“Why don’t you show yourself?” I expected a lot of substantive comments about my blog “cheating or an open relationship”. At the time of writing this was not so bad. From all readers, both monogamous and polyamorous, I received compliments for the openness with which I had written this. What did emerge was that half of the reactions were about the fact that I wanted to remain anonymous.
This surprised me. Is it so weird that we want to remain anonymous? Most lovers and mistresses we know do. Especially if they have a steady relationship and children of their own. I appreciated the understanding, but I was just as curious about the rest. Especially from the polyamory angle, the majority of the reactions were somewhat critical. Does this mean that with my anonymity I belong to a polyamorous minority? Or do I belong to a majority that doesn’t make itself heard?
The main reason we keep our open relationship secret is our children. We can’t imagine how nice it is for them to know this. In fact, it is questionable whether it contributes to feeling safe. Over the years, I have met several “children” of couples who had an open relationship. None of these children, now my age, were positive about their parents’ open relationship. Even those who thought it was awsome in their adolescent years, looked back on it with mixed feelings when they grew older. It struck me that none of these children had an open relationship of their own, when they developed relationships. Another reason for not telling our kids is that in my practise I see that when things get rough in a non-monogamous relationship, parents find it hard to keep their children out of it. Parents who didn’t tell the children are better capable to prevent that the unsafe situation they are experiencing does not become an unsafe situation for the children too.
We value our anonymity as it has given us a protective shield to discover the open relationship, and for me, it gives me the security I need to write about our relationship in a vulnerable way. We will tell our children when they ask for it.
What does science say about this
One of my followers on twitter @Woutieeee pointed me to a scientific article by Geri. D. Weltzman, “What psychologists should know about polyamory (PA)”. With regard to anonymity the following was told:
[…While open polyrelationships are quite rare, there are indications that private polyregulations within relationships are quite common. …cohabiting couples 28%, lesbian couples 29% and homosexual couples 65%…. ]
Open/poly-relationships were/are therefore quite rare. Probably because of the following:
[…People, who have a poly relationship, face social disapproval and legal discrimination as experienced by members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community…].
There was also another investigation in
…that while 75% wanted their children to know about their lifestyle, only 21% had actually fully informed their children about their relationships with other partners…]
A reason given for not informing is the fear that the children would be upset, would not understand or would tell their friends.
We remain anonymous
For us, an open relationship is an enrichment of our lives. The deepening of friendships, the freedom in sexuality, the strengthening of the bond in our relationship, gaining new experiences (seducing someone, internet dating, being dumped). We could never have imagined that this was for us. However, we also have childish traits in our open relationship. Traits that can lead to quarrels, but that we also cherish because they irrevocably connect us when we can make up for it. These human traits also make us aware that there is a risk in our open relationship. If you are afraid of losing something precious, you are cautious.
It reminds me of a pregnancy. The first 3 months when things can go wrong, many couples keep this beautiful message to themselves. They don’t do this out of shame. They do it to protect themselves. To keep out the meddling of others. To quietly go through this new change. To be able to repack themselves when things go wrong.
In an open relationship, this feeling of caution can last longer than in pregnancy. Maybe that feeling never goes away. Is there something wrong with you? No. Your relationship is primarily about yourself. That’s where your first responsibility lies. So arrange it in such a way that it feels safe for you.
The anonymous relationship therapist
How the hell do you get clients? Well, through my columns. My anonymity gives me the freedom I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I can really talk open, honest and vulnerable about our open relationship. I can show all sides without shame. Even the less beautiful ones.
Through my writing people get a pretty good picture of me and what I stand for.
What I learned mainly through my open relationship: life is not either-or. Life is any-and-and. You can love someone and also someone else. You can be jealous and still have an open relationship. You can remain anonymous and still make your voice heard. There is no one or the other. It can be both.
So let’s enjoy the freedom of opportunity we have today. Let’s marvel at everyone who does it so differently from us. Let’s stay curious. I think it’s the diversity and the content that inspires. Not just the form.
Love Rhea Darens
EFT- relationship counselor