"The up side of open relationships..."

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"The up side of open relationships..."

Postby nimby » Tue Feb 16, 2010 9:53 am

Interesting article from the Advocate:

http://www.advocate.com/Society/Comment ... er_Option/

The Upside of Open Relationships

COMMENTARY: Two new studies out of San Francisco show the majority of gay men thrive in open relationships. So why are we so committed to pursuing monogamy?

By Dr. Jallen Rix



Two major studies out of San Francisco are taking a look at open relationships among gay, male couples like never before. The first study (to be released this month by San Francisco State University) looks at 556 male couples, half of whom had mutually agreed to outside sexual experiences, over the course of three years. The second (Lowen and Spears, 2009), focused exclusively on long-term (together for eight years or more) gay male couples who maintained consensual open relationships, of which 75% felt their outside sex had no negative impact on their primary connection.

It seems the debate about the validity of alternative relationships rages more strongly among gay men. This is partially a result of our community being more “out of the closet” regarding our sexuality and partially because some view open relationships as a threat to our ability to gain equal marriage rights.

Understanding open relationships has been a personal journey for me. As I was growing up in a conservative Southern Baptist home, although my parents exemplified monogamy (and still do after 56 years), not everything about it made sense to me. Although it seemed obviously unrealistic that one person could ever meet all of another person’s needs, when it came to sex there was absolutely no wiggle room. Furthermore, as my education advanced into sexology, I saw all kinds of relationships and sexual configurations defying the odds and working as successfully as any monogamous model.

These days I am most comfortable in an open relationship. This is where most monoga-maniacs will stop listening and stigmatize me as a “sex addict" who is “unable to commit.” What’s missing from this stereotyping is a major component found in these studies: There are very specific things about that these open relationships that are monogamous — safe sex, emotional primacy ... really, anything that's been negotiated in advance. Indeed, monogamy often comes down to a matter of degrees, even in mutually exclusive relationships. Where one couple draws the line of innocent flirting is not where another couple would draw the line. I like that an open relationship allows freedom to design a long-term connection precisely the way it works best for those involved.


It can be argued that there is a historical progression occurring, though most people can’t bring themselves to see it. Just as humanity has gone through industrial and technological evolutions, we go through emotional ones.

Believe it or not, there was a time that the church condemned all sexual relations as merely concessions to a weakness of the flesh — marriage included. Throughout most of humanity’s existence, marriage was used mainly as a business contract to secure (male-dominated) property. The more he could marry his children off to wealthy spouses, the more secure the family name. The more kids a wife could bear, the more of them could be put to work in the field. What made perfect sense at the time would now be considered crimes against children.

Over the past 150 years or so, Western civilization has upheld the view that the only valid relationship model is “one man and one woman in monogamous commitment forever.” After all this time, more and more people are asking, “How’s that workin’ out for us?” especially when about half of the straight marriages don’t behave monogamously, despite professing the ideal.

Still, the majority of us hang all our romantic hopes on this single ideal as if any other possible option would bring on the apocalypse. It would be like an engineer saying, “It’s wrong to make airplanes because the best designed mode of transportation is the automobile.” It just makes no sense, because in this day and age, we have options that serve different purposes.

I have no stake in pushing open relationships as the wave of the future. I’m simply suggesting that, just as there are a multitude of ways to travel, there are a multitude of options to create and modify the kind of relationships that meet our needs more deeply. For better or for worse, we live in a world that can produce almost our every whim from the options we choose. How long did we think holy matrimony would last before we began to upgrade our emotional operating systems?

What I think is most wonderful is that once again the gay community is ahead of the curve. Because our civil rights movement is about sexuality, gender, and those we love, we are already exploring options and learning from experiences in ways others can’t even bring themselves to dream about. That’s why I’m proud to be a queer! So let’s get marriage equality, and let’s not be held back by a model that only works for about half our population. One hundred years from now, they will look back on us as the ones who paved the way for more freedom, pleasure, satisfaction, and sexiness in our relationships.


