March 27, 2023

Modern Dating with Oyku Saran

Oyku, Co-Founder & CEO of Beyond, was a recent guest on the podcast. She discussed her personal journey of self-discovery and how it led to the creation of the app. Growing up in a society that put a lot of pressure on traditional relationships, Oyku struggled to find her place in the dating world. After leaving a monogamous relationship, she explored her bisexuality and began to question the societal expectations placed on relationships. This led her to discover alternatives to traditional monogamy and eventually create Beyond, a dating app that focuses on self-discovery and autonomy in dating.

Oyku emphasized the importance of open communication and mutual respect in any type of partnership, whether it be monogamous or ethically non-monogamous. She also spoke about the struggles of navigating her sexuality in a culture that often stigmatizes anything that deviates from the norm. Despite these challenges, Oyku has found liberation in owning her sexuality and identity, and hopes to provide a safe space for others to do the same through the app.

Overall, Oyku's journey serves as a reminder that societal expectations should never hold us back from exploring our true selves and finding fulfilling relationships.

[00:00:00] Oyku: But that was kind of like when I started questioning about like what felt right for me and what box I I should fit into. Like society tells you that you need to, that relationships look a certain way and you need to be, you know, you need to act a certain way. You shouldn't look at anyone else when you're in a monogamous, traditional relationship and all these things.

And so I was really struggling. Um, with that 

[00:00:27] Stephanie: today on the Beyond Dating Podcast, we talked Toran and she told us all about her new dating app beyond and about modern relationships.

And our sponsor for today's episodes is beyond the newest dating app in town. Check it So how we doing today? Good. Welcome. Are to the party. You're in the hot seat today. I am so excited. I love your chop. So nervous, . No pressure. So just tell me a little bit about yourself. You know, tell me about your dating life.

Tell me about, you know, living in Miami, all this fun. . 

[00:01:24] Oyku: So, um, I'm originally from Turkey. Okay. Um, I lived there for about eight years of my life and then relocated to New York where I spent most of my time. So I was, you know, lived there for 21 years. Recently relocated to Miami about a year, half year and a half ago.

Um, and I haven't looked back. , I love living in Miami. I actually relocated here for a different role, but, um, somehow. Working with Beyond Ooh, . Amazing. So tell me about beyond. So the idea of beyond was really inspired from personal experience. Um, so I was about maybe 21 years old or so when I first went on my first, uh, sorry.

When I went on my. Self-discovery journey. Um, I was in a very traditional and monogamous relationship with a guy that basically was like, I want you to graduate college, move in with me, have three kids with me. Like, he had like a clear timeline of his, of his life. Mm-hmm. , um, basically like had everything mapped out, which, you know, kudos to him cuz after we broke up he did exactly that.

Um, . So now looking back I'm like, wow, that could have been me. And thank God it, it's not today and I have my full freedom. to experience my own. . But that was kind of like when I started questioning about like what felt right for me and what box I I should fit into. And at the time, you know, it was like society tells you that you need to, that relationships look a certain way and you need to be, you know, you need to act a certain way.

Uh, you shouldn't look at anyone else when you're in a monogamous, traditional relationship and all these things. And so I was really struggling, um, with. Because I was questioning what that meant for me and what relationships looked like for me. Um, and I felt like there was something wrong with me the entire time that I've, you know, throughout college and my, you know, as soon as I turned 13 and started like interacting with boys and girls and whatever.

And ever since I started like, you know, going on my own journey, I felt like there was just this, um, I don. this time where I was questioning myself and what category I fit into and just nothing really worked for me. So after I left that relationship, I, um, started. , I don't wanna say dating a couple, but , I, um, met a couple of Tinder actually, and we became really close and it was the really, the first time that I saw a, an amazing, healthy demonstration of what a relationship could look like.

where you know, you were, your open mind was celebrated, you weren't really like held back from having experiences and they had the open communication and the mutual respect and trust in the best way. Like I hadn't really seen that with other traditional couples. So seeing that demonstrated in front of me so beautifully, I was like, wow, I never wanna settle for anything less than that.

