Marina Krleža: Things We Do Not Know About Open Relationships


Open relationship. A fashionable phrase. A syntagm that has been extensively written about in the last year in Croatian media. I am one of the first authors who openly initiated public discourse on this topic. I expressed positive attitude about open relationships some time ago when I was interviewed by Nacional and portal NG Buntovnici, so feel free to take a look.

This is a topic that I know very well, yet is so poorly elaborated by quality literature and media articles, that I do not know where to start. I feel that this column, just like the next one, will extensively develop this topic, but let it be so. Education is necessary, not because I think that open relationship is something that more and more people want to try, but because I think that there are too many wrong interpretations of this term, definition, description and examples.

Why is that so? Because there are very few people who practise this kind of relationship. When those that have never been and never will be in such a relationship write about it, it puzzles me because their considerations lack logic. Imagine somebody who has never piloted MiG plane writing about it or a cook writing about the dish he himself has never prepared. That about sums it up how I feel when somebody who does not support and has never experienced an open relationship (or marriage) writes about it. Why do we play with other people’s feelings and mock lifestyle that does harm to no one (except to views imposed to us by the Church for centuries) and does not interfere with anybody’s personal freedoms?

I am going to address open relationship myths that are unfortunately launched by some media, hoping that these will stop in time, until readers are puzzled even more. Articles are not written to cover fashionable topics, but to provide useful information for readers. At least, that is how I see public writing and acting, particularly of editors and journalists. Seksoteka is not interested in opposing anyone out of the desire for media fanfare, let alone create enemies, but to provide civilized and logical public dialogue in which we will listen to (and hear) each other, learn from each other and  build more tolerant and happier society. With this intention in mind, I feel obliged to react about wrongfully presented information on occurrences and topics related to sexuality.

About a month ago, I found an article about open relationships published on portal Buro 24/ that had got me into writing my own article by its illogical statements. Although I have been supporting and gladly reading this portal from the very beginnings, I appeal to them not to write articles based on anonymous quotes about sexuality. In addition, a week ago, one of my acquaintances asked me if I knew somebody who was in an open relationship and would anonymously talk to a journalist from another media for her article. Then I asked myself why people have the need to write about something so delicate if they have to find anonymous witnesses. I wrote to my acquaintance that I was willing to give the statement to the journalist, without hiding my identity. I have not heard from her so far. My message to all investigative journalists and those who want to write about sexuality – write about what you are familiar with and what you are eager to know and you will get the information much easier.

Unsigned articles, which is not the above mentioned case, but there are many in Croatian media, particularly in the area of lifestyle and sexuality, do not change things. Readers of today deserve complete information to get the maximum benefits from the text. You cannot expect your audience to trust you if you do not strongly stand behind your text or if you do not publish the identities of the persons that take part in it. In addition, you cannot educate by paraphrasing unsigned, unscientific texts. Taboos are not broken down by half-truths, and changes do not arise out of anonymity. At least, not in the 21st century. Even furthermore, I am one of those people who do not read anything supplied by anonymous persons or signed with initials only, let alone take it seriously. Therefore, I would like to use this occasion to invite readers to consider unsigned articles about sexuality – irrelevant, since they are neither useful, nor trustworthy source of information.

When creating Seksoteka, my first and foremost condition was that we write under our real names and invite our followers to do the same in their comments on social networks. We live the life we write about and stand behind our own words. This is what sets Seksoteka aside from majority of Croatian media that try to tackle something as complex as human sexuality.

Let us now go to the article in matter. The author of the text thinks that open relationship is being “with several persons at the same time”. Open relationship does not mean being with two or more persons at the same time, but primarily having freedom to do something sexual with somebody who is necessarily not your partner without getting punished for that act. At the same time, it does not mean that we will do it. If we do, we might do it only once, and maybe we will do it on annual, monthly or weekly basis. It all depends on our needs that we cannot know in advance.

