Thursday, July 17, 2008
A New Kettle Of Relationship Fish
A month or so ago, I published an article on WomenBloom on polyamory. For those of you as in the dark as I was about this concept, it is basically having intimate or ‘romantic’relationships that are open, with the full consent of all concerned, to other sexually intimate relationships.
BTW, we’re not talking swinging here. ‘Polys’ as they call themselves, are about relationships, not just sex. They believe no one person can fill an individual’s emotional, intellectual, and physical needs and so, why can’t you love more than one person concurrently? Yep, if you’re not sure whether you feel like spending time and your bed tonight with Pierce Brosnan or George Clooney, you don’t have to choose. Well, maybe you have to choose for one night (or maybe not!), but you don’t have to limit yourself. And, George and Pierce are fine with that.
I admit it blew my mind when a friend told me that she was involved in one of these relationships. I couldn’t quite get my head around it. It seemed like a crazy idea. So, I did what any snoopy and curious nerd like me does when confronted with a mind bender like that, I researched.
Long story short, what I came to see is that, while certainly not for everyone, I do believe it is a viable alternative for some. And, it stretched my own ideas of what relationships can be although I’m still a good ole monogamist.
Last night I went to a book discussion led by my friend Karen Kreps who writes True Intimacies for The Good Life Magazine. Jenny Block, who was there, is a successful writer and a bi-sexual woman who has written a book called Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage. She and her husband of many years have had other relationships while married. And, they are still happily married, despite that Jenny also has a girlfriend she’s been seeing for almost 2 years. Out of the 45 or so people there at the discussion, a good 70 percent identified themselves as polys AND most of those were well into midlife.
This past year, I’ve had a housemate who is lesbian so I’ve gotten to know that community pretty well. Suddenly that experience and listening to all these poly folks last night crystallized something for me that’s been cooking. And that is, it’s REALLY hard to put human behavior around sexuality and relationships in a neat little box. Our behavior is so diverse and what works for people so varied that it seems more and more unrealistic to me to say that traditional, ‘cleave unto no other’, monogamous marriage is the standard. We like to pretend it is, but let me tell you when you get out there and start listening to lots of people, it just isn’t.
We talked last night about how ‘cheating’ is more accepted in our society than open relationships. The stats on cheating are high, peeps. Most experts guess it’s 40 to 60% of people in supposedly committed relationships have strayed. And yet, people in the group noted that folks often say the equivalent of “If you’re cheating, at least have the decency not to tell your boyfriend/husband/whatever”. Hmm, so cheating and lying is better than being honest about what is going on. As someone wisely pointed out, “well, being honest about open relationships is challenging The Rules, cheating and lying help preserve the status quo so it’s less threatening in some ways.”
I’m not sure if I’m just getting a skewed view or not, but I do know it seems as though there is a lot of redefining going on with regard to relationships. With women more financially independent, we have more options. Which means we can focus on how our relationships meet our emotional needs rather than having to have them meet our economic needs.
How people get their emotional needs met is a WHOLE other kettle of fish....what is y’all’s experience with how relationships are shifting? Or, are they from your perspective?