Tag Archives: Monogamy

Open Hearts, Open Minds, And Open Relationships

Name: Deborah
Gender: female
Age: 36
Location: Rome
I like your site very much. Thank you for some much honesty. I have a question; do open relationships really work?

Well gee, thanks for your kind words, darlin’; I appreciate it.

To your question about open relationships, I guess that depends on the maturity level of the people considering opening their sexually exclusive relationship. And how much work they are willing to put forward to communicate with one another through all the details that such a decision entails.open relationship

That being said, there are a few things us sex researchers know for sure. In most cultures, people claim to practice sexual exclusivity, which is commonly referred to as monogamy. Although I think that’s a misnomer. Monogamy literally means having one union, which, as we all know, tells us nothing about sexual expression of either or both partners.

Lifetime sexual exclusivity (being sexually involved with only one person for one’s entire life) is rare. Serial sexual exclusivity (having a series of exclusive relationships over one’s life) is much more common. And despite knowing that we humans do not mate for life, we continue to presume that sexual exclusivity, or monogamy is the only legitimate kind of coupling.

This, unfortunately, leads to our culture’s obsession with cheating — that is, having sex with someone outside of a monogamous relationship. And frankly, what I know about humans, human relationships, and human sexuality; I can say for certain that fidelity is not necessarily a genital issue. One can indeed be faithful to someone else and still have the freedom to express him/herself sexually with others. It happens all the time. In these cases, fidelity is to the relationship and the agreements, parameters, and boundaries mutually agreed upon by the partners. Which get me back to my opening comment about the need for communication. Of course, it’s much easier to presume that everyone in a relationship is working under the same rubric, but that kind of presumption is a fool’s paradise.

polyamory1Another shortcoming of setting up sexual exclusivity, or monogamy as the only legitimate kind of coupling is that it diminishes all the other types of relationships that flourish albeit in a more covert sort of way. And here I’m talking about an array of open relationship models and polyamory. The fact that we don’t hear a lot about these non-traditional relationships shouldn’t suggest to you, or anyone, that they don’t exist or that they aren’t practical or practiced my a lot of people. They are! It just means that most people in non-traditional relationships know not to go public in a society that would denigrate them for their lifestyle choices. That’s how things are here in the good old US of A; and I’ll wager it’s also true for you Italians. Am I right, or am I right?

Open relationships and polyamorous relationships work because the people in them adhere to some basic tenets about how to conduct themselves.

First among them is the notion that these alternative relationships must be chosen; they can’t be mandated. If one or another of the persons considering an open or poly relationship is being pressured to go along with the flow, or is fearful that he/she will be alone if he/she doesn’t comply with the will of the other(s), that kind of duress is not gonna work.

Each person in the relationship needs to take responsibility for the choices he/she is making. If you’re not up for the task, or if this kind of arrangement is not compatible with your personality type, don’t attempt to override that. You will only jeopardize the relationship for the other(s) involved. However if the idea appeals to you, give it your best shot. I can guarantee it will be a learning experience. Just remember, exploring something and having it carved in stone are two very different things.

Second, communication is key. The more complex the relationship structure the greater the need for open lines of communication. Know your boundaries and express them clearly. Ask questions; never assume you know something when you don’t. If you will allow me some shameless self-promotion, I’d like to direct your attention to my latest book, The Gospel Of Kink — A Modern Guide To Asking For What You Want And Getting What You Ask For. It’s a communication and relationship-building workshop, for folks in nontraditional relationships, in workbook form. I think you will find it most enlightening. GOK small cover

Third, know yourself! You must be able to deal with your emotions, particularly jealousy, in an up-front, adult way. This is often much easier said than done. If you need to be the center of attention just so you can feel good about yourself, or you have serious territorial issues — this is mine, this is mine, and this is mine! Alternative relationships are probably not for you.

Know what keeps you even keel in terms of what you need and what you are able to give. There has got to be a healthy tension between these two things. If you’re the kind who gives too much and resents not being rewarded for your gifts, stay away from alternative relationships. Or if you are so needy that you can’t stand it when someone else is enjoying his/her time in the sun; open or poly relationships are decidedly not for you.

You should also know that alternative relationships, of whatever stripe, are, for the most part, on the fringes of what society will accept. And some are outright taboo. This doesn’t mean you will have to slug it out on your own, in a vacuum of support. On the contrary, you will no doubt find that the people who are living contrary to the expectations of the popular culture are often a whole lot more generous with their support and compassion then those following all the rules.

