I am a big proponent of exploring alternative lifestyles within your relationship, if both parties consent to it. However, as of late, I have myself began questioning the whole concept of open relationships.
One of the main concerns I hear over and over when discussing ethical polyamorous relationships (that is loving, intimate relationships with more than one person—based upon the knowledge and consent of everyone involved) particularly with people who are new to the concept or idea, is that there is a lot of fear. Fear, mainly, that they will lose their partner.
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I used to be more idealistic I guess. I know, like the back of my hand, all the theories behind ethical slut-hood*, that is, healthy, honest and open relationships. And, for the record I both strongly and intellectually do believe they should work. I also know that they can work. I have seen them work. But I have also been confronted so many times with skepticism from people, who for the record I used to scoff at for being closed minded, while trying to educate them on the validity of the theories as to why they should work.
In my practice I have come across this issue a number of times, and in my office they often present as failed polyamorous relationships. My conclusion now after years in the field is that polyamorous relationships work, until they don’t work anymore. And, how can they work for the long-term? Particularly in a society that promotes monogamy and labels sexual excessiveness with terms like sex addiction.
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It’s kind of like which came first, the chicken or the egg? Are we as human beings really monogamous beings or do we cheat and desire others out of a rebellion? Most sexual anthropologists might argue that we are more like serial monogamy-ists, at least that’s what it seems like. Most people do like the idea of monogamy, and like to feel committed and devoted to one person at a time. But these feelings do not necessarily stand the test of time, IE. till death do us part, as we’ve seen with people cheating, people breaking up, divorce, and of course open relationships, which really aren’t a new concept. Of course these, in my opinion can be remedied with a healthy dose of honest, real communication. But, do these occurrences, these dalliances come out of monogamy as a rebellion or do they exist because they mimic our true natural state of being? If we would just accept serial monogamy as part of human nature would this all really matter?
One thing I do know, both from personal experience and from my professional experience is that open, non-monogamous, polyamorous, or otherwise, relationships, if they are to be ethical, loving and genuine, take a little concerted work. These types of relationships take a little extra communication, energy and effort to be open, honest, conscious and conscientious all of the time, not just with your partner, but with yourself as well. And this is not always an easy task. And, with all this work at being real, keeping it open, and keeping it honest, sometimes it just becomes to easy to slip. I’ve had clients say to me, “It’s just easier to cheat.” They don’t have to worry about their partner becoming emotional, jealous, insecure, angry, vengeful, all real feelings which may come up and need to be dealt with.