Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

January 18, 2016

Cosmo: "What It's Really Like to Be in an Open Relationship"

Flip open the issue of Cosmopolitan that confronts you at the grocery checkout this month (left), and you'll find an article misleadingly titled "The Swing Set." The online version has a more accurate title: "What It's Really Like to Be in an Open Relationship."

It tends to assume that non-monogamous people come in couples and create rules and more rules (send your letters), but even so, the story introduces its readers to things worth knowing.

Is monogamy really the best option?

By Taffy Brodesser-Akner

...For the uninitiated, consensual nonmonogamy rarely looks the same in any two situations. There are the polyamorous relationships, in which people openly have multiple romantic or sexual partners. There are open relationships, in which a primary couple seeks outside sex or companionship but always returns home to each other. There are swingers, who experiment with other couples, often together or somehow equally. There are other ways to be monogamish, but those are the main ones. And there's overlap in those definitions because that's the point: This is people making it up as they go along so that their relationships stay fulfilling.

So think fast, because whether or not you want to examine the state of monogamy in America, ignoring it may no longer be an option. Is it sweeping the nation? Maybe, maybe not....

OpenMinded.com launched last April, and within a month, it had more than 8,500 registered users. By September, there were nearly 152,000. Of those people, 75 percent are paying and active users....

Multiple partners has often been considered a male fantasy, but as women grew stronger in their ability to earn and survive on their own, they more readily dared to explore their own fantasies.

It's not that monogamy is so bad. It's just that we're living a whole lot longer than we used to, and we meet more people (partly because of the internet). As Sheff puts it, "I've got a full stomach and a roof over my head, and orgasm doesn't necessarily mean pregnancy, so let's play."

...All the people I interviewed have sets of rules. So many rules that their rules have rules. But there is something inside some of the women I spoke with that isn't about needing another partner. It's about needing not to be confined by their primary one.

"I feel kind of guilty when I break a rule," Kate says, acknowledging that she'd hate it if she found out her husband has such secrets too. "I sometimes justify it like, what he doesn't know won't hurt him. But then, I'm like, that's such a horrible thing to think."

What polys get right

In her research, [Terry] Conley divides her subjects into two groups: The first includes the polyamorous, "people who agree they can love more than one person at a time," and also swingers, people who might swap a partner or do another couple-based activity. The second group are people who are in an open relationship, meaning that the other partners are always external.

Both groups rate their satisfaction as good, but the first group — the polyamorous and swingers — does better on measures of trust and commitment than the open-relationship people. Conley says monogamous couples could learn some things from them. "A lot of strategies used to help struggling married couples — empathy, speaking clearly about needs — are strategies polyamorous groups promote as far as keeping everyone in your triad or quad or whatever happy," says Conley.

But even people in open relationships can seem more secure than those in monogamous ones, she says. Let's say the big fear is that your partner will find someone else. Well, what if your partner finds someone, has sex with that person, and still returns to you? "That's tremendously flattering," she says.

And from a sexual-health lens, here's an interesting thing: Conley's research finds that people practicing consensual nonmonogamy use condoms far more often than monogamous people who cheat....

The whole article (online Jan. 16, 2016. February 2016 print issue.)



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