What are your experiences and advice with an open relationship?
October 12, 2004 6:08 PM   Subscribe

My long-distance relationship is disintegrating, basically because it is now totally open-ended, and the visa situation is such that only a marriage will keep us physically together.

Our current idea is an open relationship. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Does anyone have any experience? I can't help but think if I wanted to be with the new person I wouldn't be with the old, and it seems somehow wrong to use new people just for sex or short-termism...
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Our current idea is an open relationship.

Or rather,

Our relationship is over but we're having a hard time admitting it.

Open relationships are for saints, who are a rare breed indeed. From here, it looks like skidsville. Think about cutting to the chase and avoiding inflicting any extra pain upon one another.
posted by y2karl at 7:40 PM on October 12, 2004

I agree--cut to the chase. Bottom line: either you are willing to do what's required to be together or you don't want to be together. That might mean just making a concrete plan that results in togetherness: but it needs to be concrete.

I've been there: long-distance relationships are no good unless they're really, completely satisfying and unless you do what you have to to keep them going. If that means marriage, then that's what it means, and you're not going to get any readier to get married from thousands of miles away than you are right now.
posted by josh at 7:54 PM on October 12, 2004

If you want to pursue this as a serious relationship (and are not just trying to avoid accepting that it's over,as y2karl said), and your situation is such that you need a visa (and therefore a marriage), the thing to do is make a "no harm no foul" agreement (i.e. if either party decides that they want out within a given period of time (say a year), then you walk away with what you came in with) and then get a quickie wedding (by Elvis in Vegas, natch), you will have to work out how to do this without making it obvious to the powers that be that this is what you are doing - and then get a proper wedding if all goes well. Do remember that if this is a US/Canada type of dealie you have the option of a fiancee visa (you have to get married within a 90 day period, which at least gives you a little while to see if you can stand each other day in and day out - but you don't want to tell the INS that this is what you're doing), or even just one of you taking an extended vacation (depending on where you live, this can be a few months). Check for immigration newsgroups, they are extremely helpful. I have been there and done that and am now in my third year of happy marriage - but numerous visits in no way prepared me for the full impact of moving so far away from my family and friends (it can take a LONG time to settle in, homesickness is not just for kids at camp, and you have to be pretty sure you're in for the long term to make it work).
posted by biscotti at 8:05 PM on October 12, 2004 [1 favorite]

I've known people who had open relationships that really seemed to work. On the other hand, I've known more people who had open relationships that were instant disasters, or that struggled on in ways that looked really painful from the outside. You could always look through alt.polyamory and attempt to learn from others' mistakes and successes. Or even ask for advice there.
posted by hattifattener at 8:19 PM on October 12, 2004

Well, I'm nursing a bleeding heart right now so take my advice with a handful of salt.

Long distance relationships are great, for two people that are mature and really have made a commitment to be with each other. I've had two of them. Both disentegrated, the first because the time spent together wasn't enough, the second because the distance made it fake; the time apart built up a thrill of its own that would have never even justified a committed relationship without those highs of togetherness every weekend or two.)

Dunno about open relationships. But I would stress that if open relationships are for saints, than long distance ones are as well. Combining those factors, when the thing appears to be falling apart anyway, seems like wishful thinking.

Do yourself a favor and break it off now. No matter how good the long distance relationship seems at the time, if the doubts are serious enough that you're focusing on a split or a complete lack of commitment, it's time to let go.
posted by Happydaz at 8:21 PM on October 12, 2004

My long-distance relationship is disintegrating, basically because it is now totally open-ended

Then making it more open will only finish the job.
posted by ook at 8:30 PM on October 12, 2004

I'm kind of in a similar situation, so I'm guess I'm not really able to give advice so much as to ask for my own brand of feedback.

I'm moving across the country in a little under two months. My boyfriend of two years is staying here to finish his degree and then he could go anywhere. I got an offer to go back to school full-time if I moved, so I'm doing it.

