Insecure 2 Episode 5: Infidelity & Open Relationships

image for blog entry

Insecure 2 | Episode 5:

Let's Talk About Infidelity & Open Relationships

Like millions of others, I am a huge fan of HBO’S hit show, Insecure.  Each Sunday I'm excited to see what Issa & Molly are getting into next.  Their friendship gives me life!

The show’s ability to tackle issues like sexual fluidity, racism, sexism, and relationship challenges in a humorous and thought-provoking way keeps me tuning in each week.

Last night’s episode, which took on the topics of open relationships & infidelity, inspired me as a relationship & sex therapist, to get out of my blogging hibernation.  Thank you, Issa Rae!

In case you missed it...

Recap—If you’ve been watching the show, you know that Molly is vocal about wanting a relationship like that of her parents.  She’s had her fair share of relationship woes and longs for a steady committed relationship like Mom & Dad’s.

Molly’s enthusiastic about relationships so when her childhood friend, Dro, begins to express interest in pursuing a relationship with her, she's excited, right?

Well…kind of.  The twist? He’s married. 

Mind you, it’s an open-marriage but that doesn’t sit well with Molly. 

Remember, she wants a monogamous, long-lasting committed relationship like that of her parents who are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal.  Their marriage is ideal and the stuff fairy tales are made of, right?

Poor Molly’s bubble is about to burst.

Molly soon finds out that all that glitters is not gold when a family member reveals to her that her father once had an affair. Needless to say, Molly is HELLA SHOOK. Everything she believed about her parents’ marriage, and relationships has been challenged, turned upside down, and thrown out the window.

Fast forward through Molly’s emotional outburst and confronting her parents about the infidelity. How could Mom have stayed she demands to know! Oh, Molly...

Enter DRO.

Perhaps, it’s the emotional turmoil and vulnerability that contribute to Molly engaging in sexy time with Dro.  Maybe it’s a new understanding that relationships are a lot more complex than we allow ourselves to believe.  It's probably a bit of both, but either way, Dro provides some much-needed sexual healing to Molly that evening.  Now we'll have to stay tuned to see how their relationship plays out.

Okay…Insecure aside, here is what your favorite relationship therapist wants you to know after watching last night's episode:

  • Infidelity Shame Fuels Secrecy & Delays Healing

  • Open Relationships Have Boundaries Too

  • Set the Boundaries that Work for Your Relationship

Infidelity Shame Fuels Secrecy & Delays Healing:  After relationship betrayal a couple may struggle to heal from the dreaded infidelity-shame, especially, if they decide to stay together.  Fearful of judgment and ridicule, they usually hide their secret and isolate themselves from loved ones.  All of this delays the healing process. 

What would happen if instead of being met with raised eyebrows and “If that was me, I’d leave,” they were met with compassion and empathy.  How would that change the conversation around infidelity? How would that impact a couple’s ability to heal faster from the relationship trauma?  What message would it send to others struggling with the same challenges; not knowing where to turn to for support?

The reality is relationships are challenging and regular, schmegular people—good people can find themselves stepping outside the boundaries of their relationship.  The reasons may vary, but the reality is it happens...and no, you don’t know what you would do unless you’ve gone through it. 

Open Relationships Have Boundaries Too:  Where do I begin with the misunderstandings about open relationships? Truth is many people are able to navigate through the world of polyamory & open relationships in a healthy, boundaried, satisfying way.  The misconception is that open relationships have zero rules.  Wrong.  Healthy poly-relationships thrive on communication and set boundaries just like any other relationship.  The boundaries are negotiated and set by the people within the relationship--just like any other relationship.  The key factor is everyone needs to be on the same page as far as their understanding of the limits.  But again...that’s true for any relationship, right?

Set the Boundaries that Work for Your Relationship:  Whether you are in a monogamous or polyamorous relationship, remember that YOU & your partner(s) get to set the boundaries that work for you.  Too often I see people get tripped up by trying to get their relationship to fit a template that is not authentic to who they are as individuals or as a couple.  Have the courage to say, “THIS works for us.”  This will be a system of trial & error which works best when explored without shame or decision-making based on fear.

Listen, most of us are just trying to find our way along the relationship path and we fumble along the way.  We’re human; it happens.  But if you can allow for a multi-dimensional understanding of love versus Molly’s vision of perfection, then you’ll be more equipped to navigate those pesky human challenges life throws at us.  And when the challenges become too overwhelming, remember to seek out the support of a professional! Relationship therapists / sex therapists are trained to address issues such as those listed above.  We can help you heal from the trauma of infidelity and help you renegotiate your relationship boundaries.  Find a clinician who will meet your unique situation with compassion and empathy not shame and judgment.

In the meantime...Let go of the idea of perfection, remember you're not alone, and have fun with your partner(s)!