This isn't a slam on my friend, or a judgment call, but in my experience, I have yet to see an "open relationship" work out in long term. I have known many people who have some kind of agreement that they and/or their spouse can go cavorting around in a physical manner, boinking others with free abandon. I hear debates about whether a man can truly be monogamous in his heart, and while I think I am, I realize those that don't will just think I am in denial or something.
Now, don't get me wrong, I have no argument with the idea, as long as it is between two or more consenting adults. The problem always seems to be it was really only one "consenting" adult and one "resenting" adult all along, usually sucking some innocent bystanders in a collapsing underground lava tube of boiling psychodrama and jealousy ("You said she was okay with it!!!"). I personally don't know of one open relationship, and I have known of many in fandom, that worked out. Yes, I have seen some last for years, but in the end, one leaves the other, and often in some horrible collapse where the true feelings finally come out.
In Islam, there are sects that allow for multiple marriages, but the caveat there is that what you get one wife, you have to get all of them. So if you get wife #1 a BMW, you have to give wives 2 - 7 the same BMW. Thus, most polygamy is a status symbol of being rich. In some cultures, and I hear the French quoted a lot in this, there is the wife and the mistress, where the wife is the security blanket/mother figure, and the mistress is the fun concubine (not meant in a derogatory term). It's just accepted, but since I don't personally know any French people that also have a mistress, I can only speculate resentment, which would be unfair of me, so I am leaving that sub-topic alone.
I have several personal theories why I think open relationships fail.
It's usually the guy who wants it, the girl will "put up with it to keep him." This is my number one prevailing theory. I have seen all kinds of reasoning, from "he can't help it, it's genetically abnormal testosterone levels" to trying to realize a "spiritual bond" of some kind (common in some Pagan open relationships). I hate to say this, but I think that the girls who buy into this are just delaying the inevitable: their man can't commit to one person. They allow this sort of thing because they believe they won't ever find a decent man, and they better put up and shut up with what they have, because even though he doesn't commit like most others, he's the best you can ever get because deep down you fear you're not desirable and can't find a good man. Bullshit. I have known several Pagan relationships that have reached an uneasy truce with "my man must have sex with a younger woman because [fill in Pan-based reasoning here]," but it always ends when the man only sleeps with said younger woman. Now, if it's a guy letting his girl roam around, it's almost the same thing, but they tend to lose the girl much, much faster than a girl loses a guy. There's another lesson in there, I know it.
It's just FANDOM open relationships that don't work. Maybe, instead of "fandom allows open marriages," the ratio is the same in non-fandom, and it's just the fact that fandom relationships are wonky to begin with, polyamory or not. The only weakness to this theory is that I know many monogamous fandom relationships that are well into their second decade, with no signs of breaking up.
It's only "public open relationships" that don't work out. Maybe there is a slew of secret polyamorous relationships out there among friends I think are monogamous, but they don't make a big deal about it, or keep it secret, because it's no one's business but theirs.
Being monogamous, I just "wouldn't understand." I have been accused of this, but then, inevitably, I am right about how it will end for them. I don't like being right, because I just hate seeing people get hurt. Maybe I don't understand how a deep love can be shared, and I don't think it's "just like loving multiple kids," because you don't have sex with your kids. Physical love and parental love are two very different things, even if they share the same word.
Bad luck. Maybe, out of the dozen or so relationships I have seen, I just got a lot of bad coincidences.
Maybe it's a combination of these. Or something I haven't thought of. Then there's also the bisexual angle, which seems to have the same rate of failure, but then it's a loop they can't seem to get out of, sometimes with the added spin of "watching someone else make out with my spouse as I make out with both of them is a massive turn on."
I debate whether we are monogamous creatures, but I know I am. I have never even considered having sex with another woman, nor can I imagine being tempted. I know many of my friends are the same way, and maybe it is all cultural and in our head, but when I think of the logistics of having a mistress, a second wife, or whatever... I get a headache and thank God I am married to Christine.
I don't judge those who want to have an open relationship, but I kind of cringe in the same way like when someone tells me they have "a hot new business opportunity with a brand-name distribution system," or that they have found a new religion that requires a lot of money to keep being a member. "This is going to end badly," I think. A majority of "Open Relationships" never start out that way, and it always seems to be a signpost pointing to the first landmarks of a breakup. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Relationship stagnates. Boy brings in second girl. Things seem fine for a while, then boy starts being with second girl too much. First girl finally breaks down and cries. Relationship ends, usually with only one of them claiming it was a "mutual decision."
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see one work out. I'd like to see 3 or more people, all having sex, living under the same roof, raising several children, sharing incomes, and giving equal loving time to one another until death parts them. I WANT people to be happy. But I haven't seen ONE polyamory situation end well, or even last more than 5 years. I have seen too many photos in polyamorous albums where often the trio is only shown two at a time. I have yet to see some Sears Portrait on top of someone's TV where they go, "This is my wife Lisa and our lover Betty." The only exception seems to be a recent one, where a death did part them, but even wife #1 said she had to work through her resentment before she finally made peace with "this is how it's going to be, I love him, and that's that." And I am sure somewhere, there are people who have no problems with an open relationship.
I've just never seen one, that's all.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000577.html