I’m (still) in an open and loving relationship

I’m (still) in an open and loving relationship January 28, 2018

Yesterday I posted about my decision to have children (including at least one adoptee) one day, which contradicted my previous plan to remain childfree for life. Aside from the massive amount of hate messages I received from incredibly judgmental antinatalists, the thing that stuck out most to me was how many people assumed that meant I was no longer polyamorous.

A number of people commented on my post, in which I explain why I decided I do want to have kids one day, saying I have abandoned the childfree community and gave up on polyamory after meeting my wife, Rachael. We decided to have kids because we have the means to do so responsibly, and because we feel like we would be great parents, but nothing has changed regarding our open marriage.

Photo taken on the Rim of the World in the San Bernardino Mountains
Love doesn’t always need monogamy.

Being Open About Open Relationships

I first posted publicly about my open relationship in 2015, when I was with a different partner. Holly and I are no longer together (although we remain friends), but many of the things I wrote back then still apply today.

A lot of people are more comfortable sweeping subjects like this under the rug. They think that, because we have always been told things are one way, that there are no other options. But studying other regions of the world will tell you that many things are cultural and not so black and white. In many cases, we are governed not by facts but by social lies: rules, codes of conduct, or ideas that guide how we behave but are based on self-deception.

For example, do you think the color pink is really a feminine color? Do you agree that other cultures might find it masculine or even gender neutral? The fact is that we are told pink is a “girl” color and that blue is for boys, but those perceptions come from marketing – not reality. It is now a powerful connection in our minds, but that doesn’t make it an objective truth.

“Cheating” is another social lie – this one formed as a result of our jealous nature. We are told our loved ones are our property, that we shouldn’t share them with anyone else, and that cheaters deserve the worst possible punishments. These ideas are reinforced by movies, television, and other media, and are attached to religious views and marriage vows. These pre-conceived notions of what it means to cheat have even caused millions of divorces and even murders. But I don’t “cheat” on my partner because I don’t think we have to use society’s definition. I think cheating should be defined by the participants of any specific relationship and be based on desires and comfort levels.

What Does Science Say?

I also talked about the scientific reasons that polyamory makes sense for primates like ourselves, and how it’s evolutionarily natural.

Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, recently pointed out that infidelity “lurks in your genes.” He noted that, while for some people one partner is perfectly fine, for others “sexual monogamy is an uphill battle against their own biology.”

“Sexual monogamy is distinctly unusual in nature: Humans are among the 3 to 5 percent of mammalian species that practice monogamy, along with the swift fox and beaver — but even in these species, infidelity has been commonly observed,” Professor Friedman wrote in a piece for the New York Times.

Noted relationship advice columnist Dan Savage has a similar view, also rooted in scientific understandings of human biology. He told astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in a recent interview that, “we are not naturally monogamous; it is a difficult struggle for us.”

“No primates with testicles our size are monogamous, sexually monogamous,” Savage said. “The truth is if you make a monogamous commitment to someone you love, you will still want to have sex with other people. You will refrain from it. It will be difficult.”

None of this science has changed, but, most importantly, my ethical position on freedom in a relationship hasn’t changed. For Rachael and me, it isn’t about polyamory or monogamy. It’s about honesty.

Rachael and I practice what I like to call ethical non-monogamy. We don’t put strict rules on each other’s behavior, but we do have a policy of being honest with each other. When you tell each other the truth about everything, other romantic relationships aren’t as much of a threat.

We Aren’t Each Other’s Boss

I don’t see Rachael as property, and I would never dream of telling her to do anything, let alone requiring her to love only me. This is not to say I have anything against people in monogamous relationships, if that’s truly what both parties want, but I don’t believe in forcing a lifestyle on anyone who doesn’t want it. Thankfully, Rachael feels the same way.

One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that what is right for some is not right for all with personal decisions. While this life works great for us in our marriage, it might not be right for others. I would never attack anyone for how they choose to love, and I hope you all show us that same courtesy.

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