Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

I’m opening up about being open. It’s an oxymoron that people in open relationships are so often closed about that fact. But of today, I’m done with not being known for who I am. I believe in, I support, and I have an open relationship.

So, who am I?

Long-time readers of this blog (Hi, Mom!) already know me, but I figure—and hope—this gets shared, so for the new folks: I’m a 30-something (ok, a 39-something) guy, married to a spectacularly lovely lady named Susie for more than 15 years—and all that time, our relationship has been open. I run my own business, I live in Vancouver, and I really like computers, Ultimate, and blogging about personal things.

What pictures form in your mind when you hear about an open relationship? Do you think of gold-medallion-wearing swingers in bell-bottomed corduroy? Religious cultists sequestered in an isolated compound? A struggling new-ish couple attempting to save a rocky relationship with a hail-mary threesome? Or a longtime loveless twosome bored with each other, one wandering partner and one begrudging agree-er?

Those are all true in some cases, but I’ll tell you one thing: I’m almost positive you weren’t picturing Susie and I. Everyone we’ve told has expressed one thing more than any other: surprise. We’ve been married since the ‘90s, and have been open all that time; open always to the possibility for ourselves and each other that we can build loving and sometimes physical relationships outside of our own one.

If you’re confused already by all this, that’s natural. The general term “open relationship” is about as descriptive and generic as the term “partner” is—it can mean many things without context, to the point of being nearly useless. Yet “open relationship” is often the only term monogamous people have learned about people like us, so it’s how I am starting with you, dear reader, even though it puts us immediately out into choppy waters.

To smooth that choppy water, let me broaden your vocabulary immediately to a few more words, as we discuss what’s going on in my life. I’m “polyamourous” and “non-heirarchical,” but I’m not a “swinger.”

Polyamourous translates roughly to “multiple loves”, and I’ll talk more about that below. Non-hierarchical means that, though I’m married, I don’t impose a strict ranking of the people I’m seeing; I let each one be its own relationship and expect them all to support each other honestly and openly. Other people use terms like “primary” and “secondary” but I don’t go for that.  And I’m not into casual sex with near- or complete strangers—“swinging.”

(Here’s an article from a Salt Lake City Weekly that explains some additional structures.)

For me, being open in my relationships has much less to do with sex than it does with love. I’ve simply found that I can—and do—love more than one person at a time. For me, it’s all about loving freely and richly, letting myself love, and fall in love with, people in my life who are worthy and special.

I have found that each time I tell someone new about my open relationship, the two most common questions are basically “sex?” and “jealously?” As a culture and a species, we’re fascinated by sex, so this is understandable. However, my open relationships are about sex only about as much as your closed relationships are—sure, it’s an important component, but so is communication, trust, shared interests and goals, co-operation, support, patience, finances, family, and so on.

* * *

Why am I telling you, dear blog reader, about this today, after so many years of secrecy? Because, as I have learned more about others in open relationships—people who live or try to live the way we do—I’ve found that there are so few examples that folks like me can look to for understanding and support. I’ve seen how difficult it is to transition from being closed to being open.

At the same time, I have seen recently the growing signs that open relationships are spreading; that they are being investigated by more and more people, in successful or less successful ways. Many of the people I talk to have tried them for six months, a year, or maybe three. So I’m ahead of the curve, and I do like to share.

And thus, while I hesitate to use the term role model to describe what I’m doing, I personally know I looked for guidance or models for years, and didn’t find (m)any that matched the pattern of what I wanted out of my life and my loves. I hope that, with this blog post and more to follow, I can be an example or a support to others by sharing.

because of how I love, I have the opportunity to be open about being open; many others I know of cannot yet be fully open about how they want to live; they have issues with parents, co-workers, their church, their siblings, or they simply aren’t yet ready to commit to the labeling that comes from exposing that part of their life.

At a personal level, too, I’m ready, I’m solid in myself and my relationships, and I’m so damn tired of being closed, hidden, and of juggling the inevitable misdirections and outright lies that are necessary to hide such an important part of who I am. Being secretive has caused conflict and chaos, and has contributed to the failing of some of my relationships, and while I’m sure being public will cause other issues, I’m ready to deal with those instead of the ones I have lived with.

* * *

So, what’s polyamory, in more detail?

There are probably three main elements in polyamory:
1) Multiple intimate relationships
2) Full disclosure of all relationships to all involved
3) Consent of all involved

While monogamous relationships are essentially one dimensional things (two points can only form one line), poly relationships can be extremely complex and intertwined; forming long chains, loops, Vs, triads…. but let me stay rooted in my relationships.

First off, I believe it is absolutely possible to give more than one person the energy and support they need from a love relationship. No one would argue that having more than one child is impossible because you don’t have enough love to share. Why isn’t the same thing believed for love relationships? Why do people believe you can or should only love “the one”? I know that having two, or three, or four… loves is possible—you can make the time and the energy in your life for each of them, and they can support your other relationships.

Let me talk about a recent example. When I had my recent knee surgery, the fact that I had two people that I love, looking after me, made me healthier, happier, and more well-cared for than i would have been with just one—and was less stress for each of them individually. That’s one of the best benefits of multiple relationships. You can be a team.

In much of the literature about open relationships and polyamory, writers go out of their way to say it’s not better, it’s just different, and it’s not for everyone. We open relationship people are modest as hell and just want to get along… and we don’t want to rock the boat or scare people.

But I now disagree with this “it’s just different” stance.

I think open relationships ARE better. Not always, not every case… but often. I think they should be sought out, encouraged and explored actively. Why? Because they involve more emotional honesty, in my experience, and they lead to better communication. Being loved by more people is a good thing; leaving a bad relationship is easier if you have the loving support of someone else at the time. Polyamory works, and from what I’ve seen and lived, we’d be better off if more people were poly.

Cheating is common; divorce is common; people break up because one person can’t satisfy all their needs, all throughout a long life. Monogamy clearly doesn’t work for many people—certainly not at all times of their life, and yet it’s the only model we encourage, discuss and support as a society. (I’ll talk about kids in another post, but polyamory is a great model for a family, too.)

I think closed relationships are wonderful for those who want them.* But with time and experience, I now believe that for many people, open relationships would be a better, more successful way to live than what they are doing.

(* And you can have a multiple-partner closed relationship—that’s more common than you think!)

I’ve been in an open relationship now for most of my adult life. For many of those years, it was open but mostly theoretical. I blame this on the fact that I was an awkward goof who no one wanted to date. Hard to believe, I know.

Still, you might be asking, given my certainty today, why am I only talking about this on my blog about this now?

Well, it’s taken me a while—a long while—to integrate this belief fully into who I am, and long as well to tell my parents and friends directly. I didn’t know how people would react, and now I do, and I’m ready. I certainly know many other people who have gone as long—or longer—or who are still silent today about their successful open but hidden relationship.

* * *

Travis, I can hear you think… What does this all mean?

It means… I am still the same person you thought I was, except perhaps even slightly weirder. But not by much 😊

I expect that there will be some questions; I’ll answer them in my next post, if you ask them in the comments. I’d really like to hear what you think, and I’d be pleased if this was the seed for some interesting discussions in your own life and relationships.  And if you’re reading this on Facebook, do come to the blog to comment.



 
 

 

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I’m Spreading the News

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So, Why Get Married?

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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