I believe everyone has been in love, in some form or the other, by the time they hit their late twenties. A lot of people I know have been in relationships. Most of them are even married and into that all-consuming activity of baby-making & rearing. Few people I know have been in an ‘open relationship’. At least…very few seem to admit to it. Or perhaps they don’t like the phrase. Well…..
It is just a name after all. And how do I define an open relationship? That is the best part. You don’t define an open relationship. You don’t need to. And if you do, then it defines itself. Because if you do need to legitimize it with a tag, it doesn’t stay an open relationship any more.
Now I have nothing against conventional, well-defined relationships. Indeed most of my efforts in the past have been in ensuring that my relationships move into that domain. But once I didn’t do that. And it was a worthwhile experience.
I think everyone should experience an open relationship at least once in their lives. Especially people who have been hurt by others…which encompasses most of the human race, I suppose. It can be the balm to all those wounds, the eraser to remove all the prejudices one tends to accumluate from bad experiences…the panacea to all relationship evils.
Well, perhaps I was very lucky. Yes I was. I was lucky because it started and ended in a way that both of us wanted. We had our similarities which never became our bonds and our differences that never turned into hostilities. Neither of us fell in love with each other or even into the traps of trying to cling on to the other person. We had our seperate social circles as well as common friends. I used to think that a perfect relationship ended in “..and they lived happily ever after”. That didn’t exactly happen here but I can’t think of a better way it could have closed. Almost in perfect synchronisation, both of us moved on to other people and other things.
A lot of us grow up with primitive, fairytale notions on how other people should be, what our partner should be like, how relationships ‘should’ run and how life should be. It never happens that way as age teaches us and experience after experience keeps on reminding us. I guess most people somewhere make a transition into either resentful resignation or acceptance of reality. I don’t know which of the two I fall into. But I know it certainly was an eye-opener to not have a safe (and restrictive) set of rules on how things should be.
There are things that are difficult to accept of course. If the great part about an open relationship is that the other person doesn’t own you, then the irritating part is that you don’t own the other person either. Well, fair is fair. Clinging isn’t good but it isn’t an easy habit to get rid of. But, ah, what a release once you do!
I think such a relationship also teaches you the value of time with yourself and gives you a great sense of self-worth. I mean….what can be more delightful than the understanding that other person is spending time with you not because he has to or because he doesn’t have better things to do…but simply because he wants to. For a lesson on how to live in the present and not worry about the future, it doesn’t get better than this. Equally sweet is the knowledge that if the other person isn’t there, you still have your interests, friends, family, work…and a life. Since you already live quite a bit of it without him and without any knowledge of when he’ll be a part of it, you know he isn’t indispensible. It made me realise that no one really is.
It is also about giving up responsibility for other people’s lives and letting them live their own. It is literally and figuratively taking the world off your shoulders. Catharsis is such a nasty word and I don’t like the fact that a near-mad woman said it better but she did….’Atlas shrugged’.
So many of life’s most important desicions are driven by what other people think of us. I wasn’t sure how people would judge me for being a part of a relationship that didn’t have a ‘social sanction’. I still don’t. But you know something? It doesn’t matter all that much any more. I stopped needing to have a man in my life at all times. And I shared a part of my life with someone I did and still do respect and like a lot. It made it worth it all.
I’d say if you haven’t given yourself permission to not need permission any more…well, just do it.