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Alternative relationships

Yiwah
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Joined: Oct 12 2006

I wanted to start a topic about alternative relationships.  "Alternative to what?", you might ask, like Ellen Page in Whip It...

Well, the obvious alternatives would be alternatives to monogamy, but I don't think that even quite covers it.  How about, alternatives to monogamy AND alternatives to miserable monogamy?  Meaning, even in monogamous relationships, there can be alternatives to 'traditional' models in which enforced gender roles and lack of real communication lead to less than fulfilling romantic relationships. 

The idea is discussing relationships that are 'outside the rut'.  Be they open, polyamorous, swinging, monogamous, homo/bi/het, whatever.


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Yiwah
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Joined: Oct 12 2006

I was in a 'monogamous' het relationship for 10 years.  It was really awful.  I mean...I'm still discovering, two years after I ended it, just how awful it was.  It's not the fault of heterosexual monogamy, it was lack of trust, lack of communication, and a whole bunch of emotional abuse. 

I'm glad I got out.

Life wasn't always like that though.  My first relationship was with a woman, and that lasted on and off for about 7 years (we started young).  I first encountered the idea of an 'open' relationship in university, hanging around with the student activists.  I also discovered that it was quite often code for "my boyfriend wants to sleep with other women, and I love him so I'm agreeing, but he's too jealous to handle me sleeping with other guys so I'm not going to and I guess that's fair, isn't it?"

So I was jaded.  But then, I found myself in a poly relationship with a lesbian, a bi girl, and a straight guy.  It was sort of complicated...we weren't all into each other...the lesbian was only interested in the other bi girl and the bi girl and the straight guy were a primary couple, so I was sort of an 'addition' from time to time, never with the bi girl alone.  It was strange and awesome at the same time...there were jealousies but we always talked about them.  Everyone was clear.  Until feelings changed, and things changed with them.  But it was refreshing, because even when it got weird, it was openly weird.

I was never able to be sexually honest with my ex.  He was too jealous.  Even the idea of former lovers bothered him.  I never understood that.  At one point, he wanted to swing.  It was code.  I saw it.  Nu-uh.

Now I'm in an open relationship, but it's not code for anything, and it's got rules, which change when our feelings change, and it's honest and trusting and just about the best thing I've ever experienced in my life.  What amazes me the most about it is how simple it is... so much more simple than deceit and manipulation and unhappiness and frustration in my one serious monogamous relationship.  Again, not dissing monogamy here... I'm just dissing the kind of weirdness that can go on in a relationship when you can't really trust one another.

So that's where I'm coming from with this.


KenS
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Joined: Aug 6 2001

I was in a threesome for a while. It was trusting enough, and pretty much fulfilled all of our needs. But it was a lot of work. Too much for me eventually. And in dropping out and leaving them to be a couple- which they were OK with, I left the area, and probably had to.

I've yet to know couples that break away from monogamy openly, and find that it works for them such that they don't end either the primary relationship or the extracurriculars.

I thik that what probably works best in practice for most people, is monogamy, possibly with very occassional and short exceptions. And if the mongamous relationship doesnt work or stops working, you move on. But I suspect even thats just another ideal that in practice is no more attainable than the rest of the options. Because a very high proportion of people get stuck in a rut and dont move on anyway.

[Ruts of course have degrees themselves. Even ruts that dont hurt like yours must have are not great. But sometimes you can get out of the rut. At least out enough that you dont wonder all the time if this is doing anybody any good. But when you know you are in a rut, whats reasonable hope or expectation that you can get out or leave, and whats probaly going to end up being travelling along in the rut for god knows how long, too much of your life? And who knows that difference?]


KenS
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Joined: Aug 6 2001

Even with rules in an open relationship, and adaptability to adjusting to them, I would think you can never get away from the fear that one of you is going to unintentionally get into another relationship that pulls too hard and wont be left behind. Even if that happens to me, what will I feel about the cross-currents? And how am I going to feel if I'm not the primary relationship amy more? And what are the practicalities [especially, but not limited to kids]?

I really doubt thats the same as you dont really know how long any monogamous relationship will last either. [And that if you have kids together, you still dont really know.]


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

Yiwah wrote:

Again, not dissing monogamy here... I'm just dissing the kind of weirdness that can go on in a relationship when you can't really trust one another.

I agree.. I think the wierdness isn't necessarily a symptom of monogamy - because many people truly want tmonogamy and it is fine.

I think that because monogamy is the accepted model that people are supposed to fit into a lot of people don't ever talk about what works and what does not work - emotionally, sexually, and in terms of intimacy and personal space. Why else do so many people cheat, feel frustrated, or have secrets that they don't think they can share with their partners?

