What's the big deal about open relationships anyway?
If there is one thing that sucks about being in a relationship, it’s probably having to be exclusive. At least, that was the case in the past. Now, thanks to the wonders of the world of tomorrow, today’s dating scene is a technology-infused minefield of unconventional bump-n-grind.
Rather than being the exception to the rule, open relationships are now fast becoming the norm amongst college educated, middle-class millennials, especially women. According to Singles in America, millenials are 48 percent more likely to fuck before the first date now, and 28 percent use sexual relations as a way of gauging if they love someone ... or not.
Astonishingly, a recent report suggests that around 20 percent, or one-in-five, young people are keeping their options (and legs) open. Even dating monogamously is bound to have some overlap for the youth, as many find “the one” while still seeing “the last one."
Relationship counselors and sexperts advocate different plans of attack when it comes to trying open relationships.
Turns out the difference between an open relationship and cheating is ... communication. Whether you just communicate enough to tell your partner that you don’t want to talk about their other lovers, or to let them know that you want all the kinky details, communication is key.
On one Reddit thread about the topic, a user by the name of hagarama delivers realistic advice for beginners: “For me, what's most helpful is that open relationships allow for my partners and I to discuss attractions or connections to other people - not just romantic and sexual ones, but emotional, as well. It also provides the option of someone's needs being met if I can't meet them (and vice-versa).”
Agree On It
One thing famous sex counselor Tristan Taormino, author of "Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships," says: “It can be easier for a couple who begin a relationship as an open one, than a couple who start out monogamous and then decide to transition to non-monogamy.”
He suggests that while it’s great for people to have an open relationship, opening up a monogamous partnership usually ends in disaster. If you prefer open relationships, it’s better to go into one with another partner that is as willing as you, rather than trying to impose it on someone who didn’t sign up for it.
Can following a few noticeably simple steps really overcome the jealousy that is inherent in our biology though? In fact, the main factor that relationship counselors state for why open relationships don’t work is that green-eyed sorceress, jealousy. In 1971, one study found that 8 in 10 people in open relationships reported experiencing jealousy at one point or another, to the point where it seems like it was almost ubiquitous for open relationships then.
Yet it appears society has overcome that certain biology. More recent studies suggest people in open relationships now experience less jealousy than their monogamous counterparts.
Open marriage is spreading like wildfire, too, for the first time since the term's invention by George and Nena O’Neill in their 1972 book (of the same name). Just like in the Swinging Sixties, young people are starting to question the sex lockdown of their parents’ heterosexual relationships. More people are now starting to ask if monogamy isn’t just monotony, and if getting married at all isn’t just for taxes and visa purposes.
One such study found that 15 percent of married couples have an agreement about having extramarital sex, although the numbers shrink a bit when you take into account that only one quarter of men, and one fifth of the women, were actually engaging in extramarital sex — amounting to a deflating 5-6 percent overall. It turns out that opening up a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to start raining pussy or cock, and many get a little jaded with it when the other partner is the first to start dating, or to get an STD.
“My wife and I tried this last year," says Alex, a married guy in his late-20s. "She's not particularly good at monogamy and she talked a good game about being cool with it. She was not. It was an interesting experiment, but my wife found out she hated it and I came to realize that I crave the comfort of reliability over the excitement of the new."
It's not for everyone, but as the numbers suggest, "everyone" seems to be shrinking by each passing generation.