You Can Open Up a Relationship, But You Should Probably Just Break Up

And other unsolicited advice

Image: Robert Ashworth

“We are a couple thinking of having an open relationship. What do you think?” — Young & Restless

I was in love once. It wasn’t for me. But I applaud couples who are trying to shake things up, no matter what route they take. After a while in relationships sex becomes less erotic and more predictable. So, you know, become a furry or build a large lego sex dungeon. Whatever it takes. As far as I can tell, you only live once. Unless you’re a fan of the Buffalo Bills. Then you never had a chance to live at all.

Relationships are hard. How is it that the person you’re attracted to across some bar is also the person you’ll continue to want to fuck, have kids with and want to wake up next to for the rest of your life? Ignoring all other people you are attracted to across bars from? Monogamy may be great for the spread of Western hegemony, but it may not be great for your marriage after a while. Unless hegemony really lights your fire.

What do people want from each other in relationships? A few laughs, some sexy stuff. Maybe kids and a house. But mostly, just someone to be on your side. To be part of a team that’s cheering for you, that wants you to be happy. In the case of the open relationship, it’s a team that’s dedicated to getting you laid, too. But you have to let them get laid, too.

I’ve never been the jealous type in relationships. I’ve always just figured if someone else wanted to cheat, I could probably cheat, too. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Just cheat. People get off on the drama of the thing. The constant lying, betrayal, make-up sex, throwing stuff at each other. That’s part of the fun of even having someone on the side. So the people who open up their relationships are totally missing out on all the fun. Sneaking around. Writing poems. Doing something naughty. What’s the point if you have permission? Permission can sometimes be fun. But danger is funner.

Whatever deals you think you can make in relationships, whatever rules you think you can create, they will be broken, they will go south. It’s just impossible. I have no idea if open relationships can work long term. But if they could, why isn’t everyone in an open relationship? Fuck each other, both make out with the nanny: whatever. Because people get mad and jealous, and then they break up eventually. Nothing that good can last! I see these couples all the time on OkCupid looking for people to have sexytimes with together. I’ve had a few threesomes. They are a little weird and a little sad. I’m not saying you should avoid them. Just from a life experience kind of thing, they’re interesting. But it wouldn’t be the #1 thing on my list to be looking for. That right now would be someone to watch “Twin Peaks” naked with to explain to me what the hell is going on. And not naked David Lynch. I think he would just confuse me more.

Humans aren’t built for happiness, but it’s good to have unattainable goals in life. I do believe that there are some couples who can be happy together for a really long time. But they are as frequent as the ones who can pull of the whole open relationship thing and not get weird, not get jealous and not get resentful. There’s a difference between true happiness and settled-for happiness. And you’ll never be able to fool yourself for very long.

Sometimes the nicest thing you can ever do for someone is just break up with them. They will feel bad and then get over it and find someone else and then you’ll see them at the tea place on 7th Avenue and they will look good and you will say hi and flirt with them like you used to and they will smile and blush. And then you’ll go home and be like I can’t remember why I broke up with them! And it’s because there is no reason, we make up reasons. Everyone is weird and relationships are difficult and everyone’s timing is always bad. Do you think adding more people to a relationship will make things less complicated?

There are two kinds of open relationships. The ones where you tell each other all about the stuff you do, and the ones where you don’t. In general, try anything you can to be as close to happy as possible in this life that doesn’t purposefully and irrevocably hurt anyone else. If you think you’re capable of riding the wild pony, ride it until dawn. Or at least until it needs a rest and a little Gatorade. Every couple is different, and no one can truly know what a couple is like when no one else is around. It’s better to be upfront and honest, but everyone only hears what they want and ignores the rest. What’s the worst that could happen? You break up. Everybody breaks up now. It’s not the end of the world. If it was the end of the world, that would be kind of sexy.

Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works at a bookstore.