My man and I are free to sleep around, if only we could find the time.
When people find out my partner and I are in an open relationship, they presume we hold an orgy at our house every weekend. In reality, 97 percent of our time is spent trying to negotiate our schedules.
“How’s Thursday?” I ask.
“We have my sister’s birthday dinner.”
“Oh right.” I check my calendar again and send another Whatsapp.
“What about the 16th?”
“Don’t we have tickets to your friend’s play that night?”
I take a deep breath.
“Maybe next month?” my boyfriend gently suggests.
We’ve been together for a year. We do not have children. We live in city, near other big cities, with great access to public transit. We both have well-paying jobs we enjoy. We live alone in a comfortably-sized apartment.
All of this means that it shouldn’t be that hard to schedule an orgy, let alone a single date with a new lover.
But in the previous six months, we’ve each seen only one outside lover, and for one evening only. My boyfriend’s paramour moved to Alaska soon after their date, and mine turned out to be in an “open relationship” that was far less open than I prefer.
The problem is twofold. First, it turns out that human adults circa 2018 are ridiculously busy. We work. We commute. Our jobs are tiring. We have friends and social obligations. We have parents and siblings and nephews to visit, in-law’s birthdays to attend.
We have hobbies. I really want to finish my novel. He really wants to win at World of Warcraft. And there’s the small matter of staying healthy: my weekly yoga class, his time at the gym.
And we do occasionally like to spend some time together.
Don’t take this as complaint. I like my in-laws. I’m looking forward to seeing my nephews. And I’m glad my partner is also enjoying a life of enriching activities and relationships. I don’t want to give up these parts of my life.
Of course, not all open relationships operate like mine. There are people whose life mission is to keep an interrupted flow of new lovers streaming in—just like there’s that one person in your office who gets so intensely involved with the football pool that he starts posting color-coded spreadsheets in the break room.
But for me, being in an open relationship is part of my existence, not the whole of it. And thus it must fit in alongside all the other parts.
You have probably once been single and complained about dating. You may have even used Tinder to try to meet someone, only to be sent a slew of gross comments (if you’re a woman) or met with the vast unresponsiveness of the internet (if you’re a man.) And if your gender identity doesn’t nearly fit into the societal binary, it’s even worse and that’s some bullshit. We can all agree that dating sucks.
Non-heterosexuals are already aware that not only is dating terrible, but the pool of people to choose from is dramatically smaller than it would be if they were straight. Those of us in an open relationship face a similar challenge. Most people are monogamous. Most people don’t want to introduce their parents to their boyfriend and his wife. It’s a very small pond we fish in.
And most people in that pond are also playing World of Warcraft and buying presents for their nephews and making birthday cakes for their sisters-in-law. They have schedules.
There’s also the issue of slightly higher standards. When you’re spending most nights next to an attractive guy who’s great in bed and a pleasure to be around, it’s hard to convince yourself to give up some of your precious free time for someone who may turn up in a mustard-colored velvet smoking jacket, speaking a language you don’t know, with two friends tagging along. (Yes, that actually happened.)
Despite all of this, I count us among the lucky ones in the world of open relationships. We’re fairly experienced with non-monogamy. We’re both good communicators (thanks therapy!). We understand what works for us and what doesn’t. We know how to respect each other’s boundaries. We’re not groping along in the dark. Well, we might be groping in the dark more often, if we could find the time.
But all hope is not lost. I’ve managed to set a date that will take place three weeks from now. And we’ve also set up a date with another couple, just to explore the options. Because, you know, the worst that happens is that we have a drink, find we don’t click, and I still won’t go home alone.