Monogamy = Monotony?—Why Couples Go Rogue

Can an open relationship be the key to happiness in your relationship? Challenging societal norms on monogamy may unlock hidden desires or reveal a level a honesty you’ve never experienced with a partner.

For many of us, the urge to couple up is a strong one. It might even be programmed into our DNA. But does love mean never dating or having sex with other people?

Several years ago, I decided to challenge the idea that the only way to a loving, committed relationship was to be monogamous. My then-boyfriend and I decided to try an open relationship. We were committed to each other, referred to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend, and were both allowed to date and be physically intimate with other people. We eventually broke up (for various reasons, most of which weren’t related to our openness), but since then I’ve remained interested in rethinking relationships—and it turns out I’m not alone.

Nonmonoga-me—Current Trends

Estimates suggest there are more than half a million openly polyamorous families in the U.S., and in 2010, an estimated eight million couples were practicing some form of nonmonogamy. Even among married couples, open relationships can be successful; some studies suggest they’re common in gay marriages.

For today’s 20- and 30-somethings, these trends are meaningful. More than 40 percent of millenials think marriage is “becoming obsolete” (compared to 43 percent of Gen Xers, 35 percent of baby boomers, and 32 percent of people aged 65-plus). And almost half of millenials say they view changes in family structures positively, compared to only a quarter of elderly respondents. In other words, monogamy—though a perfectly viable choice—doesn’t work for everyone.

It certainly wasn’t working for me. Blame it on a couple unhealthy relationships in my youth: For whatever reason, in my mind “monogamy” had come to be associated with possessiveness, jealousy, and claustrophobia—not quite what one desires from everlasting love. I wanted to care about someone without feeling owned by them, and I wanted that someone to feel the same way. Add to that the fact that I’d been single for a while (after having been in a monogamous relationship for even longer) and—I’m woman enough to admit it—wasn’t ready to give up the freedom to flirt with strangers. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure what I wanted, exactly, but I knew I didn’t want to feel suffocated by a partner. So when I started dating…let’s call him ‘Bryce,’ I geared myself up for hurt feelings, got over my own awkwardness, and broached it: Have you ever thought about having an open relationship?

Open relationships tend to fall into two general categories, says Greatist Expert and sex counselor Ian Kerner: Couples might negotiate a nonmonogamous arrangement like the one I had with Bryce, in which each individual has the freedom to date and/or have sex with people outside the relationship. Or couples will choose to swing, adventuring outside their monogamous relationship as a unit (having sex with other people together, as in a three-or-more-some). But these categories are pretty fluid, and they shift depending on a given couple’s needs and boundaries.

Monogamy = Monotony?—Why Couples Go Rogue

The tricky thing about relationships is they’re all different, so there’s no “one reason” why people decide to explore alternative relationship models. Still, there are a wide range of theories about why monogamy hasn’t proved universally satisfying. Some experts say it has roots in genetics: About 80 percent of primates are polygamous, and similar estimates apply to human hunter-gatherer societies. (Still, it’s not useful to get caught up in the “is it natural” argument, says Kerner: Variation is what’s natural, more so than monogamy or nonmonogamy.)

Other research suggests different people have different needs for a satisfying relationship. In The Monogamy Gap, Eric Anderson suggests open relationships allow partners to meet their respective needs without demanding more than one partner can give. There’s also a cultural component: Fidelity stats vary widely among cultures, and evidence suggests countries with more permissive attitudes toward sex also have longer-lasting marriages. In Nordic countries, many married couples openly discuss “parallel relationships”—ranging from drawn-out affairs to holiday flings—with their partners, yet marriage remains a respected institution. Then again, sex advice columnist Dan Savage says nonmonogamy might just come down to plain old boredom.

In short, there are as many reasons to be nonmonogamous as there are nonmonogamous people—and therein lies a bit of a problem. Even if a couple agrees to be nonmonogamous, their reasons for doing so might be in conflict. In my case, I wanted to be in a nonmonogamous relationship because I wanted to challenge social assumptions about love; Bryce wanted to be in a nonmonogamous relationship because I wanted to be in one, and he wanted to be with me. Perhaps not surprisingly, this stirred up conflict between us when I actually started seeing other people. While I was fine when Bryce made out with a mutual friend, he couldn’t stomach the thought of me doing the same. This eventually led to resentment on both sides and jealousy on his—and suddenly I found myself back in a claustrophobic relationship, arguing about who belonged to whom.

Should You Put a Ring on It? — New Directions

Not surprisingly, the green-eyed monster is a common challenge for nonmonogamous partners across the board, regardless of gender or sexuality. The best way to deal? Honesty. In numerous studies, open communication is the prime driver of relationship satisfaction (this is true in any relationship), and the best coping mechanism for jealousy. For couples venturing into opendom, it’s important for partners to communicate their needs and work out an agreement in advance of any rendezvous.

