What Open Relationships Are NOT!

Unashamed Love Rites!

With all this public talk about ‘open marriage’ it might be helpful to define what it is not. It is not having an adulterous affair. It does not involve lying, cheating or stealing (as in stealing your partner’s choice about who does what with whom). It is not that one person wants more sexual partners and the other does not. It is certainly not when one person is already having an adulterous affair. That’s not open, that’s cheating!

Open marriage is a consensual agreement about relationship boundaries. It includes non-monogamy in many forms, polyamory and swinging being two common ones. In general, polyamory focuses on relationships that include intimacy and erotic connection with more than one partner. Swinging tends to focus on the sex, with a more recreational, non-ongoing connection, although the intimacy may creep in with repeated liaisons. In any case, the hallmarks are that everyone involved is open and honest and in agreement about what’s happening.

I wince when I hear uninformed people talking about how “open relationships don’t work”. They often add that “I tried it once (or a friend did) and it was unsuccessful” or, more likely, that it was a relationship disaster. I often respond by acknowledging that while that may be true, and that clearly monogamy “doesn’t work” either. Otherwise why would we have such high rates of divorce, dissatisfaction and adultery?

Relationships, whether monogamous, polyamorous or open in any sense all require good relationship skills to thrive. Maturity, the ability to work things out and, above all communication skills are needed for sustainable intimate connections to prosper. In general, I would say that open relationships do require a higher level of skill. But let’s face it in order for any relationships to sustain over time, to be joyful, loving and remain connected takes work (and play too, but that’s another topic).

It is so past time to start to shift our cultural attitudes about relationship forms. The time is now to support integrity, honesty and tolerance for consensual agreements of all sorts. I would love to see a world where we valued honesty and integrity as the standard for all relationships whatever form they take.


6 replies
  1. Baba
    Baba says:

    Unfortunately my husband was coached by a polyamory writer and “Shaman”who did everything possible to undermine the trust in our marriage.I know many people who are polyamorous and ethical but this woman made it a mission to destroy my charachter without ever even having met me merely because I was preferred a monogamous relationship with my husband. She charged him money for ” therapy” over the phone and encouraged him to leave me and whenever he told her he missed me she talked to him about how” I wasn’t willing to grow”. It was awful!!

    • Sheri Winston
      Sheri Winston says:

      I’m sorry that you had such a terrible experience. Unfortunately, there are unethical and unprofessional people in any field and you and your husband had just such a coach. No ethical counseling professional that I know would give such advice or would counsel a couple without talking with both partners. I hope you’ve found other support professionals that are able to give you both appropriate care and support.

  2. iris
    iris says:

    my male partner & me call our relationship “open marriage” yet we are not married according to provincial law. we did have a handfast ceremony, & promised to stay together 2 years. we are still together for 7 years now. we have children together now too. we also have other partners and lovers. at one time we had a large family which i learned was called polyamory. we do not think of ourselves as swingers yet we are open to sexual relations with whoever we meet. so our one rule is he can leave me & i can leave him any time. that freedom to go is what keeps us together. we have to act so the other will want to stay. one thing is to give each other the freedom to be with other people without conflict. we understand each of us has needs & we cannot put a fence around each other & claim ownership. we choose to be together because of all our contacts we share the most between us. i think this really has to do with understanding each other down to a deep level, so we can care about each others happiness without worrying about our own. i dont think its the same as trust- because he can do what he wants & so can i. so what keeps us together is common interests. we seldom have disagreements because nothing comes up to disagree about, since we both can do what we want.

  3. Bryan McLeod
    Bryan McLeod says:

    Very well said! I have experienced this from all sides. I wish only some of us had this wisdom (honesty? common sense?) many years earlier.

    • gabriel
      gabriel says:

      How have sex toys changed your life? They have encenhad my stamina and overall sexual relationship with my wife.Did they help you to have your first orgasm? Not yet. The Aneros takes time.Did they liven up your marriage? Yes they do.Did they help your relationship? Yest they do.Do you just really really love them? Yes I really, really, and truly do.Are you scared to try them? Absolutely not.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.