I love my vanilla friends. One in particular has been extremely supportive and understanding of J and I having an open relationship. I don't know what I would do without her.
After venting to her for some time (for probably the third or fourth time in a month), she said "You know, you guys agreed to do this [have an open relationship], and I am wondering, maybe just piss or get off the pot?" Essentially, she was telling me that J and I have to do the things we both need from each other, even if they are difficult. Otherwise, how is our relationship even fun or satisfying?
On the one hand, yes: simplicity is awesome and is sometimes the best approach. If there are things that make either one of us uncomfortable, but not painfully, heart-wrenchingly so, then we need to suck it up for a bit. Move through difficult emotions, ask for what we need, give each other what we need, and move on.
On the other hand: it's almost too simple. There are always complicating factors that get in the way of such simple advice. One or both of us feels unable to completely give what the other needs. Thinking about other relationships can get in the way of focusing on each other. Thinking only about what one of us needs also gets in the way. I have done this both ways: I have thought only about myself at times, and at other times I have only thought about what J needs. Both approaches lack the comprehensiveness and compassion an open relationship warrants, and always leaves one of us out. It's also too black-and-white for me. There is always a middle, grey area, where perhaps you are halfway on the pot... or at least readjusting yourself.
Thinking about it more, though, makes me realize: yes, if we could both agree to such a simple idea, then it seems like negotiations and communication could be a smoother process.
Even though my beautiful vanilla friend doesn't give advice from a poly/open perspective, I can always count on her for reassurance and honesty. And while the phrase isn't one I would have chosen myself when thinking about our relationship, I think it rings with some truth about the commitment it takes for any relationship to work.