A Long Distance Open Relationship

Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

“A long-distance open relationship”, Maria could not believe she was saying these words and understood the shock in Hannah’s eyes.

“What is that even??!”, Hannah was laughing now.

“We are in a long-distance relationship and we are free to be with other people.”

“You mean sleep with other people.”

“Well, yes that too.”

“Is that what you want?”

“Yes, I am ok with it. I mean I love him and he loves me. We have to live in different cities for now and that’s ok. I don’t mind if this is what he wants.”

“Ok, as long as you are comfortable and ok with it. It could be fun. You can cheat on him and you don’t have to feel bad about it.”

“Yes, except it won’t be considered cheating.”

“Well do you have to tell him about it? Or do you just do your own thing and then when you are together pretend you are in a real relationship.”

“We are in a real relationship, Hannah. We just define the terms of our relationship differently from other people. I might even enjoy this new chapter of my life. Besides, it’s not forever, just for a year. Until he finishes his Masters and can join me in the UK. Just because we can’t be with each other for a year does not mean we can’t have fun with other people. When we are back together then we will resume as we before. Until then we are happy to give each other some breathing room.”

“Why don’t you just break up then?”

“Because we don’t want to. We plan to get married. We are meant for each other.”

“Well, I would not like the thought of my boyfriend sleeping with another woman. That would drive me CRAAAAAAZY. You are truly exceptional Ria. Kudos to you. You are building your own relationship the way you want to. Who cares about society and what they deem a real relationship. This is great. Cheers to you.” Hannah raised a glass of wine to her and took a large gulp.

“So when do you start?”

“Start what?”

“Start being open? Tonight? Can we meet some lads tonight?”

“No, it hasn’t started yet.”

“Well, when do you start?!”

“I don’t know. Maybe next week. We didn’t affirm a date. We only had the conversation this morning. I doubt I can jump right in tonight. It would look like I was waiting for this opportunity. Just waiting to… sleep with someone else.”

“Look Ria, what do you think he is doing tonight? Do you think he is lying in bed or out with his friends thinking of you? He is a free man now. He is out with a girl. He probably had a girl in mind. Why else do you think he proposed this set up to you?”

Ria was silent. She could not bear the thought of Matthew out with another girl. The mere thought tore her up.

Why did she agree then? She agreed because when he called her he made it sound like this was the only option. This was the only way their relationship would survive. If it was any other way then he would have to break it off. She agreed with him and did it his way because she could not bear losing him. The man she had dated for 5 years now. The man she knew she would get married to. If he needed to take a break, she was ok with that, for now.

She was giving him one year off in exchange for a lifetime with her. That seemed fair enough. It was a necessary evil.

When did the openness start? It must have started the second they put the phone down. They were on. They were open now and surely Matthew was not using his first night of freedom to stay home. He was out with the boys and possibly with a girl. She was sure of it now. She had last seen him 6 months ago. He was out and he was going to have sex tonight. Well, maybe she would too.

“Ok, Han, let's do this. Let’s have meaningless sex tonight”.

“All right! Shots!!”

In the end, she couldn’t do it. She did meet a cute guy though. Ronaldo from Portugal. A tourist in London. He wanted to drink in a pub and meet a British girl. She was sorry to disappoint him.

She was not British but he did not seem to care. They danced and when he tried to kiss her, she told him conveniently, that she had a boyfriend.

She found him attractive but she could not go through with the kiss. Because as he was about to kiss her, she thought of Matthew. Her sweet Matthew. Because all she wanted right then was Matthew. She wanted to go home to him. She wanted to see him. She wanted to curl up inside of him. She didn’t care if he had broken her heart by suggesting they be in an open relationship. Even though the second she heard those words come from his mouth she knew it was the beginning of the end.

He was all she wanted. They were M and M. They were perfect together. They loved each other.

So what if they lived in different cities for now. So what if he was out with another girl tonight. She ached for his touch.

She didn’t want to meet other people. She loved Matthew. No one else made her heart feel complete. If she had to half of Matthew for a year then that was ok. She couldn’t bear the thought of kissing anyone else, let alone sleeping with anyone else.

Hannah was different. She went back to Ronaldo’s hotel, with Ronaldo’s friend. If freedom meant going home with someone you just met at a bar and then having sex, waking up and never speaking again, then she had no desire to be free. Why did Matthew want this? Was Hannah right? Did he have a girl in mind?

