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Non-Monogamy: Do Open Relationships Work?

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Our culture believes in love. Sure, people are getting divorced left and right, but we still believe in love. Love is in our stories, and our dreams. Love is in song and prose, in our poetry and art. It makes people feel more intense feelings than anything else does in this world, barring the feeling when you lose someone. But even when you lose someone, the reason you hurt so much is because you loved him. Love is still the reason. Love is the reason for reasons.

So, again, San Francisco. A lot of people here try and fail at open relationships, just like they do in monogamous relationships. Some succeed. I hear stories all the time. One couple has been together ten years, and open in the last three years. Some couples break up and get back together over and over again. I know a woman who has two kids with her partner, and gets her “night out” every two weeks so she can hook up. I know a couple where the woman is permitted to sleep with other women, not men, just because they see that as something totally unrelated to their marriage. I know another woman who is in a relationship of over ten years, who talks longingly about the time her and her partner had their husband living with them. Apparently, they took him home one night, and he didn’t leave for two years. The three of them slept in a king size bed together.

But no matter what I hear, I still don’t see that any of them are actually happier than couples in monogamous relationships. And I don’t see them staying together longer than their monogamous counterparts. And even if a true-love-non-monogamy thing was possible, why would we even want it? If we see and believe the connection between sex and emotions and love, why would we want to toss it around so casually?

Again, love, people. We are obsessed with it. It’s everywhere, all the time. Everyone wants it. Love is beautiful, all we need is love, (insert the millions of sayings about love here), love is a much splendored thing. Not even death can stop true love, Wesley says in the classic and hilarious The Princess Bride. Death can only delay it. It is the only reason Wesley lives, and the only reason he is brought back from the dead. Love transcends everything. Even the Christians agree–God is love.

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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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