Can an Open Marriage ever really Work?

POLYAMORY

Can an Open Marriage ever really Work?

People come in all shapes and sizes. They have different wants and needs. Anthropologists say what was traditionally supplied us by a whole village such as warmth, guidance, financial sustenance, understanding, passionate love and eminent friendship we now seek solely in our spouse or significant other. But that’s a huge burden to carry. Due to the high divorce rate, the need for sexual novelty, the desire to try the same gender or emotional needs that their spouse can’t supply sometimes pivots them in the direction of an open marriage. It’s often when the needs of one person cannot be met by the other. It’s no one’s fault. Instead, it’s usually just a mismatch. For others, it’s a need to explore further with love, a mindset that requires free will, strong confidence, good communication and a non-jealous personality. Surely, there are dysfunctional open marriages as there are dysfunctional closed ones. But can an open marriage ever really work? Experts say there are such that can work but it takes the right kind of couple and the proper mindset. Open and honest communication is the most important aspect. An open marriage doesn’t mean a person can have sex with whomever, whenever. Instead, a certain set of pre-agreed upon rules are made and adhered to, with each mate’s preferences in mind.

According to psychologist Deborah Anapol an expert on polyamory— practicing intimacy with more than one partner, though many couples who in an open marriage struggle with jealousy from time to time, very few say they regret being able to share intimacy outside the confines of their relationship. There are many alternative romantic and sexual couplings going around nowadays. People are getting married later on in life due to the time it takes to get a proper education and work your way up. The new generation prefers lots of choice and not getting tied down. In the wake of the sexual revolution and the explosion of dating and hookup apps, people have freedoms and opportunities they’ve never had before in the history of humankind. That and the elevated divorce rate has non-traditional people looking for new ways to have their needs met, explore their sexuality and enjoy their life with others.

Still, the reason for entering into such a relationship is important. One party should not be pressuring the other into entering into such an agreement. Another party should not be going along with it when they really don’t like the idea, just for the sake of saving the relationship. Instead, this is something that both parties have to be sincerely interested in. For some couples, it’s a way for a person who has a large sexual appetite for instance to have his or her needs met without disenfranchising their partner. For others, it’s a way to express their freedom. They believe the human heart has the capacity to love more than one person and in more than one way. They feel that commitment and fidelity are not synonymous. Besides intermittent jealousy, the potential for a stream of uncomfortable conversations and lots of chances to be tempted to lie to your partner, cause many to steer clear of the idea. Others fear the chance that no matter what rules are in place their spouse could run off with another. Really it’s all about how you feel about one another and your relationship. If it’s a way to renew the marriage or explore new dimensions of love and freedom, go for it. If it’s to placate someone or a last ditch effort to save the marriage, you may be setting yourselves up for a terrible fall. For more pick up a copy of the book, The Seven Natural Laws of Love, Polyamory in the 21st Century by Deborah Taj Anapol, Ph.D.

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.

Can an Open Marriage Prevent Divorce?

open

Can an Open Marriage Prevent Divorce?

A new study shows that the idea of an open relationship is more prevalent than ever before. The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships recently published a study by University of Michigan psychologist Amy Moors that showed that married couples today are more open and willing to try this type of arrangement. The technical term is consensual non-monogamy. This means that both partners agree that they are allowed to have outside sexual or romantic relationships. There are polyamorists who want to have multiple loves, and swingers who prefer to have multiple partners. But instead of cheating, both partners are open and honest with one another about the other relationships they take part in.

A study conducted previously found that between four and five percent of couples practice some form of consensual non-monogamy. What isn’t known is if there are more people or couples who would consider such an arrangement but fear bringing it up. 1,280 heterosexual adults between the ages of 18 and 67 took part in this latest study. Most were single or in a monogamous relationship, none were in a consensual non-monogamous relationship.

