A door can be ajar. Just a tiny crack to let the light through. In polyamory you might call this a don't-ask-don't-tell policy. Or it can be open enough to let a person in (but you know, it's a door...so it can probably be closed if it isn't the 'right' person or if there are too many people). Or indeed...it can be open all the way.
When people ask me how open our relationship is, what they mean is - how far have I opened the door? Is it ajar? Do you discuss when and who to invite into your relationship? Or are you free to date whomever you want, whenever you want and for however long you want? From what I write and say, they guess I mean all the way. But they are wrong.
They start from the assumption that there is delineated us-and-them. But there is no us. And there is no them. There is only me and how I relate to others. In my relationship there is no door to open...or shut. Because where would you put it? There isn't even a wall.
The Open Relationship Journey
They say that life is a journey. But what does this mean?
This is an underground map of London. Just imagine that my path through life is the Piccadilly line mapped from Cockfosters right the way to Heathrow.
My first connection comes with the Victoria line with whom I apparently have an on-off relationship since we move in the same direction and cross paths every so often. Then I encounter a lot of others and have a huge multiple connection at King's Cross and a more casual connection at Euston. I also hook up with Victoria again but we finally part ways around Green Park. Our connection is destined to end here.
The District line and Circle line have been pretty tight for a while. But at South Kensington we all jump into a relationship together as a triad and last three whole stops. Somewhere down the line, Circle and I have a falling out, but District and I manage to be together for a period of 11 stops. That's a good innings (in underground terms).
On the journey, there is no unproductive connection... no matter how long each one lasts.
Eyes Wide Open
I am well aware that my relationship has no security of contract; either formal or informal. It has our agreement for us to be together as long as we want to be together. It also has our commitment to co-parent for the rest of our lives. But this commitment is to our children, not to each other. Because you simply never know what is in the future. I will not promise something I cannot. And I will not lie.
'I'm sleeping in my office this evening.' I said to my friend. 'My boyfriend has company.'
'That's brave of you, to let it happen in your bed.' She said. 'I mean it's YOUR bed. YOUR space.'
'Actually it's our bed.' I said. 'Just as much his as it is mine.'
'Still.' She said 'It's where you two connect.'
'Sure. But it's only a place. It's not a part of me. The connection doesn't happen in the bed, it happens in my mind and soul.'
'But doesn't it affect you?'
'Well yes. I had to put on an extra wash for the sheets this morning. No one wants to get laid on dried old sperm.'
I have come far. I have come from a space where I instinctively stabbed my best friend's hand with a fork simply for taking a chip off my plate. I come from being an isolated only child who never shared anything, or anyone.
I thought my walls of security and division sheltered me, but the only thing they ended up doing was hide my wounds away from the sunlight. I created an illusion of separation and polarized of my psyche from the world. The more I protected myself, the more disconnected I became in a prison where I was unable to grow.
A World without Walls
At first opening the door was scary. Who would come in? Would they harm us? And if they did wouldn't it be difficult to kick them out when we'd invited them in? But over time, I realised that the door with its ability to open and shut, was just another of my false control mechanisms. It externalized my need for control on yet another crutch. So I kicked down the door and I found light that hurt my eyes. But it was amazing (light is highly addictive if you didn't know). Then I started to dismantle the walls of my prison marvelling at the vastness of the experience available to me outside. It was a new world.
I am deeply and wildly happy. I grow in every direction supported and strengthened by my own courage, and my growing ability to flex with and embrace change when it happens.
For now my boyfriend and I travel together in the same direction. In 'tube terms' we're at that great hub of connection, King's Cross. It's awesome (and fairly crowded). I hope we'll stop here for a while.
First published on Compassionate Centering. Reprinted with permission.