Suddenly she knew she couldn’t do it. She was going to phone him now and say she had changed her mind.

It was 9 am London time. Fine, Johannesburg was one hour ahead. He would defiantly be up by now. Unless he had been up all night and was recovering from a hangover.

He didn’t answer. Disappointed she went to make coffee when 5 minutes later her phone rang.

“Hey babe, sorry I missed your call. I just came out of the shower.”

“No worries. I was worried you were still sleeping.” She wondered whether there was a girl in his room and he had decided to call her outside on his balcony.

“How are you, honey?” He sounded so sweet. Different from the Matthew yesterday who had called her and renegotiated the terms of their relationship like a business agreement.

“I am ok. Went out last night with Hannah.”

“Oh, fun where did you go.”

“Just to the pub up the road. We weren’t out late.”

She was losing her nerve now. He sounded like her Matthew again. Like nothing had changed.


“Yes, my love.”

“I have been thinking about this whole long-distance open relationship thing and I don’t think I am happy about it.”

“Ok, well yesterday you agreed to it and you seemed fine?” There was no denying the hint of irritation in his voice.

“Yes, it’s just well I have had time to think about it and I don’t think I like it at all. I don’t want to see other people and I can’t bear the thought of you sleeping with another girl. That would break my heart. I don’t want a relationship like that. I know we have to be apart for a year but surely we can handle it?” She was pleading now.

“Its too late M. I already slept with someone last night.”

Hannah was right then. He did have someone in mind. He was calling for her permission but that was all.

“Oh. With who?”

“It doesn’t matter. Let's not go into details about who slept with who and when. I don’t think that is healthy. We best just keep our sex lives private from each other for now. I don’t mind you sleeping with other men as long as I don’t know about it.”

“But I don’t want to sleep with other men. I was out last night and all I wanted was you.”

“Look M if you don’t want to sleep with other men that’s ok. Just so you know I can’t do a long-distance thing unless we are open.”

“But Matthew it’s just sex, with a random person, right? Why can’t you wait for one year? I am sure you will come to visit me and I plan to visit Joburg soon. Why do we have to be open?”

“Why can’t you keep it in your pants?”, she wanted to say.

“Look M I am not the one that took the job in London. You put your needs above our relationship. And all I am asking, for once, is to put my needs first.”

Suddenly she knew who he slept with. Rachel of course. His younger sister’s best friend. It made sense. Lucy had warned her before she left. She told her that Rachel had eyes for Matthew. They flirted occasionally. Which she did not mind.

“Rachel definitely likes Mat, I am sure of it. She is gonna make a move when you are gone.”

“Don't be silly Luce. Mat loves me and I have no need to feel concerned.”

Except until yesterday. Now she was concerned. Rachel was not a random hook up. Rachel was not meaningless sex. Rachel was his younger sister’s best friend. She was someone he knew. Someone she would have to see in the future if they stayed together.

“Was it Rachel, Mat?”

He went silent and she could hear him breathing heavily on the phone.

“Yes, it was Rachel. God, how did you know? Did Lucy tell you?”

“Lucy warned me that Rachel had eyes for you. I didn’t think you liked her”. She was properly crying now. How could he do this?

“Mat, I can’t I’m sorry. You wanted an open relationship so you could have sex with someone you fancied. You wanted my permission to cheat. Well, I don’t want this anymore. I have changed my mind. If you want to sleep with someone else then maybe we should break up.”

“Jesus M, it was just sex. It meant nothing. Rachel knows that. I explained everything to her before we did it. She is fully aware of our arrangement. She knows I love you and that we are in a committed relationship. Seriously I don’t want a relationship with her. I want a relationship with you.”

“If you want a relationship with me then why did you sleep with Rachel? Why her? You two have always been close. That was cheating.”

“I love you M. I love you so much. Please I swear sex with Rachel is nothing. I promise you. You have my heart.”

“Well if it is nothing, will you stop?”

He hesitated, “I…”

“It's over Mat.” She put down the phone and burst into tears.

I am a Lawyer, Writer, Reader and Traveller. From Johannesburg, South Africa. I am writing to find my voice. Fortune favours the brave.

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