My soon-to-be ex-husband and I had an open relationship for most of our marriage; you can already tell how that turned out. Yes, it was exciting to fuck somebody new in the beginning (whether separately or together). We even gave an interview to The Advocate about how modern we were. But when lifted, the veil of carefree sex and intrigue revealed a darker, much more sinister side.
There are plenty of complications that accompany an open relationship, many of which I’ll dissect below, yet they’re all within your control. The one invariable, however – the loose cannon that can and probably will obliterate your relationship eventually – is not how you handle each other with regard to the arrangement but rather the rogue side piece. Blow through enough of them and one of you is bound to develop more than just a fleeting carnal attraction to him or her. If the feelings are reciprocated, you’re in for a whole heap of trouble. Here are a few signs to look for.
1. Your Devices Have Become Increasingly Secretive
Most of us keep our phones and other devices password-protected for general security reasons, but couples that have nothing to hide within them sometimes know each other’s passwords in case of emergencies. That may not be the case for everyone, of course, and you may be used to keeping your private devices just that – private. That’s certainly OK – we all have a right to our privacy – but if you notice usage patterns changing, something may be up.
If your partner puts the phone in lock mode when they put it down (or keeps it attached to them virtually all the time), like when they excuse themselves to the bathroom at a restaurant, or they turn away from your line of sight when having text and app conversations – and it seems out of the ordinary – you may have reason to be suspicious.
That doesn’t mean you should automatically jump to conclusions, though.
Instead, if you think something’s up because your partner’s device habits have noticeably changed, bring it up. While you don’t have the right to dig through their personal device, if you’re in a relationship, you do have credence to ask with whom they’re chatting that’s causing them to ignore you. If they sputter, you have a lot more to discuss.
2. There Are More Out-of-Town “Business” Trips
There’s a fine line between having an open relationship and cheating, and that line is trust. A healthy open relationship should include a commitment to making this situation work for you and your partner while keeping the lines of communication open. If one or the other of you feels put out, the situation is not going according to plan.
That’s especially true if your partner starts traveling for business or more frequently if their job already includes travel. Part of the open-relationship rules in my own marriage included being able to hook up while away from each other – my husband traveled for work; I didn’t – but when it began to include trips established strictly to hook up with someone, I knew the problem was bigger than me. I felt like my husband was planning getaways – under the guise of business travel – just to get away from me. In a sense, that was true. He was also planning them to rendezvous with a hookup he had met previously while on actual business. Huge red flag – and a big no-no for a couple that was supposed to honor honesty.
3. The Frequency of Sex Between You Two Has Decreased
If sex with your partner goes from a couple times a week to a couple times a month, something’s up. That’s not to suggest that he or she is banging other people more frequently than you, but something’s obviously off and it’s worth a discussion. Any number of factors can affect your sex life – like stress, fatigue, self-confidence – but if you’re not being satisfied by your partner sexually because they’ve used up all their energy with someone else, you need to speak up.
4. The Frequency at Which Your Partner Wants to Have Sex With Someone Else Increases
In the beginning of our open relationship, my husband and I tread lightly. We’d have a threesome together here and there, and one of us might hook up with someone in the gym steam room or while out of town. More and more, however, we were out looking for a thrill that didn’t include each other. From my point of view, it was because he wasn’t all that attracted to me at the time – I had gained a little weight – and I followed course with my own activities if only to quell the feelings of loneliness and neglect. Eventually we stopped having sex altogether, which further exacerbated the problem until it triggered an avalanche of extra-marital promiscuousness that couldn’t be stopped.
5. Communication Between You and Your Partner Virtually Disintegrates
In the beginning of our relationship, my husband and I could talk about anything. I’m the kind of person who prefers to clear the air, no matter how awkward it may be, so we can move on quickly. But as tension and resentment started to build in our relationship – mostly as a result of our open relationship going off the rails – it was hard to look each other in the eye, let alone have a civil discussion. Epic arguments erupted over the most inane things because of all the pent-up frustration. It wasn’t healthy for either of us, and this aspect, in particular, signaled the beginning of the end.
6. You Feel Insecure About Yourself
By the time I decided to separate from my husband, I was beat down, defeated, literally struggling to stay alive. That’s not dramatics, either; there were plenty of mornings I woke up not wanting to live anymore. But when I separated myself from the situation and started to recognize that the demise of my marriage was mostly the result of variables out of my control (that’s not saying that I didn’t contribute in my own way to my marriage ending, by the way – because I did), I was able to start putting the pieces of my life back together. It took a long time – and therapy and exercise – to get back to a place where I could crack a smile while looking at myself in the mirror, but I got there. If you’re feeling similarly because your own open relationship isn’t working out the way you thought it would, it may be time to face the hard facts: For some of us (actually, most of us), the situation doesn’t work, it gets complicated very quickly, and there are usually no winners in the scenario. Make a decision – and soon. You deserve better than not knowing if you’re the most important person in your partner’s life. If you’re not, that sucks – but life will go on with a clean slate. You just have to clean it first.