On Not Being Open


Are you in an open relationship if no one is actually seeing any other people?

The boyfriend and I started seeing each other less than a year ago. It was a bit of a whirlwind romance. He came home with me after a second date and never left. Three months later, we moved into a place of our own.

We met online and we were both clear in our profiles that we were both kinky and non-monogamous. We discussed it on our first date. He was even seeing someone else for the first few weeks of this whirlwind.

And then life intervened. There were boxes to pack. And furniture to buy. Decisions about hanging pictures and grocery lists to make. There was a vacation together. Meeting friends and family.

Mental health problems. Changing jobs. A new psychiatrist. New medication. A new work schedule. My beloved dog dying.

One morning, I woke up and realised I hadn’t so much as batted my eyelashes at another soul for months.

I wondered if I was, in fact, monogamous. Maybe, with him, I didn’t want to see other people. And I felt as though I’d told a terrible lie to this person I loved. I said I was non-monogamous and now I didn’t want to be with anyone but him.

Non-monogamy doesn’t have a clear-cut definition. A married couple who has a threesome once could be argued to be non-monogamous but the mixed-gendered folks living down the block in a free love commune might not see it that way. Is non-monogamy just label anyone can apply to themselves, regardless of their sex lives?

Dan Savage argues that infidelity shouldn’t be guaranteed end to any committed relationship. And I know couples who adhere to that. “If something happens,” they say, “we’ll stay together.” And often they do. But is that non-monogamy?

Or one non-monogamous couple I know who spent several years frequenting swingers groups before having their first child. Now on a Friday night, they just want to go to bed early before being awoken by a colicky infant repeatedly throughout the night. Does this mean they’ve joined team monogamy?

I’m bisexual and have had relationships with women. But now I’m with a man. That doesn’t mean I stopped being bisexual though. Just because I don’t literally have my face buried in some vagina at this moment doesn’t mean that isn’t a fundamental part of my identity.

I don’t think that simply because I’m not currently having sex with someone other than my boyfriend makes me any less non-monogamous either. We were non-monogamous, albeit non-practicing perhaps.

But even that changed. Life stabilized. We settled into our routine. And one day a former partner of mine texted, asking how life was. We hadn’t spoken in a few months, he’d been dealing with some things and needed his space. After a few weeks of flirting, we agreed to meet up for a beer.

Nothing happened.

We both just weren’t feeling it. But I stopped feeling like I’d become the captain of Team Monogamy. In a situation that many readers are probably familiar with, that flirting lead to some really great sex with the boyfriend. And jump started some good discussions about what we were doing and what wanted.







Neamhspleachas is a thirty-something American, currently living in the Netherlands. She works as a journalist and writer. If she’s not working, you can probably find her drinking a craft beer somewhere. Possibly somewhere far away from home. You can find her putting her multiple degrees to good use by blogging about relationships, economics, politics, and boobs that are and are not hers at neamhspleachas.com.


  1. We often feel like we’ve got something to prove once we have a label like non-monogamous or bisexual, but life gets in the way a lot. Thanks for sharing your struggles in this. I totally get it and am sure a lot of other non-mono people will relate very well.

  2. Pingback: On Consent

Leave A Reply