In retrospect, I should have been more honest with myself, and acknowledged that (regardless of what he said) Bryce didn’t really want to be nonmonogamous; it would have spared us both some heartache. It’s easy to be attracted to nonmonogamy’s sexier side, but it actually requires incredibly high levels of trust, communication, openness, and intimacy with your primary partner—meaning that just like monogamy, open relationships can be pretty stressful, and they’re certainly not for everyone. In other words, nonmonogamy is by no means a ticket out of relationship problems, and it might actually be a source of them. It can also be thrilling, rewarding, and enlightening.

No matter what, say experts, whether a couple decides to be open or monogamous should be a matter of choice. “When there is no stigma to having an open sexual relationship,”writes Anderson, “men and women will begin to be more honest about what they want…and how they desire to achieve it.”

As for me, these days I’m a one-man kinda gal—which I learned by being open.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article


Millions Trying Open Marriage

For many couples, the idea of monogamy is evolving. Is it open season on sex outside of commitment?

For the first time in history, more Americans are single (50.2 percent) than married. But for those who do tie the knot, the general idea is still the same: You’re now emotionally and sexually exclusive with your partner. Even if you never marry but have long- term relationships, monogamy is usually part of the unspoken agreement.

That’s starting to change. “Monogamy is no longer going to define marriage,” predicts couples therapist Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., author of The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity, who says she’s seeing more couples experimenting with open relationships (in which a couple decides what sexual activities outside their relationship are fair game) and polyamory (having actual romantic relationships outside a primary commitment). It’s not cheating or “looking the other way,” but having relationships or encounters with the consent and support of your partner.

While it’s impossible to know exactly how many U.S. couples are consensually nonmonogamous, estimates range from 1.2 to 2.4 million, Elisabeth Sheff, author of The Polyamorists Next Door, wrote last year in Psychology Today. Couples have made “agreements” since marriage was invented, but as open relationships become more established in popular culture—some Hollywood couples have talked about theirs; two of last summer’s indie comedies (The Overnight and While We Were Young) featured subplots centered on nonmonogamy—more people are comfortable coming out about their lifestyle.


It sounds counterintuitive, but many people practicing nonmonogamy see it as a way to preserve their relationship, not implode it, says Esther Perel, marriage therapist and author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, whose TED talks on marriage and infidelity have been collectively viewed more than 10 million times. “Many people in their 20s and 30s are children of divorce, and they want a different code of honesty,” she says. “The idea of consensual nonmonogamy is in service of the longevity of the couple: ‘With this, we can avoid lying, cheating.’ They’re taking the concept of sexual freedom inside the marriage.”

Below, three happily married couples in open relationships explain how they, well, do it.

The Modern Family

The Couple: Nicole Sharette, 38, and Luke Sharette, 35. LOCATION: Eugene, Oregon.

Status: Married for 12 years.

Kids: Six.

Our Arrangement: “I’m a stay-at-home mom. Outside of our sex lives, we’re a traditional family. Luke has casual hookups; I have long-term relationships. I’ve had one boyfriend for eight years, another for three, and I’ve dated a couple for four. We go out anywhere from every three months to three times a month.”

How It Began: “I’ve always wanted to do this. When we first got together, Luke was very vanilla [sexually], and that slowly changed. I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy this with others?’ He came around to it, then we talked for a year. First I just dated women, and Luke realized that I wasn’t going to leave. When he had his first experience, he saw that my feelings wouldn’t get hurt.”

The Rules: “We used to have rules about who we could and couldn’t sleep with (like, I didn’t want him to hook up with my best friend). Now we don’t, except that we have safe sex with everyone else. Luke doesn’t tell me how often I can go out, and I don’t tell him. We just respect each other.”


Jealous Much? “I like the feeling. Jealousy excites me.”

The Good: “We don’t get bored with each other. It makes us communicate and grows our trust, love, attraction, and appreciation for each other. It also keeps us both feeling young, which is hard when you have a lot of kids.”

The Bad: “We have kids in their late teens. When they were younger, they saw Luke out with another woman and thought he was cheating. We explained that we love each other but we have other friends. They get it now. They’re also very monogamous and paranoid about cheating.”

The Poly Partners

The Couple: KC, 34, and Marissa, 31.

Location: New York City.

Status: Together for three years, married since September.

KIDS: Zero.

Our Arrangement: KC: “We have a circle of polyamorous friends. We have sexual interactions with them at parties, either together or separately. Or we’ll have friends over and one thing will lead to another—but then they go home.” Marissa: “We don’t have other romantic partners.”


How It Began: Marissa: “KC and I have both tried open relationships, but this is the first time it has worked out well. We started our relationship like this. Going from monogamy to nonmonogamy is very difficult, especially between people with disparate levels of relationship experience and insecurity.”

