June 17, 2015

To Love, Honor, And Have Sex With Others

Conceptual photo of a marital infidelity

By Elizabeth Shore

There are lots of dating websites out there that help you hook up. Fill out your profile, slap up a picture, and you can start trolling around for potential mates, or just potential FWBs. But a new dating website puts a different spin on the online hook-up scene. OpenMinded.com offers, in their words, “a safe and stigma-free environment that brings the ease and flexibility of online dating to the currently under-served world of open and alternative relationships.” Another way to look at it: If you want an open marriage, this site’s for you.

In traditional romance novels (meaning just h/h, not ménage or group), there’s little mention of the relationship growing stale. Instead we see lines such as: After 30 years, passion between them still smoldered. If there is mention of marital moldiness, it gets patched up and by the end of the book all’s well. But the reality is that in long-term relationships, it’s tough keeping it fresh.  Some scientists even say that we’re not by nature monogomous beings and that insistence on it means we’re fighting our true selves. Reality, they would argue, is different from most folks’ romantic ideals. Be that as it may, the idea of our committed partner having sex with someone else doesn’t sit well in western society minds. Cheaters are on par with lepers. But what if you’re not, technically, cheating? What if you and your partner have decided to give an open marriage a go?

Sex advice, relationship-columnist, and author Dan Savage has a lot to say on the topic. Savage can be provocative when he says that infidelity might save a relationship, but before deciding he’s nothing more than an affront to the institute of marriage, check out what he has to say.

For starters, Savage is for the most part an advocate of monogamy. He acknowledges the benefits and says it’s right for many couples. Yet with monogomy come drawbacks, such as “boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death, and being taken for granted.” To combat this, he says, we have to be honest about our needs and whether or not they’re being met. Couples must decide what being monogomous means for them. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Savage insists. What any relationship has to have is openness and honesty. If you’re considering an open marriage or open relationship, talk about what that looks like. Do you tell your partner about what you’re doing, or do you advocate for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach when you or your partner are getting some on the side. Are there boundaries? For example, can you do some things, such as oral sex, but not others, such as intercourse?

Ideas like this are in direct opposition to how most western sociey couples have come to view monogamy. All this talk of open marriage is nonsense, many would think. If there are troubles, you just need to work through them. But it’s this kind of viewpoint that itself, according to Savage, will lead to problems. The strict definition of monogamy can mean that someone’s needs aren’t going to get met and eventually it’ll lead to cheating. “Some people need more than one partner,” Savage writes, “just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them.”

Although not sure whether I’m totally down with Savage, I think he brings up interesting points and has clearly thought a lot about the topic. It’s certainly a shift in thinking to decide to be OK with your partner having sex with someone else. I’d like to see someone tackle that in a romance novel. I know it’s handled in “women’s fiction,” but I haven’t seen an open marriage couple in traditional h/h romances. Would it sell, or would it be scorned? What do you think?

To have an open marriage, or not to have an open marriage. Interesting question indeed. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And don’t forget to enter our Lady Smut Dark Desires giveaway.


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  • Post authorelfahearn

    My sister hangs out with a couple who have an open marriage and they’re fine with it. Depends on the emotional security of both partners, I would imagine.

    Reply to elfahearn
  • Post authorLiz Everly

    I’m fascinated by this topic. Intellectually, I can see it working for some people. But I imagine that, as Elf says, emotional security play a big part in the success of this kind of relationship. I have to say I’ve know a couple of folks into this. Neither was able to make it work, unfortunately.

    Reply to Liz Everly
    • Post authorElizabeth Shore

      I know OF a couple who’s doing it (friends of a friend). He says they’re doing great. i guess it’s a matter of different strokes. As Elf wisely points out, the emotional security of both parties is hugely important.

      Reply to Elizabeth Shore

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