Open Relationship Stories and Definitions
1% to 4% of the US couples have opted for open relationship. Yet when we tried to define the concept, we have found the description to be vague and blurred. There is nothing to rely on – no scientific studies, experiments or evidences. Few experts deal with couples practicing non-monogamous relationship in professional and science-based way. Thus it made us turn to books and open relationship stories – from Casanova to Esther Perel’s Mating In Captivity and Dr. Zhana Vranglova’s Are Open Relationships Right For You?
What does open relationship mean?
We think open relationship definition we’ve found in Wiki to be too prudent, polite and politically correct. As a result, it sounds rather equivocal: “interpersonal relationship in which the parties want to be together but agree to a form of non-monogamous relationship”.
We define open relationship as: a stable couple having intimate relationship and practicing non-monogamous relationship.
We use the “couple” because if it’s not a couple that makes the bedrock of it, they are either single dreamers that we speak about, or ready-made polyamorists.
“Stable” is there to distinguish them from any 2 persons who have just met in a bar and have other amorousness and relations.
And we have deleted “want, but” because if people want to live together but don’t actually do it they are not yet a couple.
A couple or not a couple?
The nuance of defining open relationship bumps against the notion of what are relationships and what are not. Some countries have the difference between the state residents and non-residents determined in their legal acts: the right of being called a resident is lifted when a person spends less than half a year within the state territory. We can apply the same to couples. Here are some stories of the couples who practice open relationships:
Jennifer and Arthur live together. This implies common household and ability to solve some issues jointly. For the instance, the question of who loads the dishwasher after dinner. Their rule says it is not the one who cooks.
Jennifer and Arthur have an apartment they don’t often stay at. It is used for dating with the third parties and occasionally needed privacy. The backup home is not an obstacle for their being called a couple, because it was a joint and desired decision. They are a couple sharing common ownership, common interests, common plans and desires.
Their friends Zoe and Andrew also call themselves a couple but they live separately – each each of them in one’s own house. The process of solving routine household problems used to impair their sexual relationships. Thus so far they are only dating.
It’s hard to define whether that of Zoe and Andrew is open relationship or not until they get closer for more than just a couple of hours per day. They are not a couple but two separate persons, each of them having their rules as to the number of love affairs and sexual partners. These are individual rules that account for personal interests only.
The difference between open relationships and swingers lifestyle or polyamory
Both swingers lifestyle and polyamory are of course a more open form of relationship if compared to monogamy. But they are all different when it gets to the level of emotional and intimate contacts beyond the couple.
Swingers set contacts with new couples to diversify their sexual interactions. The intensity of emotional bonds and knowing the details of new partners’ life are not as significant as the power of sexual desire for them. Here interests of the couple stand above the interests of one family member and prevail over those of people outside the couple.
As to polyamory, love is a constituent element of the term. Therefore in polyamory emotional bonds and deeper understanding of people are more important than sexual intercourses. The quality of emotional ties between partners is put above the interest of the community single member. A decision on a new partner, new relationships is taken by all family members, not a single person.
Couples in open relationships admit a partner may have both emotional and sexual relationships with a new person but the latter shall not become a member of the family and may never even meet the second partner. The interests of each partner are put on a par with the interests of the couple and obviously above those of the third parties - this is the principal difference between open relationships and polyamory.
Jennifer and Arthur have agreed they tell each other about their new crushes and sexual fantasies. Sometimes their infatuations remain platonic - when a third person would disagree playing supporting role once and forever. They don’t want to sacrifice their relationship with each other for the benefit of a new crush, since this was the groundwork rule of their open relationship decision.
Have we defined open relationship once and for all?
Definition and description of any type of relationships is rather abstract. Moreover, the term “open relationship” is rather tricky from the point of different languages and cultures’ nuances.
In one part of the world they apply open relationships to partners who only have sexual contacts with the third parties but are not open to new love affairs. In some other states we read open relationship stories describing partners who have sex with each other more often than with others. And they don’t even live together. While in other places open relationships are about partners who live together but have not yet had enough of playing around; and as soon as they do, they shall become monogamous.
So when one tells themselves to be in open relationships, the only thing we can be sure is that their couple goes beyond traditional monogamy.
And the way different kinds of alternative forms intertwine on the map of relationships realm can be learnt from our article Franklin Veaux’s Great Map Of Non-Monogamous Relationships