“If you can’t be in an open relationship, you shouldn’t be in a relationship.” That provocative quote caught my eye on Facebook last month. It continued, “Their genitalia and soul is not your property.” Wow, that hit me like a big new thought bomb. I was surprised to see this quote was from a woman, Deva Logan, and I knew I wanted to talk to her.
A few weeks ago Deva was a guest on my podcast, Real Men Feel, espousing the benefits of open relationships. Before talking with her, I thought open relationships meant permission to cheat. That it was an agreement between a committed couple that they could stray and not be bothered by it. I assumed it was governed by a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I’ve never been in an open relationship and most often I’ve heard of them from older men, so it always gave me a 1970s swinger’s scene vibe. I have met a couple millennial women who told me they preferred open relationships, but not really knowing what that term meant I took it to be a new way to say, “I sleep around.”
Deva opened my mind to what open relationships are, or can be. It involves a level of openness that many couples do not have. An open relationship isn’t merely about open sexual trysts with other people, it is about open communication, open feeling, open honesty and sharing. Partners in open relationships aren’t “cheating” and it isn’t done in secret. In fact, partners are encouraged to be completely open about who else they are involved with, why they were attracted to them, what they did together and so on. It sounded to me almost like a debriefing between the couple following any intimacy one of them, or both of them, have with another person or persons. That level of openness, authenticity, and honesty strengthens the emotional and physical intimacy.
Leading up to that Real Men Feel episode, and after it, I found myself wondering, “Am I ‘man enough’ for an open relationship?” I’m not sure I am. I tend to be the possessive and jealous type. My wife is, too. While my libido and masculinity can be excited by the notion of an open relationship, when I stop and focus on the feelings, I’m not so sure. How would I react to my wife being with other men? Would I be in a jealous rage? Could I not be bothered by it and still love her? Would I risk falling in love with other people? I thought an open relationship was based solely on sex, but it is much more complicated than that. At this stage in my life, it is an experiment that I’m not sure I could ever undertake because of the emotional risks. The downside feels far too dangerous to me. I’m not willing to see if the thrill of an open relationship tears down my twenty-year monogamous marriage. So perhaps I’m not “man enough” for an open relationship. My shot at being a wild and crazy swinger of a guy was decades ago. I am man enough to know that I love my wife and am not interested in taking that for granted or putting it at risk. I imagine if I were still single, I’d have a different view.
Have you had experiences with open relationships? Were they while you were married?
In you are interested in a very candid, honest, and funny exploration of open relationships, give a listen to the full episode of Real Men Feel, below. WARNING: Podcast contains sexually explicit language of a non-clinical nature.
Photo credit: Flickr/Jessica Tam