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Non-Monogamy: Do Open Relationships Work?

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So, then, what threatens monogamy? Certainly divorce, but what causes divorce? Lots of things, but the thing that I am concerned with most is–you guessed it–sex. More than anything else, sex with other people seems to violate the contract of marriage, and, in turn, monogamy. Sure, people still associate monogamy with marriage, but most people nowadays associate monogamy (or open relationships) with sex. And the majority of people also throw in love. If you love someone, you don’t have sex with someone else. If you are married, you don’t have sex with someone else. If you are monogamous, you don’t have sex with someone else. So, bottom line–love, sex, and marriage are all implicated in monogamy.

Look, I’m old-fashioned; I’m okay with it and not hiding it at all. I want the lifetime partner, “the one,” the soul mate. I want the house. I want the dogs. I want the kids. If I had a white picket fence–well as long as it doesn’t enclose a yard in the suburbs–I would smile every time I looked out my window.

But I am not an idiot. I am not waiting for the knight in shining armor to save me so we can ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. I know marriage takes work. It takes mind numbing, backbreaking work. Marriage is only a few words. It’s a promise that you won’t go anywhere, and you can’t. No matter what happens, you have to stick around. Well, that’s what it means to me.

Maybe not everyone is as old fashioned as me, and maybe there are many people who don’t want to get married, but I bet every person in the world who was offered a chance at true love would take it in a heartbeat and never let go. So why have some people given up on the possibility of being with one person forever, or at least at a time? Do we really believe monogamy is dead? Or impossible? Or is there something else going on here?

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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.

902 comments

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4:37AM PDT on Oct 13, 2014

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2:07PM PDT on Oct 4, 2014

Thank you for the info. Apparently I am in an open relationship. :/



11:58PM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

Abby H. The reason you'll see so much defensiveness from people living in non-monogamous relationships is mostly due to this article completely misrepresenting our lifestyle. Her very first sentence is that our lifestyle is about sex alone. If someone came along and told you that your happily committed marriage of 10+ years was simply about sex, would you not be a little defensive? Were this person to publicly state that, would you not be compelled to correct them? This sort of article severely misinforms people about non-monogamy and is pretty offensive. I don't think it matters how 'liberal', 'evolved' or 'enlightened' (not that I or most the people I know who practice non-monogamy claim to be more evolved or enlightened than monogamous people - those who do are frankly full of crap) being upset over someone accusing your relationships of being based solely on sex simply because you have more than one seems like a fairly normal response.

8:42PM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

Thank you for such a wonderful, insightful article! I think it's one of the best I've ever read on this subject.
The only thing I've found a bit disappointing is all the defensiveness and insecurity in the comments coming from all the people living this life. If they are so liberal and evolved why be defensive? Why attack her for her viewpoint? Seems to be that 'enlightened' hip people are all for freedom of expression unless of course it comes from someone who has a different take on things. Me thinks thou protest too much!

10:08AM PDT on May 31, 2014

Thanks, Dawn. One quick note: polygamy and polyamory are different things. Polygamy refers specifically to marriage, most often con notating the one man multiple women variety. :)

8:04AM PDT on May 31, 2014

I don't know much about polygamy, only what I've seen on documentaries. And some of those relationships are far from being about sex from what I could deduce. I think this article is a bit off the rails, because a finger is being poked at other alternative lifestyle choices because of lack of understanding or caring to try and understand also the writer is too caught up with sex and what people are doing in private. And really does it matter if no one is getting harmed, everyone is fed and warm, kids are not suffering? From where I sit love comes in many colours shapes, sizes and arrangements that suit the people involved and when it doesn't they can pack their kit and kaboodle and move on just like all the many monogamous couples do that quit before the ink dries on the wedding certificate. I class myself as one lucky soul because I married a jewel of a husband when I was 17 and we have rarely been apart but I don't preach that my way is the way it should be done by others.
It's all down to individual choice and as far as I am concerned it's all a bit like religion...Respect, respect, respect for everyone's belief as long as the belief is kind, helpful and respectful and helpful to others no matter what.

8:03AM PDT on May 31, 2014

continued from above...
That is the basic tenets of life and religion no matter which one you gravitate towards. Me I can find God the Great Spirit or what ever name one wishes to use for their Deity in any religious building no matter what. And love is everywhere, and if you can't find it reach out and give some away even to a polygamist, homosexual, alternative choice folk or any other person that needs some.
ღƸ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ☻And♥now these three♥remain☻Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ღ
*☻♥☻ღ•★• ღ♥Faith♥Hope♥Love♥ ღ•★• ღ☻♥☻*
ღƸ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄ƷღBut the greatest of these is loveღƸ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒღ
Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ♥☻★Love☻ღ*★♥love♥★*ღ☻love ★☻♥Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ
♥* ♥ ˚☻Love & Peace☻go with☻you all.☻˚♥ *˚

6:22PM PDT on May 30, 2014

As a happily married non monogamous woman, this offends me on so many levels. While I respect the authors right to voice her opinion, it would be the equivalent of me spouting everything that is wrong with being Buddhist, something I have never experienced myself. For starters, it's not all about sex. And even if it was, until one has experienced the joy and connection and passion that can be shared with someone you care deeply about, they have no right to deny it to anyone else. And even if they tried it and found it didn't work for them, still, none of their fricking business. The way that each and every one of us experiences life and love is entirely up to us as individuals. Just because I find liver and Brussels sprouts vile, I would never be so presumptuous as to tell anyone that they are wrong for enjoying them and making them a part of their happy healthy life.

3:13PM PDT on Apr 30, 2014

(c) some people it is a delightful and fulfilling life experience--and that it in no way cheapens or lessens the love of the relationships involved. Because, speaking as a blissfully married woman who gets asked for relationship advice by her friends all the dingdang time? I find that really insulting.

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