This one’s pretty easy. An open relationship can, depending upon each couple’s specific arrangements, allow you to get to know your friends in ways you’ve never thought possible. Or perhaps you’ve just not vocalized yet.
Go on, admit it. You know, or have known in the past, a friend that you’ve felt something more for. When they’ve gotten into a relationship, even if you’re already in one, you’ve felt a twitch of jealousy, or longing. Maybe even slight regret for not making a move when you didn’t want to ruin the friendship. Annoyance that being with them might mean cheating if either of you are “taken” already.
In the traditional, monogamous world, hooking up with a friend can cause people to think that you’re looking for a relationship with them. When you think about though, the two of you already have one, and you might not even be into them romantically. THAT can get tricky, I know from experience. You hang out together, enjoy each others company, consider them a valuable part of your life, AND are attracted to them. Wait though! Just because all of the above exists, are they actually the person you want a “relationship” with? What if the answer is no?
You get drunk, you kiss, maybe more, and suddenly you’re more than likely in this awkward space. Perhaps you slipped up, and cheated on your partner by being with your friend. Or you’re single, and both had fun, still want to be friends, but don’t want to “date”. Y’know, not to bring us all down off our high horses, but there’s a chance that THEY don’t want to date us either! And that, my curious readers, is where an open relationship can be an interesting solution.
There are some people who live in polyamorous / open relationships who choose to keep their outside partners separate from their “normal life”. Situations where your committed partner will never meet your other friends, and that’s just fine for both of you. I personally live with different options. There are some of my “friends” that my husband has met, some briefly, some he’s also friends with (non-sexual, that is). There are others who he knows all about, but planets have just not aligned to allow a meeting to happen.
Through all of these situations, he remains very supportive. He knows that I have friends whom I’ve slept with in the past couple of years, who are now just friends. And he has similar relationships himself. For me, it’s always been refreshing to know that I could just tell a friend I’m attracted to them and would welcome a hook up if they were so inclined. As they are armed with the knowledge that they understand my situation and know that I’m being honest when I say “You’re hawt, we should make out.”
For those of us who are interested in exploring any bisexual tendencies we may have, making out / sleeping with friends can be a really safe and positive environment to try it. I am happy to feel comfortable enough with some girlfriends to explore a sexual relationship, and to still remain close and enjoy a “normal” relationship outside of sneaky make outs in the bar bathroom, or other even more fun situations. It is possible to sleep with someone one day, watch a movie or chat on MSN the next, just as you would any other friend. It just takes a bit of practice. (Which … ain’t such a bad thing.)
Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to meet good peeps through sexual situations first. This summer I had [what I thought was] a random one-night stand with a boy I met in a bar. Yes, a bar. Something I hadn’t done since college, before being with Steph. After some Facebook sleuthing [he might say stalking], I was able to convince him of my awesomeness, and we’ve since become good friends. Sure, we’re never going to sleep together again, but I’m thankful for he, and all of the other close friends I’ve made since being open. I’ve also remained friends with some people I met on dating sites with the original intention of only being intimate with them.
This isn’t all to say that being in an open relationship, or being a single polyamorous person, means that your friends are a free for all feast of sexual possibilities. There are still personal boundaries to respect and consider. Also, there are times when sleeping with friends can leave you wondering after the fact. Was it just a one time thing? Was that the booze talking? Do they want something that I don’t? Do I? There’s nothing that says that non-monogamy won’t still give you awkward situations, but you might be a little better equipped to deal with them.
I still have my own questions about some friends I’ve messed around with, that I’m not quite so sure I should touch again.