This is the guy I thought I'd spend the rest of my life with, but with both of us in school, we don't have much time together and the time that we do have has a lot of pressure on it. My thought is that when I leave (we're still very much together until then), we'll break it off with the understanding that if circumstances permit, we may end up back together. Personally, I'd love to see this happen.

Am I putting too much stock in fate/destiny/whatever or is this feasible? Do people really reconnect like that?
posted by amandaudoff at 8:55 PM on October 12, 2004

Do remember that if this is a US/Canada type of dealie you have the option of a fiancee visa

I have the sense that what biscotti means is "if one of you is in the US," but just to be clear:

You can get a US fiancee visa for a schnooky from *anywhere*. If the schnooky is from somewhere that tends to produce mail-order brides, such as Russia or southeast Asia, you might expect more scrutiny to make sure that you're actually in a relationship, but if you are, there's nothing to fear.

It generally takes between 3 and 12 months to get one, depending on where in the US the American is and where the Foreign Schnooky is.

The UK also has fiancee visas. I dunno about anywhere else, but it's worth checking. Then you get a couple-few months grace period before getting a legal marriage.

There's nothing stopping you, in either case, from simply satisfying the legalities of having a legal marriage and letting it mean whatever it means to you, up to and including biscotti's no-harm-no-foul trial arrangement.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:38 PM on October 12, 2004

you might expect more scrutiny to make sure that you're actually in a relationship, but if you are, there's nothing to fear.

A recent conversation from some acquaintances who were recently Peace Corps Volunteers in Bolivia and presumably in the know suggests that the heat has recently been turned up in this area. As the eminent Xenophobe says, just expect scrutiny and be prepared.
posted by weston at 9:56 PM on October 12, 2004

Been there, done that. We chose marriage and monogamy. You need to be very sure of each other, though. Marriage based immigration is a long slog that brings plenty of additional stress to the early years of a marriage. We're a couldn't-be-simpler case of a US/UK couple with absolutely no complicating circumstances whatsoever. Five years later and we're still battling the burocrats.
posted by normy at 10:01 PM on October 12, 2004

"Am I putting too much stock in fate/destiny/whatever or is this feasible? Do people really reconnect like that?" - Yes, they do. But often that happens when they are in their 60's or even their 80's - or through random chance or personal catastrophe.

How strong is the glue between you and your boyfriend anyway ?
posted by troutfishing at 10:01 PM on October 12, 2004

ROU_Xenophobe is correct in interpreting what I said about fiancee visas, sorry I wasn't clearer.

I'd also like to ask anonymous WHY the relationship is "now totally open-ended", since this implies that at some point it wasn't. What changed and why? I suspect that examining this might tell you the answer to your question. There are all kinds of permutations of "relationship" which can work very well, from monogamous marriage to fuck buddies, but such things only work if both (all) parties are on the same page, and nobody is yearning for something more/better/different.
posted by biscotti at 10:15 PM on October 12, 2004

My two cents: long-distance and/or open relationships work for some people, but few enough that you'd be wise to bet that it won't work for you. y2karl was fustest and said it bestest.
posted by languagehat at 9:26 AM on October 13, 2004

If you're not sure about open relationships, it's probably a sign that it's not a good idea for you. From what I've seen, you need to be pretty strong in your convictions about polyamory to make it work.
posted by samh23 at 11:08 AM on October 13, 2004

Here is an open relationship thread that has some good experiences related, as well as some discussion of the downsides. I've gone off on this topic repeatedly before, so I have just a short note for people who don't click the link: Open relationships can work; they can work more often than one might imagine. y2karl notwithstanding, they do not require one be a saint (I certainly am not). What they do require is honesty, trust, and a willingness to work through shit, especially shit you don't have a template for.

Also, question-asker, "using" people for short term/mostly sex is only wrong if you are dishonest with them. Some people aren't interested in or don't have time for a full on crazy relationship and may therefore be happy with a low-key thing.
posted by dame at 11:26 AM on October 13, 2004

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