How’s it hanging, love-tunnelers?
It’s been touch-and-go for years, but it’s official:
I finally love Chicago.
I really, really do.
When I first moved here, I hated it.
The cool green streets of Minneapolis were fresh in my mind, and all my friends were there and everything fun was there and everyone was queer and you could bike without a nagging feeling that Audis were aiming for you and every coffee shop had not only soy milk, but a mini fridge staggering under the weight of almond, rice, cashew, and hemp milk cartons.
Chicago, after that, seemed grey and menacing.
I couldn’t, for some reason, find the lesbians.
It was always cloudy.
Alleys smelled like piss, and the homeless lady on my corner would say “Bless you, baby” if I gave her a dollar and “Cheap-ass bitch” if I didn’t have any money.
I hated it here.
But I wasn’t trying! I wasn’t open to the possibility that Chicago could rule! I had already made up my mind that Minneapolis was perfect…and after that, well, what was left?
There wasn’t space in my heart for Chicago.
But this city is wooing me.
It’s like a dyke firefighter at the lesbian bar - it doesn’t even have to try.
Chicago knows it’s the shit.
Its heavily-tattooed girls, seriously feisty old ladies on the bus, weird little corners, hot dog stands, scads of queer kids, beaches, dive bars that make cocktails out of grape soda (yes), and crumbling, high-ceilinged apartments have been steadily working on me.
The other day, my friend Jen and I were in Rogers Park, a neighborhood way up north, when she pointed out something I’d never seen before – a library-looking building with white flags flapping outside.
Upon closer inspection, the flags had a big black boot silkscreened on them.
And you know what it was, homos?
Do you know what we had casually happened upon?
It was…the Leather Archives and Museum.
A vast museum.
Dedicated to the leather community.
Owned, bought, and run by queers.
In the middle of a residential area, no signs around it, no fanfare – juuuuust a massive leather museum, hangin’ out in the neighborhood, with two little girls playing hopscotch next door and a downstairs devoted to hard-core kink and fetish.
Of course Chicago has this.
What the fuck doesn’t Chicago have?
As I looked at the leather museum’s flags snapping in the breeze on that quiet, unassuming street, Chicago-patriotic tears welled in my eyes and it hit me:
I love it here.
weren’t we talking about open relationships?
I believe we were.
It’s Part II of our two-part Open Relationship mini-series, and today, we’re talking specifics.
Today ima tell you some of the ways CJ and I, and a few other couples we know who are in open relationships…doooo it.
Now, alas, I don’t know anything about dating couples or living as a polyamorous threesome, so if you do, weigh in, kay?
I can only talk about what works for me and CJ, in our date-other-people-while-remaining-committed-to-each-other lezzer relationship, mmkay?
So: You maybe wanna be in an open relationship.
First things first.
If you’re dating someone: Does your partner, um, actually know you’re interested in opening things up?
For serious: do they know you want to be in an open relationship?
Have you brought it up? Have you brought it up more than once?
Have you brought it up in a way that doesn’t sound jokey or seem like you’re kidding?
Because before you go another step further, it’s time to figure out how bad you want to be in an open relationship.
Bad enough to lose your partner over the issue?
‘Cause, um, it might happen.
Sometimes it does.
Especially if you just spring the idea on them.
You have to be willing to accept the fact that you’re already in a relationship with a person who has their own ideas about what being together entails, and they may or may not be interested in being in an open relationship.
Whether you think it’s unfair or snap-judgement-y or not, they have a right to say “FUCKNO. CASE CLOSED” to an open relationship when you broach the subject.
You could be dipping your dainty lil’ toes into BreakUp Territory waters, and it is absolutely within your partner’s rights to say “this is a deal-breaker for me” and tell you that they will break up with you if you wanna be in an open relationship.
Opening it up is a big deal.
Wanting it bad enough to be willing to accept less-than-great consequences is important.
Now, if you’re single and dating people: Have you told your dates yet?
For me, because I have a partner and am dating, I tell potential dates about my sitch immediately.
But if you’re single?
I mean, you probably don’t need to be telling casual first- or second-dates that you’re looking for an open relationship, unless it comes up. You guys just met – nobody’s that invested yet.
Yay for being upfront and all, but you’re queers – you have ages upon ages to process later.
Find out if y’all like each other first, hmm?
However, if the dates are getting into that nebulous sort of “heeeey, we’re sure seeing a lot of each other now…” area, it might be time to have The Talk.
The “I’m-interested-in-being-in-an-open-relationship” Talk.
Also known as OMGLOLZ the most fun talk ever!!!<3 <3
The Talk is totally unpredictable. You just never know how it’s gonna go.
Sometimes the person you’re dating will heave a huge sigh of relief and go “Ohhh good, that’s what I want toooooo” and then off you go on your merry slutty way together.
But some people are…less than thrilled when you say you want to be in an open relaysh.
And then they don’t want to date you anymore.
And…both of these are fine.
Eeeeeeverybody is allowed feelings about open relationships.
Nooooone of the feelings are stupid or less valid or less cool than others.
