I had an interesting debate with a coworker today about poly[amorous] relationships. He was recently burned by a woman who seems to have been a bit confused about whether she wanted to be with her boyfriend or not. But this girls’ confusion aside, there seems to be an idea that open relationships (which I will use interchangably with poly relationships) exist for the purpose of 1) allowing each partner to have a “replacement [SO]” in the case of long distance relationships, and 2) allowing people to be promiscious without care or boundaries.
Hmm. I disagree with those.
Our is a very pro-monogamous society, and advocating poly relationships as the moral equal of monogamous relationships is like biking up a steep hill in the rain on a road bike. People will nod through your opinion, then remind you of what a slut such-and-such a girl is. (Of course, you can’t really argue the point with anyone who is already throwing around terms like “slut”, because they’ve already passed judgment, most likely without even trying to see the other viewpoint.)
The idea that open relationships exist to allow each partner to have a replacement SO is something that probably does happen often enough that I don’t know that I can argue against that being a common case. Plenty of folks want to have their cake and eat it too, and have trouble letting go of relationships from home (in the context of going away to college, in particular). That’s not really the type of mature relationship I’m talking about, though.
The idea that poly relationships are solely for mad screwing with as many people as one can get one’s hands on is something I’d argue against. Most people in an open relationship will set up base rules with each other: don’t knock anyone up (or get knocked up), don’t get an STD, avoid being more than friends with a lover, let the SO know if you’re falling in or out of love, and most importantly, remember who you come home to. Like dancing with the one that brung ya.
I think (and I could be absolutely wrong here) that the idea of have lovers outside of your main relationship is to express physical interest and to express friendship. Sex does not equate to romantic love. It is often a part of a romantic relationship, but there’s no reason that friendship can’t express itself in a physical way. There’s also no reason why sex without emotional ties hurts a separate, emotional relationship. Who are you going home to? Who do you still love? Those are what’s important.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I think the key to all of this is communication and trust. Trust your partner not to do something stupid. Trust them to communicate if things change or get out of hand. It’s not for everyone, of course, but it’s not a perversion, either.