essays, Interviews

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Rife: “I Hear You”


1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

The guilt is normal, you don’t need to let it hold you back. Stand up for your needs and desires. Be more honest than you’re comfortable with. Learn to not take it personal when you contribute to someone else’s hurt. You are responsible for your feelings, they are responsible for theirs. Be kind. Listen. Wait until they’re done crying to ask what’s wrong. Repeat after me: I hear you. When they ask how the date went, start with the general “Fine, we watched a movie” and slowly ramp up to the particulars, “…the acting sucked so we ended up making out the whole time.” Watch for a glazed look. That’s your cue to shut up. Reassure them every chance you can get. You cannot do this enough.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

I’ve never gone through the process of opening a relationship that was monogamous. I imagine it’s very tricky. The hardest thing about maintaining an open relationship has been keeping an open mind about how it can serve me best, being flexible with what that might look like, and gently shifting structures as needed to accomodate that.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

That same flexibility I talk about being the hardest. A thing can be both. Runners-up include: the freedom to chase and be slutty and explore other aspects of my kinky self, as well as the lovely explicitness and clarity and customizable nature of making your own agreements.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

That same thing everyone says about having babies: it’s hard, but it’s worth it. With a weary sleepless smile.

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

5 thoughts on “Open Relationship Mini Interview with Rife: “I Hear You””

  1. Lily says:

    I love this one, because I think it gets at one of the most confusing, difficult parts of polyamory: information management. Who wants to know what when?

    In some cases, if you don’t tell a partner something, it can end up being cheating (like if you had a new partner and had sex with them without asking your existing partner(s) first). But telling too much can also be hurtful. Everybody has different levels of ok and not ok when it comes to what they want to hear about your other relationships and when, and unfortunately, everyone I know seems to work that out in practice by hurting each other’s feelings :(

    The good news is that you do that a few times and figure it out, but I really wish there was something like a BDSM checklist for poly communication. “Do you want to hear about the sex? Y/N” “What about if the sex involves a pogo stick? Y/N”

  2. rife says:

    Thanks. :) I always want to hear about sex that involves pogo sticks. For the record.

    1. Lily says:

      Noted :) *whips out clipboard and scribbles a note*

  3. Kyle says:

    OH! The checklist idea is actually a really good one… I think there is definitely a need for that, so are you going to get that going, Lily? ;-)

    1. Lily says:

      You know, I just wrote a book, and I had such a good time doing it that my friend Aggie and I have resolved to write a new one. She writes the wonderful Solo Poly blog, which is by and for poly folks who do not have/do not seek a cohabiting, “primary-style” relationship.

      We don’t really have a title, but it might be something like: “Beyond the Relationship Escalator: Living And Loving When You Don’t Want To Live Together.” It’ll be for solo poly folk and for people who have a primary-style relationship but are in a new relationship where the whole dating > cohabiting > share a cable bill thing isn’t operational. What milestones do you celebrate? How do you communicate the feeling that your relationship is substantial and valid without that stuff?

      And I’ll put in our notes that we WILL HAVE ZE CHECKLIST. Plus, I’ve found that having the questionnaires and checklist as download and print items on the web is a nice way to promote a book, so apart from the fact that we’d put it out there as a public service it, this is one case where we might net a few bucks for doing the right thing :)

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