But OK! All systems go! Green light! You’ve got a live one!
You’re going to be – or are now in – an open relationship.
Um. Now what?
Well! The first thing you want to do (you’ll get really fucking used to this) is TALK ABOUT IT.
Get on the same page with your partner in sex-positive fuckery.
What do they think an open relationship entails?
What do you think?
Maybe they think an open relationship means you get to have one-night stands with strangers only.
Meanwhile, you’re over here thinking you get to have several romantic girlfriends at once.
Not good, gays.
Lemme tell you right now, homos:
There are a million different ways to have a fun, working open relationship, and my way isn’t better than anyone else’s, but this is the key to your successful sluttery:
YOU NEED TO AGREE.
You need, need, need to agree with your partner on EXACTLY what your open relationship means.
Decide your boundaries.
Make some rules.
And then – here’s what CJ and I do – write down what you decide and put the rules somewhere you can get at them, like a kitchen drawer, so when you’re having what my parents call a “loud talk” about something open-relationship-related, you can grab the rules and point to them and be like “Ha HA! Number 4!! This is why I’m mad! Look at Number 4! That’s not allowed!”
Your rule list can be as long or short as you please.
Maybe your rule is “there are no rules.” (Good luck with that one, sugar.)
Maybe you’ll be like my friend Cody* and her partner.
They live apart, both need lots of alone time, and have a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule.
Maybe you’ll be like CJ and me and have quite a few rules.
But make some!
Boundaries, faggettes! They’re your friends!
Together with your partner, decide:
WHO can you fuck?
Can you fuck strangers?
Can you fuck men?
Can you fuck your best friend? Someone in your immediate shared friend-circle? Friends of friends? Acquaintances? Couples? Someone from work? Way older women? Way younger ones? The barista you have a crush on in the coffee shop you both go to every day?
Spell it the hell out.
Even if it seems obvious or you’re laughing with each other about some of your definitions.
You’re laughing now. Let’s wait a few months, shall we?
WHEN can you fuck?
Weekends? Weeknights? Only on Tuesday nights? Only during Pride? Only when you’re out of town?
I have several friends doing the only-when-you’re-traveling open relationship.
One couple jokingly calls it their “20-Mile Rule,” i.e. they’re monogamous when they’re within 20 miles of each other.
WHERE can you fuck?
At the house you share with your main partner? Only at your apartment where you live alone? Only at the new person’s place? Only in public places, like the beach? Only at hotels? Where?
HOW can you fuck?
Y’allfags, this one’s really, really important to nail down.
Can you use the toys that you share with your main partner? Can you have oral sex with a new friend, or is that off-limits? Can you go on real dates with someone else? Can you fall in love with a new person? Can you spend the night?
What do you guys consider sex? What do you consider cheating? What about just making out?
CJ and me, we know the answer to all of these questions.
AND THEN SOME.
Baby jesus in a jam jar, we have incredibly specific rules.
Here are some I don’t mind sharing:
* Safe sex – with both of us agreeing what that means – every time.
* No texting dates when CJ and I are spending time together.
* You have to say when you’re going on a date, say if you might
spend the night, and negotiate a good night to do that. (I hate doing this, I don’t know why.)
* You have to say when you’ve had sex.
* Wash. the. sheets.
* No sharing details about having sex with other people. Unless it’s hilariously bad, like “she belched and blew it at me in bed” bad.
We have a list of places that are ‘our’ places that we can’t bring new dates.
We have a game plan for what to do when, say, I’m out on a date with someone new and CJ randomly runs into us.
We’ve talked this muthafucka out.
And…you can’t plan for everything.
Sometimes you have no idea what crosses a boundary until you cross it.
We learn as we go.
I am really, really sorry, sluts, (mostly for myself because I hate talking about relationship shit) but:
With open relationships, get used to communicating.
‘Winging it’ is a very, very bad idea.
And an awesome way to get dumped!
Open relationships are a lot of negotiation.
There are fights. There are nasty fights.
You learn what really makes you jealous, and sometimes it’s not at all what you think it might be.
It turns out CJ gets jealous when I make dinner with someone at their house.
It turns out I get jealous when CJ goes out with a girl who dresses femme-ier than me.
Who fucking knew?
You don’t learn how to not have jealousy; you learn to recognize it and still love each other and work around it.
Gayelles, if you both want it and are willing to work for it, an open relationship can be awesome.
With guest star appearances by really cute people you can fuck!
Spelling things out, rules, and communication are your friends here!
Maaaan, I know this is a really long post, but I feel like I could talk about this stuff forever.
What did I leave out, y’allfags?
Got any tips for Opening It Up?
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Krista Burton is brand-new to Chicago. An ex-Mormon from Minneapolis, she writes a blog called Effing Dykes (www.effingdykes.blogspot.com), which is about activating your lesbian gaydar. She spends most of her time staring longingly at enormous dogs, riding her shiny orange scooter around town, and trying to bake gluten-free cake that doesn’t taste like gluten-free cake. She’s a staff writer at Groupon, and loves girls, inappropriate footwear, and hip-hop songs with filthy lyrics.