Are you open to an open relationship?

Unfamiliar with the term? Think of being in a primary relationship, but with the ability to have sex with others. Openly. With your sweetheart’s knowledge and permission.

One of my acquaintances has this kind of relationship. She and her husband have permission from the other to “see” others. They refer to their relationship as polyamorous. In fact, one of her husband’s girlfriends moved into their home for a while!

In my dating adventure, one man asked if I’d be open to an open relationship. I was not. I don’t know if he already had a primary relationship or was just wanting not to be tied down. Since we had different needs, I didn’t really need to know more.

Nearly every day we hear about some celebrity or high-ranking official being caught having had sex with someone other than his/her main squeeze — without said squeeze’s permission. So one could argue, it’s happening all around us, why make it verboten? Why not acknowledge the likelihood that one or both of you would be attracted to someone else and say a brief fling is okay?

Of course, it boils down to one’s values and needs. If one highly values monogamy, then an open relationship is out of the question. Others see it as still being monogamous, as they say the on-the-side tryst isn’t really a relationship, just a physical fling. They are still devoted to their primary sweetie.

My last boyfriend was in a polyamorous relationship with me and his “previous” girlfriend. “Previous” is in quotes because, unbeknownst to me, he hadn’t broken it off with her and was still having sex with her. That’s not polyamorous to me, as I had no knowledge nor had I given permission. That’s just cheating.

I distinguish multi-dating from polyamory. Multi-dating is pre-sexual dating several people simultaneously while sorting out which — if any — of the current wooers to continue seeing. Once exclusivity is determined by both parties, monogamy sets in.

I know polyamory isn’t for me, but I don’t judge others if it’s fine for them — as long as they aren’t concurrently in a relationship with me and another woman without my knowledge!

What do you think about an open relationship? Would you consider it? What if someone you were dating wanted to have one?

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12 comments on this post.
  1. Anonymous Cowardess:

    I think its the best thing since sliced bread and I refuse to date anyone who is not polyamorous. But its not for everyone.

    Two good books to read are Sex at Dawn and The Ethical Slut if you are considering it.

  2. Dating Goddess:

    Dear Anonymous Cowardess:

    Please enlighten those of us who haven’t traveled this road. What do you like about it so much?

  3. Anonymous Cowardess:

    I enjoy the flexibility, the lack of pressure to be someones perfect partner. They don’t need to dump me to look elsewhere to have their needs met, the variety. Different experiences. Things dont ever, ever get boring.

    I like that I do not need to ever worry about my partner cheating (I suppose he could, but why bother?). 2/3 of men cheat. He doesn’t need to refuse the welcome advances of the opposite (or same) sex or pretend he is not aroused and attracted to other women & men. We’re free to flirt, date and pursue others.

    Less pressure. I dont need to worry about being his everything, satisfying his every need and him satisfying mine. I havent settled for him, I dont need to worry that he settled for me.

    I saw the below once in a forum, and they explained how I feel very well:

    I believe it’s possible to deeply love more than one person at a time.
    I believe my partner’s love for someone else has nothing to do with me.
    I believe my partner wants to be with me and will stay with me as long as our relationship works.

    I don’t believe that my partner would only want someone else if there was something wrong with me.
    I don’t believe that my partner is more likely to leave me if they have another partner.
    I don’t believe that our love is less special or meaningful if my partner loves someone else.
    I don’t usually compare myself to my partner’s other partners and worry about being as good as they are.

    There is adultery in every culture, every society, every village. Why not make it the norm instead of the exception? If we could be involved with whoever we wanted to, whenever we wanted to, relationships would be much less stressed.

    I could do without the STD checks every 6 months though ;)

  4. Samantha:

    Personally, I’m a one relationship kind of girl. I’d rather be on that one-on-one level and know that we’re both monogamous with each other and that’s how my relationships have been my whole life.

    However, I can see how the polygamous relationship can seem attractive to others. It’s kind of just like serial dating, isn’t it? You never have to stay dating the same guy (unless he’s the one for you) and you can pick and choose who you want to go out with. No serious attachments or anything.

