I grew up an orphan of diaspora, immigrating at age 5 from the Philippines to the U.S., a country that didn’t—and still doesn’t—feel particularly welcoming to bodies like mine. Then at 16, I was emancipated, and put myself through college with a hodgepodge of degrading odd jobs. My partner grew up similarly: painting a bigger picture with whatever colors life had to offer, even if it was sh*t brown. We’re used to carving out spaces for ourselves, so it only made sense that we conquered love on our own terms, too.

When my partner and I met, our relationship took me by surprise. I’m someone who deeply values my independence, and loves to do things alone (movies, meals, events—all of it), yet here was someone with whom I wanted to spend every minute. The best part? He also wanted to spend time with me.

My partner and I were young, straight-seeming, and only had eyes for each other. We chugged merrily along for two years, functioning the way I’d always imagined traditional narratives of “true love” worked. But as our understanding of the world became more complicated, so did our views of relationships. As we became more serious, so did our plans.

One day, conversation turned to marriage, and he asked if I’d ever considered it. “Maybe,” I replied with a shrug.

My partner, however, took a more thoughtful approach: “I think I want to be with you for the rest of my life, but we met when we were 24. The idea of never having sex with anyone else seems ridiculous.”

dating is fun—f*cking, even more so. In its own way, even heartbreak feels good.

It sounded so simple when he put it that way—not at all tied to any inadequacies I or our relationship may have had. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how monotonous, restricting, and unappealing my “true love” fantasy sounded. After all, dating is fun—f*cking, even more so. In its own way, even heartbreak feels good.

So, we agreed to be each other’s primary partners, but still date other people.

As someone who relentlessly gambles on love (and often loses), here’s what I’ve learned about making an open relationship work.