Most of the respondents, male and female, thought it was okay for others to take part in a consensual non-monogamous relationship. People were fine with others taking part in this arrangement, but few wanted to do so themselves. Men were slightly higher at just over two percent where women were almost two percent in favor of taking part in a consensual non-monogamous relationship. Psychologists believe that in our culture we are socialized to believe that monogamy is right and that cheating is wrong. There are lots of different ways for this type of arrangement to occur. For instance some couples say they can have sex with whomever they wish, but must use condoms. Others say that they can’t have sex with the same person more than once. Some insist that the marriage must be the topmost relationship. Others invite a third person in to share the relationship and all treat each other as equals. Some are allowed to pursue other romantic relationships in addition to sex. It all depends upon the arrangement.

So can an open marriage prevent a divorce from occurring? Though with the number still low of people who desire taking part in this type of arrangement, for certain people in a certain kind of relationship, with open and honest communication it can be beneficial. Though for most, the guilt and shame, and the feeling that they’ve strayed too far from the norm may make them avoid this type of arrangement. Certainly the communication level must be high, as well as the trust level, and jealousy must be low or well managed, or else it isn’t going to work. For more on this topic try, The Mantra of Love: One couple’s story of turning love into the freedom of non-monogamy by Jay Vincent and Marcy Lynn.

How to Deal with a Spouse who is a Sex Addict

cheat

How to Deal with a Spouse who is a Sex Addict

There is a divide on where sex addiction comes from among psychologists. Some believe it stems from a trauma endured during infancy or early childhood. This trauma creates an intimacy disorder. The disorder surfaces later in life in the form of an obsession with porn or taking part in infidelity and other high-risk behaviors. Another camp of psychologists believes sex addiction isn’t a compulsion at all but a coping mechanism. Just like with drugs or alcohol, it is taken part in to relieve pressure, pain or an emptiness felt deep inside. Drug addicts need a fix and, in this view, so do sex addicts. The fix here however is sex. No matter where it stems from, a spouse with a sex addiction takes a heavy toll on a marriage. The person should seek individual therapy with a counselor experienced in such matters. What’s more, they should also attend a support group in your area as part of their treatment plan. When they enter recovery, they will hopefully cease their destructive behaviors, and work through whatever trauma they’ve endured with the therapist. The marriage will also need significant work to get it back on track.

A remediation strategy is needed to address the pain, hurt and trauma the spouse of a sex addict has endured. The couple should then meet together with the therapist during periodic strategy meetings in order for the partner to assist in therapy. The spouse can be a valuable resource, helping the therapist to evaluate the addict’s recovery, provide other information on the spouse and help the spouse work through their problem. Trust at this point has been obliterated. It has to be rebuilt from the ground up. Still, the healing process has to be conducted in such a way whereas it heals both parties, rather than causing more harm. Usually, the recovering addict either wants to clam up, recoiling at the very thought of revealing details about their previous activities, or to show their sincere desire to change, blurting out their betrayals regardless of setting or present company. Neither one is helpful when trying to repair a marriage stretched to its limit. There are a few addicts who practice a strategy of “staggered disclosure.” This is letting out just enough information to dismay their partner, without getting to the heart of the questions the partner most wants answers to.

None of these patterns ensure a healthful recovery. Still, all therapists agree a certain amount of disclosure is required for the healing process to take place. One survey found that 93% of partners wanted full disclosure for intimacy to be rebuilt. Disclosure however must only be done in a very tightly controlled way. Usually, three to six months is the period where psychologists believe full disclosure can finally take place. One method often used is when the addict writes down all the lies and infidelities in a timeline. Then the spouse is asked to write down their “deal breakers” that would discontinue the marriage. The person in therapy is given this to work into their completed disclosure essay. When a sex addict is in the full throes of their addiction, they will do anything to cover up their trail. They may lie about where they were. They may erase texts, calls, emails. They will lie about the relationships they are involved in and the hookups they’ve had. But in the recovery period a spouse has a chance to talk about how they feel and elicit empathy and regret from the addict. If done correctly, this can be a powerful moment, lifting a tremendous weight off of each person’s shoulders. It is a good place to start from, in terms of rebuilding intimacy. If you are in a marriage with a sex addict, get them to seek treatment. For more on this topic pick up a copy of, Before the Dust Settles (Advice from a Sex Addict’s Wife): 8 Mistakes to Avoid Immediately after Discovering Your Partner’s Sex Addiction by Margaret Stone.