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My partner J. and I met during our third week of college. I was 18 and he was 17. You don’t choose when you meet someone you are going to want to spend a long, long time with. Sometimes it just happens when you least expect it.
We had an amazing college experience, but it definitely was not a stereotypical one. There weren’t any crazy parties or tons of hookups.
We had sex a lot but with each other. At the end of college, we decided to take a leap and move together for graduate school.
We read “Sex at Dawn” by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. The premise of the book is monogamy is a cultural construct and, evolutionarily speaking, humans were built for promiscuity.
Reading the book together, we were both changed. We looked at each other with new eyes, and together we decided we wanted to explore “something else.”
Feeling empowered, I decided to research online. I remember typing in “alternatives to monogamy.”
Words like nonmonogamy, swinging and polyamory were not part of my vocabulary. I had no concept of what a relationship that was not monogamous could look like.
My only run-in with the word “polyamory” was on a poster in the residence halls during college: “Polyamory Berkeley is having a Cuddle Puddle Party this Friday night!”
It freaked me out then and I never understood it. (Now I do.)
Our first foray was to a swingers club in town. Swinging felt safe and comfortable to us as a first step.
Many couples only “play” together, and there are different “levels” of swinging: same-room sex, soft swap and full swap.
We could decide together how we explored sex with other people.
Now, after almost two years, J. and I have a relationship that has very few, if any, boundaries and rules. We have played as a couple in swinger spaces and we have dated separately and cultivated secondary relationships.
Our relationship looks more “poly” now than “swingers,” but we don’t really label it because each open relationship is as unique as the people in it.
One word cannot capture all of that diversity anyway.
“We are creating and maintaining a relationship
that makes us both satisfied and fulfilled.”
What does a woman get out of an open relationship? I will speak from personal experience:
I used to identify as straight. I now identify as queer, as I have been able to discover I am attracted to people all across the gender spectrum.
Who knew I was into rope play, dominance, submission and exhibitionism?
When I experience negative feelings, like jealousy, exclusion, insecurities about myself or fear of being replaced, it gives me a chance to work on myself.
I am a more emotionally healthy and a more independent person because of our open relationship and the work I do to be a stronger person.
When J. and I were together those first four and a half years, our relationship was not intentional. It just happened.
Now that we have an open relationship, we both know we are choosing to be together and are creating and maintaining a relationship that makes us both satisfied and fulfilled.
I used to be so afraid of cheating (that I would cheat or that J. would). I simply am not worried anymore about cheating.
We are so honest now and have such a foundation of open and honest communication that cheating is not a possibility anymore. What a relief.
The past two years since J. and I opened up our relationship have been dynamic, and while we have definitely had our ups and downs, it has all been worth the journey.
I am excited as we look forward together.
I would be honored to continue to share my story and provide advice and feedback to people who are interested in exploring ethical nonmonogamy.
Have you ever been in an open relationship? If so, what did you get out of the relationship?
Photo source: lifeordepth.com.