Oh, open relationship, you big can of worms. Are you for me?
Will you be like Pandora’s Box — a pretty but disastrous temptation — or like a Christmas present that wasn’t asked for but was truly valued after it’d been opened?
The worry expressed in these questions isn’t uncommon. Virtually every male couple I know has an open relationship (although, I’ll admit, in several cases only half of the pair is aware of it).
The ongoing rules and maintenance of these relationships are made more difficult by the fact that open relationships are generally either unrecognized or dismissed in our culture. The quest for useful role models or wise guidance, in short, is onerous.
Or it was, at least.
Dedicated to “every person who has the courage to live and love outside the box,” queer sex icon Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up: A Guide of Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships (Cleis $19) is fascinating — even if monogamy is your preferred style.
After a rousing introduction that emphasizes the reality of declining marriage and monogamy rates, Taormino offers up three sections: “Choosing an Open Relationship,” “Styles of Open Relationships,” and (the lengthiest section) “Creating and Sustaining Your Relationships.”
In “Choosing” she provides plentiful food for thought, including a history of polyamory, an extensive list of myths about nonmonogamy, and a guided self-evaluation that’ll help a reader discover whether open is the thing for them.
Surveying a range of possibilities — including “partnered nonmonogamy, “polyfidelity,” “solo polyamory,” “swinging,” and “mono/poly combinations” — the information contained in “Styles” gives readers further options if they decide that they’re open to the idea of an open relationship.
The final segment is a bit intimidating simply because of its thoroughness — the topics range from jealousy, resentment and relationship contract negotiation to time management, child rearing and property ownership. There are so many facets to take into account!
These topics are sobering, yes, but essential considerations.
Taormino’s mother must have taught her daughter to look both ways before crossing the street because while Opening Up celebrates the huge potential of nonmonogamy, it really aims to have all would-be converts understand that there’s more — much more — to a functional open relationship than having a new body to play with.