  5. Anonymous Cowardess:

    @Samantha

    “However, I can see how the polygamous relationship can seem attractive to others. ”

    Its polyamory, not polygamy. Loving many, not married to many.

    “It’s kind of just like serial dating, isn’t it? You never have to stay dating the same guy (unless he’s the one for you) and you can pick and choose who you want to go out with. ”

    It’s not like serial dating. We choose to be with multiple people, at the same time. They are *all* the one for me. I don’t need to dump one because I like another one more.

    “No serious attachments or anything.”

    I would say I’m fairly attached to all my partners. I have deep, loving, committed relationships with them all. At this time, I’m not with anyone I’d consider a fling.

  6. Kate Hunter:

    I came from an open relationship and I absolutely love it. Anonymous Cowardess is right it is not for everyone. Traditionally, people are supposed to commit to just one person.

    For me that is just fine but I am after the “openness” of a polyamorous relationship. No complications, no jealousy and of course little or no fighting. It removes the stress from being in a relationship but gives you all the benefit of being in one.

    :)

  7. Richard:

    “It removes the stress from being in a relationship but gives you all the benefit of being in one.”

    One of the “benefits” is knowing who you can count on. Who do you turn to in your time of need? If you want to vent about your boss, probably whoever you are meeting with next. If you are recovering from an illness at home, is it like family and everyone stops by? What if you loose your job? Do you live with a guy for a month at a time, or one of the other ladies in the group?

    Seems like a relationship with all is a commitment to none. If Guy A gets tired of you, it is too easy for Guy A to leave, after all, you still have Guy B, C, and D.

    Note: This is different from what DG wrote about. In her blog, the issue is a committed relationship where they can play with other people. It is the difference between having sex and making love. Some people can separate the two, and some cannot.

  8. Anonymous Cowardess:

    @Richard

    That’s one of the beauties, you have more people to count on than just one. I’m lucky I don’t need to vent about my boss, but I have partners that are more likely to be receptive when I need to vent than others (I rarely vent, none of my partners or friends are my emotional tampons, period). If I’m recovering from an illness (I’m never sick, more often I’m doing the caring), not one person needs to help me, the load is spread out. I’ve never lost a job, but I do have a solid financial backup plan. In my case, I live alone, but I spend time at others places ocassionally (multiple closets!). A downside is that I frequently lose shoes :/

    Being in multiple relationships does not make them less important individually. As I said before: I don’t believe that my partner is more likely to leave me if they have another partner. Nor should my partner believe I am more likely to leave him if I have another partner.

  9. T:

    I was in a polyamorous relationship and I hated it. Let me preface this by saying that I agreed to it initally since it was long distance. What the net effect was is that my partner used it to have sex with whomever whenever. I felt disrespected when I came to town and was staying at the house while he would entertain other women during my visit. He wanted me to go to play parties, which I refused since I am not into group sex. He eventually met a girl that I liked as well so I thought we could be in a triad, which I was open to, but the two of them were the biggest sluts ever that I was afraid of catching something despite the regular STD screenings. So I pulled away as they went on their merry slutty way without me. I am open-minded but from what I have seen polyamory is a fancy word for swinger, which just feels soulless to me. What about LOve??? That feeling you get when the only person you desire is the one you LOVE. When I am into a man, only one will do thank you. I dont want anyone else fricken touching me. I dont need the validation or attention. The people that operate in this realm are not very attractive either. With the exception of my old boyfriend, he was hot by anyones standards but as time went on he became less attractive to me as I saw that his standards were so low he would sleep with anything just for the novelty. GROSS. I have much higher standards for myself and if you sleep with skanks your value and respect is diminished in my eyes. He eventually got engaged to the other slutty woman. I think they are perfect for each other. He still calls once in a while to say that he misses me but I have completely lost interest. This open relationship was the biggest mindfu%k I ever experienced. If my next boyfriend needs some new meat for a change of pace I will drop him off at the Chicken Ranch wrapped in latex from head to toe and say “have at em girls, I need the rest” At least I will know its only sex. I am a confident woman with a healthy sexual outlook. The biggest problem I had with this poly relationship was the emotional involvement he needed to maintain his stable of women, it was time consuming and left me feeling like secound fiddle. Quite Frankly thats B.S. One of the perks of being in a relationship is having a deep soulful connection with a significant other. Intimacy that is authentic and undistracted by the needs of other people competing for your Lovers time. Otherwise your just dating. What is the point of calling someone your boyfriend or girlfriend if you are going to see other people. As a society we have certain social customs and beliefs about relationships. Hopefully when someone admits to being in a relationship a person would respect that, and not get involved with someone who is committed to another. Otherwise what is the point?! Polyamory sucks! It breaks down the very fiber of relationships and true intimacy.

