Yes or no or maybe? This is a big question and most people will know which response they lean towards but its one that has recently intrigued me. The bombardment of cheating, failed relationships, divorce and the spill of angry Black women across my socials, has made me question if the alternative to their sadness is an open relationship.
Now, because this type of relationship maybe abstract to some, I will explain what the term 'open relationship, means. An 'open relationship' is a loving relationship between two people where they mutually agree to have romantic or sexual partners outside or alongside their relationship. The description of this type of relationship previously sounded like madness to me, lending itself more towards those who are open to non-heterosexual relationships or narcissistic men controlling several women to meet their own needs, but how wrong was I!
I have learnt my perspective of these relationships was based on one, the concept of cheating in a monogamous relationship, and therefore believing that only men gained. Two, that open relationships were for people who are open to all/any sexuality/gender and three this type of relationship can only be built on lust and not love, because we can only love one person at a time. A conversation with a friend made me realise this cannot be true, other wise how could I love all of my children at once. Although a different type of relationship, she had a point and so I explored this concept further.
Research indicates that one of the biggest stereotypes associated with open relationships is that the people in them are predatory, lust filled manipulators. Another misconception is they are falling in love with others, whereas most state they are only in love with their partner. Society also depict open relationships as failures, because of cheating, when the evidence suggests many more of them are negatively affected by how those in monogamous relationships, treat them. The majority of the world place their value, respect and love on monogamous relationships. Therefore, if you find out that your BFF is in an open relationship and wants to hangout with you and your man for the weekend you would be forgiven for considering her a possible treat, and assume she may try a ting?
The research goes further to show those in monogamous relationships are actually the ones lacking in confidence and whose relationships have cracks. These cracks are reduced in true open relationships as the agreement the couple make with each other, is the contract that keeps their relationship healthy.
Here are some terms I came across, when researching this topic:
The person they get with, must be outside of their circle, so no family, friends or co workers.
They must know when each other are hooking up with someone else.
Those outside of their relationship are not given detail about their personal intimacy and connection
If they decide to both be with the one person, this is mutually agreed
These all sound pretty reasonable right, and so this intrigued me further, as in my younger years I had been in an open marriage, only I just didn't know it was open, lol, don't feel too bad for me, God had a better plan! Jokes aside this got me thinking, who are these forward thinking, mature and satisfied people? So I went on a search and found in the Black community across the globe this isn't such a strange phenomenon.
Not to be confused with polygamy, but with similar principles, open relationships have become; for some; the end to being the side chick or needing to find a one night stand for that itch. Instead you are the partner who gets to enjoy others or you are one of the others who gets to enjoy a person or couple within an open relationship. Sounds like a cool deal, or is it?
There has been research done on the longevity and the principles of open relationships and although non I found, had drawn conclusions that they are successful, some did show that they were more desirable to those who were wanting to experience several partners but still have a consistent and meaningful relationship or for those that had experienced infidelity in monogamous relationships, and prior to that moment, they were otherwise comforting relationships.
The research also stated that the extent of mutual consent, comfort, and communication about sex and intimacy within the main relationship and the relationships with other people, would determine the strength of and commitment to the main relation remaining healthy. This sounds great, you and your beau talk openly about all aspects of physical and emotional sexual connection and attachment, surely this means you are putting value on these things, to protect them from being damage. Wouldn't this open dialogue strengthen other areas of your relationship too, creating the kind of respect most of us are looking for.
Further to this the experiences that are had outside of the main relationship would then only be fulfilling physical desires, some of which would be sexual acts and others opportunities to carry out hobbies that the main partner has no interest in. So no more need for fake headaches or fake orgasms or taking your partner to the open poetry night, when they can't stand them lol!
But what happens when the terms of your open relationship are not adhered to? My question is, are these consequences the same as in a monogamous relationship and now one of you is just a cheat? Well Twitter got to sharing the hate campaign for the Will and Jada marriage, a relationship that they had declared 'open', and yet they have had to sit around their 'red table', for the world to see, explaining how the pain of their entanglements have damaged them, and their marriage. This to me was just like infidelity in a monogamous relationship.
There are other relationships like Mo’Nique and her husband Sidney Hicks who are too in an open relationship. Many questioned if she was forced into that life to keep her man, but she says being on the road so much she could easily get into a little sumtin and so she suggested it! She didn't want to cheat, she wanted it to be an agreement, which seems to be working for them. Again this broke down the stereotype I held that this was a man's world.
When I discussed this with my girlfriends only one was open to having an open relationship and this was mainly because they all felt it was a licence to cheat. For or against, doing the research definitely removed some of my misconceptions and also my judgments of others. There are many Black people in monogamous relationships that are negative for a multitude of reasons but lets just stick to a basic reason, one or neither persons are happy. This same couple will throw a ten year anniversary party and we would all show up to celebrate. Another couple are happy in an open relationship, they throw a party and we are shunning them and hiding our men, lol.
To be fair to those in open relationships I understand the appeal but as a person who has only chosen to be in monogamous relationships, I know I personally would struggle to be with a man I could share everything with and then feel comfortable to share him with other women. This ladies, is the reason why I need to still grow, learn and gain confidence in myself and enjoy the peace of mind in my life that allows me to choose what's right for me, whilst respectfully knowing other's are choosing whats right for them differently. Don't just take my word for it check out Black girls talking open relationships and let us know your views!