The relationship, regular intimate
contact with another.
It's always on people's minds.
If they're not in one, they want one; when they have
one, they obsess if it's the right one.
In pondering the merits of the casual serious
relationship, I mulled over the many other types of
relationships out there for us to explore.
With nearly all in casual or serious relationships,
the majority of relationship types never get experienced.
Some are illegal or reprehensible, such as
(intimate relations with an animal) or paedophilia (intimate
relations with a child).
Not many would ever choose to give these a spin.
But there is one that'll make even the most happily
and lengthily married (males at least) euphorically smile
for a moment:
the open relationship, the holy grail of the relationship
For those of you not in the know, an
open relationship is one in which the couple (bi, gay,
straight -- it
doesn't matter) are in a serious relationship, but where
both parties are free to secure other emotional and physical
The couple may decide to have rules about the number, type,
and extent of intimacy in the extracurricular pickup or they
may establish an environment in which anything goes.
Non exclusivity isn't a modern
There was no prohibition against Biblical Jews having
China's Confucianist philosophies spread throughout
Asia and multiple marriages became common in East and
Southeast Asian countries.
Thailand only abandoned the practice legally in 1935.
The two most numerous religions in the world have had
segments of their faiths engage freely in multiple partners.
The Morman Church practiced polygamy until it was
discontinued in 1890.
Fundamentalist Islamic republics still allow it.
What was practiced in days of yore
wasn't really polygamy. It
was polygyny -- one man could have multiple wives.
The woman was not free to seek other partners.
For the man, depending on the society, polygyny was
not a truly open relationship either.
A Morman man could be intimate with any of his wives, but he
wasn't free to seek relationships outside that circle.
genuine open relationship is one where both the man and the
woman are free to search for extra intimacy anywhere, known
Polyamorous relationships are not in
fashion today -- if they ever were.
When doing some research for this article, I came
across allusions that some famous celebrity couples were
Will Smith said that his and his wife's perspective is "that
you don't avoid what's natural and you're going to be
attracted to other people," hinting of a life for both of
His wife Jada later denied this to be true, as well
The corporate backers behind Will's success might not be
pleased with a power couple being openly polyamorous.
The late actor Ossie Davis and his wife were
polyamorous but they didn't shout
relationship status from the hills.
"We had to be discreet," said Davis.
"And, if the word can be apt, honorable in our
behavior, both to ourselves, to whomever else might be
involved, and most of all, to the family."
you'll be held in higher regard by the Hollywood
financial community if you screw around on your wife within
the confines of a monogamous relationship than if you sleep
with half the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders while in a
Polyamory is stigmatized by religious bias.
The Christian right running the United States
behavior as sinful.
Any relationships conducted outside the sacred
institution of marriage -- or, by extension, a marriage-like
state -- are labeled adulterous.
Such negative judgments keep many from ever taking a
Polyamory is so far out there, what would the friends
and family think?
There's a superficial allure to
polyamory, though few couples would ever admit to it.
Ask couples who are married or live within a state
similar to marriage why they abandoned all other future
options to commit to one person.
A few will have done so for security, loneliness,
boredom, a sperm/egg donor for future progeny, or because it
was "just the right time."
Those who've thought about the matter more deeply
might say they finally found someone they love to share
their dreams and their life with, a soul mate.
Whatever the reason, it is human nature to wish to
lock someone in now when there's no guarantee you'll meet
someone better later.
|Poly Pride: Celebrate
getting around with 3.14159 partners at a times
And yet we all know it's natural for
alternative attractions to surface.
Marriage till death do us all part can be a long,
Within the monogamous framework, these attractions would
need to be resisted or, if indulged in, feasted on
clandestinely with a spoonful of lies heaped on top to cover
them up. Says Ossie
Davis again, "It occurred to [me and my wife], from
observation and reasoning, that extramarital sex was not
what really destroyed marriages, but rather the lies and
deception that invariably accompanied it -- that was the
Seen through the open relationship model, one could
freely sample the new recipe as long as the primary partner
was briefed all about the fun.
Who wouldn't want to have a perpetual
get-around-the-town card and still be able to come back to
the primary partner at the end of it all with the
relationship fully intact and stronger than ever?
Sign me up!
Problem is that the mechanics of an
open relationship are only theoretical.
Except for a tiny minority of couples whom I believe
can only thrive within this type of arrangement, in real
life the open relationship is doomed to fail.
Let's envision a situation where a man
and woman, currently in a serious monogamous relationship,
decide to reach for the stars and turn their relationship
into an open one. To
be safe, each party will meet the other's extracurricular
interests before anything happens and get to approve
or reject the choice.
The reason(s) for rejection must clearly meet a list
of conditions outlined by both parties ahead of time so that
one, out of jealousy, can't dismiss all presented prospects
out of hand. One
condition might be that a partner can reject no more than
two out of three of the possibilities. In this thought
experiment both in the couple are operating out of honesty,
fairness, and mutual acceptability.
Shouldn't this kind of open relationship work?
