This is The Playbook, Garage’s relationship column for the thoughtful and introspective man by Romeo Moran. Here, he unpacks—or at least, tries to—the vagaries and messes of romantic connections. Be forewarned, though: this ain’t no place for bro-downs.

 

So I let it slip in my previous column: I’m in an open relationship. I see that part caught everyone’s attention more than my Tinder story, and I probably shouldn’t have led with it, but I felt it was necessary to establish before discussing the infamous dating app.

You’ve probably run across it in pop culture, or maybe you’ve got a friend or two who has a relationship set up this way. Let’s talk about this interesting little concept of open relationships, then.

First, the definition: the girlfriend and I have established that we’re each other’s main romantic partners, and we’re allowed to have physical relationships with other people. The rules are simple: we can go out, make out, get handsy, and have sex with whomever (although I probably can’t go for any exes, not that I would open those particular cans of worms anyway), as long as we report everything to each other. And obviously, falling in love with someone else is not allowed.

I bet you’re screaming at your screens right now: “BUT HOW ARE YOU GUYS OKAY WITH THIS?!”

via Giphy.

It’s simple, really. Like any normal couple, there were feelings of jealousy at the thought of a loved one physically being with another person. But eventually, we came to terms with three inconvenient truths that in no way were brought about by the relationship, just some circumstances that have naturally come about.

First is the fact that we need sex in our lives. Some people don’t, but most people do, and that’s natural. Second, we don’t live together, and we don’t have the same working shifts, so we’re too busy with adult life to actually see each other regularly. This is how the capitalist system has left us all, and I know many of you who are also in relationships can relate to this problem. Third is a fact that most of you will initially deny (which is normal) but will eventually own up to one way or another: we get attracted to other people. It is but human nature.

So after acknowledging that last bit, we decided to enter this arrangement. It’s actually a lot easier if you’re secure in your romantic and real love feelings for one another, because you get into some headspace in which the physical stuff is just exactly that: merely physical. It’s obviously not for everyone, but if you can compartmentalize sex as something you just do with other people without any emotional baggage, then you’re all set for this.

Of course, both of you have to be in on it for it to work.

Like any normal couple, there were feelings of jealousy at the thought of a loved one physically being with another person. But eventually, we came to terms with three inconvenient truths that in no way were brought about by the relationship, just some circumstances that have naturally come about.

And it works, for the most part. Sometimes I do feel a tinge of sadness and jealousy that someone else is able to be there for her when I’m tired from grinding away at a day job I’m not so excited about. I’m sure she feels the same way too. But I’m comfortable in knowing that at the end of the day, my presence is still what she looks for.

Now, I say it works for the most part because this setup is objectively harder for men than it is for women. It seems that women are less likely to be open to casual sex, especially if they know the other guy isn’t really single; there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you believe, but there certainly aren’t as many women who are aligned with us. (You ever swiped through girls on Tinder? One in two will plaster “NO HOOKUPS” in all caps on their bio.)

It’s a little more difficult to navigate these interactions without immediately getting branded as a creep, and can you imagine how a girl must feel when one moment, you’re flirting, and the next, you’re explaining how you have a girlfriend and she allows you to roam freely? Would you even believe that from a guy you just met on a dating app? From any guy, even?

On the other hand, there are more guys who would rather just have sex without any attachments if they could. Needless to say, the girlfriend gets way more side action than I do. If I’m jealous of anything, it’s mostly because of how easy she has it. Because the action is just action.

Of course, both of you have to be in on it for it to work.

Now, I don’t know how long this setup will last. It could be long-term and end when we’re old enough to stop being crazy, or it could very well just be a phase we’re going through. We do know that we could easily end it if it ever starts getting uncomfortable for one of us, and that respect is also key to making the open relationship work.

If you’re wondering whether an open relationship is for you, just figure out some important things. If you’ve got your own issues in your own relationship, maybe this would be worth a shot. You both just gotta be mature enough for it, and no matter what happens, it might give you the answers you need—though not necessarily the answers you want. Either way, brace yourself, because it will be a ride.

 

Got burning relationship Qs? Need an objective third party to help you hash out your love woes? Shoot The Playbook an email (garagethemag@gmail.com) or comment below.

Art by Pol Aries Zamora