If, on the other hand, the author thought that it means being with several persons in the real time, it is even further from correct. Being with several persons at the same time is a definition of swinging or group sex. Open relationship generally does not imply presence of our partner when we have sex with another person (that would be threesome), but definitely includes communication before and after that if any of the partners want it to somehow spice up mutual arousal or anything else. People often find it hard to understand that some of us get excited by the fact that our partners were somebody’s source of pleasure and that because of it we see them through different eyes.

I myself am proof that open relationship and swinging are not synonyms. While currently I am totally not interested in swinging because I am, by virtue of circumstances, a supporter of odd numbers (of everything that is not related to couples, except just watching), open relationship for me is the ultimate kind of relationship I want. Naturally, that does not mean that I am in or practice any such relationship, but that I strive for it and it excites me. Also, it does not mean that my opinion will not change soon; I have different phases in life, I hang around with different people and, on the basis of different experiences, I change my opinions and build myself.

Further on, the author writes that “open relationship, precisely, is ideal for partners who have honest feelings for each other, but still do not think that the right time for commitment has come”, calling it a “relationship stage prior to real commitment”. Wrong again. The real open relationship or marriage is exclusively the final stage of every relationship. It is an extension and a gift of two mature people to each other, and not reconsideration. It implies sexually experienced individuals who know what they want and grants them freedom to take it, at the same time having no effect whatsoever on their emotional-spiritual relationship.

Both persons in open relationship have to be pretty certain who they are and who is their partner, how much they love themselves and how much they love their partner. If that kind of awareness does not exist, open relationship or open marriage makes no sense. If, on the other hand, it is the relationship of the persons who do not know what they want and are not willing to enter into a more serious, emotionally engaging relationship, then it is not called open relationship, but desire for experimentation out of curiosity, lack of knowledge and experience.

The author of the article further states, “open relationship has actually become the modern version of monogamous relationship” and that it is becoming “more and more present in our society”. What society does the author refer to? Global or Croatian? She writes as if she personally knows dozens of couples in such relationship. Personally, I know only three, and I communicate with people about sexuality very much. Neither people practice open relationship in Croatia more than they did 10-20 years ago, nor more people talk about it. Maybe it is so in strictly Western world, but Croatia is far from that when it comes to sexuality. Naturally, that does not mean that the situation will not change in few years.

The author goes on: “While on one side you still have a group of people that will tell you right away that they are extremely conservative in this domain and that such kind of relationship does not interest them since, in general, they consider it adultery, the other will immediately mention and point out decisively that they like freedom in a relationship very much.” I am not sure whether, in relation to this issue, there are only two groups of people with so strictly opposed views. In addition, I am not sure that there is about equal number of those who need freedom in comparison with those that do not. These things are quite delicate and very individual. In the past, as well as now, very small percentage of people decide in favour of the open relationship. Also, you might want that kind of relationship with one partner and with the other you might not, which I myself am witness to. Why would you want to belong to any of the two groups and not allow yourself to develop and change, together with your sexuality?

I was thinking for a while that urbanity, education and IQ level played important role in practising of open relationship, but I found out that it was not true because I have met people with secondary and lower education from rural environments that have been practising such kind of relationship for years.

Further on in the text we have: “Then people mention excitement in the sense that you will never get bored of each other.” Wrong. We can get bored of our partner whether we have somebody else beside him or not so that does not depend on others, but on the partner. Such things happen because of lack of communication, sometimes because of inexplicable reasons (probably because people change) and less often because of other sexual partners that we have.

It is normal to get weary of anything we constantly consume and do. If we wore the same trousers every day, we would get tired of them. Just like we would get tired of the partner with whom we have been making love for the past 10 and more years, although he can be the most perfect lover we have ever had. A wise man once said, let me paraphrase: “If you eat sardines every day of the week, you’ll want caviar over the weekend. But, the paradox is that if you eat caviar every day of the week, you can be certain that sometimes for weekend you’ll want sardines.” That is human and we do not need to pretend that it is otherwise. The only question is to whom are we going to direct our sexual energy when we want a change and when our partners do not excite us as they used to do. If we find someone who can provide a  substitute, it is important to know that sexual relationship with other people does not necessarily change sexual relationship with our partners.

