I have worked with individuals and couples who were in open relationships and the reality is that each person and relationship is unique and much like clothes, relationships are not "one size fits all." I have come up with 4 questions to ask before starting an open relationship to help people decide if it is a good choice for them.
It's important to remember that you can choose what kind of relationship you wish to be in. It is equally important to remember that your partner or partners may not have the same needs and wants as you. If someone is unable or unwilling to meet your needs, it is always your job to take care of yourself by being open and honest about what you want and need.
In grad school, I had a professor that gave us an assignment that required us to put ourselves in situations in which we are the minority and we were not allowed to tell people it was a school assignment. While I dreaded the task, I also appreciated the challenge. I am a white, heterosexual with no disabilities. I am not often the minority.
I went to an AA meeting and attended a Baptist Zion Church on the east side of Austin. When I got over my initial nerves, I noticed that even though people could tell how uncomfortable I was they were very kind to me. They may have been more kind, in fact, because they could tell I was uncomfortable.
Recently, I attended a training about the GLBTQ community and their increased risk of chemical dependence. The speaker, Saro Helpinstill, LPC, LMFT did a great job of pointing out that while gays may have the right to marry, they are still very much the minority and are often not at all made to feel welcome. She reminded me that I’ve never had to want for relatable characters in movies, never had to think twice about holding a boyfriend’s hand in public, never had to wonder if holding his hand would result in being ridiculed, or worse, assaulted. I’ve never had to ‘come out’ as heterosexual to loved ones, friends or colleagues and I have certainly never had to worry that being heterosexual would cost me one of those relationships or a job.
I attended the training because I understand that I have a limited view of what it is like to be in the GLBTQ community and wanted to expand my ability to be respectful, aware and kind. If you are a heterosexual, I would challenge you to think about all the things that you have not had to think twice about and have perhaps been able to take for granted, things that someone in the GLBTQ community may face multiple times per day.
Click here to read an article I contributed to on stopping your panic attack in his tracks.