commitmentWhy do you have more than one relationship?

The other day a girl messaged me on a social-dating site asking the following about my profile.

Oh! Ethical non-monogamy. Why is everyone in SF so poly these days? I mean, I get wanting to be experimental, but what about the delight and utter excitement of commitment? Feels good to totally let someone in.

It’s been almost two years since I started engaging in open relationships and the question this girl asked embodies many of the misconceptions associated with open relationships. So let’s unpack the parts of her question.

  • “Why is everyone in SF so poly these days?” I can’t speak for others but I moved to SF because it’s full of acceptance and innovation. Perhaps those who are persecuted elsewhere (on grounds of religion, orientation, belief, or weather) moved here for the same.
  • “I get wanting to be experimental.” When you kissed a girl in college you call it being experimental. Do you say the same thing to girls who love other girls? Or do you vote to give them equal rights and promote their ability to live a life of love. Why not provide me the same consideration?
  • “What about the delight and utter excitement of commitment?” Do you think I’m somehow NOT committed to my partners? I’m very committed to each relationship that I’m in — were I not, I would say I’m interested in casual-encounters and not include the word “relationship.” I mean the divorce rate in the U.S. for first marriages is 41% (not the 50% often quoted), and it gets worse: 60% for 2nd marriages and 73% for 3rd marriages. It seems the more monogamy tries to delight and excite, the more it fails.
  • “Feels good to totally let someone in.” I have to say, of all the people I have dated, it’s those who rely on trust, openness, transparency that I’ve found to be the most vulnerable and emotionally communicative. In fact, being in an open relationship is like hitting the emotional-gym 7-days-a-week. I’ve developed more emotional literacy in my open relationships than I have in any one prior. Trust me, I let people in from date-one. Rarely have I found this reciprocated.

If you think it’s easy being in a monogamous relationship with one person, consider the added weight of being in a committed relationship with more than one person. It requires work, communication, commitment. For me, and others who chose this path, we find it rewarding. I made this choice because I want greater love in my life.

Wait? Greater love? Explain that.

Why do you have more than one child?

You see, if a mother has one child we assume she loves that child 100%. Now if she has a second child, does she love each only 50%, and if a fourth does she love each only 25%? No, we assume that she can love each 100% and find value in the relationships of each. Asking why someone would chose ethical non-monogamy is similar to asking why a parent would chose to have more than one child. Greater love, even if that love requires greater work.

Why do you have more than one friend?

What if your best friend approached you and said the following, how would you react?

Look, I’m your best friend and you are mine. I will be there for you in all situations even if I need to drop everything and fly around the world. I will be there for you until the day you die. I’ll never judge or guilt you. I will be the best friend you could ever have and I will go out and have fun with you.

Just one thing.

I don’t want you to have any other friends.

Yeah, that last part is kinda the problem isn’t it? Why can I not have other friends just because you are going to be my best friend? In open relationships we call this a ‘primary partner’ or ‘secondary partners’ and it works kinda like the best friend rule. If you believe in monogamy then why not also mono-frindships? Most often it’s because your different friends provide a different and equally valued part of your life. So too, I find the same in open relationships.

Why can’t we all co-exist?

I respect your choice to be monogamous. I hope you can respect my choice to have open relationships. It’s not an experiment. It does not mean casual sex. It does not lack commitment or love. It’s simply something you don’t yet understand and that’s ok. Many people don’t understand how one man can love another, or one woman love another. My hope is that you accept those around you for who they are and the way they live their life and love.