“Although everything is allowed in open relationship…”, the author writes. This is not clearly defined in open relationships. Sometimes, we do not want everything (regardless of our partners). On one occasion, my last partner “allowed” me to go to my friend, who sexually aroused me at the time. (By the way, I would like to mention that I dislike the verb “allow” because, regardless of anyone’s permission, I have always felt free to do what I wanted.) I watched my friend masturbate, which extremely aroused both of us. I did not want him to touch me, and I did not touch him, since the ultimate goal was to have visual material for upcoming masturbations. That was the freest “adventure” that my partner “allowed” me in my last relationship. And one of the reasons why that relationship is now – past, though I wish to point out that it was beautiful and that we have remained friends until this day.

Further on, the author claims that „it can happen that one side forces open relationship, while the background is pure tendency towards adultery and some kind of unfulfilled life and scarce sexual experience.“ I do not understand the thing with inexperience and too little tried out experiences when it comes to love life. Shouldn’t a person that does not have some sexual experience, and wishes to have it, bee free and not committed? Why would you enter in a relationship with such a person, unless you are emotional masochist?

Taking into consideration that persons in open relationships can talk about anything with their partners, such persons then do not have the need for adultery since they do not need to ask their partners about it. Unfulfilled life is also something I cannot associate with people in open relationships. What makes these people different from majority is increased desire to sexually meet new people. Just like some people love to travel and explore, there are those that love to explore sexuality.

At the end of the article, the author quotes an anonymous person that was in an open relationship: “In reality, if you cannot handle that somebody else might be with your partner, do not accept the proposal known as open relationship. You are going to lose your pride and peace. You will not keep your partners by allowing them to do what they want. It is the same as feeding the dog that bites you.“ Firstly – we do not consent to open relationship because our partner wants it, but because we ourselves do. Secondly, here we have an anonymous person defining open relationship as “proposal” and extreme threat. As if somebody is allowed to do something that destroys the other person to the bone, thus labelling the open relationship as something undesirable, satanic, destructive.

Here is an example that I will use to explain. A woman asks a man if he wanted to have anal sex with her. Later, she tells it to her friend who defines her question as a proposal. But, it is not. It is a desire. It is a lifestyle that is a reflection of this woman’s wishes and her need for pleasure. Open relationship is not a bid. The discussion about it comes spontaneously, through process in which partners get to know each other and respect mutual desires and needs. Do you know your partners in love so poorly that they have to make proposals to which you might and do not have to consent? If that is the casa, don’t you think that you are with the completely wrong partner?

With mature people open relationship is not even an agreement. It is implied. Imagine that you love somebody so much that you radiate that feeling. The person that loves and understands you back in equal way knows that you are physically not monogamous. Such a person would inspire you to practice your physical polygamy and be happy doing what you like to do. Love is a freedom, and not a jail. Fluidity, and not brakes, prohibitions and agreements. Communication and understanding, and not mistrust or resentment in any way.

I cannot but notice that in the mentioned article, the editors inserted photos from the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona that is a reflection of dysfunctional open relationship with high dose of jealousy of one of the protagonists. Let us take into consideration that not everybody is in favour of everything, nor should they be. Why would we like anything that other people like? In sexuality we need to create our own rules that primarily satisfy us. Therefore, if we do not like open relationship as a concept, that is what we are entitled to and it does not make us any less desirable, sexual or right.

Sting has a song with a line that goes “If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free”. That line is a representation of open relationship. Do not keep the persons you love chained to you. Do not impose on those persons your own rules. Believe that they love you unconditionally. That you have friendship in a quality romantic relationship. When all of that exists, there is no sex on the side that can destroy such relationship. Because sex is, anyway, less important in relation to love.

If, on the other hand, you want to write about open relationships, I advise you to try one first yourself. Your texts will then be much more credible. If you cannot try it, maybe you should write about monogamy then?

In my next column, I will write about our Facebook page readers’ comments about open relationships. It seems to me that the voice of the people is in this case more honest and wiser than the voice of media.

Yours, in sexual sincerity,

Marina 🙂