Ethical Non-monogamy or Polyamory

POLYAMORY

Ethical Non-monogamy or Polyamory

With so many options today and many professionals independent and not interested in settling down, people are looking for new romantic options that fit their modern day attitudes and lifestyle. Though it isn’t a significant part of the population yet, ethical non-monogamy, also known as polyamory, is a growing trend. So what is polyamory? It comes from the Greek meaning many loves. There is no hard and fast definition. The practice is having more than one loving or sexual relationship at a time, which all parties involved knowledgeable and consenting. No one should be pressured into entering into this kind of relationship. It should be an arrangement all parties are interested in. Another definition less often used, it could also mean a couple taking part in non-monogamous activities such as swinging. Many believe that the human heart is too wild and free to be tamed by a certain social construct. Outside of such expectations, no one can really say who they will love or how many they have the capacity to love, be it one or twenty. Though we have familial love and friendship, polyamory refers specifically to having romantic relationships that include intercourse. The point is to grow strong relationships, enjoy the powerful feelings and the act and have deep, profound intimacy in all of them. Everyone involved has to be consenting. These need to be open-minded individualists. But they also need to be good communicators.

It isn’t a competition. No one should be keeping score. Instead, it’s about making an emotional connection with others and not dictating to the heart who and how. Some believe that we have the capacity to love many others without constraints. They say this is a way to escape serial monogamy. In monogamous relationships there is the problem of the relationship going sour. Another problem is cheating, lying and hurt feelings. Here, those things are eliminated. Of course, there can be jealousy. But it’s how that jealousy is managed that counts. Really jealous people should steer clear of this sort of arrangement. There are all kinds of poly relationships. What most people are looking for is the freedom to love how they wish without hurting others, and the ability to determine what kind of arrangement works for them. How long does such a relationship last? Just like all relationships, it depends on the people that are in it and how they relate to each other. Some last for years while others only for a short while. Each person in any type of relationship brings baggage and pre-conceived notions. Communication is really what it all comes down to. You don’t have to be bisexual to be poly. Some couples are looking for an extra to form a triad. Some triads are open, others closed.

For those who live together, arrangements such as everyone having the same bedroom and bed, to each person having their own separate bedroom, to certain people maintaining a schedule where they sleep in a certain bed on a certain night are all well-known arrangements in poly communities. If it’s a closed triad, it’s important that each member relate to the other, and spend time with each other so no one feels left out. Each person’s relationship has to be strengthened. Sometimes a schedule is formed so each member can have quality time with each other. Some people practice polyfidelity or polyfi meaning their triad is closed. But others are more open. There is also a unique term called compersion in the poly community. This is when someone you love is being loved well and taken care of by another, and it brings you great joy. Certainly there is no test of whether or not you are poly. Most are of a very open-minded, progressive mindset and nonreligious and so not tethered to monogamy as such. Many are intellectuals and professionals. To learn more of whether or not polyamory or ethical non-monogamy is right for you read, More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert.

Fidelity and Promiscuity; Evolutionary Adaptations found in Both Sexes

INFIDELITY

Fidelity and Promiscuity; Evolutionary Adaptations found in Both Sexes

Conventional wisdom states that men always have a wandering eye. Though many settle down to healthy, monogamous relationships, it is believed that they are still prone to promiscuity and always wanting sex. For women, however, they are supposed paragons of fidelity. Once a woman finds a man she wants to settle down with, her heart is his. She won’t stray unless he treats her terribly, or so it is thought. At least these are the messages we are fed through the media, our families, and our cultural superstructure. But is it true?

Practically, we’ve probably all observed a “one woman man” who makes a great husband and father and wouldn’t dream of cheating. We also know women who would prefer not to settle down and see their love life as one unending adventure. So what’s going on here and what does science tell us? A recent study out of Oxford University is illuminating our view on the sexes and how fidelity and promiscuity play a role in our evolution. Oxford researchers believe that the faithful and the not-so-much are actually pretty evenly distributed throughout the sexes. What’s more, each person’s position fulfills a specialized role.

To conduct this study, Dr. Rafael Wlodarski and his Oxford team combed through data from two other studies. One was called the “sociosexual orientation inventory.” Here 600 people answered a questionnaire which investigated their tendency to enter sexual relationships without commitment. The other study measured the length of people’s index and ring fingers. 1,300 participants took part in total. The length of one’s ring finger in comparison to the index means more exposure to testosterone in the womb. This finger phenomenon holds true for all primates, and is associated with higher levels of promiscuity. Men were in fact more likely to engage in promiscuity than women. Dr. Wlodarski and his colleagues weren’t surprised by that, but what researchers wanted to know was if each sex had a separate sexual strategy that they engaged in. Researchers found, however, that being promiscuous or faithful were strategies that both sexes engaged in, and have genetic underpinnings.  Dr. Wlodarski and colleagues believe our sexual strategies are in fact phenotypes.  They are the outward expression of underlying genes. Here’s where natural selection comes in. Perhaps genes that promoted successful mating strategies were passed down from one generation to the next.

