From a cultural perspective, monogamy doesn’t makes much sense. Why should our happiness be so heavily based on the continued reciprocity and benevolence of just one other person? Few primates are monogamous and, statistically, humans seem to be pretty terrible at it, with as many as 50 per cent of married Canadians admitting to at least one extramarital affair.
Now, thanks to modern cultural conventions, more people are choosing to take alternative routes in the pursuit of emotional and sexual satisfaction. Open and polyamorous relationships are becoming increasingly common. An open relationship is characterized by having partners who are free to pursue sexual satisfaction from external parties, whereas “poly” relationships can come in many forms, but generally involve dating, loving, and engaging sexually with multiple partners. From the standpoint of someone in a loving, committed relationship where they feel sexually or emotionally unfulfilled, this may seem ideal, but many factors come into play.
For successful polyamorous and open relationships, some major components that must be present are communication, healthy establishment of boundaries and, most importantly, desiring or accepting the same things as your partner(s). This last one is unequivocally the most difficult point to reach. Some examples include: desiring an open relationship because the libido of your significant other is different from your own, or if one has a kink the other prefers not to indulge in, or maybe one is bisexual, or that you would simply just like the freedom to act on an attraction to others.
In these kinds of scenarios, you can establish healthy lines of communication and boundaries. What can be discussed and what will not? What are the “rules” you can both agree on? Once you try putting that into practice, however, you may not like how it plays out. Jealousy and insecurity tend to plague people who are first exploring open relationships. Your boyfriend thought he wanted to know about your sexual escapades, but now can’t stop thinking about you with others — and not in a fun, kinky way. Your girlfriend finds that she has better sex with someone else and loses interest in sex with you. The types of problems that can arise are endless. On the other hand, it can function and even strengthen the relationship you have — but is that a risk you’re willing to take?
It is certainly possible to love two people, but the modern person only has so many free hours in the day and, as a result, poly relationships can result in a balancing act that leaves one or more parties feeling unsatisfied — even if they were initially pleased by the setup. Humans are notoriously fickle creatures and our needs and wants change frequently. One veteran of open relationships who has returned to monogamy says that, “In general, it’s a lot nicer to be in a monogamous relationship. It’s harder to juggle people and your emotions,” adding that, “I did enjoy being able to kiss whomever I wanted in a moment of drunkenness or passion or whatever the situation, but for the most part, open relationships aren’t really for me.” A woman who is currently in a poly relationship, however, says that it works for her because “having two very different people in your life with your romantic and sexual satisfaction in mind means that you can explore different elements of yourself in different ways.”
So, there are many people in happy long-term open and poly relationships, and you could be one of them, but you need to be damn sure you’re willing to handle any possible repercussions before you explore those avenues.
By E-Z Breezy
Illustration: Jarett Sitter