Unfortunately, it won't.
Not for the long run anyway.
The man and woman could go to the extent of
handpicking their partner's additional romps.
It won't make a difference.
What happens, in real life, if
you like something?
That something could be a chocolate cake, trips to
exotic locales, or a bit of action on the side.
When you like something, you want more of it.
Economics dictate that you'll continue wanting more
of it until the marginal utility of the additional amount
you get reaches zero.
When it comes to males, biologically, their physical
desires for women can
run into infinity.
A man may grow tired of a particular female side
project after just a single meeting, but his thirst for
someone newer and different will never end.
Eventually, after a series of open relationship
trysts, the man (or the woman) in the relationship could
meet another partner s/he gels with and likes.
There will be aspects to this new person that make
him/her seem superior to the current primary partner.
Much of this assessment is inflated by dint of this
person being a change from what one is used to.
Even a cheap Big Mac can taste like heaven after
you've been dining on expensive filet mignon every night for
The real danger arises if the man or
woman forms a strong emotional connection with the side
Women, especially, feel most threatened if they find their
primary partner/husband deeply emotionally involved with
another woman, more threatened, in fact, than if the man has
just an extracurricular physical relationship.
The primary relationship cannot survive if one of the
two partners is tightly bound emotionally
with that third
person unless the second partner in the primary relationship
is acutely tied to this third person as well.
For it all to work, the situation must resemble a
marriage in which each party in the trio feels married to
the other two, and how likely is that?
And what then?
The new threesome continue with the open relationship
format? At some
point, the whole thing collapses when one of the three forms
a deep emotional connection with a fourth party.
I try to imagine the conversation that
would transpire if my own girlfriend and I had an open
relationship, something, by the way, that neither of us
would ever really consent to for different reasons.
She, because her upbringing can't process the thought
of multiple partners; me, because I know the openness, as
great as it might sound initially, would undermine, then
eventually destroy, the relationship.
I just ran into Valerie at Villa Market.
She's the blonde French 25-year old golf pro with
the unbelievable body.
You thought she looked like a model when we saw her
at the driving range and wanted to have her over for dinner at one point
with her boyfriend, remember?
How is she?
The boyfriend is history now.
I didn't realize what a fantastic woman she was . .
. in every way. We
have so much in common, been talking for two hours straight.
She asked me a few minutes ago, point blank, to stay
at her place tonight. Just
wanted to keep you in the loop.
Love ya. Bye.
Now how many women, in the real
world, could just shrug their shoulders and tell their
boyfriends to go off and have a good time, as if they'd just
been told he wouldn't be home because he had to pull an
all-nighter at the office?
My girlfriend would dump me immediately.
In an open relationship, she'd have no
grounds to dump me for this one episode.
But here's what would be going through her head after
I came home to tell her all about my experience with
Valerie. If I
inform her what Valerie and I shared was the time of my
life, my girlfriend would feel resentful and insecure, as
anyone would next to such a comparison.
Those feelings would not make our relationship
my verdict that the time with Valerie meant nothing, my
girlfriend would be within bounds to ask why I even bothered
to do it.
It's a lose-lose. I'm mentally charged by the girlfriend no matter
why I partook, and the debt she inflicts on my account WILL
be called in for payment one day.
The only way I see such open
relationships succeeding is if each party seeks out
additional partners for a single night of good times only.
All further contact with the fresh pick is suspended
before tight connections can be made.
But that's about as realistic as saying you're only
going to eat one potato chip.
Few people are disciplined enough to pull this off.
You don't become an open relationship
sort of person.
You're either that type now and
already searching for those kinds of partners or
Back when I lived in California, I was friends with a
man who was a well known porn star in the 1980's.
He'd once lived the swingers lifestyle.
This was a man born to that lifestyle, and the women
he picked up were not the normal types most of us would
consider having as a girlfriend or wife.
This man, now in his mid-50's, has never married and
lives with a borderline psychotic.
You could well expect the girlfriend would not be a
nursery school teacher.
Every man may, at one stage in his
life, fantasize about being a swinger.
Society's monogamous ways are what get the credit for
reining him in.
Actually, human nature is what stands in the way of
the polyamorous lifestyle.
In societies where polygyny was freely accepted, most
men never practiced it.
They couldn't afford to.
Polyamory still doesn't come cheap.
But money aside, most people just aren't capable of
conducting more than one serious relationship at a time, and
programming by religion isn't the cause.
How many atheists do you know, not bound by a Lord or
a religion, who practice polyamory?
After years of having an open
relationship with her husband, the actress Ruby Dee
concluded that "we both came to realize that we were very
fortunate that, in all of the deep profound, fundamental
ways, we really, really only wanted each other. It was like
a rediscovery of something from the beginning."
mathematician, logician, and philosopher Bertrand Russell
wrote Marriage and Morals way back in 1929, setting
the fundamentals of what later became known as polyamory,
but this brilliant
guy couldn't even make it work.
He was married four times.
Sorry to burst all your bubbles.
Most of us are just cut out for monogamy.