"How to Have an Open Relationship"
The Winter 2011 issue of YES! magazine ("Powerful ideas, practical actions") is themed around What Happy Families Know. Tag line: "The American family is changing. We're finding new models for extended families that are healthier, more resilient — and happier."
One of the many articles:
How to Have an Open Relationship
Exploring open relationships can change our assumptions about intimacy and empowerment.
By Jen Angel
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve questioned the world around me -- everything from our car-based culture and corporate food system to my intimate relationships. How can my personal life reflect my political beliefs -- autonomy, transparency, respect? How do I work for balanced power dynamics in love, sex, and partnership with other people?
These questions led me to open relationships, or as some people say, “polyamory” or “nonmonogamy.” While a lot of people date multiple people before they decide who they want to be with long-term, being in open relationships means long-term involvement with more than one person at a time. Everyone I know approaches it differently....
I constantly challenge my own assumptions about sex, intimacy, and commitment. It’s exciting to have the freedom to evaluate each new person who comes into my life and see where that relationship goes on my own terms, terms that I’ve chosen or negotiated with my partners, rather than limits preset by culture.
I believe open relationships are empowering for everyone, especially women. As I became an adult, the freedom and autonomy I felt in my relationships helped me understand my self-worth as an individual, separate from my partners. I learned to speak up for my needs and desires while respecting others’ feelings. I can admit openly that I like sex and that I think it’s fun and interesting to explore that level of intimacy with different people.
...Each new person who enters or leaves your life requires a new conversation with your partners.... Over the years, I’ve settled on just a few things that are important to me. For instance... “if we go to a party or event and one of our other partners is going to be there, we all know in advance who is going home with whom.”
...As I’ve learned to negotiate, I’ve re-examined and rejected some of the attitudes that I saw around me growing up, like the idea that you possess and control your partner -- as if dating someone gives you the right to know what they are doing all the time or to manipulate or coerce them. I believe these behaviors are means of avoiding your own fears and discomfort. When I confront my jealousy, I stop focusing my anger and irritation on, for example, the new person my boyfriend is seeing, and focus on the action causing the problem -- maybe we’re not spending enough time together.
Separating commitment from sex opens possibilities for different types of long-term or committed relationships and redefines family.... I know committed nonmonogamous couples, some of whom are married, who don’t live together. Or there are couples who have been together for decades who don’t have sex with each other any more (and do have sex with others), but still maintain their commitment and intimacy.
Being in open relationships takes a lot of emotional energy. But the self-awareness I bring to each relationship makes me feel authentic. Open relationships are not more politically correct or “hip.” They’re about choosing what’s important to you and working to live, love, process, argue, and be upset in healthy ways that make you feel empowered. Such choices make any relationship -- whether open or monogamous -- honest and meaningful.
Read the whole article (posted Dec. 2, 2010). The article is also reprinted on AlterNet (Dec 12, 2010).
Labels: Poly 101