Updated: Feb 18
Many of us believe that falling in love is a very natural and spontaneous process, but what If I tell you we are just following a cultural script?
“Our love unfold against a cultural backdrop that creates a powerful sense of what is ‘normal’ in love; it subtly guides us as to where we should place our emotional emphases, it teaches us what to value, how to approach conflicts, what to get excited about, when to tolerate, and what we can be legitimately incensed by. “
History shows us that throughout the centuries, we expressed love, were in relationships, and interpreted our feelings in a variety of ways. Since around 1750, with the emergence of Romanticism, the history of love took a bold turn. Romanticism was an ideology in Europe that took over poetry, art, and philosophy in such a way that until today it dictates how we view and experience love. How?
Well, Romanticism is very hopeful about marriage. It consolidated an idea of a long-term marriage that is based on love and can prevail over a lifetime with the same excitement of falling in love. Over time, Romanticism united love and sex: sex became the ultimate expression of love. In a way, it enforced an idea of exclusivity, and adultery was made into a catastrophe.
But alternative ways to love have been emerging on pop culture, and with it, the questioning of whether this romantic monogamy fits us all. As a result, alternative relationship models are becoming more and more common within the younger generation. You have probably heard about open relationships or polyamory by now. Recent studies show that in the US, approximately 4 to 5% of adults have consensual nonmonogamous relationships.
For the most traditional thinkers, it can sound as excuses to be promiscuous. But the reality is that such alternative relationships can be just as respectful, loving, and healthy as the traditional one. So how exactly these models play out?
This form of relationships establishes the possibility for one or more parties to be sexually involved with people outside the relationship. What matters is: it is consensual and any sexual encounter outside the relationship is only about pleasure, not about intimacy and connection. The connection and love is exclusive to the partner. There are often rules involved that the couple decides in advance, such as who is off-boundaries (friend, colleagues, exes etc) or when can they do that.
Who are the people in these relationships?
Mostly young, college-educated middle-class people. In addition, males and LGBTQIA+ individuals are more likely to be in an open relationship. Most do not have children. People enter this type of relationship for a variety of reasons. Examples are a difference of sex drive or sexual preferences, the need for a challenge (some find jealousy very exciting), or the enjoyment of having a partner be desired by others.
It is a practice or desire of having more than one intimate relationship at a time. It involves the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Within polyamorous relationships, there are many possible forms:
- Hierarchical (with one partner as the “primary” one)
- Nonhierarchical (all partners have equal standing)
- One person having separate relationships
- Several people romantically engaged with each other
People who define themselves as polyamory do not necessarily always have more than one partner, but they are not confined to choosing another one when they fall in love with someone else.
Different than many think, polyamory is not necessarily about sex, but about meaningful connections with others. Others think that it is a way to cheat on a stable partner, but it is an ethical way to have relationships with more than one person as consent is key.
For people who choose polyamory relationships, good time management and great communication is very important to keep the relationships healthy. Expectations, needs, limits, and emotional check-ups are necessary in every step of the way. Jealousy is a common topic that should be discussed.
Who are the people in these relationships?
It is people who feel they have a natural inclination to be in love with more than one person at once. A lot of individuals have this feeling but stay in monogamous relationships because the idea of polyamory can be scary or too much to handle.
Whether you know people that have relationships such as these, or whether this is completely outside of your reality, it is important to remember to respect everyone’s choices when it comes to a consensual relationship! After all, love is love!
Hollander, Elaine K.; Howard M. Vollmer (1 September 1974). "Attitudes Toward "Open Marriage" Among College Students as Influenced by Place of Residence". Youth & Society. 6 (3): 3–21. doi:10.1177/0044118X7400600101
Levine, Ethan Czuy; Herbenick, Debby; Martinez, Omar; Fu, Tsung-Chieh; Dodge, Brian (July 2018). "Open Relationships, Nonconsensual Nonmonogamy, and Monogamy Among U.S. Adults: Findings from the 2012 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 47 (5): 1439–1450. doi:10.1007/s10508-018-1178-7
Rubin, Jennifer D., Amy C. Moors, Jes L. Matsick, Ali Ziegler, und Terri D. Conley. 2012. „On the Margins: Considering Diversity Among Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships“. Journal für Psychologie 22 (1). https://journal-fuer-psychologie.de/article/view/324.