Tonye was an amazing boyfriend. He adored me, and when we were in the same city at the same time we were inseparable. I traveled for work and as 20-something artist/entrepreneurs living in Lagos, our libidos were spilling out of our jeans. We agreed to try an open relationship to allow for fun when we were traveling and commitment when we were together. It was an absolute dream. We broke up amicably and still keep in touch. We didn’t consider ourselves swingers or polyamorous. If anything, we were just being practical.
Monogamy isn’t working
As divorce and infidelity become the norm, many people are abandoning strict ideals about relationships and questioning if monogamy is the best option. People wonder whether humans are biologically designed to mate for life or if monogamy is just a cruel joke that someone took too far.
Open relationships aren’t completely acceptable yet, but you have to admit, the idea is pretty interesting.
Do open relationships work?
When an open relationship is working, it’s the most amazing experience you will ever have. To feel completely loved in a committed relationship and also free to follow your sexual impulses – that is the ultimate dream. When it’s not working, non-monogamy is a nightmare of jealousy, insecurity and self-loathing. Of course, the same could be said for failing monogamous relationships.
It’s not that one romantic situation is better or more fulfilling. The same problems that make monogamy miserable are amplified in polyamorous, or open, relationships. The difference is in the sort of people who are willing to step out of the norm to try something new and dangerously exciting.
Many of the people who are attracted to non-monogamy think they’ve found a way to hack the system. They want to avoid the disappointment, neediness and weight of responsibility that come with monogamy. I applaud them for even trying. It takes courage, and a large dose of blind confidence to start a non-monogamous relationship. It’s the same balance of bravery and delusion that entrepreneurs and famous artists must have – the belief that you will succeed where most others fail.
The irony is that the one quality that is an absolute necessity for making a non-monogamous relationship work is self-awareness. Open relationships don’t fail because someone breaks the rules. They fail because one or both partners assume they can withstand jealousy or the instability that comes with non-traditional relationships – and they can’t.
All relationships are impossible
What any enlightened non-monogamous person knows is that their situation is no better or easier than monogamy. Even in a completely open relationship, with absolute freedom to love anyone and everyone, you still can’t have it all. Every decision, even if it lies within a set of established rules or boundaries, still has consequences.
My female friends who are happily in open relationships have to decide by their mid-30s whether to bring a child into a complicated open relationship or settle for a simpler arrangement to better suit a family. There is no right answer, but there is always a compromise. For those who fantasize about the endless freedom and fun that come with non-monogamy, you have to be willing to ask yourself: What am I willing to trade for that freedom? Time, comfort, money, depth of intimacy, stability?
Try going open – maybe it’s for you
It’s not surprising that non-monogamy is rare in this part of the country, but I wish more smart, kind and thoughtful people would give it a try. Not that we all need to start hosting key parties, but I believe loosening our death-grip on monogamy would give us space for better friendships and deeper, more intimate partnerships.