There’s no worse feeling out there than laying in your bed alone knowing your girlfriend is sleeping over at another guy’s house. Trust me, open relationships aren’t for everyone. Like many people in their early 20s, I fell into my open relationship by way of a girlfriend who cheated on me and wanted our love to last.
I was 20 years old, totally naive, and driven by the idea of appearing adult; all I had was my little apartment in the North End of Boston and a controlling girlfriend who gave me a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome. We had been together since the end of high school and her method of dictating my life was the only way I knew how to do things. During winter break, in which she was home, she cheated on me and tearfully admitted it a month later. I was brokenhearted, but as determined as she was to keep the relationship going.
At the time, I thought she was the one and would stop at nothing to make sure we lasted. She suggested opening ourselves up to other people — with a few ground rules, of course: no falling in love, and a code word that would alert the other that they were busy… “busy” meaning “sleeping with someone else.”
The first few months actually went well, because she and I had the same amount of luck — or lack thereof — which let us bond and consider the option of ending the open relationship before anyone got hurt.
Then, all of a sudden, there was a guy. Let’s call him James. Almost instantly, she became infatuated, breaking our “no falling in love” rule. I knew something was happening when I started receiving that code word in texts: “elsewhere.” My stomach churned and filled with anxiety as I began to to get insight into their relationship. He was a tattoo artist, loved punk music, was leaps and bounds cooler than me. I hated him.
My own dive into dating others didn’t particularly smoothly. For a girl who seemed so open-minded, adventurous, and, y’know, so deeply into someone else, she got pretty damn upset when I casually mentioned that I had slept with another woman. She yelled and cried and swore, most likely feeling a fraction of what I had felt every single damn time she felt the need to divulge the most intimate details of their sex life to me.
I know what you’re thinking, I must have broken up with her the minute she gave me hell for sleeping with another girl. Right? Wrong. I stuck it out for another year, because I was crazy in love and totally unmedicated. That year with her taught me a lot about myself — but all in retrospect. During our final year, I was a jealous, angry wreck, the kind of guy who snooped through emails and text messages. She became worse as well, tightening her grip around me and ruining any potential relationships I started working on. There was no final straw that broke the camel’s back, but rather an anticlimactic fizzle that I cast upon her as my love for her dissipated. I stopped returning her calls, stopped texting her, but most importantly stopped caring about her other sexual ventures.
Really, the relationship died the moment she slept with someone else, but was brought back as a soulless zombie for a year before its head was finally chopped off. To be in a real open relationship — which I believe can exist — both parties must be completely willing from the beginning and comfortable with what could potentially happen. For me, I should have told her it was over before I let it progress into the unholy mess that it became… but no one knows what they’re doing at age 20.