What makes two people in a long-term loving relationship decide to let others in? For every couple, the reasons will be entirely different. For my ex-partner and myself, who explored the option of non-monogamy towards the end of our relationship, the reasons were varied. What I’m fascinated by is the amount of people I know and have encountered since then who are in, or have been in, open relationships. For some, it is definitely about sex – one-time encounters with strangers, fulfilling various hungers; for others it is about exploring a capacity for intimate relationships with more than one person. Here, I will examine non-monogamy as a concept, intertwining the personal, observational, and philosophical, with a consideration of social context. The umbrella term I use is ethical non-monogamy – ethical because there is agreement and communication; there is no deception. I will also mention the more specific concept of polyamory, where intimate connections and commitments are formed with more than one person at a time.
One line I related to in Lee Kofman’s memoir and exploration of non-monogamy The Dangerous Bride, which I read just after my ex and I had made our decision to be ‘open’, is this: ‘All I hoped for was bursts of excitement threaded throughout my life.’ But then, each burst has a morning after.