One of the times I felt completely and utterly alone in my life was the week Peter and I decided to try an open relationship.
It was about a year into our relationship when he raised the question, and it caught me completely off guard. It wasn’t something I had ever even considered, and neither of us had ever been in an open relationship.
My first reaction was one of resistance, I was sure he was manipulating me, trying to get me to concede to his cheating on me, to be an active participant in it. But it also piqued my interest. I kept coming back to it on my own. Kept asking questions. Kept going online.
After a few days of conversation and consideration and research, we came together and agreed to our set of rules about being open, and we were off.
This all happened only a couple of months before we separated, and to be honest, I had no desire to partake personally. I knew by that point in my life that casual sex was not for me. Peter only partook once and while I found hearing the details of his tryst was a turn on for me, he didn’t seem to take to it at that point.
All in all, I considered this a successful experiment in that we each learned things about ourselves and each other.
And still, having had no one to talk to about the experience, I felt a pang of loneliness and isolation. I felt very other.
There were a few friends that I eventually told, after the fact mostly. And even then, I was hyperaware of most of their reactions of shock and what sometimes felt to me like repulsion (story, I know). Even the couple of friends I told who didn’t respond with shock couldn’t fully empathize, they had never been in an open relationship, had never experienced what I had.
A few weeks ago, this all changed. I was meeting with some friends for out monthly body positive book club (which for the most part has become a monthly conversation about not-books). It was just me and another woman for a while when she opened up to me, in a slightly bashful way, about how her current relationship is non-monogamous. Internally I leapt with joy.
We ended up having a long conversation about non-monogamy and about telling others about non-monogamous relationships. It even seeped heavily into our “book club” discussion. I suddenly didn’t feel like the “freak” I had believed myself to be for so long. Until that moment I had been completely alone with my experience, and in that moment, that moment of connection and sharing, I suddenly felt, in seeing and understanding and hearing another, seen and understood and heard.
I am so grateful for the variety of people I spend my life with nowadays. I am so grateful that that woman had the courage to tell me about her relationship when she had no way of knowing about our shared experience. Maybe I can take this as a lesson to be more open, maybe more of my friends have experienced non-monogamy than I know and the shame of talking about sex and relationships has stopped me from learning that.
For now, instead of all the maybes, I’ll bask in the glory of human connection. It truly is a beautiful thing.