I’m part of the social network platform OkCupid for some month now and once in a while I start interesting conversations with the members. Often they ask me about open relationships and jealousy. Now that I live in an open relationship for six years and have been jealous more than once I feel like a competent person to reason about that. Somebody asked me:
Don’t you ever get jealous. Aren’t open relationships a ticking timebomb and isn’t being with multiple partners kind of egoistic?
Here’s what I replied:
Well, every relationship is a ticking timebomb, no relationship is static and possibilities to fail aren’t less in a monogamous relationship. Even if you’re married, you can never be sure, if your significant other meets someone else, falls in love or just falls for sexual needs or whatever. You can’t keep your partner in a box away from everybody. You have to dismiss the idea of monogamous relationships being safer than any other.
If it happens and you’re in a monogamous relationship, you have three possibilities: 1.) relinquish and suffer 2.) betray and lie 3.) break up and leave. If you still love your partner, all of those possibilities are kind of stupid. If you’re in an open relationship, you have another possibility, you can tell your significant other the truth and see, whether you’ll find a solution everybody can cope with. You won’t hurt or betray your partner willingly, you don’t have to leave one for the other and you don’t have to suppress your feelings for someone else. You can explore the new relationship, give it a direction, find out, if it’s worth being kept, and how much and what kind of effort you want to put into it. Usually, you don’t know such things right from the start.
Of course you don’t explore a new relationship by completely ignoring your actual partners feelings about it. (Otherwise it would be as egoistic as forbidding your partners feelings towards others – to answer your question on egoism.) If your partner is jealous, you might find out, where jealousy comes from (often lack of self esteem/dissatisfaction with yourself, sometimes dissatisfaction in the relationship, sometimes other), work on resolving it together and, for the moment, try to find compromises. E.g. when I was jealous once, I agreed that my partner met his new girlfriend, but he should do it only, when a friend of mine was able to visit me and give me comfort and I begged him to not bring her into our appartement to have sex with her. Even though she broke up with him in the end, both had the possibility to explore one another and, furthermore, I’m still in a happy relationship with my partner. He did not break up with me and he didn’t betray me.
So, to sum it up: No relationship is save or static, you have to work on it (and yourself) all the time. Open Relationships at least give you the possibility to find compromises and solutions in situations, that often completely corrode relationships. Even then, you can’t be sure, whether you will work it out. But you put this quest on a sane basis and in my opinion, that’s a better starting point than forbidding feelings and claim exclusiveness. Of course, if you want an open relationship to work, you have to be very true, very communicating, very sensitive, very reflective and very sane. Most people aren’t and that’s why relationships so often break in discontent, open ones as well as closed ones.