Dating services catered to couples opening their marriages and long-term relationships are on the rise. Rebecca Andrews asks why.
‘Open relationship’, ‘Married but looking’, ‘Couple up for fun’, ‘Poly’.
I’d seen it more and more often on dating profiles: guys on the apps, who were looking for more outside of what they already had. I don’t want to sign a lease to a house with the backdoor permanently open, so I would swipe past them without really thinking about it. Yet still couldn’t avoid it.
‘What do you mean, monogam-ish?’ I asked Sam, a Bumble guy who had just flipped it old school and called me, instead of texting for a week.
‘For me it means committed, but you acknowledge shit happens and that isn’t a reason to break up a loving partnership. I was married ten years and there were a lot of cases when I felt extreme temptation. It had nothing to do with how much I loved my wife. I learnt this, and know I can’t promise to desire and be with just one person for another 60years. So if you want to date me, I come with being monogamish’.
I’d been crushing on Sam up until this exact point so was a bit devastated to hear this. I didn’t want to start up with someone who had already decided I wasn’t enough.. although I’ve never been in a relationship for over two years. What would ten years be like and would I be get rid of someone who wanted to go cuddling elsewhere? I converted it to make sense in my current life: snacking on a croissant doesn’t mean I would chuck in the whole diet.
Switch on a TV, read a book, go to church, ask around. We are told that a monogamous man and woman are the norm form of relationship. But with women’s increased economic independence and rights, along with sexual freedom and shifting cultural attitudes, means more freedom and power in all aspects of our life. The old equation of Man + Woman + Monogamy = ‘a relationship’, came from religions, was paved by old laws, supported by a patriarchal society and accepted by folks for thousands of years. But was it adhered to? Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, come on, you know that. Almost 50 percent of marriages end in divorce and according to stats, wives cheat outside of marriage almost as much as husbands…
A recent survey of over 8,000 men run by US dating website Seeking.com revealed that 19 percent of its respondents were in ‘open relationships’. Assuming they’re telling the truth, this translates to almost one in five couples who have agreed to dabble, diddle and twiddle outside of their main partnership. I brought this up at a BBQ recently and found that two of the four couples there, were in open relationships. Both ladies had very cool, very attractive guys so my immediate thought was ‘Why the hell would you girls want to go elsewhere?’ which I blurted out as I put sauce on my sausage.
“I really struggled with being in a serious relationship from the get-go,” said Kate (15 years married, 13 years monogamish).
“Sexuality, independence and freedom were really important to me and I felt like I was containing myself with traditional commitment. Being able to be with other people – girls and guys – is really helpful for me to know it’s a choice to come home to him.”
Trish piped in (17 years married, seven years monogamish).
“We are told not to put all our eggs in one basket throughout our entire lives. Why can’t that apply to relationships?”
Both ladies loved their men, who they got commitment, love, consistency, security and stability from – but both craved additional intimacy: sexual and emotional. They didn’t want to cheat, so they threw monogamish into the mix. And it worked for them.
Therapist, radio host, podcaster, author Esther Perel – a figurehead of open-relationships – often discusses how nurturing and sustaining desire with one partner is particularly difficult for the long-term.
“Call me an idealist, but I believe that love and desire are not mutually exclusive”.
She also proposes the question, “Can we desire what we already have?” – and when I made it relevant to me, I understood: I mostly crave chocolate when I don’t have any in the house.
Netflix released Wanderlust a drama starring Toni Collette who plays a therapist, sexually bored in her loving marriage which she and her husband decide to open up. Its sexy AF and shows the pros and cons of how monogamish can work. Which takes many forms.
Author Tristan Taormino’s explores the challenges, benefits and various structures available for people who want to open up their relationship in Opening Up, discussing various styles that include:
A loving sexual relationship with more than one person (kind of like the TV show, Big Love.)
A distinct scene where partners go out to specific parties to hook up with other swingers (think: keys in the fishbowl.)
Sexual relationships outside of the main partnership (it’s sex, not love.)
A single committed relationship with more than two people (three in the bed)
Mono-poly combos – any kind of combo of the above (WTF who has this kind of time? Don’t these people have jobs?).
I call up Kate to ask the number one thing I think I would freak about; “Aren’t you scared you will fall in love with someone else? Or that he will?” (I fall in love if someone holds my hand.)
She snorted at me.
“We have the capacity as humans to love more than one person. Having a second kid doesn’t make you love your first any less. Even if I fell in love with someone else, it wouldn’t make me love my man any less. So, no.”
I get that the monogamish lifestyle isn’t for everyone. But the fact is that times are changing. We are living longer lives. We’re more connected to each other: cars are faster, planes travel further, conversations are instant through phones in our pockets.
The boundaries of how, where and who we want to live as, are dissipating. Is the traditional two-person committed relationships though? No, I don’t think so. But if you’re in a relationship and your best friend knows more about your sexual desires and happiness than your partner, maybe you need to have a conversation.
There isn’t just one singular way to live your life anymore. Be honest. Take your pick. Swipe whatever way you like.
Image via pinimg.com.