We recently received the following comment on one of our YouTube videos:
“Ok face your fear I get that however when you are dealing with human emotions you can never know how someone else will react. You could very well be destroying your relationship, but at least I’m not scared. That’s the problem I have with your videos, you never acknowledge that when dealing with dating multiple people you are asking for jealousy and problems.”
The person asking had a point. We’ve talked about jealousy and how to combat those times we get hijacked by the green eyed monster, but we hadn’t discussed times where for whatever reason we weren’t able to come to grips with the change in relationship model. We might want to embrace a more open relationship platform, but find ourselves unable to filter through our feelings of jealousy, fear, control, or attachment styles. We might even be dealing with undiagnosed traumas or triggers that are only exposed when opening up a relationship and the onslaught of emotions make it difficult to balance all the change.
We might also not understand the dynamics of opening up a relationship. Our difficulty in trusting the honesty, transparency, and vulnerability from which this type of relationship model operates may seem so foreign to us that we might have difficulty in trusting we can be 100% honest with our partner. I have seen couples who even though they’ve been given a green light to explore their sexuality with others will still opt to go undercover when meeting up with a play partner. Now whether this is due to decades of teachings about monogamy or a lack of trust within themselves or their partner or even something else entirely will depend on each individual case, but I have seen couples struggle to trust in the possibility of being able to maintain a rich and vibrant relationship with their partner while also exploring various levels of connection with others.
It is important to talk about the realities of couples and singles who do come up against jealousy and problems. Those of us in the lifestyle will say that if there are cracks in a relationship, opening up the relationship will expose those cracks and can widen the rift. But I also believe it’s vital to point out that some couples will have a strong foundation and really be interested in opening up the relationship only to find out there are past traumas that they could be unaware of and were only brought to light once the marriage opened.
This is not uncommon. Think about it, you and your partner are going along in your marriage. You have been together long enough that you recognize the routine of the partnership. You know each other’s buttons in addition to knowing what each other are drawn to. There is an ease and comfort you share together. You feel confident in the relationship and feel ready to explore the possibility of opening up the relationship to enhance the marriage. What neither partner anticipated though was the possibility of a past trauma that gets triggered when you see your partner engaging with someone else. Maybe you have unbeknownst to you an attachment style that is insecure, fearful, or avoidant and only surfaced when the relationship opened.
You didn’t know about any of these issues when the relationship remained closed, because it was just the two of you and an expectation had been established within the marriage, but now other people have been introduced and that’s when we find ourselves face to face with emotions we weren’t used to experiencing. This curve ball of emotions can be quite unnerving as we may begin to doubt ourselves and be unprepared for how to deal with these strange and new feelings.
Fear can also cause us to react in ways that catch us off guard, not to mention our partner. If gone unchecked these flood of issues can have a negative impact on the relationship…any relationship. This is why communication and comprehension are so important in a relationship…any relationship. It’s also good to be aware of what can be resolved by the two of you and when to call in reinforcements. Especially if you’re dealing with trauma, triggers, or attachment issues. Oftentimes these delicate matters will be best managed by a professional.
And while John and I do talk a lot about the benefits and joys of opening up our relationship, it’s not to say there haven’t been times where we have had to circle the wagons and regroup. Thankfully our goal has always been to create a loving environment in which our marriage can flourish and have consciously made choices that keep the relationship at the forefront, but it’s not to say there haven’t been moments where we had to do some personal work and admit there was room for growth.
So yes, being in an open relationship can be difficult, it can surface emotions that we’d rather not deal with. I mean, who wants to welcome jealousy or anger or fear into their life. Then again, if we struggle with these emotions and triggers then it can benefit us to delve into why. I know it can be scary and you can feel like you’d rather do anything than tackle your own crap, but sometimes that crap can be the fertilizer needed in order for something wondrous to grow.
Is consensual non monogamy the answer for everyone? No. Not any more than monogamy is. Look, relationships are beautiful, messy, fulfilling and infuriating unions. We can adore our partner to the moon and back one day and roll our eyes at them the next. Everyday is a conscious decision to be there for one another and some days that decision is easier than others. Sometimes the union lasts through the struggle and sometimes it doesn’t. But regardless of the hurdles we may face in our relationships it doesn’t mean we should villainize OR romanticize relationship models. After all it’s not the relationship model itself that will make or break a couple but the couple themselves.
John and Jackie Melfi are in a consensually non monogamous marriage. They have been featured in ABC News Nightline Special Report “Getting Naughty In N’awlins”, Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention, and CNN “This Is Life” with Lisa Ling. The Melfis are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, and Austin. With over 20 years of combined experience, this powerhouse couple coaches thousands of singles and couples through their award winning blog Openlove101.com.