Still Breathless

Friday, April 23, 2010

Question

My partner and I have now officially opened our relationship, and at the risk of another Sasha tongue-lashing, I'm coming to you for more guidance: I'm nervous. I'm worried that opening the relationship will kill us. We're both very stable, self-aware, self-possessed people, and neither of us has ever been jealous or mistrustful of the other. We adore each other, and now here I am throwing sticks into the machinery. What if our life together becomes like one of those French films where everything is happily chugging along and then—crash!—something happens ("Honey, let's sleep with other people")?

Suddenly, our bliss is in a body cast, and bitterness, resentment and bickering plague us like bedsores as we flounder and fester until every ounce of the magic we have has vanished. What if one of these lovers tries to crash our party? What if I'm just being selfish? And, yes! What if I get herpes?!

I'm figuring out the safe sex thing, so don't beat on me for that. My partner has agreed to "opening up," and we're very communicative with each other about our concerns, boun­daries, etc. The thing is, I've been in open relationships before; she hasn't. And I'm the one who asked for this. It never would have crossed her mind otherwise; it's been a big adjustment for her.

So I'm scared, Sasha. I'm scared I'm going to screw everything up.

Fifi

Answer

I swear to fucking god if you email me one more time, it had better be with the hot and juicy details of your intrigues (including photos), because I think we all, yourself and your partner included, have had just about enough of this everlasting fretting.

Good analogy, the French New Wave—one of my favourite cinematic genres, precisely because it captures the mood of non-monogamy so well. The smoking. The ennui. The smoking. The anguish. The smoking. The angst-ridden hours in cafés while your lover is out frolicking. The odd flurry of erotic tension followed by an impromptu herd of schoolgirls crossing the street. The smoking. The delicious, endless smoking.

This has been my experience with non-monogamy anyway, so maybe I'm the wrong person to ask. Other people seem to deal with their non-monogamy with a tool called com­mu­nication.

I'm a screamer, Fifi—there are no two ways about it—and I blame the fags. They were the ones who took me under their collective wing at the tender age of 17, told me I looked like every doomed starlet in Hollywood from Pola Negri to Marilyn Monroe, fed me troughs of gin and made me watch the Taylor-Burton canon till I could recite every piece of text from Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf to Boom! verbatim. Relationship modelling via corrosive May Nichols Williams dialogue. A perfect recipe for calm and rational discourse.

Given your seemingly endless abil­ity to process, I have no doubt that, when the time comes for you to stick your tongue in someone's pussy, you will have worn it clean setting the parameters of your agreement. But this is actually the key, even if it leaves your tool blunt.

Don't assume anything. Make parameters for how much sex you can have with one person (three times a month, say, or maybe just three times). Agree on the safest sex possible, and if condoms break or dams tear, shut the show down, go home and tell your partner. Your first priority is that person and your relationship. Always.

Shit will happen. Even people who do non-monogamy will face major crises such as one partner falling in love with a bang, and then it's months of heartbreak for everyone. It's part of the deal, honey, but if you have decided to make your primary relationship a priority, then you do the big work.

You will sit down and storyboard hypothetical situations. You will make lists of people you can and cannot fuck. You will impose the ultimate veto rule with no questions asked. And then, as you creep through this stage, you will renegotiate. You are going to screw shit up and then, because you believe in your relationship and the fact that it can endure some knocks, you're going to make it better. You both need to be committed to the idea that you can hold each other through the good, the bad the ugly and the elating.

C'est tout. Au revoir. Bonne chance.

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