  10. Anonymous Cowardess:

    @T

    I’m sorry to hear about your particular situation. But polyamory does not suck. As I said, poly is not for everyone… and you are one of those who it is not for.

    Situations you described, are incredibly similar to situations I have been in, only they were experiences I enjoyed (and continue to enjoy). I enjoy helping my partner entertain other partners, I enjoy play parties, threesomes. I am supportive and often help my primary partner with flirting and finding new partners. I think I’m fairly slutty, so is my primary parter… so we are evenly matched there. I feel love for my partners. We’re both careful, get screened often, and only have sex with people who we trust.

    I don’t feel I need validation or attention. I’ve simply found myself attracted to various men and women over the years, and because my relationship norms allow it, I was able to pursue relationships with them as well. I discuss possible new partners with my current partners, and only if they all agree that they trust the new person and its a good idea, does it go any further.

    “I am a confident woman with a healthy sexual outlook.”

    So am I, but healthy is subjective. I don’t consider the way you prefer to be sexual unhealthy, just different than my own.

    “One of the perks of being in a relationship is having a deep soulful connection with a significant other.”

    I’m able to have multiple deep soulful connections, but I find it perfectly OK that some people can only manage to do that with one person at a time.

    “As a society we have certain social customs and beliefs about relationships.”

    There is society, and then there is nature. And by nature, men prefer variety and so do women. I’d rather not follow societal norms that run against my true nature.

    You are definetely a monogamous person, and I’m glad you are secure in this knowledge. You’re unlikely to try polyamory again and for that I thank you. But really, a lot of us could not live any other way and have “deep soulful connections” and “true intimacy” with our multiple partners.

  11. Wantstohavehope:

    @Anonymous cowardess

    I am 55 and graced (or cursed) with a strong libido. I have been faithfully monogamous for 29 years to the same woman who has more or less recently decided against sex. She’s always had a (much) lower sex drive than I have and I suppose I should have seen this coming lo those many years ago. My question is this; how might I successfully open our relationship to sex partners for me while assuring her that I have no plans to leave her? I do love her, but I am so desperate that I’m afraid of doing something stupid. I’ve read The Ethical Slut, Sex at Dawn, and other books about multiple partners and it seems like a happy dream world to me. Any thoughts on getting from where I am to where I want to be? Thanks!

  12. Anonymous Cowardess:

    @Wantstohavehope

    Hi!~

    That is a unfortunate predicament you find yourself in. You want to try polyamory because your partner is not meeting your needs. It’s not recommended, but it can work. I cannot speak from experience, I’ve never opened a relationship (they have always started out open), but here are some suggestions:

    * Talk with her frankly about your needs. Pose to her the question on how you should go about having them met. Abstinence is not an option.
    * Ask her under what circumstances would she feel secure if you took on a lover. Does she want to know? Or will she prefer it to be discreet? How do you intend to protect yourself from STD’s? Think this through.
    * Reassure that you love her, do not want to leave her, you have not cheated on her. You want to continue being intimate with her (I can’t emphasize this enough, tell her you still want to have sex with her).
    * Be careful who you date. Seek women who are actually poly, try OKCupid. Married or partnered women make a good secondary partners, single women tend to want more (this is my own experience speaking here), but a single women who is not interested in a high frequency relationship who has other partners may also work.

    Have you read Opening Up?

    Be strong, have some resolve. Don’t be obsequious and or give up easily. She may cry, hold your frame. And good luck, you’ll need it.

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