The only time I have been in anything like an open relationship was when a partner I was with wanted to have a relationship with another person as well. (edit) in retrospect I think it was a cowardly way of ditching me without coming right out and saying it.

I made what I thought was a free decision, but learned pretty quickly that it was not the right one. I am sure there are plenty of people who get into this sort of relationship under duress because that is their only option for having a relationship at all with the person they are attracted to. People often do not make decisions in their best interest when it comes to relationships.  Likewise there are people who twist their partners into accepting other lovers without any concern for feelings.

I do understand that that kind of unbalanced situation isn't a true alternative relationship. I do have friends who are in them and make it work, and I certainly have respect for those who can do so.

Of course, there are all kinds of variation. Some couples who play with others, together or separately, might not see it as an alternative at all, especially if they see themselves primarily as two people in a partnership.

Ultimately it all comes down to open communication, respect and trust, no matter what kind of relationship you are in.

 


Yiwah
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Joined: Oct 12 2006

KenS wrote:

Even with rules in an open relationship, and adaptability to adjusting to them, I would think you can never get away from the fear that one of you is going to unintentionally get into another relationship that pulls too hard and wont be left behind. Even if that happens to me, what will I feel about the cross-currents? And how am I going to feel if I'm not the primary relationship amy more? And what are the practicalities [especially, but not limited to kids]?

I really doubt thats the same as you dont really know how long any monogamous relationship will last either. [And that if you have kids together, you still dont really know.]

I'm not particularly worried about either of us ending up in relationships that pull us away from one another.  If I do have that worry from time to time, I talk about it, and vice versa.  That's probably the most refrshing aspect of this relationship...I can admit to my petty insecurities and jealousies when they arise, and simply talking about them helps to get over them.  I was never able to do that before, and little things built up and became big things.

If my lover really did find someone else and was happier with that person, it would hurt yes, and I would hate it, but I also wouldn't want to be with someone who doesn't want to be with me.  I deserve to be happy too, and I wouldn't be happy being in a relationship with someone who didn't really love me anymore. 

Getting out of a long term relationships (with kids!) pretty much conquered any fears I have about leaving relationships and 'starting over'.  We stay together because we like being together, not because we feel obligated to be together.

I also brought up the 'changing' aspect of my open relationship because I've seen other open relationships with rigid rules that were unrealistic.  Some people approach 'the rules' like a contract that can't be altered, and the parties feel bound to adhere to the rules even if makes them miserable.  No thanks!  If I'm feeling particularly vulnerable or insecure or whatever...yes, those are my issues and it's not really the fault of my partner, but nonetheless sometimes you can't conquer your feelings or rationalise them away, and sometimes you need to change the rules for a while.  I think that as long as we are clear on what's happening...that if we sometimes create double standards we recognise that this is what we're doing (instead of pretending it's something else)...that flexibility in the 'rules' makes it possible for us to continue communcating honestly with one another.


Yiwah
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Joined: Oct 12 2006

6079_Smith_W wrote:

 

I agree.. I think the wierdness isn't necessarily a symptom of monogamy - because many people truly want tmonogamy and it is fine.

I think that because monogamy is the accepted model that people are supposed to fit into a lot of people don't ever talk about what works and what does not work - emotionally, sexually, and in terms of intimacy and personal space. Why else do so many people cheat, feel frustrated, or have secrets that they don't think they can share with their partners?

No one ever taught me how to communicate...it's one of those things that gets taken for granted I think.  And communicating in a relationship?  Well isn't that intuitive?

Pshaw.  Not even!

When friends found out I was in an open relationship, I started having people, one by one, coming up to me and asking me how it works.  What they were really asking me was how we talk about these issues.  Most of them were in relationships where they'd started off with the 'intuitive' route and discovered that there were things they just avoided discussing...and now, really didn't know how to approach issues like 'how did we decide to be monogamous'?

I have no idea how to deal with that situation...I was not at all successful trying to overcome the initial assumptions of my 10 year relationship.  The foundation was already too crooked to fix.  When I started this relationship, we questioned those assumptions right away.  I think it's easier to build a new house than to renovate an old one.  Took me a long time to realise it though, and it's not the sort of advice I think people want to hear (and maybe they can succeed where I failed!). 

Still, of the successful monogamous,  open or poly relationships I've encountered, the beginning was similar in that those assumptions (monogamy or not, what roles do we play in the relationship, what expectations do we have of one another) were discussed before there WAS a relationship.  Those conversations have to be ongoing, I find, because how can you set the parameters of any relationship at the outset, and never revisit them?  How do you know what you want in  your relationship until you're actually experiencing it? 

 


Yiwah
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Joined: Oct 12 2006

Any thoughts today on this topic?


