Why My Open Relationship Didn’t Work Out
First, it was a convenient option for Brianna and I – we’re both bi. A pill-fuelled conversation about how it can suck being in a committed hetero relationship when you’re bisexual led to a foursome with our boyfriends. We’d all been best friends for years.
Without properly thinking it out or discussing it, the boys looked at each other and felt pressured to say yes because it wouldn’t have been manly to say otherwise.
A few rules – no kissing with tongue, no face to face fucking, but I never felt the rules applied while high on whatever I could get my hands on.
I’d never been interested in Ryan before – he was completely off limits as my best friend’s boyfriend. A switch flicked with the addition of a sexual relationship, and I wanted him to want me, and he seemed to reciprocate.
I didn’t feel jealous when I saw Liam and Brianna together. Maybe it was because I trusted them both completely. Or because I knew they had no chemistry for it continue beyond the room. Maybe I was too high off the excitement of having sex with someone new after two years in a monogamous relationship to care. Or maybe it was just because I was high and nothing ever seemed to be a bad idea.
We all sobered up; everything seemed normal. We’re the type to neglect any awkward confrontation. The new weekend brought more pills and openness.
“Let’s make this a regular thing.”
This time there was another girl, an old school friend. Liam seemed to take an interest in her and they spoke the whole night. We sunk into the couch unable to move, seeing lights and figures that weren’t there. Once we could move again, it started to get heated; I felt obliged to give permission for Liam and the school friend.
“I’m fine if you and Samantha want to do stuff.”
Nothing happened between them, but seeing Liam show affection to a girl I didn’t trust piqued my jealousy and I took comfort in being wanted by Ryan. Stealing glances from across the room, Ryan and I knew we were feeling the same lust. We got a thrill from the feeling that we knew was forbidden by the terms of our open relationship. I never considered Brianna’s situations in this dynamic when we were high; I can blame the drugs for suppressing my morals, but I knew it was wrong. I was selfish and I let it happen simply because I felt good.
We saw familiarity in our weekend agenda. Desperate to get as fucked up as possible to ignore how the sexual relationship was deeply affecting our friendships. Friendships that were previously so solid and unwavering, that you don’t come across often. There became an unspoken expectation about the open relationship; it would be ‘uncool’ if we spoke up against it. No one wanted to be the person to ruin the fun.
Our naivety proved to be too much for something as complex as an open relationship. Something we were truly discovering for the first time – being such a taboo concept and not really knowing how to go about it. We were unprepared for the emotional responsibility it takes: to be completely honest to yourself and everyone involved, to be able to recognise when you’re not comfortable with something and to have the confidence to say no, and to be faithful to the rules of the relationship.
It became an ego-driven pursuit for me. I was using pre-existing problems in my own relationship to excuse my behaviour in ruining another, rather than being truthful in the first place.
It escalated one weekend when Ryan and I found ourselves alone together – admitting that maybe it was more than just lust we were feeling, and finding ourselves wanting to be with each other more than our own partners. Infidelity in an open relationship was not something we were expecting, and I don’t think we were prepared or mature enough to exercise the self-control necessary in an open relationship, where you are able to put the needs of the initial relationship first.
Ryan and I mulled over what we would do – be honest with Liam and Brianna? Stop talking to each other behind their backs and hope the feelings would go away? Cheating on the two most important people in my life was eating away at me, but the mix of drugs and my self-serving ego compromised my decisions. In all honesty, it was exciting to have this secret together, and we didn’t want the thrill to come to an end. But it did, in the most dishonest and shittiest way possible – unearthed text messages.
I’m still not completely sure if it was the drugs that mustered up a faux existence of feelings between us, or if it was sincere. But my friendships are the most important thing to me and I don’t even recognise the person who I was: someone who couldn’t put aside feelings of lust for friendships infinitely more important.
Relationships are more complex than just loving someone, and although that’s nothing profound, it is something I had to learn firsthand. I loved Liam, and simultaneously felt something for Ryan. Mine and Brianna’s feelings towards each other had often been a grey area.
An open relationship should strengthen the initial couples and benefit them in a way a monogamous relationship can’t. When it comes to being bi, an open relationship can help satisfy other parts of sexuality that isn’t possible in a monogamous hetero relationship.
It shouldn’t be selfish, and communication is essential. Perhaps in a reality where I had been honest and everyone felt mutual and more emotionally mature, we could explore polyamory in a romantic form. Or maybe it just would not have worked out for us.
For now, I’m pretty good with the self-reflection that this shit-show left me with – much through the fault of my own.
Cover by George Coletrain