways.
It can be really difficult to figure out whether the squeeze is worth the juice, especially in the midst of a really tight squeeze.
Reflect on your relationship as a whole. Put the negative experiences in relation to the positive ones. Think about where you and your partner line up on values, priorities and commitments. Evaluate whether you still feel a spark with your partner.
Your feelings are your best indication of what you should do. Take space to stop thinking, and try to feel and let your body tell you what to do.