Open Marriage

Privacy and Trust In My 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.

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