Catchfire
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Joined: Apr 16 2003

A Million First Dates

The positive aspects of online dating are clear: the Internet makes it easier for single people to meet other single people with whom they might be compatible, raising the bar for what they consider a good relationship. But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new? What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high? What if the prospect of finding an ever-more-compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability, in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track?

Of course, no one knows exactly how many partnerships are undermined by the allure of the Internet dating pool. But most of the online-dating-company executives I interviewed while writing my new book, Love in the Time of Algorithms, agreed with what research appears to suggest: the rise of online dating will mean an overall decrease in commitment.

“The future will see better relationships but more divorce,” predicts Dan Winchester, the founder of a free dating site based in the U.K. “The older you get as a man, the more experienced you get. You know what to do with women, how to treat them and talk to them. Add to that the effect of online dating.” He continued, “I often wonder whether matching you up with great people is getting so efficient, and the process so enjoyable, that marriage will become obsolete.”

“Historically,” says Greg Blatt, the CEO of Match.com’s parent company, “relationships have been billed as ‘hard’ because, historically, commitment has been the goal. You could say online dating is simply changing people’s ideas about whether commitment itself is a life value.” Mate scarcity also plays an important role in people’s relationship decisions. “Look, if I lived in Iowa, I’d be married with four children by now,” says Blatt, a 40‑something bachelor in Manhattan. “That’s just how it is.”

Horny men, desperate women, and hookup culture

Hookup culture isn’t necessarily ‘good’ for women, as JA Martino discussed in a post back in September, but neither is marriage necessarily ‘good’ for women. Marriage happens to be a place where women end up doing all sorts of free labour in the home, raising babies and doing an unequal amount of housework, and is also a place where domestic abuse happens. If women are marrying later in life (or not marrying at all), maybe that’s actually a good thing.

If we put aside the assumption that marriage is either a ‘good’ thing or something we necessarily want in life (which we most certainly should do), then what is the big fear? That women will end up alone? Which happens anyway? When half of us get divorced in our 40s?

Meh. Find something else to worry about, Wente. The less women are inclined to build their lives around finding a man to marry them, the better. The less women feel they have to depend on a man for their happiness, the less likely we are to end up trapped in unequal or abusive relationships. The less pressure women feel to find a man to marry them before it’s ‘too late’, the less likely they are to settle for someone who may well be a douchebag. And the longer we wait to settle down into monogamy for the long-haul (if we indeed choose to), the more likely it is that we will choose someone we are actually compatible with.

Is feminism incompatible with monogamy? Talking feminism and polyamory [podcast]

Some question whether monogamy is a patriarchal invention that mainly benefits men and functions as a mechanism of control. In response, some people practice non-monogamy as an alternative. But is non-monogamy necessarily 'more' feminist? Is monogamy necessarily contradictory to feminist ideals? Well, it's not as simple as all that.

In this episode, your host, Meghan Murphy speaks with Meg Barker, senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University, a sex and relationship therapist, and the author of Rewriting the Rules: An Integrative Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships about some of the reasons people might enter into non-monogamous relationships as well as some of the challenges they might face. Later on the show we hear from Katie, an undergraduate student in her late twenties, who shares her experiences navigating a non-monogamous relationship as a feminist.

Both of the last two items are by rabble.ca's excellent Feminist Current blogger interim podcast editor, Meghan Murphy


lagatta
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Joined: Apr 17 2002

Though a lot of feminists of my boomer cohort were very, very burnt by "smashing monogamy". The very thought is wearing.

One can also have a monogamous relationship with separate abodes, but that also consumes more resources.

I'm not remotely interested in polyamory, but of course think people are free to do what they want. Recent news events have shown that even the rather monumentous changes in the family here in Québec (one of the highest percentages of non-married couples in the world, even longterm couples producing and raising children, first jurisdiction in NA to outlaw discrimination against gay people, dramatic fall in church attendance and fertility rates etc (the latter have recovered somewhat) don't solve all the problems, in particular the greater poverty levels for single-parent households, usually led by women...

 


Maysie
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Joined: Apr 21 2005

Fucking While Feminist.

Quote:
  . . Here is what’s depressing about dating while feminist. Feminism is what I do with my life, it's how I spend my days, it's my job, it's not just an opinion I have among many other opinions. If I had a hardcore litmus test, the pool of men I could date would be so tiny. And then when you weeded out men who are gay, the men I don't find attractive, the men already in monogamous, committed relationships—really, I would never get laid again.  

Laughing


Ghislaine
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Joined: Feb 15 2008

Catchfire wrote:

Is feminism incompatible with monogamy? Talking feminism and polyamory [podcast]

Some question whether monogamy is a patriarchal invention that mainly benefits men and functions as a mechanism of control. In response, some people practice non-monogamy as an alternative. But is non-monogamy necessarily 'more' feminist? Is monogamy necessarily contradictory to feminist ideals? Well, it's not as simple as all that.

