Welcome To My Open Marriage

Sex At Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Caclida Jetha.

Sex At Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Caclida Jetha.

A friend invited me into his open marriage.

Well, me and a bunch of our other female friends. Plus other women I don’t know.

I declined but he’s persistant. It’s a personality trait of his.

He sent a link quoting Christopher Ryan, author of “Sex at Dawn,” who said,

We assume monogamy is natural and preferable. But (controversial) evidence says “maybe not.” If monogamy isn’t necessarily natural, then we can stop shaming and discriminating against non-monogamous behavior.

I’ve spent so much time responding to my friend’s repeated entreaties that I decided to turn my latest response into a blog post — since writing it cut into a good portion of my blogging time. Maybe I’ll just send this link the next time he sends me one.

I’m for monogamy or non-monogamy, depending on the person

I don’t think my non-monogamous friends should be shamed. I want us all to be who we authentically are. But no need to shame people who aren’t into open marriage or polyamory, etc. as “prude” either.

Non-monogamy is natural. Or not.

Dr. Ryan suggests non-monogamy is natural, so we should all join in.

Except that it only MAY be, he admits.

Humans began living mostly monogamously much sooner than once believed, says a University of Tennessee study. That benefited children because their fathers put more resources into them, their brains grew bigger, and were more likely to survive. And polygamy does not seem to have been common during any part of the human experience.

An appetite for non-monogamy depends on the person

Whether you prefer a lifetime commitment to one person who you are strongly bonded to, enjoy long-term polyamorous relationships, or revel in hook up culture, I believe it should be different strokes for different folks. No one bending to what works for others.



A number of studies suggest that around three-quarters of both men and women prefer relationship sex to hookup sex. In his exploration of male sexuality Dr. Andrew Smiler found that,

In any given year, as many as twenty percent of young men – about one guy in five – might be living a player lifestyle. But only about five percent, or one guy in twenty, does it for three years straight.

Instead, most guys are romantic. They want to date their sex partners, and they want emotional connection, he says.

I posed this question on my blog:

Which would you choose: a loving and profound lifelong relationship? Or a series of short but intense romantic bonds?

Most said they preferred a loving lifetime relationship. As did commenters on the Psychology Today post which had inspired my question.

That’s not a scientific survey. But it is how most people live.

People think everyone else is like them

It’s common to think that everyone else is the way you are. My friend and Dr. Ryan want open marriages so they assume everyone else does, too. We’re just too afraid to take the step, or something.

Yet nothing about open marriage sounds even slightly appealing to me. It sounds like making a lot of effort for no reason.

But if open marriage works for you, then please, be someone else’s guest.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 19, 2016, in psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. I am a christian, and “Open marriage” is the word I first heard, and I was very surprised by the meaning. It totally changed the defination that I gives to the word “marriage”. Marriage is a promise, is a loyaty based on love. How can open marriage happend? I admit that everyone else is the way you are. Some people would like such a lifestyle that they allowed their partner free to pursue their own social and sexual lives. But if this lifestyle built under the holy title– marriage, to me it seems not necessary, and it’s hard to get on a virtuous circle road. Because I can’t imagine that my husband or boyfriend have sex with other people, I must feel jealousy and betray. I wonder how can they adjusting such emotion if they really love each other. I don’t mean to blame on such kind of life, but uncomfortable when it related with marriage.

  2. I think open relationships can work but only if both parties agree upon it. I feel like many open relationships are mostly controlled by men and the women do not get the same experience out of it. Also, in some countries like Turkey, where being gay or lesbian is not socially acceptable, a gay man and a lesbian woman will get marry and then have an open relationship. I think this is very smart because they can do what they want to do without getting hazed. I also would not want to be in an open relationship but if works for some people then more to them.

  3. It seems to me that the idea of dating multiple people seems to be growing in popularity. I recently heard from a friend about something called ‘Situation-ships’; from my understanding this a friendship that is more than a friendship but without a label or ties to each other basically like friends with benefits. My point is people seem to be wanting to explore their options a lot more these days. In my opinion open relationships can’t be too healthy. I feel it is humane nature to feel jealous and a little possessive about the things or people you want/ care for. I feel like in an open marriage somewhere along the line ( it might take years ) someones going to get hurt. Feeling like someone belongs to you but knowing you can’t really have them all to yourself can really mess with someones mental/ emotional health. However, if people want to live their lives that way then by all means do what you will.

    • I think that more people are experimenting because there is less stigma now. At the same time someone who researched open marriage found that very few people could pull it off for the very reason you cite: jealousy.

  4. In the culture that I’ve grown up in I’ve seen and heard both sides of the story. Been a women i wonder what the numbers are like for those of s playing the hook up game. Is the number less for women because of the idea of slut shaming or is it equal and women are not as upfront about it? With numbers so high for men why don’t we call the sluts? Men may want to settle down but for those who want open marriages is it because they are looking for comfort and security with the ability to satisfy their sexual cravings?

    • The dynamics behind hooking up and open marriage are both different and similar. Some people are more polygamous and like both. Other people want to have some variety until they settle down, But once they settle down they feel jealousy and don’t want an open marriage.

