Privacy and Trust In My Open Marriage

Open Marriage

I was recently asked about my policy on privacy in regards to my marriage, specifically whether John and I have access to each others’ electronic devices. The person who posed the question added that they felt it would be comforting to have total access to emails, texts and all other forms of their partner’s communication as this would create a sense of peace and squash any concerns about possible inappropriate interchanges with someone else.

I was surprised by my response when I read the question because I realized I couldn’t recall ever checking John’s emails, phone, etc. for anything to do with our swinging lifestyle. It also occurred to me that John has never checked mine either. I found this realization interesting to say the least, so interesting that I marched straight into John’s office and asked him why we don’t ever look at each other’s phones or emails for interactions with other people. John’s simple and logical response… trust.

That’s when it dawned on me! Throughout our relationship, John and I have had an open book/privacy policy. We have the complete freedom of privacy but with absolute transparency. How? Well, as John said, it’s ultimately through trust.

The building blocks of our open book/privacy policy began the moment John and I started talking. It wasn’t something we purposely set out to construct yet was constructed just the same. Each time we shared moments of truth or honesty or vulnerability, we were building our foundation. Each time we revealed our fears, shared our goals or confessed our deepest thoughts and desires with each other, we laid another footing. We began to slowly forge an ally in each other who we could trust and depend upon.

However, this required participation on both of our parts. Even something as simple as calling or texting one another when we said we would. Those acts of trust and value may seem simple on the surface, but fall into the habit of dismissing those “simple” acts and see how long the relationship stands against the blows of insincerity and dismissal.

John and I took each one of those seemingly simple acts and consistently followed through. Each phone call, each text, each loving phrase of affirmation was cemented into a supportive and loving infrastructure. We showed each other through these acts how vital and important the other was to the partnership and how valuable each person’s physical and emotional well being was to the union.

We wanted a relationship we could trust, and we wanted that relationship to focus on the positives. Now, don’t get me wrong, this trust building wasn’t an overnight event—it took time. Time to grow into each other and time for our trust to mature. For instance, when John and I first opened separate accounts on Tinder, we would constantly show each other our matches and any follow-up conversation, no matter how mundane or insignificant.

This transparency, unbeknownst to us, added another layer of trust. Today those layers have become so deep that I no longer even think about any conversations John might be having with others. I don’t have a fear of losing him or of him falling in love with someone else because those fears have been replaced with trust.

“But what if he falls in love with someone else?” What if he does? Look, here’s the thing—I have no control over whether or not John falls in love with someone else and vice versa. Do I really want to spend my my day-to-day life with that kind of fear and worry hanging over my head? Absolutely not! I know how easy it can be to fall into the trap of our fears. Maybe we’ve put on a few extra pounds and now we think every other woman is a “10.” Or maybe we haven’t been giving our relationship our best and as a result we see and feel the neglect, which can bring on fears of our partner finding someone who will provide those missing elements in lightening speed.

Our self esteem holds a lot more cards than we sometimes give it credit. Believe me, I know how effective a low self esteem can be and how dangerous and destructive it can be to a relationship. It can take all those qualities that our partner sees and loves about us and nullify them in a single swoop. I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to live my life controlled by fear—it’s too consuming, it’s too exhausting and I definitely don’t want to be weighed down by it.

So what do I do? I don’t worry about it. I focus on the unbelievable marriage that we have. I focus on the present moment (because that IS all I have), and I trust in what John has done and said throughout our history together. I made a conscious decision to simply trust him. I don’t look at his phone, I don’t look at his computer, I don’t look at his Instagram, or twitter or any other social media platform he is on. I could, but I don’t, and I love that I don’t.

Learning to trust my own value outside the relationship was central in the success of my relationship with anyone else and especially with John. The more secure I was with me, the more secure I was with John. My value came from within, which was a game changer. It was the true beginning of trust and peace.

This trust was so transforming that its effect crossed over into all areas of our life together. But what was most surprising was its influence on our privacy. John and I found that the more we trusted in each other the less likely we were to come across any interaction with others that fell outside the bounds of this trust.

For us, the stronger the trust, the less concerned we became about privacy. After all, privacy has a lot to do with freedom, and freedom is central in our relationship. The last thing I want is to feel constricted. I want to know I’m trusted to make loving choices that will be in the best interest of myself and the relationship I hold near and dear to my heart. John and I have spent far too much time fostering and nurturing our marriage to take it for granted. As a result, we relish in the openness we created. We don’t make demands because for us that takes away from the joy of sharing, yet nothing is hidden because nothing needs to be.

For instance, as I’ve been writing this blog, John popped his head into my office to let me know he made a date for later in the evening with a woman friend. John and I both knew I was deeply involved with my work so his going out would not interfere with any plans we had made. This is what I love about our relationship. This is the point we’ve worked so diligently to attain. These moments of complete confidence in our love for each other and the mutual respect we have for our interactions with others from a privacy standpoint.

There was nothing secret about John planning the evening, nor did he intend to keep anything from me. He followed a code of conduct he and I feel comfortable with and had agreed upon during our early discussions. He made sure the plans were secure and then informed me. This was why I was so at ease with the information, and this is what I’m talking about when I talk about trust—the ability to let go of fear and trust your relationship.

What’s so important to remember during these interactions is our perception of what’s happening. Because John and I have chosen to view each other’s behavior as positively motivated, our conclusion about what’s taking place (like interacting with others) is derived from a place of comfort. If I had taken the same scenario and altered my viewpoint from a place of fear, the outcome would have been very different.