Phenotype differences between men and women are surprisingly similar. For men, promiscuity to faithfulness was expressed in the ratio of 57:43. For women, promiscuity was outdone by faithfulness but only by a slight margin 53:47. What’s shocking is both of these ratios are really close to 50:50. During the Stone Age, childbirth was dangerous business and a child under four had a low chance of survival. The more women were inseminated the more likely our species would survive. Also, the greater gene variety, the healthier our species would become. Therefore, in a mere evolutionary sense, men and women benefited to a certain level of promiscuity. The faithfulness part comes in as a young child requires both parents to survive in the wild. Therefore, the expression of faithfulness and continuity between parents helped children and our species continue.

Biologists have considered this in theory, but Dr. Wlodarksi’s findings add weight. That theory is called evolutionarily stable strategy. This theory states that those behaviors that helped the species survive become more prominent, whereas those that did not became less so. But what does this mean for the state of modern love and marriage? In the future will doctors be able to genetically test a person and tell them which pattern of love fits their makeup and who is their best match, be they faithful or promiscuous? Does this mean that certain couples would fare better with an open relationship while others would naturally be more monogamous? Science is still a long way away from helping us engineer or hack our love lives. But it certainly is food for thought. If you want to know how science can make your love life sweeter read, Principia Amoris: The New Science of Love by John Mordechai Gottman.

How to Have an Open Relationship

openrelationship

How to Have an Open Relationship

There is no one size fits all in love. Every relationship is unique. Whether you are just entering into something with someone and you both want an open relationship or what you have hasn’t been working and you both think an open relationship might work, it’s important to talk about the logistics in depth. You need to find out what each person’s boundaries are. Rules and guidelines have to be set down, communication has to be good and constantly flowing throughout the process and boundaries need to be set in order for it to be a mutually happy, healthy, fulfilling relationship that adds rather than hinders each person’s well-being. If you want an open relationship, you’ll need to sit down with your partner at a time when neither of you are preoccupied and discuss the matter fully. Now’s the time to lay all the cards on the table. Be sensitive to how your partner will feel about this. Try to think of what they might say but be open to other interpretations, too. Let them know why it’s something you really want to try. If they don’t agree however, you’ll have to decide whether you want to stay in this relationship and perhaps develop it more to gain more satisfaction from it or you’ll possibly have to move on. Talk all of your emotions out and come to some sort of understanding. If your partner agrees, it’s time to set forth some ground rules. These vary from couple to couple. Of course in any relationship it is important to compromise. That said, you shouldn’t have to do anything and everything your partner wants. Make sure you come up with an arrangement you are both comfortable with.

Common rules are no sex with friends, no having relations with people you both know, sex is okay if one person is on a trip, the other person has to give consent before sex can take place, sex outside of the relationship isn’t allowed in the home, or it’s okay at home but not in the bedroom, or sex with another person is only okay when both partners are participating in it. Every person is unique as each couple is. Every person has to decide what is right for him or her and also what the couple can both agree upon. Remember to keep the communication lines open and clear. Don’t bottle something that is bothering you up inside or it will grow and fester and tear you and the relationship apart. Nothing is written in a contract and things can change. Experiment together and find out what works best for the two of you. Now it’s time to talk about boundaries. Do you need to know what happened between your partner and their lover? Or would you rather not know? How does your partner feel about it? Some people like to know who it was, and where or when it happened but little else. Discuss the matter together in detail and see what works for the two of you. You don’t have to jump right into it. Think about perhaps trying a threesome first before one or both of you go off with a different lover. Be sure to have full disclosure on both sides. Don’t cheat. If you break any rules fess up to them. Cheating is still cheating in an open relationship, and a betrayal cuts just as deep. Trust has to inhabit a relationship like this, and be a strong, vibrant bond or else it won’t work. If an open relationship isn’t working for one person, then it won’t work for the entire relationship. Talk about it and clear the air. Find out what would make the person who isn’t comfortable happy again. This arrangement is about working together and enhancing rather than inhibiting your life experience. For more, read Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino.

