Saturday 14 March 2009

The Trust Paradox in Relationships

A lot of people make the mistake when reading my views on sex, fidelity and monogamy in thinking that the point is about sex.
When it isn't, of course.

It's about trust. It's about being to love and trust someone.

And from a personal point of view, I find that to be almost impossible in a relationship with someone who is seriously concerned who I am sleeping with.

The fact is, in my experience, it is impossible to feel comfortable with and want to share your life with someone who you do not trust. Who you feel you always have to guard yourself against. And a monogamous relationship with a serious expectation of sexual fidelity can create just that. Someone who you feel is perpetually intruding into your own privacy.
It creates a curious paradox, as I shall describe.

It's very hard to find women who are prepared to accept an open relationship as a long term proposition. One can find it on a short term basis, but not so many people seem prepared to enter into a long term relationship, maybe even live together and raise children, in a situation where both parties have the carte blanche to pursue sexual and romantic involvements elsewhere.

People ask why someone would want this. Furthermore, they say that if you really loved someone, then you wouldn't be happy with them seeking sex or romance elsewhere.

Which is, of course, to miss the point. There are many reasons why one would like the right to have a private life. To have areas of your life- the majority of it even- that one doesn't share with ones partner. The point of an open relationship, is it is both parties essentially accepting in principle that the other party has a right to a private life, to a life that the other is not involved in. Now, if you accept that your partner has a right to a private life, a right to form interconnections with people that are none of your business and you accept you have no right to pry into that, you are accepting the possibility that that could conceivably include sex and romance with other people.

So the real purpose of an open relationship, is that one has a right to a private life. One can live under the same roof as someone and even share aspects of ones lives, but still set boundaries and say 'We share these bits, but we are still separate people and we will not intrude into eachother's privacy'.

Now the only real reason a partner would pry into your privacy is to see if you're seeing other people. There isn't generally any other reason. So by conceding to eachother the RIGHT to see other people, you remove any need to interfere in eachother's private business.
And then you can ACTUALLY trust eachother.
And then you wonder why on earth you cared so much if they slept with other people.

So to me, it's actually about trust. When I was younger I thought it bothered me if partners were 'unfaithful'. Now I realise, I don't care. I'm capable of loving someone enough to feel flattered that others desire the woman I love and am only to happy to share them. And I'd quite like to be able to have a relationship with someone where I don't feel the need to go to increasingly complex measure to guarantee my own privacy.

It actually isn't about my desire to sleep with as many people as I can. I think I would be capable of being generally faithful to same woman, if I loved her enough, though I'm sure I would never be a hundred percent exclusive. It wouldn't be natural.

What I find with relationships where sexual fidelity is an issue- which is most of the ones I've been in, at least in theory- is that they create a trust paradox.

And people have said to me they don't see how anyone could deliberately 'cheat' on someone, knowing that would hurt them, not if they really loved them.

Well, the point is; it would only hurt them if they found out. And that is why one does it. That is why it is a trust paradox.

When I say most of the relationships I've been in have had the theoretical expectation of sexual fidelity, what I mean is, any soundings out I've done on the topic of open relationships have kind of been shot down. And in my early years I hadn't even been convinced by the concept of open relationships anyway. What was more common, was a kind of unwritten code. The women concerned would never openly agree to a relationship where they allowed their partner (me) to go elsewhere.

So what we generally had in practice was 'You don't pry, I won't flaunt it'. Of course, being unstated, it didn't really cut both ways. I don't think the majority of my exes did in fact 'cheat'.

But I did.

And I actually did it for the most part precisely BECAUSE of the way things were. The unwritten rule was that they wouldn't pry into my private life. The only way I can guarantee that is true, is by 'cheating'.

Now that might sound like twisted logic. But think about it. If your private life truly is secure from your partner, then you have ample opportunity within it to cheat. For them to find out if you had sex with someone else that wasn't them within that vast area of your life that they have no business prying into, then quite clearly, they are intruding into your life to a decidely unwarranted degree and if they don't like what they find out, then they deserve to get hurt. If you are having sex with someone else other than them, for them to find this out should be like finding a needle in a haystack.

I recommend the 'Mr Men' story by Roger Hargreaves, Mr Nosey.

You see, the point is, I don't want anybody going through my haystack. If they go through it, it will be needles they will be looking for, but it's the other stuff in there they will find that they have no business finding that are none of their business. The only way I can know whether or not someone is going through the haystack, is putting a needle in there and seeing if they find it.

It's my equivalent of drawing a pencil line across papers in a drawer to see if they've moved when I get back.

This is what I mean about a trust paradox. Sexual fidelity is based on the idea that my haystack contains no needles, but for me, trust in a relationship is based on the idea that someone will not check the haystack for needles- or anything else. So paradoxically, I can only be sure I can trust someone in such a situation, by consciously 'betraying' them.

It is my belief, therefore, that one can only TRULY trust someone who genuinely doesn't care WHAT is in your haystack.

And that is only possible with an open relationship.

1 comment:

Judith said...

I can conceive of having an intense, close relationship with someone and not care who he or she sleeps with - but I will not sleep with that person nor would it be romantically bent. I'm just not built that way and could never tolerate that sort of nonesense. All I see in an open relationship is power plays and the potential for hurt.