Open relationships are thriving, now more than ever!
At a Diwali party last year, there was a rather volatile conversation on the perils of being in a profession that has you shuttling between cities. My friend, Tushar (name changed), was complaining about living out of a suitcase as he was travelling so much. As the creative head of a leading advertising agency, he’s forever on some campaign shoot or pitch, meeting with clients in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. “It’s a tough job and the travel makes it harder,” he grumbled. His friend jumped in to ask how his wife had been coping. “Isn’t it almost like being single again? If you don’t get to spend time with each other, it’s basically a long-distance marriage, right?”
Tushar then confessed to being in an open marriage, thereby opening a can of reactions. Everyone had something to say. My favourite was this priceless gem: “If you’re living out of a suitcase, you might as well live a new life!”
Welcome to the new India. It is indeed the age of un-innocence – people are up to all kinds of things behind closed doors and, ironically, relationships are more ‘open’ than ever. Who said we’re not a developed country? As far as relationships go, we’ve come a long, open way.
To be fair, open relationships have always been around. They were covert, sure, but entirely existent. I remember hearing about one over a decade ago, from a colleague who was talking about his friend who was ‘open’ with his long-term girlfriend in Delhi. As a 20-something, I
was quite amazed. What has changed since then is the number of people in such arrangements and, more importantly, how honest they are about them.
So often does one come across open relationships and marriages now, I’m starting to believe it’s a new kind of icebreaker.
“Hi, I’m so-and-so and I’m in an open relationship. What about you?”
Before you dismiss this as a fad of the rich and elite, let me remind you that relationships and marriages have undergone a sea change everywhere. Log in on any one of those interchangeable dating apps and you’re bound to encounter numerous people in open relationships.
Ever since these apps came into the picture and work-life balance went for a toss, the desire to work on a relationship has ceased to exist and relationships have changed for the better, or worse, depending on where you stand. A couple from Chandigarh, who have been in an open relationship for over a year now, told me last month: now it’s all about making life simpler and not playing by pre-set rules.
In a survey conducted by Gleeden, India’s first extramarital dating app, 55 percent of married Indians confessed to cheating on their spouses. The numbers would go much higher if you were to take into account unmarried and LGBTQIA+ couples. Clearly, people are less monogamous now as couples find their own version of what an ‘ideal’ marriage or relationship should look like. What is morality, anyway, if not just a point of view?
“Between a back-breaking work schedule and a fast-fading youth, who has the time to fix things? I’d rather hop on Bumble and get myself a distraction.” As a teacher in a popular school in Mumbai’s Mahim, Shalini (name changed) didn’t want to deal with an unsatisfactory sex life, after dealing with students all day. What she craved was a man who knew her body and what he’d do with it. When she mooted the idea of going open to her husband, surprisingly (and notso-unpredictably), he was game. They’ve been in an open arrangement for four years and their marriage has never been better.
WHY SHOULD THE STRAIGHT ONES HAVE ALL THE FUN?
As one of the founders of a new-age digital media start-up, Rohan (name changed) and his partner decided to go open after his job made him move to Bengaluru and their newly-turned long-distance relationship started to fizzle out faster than a thoroughly-shaken can of soda. They now enjoy a heady mix of sex with other people and coitus-on-camera with each other every once in a while, just for a change. The same is the case with Vikram (name changed), a lawyer I met a few weekends ago, who now enjoys a ‘healthy’- his words, not mine – open arrangement with his livein boyfriend of three years.
Then there are those who are ‘open’ on the quiet. Don’t you dare call it cheating, though; these men and women take serious offence at this label. “It would be cheating if I had indulged in a full-blown affair but I still love my wife. I’m just having sex; it’s nothing emotional!” The man in question leads a dual life. Everyone but his wife knows about his philandering ways and he doesn’t seem to care to be secretive about it. But Amit (name changed) wouldn’t want me to call him a ‘cheater’. He is, as he puts it, completely in love with his wife but not sexually satisfied with her. What’s in a name, eh?
Young adults today want everything on their terms. They won’t work at a place that isn’t giving them their due and won’t live in a city that’s not matching their ‘vibe’. In the boudoir, they’ll do ‘it’ exactly how they like. Age no bar, gender no bar and monogamy not needed. What about romance? Love and sex can mutually co-exist – you just didn’t get the memo!
I like to call this a different kind of Art of Living – some swear by it, some want to adopt it and some others choose to dismiss it. Does it work? The verdict isn’t out yet but modern-day men and women in India certainly seem to have taken to it.
What should the rest of you do? As my friend’s father once put it, “it’s the world of the young and we’re just living in it!”
Shobhaa De famously said, “Some people watch birds; I watch marriages.” Author (India’s answer to Jackie Collins?) and social commentator, she is one of the most notorious chroniclers of India’s young and elite, whose candour I’ve always admired. If Ms De would allow, I’d like to borrow her quote.
I too watch marriages. I also watch relationships, both casual and consequential. Straight, gay, bisexual, et al. There are few things more exciting, intriguing and almost-educational than modern-day relationships.
BUT THIS BEGS THE QUESTION: WHO AM I?
Think of me as someone who knows the minds, hearts and bedrooms of the young Indian today. I have a social life across cities that allows me access to coveted parties, people and positions (pun absolutely intended!). Through this column, I aim to keep you abreast of how the young people of India go about their personal lives. I promise to keep it honest and to-the-point. No judgements, no prudishness.