Labels have always bothered me, I'm not the kind of person who sticks to one thing for long and my style, hobbies and interests change and flow frequently, so it was pretty clear to me that when it came to relationships, I would have the same habits coming up.
Labels exist help people to understand their reality and who they can relate with, but they also tend to create boundaries and restrictions and stop us from truly asking what it is we want in each moment. If we cling to a label our whole lives, then suddenly are confronted with a choice and we make a decision based on our label and not our true desire, then we are not being authentic.
I've come to now use the term 'relationship fluid' when describing what I am, (or a relationship anarchist sometimes fits) as using the term 'fluid', just as with gender fluidity, allows for the constant changing and restructuring as I develop and grow as a person, and as a partner, in my relationships.
So what is a fluid relationship? It is a relationship where you promise the person/people that you are with to be your authentic self and to constantly define and redefine your relationship/s as you go, communicating with complete honesty always about your wants and desires and where you are at that point in time. What might feel totally right and natural during one period of your life may not be serving you at another time. For example, being super open in your relationship can be great when you are both in a happy, positive and carefree head space and have a lot of free time, while it might not be so suited when you're stressed. overworked, depressed... or having a big life change like a baby or a family issue. You may also need to be alone at times through a long term relationship, or perhaps you are mostly single and prefer to casually date and not commit to people, but still value whatever that relationship is you're experiencing without any expectations and be open to that changing at any given point.
When my partner and I first got together, neither of us were looking for a relationship and were both definitely not into monogamy. I had mostly had casual flings and 'friend with benefits' type deals for my adult life and valued my freedom, I had dated multiple people simultaneously at various times in my life and had been with a few couples as their lover and I didn't ever see myself wanting to find 'the one' or wanting to get married.
Through my time in the adult industry, I saw a lot of people unhappy and feeling restricted in their relationships and desperately grasping for any sense of freedom or shiny new play thing to help validate them during their relationships low points, though I also saw plenty of people who were absolutely loyal to the core and showed no interest in other women no matter how hard we strippers worked to seduce, so it was clearly not a case of all humans being incapable of monogamy but more that certain people were not made for it, and I knew I was not a monogamous person.
Neither was he.
So we decided on non-monogamy and to see where this love took us without putting boxes around it, just promising to keep checking in and being honest about our desires and fears, wants and needs. We decided to let our relationship evolve and change alongside with us and to help each other grow and experience a unique kind of relationship that we hadn't experienced before.
I so often see amazing couples break up because they made a promise to each other that they meant at the time with all their hearts... A promise to be only with that person, and that they only had feelings for them, so therefore that was their relationship, defined and written in stone. They couldn't picture a time when they didn't feel how they felt then, so they made rules and restrictions based on those present feelings, then put that conversation to the side and never brought it up again. Then one day things changed, they didn't feel they could talk about it because they made a promise and they either decide to break the promise in secret or to bury their desires and let it crush them from the inside while resenting their partner, instead of trying for a redefinition. Don't make a forever promise based entirely on how you feel right now, things change and people change. Change is the only real constant in life.
Redefining your relationship doesn't have to be hard work if you have already agreed to be completely honest with each other (as any good relationship should start with) and if you are both doing the internal emotional work to take charge of your feelings and patterns, to be the most emotionally mature and evolved you that you can be! - Ok well I guess for most people that is hard work but for me and a lot of other people I know, that is the life mission, that is what this crazy journey on earth is all about! Figuring out who you are and trying to de-condition all the shit we carry and find our authentic selves and feel unconditional love, so going on a journey like this to experience a unique and evolving relationship goes hand in hand with this mission for authenticity and self awareness.
So what about jealousy? Jealousy is not the worst feeling in the world, but it isn’t fun, I know as well as anyone! But the reward of being able to be your authentic and completely honest self with someone and knowing they are doing the same is the ultimate gift. To be able to really express all your fears, desires, wants, needs... to be completely vulnerable with someone and to know that they respect and trust you enough to do the same. For me, the biggest insult is if someone would think that I am not emotionally mature enough to be able to handle a situation as simple as them finding someone else attractive or that they were watching porn or something like that. If they really thought I was so incapable of handling the truth then why even be with me? When I want someone, I want all of them, the shadow and the lusty parts too. I want a multifaceted human full of complicated emotions, not some cookie cutter prince charming straight from a Hollywood movie who is denying so much of themselves that they could implode at any given moment.
One of the keys for a good fluid relationship is to not hold anyone to unrealistic expectations based on what we are told that a romantic partner should be like, and ideally to drop as many expectations of your partner as you comfortably can. Some people will say 'no expectations' but I don't think this is entirely realistic or healthy as I definitely have the expectation of being treated with respect, to not be harmed and those type of things. You need to be clear with your partner/s about what your expectations are (for example recently I have discovered that expecting people not to smoke around me is something I'm not willing to compromise in a romantic relationship) and to take their expectations seriously. This isn’t a one-time conversation either, it should be a regular topic in your relationship so get used to talking about it!
Going into this kind of a relationship requires more than just honest communication, it requires both of you being able to face shame and fear. It is easier to feel comfortable when you've been promised forever by someone, but also that promise being broken can be life-shattering. It can be scary to know that your partner might decide to run off with someone else, but chances are if you have a solid foundation of trust and honesty and your partner feels truly free to be themselves, why would they want to leave? When a person feels trapped, that is what makes them run for the hills. Feeling like you can't express your true emotions and desires makes you want to leave. Cutting off your emotions and feeling shame for being attracted to another person can cause not only emotional distress but also can manifest into physical pain and disease.
