Although many couples are exploring open relationships, there may be some tricky waters ahead.
Lately, it seems like more and more couples are opening themselves up to new versions of the old relationships. Still wanting to stay committed and bound to their primary partner, but open to exploring more avenues of truth and honesty by letting their partners know that 1) “Hey, guess what sometimes, I am attracted to other people,” (this in and of itself is such a great thing for couples to be able to share, even if they are and decide to stay monogamous) and, 2) “Hey maybe we can be secure and strong enough in our relationship to try something different,” whether it be a threesome, swinging, or different facets and styles of non-monogamy and polyamory.
I am such a proponent for this movement, particularly though because of honesty and breaking away from this myth that our partner will be the only one we are ever attracted to, and will fulfill all of our fantasies, all the time. The myth of “the one,” “the soulmate,” the love of our life who will be the only one we are ever attracted to. This sets us up for so much disappointment, dishonesty, jealousy and insecurity, because it’s not realistic to think we will never find someone else attractive or that we will only and always be fulfilled by our partner. Even if we stay monogamous and faithful, we should recognize it’s a choice to do so. We do it because we made a commitment to our partners, our relationship, and ourselves. So for even the monogamous committed couple, talking openly about attractions should be a good thing, and would only lend to more openness and honesty in the relationship. One would think and hope, as this is often the first step when shifting to open relationships from closed, or non-monogamous from monogamous. However, all too often I see the awkward and strange, often times painful and cumbersome shift from a monogamous mindset to try and embrace something new something different. Change is not easy, and it takes some work.
Here is the thing, open relationships, non-monogamy and polyamory are often so great in theory, even friends with benefits and no strings attached sex, which all sort of break away from our society’s notion of the committed relationship, as more and more people are embracing this notion that monogamy may not be quite as natural that we’ve been spoon fed for hundreds of years to believe.
People are thinking twice about marriage and monogamy and that is a good thing, because if we learn to love more we might feel jealous and insecure less and we might have a higher chance of being honest in the relationship, and accepting and appreciating our partners for who they are, flaws and all. But shifting out of the monogamous mindset is not an easy one. We don’t realize how much we as a society have and continue to use monogamy as our main frame of reference. We are still plagued by fears that our partner is going to leave us or stop loving us if they fall in love with someone else. Is this human nature or a by-product of our monogamous training and mindset? I tend to think it’s the latter, but that’s really beside the point.
If you are curious about open relationships or polyamory, the first step is to start embracing honesty and open-ness in your relationship, even without having an open relationship you can start by talking about attractions outside of the relationship. Recognizing someone else is attractive is not a crime, and many couples are already doing this and have great camaraderie because of it. But not talking about simple things like this might suggest your relationship is built on avoidance and fear, with insecurity and jealousy as a threads, which may show up and could potentially unravel the relationship. Talking about your fantasies, and fetishes is another way to bring honesty about sexuality into your relationship.
Remember that this is a slow change as far as mental processes go. It’s hard to undo years of monogamy in a matter of a few conversations. After you start talking about things, which were once taboo or avoided in your relationship, let it sink in before expecting your partner to be cool with bringing in another person, let alone several others into what has been your two-some relationship up until now. Just remember to go slow, start with some open honest talking between you and your partner before diving into the deeper waters of open relationships, non-monogamy, polyamory and the like.
Moushumi Ghose is a sex therapist in Los Angeles and the co-host of The Sex Talk - a sex educational webseries.