What About This Open Relationship Thing?
You say Mo’Nique & Sidney Hicks in open relationship? What is all the hubbub? C’mon, this is nothing new. People have been stepping out of traditional monogamy and exploring alternative relationship models since the beginning of time. Since the 60’s and “Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice,” these ideas have been more out in the open than ever. There have been oodles of books and there has been a groundswell of ever-so-slightly underground movements delving into sexual and relationship modalities in every direction.
In the West, we have been powerfully programmed since birth to believe that the tradition of monogamous marriage is the ONLY way to do a proper relationship. They even quote scripture (even though there is a lot of non-monogamy in the bible – just read)! But does our sacred tradition of monogamy really work? The statistics on successful monogamous relationships doesn’t seem to say so. But, many argue, monogamy has worked for thousands of years? Has it really?
For many people it does. There are marriages that last. There are people for whom monogamy fits perfectly. You may be one of them. And yet, we know, there are people for whom it does not. There have been books written about them; “The Peter Pan Syndrome” is one of them, which assumes there is something wrong with anyone who does not ascribe to the traditional idea of wanting to settle down with one other for life. Is this accurate? At one time, I might’ve agreed, but today, as a student of relationship, with a little more maturity, I don’t think so.
Let’s take a little tour of the history of monogamy to understand it all a little better. When our culture was more focused on a tribal, wandering lifestyle, parenting was more of a communal effort. While there was some bond pairing, sexual interaction was not so structured, and people viewed their sexuality much differently. It was a celebration and a way to relax and open to the bounty of their connection to God/Goddess. The act of sexual communion was sacred, the genitals were revered as sacred objects, and the union of these was considered to bring them closer to the Divine.
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As the power of the most powerful men grew with land ownership, and they realized that they couldn’t take it with them when they died, it became more important for men to be able to pass on this ownership to “keep it in the family.” Thus, it became more important to “know” who their children were. And the only way to know that was to control women’s sexuality, so that the children could be relied upon to be from the progeny of the male landowner. These partnerships, or marriages were more about economics and politics than about love, as we see it today. And I can promise you; the women did not fare well, for the most part. Now mind you, the men never originally desired to be monogamous with the women they married, and that concept is still an undercurrent in our traditions today.
The idea of partnered relationships based on love is a very recent phenomenon as illustrated in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This idea of romantic love has subsequently created new realms of thought and philosophy around the monogamous paradigm, that has certainly enhanced the quality of relationship in modern culture and altered many of our expectations. Nowadays, in relating, it is popular to explore how to keep the passion alive and deepen the quality of intimacy. However, the question remains, how well is the monogamous paradigm serving us?
How many soap operas have you seen that explore this idea of fidelitous betrayal? How many good marriages have you seen destroyed, because one or the other partner has “strayed?” How much pain do you see around you as a result of people who are unable to maintain whatever degree of fidelity demanded by their partners (depending on the degree of insecurity/jealousy of their partners)? In most relationships, the partner who has the least amount of interest determines the amount of sex in the partners share. How many couples do you know where one of the partners has shut down in that area for one reason or another? In polls, how high is the percentage of extra-marital/extra-partner sex happening? The only real difference in these numbers has occurred with the advent of the pill, so that now, more women are added to the statistical data.
Sexual expression is not just about making babies. It is a powerful drive that not only helps partners to bond, but is essential for our physical/emotional/mental well being. I applaud those who take a more realistic view about what is really going on in our culture in the sexual arena. Whether a couple chooses to align with the monogamous paradigm or not, I love that in this era, we can be more honest about our true nature in relationship. For those who require monogamy, go for it. For those that are not so sure that they can, be honest about it and find partners who can work with that. There are plenty out there nowadays. There is monogamy, open relationship, polyamory, and polygamy, just to name a few.
If you are considering stepping out of the monogamous paradigm in our culture, as you may have noticed by all the media bru-ha-ha, although the public is becoming more generally aware of other options, it is still not comfortable for many and may be difficult, at first, to connect with others of like mind. I strongly suggest that you can look these various modalities up on the Internet and find a community that can introduce, support and advise you on your journey of exploration. There are people who have been doing this a while and have already experienced pitfalls that with their guidance, you may bee able to avoid. Many of these ideas are new and even though there are guidelines, once you are “out of the traditional box,” it will be more about discovering what truly works for you, rather than attempting to fit into another “box.” It is time to claim your adulthood and write your own life script and question what is, instead of just following the rules like sheep.
We are in exciting times. In so many areas, we are ripe for change. And yet, as we change, we encounter new challenges. These new paradigms for relationshipg require greater maturity, greater skills in communication and relating. The more people in relationship, the more people’s feelings one needs to consider, and therefore, the more complexity you will experience. Therefore, whether you elect to step out of the box in relationship or not, I strongly recommend that for more successful relationships, that you educate yourself, learn some skills, enhance your awareness and sensitivity in relating so that as you explore better quality interactions, you are armed with abilities that will enhance your enjoyment and success. After all, don’t we all just want more love in our lives? The idea that we can open our hearts to more than one person is as old as the idea of families and friends. I love that we are getting so much more real about it!
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