Lately I have been giving some thought to the idea of dating. And, the more I think about it the more I realize that the dating world is a hell of a lot more complex than I imagined. Whatever happened to the simple “Boy Meets Girl” “First comes love, then comes marriage” ideal of yesteryear? So many different things happen in modern relationships and today I want to talk about a type of relationship that has been getting a lot of buzz in the media in the past few years — open relationships.
An open relationship is one in which both parties want to be together, but agree to being non-monogamous. This means that having a romantic or even intimate relationship with someone else is allowed. There are different varieties of open relationships:
1. Multi-partner relationships- this is where both partners could have an outside relationship.
2. Hybrid relationships- this is where one person can have an outside relationship while the other remains monagamous.
3. Swinging- this is where the partners engage in recreational sexual activities with other couples or individuals.
Who Is In An Open Relationship?
Many celebrities have come forward to admit that they have this type of relationship and that it works for them.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith
One couple in particular, though they don’t admit to being in an open relationship, provided the quote that launched a thousand blog posts. I’m talking, of course, about Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith. Initially, Will was quoted as saying “Our perspective is, you don’t avoid what’s natural and you’re going to be attracted to people. If it came down to it, then one would say to the other: ‘Look, I need to have sex with somebody. Now I’m not going to do it if you don’t approve of it.” Amidst all of the rumors that this mixed up, Jada responded saying “I’ve always told Will, you can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be OK.” Many people have taken this as confirmation that they are, indeed, in an open relationship.
Last month, however, she took to Facebook to release the following statement: “”Let me first say this, there are far more important things to talk about in regards to what is happening in the world than whether I have an open marriage or not. I am addressing this issue because a very important subject has been born from discussions about my statement that may be worthy of addressing.The statement I made in regard to, “Will can do whatever he wants,” has illuminated the need to discuss the relationship between trust and love and how they co-exist…Here is how I will change my statement…Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship…this means we have a GROWN one.”
So, it seems as though Jada may be laying these rumors to rest. However, there are other celebrities who openly admit to being in a polyamorous relationship (or at least being open to one).
Mo’Nique and Sidney Hicks
During an interview with Barbara Walters, Mo’Nique admitted that she and her husband, Sidney Hicks have an open marriage. She also revealed that she does not step outside of the relationship to pursue others. “Could Sid have sex outside of his marriage with me? Yes. That’s not a dealbreaker. That’s not something that would make us say, ‘Pack your things and let’s end the marriage.’ What if it’s 20 times? So what? We’ve been best friends for over 25 years, and we truly know who we are. Often times, people get into marriages and they don’t know who they’re laying next to. I’m very comfortable and secure with my husband.”
When Angelina Jolie admitted that she was open to being open, a media frenzy began. “I doubt that fidelity is absolutely essential for a relationship,” she said. “It’s worse to leave your partner and talk badly about him afterward. Neither Brad nor I have ever claimed that living together means to be chained together. We make sure that we never restrict each other.”
Though they have since separated, Tilda Swinton and her husband had an open marriage where they both had a partner outside of their relationship. “It may seem odd but it is certainly the best thing for the children. It’s not something I try to promote as a radical lifestyle choice. But it’s a situation I find very healthy. I can maintain my life with my children and their father and spend time with the man I’ve become very fond of. I am very fortunate there has been a lot of understanding by the men.
Before they finally got married, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel reportedly gave open relationships a shot in order to satisfy Justin’s “sexual needs”. An insider is quoted as saying that “Justin was very clear with Jessica that he didn’t want to be in a serious relationship with her anymore where he wasn’t able to date other people. Jessica took the news very hard, but once she calmed down and they started talking again, he convinced her to stay friends who hook up, without all the pressure of a relationship.”
This couple is one for whom the open marriage arrangement did not go so well. They allegedly had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which resulted in divorce. They have since gotten back together and have a daughter named Willow, but I think it’s safe to assume that the open-door policy has been heaved out the window.
