Shortly before I sat down to write this entry to my blog, a friend of mine shared with me that he thought his wife was cheating and that their marriage was over. I have also felt the pain of love lost as well as assisted folk through painful divorces and separations. All of this pain has led a few of my friends and clients to ask me whether monogamy works or not. I have been fortunate enough to have both experienced “open” relationships and monogamous relationships. Not to ride a fence, but I believe that both open and monogamous relationships are possible, enjoyable, and satisfying. Contrarily, both can also be painful, heartbreaking, and confusing.
I have much more experience in monogamous relationships than I do open relationships, but I do have enough experience to know that open relationships hold many pitfalls as well as many opportunities to grow and learn.
In my open relationships, I experienced a level of honesty and freedom that is unequaled in any of my monogamous relationships. I do not mean honesty across the board, but my lover and I were very honest about our “peak” sexual experiences and our eroticism as a whole. Moreover, we shared exciting experiences which pushed us and changed us. I watched my lady perform oral sex on both men and women. I watched the joy in her face as she made others cum or they made her cum. I really had to reflect on my manhood to even be there. I had to reflect on what was socially acceptable and my spiritual values. With my lady, I experienced threesomes, foursomes, and an orgy or two. They were life changing experience, not all in good way; however, I learned more about myself during those experiences than I did through my entire time as an undergraduate. I had to come face-to-face with what it means to be black, a man, and a partner. I had to ask myself can someone love me while she wrapped her lips around another man’s love gun.
Ironically, my lover, an experienced swinger would ask me questions that exposed her own fears: Was she a better lover than me? Do you think about her now? During group sex, you may hear your lover say or see him or do things that are meaningful to you. In other words, you may see and hear things that you felt were just reserved for you; additionally, you realize that other folk have the ability to make your lover holla, and that realization for me was very big. In all of my open relationships except one, I, and my lover, formed outside friends with whom we were allowed to see and have sex with alone. I was hurt that my lover would want to have sexual experience without me, but I was also excited for her. I was excited for me too. I met a few beautiful women whom I wanted and wanted me; in addition, a lover or two from my past thought enough of me to share their beautiful bodies with me. The freedom is intoxicating, and the freedom made the sex with my partner wild, passionate, and nasty as if we were trying to remind each other why we chose each other.
Contrarily, for me, the freedom also helped to cultivate my feelings of insecurity. Believe it or not, most of my sexual relationships were very traditional. Things like anal sex, threesomes, and sexual fantasies, things I admittedly like, were rare, mostly nonexistent occurrences, yet I understood where the relationship stood. I could feel when I came close to the boundaries better. My partner and my insecurities were well hidden until an argument or particular situation stripped us naked. An open relationship strips you naked: it is the particular situation.
In both relationships structures, I felt special but in very different ways. In my successful monogamous relationships, I felt special because refraining from having sex with others felt like a gift. Giving my body only to my partner is a gift, and when my partner gave her body only to me, I viewed it as gift to me. I know that they could have other people in their sexual lives, but they chose to refrain. That is a powerful sacrifice, a sacrifice that I do not take lightly. In the open relationship, my lover made me feel special by allowing me to totally control my sexuality and desires. She allowed me to enter worlds or eroticism that I would have never entered without her.
My clients, whether in open or monogamous relationships, fall apart or succeed. The commonality in the relationships that succeed is simply that they choose to stay together and communicate regardless of the circumstances. Moreover, upon reflection, I have decided that the best way for me to have a good relationship is to focus on the things that are important to me and also to focus improving myself holistically.
My self esteem
When my relationships went sour, whether open or monogamous, I reflected on how I felt about myself, not how my partner felt about me, how I felt about myself. In either paradigm, I had to have a high value of self to navigate my relationship. My self-esteem was a compass. It told me when I loved my partner more than I loved myself. It told me when my partner was indeed right and that I should say, “I am sorry” and “forgive me.” When my self-esteem at is at its highest, my lover can interact with anyone she wants, for I know my own worth. If she decides to go, it is her lose and my gain; if she decides to face the world with me, we both gain and face loses together. This was true for me in every relationship sexual, romantic relationship that I have ever had in my life. I suspect that this will be true in the future.
Whether I was in a relationship in which my lover and brought another woman to our bed or I was in a “you-betta-keep-ya-dick-in-ya-pants” type of relationship, clear and accurate communication provided the best foundation for a satisfying relationship. My lover and I would experience pain from what was said and from what was kept secret. We would have misunderstandings. We would speak from anger and fear. Hostile communication has played a hand in every relationship failure that I have had; on the other hand, positive communication has always assisted in my successes.
I have favorite sexual experience in both my monogamous relationships and my open relationships. When I met my wife, I was honest about my sexual history, and I believe my honesty helped provide and overall environment of honesty to which we both contribute. It is not always easy being honest to my wife. Additionally, I know that it is not always easy for her to be perfectly honest with me. We try our best to let the other speak his or her truth while understanding that our own sense of “the truth” might be different.
Is monogamy possible? I know monogamy is possible without a doubt in my mind. Some believe that monogamy is not “natural”. Whether or not monogamy is natural to humans make very little difference to me. Humans create their own realities, and for better or worse, we have moved away from the natural a long time ago. Thus, knowing yourself and what you can handle is easily the best way to know if an open relationship is an option for you. The most important factor in staying together with a partner is deciding to do so. The choice to love through obstacles can conquer all.
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