What would you do if you could do anything (or anyone)?
I am a child of the 70s. And despite being born in the era of sexual liberation and free love, my early adventures into sexuality circa 1992 were overcast by the ever present threat of HIV. Sure, we had fun. But every sexual encounter was a potential risk. No matter how careful you’d been, the fear was always there. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who was dying of AIDS. I can’t remember how many times I took the test, let alone the times I made a potential new partner take it. Serial monogamy offered some comfort to the issue and was the relationship setting du jour.
Fast forward 20 years, and although HIV rates have seen a recent surge, especially among young women, it seems that again, we are living in an era of free love. Not in the ‘everyone is shagging anyone’ kind of fashion, no, the relationship landscape has changed dramatically and is much more refined (aka complicated). For someone who is considering getting back into the dating game after one and a half decades out if it, this feels like coming out from under a rock. The term compersion doesn’t ring a bell? Yah, me neither.
While the majority of us still commit to one partner for life (despite more than half of us failing at that), consensual nonmonogamy (CNM) is already more common than people think. 4-5% of the U.S. population is currently in a CNM relationship, and 1 in 5 people have engaged in a CNM relationship at some point in their dating life.
“Go have fun and play!”Famous last words of a couple’s therapist before the summer break
Because we are extremely progressive people (I mean, look at us and our open-ish relationship *insert eye rolling emoji*), and also because we know we can’t suppress a basic human need forever, my husband and I gave each other ‘Carte Blanche.’ Meaning, if you want to flirt, flirt! If you want to kiss, kiss! And if you feel like getting your clothes off and getting down with someone, do it! So off we went in two different directions with the freedom to do what and who we wanted.
Do you remember the first time your parents left you home alone? You might have envisioned having a rowdy party in the living room or binging on car crash TV while stuffing your face with everything you can find in the sweets drawer, but chances are, you might have spent an afternoon hidden under the piano, because you were freaked out by the noise of a creaking floorboard. And because you were, quite frankly, overwhelmed with the amount of freedom suddenly handed over to you.
As I was hiding behind my metaphorical piano, I realised I can’t just go around and screw random strangers. I have never been a one-night-stand kinda gal. Not that there’s anything wrong with a one night stand, it just doesn’t float my boat. Outside of longterm relationships, I used to rely on the helping hands of an ex or went for ‘friends with benefits.’ Three-months-flings were another specialty of mine that assured I never had to go through any unwanted dry spells.
To get out of my very unwanted draught, I decided to rely on trusted and proven methods. Friends with benefits it was going to be, and I had the perfect candidate in mind. A good friend, twice divorced, single, hot AF, living on the other side of the world and definitely not boyfriend material. I love this guy as a friend, but emotionally, he’s the epitome of not-having-his-shit-together. A fine and safe choice, if you ask me. As I’ve never really been interested in people who are not interested in me, I was sure I wouldn’t fall into the trap of ‘emotionally unavailable guy meets woman who waits for him to change.’
I wouldn’t and I didn’t. But what happened instead wasn’t any less frustrating.
In short: my friend got cold feet. In his head, he played out all sorts of scenarios as to how this would complicate our friendship, how he wasn’t able to support me in a way I deserved and how he would be a catalyst in the relationship between my husband and me. What I saw as a glorious and much needed chance to get laid was the beginning of a complicated relationship from where he was standing. Instead of talking about any of this with me, he behaved like a class-A arsehole when we met in the summer, making me question our entire friendship. It was only after I ghosted him for a couple of weeks that he apologised and explained.
That’s what my array into a new form of relationship and friends with benefits got me: I almost lost a friend! And not a single benefit in sight. What a waste of money (bikini waxing doesn’t come cheap).
In summary, it ain’t easy having an open relationship. Where are those people? Meetup? Bumble? Tinder? The thought of online dating fills me with dread, let alone the thought of online dating multiple people.
If you’ll excuse me now. I am off to google ‘cat litters to give away.’
Feel free to brush up on all things Polyamory here.