What being open to an open relationship taught me

open relationship
Illustrator: Jo Yeh

I spent my birthday eve on an awesome dinner date with a woman I met online. The fact that I’d entered the date with very limited expectations made it even more amazing. After all, I was still recovering from a messy breakup about six months prior, not to mention the fact that my date on this particular evening just happened to be a married woman.

Her marital status was something she’d been open about from the time we’d started chatting online. She and her wife practiced ethical polyamory, meaning that they dated separately and were not looking to share a partner. 

Starting a conversation with this woman had sparked a shift in my perspective. Most of the time when I met someone online who was polyamorous, I would just keep scrolling. However, I liked her approach and how open and honest everything was from the start. At the very least, she was someone whom I wanted to know, and we’d established a strong connection made only more evident by meeting in person.

Was I really going to pass up an opportunity to meet someone fantastic over the issue of non-monogamy? Was it truly that important to me? 

I already knew the answer, having given a lot of thought to my online dating approach. On my dating journey, I have leaned into thinking differently about relationships and what exactly I am looking for (or not). I now question all the norms around dating, love, and marriage. No longer am I interested in doing things just because that’s how they’ve “always been done” or because they meet societal expectations. 

My stomach was full of butterflies the night of the date, but it went better than I ever could have imagined. We talked until the restaurant closed—I had so many questions. I wanted to know what to expect from this dating situation; I needed time to consider my own boundaries if we were to go beyond the first date. 

But mostly, I just wanted to savor this night with the woman sitting in front of me wearing a gorgeous wedding ring. (I remember thinking to myself that should I ever get married, I would want a ring like hers.) 

After making our way outside, she decided to sing for me, right there in the parking lot: “Skylark,” an obscure, soulful song   she’d heard k.d. lang sing in the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilWe kissed, and combined with the beautiful, soulful serenade I had just received, the whole thing was magical!

The next morning, I opened my email to find a Starbucks gift card that said, “Happy Birthday! Your next iced coffee is on me,” along with an invitation for another date.

As it turned out, we saw each other two more times before our official second date. I was very happy with my decision to try something different and be open to such a lovely human. When it comes to “things I want in a relationship/my partner,” she easily checked all the boxes. We share the same values regarding family, religion, and money. We’re both into theater and love spending time in nature. We share the same ideas about the future, and agree on matters of politics.

Even though there were things to figure out, she made it easy. Never have I experienced such excellent communication from someone I was dating, which made me like her even more. You could say that she was “wife material;” after all, one of our inside jokes was that she already had “on-the-job” wife training. 

It wasn’t long before my awesome date became my awesome girlfriend—and I got to meet her wife, which felt oddly like “meeting the parents.” The experience was not unlike meeting your partner’s good friends or relatives for the first time. 

My girlfriend and her wife had a solid arrangement, which made it easier to find my place in it. In their relationship, they had talked about many things that would be “theirs” only and their expectations of each other. For example, if one of them got a new haircut, they would send the other a photo before they would share it with anyone else. My girlfriend never made me feel like I was the “other partner” or secondary, so I could live with that. 

Being in this kind of relationship meant that I could continue to date, too. Initially, this was very appealing to me. We talked about this a lot and how we both felt about dating other people in addition to being in a relationship with each other. My girlfriend felt that her plate was full with both a wife and girlfriend; she was not interested in pursuing other people.

I was not entirely sure that I wanted to claim “polyamorous” for myself since it was new territory. My needs were being met in the relationship we had started. It was also tricky figuring out how to date other people while casually mentioning that I had a girlfriend.

I am happy to say that I am still in a relationship with the lovely married woman whom I met the night before my birthday. Our relationship has evolved, as relationships do. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and into a great relationship with an awesome human who has made our relationship a priority.

Both of us have pushed past limiting beliefs about what our relationship could be. Our relationship requires a lot of self-awareness, communication, and honesty about our values and expectations. We have followed our own path, without asking for anyone else’s approval.  

No doubt it takes bravery to dive into something new. However, rooted in the knowledge and security of who you are, it can be well worth it. Finding love requires courage, and no small amount of self-love is necessary to deviate from the script we are told will bring us happiness. 

So ask yourself what you want, not what you think you should want, and go for it—even if it means challenging all the social norms. You might even surprise yourself and fall in love…on your own terms!

Date mindfully on keepler.

Keepler is a first-of-its-kind dating app that brings us closer to ourselves as we grow closer to one another.

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