On The Ball: Conversation Stopper
Posted on 27 Feb 2020

Are you monogamous or in a consensual open relationship? Steve Ball contemplates a conversation-stopper of a question... 

I was at a party a few weeks ago when someone piped up, “So who here is in an open relationship?” An awkward silence fell upon the room. Eyebrows were raised but no one answered the question.

Even though most of the male gay couples l know are not monogamous, very few talk openly about it, even with their friends. This may be because although gay men have always engaged more often in consensual open relationships, society at large has consistently stigmatised them.

There are of course 50 shades of open relationships, ranging from an occasional drunken threesome on holiday to each partner having a regular playmate who provides emotional as well as sexual support. A 2005 study found that more than 40% of gay men had an agreement that sex outside the relationship was permissible, while less than five percent of heterosexual and lesbian couples reported the same.

There's been lots of research on the subject. One study by Quartz, a Berlin research group, surveyed 11,000 people from all over Europe and found that monogamous and married couples are significantly happier with their sex lives than those in open or polyamorous relationships. Eighty-two percent of people in monogamous relationships said they were satisfied with their sex lives, while only 71 percent of  people in open relationships felt the same.

But when it comes to having a happy and fulfilling relationship, sex isn't always everything. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that people in open relationships were generally much less jealous and significantly more trusting than their monogamous counterparts. This is maybe as a result of couples in open relationships having to negotiate specific rules and boundaries, resulting in better communication amongst non-monogamous couples than monogamous ones.

At the end of the day, we need to separate love and sex. They may be intertwined, but they aren’t the same thing. Love is about so much more than sex. It's about mutual care, respect, intimacy and friendship.
All relationships are different, but one thing is clear. Whether monogamous or open, honesty with our partners is probably the best policy.


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