Since coming back to Hawaii, I have nearly run out of
fingers on which to count the number of couples I have met who are in open
relationships. In the few years that I have been away, open relationships have
taken the state by storm in a way that they never seemed to in DC – or perhaps
I just never got out enough on the East Coast.

What I find most intriguing is that many of the people in
open relationships that I have met rarely seem to have given much thought about
why they are in an open relationship.
I do not mean that in a moralizing way, but – having never been in one myself –
I am curious to know what they perceive to be the comparative advantages of
such an arrangement. Did they start the relationship with the expectation that
it would be open or was it something decided midway through? Are they forthcoming
about whom they see or is it more of a don’t-ask-don’t-tell arrangement? Considering
the dominant cultural view that sees sex and emotions as inextricably tangled, do
they feel like they are losing a bit on the latter for the benefit of the

From the people that I have talked to, it seems that open
relationships work best when the relationship starts open. One person said that
a change midway through usually indicates a deeper problem with the
relationship that sexual liberation may obscure, but not solve. Interestingly,
there also seems to be general agreement that it is best to not discuss the people with whom one has
sex. Openness in that regard seems only to feed the demons of jealousy. The
more difficult question of whether an open relationship is, ideally, a
permanent arrangement is answered with uncomfortable silence.

One guy asked me if I could see myself in an
open relationship, which is what caused me to want to write about the matter. I
thought about it for a few moments. I can see why some couples might feel that
an open relationship is the best decision for them. I have no impulse to reject
such an arrangement nor can I think of any logical reason to oppose it.
However, I think an open relationship would just exacerbate my own tendency to
be hands-off and perhaps a bit distant. It would, in all likelihood, “Be a
relationship in name, not feeling.”

He complimented me on my honesty, finished the last of
his drink, and asked if I wanted to go back to his place. His boyfriend was out
of town for work.


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