Most Cheaters Want It All

CHEATING-SPOUSE

According to a new survey conducted by extramarital affair site Victoria Milan, most cheaters want it all. 76% had a lover on the side yet still wanted to have sex with their spouse or current partner. 69% of respondents said the thought of leaving their partner hasn’t even crossed their mind. 85% of those that took the survey said their lover didn’t make a good partner for the long haul. Those who took lovers but still remained in marriages or long term relationships said that love, stability, security and satisfaction were all reasons why they would never leave their spouse or partner. In tandem with the release of the survey’s results, Victoria Milan CEO Sigurd Verdal made a statement, “If you have a good relationship with your partner, if there is still love and affection, if he or she is a good parent and they are part of a good family group, cheaters are not necessarily looking to break up when they look for a lover.  They just want to add a bit of passion and adventure back into their lives.” So the question remains, is it right for cheaters to stay in a long term relationship, even a marriage while still wanting passion in their lives? Can cheating ever be right or is it always wrong no matter what the situation is?

Certainly if the primary relationship is good than it is truly callous and narcissistic to have a lover on the side and hide it from your partner. If the marriage is an open relationship, rules have to be laid down and stuck to if the marriage is going to survive. However, are most people cheating opportunists or is there something terribly wrong in their primary relationships that they must seek love, compassion, passion, sex or all of the above outside of it? Surely those living in sexless marriages where there is no longer an emotional connection but the couple wants to stay together to avoid the pain and financial hardship of a divorce have a right to have these things in their lives. In fact, their spouse may agree to each person finding happiness outside the confines of marriage. But to cheat behind someone’s back as mere opportunism is morally reprehensible. Trust is the cornerstone of any long-term relationship and cheating can damage that trust, perhaps irreparably. Instead, if the spark is gone, before straying reconnect with your partner. Try to bring the spark alive. Reopen the lines of communication. Show them compassion and expect it in return. Work through issues. In the bedroom communicate your fantasies and try to make them come true. Find out what your partner is into and fulfill one of theirs. Then expect them to do the same. Try novel experiences in and out of the bedroom. Reinvest in your relationship and you will more than likely find that what you need is all right there, and these experiences can reinvigorate your relationship, develop your connection and deepen your bond. To reinvest in your marriage or long-term relationship, be sure to read I Still Do – Tips for Saving Your Marriage, Preventing Divorce and Rekindling that Flame by Joshua Osenga.

The Downside to Modern Dating

modern

There are a lot of upsides to modern dating. You aren’t forced into some rigid system that forces you to either get married or stay single. People can decide for themselves without too much judgment how they want to date and what kind of dating is right for them. They don’t have to define relationships in the traditional way if they don’t want to, but they can if they want. It’s completely up to them. Be that as it may, all of this freedom also has certain drawbacks. Here’s the downside to modern dating. First, the person who cares the least has all the power. The most aloof wins. One way that modern daters take part in this little charade is to text back hours or even days later intentionally, just to not seem as interested as they actually are. So in the age of the aloof, it’s hard to tell who is really into you and just pretending their not and who is actually not interested in you and just stringing you along because they have nothing better to do. Remember chatting on the phone for hours on end, falling asleep on the phone, or just the rush you got hearing your lover breathing into the receiver? Those days are fewer and farther between today thanks to texting. Texting can be fun, but it doesn’t make the connection other forms of communication do. In fact, it seems the most insular. Emoticons can’t say it like hearing someone’s words in their own voice. And reading those three little words doesn’t make your heart skip a beat like hearing them.

Social media and texting has eliminated “plans.” Nowadays people can keep tabs on their friends like never before. You never get a straight answer out of people as to whether or not they want to hang out. You also get the feeling that people are perpetually looking for something better to do, and nothing is ever good enough for them to stick to. But in a dating situation, that thing that may or may not be good enough is you. It’s also your potential love interest. What does this mean for respect? What does it mean in terms of our values as a society? Instead of asking someone out, you just hangout or chill. These may even be code words for hooking up. These phrases aren’t going away. And there is nothing wrong with a hookup provided both parties know and agree. But trying to figure out if hangout means hangout, or if it means date, or if it means hookup can be excruciating, and to directly come out and ask defies the rules. The lines between exclusive and seeing other people has been blurred, too. Lots of people are phobic of commitment. There are those who say they aren’t into labels and don’t want to label relationships. Others don’t want to seem as though they are pressuring anyone. But then when someone sees someone else, the person they were seeing before that gets mad. Yet there’s no reason to. They weren’t “together-together.” It just seems that all of the hard conversations have been taken out of dating. But with them all of the certainty, too. And what is left is people perpetually grappling with uncertainty and wondering always if there isn’t something better without enjoying what they have. To have a more positive experience, try reading Modern Dating: A Field Guide by Chiara Atik.