Like, The ideal relationship. Um, and I made a promise to myself in that moment that I would never settle for anything less than that type of perfect relationship. Wow. Yeah. So that's kind of how I started my, you know, own self-exploration in the space. Um, and after they moved to San Francisco, I was like, where could I find couples and, and singles like this who are on this level of quality, who are well traveled, cultured, you know, had a certain level of experience.

They were intelligent, beautiful human beings. And I just feel like there wasn't much of a, there wasn't anything out there that where I could have access to other people like this on this. . So those were kind of like, the beginnings of that was the beginning of Beyond. Oh wow. Goes all the way back . 

[00:05:31] Stephanie: Okay.

So I'm beyond, I can find cool people, cool couples, fun lifestyles, all that stuff. 

[00:05:38] Oyku: Yeah. So, um, we really wanna focus on self-discovery as being one of the, the biggest and most important components. Um, and, you know, we want people from all walks of life, whether they're newer to. the dating scene or more experienced.

Um, we are, you know, incorporating some features that cater to the more open-minded crowd as well. And basically wanna just create, um, an app that lets people have the autonomy to choose who they wanna date and how they wanna date. And so, um, with that, yeah, you can find really interesting people that are already at a certain level in their lives have a certain level.

Uh, self-awareness and are also looking to have more honest and intentional relationships. , 

[00:06:29] Stephanie: I love the honest and intentional relationships part because it's so hard. At least I know for me on dating apps to find people who are dating with intention, like maybe I'm not ready to get married right now, but I still wanna.

Solid connection in my relationship with you as well. So that's amazing. I'm so excited. 

[00:06:47] Oyku: me too. . We should be launching hopefully in March. Okay. Or April, depending on the city. But, um, focusing solely on New York to start then shortly after Miami and la Ooh, my favorite hitting all the major cities, . Yes. Are we rolling?

[00:07:13] Stephanie: So tell me more about different, like modern relationship styles. Like what other types have you explored? Like are you dating anyone right now? What's your love, love lady? 

[00:07:23] Oyku: Um, so, Right now I'm seeing someone who lives overseas. Um, we've been able to make it work, um, for about a year now, which is wild. I actually met him off field, um, back when I was, um, in Turkey to visit my, my parents for three weeks.

Um, I went on field and on on that app you can actually choose like what location you're at, even if you're not physically there. So I was really bored. I'm like, let me see what's in London, what's in Sao Paulo, and, you know, was able to connect with. Through, uh, that app and I, I, I really like, you know, what the app has done because there, there isn't much available for the more open-minded community.

So, you know that that's what I was using at the time. And, um, connected on there and started talking on Instagram and, you know, just. Kind of kept in touch cuz I was like, well, once Covid is over, I definitely wanna go to London and explore with a, with a local, you know, so it made a lot of sense. Um, and then when he came to Miami, um, about 18 months after our first interaction.

That's actually when we first met. Um, and that was last December. And so you can say he was my, you know, 30th birthday present. . And now I'm turning 31, um, this month in, in, in December. And yeah, we're still going strong. We're actually gonna go to Karta Henna at the end of the month. So it's been a journey, um, with him, you know.

Very open. We're very transparent with each other. We still have our own experiences and date other people. Um, and I think that's one of the things that has contributed to us making it work, because, um, I think if we were very traditional monogamous, perhaps, like we couldn't have kept up with the distance.


[00:09:12] Stephanie: So how does this work when you're open? You're not seeing each other all the time with the distance. Does it make it more challenging? , like what are some benefits from it? What's that 

[00:09:24] Oyku: problem? I think the most important thing is having open communication with each other. That's so essential because if we're not keeping tabs on each other, and I don't, I don't wanna say that in like a negative way, like, you know, we're just very overly communicative, um, and detail oriented.

And so we wanna always fill each other in on our plans, dates, things that we have outside of our relationship because we want to. , that's our way of involving each other, right? Um, so that's something that's been really beneficial for us. Um, and then just kind of understanding like, okay, like what, what is our relationship rooted in and how are we, how are we like reminding each other of our core values as not just individuals, but as a couple?

