So as I have posted on here, I have been guest blogging for DatingAdvice.com. My rationale for doing so was mainly to reach a wider audience, and to reach people who perhaps hadn’t been exposed to open relationship ideas before. I was excited to also start some engaged conversations with readers.
Well, so far, the only “conversation” I have had so far is with someone who commented on my Monogamy versus Open Relationships post. A supposed Marriage & Family Therapy intern, he operates from a self-proclaimed and scornful position of “expertise.” There is no winning over this guy (even by concluding together that we believe a healthy relationship looks differently); he thinks he is right and I am wrong, and too young, stupid, and hormone-driven to even understand that. I have continued to engage with him, mainly to continue to provide my perspective for anyone who reads that post of mine and the comments.
But- how do you talk to people in your life about your relationship choice, when they simply believe that open relationships are “wrong”? I think it is similar to anything where a belief is so entrenched and black-and-white that you can’t have a conversation and dialogue- it becomes instead two heads talking (or yelling) just to hear themselves talk. There isn’t an exchange of information and ideas or a willingness to learn and grow, but simply an opportunity for each person to word vomit about everything they think is “right.”
For the record: I certainly think that monogamy can work for two people. I think the key is that it is a conscious choice for both people. I don’t think monogamy is “wrong.” I do think our society does us a disservice by making monogamy the default relationship structure. Instead, I think the default should be marked by clear and open communication; the structure of the relationship should follow from that.
What about when talking to people who are open-minded? My way of discussing relationship choice go along these lines:
-Speak from my personal experience. I know what is best for me, and that may not be best for you. But my personal experience is valid life experience, and I can share it with you.
-Talk about the experiences of those I am close with, and how I have had similar and different experiences than them. This includes long-time vanilla friends and sexy friends (never-partners, past partners, and current partners) that I find similarity and difference with- from our motivations for what kind of relationship we want; our specific needs, desires and wants; and the challenges and “easy” parts of the relationship structure we want.
-Reference books that articulately discuss relationship choice (Sex at Dawn, Opening Up, Love in Abundance, etc.)
-Validate the other person’s experiences, feelings, and desires. Even if they are vastly different from my own, they are valid. Tell the other person that they know what is best for them. Ask questions with curiosity and compassion. Empower through validation and support. Remember that even someone who hasn’t critically thought about their preferred relationship structure has valid experiences, feelings, and desires; in this instance, I would gently provide my perspective and some simple education. Leave the conversation open.