- Dr. Jallen Rix has a doctorate of education in sexology. He has a private practice in San Francisco and is the author of the soon to be released book Ex-Gay No Way. This article is representative of the author's views and not those of Advocate.com.
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Re: "The up side of open relationships..."

Postby furface » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:56 pm

While interesting, the first study doesn't show 50% of gay relationships are of the open variety. Schelp over to BTB for their analysis of the SFSU study: Beougher & Hoff study.

Given our history and resultant culture, I'm not surprised there could be a higher instance of open relationships for us. Until very recently marriage and societal tolerance (hopefully acceptance) of our relationships was sorely lacking. When I came out it was nonexistent and society was down right hostile. Now it is possible and spreading.

For many, perhaps most, monogamous marriage is the ideal. That doesn't make it the only form a successful relationship can, or should take. If the spouses involved have an emotionally open relationship between themselves and can mutually deal with a sexually open relationship - good for them. If they don't and/or can't - that's dangerous. The orientation of the spouses is irrelevant. The real secret is open communication, trust, and real affection tween the spouses; otherwise it's just playing house.

For Chris and me monogamy is important. We both saw the value and strength it gave our parents, and that's something we aspire to have tween us. It works for us. So long as a relationship is healthy, why bother to try and judge it?

I wonder what a similar survey/study would reveal about 'traditional' marriages given the dismal divorce rate around the country.
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Re: "The up side of open relationships..."

Postby JustJack » Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:14 pm

I'm in a long term monogamous relationship of 14 years. When we first met everything clicked. He was exactly what I was looking for and vice-versa and things were fantastic. Sex was never a big thing for us but rather just the icing on the cake. We still get along almost perfectly. We still do everything together. We still make each other laugh. We still share the same taste in most things. We still hug and kiss a lot and express our love for each other. However, even though I still love him I'm not the least attracted to him sexually anymore. He still loves me but it's obvious that he's not much into me sexually anymore either. We don't talk about it openly. Sex was never the focus of our relationship or even a major component so it would seem weird to suddenly make a big deal of it. For some time now I've been wondering if I should do something about it or go on maintaining the status quo.

If he were open to it I would definitely start looking around for men to have some safe fun with. I would just like to have some mutual sexual fulfillment with regular buddies that I find physically attractive who are in it for nothing more than no-strings-attached safe pleasure and then we go back to our real relationships. I would never cheat on Kraig or sneak around behind his back though which means I would have to sit him down and discuss the issue. I know him very well and I'm fairly certain that this discussion would bring about the end of our relationship which would make me very sad. I still love everything about him except that one thing and would prefer to spend the rest of my life with him, but I would want to pursue sexual fulfillment outside of the relationship and I think he would not be OK with that. I think it would break his heart if I told him so I do feel sort of trapped. I just really miss feeling wanted and lusted-after and miss lusting after someone else.

I was always a firm believer in monogamy but similar to what the guy in the article alludes to, I'm beginning to wonder if it really makes any sense. I would certainly be open to my partner pursuing sex outside of our relationship. It's only if he were to develop stronger feelings for someone else that I would become jealous but usually sex doesn't lead to strong feelings. It tends to be the other way around.

I still feel that going after outside sex without your partners knowledge is incredibly low and just plain wrong. It's something I could never do to Kraig. I don't know how much longer I can take the lack of fulfillment so at some point I may broach the subject with him but it's not something I'm looking forward to. The only other option is to just keep on going as is and deny my needs until my junk stops functioning altogether from old age and those urges finally go away. I'm not really sure if that ever happens though.
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Re: "The up side of open relationships..."

Postby nimby » Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:05 pm

These open realtionships can work, they just take a little of extra work, but the benefits for all involved far out weigh the negatives. And for some it is not just about the sex either. It is about the closeness that human beings can share. Love is not a finite resource.
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Re: "The up side of open relationships..."

Postby Earl Butz » Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:09 pm

I find I thrive by doing the opposite of everything my dad taught me. :P

Also the opposite of anything the church or society thinks too...
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Re: "The up side of open relationships..."