And what does that mean? Um, and so as long as we have, you know, mutual respect, We're not leaving each other in the dark. We're communicative. I think, you know, those things have been really important for us to keep this going and probably would not have been able to do so 

[00:10:27] Stephanie: otherwise. . So lots of communication, lots of trust.


[00:10:31] Oyku: is key. Yeah, 

[00:10:32] Stephanie: communication is key. I love that. . So tell me more about your sexuality, how you found out about your sexuality. What do you identify as? What that 

[00:10:44] Oyku: process. So I, I identify as bisexual and I've always known, like, I mean for as long as I can remember back to when I was like five years old in Turkey, in first grade or second grade or whatever, um, I was always drawn to beautiful women.

And I think I have always had this in me and it wasn't really a moment where I was like, wow, I'm bisexual. Um, except when I. about the word , and I was like, wait, there's a word for that, . Um, so that's kind of how, uh, my bi bisexual journey, uh, started. And um, yeah, I've always, you know, I think in general, society has a bit of shame associated with anything that that's not.

Straight. And for me, I never really felt that shame except, you know, when I was 16, um, I kind of came out to my mom and during that time I felt shame because she was a little bit, you know, her reaction was, um, a little bit more on the hurt side. And to me, I couldn't really understand it because I was being, Honest and truthful about who I was in that moment when she approached me with a question and I didn't come out like willingly.

It was just something that like led to that moment. Um, and so I was like, okay, do I lie and pretend I'm a different person or do I tell her in this moment and give it, um, give us an opportunity to grow and, and be more honest with each other? Um, and so that's the direction that I, I went. . I feel like since then we haven't really spoken about it.

It was kind of like buried under the rug. Mm-hmm. and, you know, I'm okay with it. I think I've still embraced who I was throughout the years and ha haven't really felt shame other than that specific moment in my life. Um, and I feel really fortunate that I haven't, because I know there are a lot of people out there who, who carry a bit of a burden with them in, in regard to their sexuality.

Um, so that was. sexuality journey. Um, and just since then, you know, like I've just explored and in my culture and Turkish culture, and I'm sure in many other cultures, you know, sexuality is this shameful thing or it's something that you don't really talk about. It's, it's got a lot of taboo associated with it.

Um, and especially in, in Turkish culture, you know, your parents don't really sit you down and talk to you about like what sex is and like you. to me that's preferred cuz that's so awkward. I can't even imagine talking to my parents about something like that. But I think it's definitely created this, um, I don't know what the word is, but I, I, I didn't feel like I had a safe space to be able to talk to my parents about anything.

If I was going through something, you know, I didn't know if I could go to them with any sex related issues or, or anything of that nature. . Um, but I think with that it's really helped me find some sort of liberation through owning my sexuality and, um, made me who I am today. Like I think that I turned out really well.

given, you know, the fact that, um, I wasn't very open about it with my family and I've embraced it in a way where I've made it work for me and I think beyond also has stemmed from that. Okay, cool. 

[00:14:19] Stephanie: So since you weren't able to speak with your family about, you know, the process of coming out, being bisexual and like dating like men and women, like where did you go to, how did, where did you get advice from?

Where did you turn to? Oh God. 

[00:14:36] Oyku: I don't even know if I got advice from anyone. I just kind of like explored on my own and had friends who were also you. , somewhat like-minded, or they were exploring their own sexualities and experimenting. And so that was kind of like my source, um, of information. . Um, and then, you know, college 

[00:14:59] Stephanie: College.

[00:15:00] Oyku: Ooh, yeah. You have to go through your slutty years, you know, get it outta the way. , 

[00:15:05] Stephanie: I wanna hear more about 

[00:15:06] Oyku: college . I had my first girlfriend in college. Um, yeah, it was, uh, it was only two months long, so I mean, it wasn't a real relationship, but, um, I think at the time I was very curious and I was, I had a boyfriend, um, and I remember thinking about, Her and how I wanted to explore more with women.

