While I was in Chicago last weekend, I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a year or two. We talked about the usual — work, family, pets, our hair, and our love lives (although as an old married, there’s not much for me to catch people up on — still married, still happy, still annoyed that he balls up his socks when he throws them in the hamper, yada yada). My friend told me she’d been dating a guy for the last year who just ended their relationship a few weeks earlier.
“He was in an open relationship,” she said, “but I wasn’t.”
“Wait, what?” I said, confused.
“He was in an open relationship with another woman and I was his main girlfriend on the side,” she explained. “So, he obviously saw other people, but I didn’t.”
“Wow,” I replied, “How did that work exactly?”
She told me that in addition to his long-term relationship with his partner, he also dated my friend, whom he considered his “main girlfriend.” As if two women weren’t enough to juggle, he also saw other women on top of that. I asked her what constituted “main girlfriend” — like, how was she different from the other women he saw outside his long-term relationship.
“We ate meals together,” she said. “He would come over and we’d cook together and he’d hang out at my place for a while. With the other women, it’s just sex.”
For the record, she didn’t like this arrangement. She’d prefer to have a man she didn’t share with anyone, let alone numerous people. She’d prefer to be in a monogamous relationship with someone who was in a monogamous relationship with her. But, for whatever reason, she accepted that this guy was not monogamous and that, if she wanted to be with him, she was going to be one of several women he dated and had sex with.
“It was demoralizing,” she admitted.
“Was he younger?” I asked. My friend is pushing 40, and I had a feeling her recent ex was not. She said he was 27 and that she’d noticed that this sort of open relationship lifestyle was becoming more and more common among the under-30 set.
“Why do you think that is?” she asked.
I thought about it for a minute and then theorized that the younger generation is used to having many, many options and they don’t want or feel like they should limit those options. The internet has made it possible to work remotely, meet people without leaving home, and even “date” someone who lives in another country. People — especially women — are better educated than they were even twenty years ago. These things have brought more opportunities and more options. Plus, people are delaying marriage and parenthood. Some even argue that millennials don’t feel the need to marry at all. In short, people are available for more relationships, have more accessibility to potential partners, and are coming of age in a social climate that more readily accepts the kinds of lifestyle they are opting for (open relationships, delay of marriage, online dating, hookup culture, etc., etc.).
What do you guys think about this theory? Are you a young person (under 30) in an open relationship or are you noticing more young people in open relationships than generations before? Would you date someone who was in an open relationship with someone else?