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The Ask

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

There are three types of people navigating relationships in the world.

1. Those who know that their life partner will be attracted to other people at some point and consent to it.

2. Those who know and choose to leave when it happens.

3. and those who know but pretend not to.

It’s not really a matter of whether or not anyone can be in a non monogamous relationship. The question is how many of us are willing and prepared to practice the amount of honesty, vulnerability, self awareness and communication that it takes to do so healthily and consensually?

On the night of August 16, 2019, I was neither willing nor prepared.

It was a typical movie and dinner date night with the love of my life (pronouns they/theirs). The movie was over and we were sitting across from one another at a nearby California Pizza Kitchen ready to swap movie reviews and flirt with each other. Food orders had been placed and I was sipping on my perspiring glass of lemonade while eyeing my partner who was more than a little visibly uncomfortable. Fourteen years with someone makes it easy to tell when something is up.

“Babe, talk to me. What’s going on?”

They took a quick sip of water and shifted in their seat, looking at me with a hesitant smile before breaking the gaze to stare at their 6 month old wedding band.

“What is it? Are you ok? Did something bad happen? Did I do something wrong?” I offered my typical line of questioning at the first hint of strange behavior.

They shook their head, “No, my love. You didn’t do anything wrong at all and it’s not bad. At least I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”

“Okay. So what’s up then?” I watched them smile, chew their bottom lip, smile again and then...nothing. My stomach did a crampy origami thing it does when I’m on the precipice of receiving information that I won’t know what to do with.

They looked at me and started again.

“Well, my love. I love you. I more than love you. You know that. I’ve been thinking about something that I want to talk to you about.”

I reached for my lemonade again and nodded, waiting for them to continue.

“What do you think about us trying an open relationship?”

“What do you think about us trying an open relationship?”

“What do you think about us trying an open relationship?”

“What do you think about us trying an open relationship?”

“What do you think about us trying an open relationship?”

No, they didn’t actually repeat the question out loud but it was definitely happening in my brain. I was stuck on some sort of echo loop glitch that wasn’t quite making sense to me. I heard what they said loud and clear but no way was that really what they had just asked me. No way.

A staccato laugh stumbled past my lips and I tilted my head to the side as if that would make this moment fall into place and magically make more sense. In spite of my obvious confusion, I uttered three words.

“I knew it.”

“What? You knew what?”

“I mean…no wait, are you serious right now? Is this a joke?”

Anxiety knocked loudly at my rib cage. An announcement of its pending (and long term) move in date.

My partner's laugh took on an unfamiliar quality. Uncertainty? Unsure if the look in my eyes was shock, anger, or a hesitant curiosity to hear more about the topic quietly unfolding between us.

“I mean, I’d like to maybe talk about what an open relationship could look like for us. I feel we’re in a really good place and maybe this is something we can explore together.”

They weren’t joking. I heard them correctly. This was not an innocently wild “what if” scenario similar to things we had joked about a hundred times before over the last fourteen years. This was a legitimate ask for something that, unbeknownst to either of us, would uproot our relationship as we knew it. And my partner was now waiting for my response.

I blinked tears away as fast as I could and still, there they were. Impatient. Waiting to take over and render me a hot weepy mess in the middle of one of my favorite places to eat and subsequently drown our date night. I couldn't do that. So I did what I thought would help. I grabbed my phone, told Causha that I’d be right back, and scampered away to the restroom where I proceeded to hide in a stall and gasp for air as tears puddled at my feet.

Anxiety. Fear. Disbelief. Confusion. Sadness. A million questions. All of the feels were battling for a front row seat and all I wanted to do was breathe and rewind time back to when I understood my slice of the world around me. But you know what they say about not being able to unring a bell.

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