You will find that your support system will shift from more traditional sources like family, church, and community to alternative sources like clubs and social groupings of other like-minded individuals as yourself. A common mistake made by those in non-traditional relationships is to take their problems and issues to their traditional support systems. This rarely works because the traditional support system will inevitably blame the non-traditional relationship setup for the problem. This is not true, of course, but how would those in traditional relationships know otherwise.

I always suggest that those in non-traditional relationships bring their issues to their non-traditional support system. Here you are less likely to encounter judgments about your life choices and more help with overcoming the problems at hand.

Good luck

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Opening Things Up

And not we hear from a very long-winded soul…

Name: Needing help badly
Gender: Male
Age: late 30s
Location: North America
Good day, and hoping this email finds you well. Me and my partner of nearly 10 years are experiencing a problem, it goes something like this. I am always interested in having sex; he is almost never interested in having sex.need your dick sucked

Initially we started out with the typical “honeymoon” period where there was sex nearly every night and twice on Sundays (grin). After a brief while this preceded normally to a couple times a week maybe a little less. After a few years it has deteriorated to me almost always having to beg for even a hand job and perhaps we do more (oral/anal) a handful of times a month and I only get to top once or twice a year.

My partner almost never initiates sexual interaction and complains that I am “always asking.” We are very compatible in other respects and really love each other, but I have a 20 libido on a scale of 1 to 10 and he has a 1 or 2 on the same scale.

This is starting to lead to tension in other parts of our relationship even though we try our best not to allow it. We are currently in a closed relationship, with my partner citing, in the past, personal beliefs about monogamy and monogamous relationships. Recently he has been entertaining the idea of opening the relationship up to allow me to seek relief for my sexual needs through other channels. He states that of late his views have changed and that he is taking a more realistic view at how we should proceed.

We just discussed rules for the opening of the relationship and are in the process of looking at our options for secondary partners. The rules we have thus far are as follows:jeans03

  1. Either of us may play with other people outside the relationship.
  2. The primary partner has ABSOLUTE veto powers over the choice of another play partner.
  3. Safe sex must be observed at ALL times and absolutely no transfer of bodily fluids outside of the primary partnership.
  4. If a play partner comes to our house to play and the primary partner is home, an offer to allow them to join in must be made.
  5. As soon as possible after an outside encounter, or preferably before, the primary partner must be told of the play session. Not the gory details, just “hey me and _____ had some fun last night” to keep the lines of communication open.
  6. More discussion may be initiated at the request of the non-playing partner, but not readily offered.
  7. You always, always, always come home to your primary partner at night.
  8. Secondary play partners must maintain discretion about our play sessions and respect the boundaries established by the primary partnership.

Can you advise me on the following:

  • Do you think this will help or hindering our relationship?
  • Do you think the rules we have set down are adequate?
  • Any other suggestions for the rules.
  • Any other comments or suggestions in general?

Thank you.

First, I’d suggest you guys rethink your choice of words when taking about your relationship. Monogamous means one wife…ya know, as opposed to polygamous, meaning more than one wife. Since neither one of you is a woman, that word doesn’t fit your situation.

I know, I know, the popular culture uses that word indiscriminately to describe any sexually exclusive relationship, but we don’t have to misuse words just because everyone else does. Language is important. And in some instances, like this one, precise language is not only helps with clarity, it helps you better understand what is possible between you two. Besides, as we all know, some monogamous relationships are not sexually exclusive.

haloTry using the less culturally encumbered word “exclusive” as opposed to the culturally laden “monogamous” when speaking about your primary relationship. I think you’ll find that it will free you up from outdated ways of thinking about your relationship. It will also help in dispelling guilt associated with violating cultural norms. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. Say out loud — “Ours is not an exclusive relationship.” Now say — We are not monogamous.” There is a big difference, huh? I told you so.

And the best part about all of this is you get to define what “non-exclusive” means. For instance, you guys seem to want your primary relationship to be emotionally exclusive, but not necessarily sexually exclusive. In other words you are not considering polyamory, right? Nothing wrong with polyamory, it’s just not what you are considering at this time, I’m guessing.

I applaud your negotiating skills. I think you guys have come up with a viable framework for launching out in search of satellite relationships. You will probably find that some fine-tuning is necessary as you make your way, but I believe your foundation is sound.

There’s one thing for sure, your bullet point #8 is completely outside of your control. You will learn, in short order, that you won’t be able to manage your satellite partners’ behaviors. Expecting discretion from a casual hook-up or even a newly found fuck-buddy is unrealistic. The “girls” are gonna talk, hun, no matter what you say.

Finally, I suggest that you and your primary partner keep an open mind about it all. You’d also do well to maintain a sense of humor.

Good luck

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