Why Open Relationships CAN Work

by Lucas Witherspoon

If you know anything about me, you know I’m an impassioned supporter of open relationships, particularly in the case of gay relationships. I was reading an article recently that proposed the following argument:

You would assume that what you have is enough to make it work, but when you feel like you need more than what you have, it borders problems. You and your partner risk the trouble of falling in love with someone else, having chemistry he might prefer over yours, or risk putting the whole relationship out to dry.

While I can’t say much for the grammatical astuteness of the argument (maybe English is their second language?), you get the gist of it.

Here’s the thing: people in open relationships are not in those types of consociations because they feel unfulfilled in their primary relationship, they’re typically doing so purely for purposes of practicality.

One has to understand that the term ‘monogamy’ can be broken down into both social and sexual monogamy, with social monogamy, what I usually refer to as ’emotional monogamy’, meaning you are socially connected to someone–like a husband, wife, spouse, life partner, etc.–and sexual monogamy pertaining to the person(s) you are having carnal relationships with. These relationships are not circumferential, they are entirely divergent. An overwhelming majority of the world’s species are non-monogamous, more prominently sexually non-monogamous, but unfortunately, because we do live in a feudalistic society, we’ve been engrained with the belief that they are one in the same, making it difficult for most average people to differentiate between the two.

Aside from the psychological aspect of monogamy, there is also a chemical aspect. Many neurochemical factors–oxytocin, opioids, stress hormones, and dopamine, among others–affect a variety of social behaviors, monogamy being non-exempt. Without getting too heavily scientific, based on the most current research, a combination of neurochemical conditions and genetics bequeath the reality that, though social monogamy may be attainable, sexual monogamy often times proves to be quixotic.

By and large, the longer the span of time we’re with our social partner, the less sexual we become, which is what usually causes us to act on our innate sexual sensibilities, or “cheat.” The predominant worry seems to be that if someone is sexually non-monogamous, somehow they’re going to become socially non-monogamous as well. But just as we have a neurochemical disposition to be sexually non-monogamous, we have certain biological determinants that leave us with the desire to subsequently continue to be socially monogamous (corticoliberin, for example).

From a personal perspective, I knew going into my first two relationships that I was absolutely not equipped to remain sexually monogamous, and, with guidelines regarding safe sex outside of the relationship set, was upfront about it. In both instances, the lack of sexual monogamy bolstered our relationship as a whole, both sexually and socially. Definitely sexually. Then, just for the hell of it, I decided to give a relationship where I was both socially and sexually monogamous a go as my own sort of social experiment on myself. I’m here to tell you that I can firmly and undoubtedly say that I am absolutely not outfitted for sexual monogamy. It essentially cemented what I already knew: a person can be socially and sexually monogamous, but it’s not empirical. It’s the same concept as “ex-gay” therapy. Almost all “ex-gays” will tell you they still have homosexual desires, thoughts, and tendencies, they just don’t act on them, which is an unnatural suppression of an inherent biological factor they deem to be factitious. Ironic, isn’t it? The same holds true for sexual monogamy.

Pragmatically speaking, not everyone is going to understand the concept of open relationships, because people don’t always want to accept logic. That’s why things like religion exist. With that being said, it’s incomprehensibly doltish to assume that someone acting on congenital psychological and biological antecedents is doing so because they’re unhappy with their partner or they hanker to be promiscuous.