As a group, it’s safe to say writers are curious. We’re observers by nature, interested in other people’s lives, motivations and experiences. We’re question-askers, so never be offended if you make a comment about your life and one of us follows up with a million questions.
As a writer of romance, I love hearing dating stories, especially since I’m not on the dating scene any more. Real-life can serve as a great launchpad for fiction. A couple of months ago, I heard a new one, and I wanted to share it with you.
I recently checked an item off my bucket list when I ran a Ragnar Relay. If you’re not familiar with what it is: It’s a relay race where a team of 12 people runs a total of about 200 miles.
The night before the race started, the members of our team went to dinner together. Wait—before I go any further, I should say that all but 2 of us are married with kids. Somehow, the topic of dating came up.
The 2 people who weren’t married began talking about their dating style: open dating, also known as polyamory. (I’ve since heard this open dating concept is nothing revolutionary, and I’ve heard of it before, but I’ll tell you, its popularity is news to me.)
The idea behind open dating is that a person has more than one emotionally significant relationship at the same time. She may or may not have a main, long-term partner, and she can date (and be intimate with) as many people as she wants. Most open daters, I understand, limit the number of partners to 4 or 5. All the partners know they’re in an open dating situation and consent to it.
At dinner that night before the race, as the 2 open daters explained to the rest of us dinosaurs how it all works, one of the other girls said, “You guys, everyone at this table is sitting here with their mouths hanging open right now.”
Of course, as a writer, this open dating concept really fascinated me, and I bombarded the 2 open daters with tons of questions.
What if you run into one of your partners at the grocery store, and he is with another girl? Do you ever get jealous thinking he is sleeping with someone else and enjoying it? The answer: No, you enjoy the idea that your partner is experiencing joy. It’s like when you give your child a gift and you get excited watching him open it.
Do you ever want to be monogamous? Nope.
What’s the difference between a partner and a friend with benefits? A partner is someone you’re intimate with more often, and a friend with benefits is someone who you hang out with and do fun stuff with 95% of the time, and you’re intimate with only 5% of the time (to which an astute team member replied, “That sounds like marriage”).
I still have lots of questions:
How do you keep everybody straight? I mean, how do you remember who likes what? What if you decide to have children? How does that work with open relationships? Do you get married and have kids, and still keep dating other people?
The Internet is, of course, packed with information about open dating and open relationships.
Most open daters lay a set of ground rules. They may agree to tell one another about all their partners, or not to tell each other about any of their partners. They may agree to limit the number of partners they have, or to see other people only at certain times.
After being married for nearly 10 years, I admit, I feel a bit relieved this concept wasn’t popular when I was on the dating scene. As a mid-thirties married women, it all seems very overwhelming to me! I’m not sure how I’d handle it.
As a writer, I find it fascinating, and story ideas around it have been swirling around in my mind ever since.
What do YOU think? Do open relationships sound fun to you? Overwhelming? Newfangled? I’d love to hear from you!