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Non-Monogamy: Do Open Relationships Work?

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Non-Monogamy: Do Open Relationships Work?

By Polly Parker, DivineCaroline

Non-monogamy is about one thing–sex. And sex is good. And sex with different people–either concurrently or over the course of a lifetime–is good too. Sex is so good that some people are addicted to it. Sex makes people do crazy things and it makes people feel amazing things. I love it just as much as anyone else, but there is more to life than sex.

I am pretty sure that the words on your deathbed won’t be “I wish I had had more sex with more people.” Maybe if you are a pervert, or if you didn’t get much action in your life, you would say that, but most people wouldn’t. Most people would say that they would have spent more time with their families, or that they wished they had worked less. They want more time with their wives, or they regret not pursuing a dream. Unless someone is being a smartass on his deathbed, he’s not going to even think about sex when his number’s up.

I live in San Francisco. Non-monogamy (or polyamory as it is called here) is a big topic in the city. Out here, everybody’s doing it. And if everyone is doing it here, then it’s probably already in or coming to a town near you.

Here’s the definition of monogamy:

NOUN:
1 archaic : the practice of marrying only once during a lifetime 2 : the state or custom of being married to one person at a time 3 : the condition or practice of having a single mate during a period of time

Notice anything? Right off the bat, Webster’s is linking monogamy to marriage, and they should, because monogamy comes from monos (alone, single) + gamos (marriage). Monogamy used to be about being with one person forever, and now it’s been updated to mean the state or “custom” of being married to one person at a time. The logical opposite of monogamy is polygamy, being married to more than one person at a time, and not very many people (publicly) support that.

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At DivineCaroline.com, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

887 comments

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2:19PM PST on Jan 28, 2014

Gabriel, the thing is polyamory isn't about having more sex partners and it's not even about your existing relationship not being enough. If you look at it like that, you're never going to understand it. Polyamory is about not limiting the ways in which relationships can develop. For some people, once they are in a relationship, they cease to see other people like that. They no longer fall in love with other people and they don't continue to develop new sexual attractions. For most people, those feelings are still there and they just suppress them (or cheat.) For those of us who've found polyamorous partners, however, we are able to explore those feelings without cheating. For us, we encourage our partners to develop their relationships fully because we've found the benefits outweigh the risks. The biggest benefit I've found is that if I happen to develop romantic feelings for a friend, I don't have to hide them and my partner isn't threatened by them. Personally, I've found monogamous relationships to be just as risky, if not more risky because when people can't explore those feelings, cheating is much more likely to happen. When people are cheating and thus already lying about their involvement, they're less likely to be honest about their sexual health. It's also important to understand that if you're not getting "enough" from a relationship, another relationship isn't going to change what's lacking in that one. It is because my partners provide enough for me individually,

1:18PM PST on Jan 28, 2014

If my partner came home and said "Honey, I want to have more sex partners", my first response would be "What am I not giving you sexually that you expect to get from other people?" And being that I am one of those people who have very few limits in regards to what I will do in the bedroom (outside of actually hurting someone) I feel it's a rather good question/response.

As much as people hate the phrase "having your cake and eating it too", it very much applies here in my opinion. Because if you aren't done having sex with multiple people then why even get into an emotionally committed, respected relationship in the first place? Or why not just admit that once you are actually determined to sleep with other people, that maybe the relationship is just over because you aren't in love anymore, regardless if its after 2 years or 30.

Lastly, for those who say that they are safe in their open relationships (i.e. use protection and interview the candidates) I pose an obvious question in turn... what on earth do those candidates owe you and your commitment to your partner? They don't owe you honesty about their health nor do they owe you respect to your relationship. Their only debt to you is giving you a good time in the bedroom and I like to think that I get more than that from my committed partner.

At the end of the day I am just exhausted from thinking about the number of doctors visits I had when I was younger worrying about whether or not I caught something or if I ca

1:17PM PST on Jan 28, 2014

There is one simple concept I just cannot wrap my head around and that is 'respect'.

I once asked my ex about why he would want to put my life in jeopardy (std's etc.) by involving a third party if he loved me. Now, I am not talking about the prince charming love, just the basic concept that if you love someone than you make it a point to respect them and all their being.

He responded with "well, I let you drive a car to work and car accidents can be fatal"

The difference is that in order to survive in our society, one must earn a wage (or be able to live in the wilderness and not worry about paying property taxes) to SURVIVE. As humans, there is no evidence that I am aware of that states we need to have sex with different people to survive. What ever happened to needs versus wants?

Would adding a 3rd person to the relationship spice things up? Yes! Trust when I say that I completely understand sleeping with the same thing over and over again can be 'boring' for a lack of a better word. However, being that I have had my sexual experiences including orgies in my past, when I visualize bringing in a third I realize that once you get past the point of seeing something different, there really is nothing to brag about in curing the problem. I guess that way I look at it is if you feel bored or trapped in your relationship then perhaps the problem isn't the sex, but actually the relationship.

If my partner came home and said "Honey, I want to have more sex partners",

7:25AM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

While the author makes some valid points, I feel they are stereotyping open relationships. An open relationship doesn't mean hopping into bed with anyone one finds attractive.
I am currently in what on the surface is a rather complicated open relationship which is odd for me because I wouldn't date until my divorce was final. Even tho my ex and I hadn't lived together in two years.
I have yet to have a physical relationship with anyone other than my current partner of four years but I am free to do so. Perhaps that is why so many in monogomous relationships cheat. Because humans by nature want what they cannot have. I'm crazy about sex but I discovered long ago that there is more to a great physical relationship than just inserting tab A into slot B.

11:17PM PDT on Jul 7, 2013

Thank you.

11:16PM PDT on Jul 7, 2013

Thank you.

8:40PM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

The problem with this article is not the author's views on monogamy. The problem is that she wants all people to have the same views as she does. EVERYONE is different, and everyone has different needs that need to be fulfilled. Personally, I feel let down by both sides. The monogamy people are so disgusted with anything outside monogamy that they needlessly push their model of "perfect" on everyone else. And many of the poly people act like it's all about sex, and say things that turn me off, like "you can't expect one person to fulfill all your needs".

My husband and I are happily married. Very happily. And we have occasionally had sex with other people - but only very close friends. We do not feel sexually unfulfilled; we don't do this to "avoid cheating on each other". We do it because we love our friends deeply and want to express our feelings with them in a physical manner. We don't want a polyamory situation where we marry these friends - they are just friends; they aren't part of our close and committed partnership. Nor can we really be called swingers, because it isn't just about random sexual encounters or intended to "spice things up". We're happy together. We seem to be doing something totally different. We are just physically expressive people, and it has made both our marriage and our friendships stronger. We are stronger as a couple because I used to be very jealous and possessive - and then one day we had sex with a couple of our friends, and I was surpris

5:48PM PST on Feb 8, 2013

Through connecting with your sexuality you discover, a sense of self. From there your awareness can grow. Enlightment comes through being self aware.Intimate relationships or perhaps open relationships are fueled by desire, a desire to feel complete, alive, sexual & vital, all of which can be discovered in a monogamous relationship. Through being aware of your awareness you can experience a sense of oneness that connects you to every living creature & beyond!

Amanda Pringle

2:49PM PST on Feb 5, 2013

BEAUTIFUL :)

6:39AM PST on Dec 12, 2012

Wait...did someone reference Sir Lancelot and Guinevere as an example of honor and trust??
Methinks English Lit needs to be revisited here...

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