Statistics are great aren’t they? Especially when trying to convince someone else of the ‘rightness’ of your position. But in the final analysis most of them can be interpreted to support both sides of an argument. Nevertheless in the debate over monogamy versus non-monogamy, some statistics bear out a strong inclination.
It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage. And these numbers are probably on the conservative side, when you consider that close to half of all marriages end in divorce. [Infidelity Statistics]
Whilst some may argue that morality is an absolute, most agree that when comparing different norms and cultures, much of what we consider to be ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ can be subjective. When it comes to infidelity however, there’s not many who think it the ‘right’ thing to do.
But when passing a judgement on infidelity, most pass a judgement not only on the act of sexual intercourse and/or emotional involvement with more than one, but also on the act of betrayal, the pain, and the deceit of the existing partner. It’s ‘wrong’ because it creates a painful dynamic and goes against the agreement between two parties. But in open relationships this umbrella judgement simply isn’t applicable. If you are to judge at all, then the judgement must solely be made on the fact that one person has loving and/or sexual relations with several with full knowledge and consent of the other party(ies) involved.
Polyamorists claim that the interaction can actually generate joy for all partners, as they see their partner become deliriously happy (for those who can’t imagine it, think about the second-hand joy you experience when you see your child laughing and happy with others and you can approximate what is called ‘compersion’). Love is fundamental to our happiness. And those of us in polyamorous relationships know that loving more… can generate more love. That means more happiness.
Connection is an overarching label for many of our fundamental needs and humans perform any number of actions to get those needs met. With so many fundamental needs out there, it seems truly odd that we require one person to satisfy so many of them. In fact requiring the fulfilment of all your emotional, spiritual, sexual, mental and intimacy needs by one person is an extremely heavy burden; one even might almost go as far as to say it is oppressive.
In a lighter analogy, if you adore Indian food and your partner does not, the most sensible thing to do is eat occasionally with a friend who also shares your passion. But Indian food isn’t a fundamental need, it’s simply a desire for more spice(!). And yet no one in their right minds would prevent their partner from fulfilling this simple desire even though the sacrifice of this desire would probably be negligible. And yet many people do ask those they love to sacrifice a fundamental need. Something that hurts a great deal more.
Proponents of monogamy will say that it’s a choice – a sacrifice for the greater good to attain an important (often holy) ideal. Those in open relationships say that by definition, sacrificing a fundamental need is detrimental to the self. It is therefore not a choice but a suppression. Others will say that they have no need for more than one. Those in open relationships say that monogamy is so ingrained in our culture that most who think they have no need for more than one are probably in denial. So in this murky area of right and wrong… who is right and who is wrong?
The best open relationships create a nurturing and honest situation where needs can be fulfilled from different sources. Some open relationship configurations mean that there is one ‘main domestic relationship’ and other more polyamorous ones build networks of loving relationships in parallel. Some people pick one need to be open about (say, sexual expression might be satisfied by swinging) whilst others like emotional intimacy, are reserved for those relationships where most time is spent. Because the great thing about open relationships is that conducting one necessitates, among other things, an honest and shameless examination of your own fundamental needs and an awareness of the strategy/action you perform in order to get them met. And let’s say your fundamental needs are already met by your current relationship interactions – including monogamous arrangements – then there is no need to be open in practice as long as you have been truly open in your evaluation. An open relationship means the permission to know and accept oneself …and be accepted by your partners.
In fact the most successful relationships are those where we can respect and love one another as we truly are. That means loving enough to allow each other to explore the fulfilment of our fundamental need of connection. It is for me, the ultimate and only way to truly love… and that’s why open relationships are great.