And unfortunately, you’re asking the wrong question
In today’s issue, we’re going to talk about OPEN RELATIONSHIPS and if they can EVER work.
“Mike, what’s your opinion on ‘swinging’ and ‘open relationships.’ My husband and I have been together for 9 years now and the thought of him being with another woman just makes me so mad. How can people do that to each other? Don’t those women have any self-respect? My husband knows if he even TALKED about wanting to sleep with somebody else I’d kick his a$$ out and I don’t understand why women would put up with it.”
OK, this is a touchy subject so let’s get a few things out of the way:
As I’ve said over and over again (and explain in great detail in “The Secret Survey: What Men Desperately Want You To Know But Could Never Tell You”) monogamy is kind of unnatural and really hard to sustain over the DECADES most people want to be married for.
(Pauses for heckles and boos and RAGE from the audience.)
OK, are you done? Let’s keep going:
From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s been shown again and again that humans are, at best, “serial monogamists” and at worst total freaking sluts. Heck, if you read the (excellent) book “Sex At Dawn” you’ll learn more about why the shape of human genitalia was built for
Heck, if you read the (excellent) book “Sex At Dawn” you’ll learn more about why the shape of human genitalia was built for orgies then you really wanted to know, but all you really need to know *right now* is that humans aren’t really “meant” to be with just one person forever and ever and ever and that men and women having desires outside of their marriage are totally and completely natural.
That said, it’s totally possible to have a loving and awesome and really, really sexy monogamous relationship if you do the damned work. Heck, I’m in a monogamous relationship myself (getting married in like 3 weeks!) and am downright ecstatic about it. And while I don’t think that my fiancee and I will ever “open things up,” forever is a long time. Ask me again in a couple decades.
Women really aren’t any more monogamous than men are. In fact, statistics over the last decade or two have shown that as women gain more financial and political power in our culture they’ve been cheating on their husbands more and more (because they can.) And Daniel Bergner’s book “What Do Women Want:
Adventures in the Science Of Female Desire” gives a totally unflinching look at what women actually want in bed (all based on damned good scientific research.) Not for the faint of heart or closed minded.
So now that we’ve covered all that stuff, let’s get to your actual question:
“Can open relationships work?”
And unfortunately, you’re asking the wrong question.
The question you really should ask is “Could an open relationship work for you?”
And in your case after reading your email, I’d say “No. Nope. No way. Not if your husband wants to keep his testicles.”
But can they work for OTHER people?
Well, yeah. Sure.
Heck, you probably know folks (who are friends of yours even) who have non-monogamous relationships who make it work just fine.
In the years I’ve been doing this I’ve met people in all sorts of relationships. Monogamous relationships. “Monogamish” rel” relationships (where the occasional make out with somebody else is OK,) swinging relationships (where they only sleep wit other couples) and even totally, almost absurdly open relationships (where both partners sleep with whoever they want.)
And I’ll tell you right now based on my own work and on the work of many, many other people that “sexual exclusivity” seems to have very little impact on whether a couple is happy together and stays together for the long haul.
In fact, in general, it seems like folks in “closed” relationships and “open relationships” stay together or get divorced at almost exactly the same rate (which is pretty high, for sure.)
Now, am I saying that sex isn’t important to a long term relationship?
Not at all.
In fact, an economist once came up with an equation for the marital bliss that says Marital Happiness = frequency of disagreements minus frequency of lovemaking.
And that really sounds about right. It’s damnably hard to have your relationship go south on you if you’re both divings into bed 5 times a week and making every cell in your body hum.
What all this really means is those open relationships really only work if…
1. Both partners want the same thing and neither one feels like they’re being forced into something they don’t want to do.
2. Both partners are still having sex with EACH OTHER or are at least involved in the other partner’s life erotically.
3. Both partners are COMMUNICATION NINJAS who are able to talk about really unpleasant topics like jealousy (and a possibility of disease) openly which each other.
4. Both partners actually LOVE each other and want to see the other person happy.
But you know what?
Those four things go for monogamous relationships too.
And if you can’t say “Yes” to at least 3 of the 4 your relationship is in trouble whether you’re acting like the village unicycle or if your sex life is as varied and thrilling as a thumb fighting championship.
The point is, “sexual exclusivity” is in no way the number one “make or break” factor in a relationship.
Love, communication, and trust? Those matters a lot.
Who’s tab goes into who’s slot? Not nearly as important (as long as you’re not lying or cheating and as long as you actually love each other.)
So to close up here:
1. Am I saying everybody should go out and have open relationships? Dear god, no. Who has the time?
2. But if that’s something BOTH partners in a relationship want, it can work really well. Heck, some of the most successful long-term couples I know are non-sexually exclusive. And they’ve been together long enough and know each other well enough that they can handle the pangs of jealousy and insecurity and still wake up in the morning and make pancakes.
3. But never, EVER agree to do something in your relationship that you don’t want or that you don’t feel comfortable with. We get emails on a regular basis from women (usually young women) saying their boyfriend wants them to sleep with other guys and they don’t want to.
And if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. It’s your body. They’re your emotions. And any guy who wouldn’t want to be with you because you won’t fulfill a (frankly dangerous) idea isn’t a guy you want to be with.
Founder, Digital Romance, Inc
P.S. If you want to spice up your relationship without having to bring other PEOPLE into it, go watch this video to learn how to use tiny text messages to drive any man or woman wild . . .