You, Me, He and We: Unpacking the Mystery of Open Relationships

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CONFESSION: I am a consummate monogamist. I believe firmly in the tenets of monogamy and with this confession I unpack my bias towards any and every other relationship modality that threatens to undermine my beliefs about fidelity especially open relationships. I have tried extensively to wrap my mind around the principles of polyamory however I find that the more I try to understand and integrate this understanding into my beliefs on what makes relationships work, I find myself becoming more and more perplexed. I realize this is due impart to my upbringing as well as the absence of healthy polyamorous role models within my social circle. I take full ownership of this. With that being said here is a list of reasons why I feel Open Relationships will never work for me:

  1. Our society is big on noncommittal love, options and the beauty of choice. Redefining our traditional norms as well as our standard definitions of relationships have become the new norm. However In broadening our choices we have conversely restricted our emotions. Ironically with more options we have trouble making definite decisions. Open relationships to me support this air of indecision as no one these days wants to genuinely commit to one person for fear of what they might be giving up should they actually decide to take the plunge and pledge their allegiance to just one person. Additionally open relationships suggest a deep dissatisfaction with ones own self, often satiated with the presence of multiple partners. It’s an insecurity-based relationship style that speaks more to our ego than it does our heart.
  2. Our society has the tendency to glorify and normalize dysfunctional relationship styles by appealing to our most basic needs and desires. Our need for adventure and novelty is grossly exploited when discussing open relationships making monogamy seem restrictive and limiting by comparison. We as a society like to dress up immortality as freedom when really it is designer bondage made to look good but spiritually exacts a toll on our overall wellbeing. I realize that you can put perfume on bullshit but at the end of the day it’s still bullshit.
  3. Open relationships are selfish. While on the surface they posit a consideration of their partners physical and emotional needs, they really seek to satiate their own need for novelty and validation at the expense of their partners needs. Through a series of verbal and nonverbal contracts and agreements, open relationships seem to be a form of consensual infidelity that undermines the tenets of true honesty, loyalty and commitment.
  4. Transparency, vulnerability, openness are all just pseudo intellectual terms used within open relationships to intellectualize confusion. These terms are posited as lubrication for communication yet are used to jack you right out of your moral sense. These tools of relating are purported as the expression of deep concern and care and while they are most definitely components of concern and care they are not comprehensive components of love and care when used in the confines of open relationships. They are simply one color of the spectrum as open relationships omit/ minimize how a person feels being placed on the backburner and as second to their partners need for sexual variety. They seem to be a discounted version of love that offers a measure of intimacy but not the totality of genuine love.
  5. You don’t really love someone if you can comfortably expose them to hidden dangers. When examining sexual relationships with multiples partners, we often times discuss the physical tolls and potential dangers to our physical bodies but rarely ever do we discuss the spiritual consequences and spiritual tolls that are taken when we have sexual relationships with multiple partners. We do not always see how much of our spirit is compromised when we sleep with so many people. It is that invisible toll that is exacted and its only when we experience feelings of depression, anxiety, fatigue and utter despair are we willing to examine how much of our practices and behaviors contribute to our overall sense of unwell.
  6. Open relationships indirectly support the transmission and maintenance of various sexually transmitted diseases. Sure in open relationships we may verbally contract with our partners and explore the boundaries and limitations ala “the rules” with them. However there are partners that bring out different things in us sexually. Anyone who has been sexually liberated can attest to this fact. Sometimes partners can bring out our uninhibited nature and can encourage us to be free. This can lead to recklessness and a removal of not only our spiritual armor but also our physical defenses (i.e. condoms, birth control methods etc.) This is how many diseases are transmitted and with every new partner we have sex with, we increase the likelihood of being infected.
  7. Open relationships unwittingly demonize monogamy claiming that it is based on tenets of ownership and possession. Often times a discussion on the topic of open relationships tends to paint monogamy as a damning force that restricts and limits those who practice it. For those who identify as feminists, monogamy is deemed a form of social control and a practice rooted in patriarchy.
  8. Open relationships seem to be compatible for those who struggle with feelings of low self-worth. To constantly allow a myriad of partners to probe your body and mine your spirit energy of its vital life force insinuates feelings of low self-esteem. If you knew you were a priceless diamond you don’t want to have every hand touching you. Same applies to the temple that is your body.
  9. My personal definition of true love is this: Love is an unselfish looking out for the wellbeing of another person. When in a committed monogamous relationship, it is not just your own well-being that you are looking after, it is also the well-being of another person that you are considering. Open relationships challenge everything that I believe about what love is and what love isn’t.
  10. As mentioned before, open relationships seem to be about ego; people wanting power and the dominance achieved through the conduit of desire. They want many people wanting them as a testament to their perceived greatness and irresistibility. They seek validation from many sources. It is as though they require human capital as an endless stream of emotional income to make them feel whole.
  11. Open relationships undermine respect and eventually erode trust. Knowing your partner doesn’t mind you sharing your passion with someone else or knowing they share their passion with multiple partners ultimately makes you lose respect for them and leads to a gradual and organic dissolution as you slowly move out of each other’s lives. It is a relationship style that fosters rejection and hurt feelings.
  12. Wanting credit for being honest about hurtful desires does not make them any less hurtful the same way being honest about dysfunctional behavior does not make it any less dysfunctional. Often times those in open relationships seek to be praised for their vulnerability and candid confessions but doing so doesn’t make it any less painful for their partner. While they may feel exonerated from guilt for being honest, that does not mean that their honesty does not come with adverse consequences.
  13. Sure we get attracted to different people but what separates us from acting on our animalistic urges is our ability to reason and entertain consequences of our actions. We all have impulses but we also have the ability to reason and show empathy and compassion. This can be challenging in open relationships as sometimes the desire for multiple partners can obstruct our commitments to our current partners.

Thing is as free moral agents, you are entitled to be the human equivalent of Grand Central Station but if you claim to want a real relationship, you are going to have to assess how having multiple partners might interfere with that goal. Personally it is hard enough trying to love and find intimacy within yourself. Having to consider the needs of many partners will in time create a spiritual disturbance in ones soul and create a host of confusion that interferes with the building of a strong bond as we as humans are not hard wired to multitask let alone juggle many romantic partners. But to each their own I guess.

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