Postby michaelk69 » Thu Feb 18, 2010 6:20 am

JustJack - feel free to drop me a PM on this subject if you need someone to talk to.

I've been with my partner for nearly 20 years . .. very happily, and remain so . .. and so I feel like I am something of an expert on the subject :-)

If I can help just say the word!

But to summarize what the others have said: yes, cheating/lying is wrong, and open/honest communication is 100% the key to a happy and successful relationship . .. and, the more embarrassed or awkward or nervous you feel about a certain subject, the MORE important that you sit down and talk about it.

So, that is my two cents for the day :-)
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Re: "The up side of open relationships..."

Postby Syn » Mon May 24, 2010 5:34 am

I find it hard to understand open relationships. Or shall I say I find it hard to see myself in one.
You see I can only have sex if I have some sort of connection with that guy. I simply cannot just have casual sex. I feel... like a slut, or I'll get too attached.

But sometimes I feel like my life would be alot less complicated if I could just take my heart out of my chest and let a guy just do me. BUt I just cant do it :(

So I always look for the guy that wants me for me and only me. But I feel like my generation is more interested in SEX SEX SEX SEX. They don't even understand the meaning of fidelity.

I have friends who have been together for 20 years and they havent had sex with eachother in a long time because they've lost that attraction.... They say they have a stronger bond than sex... they love eachother....

Cant the same thing be said about two brothers? Or two best friends?
They love eachother and care for eachother... but they don't have sex with eachother. With that said are my friends still in a relationship? Or a brotherhood?

Or what about the couples in open relationships that still have sex with eachother? y?? is it becasue they are just really horny? Or because there are things that ben can do thet your hubby jon cannot? Wouldn't that sugest that sex is a big part of their relationship? If it weren't then why ask for more of it?

And if you don't like having sex with your partner anymore but with other guys y call it a relationship any more?? Y not just call it a friendship..call him your brother.. you love him so much like family but won't have sex with him.

This is all so confusing to me :( first I thought that a faithful gay relationship didn't exist.. now I find out that they do but don't last forever, or that it'll turn into an open relationship, or your hubby will eventually hate himself, and plauge his heart with guilt because he wants to screw other guys..
Is there no happily ever after?
At all??
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Re: "The up side of open relationships..."

Postby jtgopro » Sat Feb 13, 2016 3:57 am

I think there are a couple of things that need to be stated.

First, the studies are based on self-selecting groups. The majority of people still conceive of relationships in monogamistic terms. The people who are willing to be in polyamorous relationships are those who, by and large, believe so strongly in such relationships that they are willing to go against societies' rules. As such, those people are likely the people who are truly able to appreciate polyamorous relationships. If you are able to be within a relationship that you chose and defined, its much more likely that you'll be happy within that relationship.

Second, still going with the self-selecting theme, polygamy is unacceptable for many people, not because they themselves don't want to be polyamorous, but that they cannot bear their partner being polyamorous. Thus, monogamy is a compromise that most people arrive at as a bargain. The proper conclusion, therefore, is not that the people who are presently in monogamous relationships will be happier in a polygamous relationship, but that those unhappy people will remain unhappy in polygamous relationships, as much as they are unhappy in monogamous relationship.

Third, there's also the potential that many people are being dishonest about their happiness. While the impulse to lie is probably strong in monogamous relationships too, a person in a polyamorous relationship may be more inclined to falsely proclaim happiness (consciously or not) in order to defy societal expectations, which assumed that their relationship decision would be a failure. Being defensive is a natural reaction, particularly for gay people, and self-denial afflicts all of us.

As for myself, I know that I couldn't be happy in a polygamous relationship, mainly because I have a very strong possessive streak. Because I have very little problem with monogamy, polygamy would literally be me accepting all risks and costs of polygamy, with none of the benefits. As a rational comparison, it wouldn't make sense. Similarly, on an emotional level, polygamy is unacceptable to me and my conceptions of a true relationship. I applaud people who can be in happy polygamous relationships, I do wish they'd stop trying to recruit me to it and trying to convince me otherwise. It's almost as annoying as straight people who try to convince me that being gay is a choice.
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