Open Relationship Myths
I’ve heard A LOT of misconceptions about open relationships. Here are some of the most common (and most frustrating).
Whether you want to open your relationship, are asking “Should I be in an open relationship?”, are dating someone in an open relationship or love someone who is… debunknig these myths will help you understand open and polyamorous relationships better (and maybe even consider if one might be right for you)
If you spent any time on dating or hookup apps, you’ve probably noticed that there are some people on there that are already in a relationship. On SCRUFF, you can even choose between open relationship or polyamorous. And it’s not just about hooking up. Poly people are finding love on Tinder, too.
Open relationship went from being a status that most people used as a joke on Facebook to an increasingly mainstream way to structure relationships.
Two different studies found that nearly one in five Americans have been in a consensually non-monogamous relationship at some point, and that number is even higher for LGBTQ people.
Whether you’re considering dating someone who’s already in a relationship, or your boyfriend wants to open up your relationship, or your son just told you that he’s bringing home two boyfriends to Christmas this year, you may have some ideas already about what it means to be open or polyamorous, and they may or may not be accurate.
I’ve been in an open slash polyamorous relationship for almost nine years now. I was the first polyamorous person that many of my friends knew, and I’ve been working with friends and clients to help them build and sustain healthy, fulfilling relationships for a few years now, which all means that I hear a lot of ideas about open relationships and the people in them. So let’s take a look at and break down some open relationship myths.
Myth: Guys in open relationships are afraid of commitment.
While monogamous people are obviously more committed to monogamy, they aren’t necessarily more committed to their partner. How many people do you know who have been in monogamous relationship, after monogamous relationship, after monogamous relationship, with partner, after partner, after partner?
The structure of your relationship does not translate to your level of commitment to your partner or to your partners.
I don’t wanna generalize and say that all open or polyamorous people are more committed than monogamous people, but we’re definitely not any less committed.
When you’re talking about or you’re navigating an open or polyamorous relationship, you have to be really clear about what your intentions are. Because you’re navigating multiple different relationships, talking about what you want, and being clear about what you want, and talking about what your partner wants out of the relationship, both now and in the future, is sort of baked into the structure of a healthy open or polyamorous relationship. So if there is a mismatch there, you might be more likely to figure that out ahead of time, rather than just assuming you’re on the same path as your partner.
Myth: Being in an open or polyamorous relationship means that you have to deal with more jealousy and insecurity. It’s just not worth it.
This is almost always the first thing that people say to me when the find out that I’m polyamorous, but I actually feel jealous or insecure less often now because my boyfriends and I talk about the structure of our relationship on the reg. I don’t have to worry, or wonder, or stress about whether he’s hooking up with someone else… I already know it!
I also know that my boyfriends are still committed to me as a person and to our relationship, and in those times where I do feel jealous or insecure, I’m able to express those feelings safely and in a way that isn’t judgmental, that doesn’t put the responsibility of fixing those feelings on my partner, but that we can collaborate together to find ways to make us all feel good and excited about what’s going on.
Which doesn’t mean that I always feel great.
I do, in fact, sometimes feel jealous or insecure, but it happens way less often and way less intensely than it used to be because it can just be something we talk about.
- Here’s a video about the false dichotomy between “good” and “bad” feelings
- And here are 7 tactics you can use to deal with uncomfortable feelings
Myth: Guys in open or polyamorous relationships are sluts.
Spoiler alert: Gay guys in open or polyamorous relationships are just as likely or not likely to be slutty as monogamous gays. Some of us are super sexual, and some of us would much prefer a good book or a good cuddle. Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, who are authors of The Ethical Slut, have this quip that I love,
Is there, we wonder, some virtue in being difficult?
I agree with that. But just because someone is open or polyamorous doesn’t mean that they wanna have sex, and it definitely doesn’t mean that they want to have sex with you.
I love having sex, and sometimes it feels good and exciting to be slutty, but I also know that we live nuanced and complex lives. I also spend a lot of time sleeping, and working, and cooking dinner, and going on hikes, and talking with my mom on the phone.
For many of us, just as for many single or monogamous folks, sex is a big and important part of our life. But it’s not the only thing about us.
Myth: In an open or polyamorous relationship, there’s always a “real” boyfriend.
Before I started dating my boyfriend, Matt, this didn’t even occur to me. I had just always assumed that, unless otherwise stated, all people in a polyamorous relationship were relatively equal. But after dating Matt for two years now, holy cow, can I tell you that even if poly people don’t make this distinction, other people might, and this is a myth that has got to go.
If a polyamorous person introduces you to his two boyfriends without any distinction in terms of level of commitment, then that’s just all that you need to know. Don’t make any assumptions about their future together, about moving in, or getting married, or having kids together, and don’t try and figure it out by being a detective and asking things like, but who lives together, or who’s been together for longer? We see what you’re doing and I don’t like it! It reminds me of when straight people try and figure out who the man and the woman is in a gay relationship. Just gross.
Myth: Polyamorous people are just cheaters.
Cheating is breaking a commitment that you’ve made with each other, and in any sort of ethically non-monogamous relationship, like an open relationship or polyamory, hooking up with other people or having a relationship with other people isn’t breaking any commitments. It’s just not the same thing as cheating.
And also… cheating can happen even within the context of an open or polyamorous relationship if one or more partners are breaking the commitments that they’ve made together.
If cheating or infidelity is part of your relationship history, I highly recommend The State of Affairs by Ester Perel.
Myth: Open relationships are less valid than monogamous ones.
This last one really hurts on a deep, emotional level because there are open and polyamorous relationships that I’ve had in my life have been the most deep, the most committed, and the most meaningful, and the most healthy relationships that I’ve ever had. And so when people think that they’re somehow less valid, it just sucks.
I remember, a few years ago, one of my friends, who has been with his husband just, like maybe a year longer than I’ve been with my boyfriend, Peter, was talking about sort of the length of their time together and how it had been such a long time, and I referenced that we had been together about the same amount of time. And he said, just off the cuff, “Yeah, but that’s not the same.” And it just hit me in the gut: what do you mean it’s not the same? We’re both committed to our partners. We were both building lives together. We’ve both been in a relationship for the same amount of time. Just because you’re monogamous and you’re legally married doesn’t mean that your relationship is better, or more meaningful, or more valid than mine.
Thankfully this friend quickly realized sort of the blunder that he had made and sort of the internalized polyphobia and has been able to work through that, but it sucks. And so look out for that, and certainly don’t do or say things that elevate monogamous relationships over the relationships that polyamorous people form because they’re really meaningful to us.
What about you? If you’re non-monogamous in some sort of way, what’s the most annoying myth you’ve ever heard? And if you are monogamous and genuinely want to know more about non-monogamy and you have an earnest question, go ahead and ask in the comments over on YouTube, or head on over to briangerald.com/hello and ask it to me directly and privately.