My Boyfriend Kissed Someone Else and It Made Me Feel Alive
After a dance-filled, substance-fuelled, sleepless 24 hours in the dusty town of Meredith, he gave the girl he’d spent the evening with a kiss goodnight. At that exact time, I was staring at my feet, it was almost sunrise, and I was slipping up the rocky incline of Mount Batur, an active volcano over 4000 kilometres away.
The time difference, and our mutually sleep-deprived states, had us missing each other’s calls all night. When we did finally speak the next morning, I had a feeling he might’ve “made a new friend”, which is how I phrased it in my evasive attempt to ask if he’d shared saliva with anyone.
Being in our twenties, and pulled by the desire to constantly travel, means monogamy doesn’t always feel like an adequate option. Having a semi-open relationship is something we chose for ourselves: a decision we made together, but not lightly. It’s something we walk in and out of. Something we idealise deeply in theory, but honestly don’t quite know how in practice.
We met properly for the first time on a crowded Melbourne tram, packed with our drunken mutual friends. With all the seats taken, we were left holding onto the greasy tram poles for the 15 or so stops into the city.
In those first few months that we were together, I left on a one-way ticket overseas. We cried a lot at the thought of various unknowns. We practiced saying goodbye under my favourite tree in my favourite park. And eventually, the real goodbye happened, and we parted ways.
Months went by and we spoke every now and then. I shaved my head and fell in love again. This time, a platonic love. He worked on his music back in Australia, and spent hours wandering the poolside in his lifeguard uniform.
I was sitting on the steps in my dorm when I got his message. He was coming to Amsterdam. My new home. Months passed, and the day of his arrival drew closer. After few restless nights of anticipation and excitement, he was there, standing at the door of my shitty room, sweaty and baggy-eyed in his favourite Prince t-shirt. Music gear was slung around his body.
In those awkward first hours, our words felt small and irrelevant, but our bodies remembered each other. We spent the next few months crawling in and out of each other’s travel ventures. The Netherlands, Morocco, Croatia and Portugal. We were always ‘open’ in those times. We did not want the restrictions of a relationship to prevent us from exploring and experiencing.
But being open isn’t simple, and it definitely isn’t easy. We didn’t tell each other about our intimate adventures with other people until months after we returned to Melbourne. They were painful to hear, for both of us, but also, they were intriguing and exciting. Like we were defying the system. Somehow dipping our toes in two pools when people normally only got one.
It didn’t take long for my feet to get itchy again. I booked my second trip to Indonesia that year. We avoided the subject of opening our relationship up again, because sometimes that’s just easier.
We knew we had to speak about it. On the way to the airport, he brought it up. We set out the rules and moved on to other topics. It made me nervous and excited to have such freedom. I kissed him goodbye at the airport.
This time, we decided to tell each other if anything happened. So, he told me on the phone when he kissed someone. One kiss. A tiny kiss. A meaningless kiss.
I was shocked by my reaction. I’d been so okay about it in previous times. But it was hard to hear when we weren’t in the same room. When we couldn’t communicate with our bodies how we felt.
I thought that because I chose this, because I pushed for this, it wouldn’t make me sad. But I was sad. I was even annoyed that I was sad.
I spent the whole day reflecting on what he said. How other couples may break up over things like this. I thought about him being with someone else. Even if it was just a kiss. How that made me feel uncomfortable. How it made my chest ache. I disliked how my mind was okay with it but my body wasn’t. I hadn’t gotten remotely close to anyone while I was away. Was pushing for this self-destructive?
Not that long ago, I’d told him that I had feelings for someone else. He handled it so well, telling me to do what I needed to do with that person to deal with it.
I thought about that a lot. How good it had felt to get that secret off my chest, and how as soon as I’d said it, I realised maybe it wasn’t as real as I had thought. Like saying it aloud made it real, and making it real made me realise I didn’t want it. It actually just made me realise I wanted him.
And so, when I heard he kissed another person, it made me feel sad. But it also made me feel, well, alive. Like the blood was thumping louder beneath my skin. It reminded me why I love him. Why I want to be with him. That nothing is still; we are always moving. That he can move on his own. That I can move on my own. And that we can move together.
Carving out our own rules is difficult and painful. But sometimes, we have to go through trial and error, trying things we don’t like to know we don’t like them.
Without role models that successfully engage in that kind of relationship, it often feels like we are navigating blind through unknown territory, unsure if what we are doing is productive or destructive. Frustrated by the narrow idea of what a relationship is supposed to look like in our society.
I still don’t know if I like this open thing. But I know I value what it brings: deep trust in my partner and my relationship. A strong, healthy and stable sense of self. Clear communication and an ego kept in check. Sure, you don’t need an open relationship to achieve these things, but being in one forces you to work on them. An open and shifting relationship makes me feel challenged, brings me a sense of freedom and makes me feel alive. It keeps me on my toes, and I like that.