Skip to comments.Open relationships have drawbacks
Posted on 02/14/2006 4:35:58 PM PST by SJackson
Back in the day, we had a name for those who defied the definition of monogamy. They were called swingers.
But today, it seems the rules have changed and the prevalence of open relationships has increased significantly.
Open relationships are often defined as a situation in which couples agree that it is acceptable to date and engage in sexual activity with other people while still maintaining a relationship with each other.
But a better definition may be cheating without the guilt.
Over the past few years, the social stigma of engaging in polyamory has greatly subsided on college campuses and this university is no exception. It is a common occurrence for someone to proclaim this so-called relationship status on Facebook or to engage in a sexual rendezvous with another person while in a supposed relationship.
One way or another, I find it difficult many do not consider this cheating.
Maybe the Kinsey Report was the start of this deviation from traditional values. But the prevalence of open relationships was precipitated by something more.
Jokingly, a friend recently handed me a copy of Open Marriage, the 1972 best-selling book by Nena and George ONeil. I would have guessed a book of this raunchy caliber came from a used book sale sponsored by Sex Out Loud but I was mistaken.
The back cover promises a book that will introduce you to the open marriage concepts trust, liking, role flexibility, individual freedom and growth, and love and sex without jealously that can do wonders for your marriage.
Somehow, Im not buying it.
There are obvious health concerns for engaging in an open relationship for all participants involved. Having multiple sexual partners greatly increases the probability of contracting a sexually transmitted disease and becoming pregnant. But there are other problems for those who engage in this lifestyle.
More importantly, how can one consider an open relationship to be, in fact, a relationship? Normally, a relationship requires a commitment between two people. If this doesnt exist, then what differentiates an open relationship from mere dating or friends with benefits? Im drawing a big blank. Nonetheless, using the word relationship to define the aforementioned association diminishes the significance of a monogamous relationship between two people.
Definitions aside, there are also the emotional issues.
Intimacy can only come when two people can engage in sex knowing there are not other sexual partners on the side. Sex is meant to be a bond that brings two people together which is why waiting until marriage is the ideal situation.
Unfortunately, today it seems the intimate value placed on sex is minimal. Rather, sex is frequently used to either fulfill some mere physiological desire for both sexes or satisfy the lustful mind of an inebriated male after his beer goggles are firmly in place following a night out. It is disheartening to see so many people relegate sex to its just sex.
And then there is the issue of jealousy. If individuals do not become jealous of the other woman or man in their partners sex life then they are either lying to themselves or, sadly, sex is nothing more than a purely physical act to them.
A question I have, though, is if someone cant be monogamous before marriage, who is to say they will practice monogamy within the bounds of matrimony? If people are accustomed to relationships without a commitment to remain faithful to one another (i.e. open relationships) during their dating years, why would marriage be any different?
According to The Monogamy Myth by Peggy Vaughn, 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will break their marriage vows at some point during their lifetime and these figures represent only those who admit to engaging in infidelity. The increasing prevalence of open relationships before marriage will not improve this statistic.
Nonetheless, perhaps a course in relationships can help answer these questions. The Department of Psychology at Haverford College is offering a course this semester titled, The Psychology of Close Relationships. Potential topics to be covered in the class include alternative relationships (or more aptly, open relationships). And an entire week will be spent on the issues of infidelity and jealously.
But given the audience this course is targeted toward, Im not holding my breath. And I can guarantee that contrary to popular belief, the answers will be not found in the next issue of Cosmopolitan either.
The rules of the dating game have been redefined. But sometimes changing the rules doesnt always make a situation better in the long run.
Darryn Beckstrom (email@example.com) is a doctoral student in the department of political science and a second-year MPA candidate in the La Follette School of Public Affairs.
Yes. Wouldn't want to inject things like marriage in the issue.
Still a better definition may be cheating without worrying about the jilted husband/boyfriend coming in and shooting the wife/girlfriend and the lover.
and using the word "marriage" to define any "relationship between two people" diminishes the significance of the exclusively man/woman bond.
SJ, I'm not disagreeing with you, but people don't know *how* to be married anymore. Even the "marriage councillors" don't know what's what in the long term.
We have a society that is constitutionally incapable of practicing the Christian concept of marriage, but the Christian concept of marriage is the only one we know.
Men are, by our nature, non-monogamous. This is as true for humans as it is for the rest of the animal kingdom. This is why polygamy was the rule, rather than the exception, in most societies, while mistress taking was common, among those who could afford it, in even nominally monogamous societies. However, the bonds of Christian society (and Jewish society after the abandonment of polygamy in the disaspora), kept the one man, one woman ideal alive as the standard that all were encouraged to follow. This, in many ways was better for most men (who no longer had to contend with the wealthy taking a large share of available women) and women (who now had a more equitable relationship than under polygamy).
With serial monogamy (ie people on their fifth divorce) and "open relationships" becoming more common, you can say we are reverting to the past. One key difference is the fact that now WOMEN are taking on multiple partners. This is not good for several reasons, both psychological and physical.
You all may find this of interest.
My analysis largely mirrors your own with this one exception; I don't believe women taking multiple partners results in psychological and physical maladjustments.
I believe women are taking multiple partners *because of* psychological and physical maladjustment.
This type of relationship is great for the man, terrible for the woman. A whole generation of women will wake up in their early 30s and realize that men their age are chasing women ten years younger then them. Kiss any real chance of marriage or kids goodbye. Well, at least there's always Hagen Daas.
Even for those who did not subscribe to open relationships, this practice brought the whole moral tenor of the times down in the sixties and seventies. I thought it was over and going back the other way. I guess I was wrong.
Just another symptom of a sociopathic society.
Pretty soon this will lead to polygamy and polyandry.
But thus us all hunky dory in your book, correct?
It's always best for the men to be older and the women younger. Let the career women be like men: smoke, drink, carouse while their biological clock is ticking.
Men will kick them to the curb and get a younger honey who wants to stay home and have children and treat her man like a king. YES!!!!!! No reason that men have to be treated like horse dung by a Type B woman when you can trade the older car in for a newer model.
Stable relationships are important, for society and the individual, especially as we age and we hit the Viagara years.
Lots of recent studies indicate that women aren't as biologically monogamous as previously thought. Biologically speaking, their offspring have a better chance of survival overall if they are of differing paternity.
I'm not sure what "Facebook " is, but these behaviors were a "common occurrence" long before it existed!
Oh, and does the writer know that the O'Neills were divorced shortly after publishing the book celebrating the wonders of their "open marriage"?
"Biologically speaking, their offspring have a better chance of survival overall if they are of differing paternity."
The stats on abuse of children by other than the birth father would belie your statement. This would also mirror the usual situation in the animal world, where the male often kills the offspring and then impregnates the female in order to assure success of his genetic preservation efforts.
Might I ask where you got data to support your above quoted statement?
That may or may not be true, but in either event, it's not biology. Biologically speaking, a female's genes have a better chance of surviving if she varies the paternity of her offspring. The down and dirty science is simple: Multiple paternity minimizes any chance of unfavorable heterozygous gene pairings.