Is Being In an Open Relationship Really Cheating?

 an Exclusive by Olivia J. Scott for Woman to Woman


Few people would deny that there has been a shift in the way marriage and intimate relationships have evolved over the past few decades. Most observers agree that the traditional marriage is floundering. While some couples still manage to thrive, they are in the minority. Rising divorce rates, declining marriage rates, and the skyrocketing incidence of infidelity on the one hand, and sexless marriages on the other have many people concerned about their prospects for marital bliss and newly curious about alternatives.” (Deborah Anapol)

open relationshipIn recent times, there has been a paradigm shift in the thinking and approach to intimate relationships and love and more and more people are seeking out alternatives to monogamy. This paradigm shift is being fuelled by the belief amongst some that human beings are not naturally monogamous and are being given a burdensome task, especially in the case of marriage, to play the one man, one woman, ‘til death do us part, role. The strictures with which marriage is viewed in certain societies make it even more appalling to conceptualize extra-marital ‘connections.’ Some prefer to remain immersed in an illusion that people are capable of being monogamous throughout their lifetime.

I recently wrote an article Open Relationships How Far Will You Go to Save Your Marriage/in which I wrote about some couples using open relationships as a way of extending the life of their marriage. I first learned about open/polyamorous relationships after a colleague from university suggested it to me. That was eons ago. Ever since then, I researched the topic and have made some interesting findings.

Of course, open relationships are not confined to marriages or even heterosexual relationships. But when I speak of open relationship in this context, I mean between and amongst men and women.

This topic is not only taboo but controversial as well, and boy don’t I love a controversy! In fact, I stepped on some toes after publishing the article Open Relationships How Far Will You Go to Save Your Marriage/ and also with the airing of the audio version hosted by Woman to Woman Blog Talk capable host. Click HERE to listen.

So, the question is, when someone, or a couple wants to get involved in an open relationship, is this really their way of legitimizing the infidelity? Many people try to justify why they may cheat or have extra-marital affairs. Others wish to find a way to legitimize the affair(s).

Traditionally, a marriage is to be a monogamous union between man and woman. Polygamy and polyamory were, and still are, frowned upon, except in societies, like in Islamic cultures, where religion allows a man to have many wives. There, Polygamy, simply known as “cheating” in my day-to-day lexicon, is allowed.

Polyamory, in Greek means “many”, amory, in Latin, means “love.” Simply put, polyamory, an alternative to monogamy, is where the couple allows each other to establish love and or emotional bonds with other people. There is generally dual permission, but in some cases, one partner may unwillingly agree to polyamory, hoping to win back the affection of the other party. And believe it or not, open relationships of this nature are not done on a willy nilly basis. In fact,  these relationships are to be guided by a ‘code of ethics.’

Polyamory is perhaps best known in relation to the couple Morning Glory and Oberon Zell, a married couple who enjoyed both a “live-in triad” (an ongoing ménage a trios) and a six-person group marriage that lasted for many years.

In its purest form, this means no sexual intercourse or other kind of sexual intimacy is allowed. But in its secondary meaning, it connotes a practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships BUT with the consent of all parties concerned.

The idea of being able to love someone else is exciting and appealing to those who subscribe to these forms of relationships. Some may even argue that there is nothing wrong with this, even amongst married couples, because human beings are infallible, like variety and are capable of loving more than one person at the same time. Others are irked by this practice, many times because of morals and religious principles and teachings which forbid such interactions.

Deborah Anapol, Author, Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners, wrote: “One of the reasons polyamory is at once appealing and threatening is that it brings to the forefront our cultural confusion about the interface between sex and love. In my first book Love Without Limits, which was published in 1992, I used the term sexuallove to describe the integration of love and sex. However we all know that sex can take place independently of love (even when we are talking about romantic or erotic love) and vice versa. Furthermore, most people who ponder these things, discover that they’re not entirely sure what the distinguishing features are for either sex or love.” “

Anapol sees the idea of polyamory as a state of affairs (no pun intended) which is freely and consciously chosen and is a totally different affair from monogamy, which is demanded as a condition for love or enforced by legal codes, religious stricture, financial considerations or social pressure, has been put forth by a number of thoughtful individuals.

Sex is allowed

Permission to have sex in open relationship can further complicate a conventional persons’ view and belief system regarding the nature typical of relationships. For such persons, the fact of consent to have sexual rendezvous with others can in no way negate the fact that this practice is really cheating, permitted cheating. But “more and more people find themselves facing the discovery that lifelong monogamy is more of a mirage than a reality. At the same time, most experts on marriage, family, and sexuality, continue to write and speak as if all extramarital sex falls into the category of infidelity.” (Anapol)

Love but no Sex

Some couples may not agree to allowing each other to have sexual intimacy with third parties but would allow loving friendships to form. Whether this form of open relationship fails to meet the definition for cheating is debatable, because for some, emotional affairs are categorized as a form of infidelity.

Others may argue that since in almost every relationship, one or both parties is likely to cheat at some point, then it may be better to simply permit each other to be involved with and love others, but to do so in an honest and open manner. Honesty and open communication are key factors that sustain multiple partner relationships. Those who subscribe to these relationships see honesty and openness as creating and adding integrity to the process, as well as engender trust and confidence, which are compromised in cases of blatant infidelity.

Are Open Relationships Immoral?

As society changes, values and value systems change or at least are expected to.

Any valid discussion of morality in the realm of intimacy must address differing values over the centuries and also in different religious or spiritual groups.

In the Western world, many people believe that the Old Testament injunction against adultery automatically makes polyamory morally unacceptable because this assumption went unchallenged for centuries in the wake of the Inquisition and subsequent wave of witch burnings. Yet everyone knows that many of the Biblical patriarchs has multiple wives and/or concubines.” For example, Father Abraham, and King Solomon, were they committing adultery? It has been argued, rightly or wrongly so, that “the original intention of the commandment was to protect the property rights of men to their women, not to prohibit men or even unmarried women from having multiple partners.”(Anapol) Of course, this latter statement provokes another controversial issue, whether women are truly the “property” of men.

Right or wrong, moral or immoral, the classification perhaps lies squarely on the subjects involved in the open or polyamorus relationships. For many of us, the concepts of morality or immorality are determined based on our own conviction, positive or negative, about the particular act or conduct.

Nevertheless, based on the way things are going, in another couple of decades a large percentage of relationships are likely to evolve into open relationships. In the meantime, for monogamists and conventional relationship absolutists, open relationships equal infidelity.

Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

 Please LEAVE COMMENTS below

  • Is having an open relationship an immoral practice?
  • Is having an open relationships another way of justifying cheating?
  • Does the honesty and openness of polyamorous relationships operate to legitimize the relationship?

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