Now this is a situation where the open relationship came about because the two of them wanted different things from their relationship. “She’d secretly hoped for an engagement ring within the next year or two” whereas he was determined to delay that trip down the aisle until he was 40. Considering they were both in their early 20’s, it is understandable that she would be “shocked and shattered”. That is when Vanessa recommended an open relationship. According to a source, Zac was “totally upset”. Although he was not ready to settle down at such a young age, he hated the idea of Vanessa being in another man’s arms. They have since split.
And celebrities aren’t the only ones engaging in open relationships. It is fairly prevalent in the rest of society as well, though it seems more widely practiced amongst certain groups than others. There’s even a website dedicated to polyamory that boasts nearly 80,000 members.
Why Do People Enter Open Relationships?
You might be wondering (like I did) why someone would agree to an open relationship. The reasons vary:
1. One or both partners may not feel as though all of their needs are being met, but they don’t want to end the relationship. An open relationship allows them to maintain their relationship while also filling that void.
2. One person may have a higher sex drive than the other.
3. One or both partners may want more freedom or more variety in their relationship.
4. It may be emotionally and/or sexually exciting for one or both partners.
5. It may stem purely from relationship issues (e.g. stress, sexual or emotional infidelity).
6. It may also be a solution for couple’s that are in a long-term, long distance relationship.
How Does It Work?
The way that an open relationship works depends on the couple. But it is apparent that to make one work you would have to have a certain level of trust and communication. Of course, this is a requisite for ANY successful relationship, but (for some reason) I feel like it is even more imperative in an open relationship. And perhaps, as a friend suggested, being in an open relationship removes any need to hide things from or lie to your partner since the things that would typically get you in trouble in a more traditional relationship (such as flirting, dating, or having sex with someone else) are permitted. It also involves having rules and boundaries for what is and is not acceptable (kissing, going on dates, sex, relationship, etc), time management (are certain days/hours/dates set aside for the couple to be together?), whether or not the couple has veto powers when it comes to the “outside” person), etc. Some couples may require that any “outside” activity be mentioned before it happens; others may require being notified if something does happen; still others may have a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy.
For so many to engage in open relationships, there must be some benefits.
1. Variety is the spice of life. Being in an open relationship could eliminate the stagnancy that can plague relationships.
2. It could bring a couple closer together. Open relationships could promote a higher level of communication and trust. And also help the couple to value what each other brings to the table.
3. Live out your fantasy. In an open relationship, you may be better able to live out your true desires without fear of consequences or judgment from your partner.
4. More options. If you are still young or in a long distance relationship, being in an open relationship gives you the opportunity to pursue a relationship you enjoy while still remaining open to something that may turn out to be better for you.
1. Juggling multiple relationships- I mean, honestly — it can be a challenge to maintain ONE relationship. Now you have two (or more) to make work? I can imagine that it would be difficult at times to make both people happy if you are being pulled in two different directions.
2. Emotional Spillover– When things are great in one relationship one of two things could happen. Your happiness could spill over into your other relationship. Or your other partner could become resentful. Stress in one relationship could cause also stress in the other.
3. Those pesky things called feelings. Jealousy. Fear. Anger. Feelings of inadequacy. Sadness. I can imagine that any and all of these emotions may occur in an open relationship. Maybe even all at once. You might feel comfortable with your partner’s sexual relationship with someone else but become jealous at their emotional attachment. Or perhaps you can overlook the emotional attachment, but become fearful that their intellectual connection may be enough to draw your lover away from you.
4. There are only so many hours in a day. I can imagine that having two relationships (as well as a job, kids, etc.) can take a huge toll on you physically and emotionally.
5. The possibility of loss — With open relationships it seems like you would always face the possibility of losing either your main partner or your “outside” partner. That’s doubly stressful.
6. Society’s finger pointing. Let’s face it — open relationships may be gaining in popularity, but they are certainly not the “norm”. If you make your relationship known to others, be prepared for possible judgments.
So, what do you guys think? Would you ever consider being in an open relationship? If not, why? If so, what appeals to you about it? Have you ever been in an open relationship? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to carry the conversation over to my fan page