Despite marriage rates falling drastically within the last thirty years, monogamous relationships remain the norm in modern society. However, a new wave of sexually progressive individuals are choosing to reject the societal norms and instead opt for a more… liberal way of thinking.
Open relationships used to be something reserved for only the most permissive of people, but more couples are choosing to abandon the old way of monogamy and embrace polygamous living. In short, an open relationship involves individuals developing simultaneous romantic or sexual bonds with others, while maintaining their core relationship. According to some studies, open mindedness to relationship dynamics and sexual desires have led more people to break away from traditional boundaries.
In our culture, the most popular form of relationship is serial monogamy: a sexual exclusivity between a couple that, when the bond breaks down, allows the individuals to move onto new partners.
Yet, some anthropologists believe that non-monogamy has become more and more commonplace over the years. Relationship Counsellor and Sex Therapist Amanda Major says this progression says a lot. “This may explain why as a society we often aspire to be monogamous, putting fidelity on a pedestal,” she says, “but they are not always that good at it in practice”.
Rachel, a 24-year-old student from Edinburgh, and her girlfriend recently decided to go open. For her, “it’s not about finding another relationship but more about experiencing things with other people. I also have a bigger support network – just friends; but sometimes you sleep with one”.
Too much pressure was being placed on their relationship. She tells us that, “we each had high expectations on what our relationship should be like and this caused us to argue. At the same time, we didn’t want to break up so decided to stay together but casually be with other people”.
After much consideration, the couple devised a set of rules and boundaries about when they are allowed to get intimate with others. “We take it as it comes,” she says, “but we have laid out the basics. When we are out together, we stay together but when we are out alone, we can get with other people as long as we tell each other straight away”.
For many people this would lead to serious jealousy, but Rachel believes that you can’t be all encompassing with your relationship boundaries. “This depends entirely on the couple and people involved, but to deal with it, you have to communicate, considerate and compromise,” she says. “Creating a safe space to talk about it and not resent someone is crucial, because that’s a natural reaction. But for us, we are still in the process of getting there”.
Naturally every couple strives for a happy and successful relationship. For Rachel and her girlfriend, being non-monogamous has brought them closer together as they respect one another more.