An open relationship is a relationship where both partners agree to have more than one sexual or romantic partner at a time. I would say an open relationship is different from a polyamorous one because with open relationships, the agreement is usually to have just sexual relations with other people that do not form into relationships, while with Polyamory, the point it to have intimate, loving and emotional relationships with multiple people.
Hm. My monogamous self cannot relate.
I seriously can’t wrap my head around romantically loving someone and then sleeping with other people and even giving them the permission to also sleep with other people.
However, I have learnt that just because I do not agree with something doesn’t make it less true or bad.
Nigerian men will gladly commit to open relationships, but not all the way though. They will willingly agree with or without your knowledge to have sex with other people, but God forbid they agree to their partners doing the same. If you’re a Nigerian man reading this, did I lie?
I know I’m not the only one who finds open relationships to be quite fascinating, so I spoke with 4 Nigerians who have experiences being in open relationships about the dynamics of it all, especially as a Nigerian living in Nigeria.
What’s Your Name and How Old Are You?
1: Lamide, 26, Female
2: Aal, 23, Female
3: Ambrosia, 20, Female
4: Peter, 31, Male
What Are The Dynamics Of An Open Relationship?
Lamide: An open relationship is a situation where two people agree to see other people casually, so just sexual relationships with other people.
Some partners set rules though.
Aal: Okay so an open relationship involves multiple people; simple. When your alleged partner claims to not want an official relationship because they are not ready – totally understandable – but insists on benefitting from the perks of being in a relationship, one would normally do suffer head and wait till said person is ready. Open relationships release you from this bondage by giving you the opportunity to explore your options.
Ambrosia: Well, I love someone very much and he loves me too. Our love is not bound by sexual intimacy so we can have sexual relations with other people.
Peter: An open relationship is a situation whereby two adults are in a romantic relationship but are also open to sexual interaction or relations with other people outside the relationship. For example, A and B are both dating in an open relationship and each of them still have sexual relationships with other individuals which are known to both of them.
How Did Your First Open Relationship Happen? What Was It Like?
Lamide: It was with this guy I had been dating for three months and to be honest, that was the best relationship I ever had. Well, until I found out he was actually dating someone else before we got together, and he was still with that person, and generally just talking to other girls. The guy was so good to me that I wasn’t ready to let go so I asked for an open relationship so I could see other guys. It was the hardest thing I have ever done because I was used to being with one guy at a time but I just put it in the back of my head that “Abeg he is doing his own too”. I could not continue because the thought of sharing my man with someone else didn’t sit well with me – I hate sharing – so I broke things off with him. We still smash once in a while though.
Aal: Like all love stories, we fell in love amidst the circus of Lagos but it was hard being together because he just couldn’t be faithful. I decided not to go through any emotional wahala and told him we could still be together but I’d be dating other people. Well one person to be precise.
Of course he almost had a heart attack and then decided to end the relationship but it was too late, mo ti lo. We set ground rules and that was it.
Ambrosia: This is actually my first. It’s honestly a fun ride, although it can sometimes get technical.
Peter: We were both corp members. A fellow male corp member, let’s call him Rak, was telling me in a derisive manner how he was able to hit it the first day a female corp member, let’s call her Ashiya, visited him. For me, I saw a liberated woman, while he saw a ”cheap” woman.
I moved to her. We started cracking jokes and in no time, we were vibing and bonding like Vander Waal’s force. We got touchy, made some body and eye contacts with a few kisses. At that point, we discussed on what we both wanted and we agreed to have an open relationship.
We were clear and honest with each other. There was no fear of being caught cheating and there was no reason to lie.
Considering How Conservative Our Society Is, How Easy Or Hard Was Making The Decision To Be In An Open Relationship?
Lamide: It was easy for me at first because I was purely doing it as revenge, and anytime I told guys I was in an open relationship they didn’t mind. But it got harder because I realized I couldn’t start anything deep with someone else when they were really into me, so I had to break the relationship off.
Aal: Well, in general I don’t let societal perceptions affect my decisions so it wasn’t difficult at all. For those who live by “what people will say”, I wish them the very best.
Ambrosia: It was pretty easy for me. I am polyamorous – I am already wired that way.
Peter: It was quite easy for me. I believe a relationship should be a private thing. It was an agreement between me and my partner, so people can’t give their opinion, criticism or acceptance on what they have no knowledge of.
However, whenever I’m in a social discussion and I express my liberal views about life and topics such as open relationships, I usually find myself as an outcast against all the other people.
Have You Been In Another Open Relationship Since Your First?
Lamide: Nope! Omo it is not for the faint hearted and I am soft at heart. It’s simply not for me.
Aal: Yes. I wasn’t ready and he wasn’t ready to fully commit. Distance also played a role in how difficult it was to not see or hang out with other people.
Ambrosia: Still in my first. I have found someone perfect for me in every way.
Peter: Yes, I did. I am still open to another one. The first time was a nice experience. There were no secrets or lies, we were more vulnerable with each other without judging.
Would You Say It’s Easy Or Difficult Finding Polyamorous Partners In Nigeria?
Lamide: It is actually easy. I believe it is easier for men to ask women for open relationships but harder for women to ask men because most women don’t like to share. This is just my opinion.
Aal: Omo Lagos is a jungle. There are even married people doing one or two things. I will say no one cares to be honest.
Ambrosia: I actually can’t say for sure.
Peter: It’s somewhat hard. People would rather be in an exclusive relationship and cheat than be in an open one.
What Would You Say Is The Hardest Part About Being In An Open Relationship In Nigeria?
Lamide: The judgment from people that don’t understand it. They feel you just want to eat your cake and have it – sleep around while maintaining a relationship.
Ambrosia: The conservative thinking of others.
Peter: The hardest part has to be establishing the requisite trust on sexual health, especially when you are having unprotected sex with each other. You would want to know the STI status of all your partner’s other sexual partners and even at that, you would also want to know those other people’s sexual partners too are not reckless with their sexual health because once there’s break in the chain of trust, you could pay a heavy price for it. So it is an ambivalent chain of fear, trust and apprehension.
What Are Some Myths You Will Like To Debunk About Open Relationships?
Aal: ‘That it is difficult or people in open relationships are prone to STDs’. Being in an open relationship doesn’t necessarily mean having sex with everyone or all of your partners. It just means using safe methods and experiencing having many options. This genuinely helps with decision making.
Ambrosia: No, we do not all like threesomes. Some of us like to watch though.
Peter: The myth that it is irresponsible people that engage in open relationships. It is actually the opposite because there are people who take recognition and responsibility for their sexual health, sexual diversity, sexual multiplicity and nature. They understand that no one individual can be a perfect match in all the physical, behavioral, emotional, spiritual and sexual qualities one seeks and therefore, they accept to get these desires from multiple individuals so that they get more fulfilled and satisfied.
Instead of people to be cheating in a relationship and breaking the trust reposed in them, they should do soul-searching and face the truth; no need to succumb to social construct. Engage in open relationships and be free from sexual bondage.
*Some names have been changed.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.