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Solving Dating's Question Marks: Can Open Ended Relationships Work or Fall Apart Once Again?

Updated on March 25, 2019
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Heather has a Bachelor's Degree in English from Moravian College and has been freelance writing for more than 15 years.

When you read a book or see a movie, an ending is a requirement to fully conclude the story and allow everyone to have some type of satisfaction from its conclusion. An ending is something firm and definitive that tells someone it's time to move on to something or someone new. In an open ended relationship, there's no real conclusion that allows the troubled couple in question to move on with their lives. There's always this strong pull between them that pulls them back together no matter how much time has passed. What happens when neither one of the former partners can stay away from each other?

What can be done to salvage a once great but complicated relationship from the dating morgue? Is it even possible? Is it best to leave something completely broken the way it is and not reopen any old wounds? Before you decide whether your defunct relationship can be revived, you should think about the good times and the bad ones together. If there is still some promise, you should weigh your options very carefully. Can your love survive war, family conflict and social class differences? (A prime example would be in 1994's The House of the Spirits.) Once you have done so, read on to see three scenarios to suggest whether an open ended relationship is possible or utterly hopeless.

Timing isn't always on your side, but it can be with work and personal evolution. Sometimes time is the best cure to help repair an open ended relationship and make it a functional one again. Some emotional and physical distance helps, but it's often best to not put too much distance into the situation to avoid things becoming too awkward if a reconciliation is ever in the works. It's best to see if time helps heal all wounds or close them up for good to finally move on.

What happens when you meet your true love when you're too young to understand it? What if you let them slip away and realize that you made a huge mistake? That's part of the premise behind the Julia Roberts' romantic comedy My Best Friend's Wedding. Roberts played the jaded Julianne who was very commitment shy, until she one day realized that she was still in love with her best friend/ex-boyfriend Michael (Dermot Mulroney). Unfortunately, her timing couldn't have been any worse. He just announced his engagement to another woman (Cameron Diaz). Roberts spent most of the movie trying to stop the wedding, but it was always supposed to happen and she didn't know it. Julianne missed her time with Michael and paid the ultimate price. Her fear wrecked her happiness in the end.

Another example of timing gone wrong in an open ended relationship is when you entered a relationship with false expectations from the start. Sometimes happy accidents are just that and nothing more. In the movie Closer, Anna (Julia Roberts) was manipulated into getting involved with Larry (Clive Owen) by a casual lover named Dan (Jude Law) as a cruel joke. Ultimately, the joke was on the ex-lover when Anna and Larry got together and ended up getting back together after he tried to get between them. When Anna and Larry were alone, it worked, but when Dan had power over them it didn't. Closer's premise basically followed the ultimate romantic/sexual quadangle of partner swapping that continued to happen, until Dan's on/off again girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman) broke the cycle and left town for good. In this case, it's better to learn when it's time to leave a bad situation for the sake of repairing your relationship or the relationship itself.

Dangerous circumstances are always threatening to keep your relationship at arm's length. Does your childhood friend and the love of your life have a secret identity that puts them in constant danger? Do you agree with their choice or want to distance yourself from them as quickly as possible? In the movie Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and Rachel (Katie Holmes) are childhood friends that have secretly loved one another for as long as they could remember. The only problem is that Bruce hasn't dealt with witnessing the deaths of his parents when he was a child and it greatly impacted him forever. His secret life fighting crime as Batman pushed Rachel away from him, even though she still loved him. She was always close by, but she ultimately rejected him for another man in the sequel and paid with her life. The open ended relationship still continued with the lie that Bruce's butler/father figure (Michael Caine) told by making him believe that Rachel chose him before her death. If the truth was revealed, closure would've been had and he could move on fully. In terms of some unresolved relationships, closure is the only thing that can be had. Accept it and move on to a more permanent situation.

What if your open ended relationship was surrounded by mob politics? In the movie Prizzi's Honor, Mob hitman Charlie (Jack Nicholson) had an amicable relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Anjelica Huston) even after she left him for someone else. He thought that he was able to move to someone else (Kathleen Turner), but it was his ex's meddling that ended up raising the body count and pushed him back into her orbit. Of course, Honor's scenario was very far fetched and a lot more violent that similiar situations, but the general rules still apply. Exes can fall back in love with each other every so far, even if a major push is required to do the trick. You just have to be aware if your ex may push back or follow your lead.

Making the best of a crazy situation. What happens when a once good romance becomes way too complicated? In the movies Like Crazy and It's Complicated, two very difference couples in age and circumstances ended up at very similiar crossroads in their relationships. Should they stay together or continue the merry-go-round of breaking and making up with each other? Like Crazy followed two twenty-somethings in love, but lack the patience to make a long distance relationship work. Mistakes are made, but the pull is still there. Can they make it work once they get their lives straightened out? In It's Complicated, a divorced couple remained friendly and ended up having a casual fling that could lead to something more or just closure. In both scenarios, a couple simply has to decide whether the relationship is worth the insanity or to head for saner climates once the dust has settled.

In the end, it's up to both parties involved to see if an open ended relationship should be closed or reopened upon further review. A large portion of people want to believe that they're hopeless romantics, but some are more commitment shy that they care to admit. They're the regular suburban (and gender neutral version) player that would prefer to be free of any type of entanglements just like George Clooney and Vera Farmiga's characters in Up In The Air. They preferred to have meaningless connections than having to truly deal with their lives as a a whole. Their relationship was open ended, because they would pick up where they left off in whatever city they were both in at the same time. In terms of relationships, it's best to enjoy yourselves in the early days and prepare for the more difficult ones once you get to know each other to avoid any open ended drama later on. Resolve all conflicts before taking the next leap of faith.

My Best Friend's Wedding Poster
My Best Friend's Wedding Poster
Batman Begins Poster
Batman Begins Poster
Like Crazy Poster
Like Crazy Poster
The House of the Spirits Poster
The House of the Spirits Poster
Closer Poster
Closer Poster
It's Complicated Poster
It's Complicated Poster
Prizzi's Honor Poster
Prizzi's Honor Poster
Up In The Air Poster
Up In The Air Poster

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