Alternative Open Relationship

How to explain ERE, arranging family matters
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CaliBoy82
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Alternative Open Relationship

Post by CaliBoy82 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:24 am

There's another thread recently on the matter of open relationships, but I didn't want to distract from that discussion, so starting a different topic. Long-time lurker of several years and have enjoyed the advice and commentary given on this board, so I've decided to seek your input :D

Background: I've (male, upper 30's) been with a woman (mid 30's) for a few years now, whom I care deeply about and honestly want to spend life together with her for the long haul. We've had a discussion on getting more serious in our relationship within the past year or so and one of the topics that came up was sexual experience. I'm guy #3 for her - she had been married for quite some time and another somewhat longer bf/gf relationship afterwards. She's my first very serious relationship and, well, I have substantially more experience than her.

During the discussion, one of her regrets was not having gotten experience and exploring her sexuality in the same manner that I have thus far when younger - hook-ups, casual dating, etc. This is something I know she thinks about and, I feel, restricts the growth of our relationship, which concerns me as I enjoy making her happy and I want her to be fulfilled. Having had the discussion, i offered her up the idea of a semi-open (one-sided) relationship, where she could go out, have fun, explore herself and her sexuality, while still maintaining our relationship. As a side note, the vast majority or my prior relationships were "open", so this is certainly not something that is new for me - granted they had been open on my end too. I've stated to her that I'm not interested in sex with other women and really have nothing to gain from it, so hence I proposed just open on her end. I honestly doubt she would ever be comfortable with openness on my end, anyways.

She was hesitant with regards to the offer for quite some time. We've had extended discussions/communication on the topic - set boundaries, mutually agreed to rules, etc, etc. Thus far she's hooked up with 2 other men and so far has been relatively smooth - we agreed to share EVERY detail and we talk for 1-2 hours after each occurrence. I have mostly no concerns that she would leave me, but, of course, that's always a possibility of happening and I'm prepared should it happen. Our key has been to talk about everything..communicate, communicate..

I'm definitely not a jealous person, but occasional self image/comparison pops up, which I mostly shrug off - something I've not expected. I've requested that this remain just a physical thing for her, though some chatting happens with text or while she's out with another guy (when i'm traveling for work).

A concerning point is that most of the 'open' relationships I've witnessed with friends, etc (and my own) have ended. Mine ended more as a result of circumstance - moving for work, other priorities, etc but I've yet to experience anything successful with peers - most ended not on a good note (!!)


Have you had any experience with this type of arrangement or keys to success? Or concerning points you would look out for?

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:59 pm

I think the likelihood of stability of your relationship depends a bit on whether it is mostly an issue of timing or inherent power imbalance. By timing, I mean it could be that her desire at this point in her life to get some sexual ya-yas out would be roughly analogous to another individual wanting to get their travel-Jones out. You both value travel, but at the point the two of you got together, you were already BTDT, and she wasn't nearly.

OTOH, the fact that you are so willing to open the relationship up one-sided, and the fact that you are experiencing some twinges with regard to self-image/comparison, and the fact that you making request for limit of "just physical", suggests the possibility of underlying power imbalance. So, I would suggest taking hard look at the factors that most cause self-image twinges, and the feelings you associate with opening up relationship in any way beyond "just physical." Based purely on my own limited experience, I kind of believe that drawing the boundary at "just physical" for other relationships is actually a more risky fault line than other possible boundaries, because it involves feelings more than behaviors. By contrast, at the far other end of the spectrum it is a pretty straight-forward boundary to require that your partner not take out a mortgage with another partner. If the 4 possible relationship realms are practical/financial, social, emotional/romantic, and sexual; sexual and practical/financial are the least squishy to define.

suomalainen
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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by suomalainen » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:36 pm

I’ve thought about this from time and time and put out feelers to see if my wife would ever be open to or interested in this (nope and nope). I think the challenge with open relationships is that by definition you are seeking something from someone else and if you try to claim that it’s just physical...well, you’re wrong. Sex isn’t just physical. Trying to make a rule that it’s “only physical” is like saying that you can only get physical sustenance from food (but no emotional comfort). Oxytocin’s a bitch.

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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by jacob » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:02 pm

@OP - It depends. Read this: viewtopic.php?p=158510#p158510 ... From the way you're describing it, it sounds you're operating from at least fourth order level of consciousness in that you see yourself and your partner as self-contained systems; and insofar you love each other and want the best for each other, this can actually work if and only if your partner also sees things this way. OTOH screwing around would destroy a third-order relationship because people define themselves in relation to the other and thus having one's partner form additional relations elsewhere will turn the situation into a zero-sum clusterfuck (and not the fun kind).