The Rules: KC: “I wouldn’t want either of us to hook up with someone who expected more than what we’ve offered.” Marissa: “Or if we know they’re emotionally unstable.”

Bilateral Support: Marissa: “I’m bisexual, so I still get to explore that. KC might say, ‘You’re talking about dudes a lot lately. Do you want to make some calls?’ “KC: “People have different sex drives and ways of connecting. If you thrive on that, to shut off that part of yourself can be suffocating, even if you have a good sex life with your partner.”

The Good: KC: “You can be yourself and not constantly self-monitor.” Marissa: “You’re not afraid that the other person is going to stray. Why would they?”

The Bad: KC: “I’m not out to my family. When I tried to talk about being in an open relationship, it got dismissed: ‘Oh, it must not be serious.’ If we’re not romantically involved with others, my sex life isn’t my parents’ business.”

The Lawmakers

The Couple: Susan Coates, 43, and Taj Moore, 40.

Location: Denver.

Status: Together eight years, married for four years.

Kids: One.

Our Arrangement: “Taj sees someone every week and talks to her daily. She’s married and has a child. I also have a weekly date with someone who has another partner and kids. I see other partners intermittently.”

How It Began: “When we first met, I had been in a relationship steeped in jealousy and wanted to explore an open relationship. Taj said, ‘Yeah, I’m curious, too.’ We sat down to check in before his first date. I said, ‘I’m OK if you give her a kiss.’ Afterward, we did a play-by-play. It took quite awhile before I was OK with him having sex with another person.”

The Rules: “Taj and I check in before each date. At the beginning, this was very lengthy. Now it’s just a text: ‘Are there any parameters?’ If our relationship is struggling, we’ll simmer it down and not date much.”

Terms of Disclosure: “When I’m out with my other partner, we talk about Taj a lot. There might be an intimate moment that feels special with someone else, but if it feels like I’m withholding from Taj, I question why.”


The Good: “I learn a lot about myself, because relationships with different people bring out other parts of me. If there’s something my primary partner can’t give me—maybe I’m drawn to someone with a different sense of humor—I don’t have to compartmentalize.”

The Bad: “Since what we’re doing is generally taboo, we’ve lost friends because there’s a lot of judgment. We don’t hide, and there are people who seem pretty uncomfortable when they find out.”

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

5 Things you Didn’t know About Polyamorous Relationships

I didn’t set out to be Polyamorous (poly). It just…sort of happened.

For the first 5 years of our marriage we were a pretty typical monogamous couple. One day, everything changed.

My husband told me he was attracted to a mutual friend of ours and she felt the same way. That was 5 years ago (and a few new lovers) ago.

Since then I’ve become a bit of an ambassador for this relationship style because it’s made me and my marriage better. So, here are some things you might not know about what it’s like to be in multiple loving relationships at the same time.

1. Polyamory is becoming more mainstream.

When CNN’s homepage features an article called Polyamory: When three isn’t a crowd and Business Insider features an article on how to make a polyamorous relationships work, you get the feeling this oddball thing might be going mainstream. The feeling was confirmed in a more scientific way when Google revealed that two of the top relationship searches of 2017 were about polyamory and open relationships.  

Stories of couples who looked the other way while their spouse slept with someone else are as old as the institution of marriage. And while the idea of openly dating and loving multiple people may be just as old, it’s only beginning to find acceptance in American culture today.

2. Poly relationships are different for everyone.

When my husband and I started down this path, one of the more difficult things was that we had no model for this kind of relationship. It wasn’t until then that I realized how much we learned about dating from “Saved by the Bell” and Seventeen magazine. We had others to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do. But with poly, we were pretty much on our own.

Sure, there’s Opening Up and The Ethical Slut. Even after reading that and more, it still felt like the blind leading the blind. As those books will tell you, there is no one right way to go about this.

Some couples never spend the night with their Other Significant Other (OSO), some couples have rules that they got to meet the OSO, other couples never want to meet or hear about the OSO. How were we supposed to know which rules were right for us?

There’s no easy answer. You just go with what feels right and occasionally make mistakes and learn from them that what you thought was acceptable doesn’t work after all.

3. Jealousy can be a challenge … sometimes.

Some poly people have a tough time with jealousy, others almost never experience it. I had a really tough time with jealousy in the beginning. But as I saw that my husband did come back to me, that our life wasn’t destroyed by his having a date with another woman, I began to trust him. And perhaps more importantly, I began to trust this new type of relationship.

Then I found someone. I truly felt comfortable having experienced, for myself, that I could date (and maybe even fall in love with), someone new who doesn’t  take anything away from my marriage.

