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The closedness of open relationships

Freeing the body beyond limits does not always free the heart, says Rohit Trilokekar

Rohit Trilokekar | Published 10.09.23, 11:53 AM
Do open relationships really open minds and hearts?

Do open relationships really open minds and hearts?


She stole a glance at her hubby in the throes of a drab sitcom. The TV was the only thing that kept them close. A proximity measurable only with a scale. He was just one among the many men in her life. She remembered the time they first met. She, a Harvard graduate. He, the owner of a namkeen store she felt embarrassed to tell her friends about. It was an unconventional love that brought them together but the appearance of a cliche that saw them tie the knot. A knot rendered loose by the “arrangement” they had set in place — an open relationship.

Her mind hearkened to the time their souls seemingly fused into one. The warmth of a New York bar and some hot toddy had lent them solace on a blisteringly cold afternoon. She was in the midst of a much-needed sabbatical. He had come to the States to “find” himself. He called it America in a chat with the bartender. That had captured her attention. Who said America anymore? She asked if he would like to get a table. The next couple of hours were spent discussing everything from Gandhi (not Rahul) to the Buddha.


Interspersed in the conversation were ideals they held in common. Things like, “what’s the point of marriage if monogamy, in essence, is flawed?” They both knew at the end of the conversation that they were meant to be with one another. Even before they went back to her rented Manhattan apartment and made love, which failed to match the intensity of their searing conversation.

They had a rule. Do what you like, but never bring it home. Just like the subject of work was never brought up at the dining table. She never talked about her cases in the courtroom; he never spoke of his farsan stocks depleting right before Diwali..

There was always plenty of chakna to go with their drinks, though. Over the years, they found their appetites for one another had only grown. She believed the mutual turn-on stemmed from the idea that they were both wanted by other people. Until the past couple of years, when their sexual romps had neared extinction.

Sex is mere foreplay, finding a connection is where the real pleasure lies

When does intimacy move from attraction to passion?

When does intimacy move from attraction to passion?


“I don’t know who he’s doing it with,” she told her best friend one day, when they were out for coffee. “But I think she must be pretty amazing.” They had ordered espresso shots. After all, “coffee quickies” best reflected her then sex life.

The way things were going, she might have just walked out of the coffee shop with a complete stranger. “That’s what you signed up for, isn’t it?”. Her friend did have a point. She had known exactly what she was getting into, long before they tied the knot. As though rubbing salt into her wounds, the friend went on: “Sorry to intrude, but why do you even do what you do?” Not a question that warranted an answer were it not for her fragile state of mind.

“We had decided early on that we wouldn’t be defined by society’s constraints. I mean, neither of us believes in god. Or marriage.”

“Yet, you got married.”

“Yes, we did. But only to please our parents. We knew we wanted to be with each other, but not in a way that we felt caged.”

“Have you ever fallen in love with someone else?”

She could not find an answer. There was this one guy, only recently. A college student, who had started working as a trainee at the law firm she was partner at. They had made love in the conference room. Falling in love was forbidden. Not making it. She had looked him straight in the eye and peered into the nakedness of his soul. And seen a spark. Sex is mere foreplay, finding a connection is where the real pleasure lies.

That flicker of a connection was strong enough to scare her. She had stopped talking to “The Boy”, as she had christened him, right after that steamy encounter. A fit of passion that could have easily seen her lose her job. He had written notes to her, got her flowers. She had thrown them away. After all, her one true love was sitting in a namkeen shop, only a few miles away.

Now, as she trained her eyes back to the TV screen, she thought: “There’s absolutely nothing here.” That connection she had with her husband years was like a memory buried deep. So deep it failed to move her. Had their love been undone by the openness of their relationship?

Forget marriage, were all relationships inherently flawed? Watching sitcoms was merely a ruse to fall asleep. She had the habit of reading in bed; he would start snoring before she finished.

Sex was a thing of the past. With her husband, that is.

A closed relationship had helped them open themselves up to one another

Exclusivity often brings security, heightening love

Exclusivity often brings security, heightening love


The next morning, seemingly out of nowhere, she confronted him.

“I have to know. Who are you sleeping with?”

“Does it matter?” he asked, as he doused his toast in honey.

“What do you mean, does it matter? Of course, it matters. I’m married to you, ba*tard!”

“I never slept with anyone but you, darling,” he said, without breaking a sweat, before leaving his breakfast half-finished.

Was she convinced? Was he convincing? It mattered little. That night she made love with a fierceness like never before. “I am only yours” she kept saying, as he thrust gently into her. Until her final, resounding “yes!”. As though affirming her newfound ideal.

Gradually, they started talking about everything from birds to French castles. Read books out loud. Even discussed court cases and farsan stocks! When watching TV, their eyes would drift casually to one another. Each of them would be granted a glimpse into the other’s being. A closed relationship had helped them open themselves up to one another — body, mind and soul.

Rohit Trilokekar is a novelist from Mumbai who flirts with the idea of what it means to love. His heart’s compass swerves ever so often towards Kolkata, the city he believes has the most discerning literary audience.

Last updated on 10.09.23, 12:42 PM

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