I know I promised an article about stigma and STIs, but I’m still waiting on a few responses from subjects who agreed to be interviewed. I’m looking forward to giving you that article next week.
This week’s theme in the Relationships Channel is something a bit more cheery: the hunt for happiness. How do we define it? How do we achieve it? And how do we know when we have?
People who are involved in open relationships would seem to have a leg up when it comes to the search for happiness – not because they are more evolved, but because if they are in open relationships, their self-knowledge is by necessity greater. To seek an open relationship, one must be searching for greater happiness for oneself; this is why we are often accused of being selfish (and worse). Further, to maintain a healthy open relationship, self-reflection is key: one must constantly examine one’s reactions, emotions, needs and desires.
The problem is that many people seeking open relationships do so for the wrong reasons, and the results may be very unhappy-making indeed.
All too often, people in unhappy partnerships seek to improve their lives by opening their relationship – whether this means going to a swingers’ club together, or starting to date other people. This strategy rarely works to do anything other than prolong the inevitable – that is, the end of the relationship – and make that ending much messier and more painful than it might have been.
Folks who have been poly for a long time often have a rule about this: if the relationship is broken, don’t add more people. And swinging organizations often have an interview process, to determine if the members of the couple are being honest with one another about their desires, and whether their marriage is strong.
The best place to start an open relationship from is a place of abundance: a feeling that your relationship is already so happy that you want to share that love with others. What if you’re single, you may ask? Interestingly, the same rule seems to apply: if you are happy and confident, you are more likely to attract mates to you.
Of course, a lot of our happiness tends to be tied up in our relationships with others. We are often taught that this is a bad thing, and that the key to happiness is being happy first with ourselves. You can’t love someone else until you love yourself, and so on. While self-love is vitally important, however, our modern society places too little value on interdependence – the idea that we are all connected, and that living in a web of relationships of all types with other people is one of the greatest paths to happiness available.
Whether you are in eight different relationships or zero, then, connection with others – be they family, friends, lovers or other community members – is key to improving happiness. If you’re in a relationship that is seeking to branch out, though, look to each other first. Make sure you’re reaching out from a stable place, or you risk toppling over.