My fear would want me to focus, not on the value of the relationship, but on devaluing what we strived so diligently to build. If I were to let my fear control the situation, all of my partner’s behavior becomes suspect and I’m instantly insecure about where I stand in the marriage. Before I know it, I’ll begin to feel expendable, which in turn will create a flight or fight response. I can tell you from experience that I’ve tried this approach and rather than bringing me closer to a solution it only left me swirling in an endless loop.

I wanted the reason for my fears to be justified by something John was doing, but at the end of the day I had to learn to own my fears because afterall they were MY fears. Once I took ownership and shared my fears with John from a “How can we work together to find a common ground” approach did a system begin to develop. I let go of my fears in order to make room for trust.

This is how, all these years into our swinging, John is able to go out with a friend, have a wonderful and satisfying evening and then come home eager to share the night’s success with me. This is how, all of these years later, I love hearing about the evening and know without a doubt that I’m in the most loving relationship I have ever experienced.

7 Comments

  • Tom Wondering says:

    THAT WAS ME WHO POSED THE QUESTION! Thank you for such a well-written and complete answer.

  • Lynn says:

    This is sound advice for ANY relationship, but the reality is that a typical monogamous relationship is unlikely to ever achieve this level of trust for the very reasons you described as fear. When you have the open and honest relationship that you two do, there is nothing hidden, and no reason for anything to be hidden, because you aren’t worried about how some interaction will be viewed by the other. You already know how it will be viewed. Sadly, in a typical monogamous relationship, the same is true, but not with the same outcome. I would say it is safe to say, that most men or women in a typical monogamous relationship DO feel jealous out of fear that their significant other will find someone else who fills some void that they either consciously or subconsciously believe they are not filling.

    I wish there was a magic potion to bottle what you and John have together, because it would be a best seller for couples in all stages of their relationship… even for someone like us who has been together for 36+ years (4 years dating through High School)… I actually find it amusing that my wife still gets jealous, but after reading this article… it kind of put it in perspective, since we don’t have the close physical relationship that she knows I want… and yet after all these years and all my reassurances that I would never violate her trust… she still worries that I might. HA!

    It is odd that she was the one who initially raised the swinging topic a couple years back, and convinced me to go to the local Collette Club… though we only stayed about an hour and a half. She is quite comfortable in your typical Gentleman’s Club (she’s into other women), but realized that the Swinger Clubs were usually male/female couples, and that didn’t interest her. HA! Anyway, off topic, but my point was that even after a 36+ year relationship together, she still lets the fears you described rise up and impact both of us… and I wish I could get her to let go of those fears in the knowledge that I have NEVER violated her trust.

    Thank you again, for another great and inspiring article as usual.
    Lynn M.
    Carrollton, TX

  • Lowell says:

    Corrected syntax vers:

    Very insightful take on the way to construct & maintain a healthy relationship based upon trust, rather than fear. I take it from all I’ve read that you and John are good people, and so this process of maintaining trust should be of less difficulty. I will add my own observations here as well:

    * As you implicitly mentioned above, although much of the groundwork may have been done in a relationship for filling both of your thoughts with trust, rather than distrust, I think you do still realize that it may, at times, require a somewhat more proactive effort to keep trust firmly in place, leaving no room for fear/distrust; and by managing self-esteem, trust, & fear in your own head, these are important ways to do this

    * The purity of intent and soul of the individuals in the relationship can not be understated (without sounding too religious)

    * “Outside” people, who are brought into the friendship/intimate circle, I probably somewhat disagree with you here, in that, these folks should be vetted for their basic integrity and that their life-values are in sync to both of your own. This vetting activity does not need to require distrust, it can/must be done together, as a team, in a informal, casual sort of manner. There may be a case where John, or you need each other(but may not even know it) to assess someone new that either of you may have met—IMO two heads are better than one, especially so, if the “heads” are from both a man & woman to look at these newcomers into your lives.

  • Eli Rios says:

    Wonderful article Jackie. We have so much to learn and experience together and in some instances also on our own. This past weekend he experienced a cosmic like energy connection with someone on the dance floor that took him by surprise. I was so happy for him and that he was able to share with me how he felt- amazing. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Lori says:

    This topic was really enlightening for me. Your statement about “Learning to trust your own value…” is vital to a relationship.

  • Cal R. says:

    Jackie, seriously, why haven’t you written a book yet? I love your insight and logic. You are able to tap into both the emotion of a situation as well as the logic. Your thought processes are so clear and well-laid out that I always look forward to reading more from you. So much of what you say applies, not only to swinging, but life in general.

    Honestly, you have so much variable insight to offer, you really should write a book. Put it on Amazon if nothing else. I will be your first customer!

    Also, have you ever thought of transcribing your videos? When I’m at work and want to listen to you guys, I can’t do that with video, for obvious reasons, but I can read. Maybe have a transcribed version of the video below the actual video so we have the option of both?

    • Jackie Melfi says:

      Hello Cal,

      Wow, your comment couldn’t be more timely! I have written a book 🙂 You can actually receive a preview of my upcoming book, “Swingers Lifestyle: The Questions You are Afraid to Ask,” through our Openlove101 website!

      In regards to the transcribing the videos, I think this is a brilliant idea and will get in touch with my crew on what we need to do to make this happen.

      Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to share your thoughts and insight with us and for your kind words.

      Jackie

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