 

I tend to take the opposite view - that it is monogomy that is more inherently feminist, while the opposite serves the patriarchy (ie a large pool of women ready to give no-strings-attached sex and the easy ability for men to treat them like sex objects and not a whole person worth relating to on more than a sexual level). I understand that there are people out there practicing open relationships and polyamory in a feminist or non-sexist way. But, I think there comes a tipping point where the pool of men willing to commit or believe in monogamy becomes increasingly tiny. Women who may want commitment may feel forced to accomodate an arrangement they do not desire or feel comfortable with. Especially with the threat of being totally left for someone younger, prettier, etc. 

We are the ones who give birth and have the huge bodily commitment involved in that. There is a span of time where sex is medically and physically not a good idea (Usually at least 6 weeks after child birth).  I want a man who can deal with this, commit to me and understand that he is going to have these periods of required no sex  - especially during a time when he is most needed in my life in every other way and I am feeling most vulnerable to feeling unloved, ugly, fat, post partum depression, etc. The thought of being in a poly or open relationship during this time - where he just goes and sleeps with someone else just overwhelms me. 

 I have single girl friends in their 30s who feel that there is not one man out there online or in the real world with any interest at all in family or commitment. They are looking for monogomous commitment (most not even willing to hope for marriage anymore). I was looking for commitment sexually and emotionally and feel extremely lucky to have found it. I am not trying to speak for others and I completely believe consensual adults have the right to engage in whatever form of relationship they choose (I am back and forth on the legalization of polygamy, although I think it is inevitable), however it needs to be acknowledged that more men than women are going to benefit from these arrangements. 


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

Quote:

“Andy,” she said, “I'm going in a few minutes to a place that's about an hour away from here and I probably won't be coming back for quite some time.”

Andy seemed to understand the situation immediately. Miss Goering sat back and waited while he pressed his palms tighter and tighter to his temples. Finally he looked up at her.

“You,” he said, “as a decent human being, cannot do this to me.”

“Well I'm afraid I can, Andy. I have my own star to follow, you know.”

“But do you know,” said Andy, 'how beautiful and delicate a man's heart is when he is happy for the first time? It is like the thin ice that has imprisoned those beautiful young plants that are released when the ice thaws.”

“You have read that in some poem,” said Miss Goering.

... “If you refuse,” said Andy, “I'll disgrace you, I'll crawl out into the street. I'll put you to shame.”

“I really have no sense of shame,” said Miss Goering, “and I think your own sense of shame is terribly exaggerated, besides being a terrific sap on your energies. Now I must go, Andy. Please get up.”

... "Lunatic!" Andy yelled at her from his knees. "You're not even a Christian!"

from Two Serious Ladies, Jane Bowles 1943

I thought a brief selection from that very funny book might be a propos.

Matters of trust, respect and committment are completely distinct from how and with whom you feel comfortable in a relationship.

Aside from the fact that there is no one type of relationship that is going to work perfectly for everyone in every situation, I don't think we can even know what is right for ourselves until we run into it, because it really is more to do with the person/s, isn't it.

Of course for many/most of us that's going to be monogamy, or some form of it. And of course when you have children there is an entirely different level of committment.

But I think there is a lot of damage done in this world by people thinking they have to fit themselves into a certain box, suppress who they are, and more importantly, be afraid to be upfront and honest about that. All that comes from that is secrets and broken trusts and frustration.

Not to say that one doesn't need to work and compromise in a relationship, but part of that is being honest with yourself and others. 


Catchfire
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Joined: Apr 16 2003

What a fantastic quote, Winston!


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

It is. There's equally great stuff in that scene that I left out. It's a hilarious book. It is unfortunate that she didn't publish as much as her husband did.

As it happens, their relationship was one that some would consider alternative.

 


ryanw
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Joined: May 24 2012

conventional romanticism prizes spontaneity

they would have said they didn't have it, if you had felt it was important to ask when you met

is asking about kids the only question people know of?


MegB
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Joined: Nov 28 2001

I'd say "mating for life" now counts as an alternative relationship, since contemporary committed relationships - poly or otherwise - are so transitory. Certainly the relative ease of divorce, the more varied socially acceptable forms of committed relationships and the fact that we live longer are contributing factors, which leads me to believe that most of us aren't adapted to life-long single partner monogamy.


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

Rebecca, I was just going to say - does a happy monogamous marriage count as an "alternative relationship" since it doesn't happen all that often?  Sorry, I'll take my cynical butt out of here now.  Reading with interest, though!


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