Relationships vary from couple to couple. What one couple deems normal, another would find hysteria-inducing. It’s important to find the normal for you. Of course, there are certain situations and suggestions between two people which can cause extreme pain and confusion. One of them is seeing other people.
Cut to panic, hysterics, confusion, worry, and every other emotion you can imagine.
By reading that, you’re either thinking ‘great idea’ or shaking your head in total confusion and bewilderment. If you’re like me, it would be the latter to some degree. Open relationships are becoming more commonplace, but it has to be because both partners agree it is something they want to explore. Not because one person wants a little freedom, leaving the other feeling hurt and exposed.
An open relationship isn’t an out. It is an accessory to the current relationship, an add on, an enhancement if you will. [Read: Everything you need to know about an open relationship]
What is a polyamorous relationship?
There are differences between a mutually polyamorous relationship and simply seeing other people. When you are polyamorous, you are not just seeing other people. You agreed as a couple that you are the primary partners. You are in love and want to remain that way, but you also want to explore your emotions and sexual freedom with other people.
It is a conscious and mutual decision, with the consent and understanding on both sides. There are no secrets involved. Both partners are usually quite open about what is going on, provided the other partner has stated they’re happy to hear it. It’s a very respectful and open arrangement.
On the other hand, seeing other people is really what it sounds like, but it can mean a million things. It can mean that someone wants to be polyamorous but struggles to understand why they feel that way and struggle to put it into perspective. Or one partner isn’t fully invested in the relationship and wants it to be more casual. It can be because a partner desires to end the relationship and simply isn’t brave enough to say the words.
There are several reasons why someone might talk about seeing other people, but one thing is a certainty in every situation. If the other partner isn’t on the same wavelength, they’re going to be very hurt, confused, and left questioning the entire relationship and its future. [Read: Love triangles and the complications it creates for everyone]
Is seeing other people normal?
We can’t put a ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ label on any relationship. Relationships come in all shapes and sizes. But, if one partner thinks everything is going well, that they’re moving forward towards what they see as a ‘traditional’ future, is it normal for the other partner to say they want to explore life with other people, but still keep their current partner by their side? Personally, no, it’s not normal.
The reason I say that is because both partners are on totally different wavelengths, and that is a recipe for pain. If, however, both partners had expressed a desire to be more open in the way they conduct their relationship, then yes, I would say totally normal and totally fine.
It all comes down to intentions and understanding. [Read: Healthy relationship expectations to define a good love life]
What will make you happy?
The problem with wanting to see other people is that it can all too often be a way for someone to end a relationship without having the guts to actually explain to the other person what they’re thinking.
If this happens to you, what should you do? Well, figure out how you feel about it. You can’t move forward until you’re sure of your own mind.
Is it something you’re open to? Is it something you’d possibly like to explore as well? Or, is it something that causes you extreme anxiety and distress about the state of your relationship? Don’t have a conversation about the outcome of the request straightaway. Wait, figure out how you feel, and revisit the conversation once you are calmer. [Read: Triad relationships – The benefits and complications of a three way love]
How to talk about how you feel with your partner
Once you’ve reached that point, and you probably won’t want to wait too long to have this conversation, explain that you want to talk about it calmly and rationally. Ask your partner why they feel this way. What do they want that they may feel they’re not getting from you?
Or, is it something they feel they want for another reason? Does it reflect on your relationship at all, or not? Remember, many people are polyamorous, and that doesn’t mean they don’t love you, it means they simply feel they can love more than one person equally. Does your partner feel this way?
Now you know how you feel about it, and you know the feelings of the other person and the background behind the request, you might change the way you feel too. It could be that you’ve heard them out and you’re intrigued. It could be that you’ve heard them out and you’re totally against the idea. Only you can decide, and the power is in your hands in terms of what to do next. [Read: 15 must-know open relationship rules to actually make it work]
Exploring polyamorous relationships
We’ve mentioned polyamorous relationships a few times so far, but it might be that you don’t know much about them. If your partner suddenly declared their polyamory, it’s important that you do your research before you make a judgement.
There is a huge amount of judgement around polyamory. Many people think it is basically cheating on your partner with their blessing. That isn’t the case at all. A person who believes in polyamory believes they have the ability to love more than one person.
They don’t intent to hurt any of their partners, be it two or three. They will normally have a primary relationship, it could even be a marriage. This relationship may or may not include many factors, e.g. sex, holding hands in public, being recognized as a couple, kissing on the lips, etc. It’s a totally personal deal, and it depends upon the boundaries the polyamorous couple set.
The judgement around polyamory is down to misunderstanding. While it might not be socially acceptable just yet, none of that matters if it suits you and your partner. It’s nobody else’s business. In this case, seeing other people is a mutually accepted thing. When you delve further into the world of polyamory, you’ll find that there are many couples living this way happily. [Read: Why are people switching to polyamory?]
Is it an option for you?
Could it work for you? Only you can answer that question. It really is something you’ll need to do a little soul searching about. Never feel pressured by a partner who suggests seeing other people. This is something you have to be comfortable with.
If you feel uncomfortable with it, but still agree, you’ll feel cheated on. That is not a good feeling, whether you know about it or not. [Read: A couple’s guide to swapping partners with other couples]
If it really is your partner’s way of trying to get out of the relationship without having the guts to say it, do it for them. You deserve better than someone who can’t be brave enough to say what they really want. A person who can’t be honest with their partner is not someone you want to be with in your future. No matter how much you may or may not love them.
[Read: How to know if you’re ready for an open relationship]
Relationships are confusing at the best of times, but when the request to be seeing other people comes into the situation, it’s okay to wonder what on earth is wrong. Figure out what you feel about it all before coming to any conclusion.
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