As human beings we are conditioned to understand life according to certain polar opposites. From a very young age, we are programmed to make sense of the world based on a set of limitations and pre-defined ideologies. We are taught the differences between good and bad, right and wrong, black and white and hopefully one day, when we are wiser, the difference between sex and love. Some conventions, like relationships, should be as clear as day but there are some relationships that have progressed beyond the boundaries of conservative thinking.
No matter how open-minded or liberal we think we might be, understanding something as foreign as the open relationship has always been a difficult concept to grasp. The idea of loving more than one person, whether it's emotionally or just physically, threatens the very value on which relationships are built. Is it because it goes against everything we were brought up to believe in? Commitment, trust, fidelity, the "one". Is society perhaps a little too prudent and narrow-minded to fully comprehend the benefits of being in a sexually-liberating relationship or do most of us simply prefer the standards that come with tradition?
It's extremely rare to come across an open relationship that works, which is why I was pleasantly surprised to find two that did. Samantha, who was notorious for being sexually adventurous, embraced the fact that she would never physically belong to one man only. She had been through them all...three ways, orgies, one night stands, four ways...the woman was practically a sexual intersection. We all knew that her relationship with sex was far too wonderful for anyone to pass up, which is why we were all shocked to meet the man that would one day become her fiance.
William was no stranger to Sam's promiscuity and had often been left hurt in the beginning stages of their relationship. After carefully ironing out the terms and conditions of their arrangement, William eventually succumbed to the idea that Sam would never be a one-man woman. He adapted to the situation which he eventually found mutually beneficial. He'd often take part in her many sexual exploits and learned to free himself from the constraints of traditional relationship dogma. Providing that he knew who and when and providing that it was only physical, William had learned to accept the things he could not change in his partner. They have been together for seven years.
Further downtown in the Gay Quarter, Seth and his boyfriend Ernie had also been involved in a progressive relationship for the past five years. Somehow it was far easier to accept this sort of behaviour from a gay relationship given the stereotypes placed upon them but I soon found out that it was no different from a heterosexual relationship. "Some people just have stronger sexual needs than others so we simply allow each other the freedom to explore that. We love each other to death and we'll always stay committed to one another, so what's the harm in indulging our sexual deviances together? We both love sex and this way neither of us are really cheating on each other? We've lasted longer than most relationships we know."
Based on my own sex-capades, a three-way can go one of two ways: mutually satisfying or emotionally damaging. Fortunately, I was only ever the supporting role in a sexual performance, so I never really understood what the other two were feeling at the time...apart from me and each other that is. All I know is that that particular relationship ended shortly after and I had somehow earned an enemy for life. Was the key to an open relationship being able to separate one's primal urges from emotional dependency? How does one cut off the emotional strings attached to one's heart? Is it something our society is ready and willing to embrace or is it simply a practice reserved for sexual revolutionaries?
When it comes to open relationships, I couldn't help but wonder, are we there yet?