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Answer me this: what is an open relationship, actually? Do they all conform to some kind of homogenous “Open Relationship” formula? Does it mean that one or both partners can hook up with other people? Sleep with other people? Develop meaningful emotional connections to other people?

Most importantly for me, though: when someone tells you that they are in an open relationship – more specifically, that they negotiated an open relationship as an alternative to the opportunity-cost of breaking up with the girlfriend that cheated on them – is it okay to hit on them?

You see, I quite like the idea of open relationships generally – I think that, as long as it’s consensual, people should be able to enter in to whatever kind of relationship is mutually beneficial for them. If that is having the freedom to go out, get drunk and hook up with someone else sans guilt; or if that is giving you the space to sleep with whoever you please, I see no problem with it at all, as long as it’s what you both agree is okay. It all makes such sense, in an “increasing net human happiness” kind of way.

Where it gets confusing, though, is how other people (namely, me) are supposed to respond to people being in open relationships. If I quite like you (because you’re smart, outrageously lovely and kinda cute) but had previously considered you not to be an option due to the presence of a girlfriend (a fact that made me secretly mildly angry with a girl I’d never met, purely for existing) and you elect to tell me that you’re in an open relationship, does that make it okay for me to pursue this option that was previously unavailable to me?

Of course, open relationships can exist in theory without existing in practice. It may all sound like a very good idea when you’re looking at a situation of breaking up (and having to invest energy in the pursuit of other people), setting a precedent for cheating (that should never be encouraged, no matter what I’ve said about this in the past) or forcing a feeling of pressure and fear within a relationship, with both parties too terrified of transgressing to have any fun with it. No matter how good the idea sounds, unless you actually engage in the openness of your open relationship, you may as well not have one. And if only one party chooses to seize the day… Recipe for relationship resentment and disaster.

So while I’m kinda hoping that Open Relationship Boy wants to experiment with his newfound freedom, my question is simple: is it okay to hit on him?

– Liv

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