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Open Relationships -- Innovative or Manipulative?

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LOVE ADVICE

Due to recent unfortunate circumstances, I've been forced to evaluate my definition for the term 'relationship.' I have been in a serious but long distance relationship for quite a while, and recently, both parties (including myself) have confessed to cheating. Although hurt, we both realized we still loved each other and wanted to remain together, but obviously under different circumstances. And since the whole "strictly monogamous" rule wasn't working, it would have to be something different. But was an open relationship the right answer?

It would seem that being in a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" sort of relationship is almost condoning the act of cheating. But considering the fact that the most common excuses for cheating are, "it doesn't mean I love you any less," and, "it meant nothing," maybe these hold true. Maybe it doesn't mean anything. And if that's the case, what's the matter? Its not like we put rules on masturbating when we're not together.

I know for a fact that when I have "cheated" it has not changed my feelings towards my significant other in the slightest bit. It was brainless and truly "meant nothing." But does that make it okay? And if it isn't, by who's standards?

According to Western societal norms, a relationship is defined by two people remaining faithful to one another because they are in love. But when love isn't the issue, what is? Respect? Morals? Is it only immoral to cheat because that's when we have been taught our entire lives? How many people actually cheat? I know I have. And my boyfriend has. And quite a few of my friends have. We aren't bad people, and its not like we enjoy being cheated on, but the point is, it seems a lot of people do it. And if calling a relationship "open" takes the term cheating and turns it into "being free," (think swingers) then maybe its not such a bad idea after all.

But still, being the woman I am, I can't help but get offended. If you supposedly love me so much, why can't you control your stupid penis and have it behave until you're supposed to see me again? Is an open relationship just an excuse to fool around and live a single life, with the comfort of knowing someone is there when you want them?

See, that's offensive. I don't want to be someone's convenience. But, if I turn it around, that sounds like the most awesome plan ever. Sort of like leading a double life. Being able live a single life with the girls, with the comfort of knowing I do have someone there when the time is right.

Then the matter of respect comes in. Because it's "open," and because putting rules on that is awkward, (Ie. You can only sleep with one person a week.) when does it become "wrong?" I could sleep with my entire school but still be madly in love with my boyfriend. Is an open relationship more like putting it on "pause" until we are reunited? Or is it just looking the other way? Do we still have the right to become angry with the other if we find something out?

I think the main problem with open relationships is the fear of losing interest in your significant other. If you live your life as you would single, there is the possibility of meeting someone else who you are actually interested in. You may develop a crush. Go out to coffee. A legitimate romance could blossom, and then what? Summer break comes along and you go back to your other boyfriend? Or what if you consistently sleep with someone, even if there are no actual feelings involved? Since that is sort of like "seeing someone," is that wrong? What defines okay and not okay in the realm of open relationships? Does it have to be meaningless? What deems it meaningless?! The ability to remember it in the morning?!

A good male friend of mine brings up a point. "Perhaps we are denying ourselves legitimate opportunities for love in other places because we are being short sighted." But if that's the case, there shouldn't be a relationship at all. Open or closed.

Clearly, I am still confused on the subject. Perhaps an open relationship is just manipulating the other into allowing you the freedom to sleep around. Perhaps its innovative, and although it may be unconventional or against societal norms, I mean, so is sex before marriage, and how many of us have stayed true to that? Perhaps monogamy is overrated. And this is not me condoning polygamy, unless women can have several husbands, as well.

I suppose there is no real answer or way to go about it. The best answer is probably to avoid long distance relationships or avoid dating sex addicts. But if neither of those are a possibility, we each need to come to our own conclusion on what it means to be "faithful."

Until then, what are your thoughts? Do you think open relationships are okay? Why or why not? Would you be in one?

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