      Asked to your other question, men are more likely to exaggerate the number of women they have slept with and women are more likely to under estimate the number of men they have slept with when answering these questions. If you tell them them you are hooking them up to a lie detector men and women give the same answer on partner number.

  5. I come from a very traditional family where we were all raised to believe that open marriages are “wrong,” one only gets one partner for life after marriage. I know I’m young but the way I was raised, I wouldn’t be able to agree or want an open marriage, because I think it would just make me insecure and uncomfortable. Open marriages might not be “accepted” based on my families values but I understand that we all have different values and ideal. Just because their values don’t match mine doesn’t justify for me to judge anyone. Many are afraid of the idea of others believing your ideals are wrong because then people begin to question their own ideals. Whether we agree or not on open marriages, who are we to judge?

  6. I was intrigued with this post because I feel as though open relationships are still very controversial today. In my generation monogamy is still accepted and wanted from a lot of women and men. But, there is also a rising number of people who just want to have one night stands and not a committed relationship. Both options are okay in my opinion, but I wouldn’t mind trying an open relationship. I believe it is natural to find other women/men attractive when you are in a relationship with someone else. But it is how you act on those feelings that separate you from monogamy and non-monogamy. I have been in an on and off committed relationship for two years. The times where we were off, I ventured out and tried meeting new people. I ended up having a few sexual encounters, but I knew I missed the romantic part to the physical. So, overall, I think the idea of an open relationship is great, but not everyone will be able to handle the emotions that come with or lack thereof.

    • Different strokes for different folks. Thanks for adding your voice to this.

      It seems that about one quarter of both women and men are more constituted for open marriage. Hopefully people who are more monogamous will find each other and people who are more polyamorous will find each other.

  7. I met my husband when I was 19. I had just moved to California and we had started working together. We worked in the restaurant industry, which is basically a big almost incestuous pool of close friends all hooking up at one point or another. We had a friend, whose name I won’t actually use, so let’s call him George. George had an open relationship…Now I’m from the Midwest and grew up in a smallish area in a conservative household, in a Christian church. This was really my first encounter with anything non-monogamous. However, at any hint of discomfort with the situation, I sort of felt shamed and small minded. Here I was this young sheltered woman, in front of this educated older guy (about 8 years older than I was) who was telling me how unnatural monogamy was. I felt so small minded, but so confused at the same time. I knew, for me, I could not live the same lifestyle but was very interested at how so many other people he knew could. I agree wholeheartedly with this blog. Different strokes for different folks is 100% my belief as well. I understand that people think that monogamy is so unnatural, but I also think that jealousy is a very natural and human emotion. As humans we become very territorial, self-conscious at times, possessive, insecure etc, do those emotions disappear or go dormant in the people who practice open-relationships? Are open-relationships somehow easier if you’re both open, or if one partner is getting more “action” than the other. It’s a very interesting topic and I think that each person deals with it differently and may tailor their verbal opinions and recollections based on who they are talking to or the point they are trying to convey.

  8. I think your friend is a very very “progressive thinker”. I am 100 % sure one day s/he will graduate to “open driving” – no lanes, no speed limit , no red lights and finally …..INCEST !!

    • Well, there most certainly should be limits.

      Sex must be between consenting adults, so that no harm is caused.

      With incest for instance, only the abuser has freedom. The child’s freedom is completely blocked and the child is harmed. That is completely wrong and should not happen!

  9. very encouraged by your stance on open marriage! It doesn’t appeal to me either and I would feel offended if someone asked me to join their open marriage! I’m not sure why we would be considered prudes by those who don’t mind sleeping around. This is the kind of life I have chosen – I’m not insisting they do the same as me!

    • It’s interesting how hard it can be to understand people who are different from you. Even on this issue I find myself wondering if he’s really into the sex or maybe it’s an ego thing — feeling able to get a lot of women. Because it’s hard for me to relate to. But I don’t bug him about it. Another friend of mine is into polyamory. He doesn’t bug me though. He just falls in love with more than one person and it works for him. And his wife is okay with it — having experimented a bit with the herself, she lost interest.

  10. I prefer a stable and long term relation any day. Heard about open marriage today from this blog.

    • Not only does my friend’s proposal sound uninteresting to me personally, but I think the reality of an open marriage would also drive me crazy — in terms of my husband being with others. In another post I wrote: Psychiatrist, Judith Lipton, who co-authored “The Myth of Monogamy” believes that monogamy is difficult to attain. At the same time she doesn’t think open marriage is the best answer for most. “Who can tolerate it?” she asks, “I have not met many people who can.” To which I say: if you can do it, fine, but please stop bugging me about it. Really, it feels like a fly constantly buzzing around me that I want to swat. I mean SWAT! BAM! GONE :)… ah, that feels better.

  11. Which would you choose: a loving and profound lifelong relationship? Or a series of short but intense romantic bonds?”

    But you see, it’s one or the other. The only answer for me would be both ha. The latter first and then the former after.

  12. happyfreeconfusedlonelyatthesametime

    It’s annoying how people can’t accept others being different from themselves

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