Um, and, you know, we were very monogamous and like didn't really get the chance to do anything together necessarily. But I remember like going to the bar with him and being like, Hey, that girl's really cute. Go buy her drink. And like, would literally make him go talk to girls at the bar. And he'd be like, are you okay?

Like, what's wrong with you? ? Like, he was like, he thought it was weird. And then, um, Yeah, no, just little experiences like that, just kind of pushing him to help me explore my, uh, bisexuality a little bit more. But eventually it, I felt that he kind of just like took away from my, um, identity because it was very rigid and I felt like as I connected with people throughout my college years, um, I felt.

Different people brought out different parts of me that I really liked. So, you know, if my boyfriend was bringing out my creative side and musical side, then I, I would meet someone else who would bring out more of my, you know, scientific side and, and, and sides of me that he could never really relate to.

And, you know, and I think that's fine because not everyone. every single tool, but I realized like different people make me feel different things and I loved it. And I think as I was going through that, I was like, why is this so, why do I feel so much, um, guilt around this, right? Like, why can't I just embrace these different layers of myself?

And I think that's a thing like you resonate with people who bring out different parts of yourself because those are parts of yourself that you maybe you've missed and haven't seen in a while. and they make you feel alive in different ways. And so, um, you know that I started questioning like, why, why do I feel bad about this?

And why does my boyfriend make me feel bad about this? About just pure connection, emotional connection with someone and chemistry. Um, and so I think that was like around when I first started questioning monogamy as a structure. . And you know, like, I think growing up you see this demonstration of love and relationships and like a lot of that is from like Disney movies and, you know, and, and movies in general.

And they paint this like unattainable relationship style that's so hard to live up to. And for me, I, I always felt like an outlier. I'm like, why don't I fit into this? And why, why is there something wrong with me that I'm just unable to just be content with this? Um, and why is it? Bad to just like five with other people.

So that was, you know, when I started questioning it, I think I was like 19 or 20, maybe 21 at the time. And then after college is when I started fully exploring that. And learning that there were like other alternatives to monogamy. No one ever teaches you that . Like I went on Google and I was just like looking up, you know, different, different topics.

And I remember I stumbled upon Esther Perez's, um, Ted talk on, um, infidelity. Um, and, and during the TED Talk she spoke briefly about different types of relationships. From what I remember, I could be wrong, but since then I've read two of her books and. , they were super enlightening. And I think that's kind of like when I, you know, started realizing that you don't have to con, you know, conform to a certain societal expectation and that you can have whatever type of relationship you're looking for, you can literally tailor make your own relationships to fit your needs.

Um, and I think that was like such an important part of my life and turning point for me, cuz I was like, . Now I'm so much more sure of like where I wanna go with my life and my relationships and who I am, and that I don't have to fit into this box that society tells me too. 

[00:19:23] Stephanie: Wow, that's so interesting. . I 

[00:19:25] Oyku: love that.

great. It's a lot of inner work. . Yeah. 

[00:19:30] Stephanie: So do you ever have doubts when you're exploring this? Do you ever miss monogamy? Do you ever. think that you're gonna change your mind in the future? What, what is your process like? I

[00:19:42] Oyku: definitely don't see myself ever going back to that. Um, I've identified as ethically non-monogamous for about 10 years now.

Okay. So, yeah, I just don't see a life where I would go back to that relationship style. I think it just, it doesn't work for most people in my opinion. Um, I think that, you know, , the monogamy that, you know, as like, it's like everything you've ever been taught that you've never questioned, right? And then there's monogamy that you choose, which I think that can work for people if it's conscious and honest and you have the same pillars, to have it be successful.

Like, you know, open communication being one of the most important ones, having a strong foundation that you build with a person. , um, having, uh, mutual respect, trust, all those things are so important in any type of partnership, right? Um, and so for me, I think like someone can be innately monogamous and that's okay.