These days, I don’t feel any more jealousy over my husband having a date than some other social obligation. I’m happy that he’s happy — really!

young couple in swimwear

4. Just like regular dating, it’s both fun and heartbreaking

When I started dating my OSO, I had been married for 6 years and had been with my now husband for 10. Falling in love with someone new was a seriously glorious experience. I never thought I would get the opportunity to feel the thrill of being asked by someone I liked on a date. “This is actually going to happen!”

Getting to know someone on that level was enlightening in so many ways. Most importantly, I learned a lot about myself and became more confident. My confidence grew not because I was dating but because there was something I wanted and I was courageous about going after it.

Of course, when that relationship ended I was heartbroken. And it’s been challenging to watch my husband be hurt. But we’ve grown closer and kinder to one another as we’ve supported each other through breakups. This benefit is one of the best things about polyamory; when you break up with someone, you aren’t alone!

5. It can be just as mundane as monogamy sometimes

Anyone practicing polyamory these days will tell you that scheduling can be the single most annoying part of the lifestyle. However, scheduling and time management is something we all navigate, poly or not.

Being stretched too thin and having too much to do is one of the less fantastic attributes of polyamory. But you probably already know what that’s like! Whether you’re spread too thin because of your kid’s ballet lessons or because you want time to spend with your OSO (or both), it’s a drag.

But you have the consolation of knowing that the reason (one of them at least) you’re so busy is because you’re doing something fun, enriching, and outside the bounds of what’s “normal.” “I don’t have as much time as I wish I did to have fabulous sex with my husband and my boyfriend” is a fun “problem” to have.

Exploring Your own Relationship Style

Whether you’re poly, thinking about being poly, or totally happy with monogamy, the good news is the world is becoming a more accepting place. Any relationship style is going to take some work and balance on your part but it’s always worth it in the end. Making connections with other wonderful people (however you go about it)  is what life is all about!

If you want to read more about polyamory check out Monogamy = Monotony?—Why Couples Go RogueMillions Trying Open Marriage, or How an Open Relationship Can Possibly Work.

Should Polyamorous Couples Be Welcome During Pride Month?

Big strides have been made in acceptance of alternative relationship styles but there’s still work to be done.

There’s an old joke in which someone (usually a child) says the alphabet and leaves out the letter P, prompting someone else to ask “Where’s the P?” This of course gives the child a reason to declare “running down my leg” in a fit of giggles.

But during this wonderful month of LGBTQ Pride, I too am wondering “Where’s the P?” Where are the polyamorous in all this celebration of love in all its varieties?

And don’t forget, if you’re struggling with relationship challenges or working on finding the right person, we’re here to help. Join LOVE TV today!

Progress Made

Many (though certainly not all) of those who fall outside the traditional, heteronormative spectrum have found acceptance. The amount of progress made on this front in the last 15 years is staggering (though this is not meant to ignore the places where there is still work to be done).. But those of us who are polyamorous still do not have even this level of acceptance.

Should polyamorous relationships be welcome at LGBT pride

How Did I Get Here?

I remarked the other day that I find it interesting that of my high school besties, all of whom happen to be either gay or bi, now have lifestyles that are more accepted than mine. The four of us had wonderful adventures after school and during the summer. Now it’s mumble mumble (don’t make me add it up) years later and we all lead different, happy lives. One is a lesbian couple, married with a beautiful child, another is a fun-loving gay man who wouldn’t be caught dead at a Mardi Gras party without a costume, and the third has been dating both men and women for years.

None of us would have predicted that I would be the one hiding my romantic proclivities. A few close friends know my husband and I are polyamorous but we are selective in who we tell. Even some friends who do know would be made uncomfortable if we talked openly of our Other Significant Others.

From the outside, my marriage looks like everyone else’s. We get up, go to work, and commute home like most people in their 30’s. Except that my day might end with my staying the night with a great guy who isn’t my husband. My husband knows where I am and every one is quite happy with the situation.

Sure there are stories of this “thruple” or that “thruple” but these are still viewed as oddities and in most cases are not legally binding marriages. I know it’s inevitable that I’ll run into a coworker or family friend while out on a date someday. They will likely assume I am cheating on my husband as anything else is actually unthinkable. Happily if they happen to be judgy they aren’t the kind of person whose opinion I would value anyway.
Let’s Celebrate

Should polyamorous relationships be welcome at LGBT pride

If “Love is love” (and indeed it is), why is it so different if it’s more than two?

As we saw very clearly demonstrated with gay and lesbian acceptance, once people realize a friend or family member is part is this “other” group it becomes harder to hate that group and easier to have a productive conversation about our differences and commonalities.

As Poly individuals “come out” we’ll begin to see more acceptance and understanding. I would love it if my friends knew that my guy friend and drinking buddy is actually my boyfriend and I love him dearly.

Read more in our A Beginner’s Guide To Ethical Non Monogamous Relationships.