And just when you think you're totally evolved and ok with certain things in your relationship, suddenly all these childhood wounds and immature emotions pop up- well it can be quite embarrassing to realise you aren't quite as emotionally mature as you thought you were! But bringing out these shadows helps us learn so much about ourselves and grow in ways we never could if we played it safe and bottled up these feelings.
You have to be ready to confront jealousy and get a whole new skillset in dealing with this little monster of an emotion. There are TONNES of great tools in books and videos and all over the internet about this, I have watched a lot of them and read a lot about it and it is still not the easiest emotion to process! Some days you will be totally OK with things then suddenly when you least expect it, some jealous rage will pop up and it is your responsibility to deal with it and not to deflect it onto your partner. The thing with going into any kind of non-monogamous relationship is that you have to be ready to take responsibility for the emotions that come up while your partner/s are being their authentic self and work on remembering the unconditional love you feel for them, and to be grateful that they are still in your life in whatever form, even if that does involve them spending intimate time with other people. If this person is worth it, then it will absolutely be worth processing these not-so-fun emotions. And if they aren't worth it, then why be with them? Perhaps it is time to work on your self love and getting comfortable with being alone!
So, how do you make an agreement to be fluid?
It takes a lot of discussions about your history of relationships- perhaps you are not into commitment, perhaps you have cheated a lot in the past, perhaps you were faithful always in long term relationships but felt your were suppressing your true self and not able to be honest. Talk about it all and be totally honest about it, your fears, your desires, your needs. What has worked before? What hasn't worked? What have you always wished you could express?
Be honest about who you are attracted to and in what ways! It is SO refreshing to be able to just honestly say if you find someone super sexy or maybe they are a bit weird and you have this fascination with them but you're not sure why, or maybe there is a friend who you keep feeling some sexual tension with! At first I found it easy to talk with my partner about other women as it was something we had in common and that he was comfortable with, but it was very scary for me to talk about my attraction to other men, as I knew at the time he was not quite ready for me to be getting intimate with other men... but he poked and pushed me to open up, and I awkwardly started talking about it when it happened, and it got a lot easier over time. It is going to feel weird at first and that it totally normal because it is so abnormal compared to what most of us have experienced and what we see in the world!
Keep checking in with yourself about what you are actually OK with at that point in time and don't push yourself beyond your comfort level when you aren't really ready for it. I totally wanted to be that 'cool' chick who is super ok with everything and could let my partner go off and make out with all the pretty girls without me there but for a long time I just was not there yet emotionally, and I had to be involved if there was to be any other women. Being authentic means also accepting the level that you are at in the present, as well as having a goal for where you would like to be in the future. I hope one day I can be so overwhelmingly overflowing with unconditional love that I could have such an abundance of love and relationships and to be super happy for my partner when he finds new people, and I’d love to get turned on by hearing about his other encounters instead of feeling jealous, but it’s a work in progress and that is OK!
Also know that there are so many levels of openness and relationships, it doesn't have to mean having sex with other people! I have heard the term 'monogamish' lately for couples who get to flirt with other people and have very light play but don't actually get intimately involved with anyone else, which gives them a bit of freedom and variety without going too deep into the fear /possibility of losing their partner to someone else or whatever else comes up when they imagine their partner sharing more intimacy with another person. Maybe this is a level that you would be comfortable with for a time! But be open for the fact that this MAY change (or it might not) and maybe one day you will flirt with and kiss someone and genuinely want to see more of them, and feelings will develop, then oh no, you’ve fallen in love! If there is a genuine strong connection and desire then you wouldn't want to limit yourself from exploring that possibility, there is so much you could learn from exploring these connections and magnetism to people.
So, start out slow if that is what you need, there is no hurry to be super open if it is not flowing! Experiment! What it like to cuddle with someone else while your partner is in the room? How does it feel to kiss someone else in front of them or to watch them kiss someone else? For me this was weird for about 3 seconds then I realised it was totally fine and didn't bother me at all, unless it was going on for ages and I wanted to get involved too!
I was excited by the idea of challenging myself by watching my partner sleep with someone else, but I also knew that things can seem better in theory than in person... but when it did eventually happen, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would (though it helped I was involved too!)
Sometimes you need to give yourself a little push to challenge yourself, just like anything else in life, though forcing yourself beyond your limits to try to prove something to yourself or someone else is a dangerous game. Really take your time to check in with yourself and try not to make rash decisions about big changes, take your time to consider them before jumping in.
No relationship is ever all peaches and cream, we all have our ups and downs and lessons to learn... but I am personally so grateful to have the experience to have a fluid relationship dynamic with my partner and my lovers, and myself (as I currently live the much needed single life for a while!)
This experience of growing, changing and evolving has taught me so much about myself and about the people around me, and I still have so much more to explore. There are infinite possibilities when you take yourself out of the box that you've been conditioned to contain yourself in. There is so much more out there if you're willing to open your mind to the possibilities and to make your own rules.
You have the choice to make, if you want to be open to living authentically and changing with your life, or if you want to take the chance and make an agreement based on how you feel right now, and hope that doesn't change.
It is much easier to have this conversation early and leave these options open even if you never act on them, then to try to change it down the path.
Unconditional love and cuddles,