There's nothing wrong with it, as long as it's conscious and they follow those pillars and within the relationship. I think that sometimes in, in some cases, like with. monogamous couples that have never questioned monogamy or don't even are not aware that they're alternatives. Um, I think in those sit situations, sometimes, um, you know, one person's version of monogamy might be different compared to the other person's.

And so like, it's like, okay, what do you. What counts as infidelity, right? So it's like, is it kissing someone else? Is it sleeping with someone else? Is it like emotional flirtation or whatever? Um, and I think that's like, those are some things that are not even discussed sometimes, and it's just assumed.

Like you go into a monogamous relationship and you think like, oh, this person just has the same definition of monogamy as I do. It's like, no-brainer. So you just don't even have that level of communication, um, which is, which you start. at a different level at that point, because it's like, you know, one day if someone fucks up, it's like, well, I didn't know that that was a fuck up.

I didn't know that flirting with someone or texting someone was considered cheating, you know? And so I think if you choose monogamy, you're more conscious and have the open communication to communicate with your partner and talk about like your definition and what that means. I think you. , I'm all for it.

And I think that's beautiful and that I also consider to be modern, um, in the sense that, you know, it, things are not assumed and you're tailor making your own relationship according to your needs and your partner's needs. Um, I, and I don't know where I was going with this

[00:22:40] Stephanie: So it's really the same thing, whether you're monogamous or not. Like you have to communicate Exactly. Your partner, thank, talk to them, give trust and all that fun stuff. . 

[00:22:48] Oyku: Yeah, it's, you know, I think it's like, as long as you're consciously making decisions and not just assuming you're, you're keeping an eye on those pillars, um, to have a successful relationship, then I think that to me is like modern relationships, modern dating, and it's not just following suit.

Blindly. And I think that's the beautiful part about like where we are today in, in society and we're like slowly breaking away at that mold and that taboo. 

[00:23:19] Stephanie: So do you have any more tips or tricks on how to get started if you're open to exploring, you know, what can you share? . 

[00:23:29] Oyku: So I'm not a relationship expert even though I just blurted out a whole bunch of shit

Um, I would say I think, you know, just communication is key. Um, and being able to create a space for your partner to come to you and, and open up to you. So like, whatever that may mean, you know, and in some cases it's like being there for the person in different situations to get them to a certain level of comfort for them to.

um, to give them the space to open up. Um, in other cases, um, I think just like ripping the bandaid off straight off the bat, like, I always go in now in into situations saying, this is who I am and I don't wanna ever be in a monogamous relationship. So I just want you to understand that right off the bat, because I've been in situations where it's like, you know, I've, and this doesn't always work because , one of my past relat.

was with a guy that I fell in love with and in the beginning I told him like, by the way, I've done X, Y, and Z I identify as X, Y, and Z, whatever. And you know, take it or leave it. I just wanna tell you from the beginning so that there's no confusion later on. And he was like, yeah, cool, whatever. And then guess what happens?

It was not, yeah, cool. Whatever. . Yeah. We ended up in a monogamous relationship and um, sexually exclusive. Um, and I loved him so much at that point that I was. Can I make this work? Do I give up? It just, it never felt like a, you know, it never felt right because I was like, do I give up a part of myself for the sake of having a long lasting relationship with this person?

So it was, I was at a bit of a crossroads with that. Um, and, uh, so, but I think it now I've learned, I've taken some lessons away from that, which was, you know, it's always better to be honest, upfront, um, and. , if it ends prematurely, it does. You know, and there's really nothing that you can do about it. Just, I'd rather be true to myself because at the end of the day, like my, my relationship with myself is the most important, and everyone else is second.

[00:25:38] Stephanie: Yes. Put yourself first, babe. I love that. Yeah, . Oh, you get that . Yes. Well, thank you so much for chatting with me and sharing. Of course. I loved hearing all the hot, spicy stuff, . 

[00:25:51] Oyku: Amazing. Thanks for having me. Of course. 

[00:25:53] Stephanie: Thanks for coming. We'll have to go out and party soon. He'll be my wing moment, definitely.

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