April 19, 2010
Could You Handle Two Boyfriends?
Open Relationships and Why People Are Trying Them Out
While many young men and women may dream of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right and living happily ever after in monogamous bliss, others cannot fathom the thought of remaining sexually exclusive ’til death do them part. Sexually open (also called non-monogamous) relationships are not new, but they do seem to be appearing in popular culture more often as of late.
From Angelina Jolie to Will Smith, many celebrities are rumoured to be enjoying the freedom afforded by sexual non-exclusivity.
Open relationships come in many forms and there is no universal definition. Some people may consider themselves swingers (couples who swap partners with other couples) and others embrace polyamory (the practice of loving more than one person at a time). Even these categories encompass an almost infinite variety of arrangements. Each couple, triad or group has its own set of arrangements and limitations.
What all (good) non-monogamous relationships have in common are open lines of communication. Talking about feelings, expectations, boundaries and fears is essential to all relationships and those in open relationships are (generally) forced to talk about their own set of rules. While a sexually monogamous couple may assume that they agree upon definitions of sexual fidelity without any discussion, those in non-monogomous arrangements tend to communicate about the topic, as these relationships defy cultural assumptions.
Even those who are committed to sexual monogamy should talk about what their expectations are. Sexual exclusivity can also be subjectively interpreted and miscommunication or disagreements over unspoken expectations can cause conflict, pain and even break-ups. While you may be comfortable with sexy flirting, your partner might consider this an act of infidelity. A simple and honest discussion in all relationships can prevent hurt feelings and unnecessary arguments.
People explore open relationships for a variety of reasons. Some are looking to spice up their sex lives while others desire emotional and spiritual intimacy with more than one person. Some polyamorists feel that their arrangements cultivate strengthened support systems and some swingers report increased levels of marital intimacy due to improved communication resulting from sexual openness. By contrast, many monogamists feel that a single connection with an exclusive partner intensifies intimacy and trust.
Monogamy is often touted as the preferred format in Western culture and within non-monogamous subcultures, open relationships are sometimes valued as more evolved. However, no single type of relationship is universally superior to another and only the people involved can decide what really works for them.
Open relationships, like monogamous ones, are not for everyone. If you are interested in exploring non-monogamy, one way to broach the topic with a partner may be to start by sharing a few light sexual fantasies that include other people. Other couples start by visiting strip clubs or skimming adult classified ads together to test the waters and generate dialogue on the topic. If you are considering opening your relationship to include other partners, it is essential to talk about your feelings and listen actively to what your partner has to say. Speaking with an experienced sex-positive counsellor may facilitate this process and help you determine if it is a reasonable option for you.