The Bored Game: opening up about the open relationship

When I came to Queen’s, I thought I was going to have the party-all-night-sleep-all-day kind of life. I was ready with my fake ID in hand and this new freedom from my parents to go to parties, make new friends, and, honestly, meet guys. As a self-labeled commitment-phobe, I wasn’t about to hop into a relationship until the end of fourth year. My somewhat-ambitious plan at the time was to scope out a med student after getting accepted to a prestigious grad program and ride off with my tam and graduation cap on a horse into the sunset. Little did I know that Prince Charming actually lived two floors above me in residence and we would start our three-year long relationship in the fall of my first year.

Gone was my commitment-phobe status, as I dived head first into the Nicholas Sparks, lovey-dovey, butterflies and roses, fairy tale kind of love story. He was everything I could have ever hoped to meet or have in another person: kind, funny, ambitious, and, to be blunt, great in the bedroom. *obnoxious cuteness warning* He made me re-think every opinion about love that I had ever held and I didn’t think that I could love another person as much as I loved him.

As our relationship continued, we had serious and silly conversations regarding the future. We talked as if our paths were inseparable. We joked about getting matching t-shirts, pinky-swore our first child would be named Fredrick, and he even would chat with my little brother on the phone about his high school struggles. Our friends now know us as a solid couple with unwavering devotion to one another and he is my best friend, other half and partner in crime.

Before you start wanting to punch me in the face or click away from this article for bragging about my seemingly perfect relationship… here is where things get muddy. I started crushing on other guys. At first, it was all in good fun. My best friend in my classes would joke to me about having my eye on one new guy in each class. Then, things escalated when I started crushing on someone I started spending a lot of time with. Let me be clear, I never cheated on my wonderful boyfriend, but feelings of guilt and shame came with the more I liked this new guy in my life.

Everything used to be black and white. The advice people give, often flippantly when critiquing someone who cheated in a relationship, is, “if you don’t like the person anymore, just break up with them.” I understand the sentiment, but I’m just not always sure it applies. What about the people in relationships with people they love and adore, but cheat anyway? They clearly do not want their relationship to end, but are seeking something outside of it.

Again, let me clarify. I am not saying that cheating is good. Cheating means lying, heartbreak, and distrust. It effectively ruins the self-esteem of the other person and, more often than not, quickly ends an otherwise good relationship. Like playing a board game, everyone will hate you if you bend the rules or take advantage of other players. For the record here, I would like to emphasize: please do not cheat on your partner!!!!!

~But~, and a tentative but at that, is there a potential for a compromise? Yes, I’m taking about open relationships, but please keep an open mind. I KNOW that there would be risks. Emotional ones: jealousy, self-esteem issues, confusion, heartbreak, etc. Physical ones: being with more than one person could lead to unsafe sexual habits. Open relationships have typically been kind of a taboo topic, mostly because of the societal pressures of “defining the relationship.” Yet, at our age (in a college setting accompanied by the 21st century technology that is the dating app), people are happy to hook up casually. And, in a world where divorce is on the rise, with cheating and a lack of commitment often the causes, why could there not be a potential, even a glimmer of hope, for finding a balance between being and committed to a partner with also being able to explore other options and pursue other people?

Let me offer you a different example: your whole life, you have wanted to become a teacher. You are happy in Con-Ed, you are really excited for the career ahead of you, and you know it is something you could see yourself doing for a long time with a lot of happiness and love. On the other side, you have a knack for making jewelry. You know that it might not be something that could grow into a career, but why not dabble in jewelry making why still keeping your dream of being a teacher alive? Okay, I know it’s not that simple with emotions, but could it be?

When I think of it this way, maybe it makes sense. You have a multitude of friendships for different reasons and rarely do people get mad when you have more than one. But, I also wonder if I am just trying to have my cake and eat it, too. I guess I just want affirmation that I am not a terrible person for having these thoughts and that maybe there could be a way to have it all without losing it all.

There would have to be boundaries, honesty, and communication. Both parties would have to consent to being a part of the open relationship, just as they would for an exclusive one. It wouldn’t be for everybody, but it could solve the confusion and hardship of people who love their partner, but don’t necessarily want them to be the one and only for right now. We are ~young, wild, and free~ and might want to explore our emotional and physical desires without being tied down.

This article might be tinged with humour, but regret and life decisions aren’t as funny. Right now, we are meeting people who become friends or partners that could be for life. Decisions we make now will shape our futures and change who we are. I am all about making decisions that will bring you the most happiness. And, who’s to say that both being in a relationship with someone you love while still occasionally making out with a hottie at Stages wouldn’t make you happiest?

If this article spoke to your situation perfectly and wasn’t just a slightly odd thought-provoking read in between classes, then I am sorry you are confused. You aren’t a bad person and are allowed to be curious and want to explore other possibilities! The open relationship might not be for everyone, but what’s most important is that you are open with your partner and all individuals involved. I know it might feel like your friends are sick of hearing you complain about your relationship problems when it seems like you have none, so I want you to know you are not alone. I also encourage you to seek out help! The Peer Support Centre is an awesome, confidential place you can vent away all your worries— and I am anonymously going through it with you <3 Anonymous

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