What It's Like to Be in an 'Open Relationship' -- When You Also Have Kids

couple kissing

Sarah and Steven have always been in an "open relationship." They both had experiences with monogamy as well, but on their first date, they discussed how they wanted to be open. While past open relationships they had didn't work out, both Sarah and Steven learned a lot and continue to learn from each other. But tell the kids? No way. I spoke with Sarah about the intricacies of her relationship and how they make it work.

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Who came up with the idea for an open relationship?

It was very mutual. We have always been "open." We both had open and monogamous relationships in the past to varying degrees of success and knew that it was something that we both wanted in the future. It was something we discussed on our first date.  

Are there rules?

The only rules are due to safety. He likes to meet my dates -- it makes him feel more comfortable to put a face to the person I'm meeting and so he knows who to go after if I get hurt. (I'm only half joking there.) The other is that we always use protection. Since I have an IUD, he and I don't use any other form of protection so its extra important that we are careful with any outside partners. Otherwise our rules are just that we are respectful and considerate of each other and of our partners. We don't lie, we don't fool around with someone who is cheating, we don't feign affection. We are honest with each other and don't shy away from the hard questions we have to ask each other and ourselves.

Do you ever feel jealous?

Sure, when he has dates with girls that are really attractive, I get jealous, but I just think it through and realize that it's my own insecurities making me feel that way. It is short lived now. He keeps coming back to me, and I know that he is not going to leave me for someone else. We have a very deep bond.

Once you release the fear, you realize how silly jealousy is. It took months for this though. It's easy for me to say all this now, but for the first year we dated, we weren't with anyone outside partners due to lack of opportunity. Once we each had our first forays into other partners, we both had a lot to talk about and deal with.

I couldn't have done it without Steven. He is the one that allows me to be open with how I feel and share things that are very difficult to share. He has created a safe space for us, and I know now why I had failed in the past trying to do this because I had been coming at it from a completely wrong direction. I used to see it as a "me or them," and it's really not. We discuss our sexual adventures and use it in our own sex life, and we are very much a pair.

How do you separate love and sex?

I've always separated love and sex. I don't believe in "love" like a Nicholas Sparks movie. The feelings we associate with love are just chemicals and hormones -- oxytocin, serotonin, testosterone. Once you recognize the "feeling," you can learn to appreciate it for what it is. Am I ''in love" with my partners when I am with them? Sometimes. Does it go away? Yes. However, my bond with Steven, that making of a home and child rearing, the dealing with my mother, the knowing what I like in my coffee ... that's the real "love." "Love is an action" is what I've always been taught, and I really find that to be extremely true.  

More From The Stir: How One Mom Makes Her Open Relationship Work

What would you warn other couples interested in an open relationship?

You CANNOT HIDE ANYTHING. You MUST be able to bare your soul and express your fears and be able to listen to another's fears and worries without taking it personally. You have to let go of ownership of the other person and truly appreciate their happiness. Otherwise it will never work. You also have to dedicate a lot of time. A lot of time to talk. A lot of time to be with one another. You can't let the household chores and mundane activities be all your interactions and only have fun on the outside. The inside needs to be fun, too.

Do you think you need another level of trust in order for this to work?

Yes and no. It's a different kind of trust. It isn't even "I trust him not to hurt me" so much as "I know that he's not going to hurt me, and if I am hurt, we will deal with that when it comes."  

Do the kids know?

No, I have no intention of telling the children. Our living situation right now is not conducive to adding another person living here, though theoretically we are not against it. It just isn't practical. Not to mention my ex-husband would have a coronary. But I have never wanted to know the details of my parents' sex lives, so I don't see why I need to tell my children. I have a very big social circle and have always been very affectionate with everyone, regardless of their nighttime relationship with me or Steven, so the kids don't suspect anything. And really we usually keep our antics to evenings when we have the house alone or can find sitters and we go out and about. When they are grown and have their own relationships and have questions or struggles that I feel would be benefited by sharing, then I may.

Would you consider having an open relationship? If you have one, how do you make it work?

 

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