Polygamy and open relationships throw up some thorny issues - are you in a strong enough couple to cope?
Is 'open' the new monogamy?
A recent poll of the sexual activity of European nations showed that Britons were the most likely to be unfaithful to their partners. Results showed eight out of 10 women and six out of 10 men admitting they had cheated on a long term partner. Yet the deceit and dishonesty that goes hand-in-hand with infidelity is still one of the biggest causes of heartbreak and failure within a relationship. So does the open relationship answer this age old dilemma, do they work in the long term and what are the benefits and drawbacks?
According Dr Robin Baker, a leading practitioner in the physiology of sexual behaviouralism, the biological reason we're unfaithful lies with our reproductive strategy. This is the method by which we assure we get the most opportunities to breed with the best possible partners.
A close study of the process of conception has shown that sperm are designed to engage in a battle with other sperm to conceive. And female physiology is designed to encourage this. This suggests that biologically we are not predisposed towards monogamy. It has also shown that, contrary to popular belief, men are not as inclined to sow their wild oats as women are to reap them.
Dr Ruth Norman, a behavioural psychologist with an interest in polygamy, has an unorthodox view on the subject. "Monogamous or polygamous behaviour is an intrinsic part of our sexuality in the same way that homosexuality or heterosexuality is. Some people are naturally inclined to polygamy in the same way that some people are naturally attracted to members of their own sex. It's just that society in general is prejudiced towards those sexual types."
Rosie Smith, who hosts workshops in polyamorous relationships', claims, "everyone is attracted to, or has sexual thoughts, about someone else when they're in a long term relationship. To suppress and deny those feelings is to suppress a huge part of our sexuality and psychoanalysis has shown how many problems arise out of our sexual repression.
"Many problems in our relationships can be traced back to this repression." But she adds: "open relationships require a degree of honesty and maturity for which most people aren't prepared by our current culture."
Jealousy or paranoia
Susan, whose last three relationships were open, elaborates: "The major fear in an open relationship is abandonment. If you allow other people to have sexual access to your partner you worry that they might steal him or her from you.
One thing that you don't initially allow for either is the element of competition. You can worry that your partner is getting the far better end of the deal going off every night with someone new while you're stuck at home with a Pot Noodle because you're less attractive. The amount of communication necessary to overcome these problems is greater than in a normal relationship and can be draining."
The issues surrounding polygamy are unresolved. Has modern life evolved to a level that's too complex for an open relationship to work, or do we simply not have the emotional strength to commit to one? But given that most of us are cheating and lying anyway, is the alternative any more palatable?
Written by Jaspre Bark
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