I would second 7 here ... Don't set the limiter emotionally. Unless you're/they're third order, it's conceivable that additional relationships could actually enrich the relationship(s) insofar the participants are capable of positive-sum arrangements---e.g. sleeping with others => working up an appetite at home. Set the limit in other regards instead e.g. no mortgage, no life support, ... That's a much better and more practical idea. In any case... be aware of the risk/ROI of breaking convention and that this [behavior] is playing with fire. (Of course regular behavior is too... but it's not seen as such #fish/water)

CaliBoy82
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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by CaliBoy82 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:27 pm

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:59 pm
I think the likelihood of stability of your relationship depends a bit on whether it is mostly an issue of timing or inherent power imbalance. By timing, I mean it could be that her desire at this point in her life to get some sexual ya-yas out would be roughly analogous to another individual wanting to get their travel-Jones out. You both value travel, but at the point the two of you got together, you were already BTDT, and she wasn't nearly.

OTOH, the fact that you are so willing to open the relationship up one-sided, and the fact that you are experiencing some twinges with regard to self-image/comparison, and the fact that you making request for limit of "just physical", suggests the possibility of underlying power imbalance. So, I would suggest taking hard look at the factors that most cause self-image twinges, and the feelings you associate with opening up relationship in any way beyond "just physical." Based purely on my own limited experience, I kind of believe that drawing the boundary at "just physical" for other relationships is actually a more risky fault line than other possible boundaries, because it involves feelings more than behaviors. By contrast, at the far other end of the spectrum it is a pretty straight-forward boundary to require that your partner not take out a mortgage with another partner. If the 4 possible relationship realms are practical/financial, social, emotional/romantic, and sexual; sexual and practical/financial are the least squishy to define.
All good points. We've been fairly relaxed with our agreed rules - to the point where we've dropped 75% of them as we've gotten more comfortable. Essentially we started conservative and became more liberal as time progressed, which was initiated by her mostly.

I've found that most of my relations have had some level of power imbalance in various aspects. I'd say in this current relationship, there's certainly some imbalance, tending to lean towards me - financial, career, social, appearance. Perhaps this feeling of power on her end to select additional partners would move the power balance closer towards the middle and make things more equitable?

I'd say I definitely agree with your opinion on difficulty of keeping relations primarily physical. I've found I'm not bothered by dates/talking/etc at all and don't particularly see that being an issue. Likely my initial request was based on my own experiences, without considering that obviously there are often significant differences between people and genders on emotional connection with another person. I've been able to nearly separate sex from emotion as a simple action - like any other task I may do in my weekly routine - going to the gym, cleaning the house, etc. I've found she isn't like me in that respect and wants to "know" someone before sex, so an expectation of some emotional construct would be natural for her.

Self-image wise - I'm certainly not negative on myself, I think this small twinge at time stems from my natural internal competitiveness with other men. Perhaps a little competitiveness is natural? Still trying to figure that one out. I've certainly felt like the small bit of competitiveness has propelled me to improve physical areas of life more - gym, nutrition, etc. I see this in myself at work/career, where without some business competition between my colleagues in my line of work, I can flounder or be less than productive.

Both of her partners have been much younger than her (10+ years, early 20's)

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:03 pm

Maybe you like the edge of competition in your sexual relationships, but don't feel like this is okay or safe in a relationship with a woman whom you love and with whom you hope to share a life companionship? This is very common, but not as often recognized as the problems of people who tend towards insecurity in relationships. Maybe there is a rule of thumb that operates along the same continuum as SWAN* in regards to investments? IOW, maybe your GF senses that you are making a "safe pick" with her, and is semi-consciously trying to sex up her risk profile, or risk up her sex profile :lol: ?


*Sleep Well At Night. I just learned that on another thread.

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Sclass
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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by Sclass » Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:32 pm

Does anyone have any anecdotes of this kind of arrangement working?

I’ve had a few friends who tried but it seemed to be a rest stop on the road to break up. Even when it wasn’t done to save a relationship it had destructive results. I’ve personally seen so little success in this kind of thing that I concluded long ago that there is something biologically incompatible with it. It seems like a fantasy too good to be true.

I had a close friend who told his wife right up front before marriage she wasn’t enough for him and he’d have multiple partners and she was allowed to do the same. She took the deal. Decades of bitterness as she never got involved with anyone. She even confided to me one night in private that nobody is interested in her that way...which sent me running out the door like a thirteen year old boy. While all along her husband was flaunting his sex in front of everyone. The wife is a widow now and still bitter.

7W is the closest person I’ve known to pull this off. But there is some turmoil there too.

I’m totally clueless on this being 100% boring monogamous with the same gal for years.

wood
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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by wood » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:30 am

Sclass wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:32 pm
Does anyone have any anecdotes of this kind of arrangement working?
A previous step-sister of mine aged 35 has been married for 11 years now. They started out in monogamy but an episode of cheating happened 2 years into their relationship. After reconciling, their relationship became open. They're still married and living together. They both meet 1-2 new partners every year. These are short term relationships that last 2-10 months until the crush dies off or ended for other obvious reasons (moving or the other partner breaking it off).

She is a journalist-turned psychologist who functioned as my therapist just before Xmas during a week long visit. I've had both good and bad experiences with open relationships so obviously had alot of questions for her, as I hadn't seen her much in the last decade.

