Michele O'Mara

To Play or Not to Play... Separately

Filed By Michele O'Mara | July 27, 2010 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: open relationship, outside play, polyamory

After being together 5 years and occasionally adding a third person, Open_relationship.jpgmy partner and I played separately for the first time this weekend. As he put it, "It's only sex, what matters is that we came home to each other." I'm feeling pretty bad that I had sex with someone else. Is this a feeling I should be having or should I be looking at the situation with the same open mind he is? Maybe I'm just being jealous. I'm not sure.

Relationships are complicated. Open relationships are very complicated.

If open play (together) feels good to both of you and it has worked without any issues, perhaps that's the boundary that works best for you. If separate play (without the other present) feels bad, then be honest with your partner and let him know that it is not something that you enjoy.

Trying to figure out why you don't feel good about separate play is like trying to figure out why you don't like deep-fried Oreo cookies. Neither extramarital sex nor deep-fried Oreo cookies are essential to your health, so listen to your gut. If your gut is sick with sugar and grease or it's uncomfortable with sexual activity that you didn't enjoy, then avoid the source of your pain.

It's a different story all together if you have ceased to enjoy sex with your partner, or if you have ceased to enjoy eating anything at all Sex and nutrition are instrumental to healthy living. Cookie consumption and consensual outside play are designed to be pleasurable. If you do not find them so, then it makes no sense to engage in these activities.

If your partner is requesting an open relationship with separate play and you fear losing him if you do not go along, then your gut is probably full of fear about whether or not this relationship is going to work for you. At the end of the day you will make much greater strides by listening to your gut than most anything, or anyone else.

So I suggest you stop questioning why it's telling you what it is and simply heed what it's telling you.


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I agree - this guy obviously has trouble playing with others, something he really doesn't need to do. He should ask himself why he'd have sex with people he obviously doesn't want to, if it's just for his partner, and, if it is, stop.

I do wonder why he'd want to please his partner so much that he'd go and have sex with men he doesn't want to. Perhaps his partner can play around and he shouldn't? That's not a traditionally egalitarian agreement, but it might work for these two.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | July 27, 2010 6:29 PM

"Relationships are complicated. Open relationships are very complicated."

Micelle/Alex: Have either of your read the recent best-seller "Sex at Dawn - The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality" by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha? While it deals almost exclusively with heterosexual relationships, its contribution to evolutionary anthropology is its proposition that monogamy, jealousy over multiple partners, etc. are not intrinsically ingrained in human DNA, but quite the opposite.

They would seem to say that the simplicity rests with the open relationship as being more "natural" to humanity, and that monogamy and al it takes to maintain it (or the appearance of it) is what's complicated.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | July 27, 2010 8:59 PM

"Relationships are complicated. Open relationships are very complicated."

Micelle/Alex: Have either of your read the recent best-seller "Sex at Dawn - The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality" by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha? While it deals almost exclusively with heterosexual relationships, its contribution to evolutionary anthropology is its proposition that monogamy, jealousy over multiple partners, etc. are not intrinsically ingrained in human DNA, but quite the opposite.

They would seem to say that the simplicity rests with the open relationship as being more "natural" to humanity, and that monogamy and al it takes to maintain it (or the appearance of it) is what's complicated.

Fortunately, we humans, regardless of our DNA, have choices about what works for us and what doesn't - and I'm a fan of exercising choices that move us toward lasting peace and happiness. That's my kind of simplicity.

"It's only sex; what matters is that we come home to each other" sounds like asking for forgiveness rather than permission.

I've been in closed, open (together) and open (separate) relationships.in the past. The important part is to find what works for you and your partner. Talking about it, and setting up clear guidelines based on how you feel is an important part of any relationship, especially open ones. Revisiting those guidelines is important too, since people's emotions can change over time.

The most important part isn't that you set up "rules" or that you both have an equal number of lovers. The important part is that you communicate how you feel about things with your partner. If you do that openly and honestly, on a regular basis, you'll be better off than most "traditional" relationships.