Talking about open relationships and “I could never do that”

Today the Internet led me to this piece called “Shut the Hell Up About My Open Relationship.” Don’t bother to read the comments, and don’t bother to read the thing on polyamory she links to. Anyway, I enjoyed it to a point.

Unlike the author, I don’t mind talking about my open relationship. In fact, I love talking about it. When I talk to other non-monogamous people I can learn from their perspective and experience, and when I talk to monogamous or curious people I can both educate them on something that may be new (I love hearing about new and different things and sometimes project that curiosity onto others) and I can solidify my own thoughts by being forced to put them into words. And when monogamous people are hearing about things like this for the first time, I sort of expect them to have the predictable questions about jealousy (which, to be fair, is something that I’m pretty concerned and preoccupied with) and sexual safety (ditto). I’m not surprised if they’re a little freaked out by the concept, although many of them don’t really give a shit or are actively supportive.

But at the same time I could relate to the author’s annoyance and amusement at some of the common responses she gets to the disclosure of her open relationship. The “you must be a slut so I can totally fuck you now, right?” response being one of the more obviously irritating. 

My favorite is this: 

This one is the most annoying to me, because it’s so aggressively passive-aggressive. I get that my relationship set up is confusing and maybe a bit scary (because it’s different and change is hard), but I’m not asking you to prise open your relationship. I’m not even asking you whether or not you would be interested in doing something like this. We’re doing it, sure, but this isn’t some kind of large-scale conversion project.

We’re just… literally doing it. Getting all condescending about how it’s sooo cute that we’re doing something different, but reasserting that it’s definitely not something you would ever do yourself, is just you being a real square and quietly policing the status quo, whether you’re aware that’s what you’re doing or not. So stop it, please.

This is by far the most annoying response I get about my relationship. “Oh, I would never do that,” “That’s nice, but I could never be with a man who doesn’t commit to just me,” or even “Well that sounds great for you, but I couldn’t handle it,” all manage to reaffirm the person’s belief that what I’m doing is bad without saying it outright. When I tell you that this is what I do, I am in no way asking you to join me. I’m just letting you know, the same way I would tell you what religion I am or what I’m studying in school. It’s a fact about me that, for whatever reason, seems pertinent to the conversation.

When someone says something like “I could never do that” to me, I mentally translate it to “I’m glad you’re happy despite the fact that your relationship model is wrong, but please don’t try to infect normal people like me with your depravity.” And coming from a stranger on the Internet, that’s pretty easy to shake off. But coming from someone I know IRL whom I have trusted enough to share something that I know is not popular with, that fucking hurts. 

What it comes down to is the fact that my personal choices are just that: mine. The fact that I’m non-monogamous, kinky, dating a dude, sleeping (sometimes) with men and women*, not planning to have children, the proud owner of a dog but not a cat, etc., etc. have absolutely no bearing on what I expect anyone else in my life (except in some of those cases my own primary partner) to do. By making my life a reflection on your own, you betray a lack of confidence in your own choices while simultaneously shitting all over mine. 

I feel like this post got away from me a bit and became more of a rant than I intended, but apparently I had some anger I needed to vent about so I’m just going to leave it.


*I feel like I’m veering into somewhat less choice-y territory here, but for me (and just me), I could conceivably choose to date a woman instead of a man or to not act on my sexual attraction for one gender. Please don’t take this to mean I’m cool with people who say “I don’t mind if you’re gay, I just think it’s wrong to act on those desires.” That’s not at all what I mean.


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