Her reason for wanting an open relationship was described using an analogy to eating out. Home-cooked food should be your foundation, upon which is inspired and challenged by the occasional restaurant visit. The restaurant food isn't better, it's just different. And sometimes you want something which is different. But you always return home.

Her secret for making it work was honest communication. They talk openly about each other's sex life, feelings and insecurities. They communicate and talk about everything, to the point of over-communicating if such a thing exists.

They've faced lots of challenges along the way, mostly related to jealousy/insecurity. They had a lot of ground rules in the beginning, but as the trust grew the rules became fewer. Every time a new partner has entered the scene they've had to go over and change/add/remove rules. I asked what would happen if one of them meets someone they'd want to continue long term with (more than 10 months, perhaps many years or lifelong). She said lets cross that bridge if we get there.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:36 am

Sclass wrote:7W is the closest person I’ve known to pull this off. But there is some turmoil there too.
True. Partially this is due to the fact that I am still a bit fearful about swimming so far away from socially accepted behavior. It is also due to the fact that my sexuality is still evolving and being challenged within the context of polyamory. There is a bit of overlap in some issues I am working through with my BF and the issues the OP is having with his GF, but I am trying not to project. My BF is bi-sexual, so he has difficulty comprehending why, or in what way, my attraction to men is different than his, and I have difficulty explaining, even to myself, the level at which I need more relationship, or context, or narrative in order to fully enjoy sex with anybody, even though fantasies such as "attractive stranger in the elevator" are within my purview.

My thoughts on your friend who was unhappy in her 2-sided open marriage would be along the lines of some people don't know how to make use of freedom. In a way it is no different than how many/most people seek the structure of a defined career or job. Also, I think polyamory (as opposed to one-sided polygyny) is emergent to a social/cultural situation in which women have full political and economic equity and the overall level of affluence is high. There are not many historical instances of this being true, so it is hard to know how "natural" the practice is or how successful it could be.

I am only affluent to the extent that I am frugal, so I kind of have to trade time/flexibility for money with my partners in order to make it work. So, another cause of turmoil for me is when the practice interferes with the time/energy I have to devote to my projects or book stack (also many and varied.)

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Kriegsspiel
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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by Kriegsspiel » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:32 am

suomalainen wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:36 pm
I’ve thought about this from time and time and put out feelers to see if my wife would ever be open to or interested in this (nope and nope). I think the challenge with open relationships is that by definition you are seeking something from someone else and if you try to claim that it’s just physical...well, you’re wrong. Sex isn’t just physical. Trying to make a rule that it’s “only physical” is like saying that you can only get physical sustenance from food (but no emotional comfort). Oxytocin’s a bitch.
You should write "... for me" at the end of those claims. You sound like Eric (Entourage), who lacks "the sport fucking gene."

I read a book a bit ago (Pornology) where the author met a man at a brothel in Nevada who was there with the full consent and urging of his wife. Evidently the couple was a bit older, and the wife didn't feel like having sex anymore, but the guy did, so she told him to go to brothels to get his rocks off. Seemed to work out well for all involved; Coveysynergy-approved!

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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by George the original one » Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:48 pm

Sclass wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:32 pm
Does anyone have any anecdotes of this kind of arrangement working?
Some power couples seem to make it work? Not clear how much is façade and how much is reality though.

Clintons <cough> is the one that comes to mind, but I doubt any of us are close enough to REALLY know whether it works or not for them.

I remember a 60 Minutes episode about a British politician (?) who was famous for being a definite philanderer, starting with screwing the maid at the hotel on his honeymoon in the '60s and going up close to the present day (circa 1990?) where some woman AND her daughter tried unsuccessfully suing him because apparently they didn't know he was screwing both of them. His wife knew of his sex drive and resigned herself to it because she knew she couldn't keep up.

So both of those are (publically) one-sided deals though. I suspect that's more likely to work, otherwise with a two-sided deal, then the question of loyalties starts messing with people's minds and somewhere, sometime, someone will feel doublecrossed about their allegiance, far enough to end the deal (or want to change the deal so it's more in their favor).
***

My wife may have forgot what I told her once, but I told her if she wants an affair, I don't want to know and she needs to conduct it safely/discreetly to where it doesn't affect our routines. If she thinks the affair will change our union, then she needs to break the news, no matter how bad, and I promise to not be hateful/vengeful (because relationships often change, regardless of whether there's an affair or not).
***

Thinking back to some bisexual girlfriends (around 30% have identified themselves as such)... different situation since there wasn't a union involved and the subject really only got broached in the topic of potential threesomes since the openly bisexual girlfriends leaned hetero. Never did get a threesome, darn it :lol:

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Sclass
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Re: Alternative Open Relationship

Post by Sclass » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:11 pm

Wow. I forgot about the Clintons. Hillary did act oddly when the Lewinsky scandal broke...not the way I’d have expected while making sense at the same time given it is the Clintons. I thought I heard someplace it was two sided, but I cannot recall where I picked that rumor up.

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