As I promised last week, in this article I will give you more information on other types of relationships that are not that mainstream, but which can be more fulfilling to some people.
1. Semi-consensual non-monogamy
This is a type of relationship in which one of the partners has sex with other people, and their partner tolerates this behavior. This is a common solution for couples dealing with illness, major imbalance in sex drive, and long distance. For example, Jessica is married to Tom, but because he does not feel sexually satisfied in the marriage, he has sex with other women. Jessica is fine with that, as long as Tom acts as her husband in public, is home every night, and they raise their children together. Although for some people this may work just fine, some of the partners who tolerate the sex outside the relationship may suffer, get depressed and not feel loved by their partner, and this can affect their mental, emotional and physical health. If this is the case for you, ask yourself: “Why am I really staying in this relationship? Is this what I really want?”
2. Open relationships
The origins of this term date back to at least 1972, when Nena and George O’Neill’s book Open Marriage was published. While the book’s focus was not non-monogamy, one of the chapters presented sexual non-exclusivity as an option. The problem with the terms “open marriage” and “open relationship” is that they are very broad. Some people may assume that being in an open relationship means sleeping with random people, but it can mean a lot of things, such as: dating someone and having agreed that it is too soon for you to be exclusive, swinging, dating multiple people, having one or multiple sexual partners outside the “official” relationship etc. It is a very generic statement on being non-monogamous. As the O’Neills put it, Open marriage is called “open” for that very reason: the options are there for you to take or leave according to your individual situation.
How you define it more deeply is up to you.
If you resonate with this type of relationship, it is extremely important to get educated about it: follow blogs, videos, read books, work with someone who has experience with open relationships. Set yourself up for happiness, not drama.
Dan Savage, an American author, describes this term as “pair-bonded, but open to having interactions with others from time to time”. Basically, you are in a committed partnership, but if either of you want to have sex with another person, then you are free to do that (without it being considered cheating). Each couple should discuss openly, honestly and in detail before becoming “monogamish”, in order to clearly determine the specifics: is there a maximum number of sexual partners each one can have, should they inform each other when they are going to have sex with them, is there a preferred protection method when having sex with other people, are they going to have sex only once or multiple times with the same partner etc.
4. Friends with benefits
This form of non-monogamy usually refers to having sexual intercourse without connecting too much on an emotional level. This type of relationship is common mostly among teenagers or people in their 20’s. This is a great option if you are simply not available for a relationship, but you still want to have sex with someone on a regular basis.
Polyamory is a social movement that emerged in the early 1990’s. This neologism combines the Greek word for “many” (poly) and the Latin word for “love” (amor). “Poly” relationships come in a variety of structures: from dating multiple people at the same time, to dyadic domestic arrangements with each person having outside partners, to mono-/poly- structures where one person is monogamous, but supports the other’s non-monogamy, to group domestic partnerships.
For example: Carla loves Jack, Leo and Tina, and she wants to have a sexual and romantic relationship with each of them, separately.
Maya and Mark are married, but both of them are in love with other people, and are also in relationships with these persons: Maya also loves George, and Mark also loves Aurora.
Oscar and Noah are in a relationship, but Oscar also loves and is a relationship with William. Noah is not interested in other people except his partner, Oscar, but he accepts and supports Oscar in his relationship with William.
Unlike the “open” relationships, which are more about having sex with other people, in “poly” relationships it is implied that one is emotionally involved or willing to be emotionally involved at a deep level with more than one person.
Building a conscious relationship requires knowing yourself, your needs and desires. People are vastly different, so what makes you happy may not make another person happy. Also, the type of relationship you may want in a period of your life, let’s say in your 20’s, may change in your 30’s or 40’s. This is one of the reasons why some people divorce their first partners, because they transformed a lot and they realized they want to explore different types of relationships, not only monogamous ones.
Moreover, people are multifaceted, and trying to impose a type of relationship to yourself despite other parts of yourself wanting something else, will most likely create an inner war that may lead to unhappiness, frustration, sadness, depression, incapacity to take any action when it comes to relationships.
I am writing about this because I have lived it myself: there was a part of me that wanted to have multiple partners, and a part that only wanted one partner. And for years I judged and beat myself up because I thought that what I wanted was “immoral”. Then, as I started to get more educated regarding relationships and sexuality, I understood that there is no “right” or ”wrong” type of relationship, there are only experiences that can help us grow and transform. Being honest with yourself and with the people with whom you are romantically or sexually interacting is more important than following the rigid rules some people established a long time ago (and the funny part is that they do not follow these “rules” either; look at the scandals in which priests, politicians and other moralists have been involved concerning relationships and sex).
That is why it is extremely important to consciously and consensually decide the type of relationship in which you want to be. After all, the quality of your relationships affects the quality of your life.
If you feel overwhelmed after reading this, it is alright. Take your time to digest the information, and you can come back and read it again at some other time, in order to get a better grasp on what type of relationship you might want to experience.
I wrote this article based on the information from Mark A. Michael’s book Designer Relationships, which I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in creating conscious relationships.