Open Relationship Posts: Rant

J pointed out these open relationship posts on DatingAdvice.com to me today (they come up as related posts to my own, which was posted yesterday– yay!) and I am now feeling especially rant-y, so please excuse me while I go on an extended rant:

1. The Pros and Cons of Open Relationships
2. The Effect of Open Relationships 
3. Are Open Relationships a Good Idea?

I have so many gripes with them all, I don’t even know where to start… let’s start with the first one:

1. The Pros and Cons of Open Relationships
The author starts off his article with:
“My favorite oxymorons include: “jumbo shrimp,” “government intelligence,” “reasonable woman” (just kidding, ladies!) and “open relationship.” If it’s open, how can it be a relationship?”
Wtf. First of all, the whole “just kidding ladies” doesn’t cut it for me. Just don’t make sexist jokes like that, okay? Second of all, what the hell does “If it’s open, how can it be a relationship?” even mean? What he means, obviously, by “relationship” is “monogamous relationship.” So say that next time.
Next: his one, and only, pro to having an open relationship includes the following sentiment:
“Hey, variety is the spice of life, and a little hanky-panky with a brand new faceless, nameless female body might be just what the doctor ordered to keep your head screwed on straight when it comes to your real, uh, relationship.”
Again, wtf. Faceless, nameless?? Can you say, “objectification of women”? Why does having an open relationship necessitate having sex with someone that doesn’t have a face or a name?
His first con:
“Several guys — maybe even some guys you know — will be making love to the girl who gives meaning to your life. They will be tainting your favorite part of her anatomy with their most vile and disgusting appendage. And she’s going to like it. ‘Nuff said.”
First: I hope there is more to your life that gives it meaning than just your partner. Second: maybe there is something else about her that is your favorite- besides her pussy?? (say, I don’t know, like her smile or maybe even her brain?) Third: Why, all of a sudden, is a cock considered the “most vile and disgusting appendage”? Doesn’t the author realize he has one of those? Fourth: Of course she is going to like it!!! Why the hell wouldn’t she, or shouldn’t she? And isn’t that the point? To like your (open) relationship?
Cons 2-4: 
He obviously doesn’t have any experience with open relationships. Those cons, those very ideas, are what some people (not all, of course) actually are looking for when they open up their relationships. Falling in love and having love returned are not total game-changers or destructive forces, and for some people, are welcomed.
Con 5:
This is disgusting to me: “And if she put up with it just to hold on to you, she might resent the fact that you turned her into a whore and hurt her with your activities on a regular basis.” You turned her into a whore. Let’s just take away a little more of this hypothetical woman’s agency and power. Cool.
And his conclusion: 
“But the truth is that an open relationship will never grow because the core of the relationship is tortured instead of nurtured. It is not a road to a more committed relationship. It is a temporary rest stop while you’re looking for something better.”
What evidence does he have for the core of the relationship being tortured instead of nurtured? I am sure there are some people, who in the course of having an open relationship, find that the relationship isn’t something they want long-term, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t healthy and satisfying while it was functioning. Also, I am sure there are plenty of people in monogamous relationships who are “looking for something better” or who aren’t committed to their partner. Having an open relationship does not mean that the people in one are not committed or are unhappy with their current partner.

Okay,
2. The Effect of Open Relationships 
Again, this post reeks from a lack of evidence, and perpetuates cultural norms without any kind of critical examination.
Point #1: “A sexual relationship can turn into love.” Okay… and? Couples who are not okay with this kind of emotional intimacy will stop seeing other partners that they grow to love. Couples who are okay with this kind of emotional intimacy are, well… okay with it. Her point that developing intimate feelings for someone else is irreversible is unfounded. I have experienced for myself the ebb and flow of platonic and romantic feelings for other partners. And let’s be honest- doesn’t that ebb and flow happen within the confines of monogamy, too?
Point #2: “Both partners begin on the same page, but things change.” Yes, relationships, like life, are dynamic and they do change. Communication, honesty, and an openness to change are key. Things change within a monogamous relationship, too.
Point #3: “New sex may seem hotter and hurt the marriage.” If a primary partner is hurt because of NRE, that is not the new (other/secondary) partner’s fault, or the fault of great and hot new sex. It is the responsibility of the primary partners to ensure that NRE does not cloud or neglect the primary relationship.
Point #4: “Sex as a bonding tool loses its power.” What??? Sex, in and of itself, is not necessarily powerful. It is the relationship within which it is used that is powerful, and of course we can simply ascribe sex with meaning and power. Sex is still very much a “bonding tool” for J and I, despite the fact that we have both had several other sexual partners in the past two years. Why? Because we have a deep and intimate relationship, and sex is quite meaningful between the two of us.
Point #5: “Open marriages expose the family to greater risk.” I don’t know where she gets this fact from, except her own perceptions. The little research (I like this one too) that has been done on people in open relationships shows that those individuals (as opposed to monogamous couples where cheating occurs) have lower transmission rates of STIs and safer sex practices because the communication around STIs and safer sex practices is much greater and more honest.
 Point #6: Okay, so she recognizes that “open relationships can be positive for certain couples.” But she definitely does not allot any space or time to explaining why, which is very unfortunate and one-sided.
Her conclusion that “Research shows that monogamous marriage leads to better physical and mental health” is, again, unfounded. I would like to see what “research” she is referring to. Yes, I have seen studies showing that those who are married live longer and are happier than those who are not. But I have not seen a study that found that monogamous marriage is the key.

Alright, last rant (for today):
3. Are Open Relationships a Good Idea?
Her opening: “Couples in an open relationship remain mentally and emotionally committed but are free to explore other interests sexually. This can conceivably become a rather tricky situation to navigate.” This is just one definition of what an “open relationship” is. In mainstream culture (think Facebook), I suppose “open relationship” means an emotionally monogamous/sexually promiscuous arrangement, but her opening thus excludes all other open relationship configurations. 
She mentions that “If you find yourself craving the affection and attention of other men while your boyfriend is by your side, suggesting taking on additional partners could be hurtful. For some people, it works. But for most, this loss of intimacy is often the beginning of the end of a relationship. If you find your mind wandering astray, maybe try turning inward and facing the issues with your partner before pulling in other people.” I don’t understand. How does having sex with other people take away intimacy from your current relationship? And I agree- if your current relationship has issues that need to be worked on, definitely turn inward and work on those issues before adding more people to the mix. But the simple desire for sexual variety isn’t necessarily an issue that needs to be worked on.
Later, she states that “Even if you don’t normally consider yourself the jealous type, it’s OK to not want to share.” Yikes!! This is exactly the kind of societal norm crap that perpetuates the attitude that jealousy and possessiveness and control equals love. It’s gross. I think it‘s one thing to consciously choose a sexually monogamous relationship; it’s another to simply say “No, I am not going to share you with anyone else, or let you choose how you want to relate to other people because I control you.”
Her conclusion, however, took me by surprise and I appreciated it: “By the same token, if an open relationship works for you and works for your partner, don’t get bogged down in other people’s judgments. It’s OK if your friends don’t get it or think it’s a bad idea. They don’t live inside your head. Relationships are weird. They are the best kind of weird, but they’re all weird nonetheless. Do what works best for yours.” I like that. So I am ending on a good note 🙂

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