Sexperts: Open Relationships: a Flawed Model

While we’re used to the imperfections of monogamy, some couples find solace agreeing to open relationships. David Matteson gives his take on why they don’t work out.

Growing up, I learned the end goal for everyone is to find someone to have a committed, long-term relationship with. My parents have been married for 25 years, and maintaining that sort of lengthy affair is ultimately the goal for every American. That being said, I never paid any mind to the idea of open relationships.

But as the U.S. divorce rate increases and I watch friend burn through boyfriends and girlfriends, fiances, or even husbands and wives, I have to wonder: is there any merit behind this polygamous model? After all, sex within a long-term relationship does become boring. Isn’t monogamy consistently confused for monotony?

My questions originated rather recently when I was out for drinks with my own significant other, Tyler, and our mutual friend, Richard. Coming out of a five-year relationship last fall had greatly affected him, and this was the first time Tyler or I had seen Rich for months. Of course, it was the standard post break-up conversation, circling around the general question as to why it happened without actually asking for specific details. Finally, Rich explained that Mark had wanted to end their open sexual agreement, and commit whole-heartedly. Rich disagreed and this brought
their end. Following these details, Rich explained his reasoning behind an open relationship. It’s a model that eliminates the concept of cheating, because ultimately that is what destroys nearly every relationship. Allowing for full disclosure between partners protects anyone from being hurt. Finally, all of the long term, successful relationships that Rich knows of are open. After all of that was said, Tyler and I looked at each other, both of us with an abundance of new thoughts.

Of course, open relationships are not just a gay thing. I know two straight couples who also utilize these agreements within their relationships. Both couples have full disclosure and practice safe sex, but they are also committed to one another emotionally. And yet I continue to question the validity of these types of relationships.

About a week after seeing Richard, I had dinner with a former coworker and long-time friend, Lindsey. She was married over a year ago, and after a
turn of wretched events she and her husband recently separated and are now going through the divorce process. When she told me about the divorce, I was stunned. Prior to these details, I had always held her as proof that marriage and love continue to exist— that monogamy isn’t dead after all. Lindsey and her husband were both 21 when they married, and they will surely find someone else to fall in love with. Though after talking to her, I was questioning my own relationship and whether exclusivity would work for us.

All of this research eventual culminated itself into Tyler’s and my decision to ope our one-year relationship in the most basic manner: by experimenting with a threesome. It was a mutual friend, and the sex was anything but exciting. But after all was said and done, I examined myself in the mirror— full of regret and a new found understanding as to why open relationships never work. While one partner may be happy about his or her opportunity to screw around, the other will remain suspicious and jealous. Thus, monogamy continues to prevail in my mind as the ultimate vessel for love and happiness.

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