J and I have noticed a couple of related odd trends among some people that we have talked to in the “open relationship” community.
There seems to be a tendency for some open folks in general to look down at people in monogamous relationships, and also a tendency for people in polyamorous or polyfidelitous relationships to look down at people in open relationships who have more “casual” ties to their other partners.
The first tendency and trend is weird to me, because up until six months ago, I had lived a life of serial monogamy. I know what our society, media, families, and religious institutions teach in terms of what a healthy relationship is (monogamous, long-term, etc), and I remember not questioning any of that. (J, however, had questioned these ideas). I don’t think most people will question the issue of monogamy unless there is some catalyst that requires them to think about it. I do not think that I (or anyone else for that matter) am in a position to judge our friends and family in monogamous relationships for how they form their relationships. As long as relationships are healthy and satisfying, it doesn’t matter what form they take. I can still judge other relationships in the sense that I can differentiate the values that those relationships are based on, but I don’t think I have the right to form and hold harsh opinions about other relationships.
The second tendency and trend is frustrating on another level. People in open relationships are already a minority in our society. Why must we divide into even smaller groups? Just because people in polyamorous relationships have different boundaries and rules than people who “swing” with their partners, and different boundaries and rules than people who have a group of friends with benefits, does not mean that any one group of people is “right” or “wrong.” They are just different. And again, as long as relationships are healthy and satisfying, it doesn’t matter what kind of boundaries and rules dictate the form open relationships take.
Part of my excitement about building a community of sexy friends is the opening up of a quiet minority group. I feel proud of where J and I are, and I am proud of all of our friends that have gone through similar conversations to be where they are with their relationships. I feel aligned with almost everyone we have met who are also in open relationships. Even if other people have very different rules and boundaries for themselves and their relationships, I respect and value learning about other open relationship styles and teaching others about ours. I in turn expect respect from others, and it disturbs me when I hear and see other people in open relationships de-value and disrespect what we, or others, do because it doesn’t exactly match up with what they do.
These trends remind me of how broader minority groups in our society sometimes team up and sometimes don’t, and how it always makes more sense to me for minority groups to align themselves even if there aren’t the same exact values at play. It just doesn’t make sense to me for people in open relationships who identify as one way or another, or who have different rules and boundaries, to focus on our differences versus our similarities and strengths as a community.