Open/Group Relationships

I recently lent a copy of Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” to a friend and it got me thinking of the open relationships in the book. Is this really a possibility in today’s society? While I would normally never even consider this IRL, it was so idealized in the book that it really appealed to me. Obviously being secure with one’s self would be a big issue in this instance. Try to be open-minded folks, I’m not interested in stock Christian answers. What do you think?

“Teaching without words and work without doing are understood by very few.”
-Tao Te Ching

It’s very possible. It’s all how you view sex.

Some people view it as something to be shared with a special person once they found that special person.

Others view it as something that feels good, so do it, and hopefully they’re safe about it.

I broke up with a swinger cwhen I got involved with Heather because, even though Heather would probably have never found out, I didn’t like it personally.

Whereas my swinger friend (though she totally understood when I told her I had to stop “seeing” her) views sex a little differently, as does her hubby, so it works for them.

Ultimately, if someone is making their relationship work, I refuse to tell them to stop something if it’s not an issue. To each their own…

Yer pal,

Quite frankly, I don’t think it works that well at all. Studies have shown that ‘open marriages’ are much more likely to fail than normal monogamous marriages. Sex is a highly emotional experience for most people, and having sex with several partners can really screw up the ole’ emotions. It might work fine when the relationship is rock-solid, but see what happens to your marriage when you and the wife are going through a rocky spot and the two of you are still going out and screwing other people.

There is a book, ‘Open Marriage’ from the early 70’s I think it was. I read some of it.

People have the concept that ‘open’ meant having sex with anyone, but that is NOT the concept of the book.

FYI,Actually Democritus there is a group of people dedicated to this life style. They are based in Colorado and are called, Polyamory (sp?). They have a magazine and meetings.

The creation of a new consciousness is only created when using natural means by two parties. To me this means that the act of sex even when for recreation should be an act between two members of the opposite sex and there should be strictures to surround such a profound act. This may sound Christian but the view I am holding to is a philosophic one. Aristotelian.

For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes.

Well, Handy… The suspense is killing us! What was the idea of the book? Marriage where you’re real open about stuff?

Nothing I write about any person or group should be applied to a larger group.

  • Boris Badenov

Logically, it should work. After all, we don’t own each other. We’re not pieces of property that can only be leased or purchased by one person. We don’t limit ourselves to just one close friend, or one family member.

Except, it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me. I’ve also never met anyone for whom an open relationship actually works.

Here’s my theory: Relationships require an enormous amount of care and feeding to keep healthy. Intimate sexual relationships even moreso. We are finite creatures with only so much energy and so many resources to work with. When we expend those resources in pursuing other relationships, we do so to the detriment of our primary one. After all, even finding a partner for casual sex takes a little time and effort.

Also, open relationships leave a huge door open for escape. It’s easy to duck out on the hard, confrontational work that makes a relationship healthier when you have another warm bed to go to than when you have a committed, monogamous relationship.

The only open relationships I’ve seen - and I was in one myself - weren’t very honest. Usually, one partner wasn’t very interested in it being open, but tolerated it so the other partner could be happy. The other partner was using the open relationship primarily as an excuse to get laid without all the upkeep a healthy relationship requires.

But, that’s just me. Your mileage may vary.

Will work for sig line.

Well to be quite honest with all of you. I dont wish to be with anyone other than my husband. We have been married 13 years and he is the only one I have ever been with. Yes I have been attracted to other men but never have I ever wanted any thing more. An open marriage thing would not work for me because I would be incredibly jealous and if I did make myself be with someone else, i would hate the fact that he needed someone else besides me.

There was a recent Discovery Channel show about the different kinds of possible sexual relationships available to a species, and why we humans seemed to have gravitated towards monogamy (or at least serial monogamy).

In this show, they did mention the “love communes” that sprang up during the 1960s, in which no one was supposed to be sexually “committed” to anyone else and was free to have sex with anyone they pleased. Now I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the show’s statements, but one of the commentators (some lady with a Ph.D.) said that all of these free-love communes failed, because their members inevitably pair-bonded into couples. These coupled members had sex with others a lot more rarely, and when one of them did, his/her regular partner would become jealous.

We humans seem to be hard-wired to “settle down” with one exclusive mate by our mid-20s.

Quick-N-Dirty Aviation: Trading altitude for airspeed since 1992.

OK, first of all, many of these replies seem to focus on sex, and that was not my intention when I said “open relationships”. Sex is only part of the equation. I am talking about a group of people who love each other. I realize that sex is often the most dangerous and disatsterous part because of the jealousy it creates, but I’m interested in the whole picture.

Handy, do share what you remember from the book, as this is what I am interested in. i.e. more than the sex.

Phaedrus ok, here we go:

Huh? Nice alliteration, but what, exactly are you trying to say?

Please tell me how this is an Aristotleian view? First: If you are talking about Aristotle’s “instrumental ends” I don’t think that is what he had in mind. Second: From what I have read and understand, there were many young boys at the Lyceum whom Aristotle “favored”. Third: Phaedrus, Aristotle is just the kind of person I would think you’d look to for answers, since he uses the “knife”(and I know you know what knife I mean) to dissect things smaller and smaller until they have absolutely no meaning at all.
Oh, and P.S.:It is a Christian view.

Phouka Thank you, this was exactly the kind of discussion I was interested in. The “ideal” as opposed to the “actual” and the problems associated with it.

“Teaching without words and work without doing are understood by very few.”
-Tao Te Ching

Firstly, Democritus, the view Phaedrus exposed is not in any way Aristotelian. I’m sure he’ll disagree with that, but that’s not my problem.

I believe that plural relationships can work. Sex is certainly something to be dealt with, but sex is just sex–it’s the emotions associated with sex that can be a problem.

Any relationship needs rules. A group marriage needs different rules, and they need to be followed. Mature adults should be able to discuss any jealousies or other issues before they become a problem.

I think the trick to establishing a group or plural marriage would be to determine what everyone wants and where the problems would arise before anything is formalized (or consummated). That way some ground rules can be established and folks can enter the relationship with their eyes open.

Two big rules that would be required:

  1. No pressure. If someone’s feeling uncomfortable in any way, everything halts until the problem is resolved. If that entails a complete overhaul of the relationship, so be it.

  2. Communication is of vital importance. Moreover, mature communication is required. The participants must be willing to discuss emotions (eeek!) and relationship issues (eeek again!) frankly and lovingly.

People should be able to share love and resources (plural marriages save major bucks) with whomever they choose as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in so doing.

So, to the OP:
Possible, yes. Likely, hell no. Not very many people can exhibit that kind of maturity in a monogamous heterosexual relationship. Fewer still can make a plural relationnship work. Maybe when we’re a little less hung up as a society we’ll see more nontraditional marriages.


There is a regular poster to this very MB who is in an open relationship, but unless that person decides to post here, I will not say who it is. Suffice to say this person is also in a successful, happy marriage and they are raising a child.

“Come on, Phonics Monkey–drum!”

I don’t know if we are hard-wired for monogamous marriages or not - the ‘studies’ of the love communes is not terribly relevant because all those people were a product of western (maybe I should say Christian) culture. Even most people who are not christian are still heavily influenced as children by a society that is mostly monogamous and mostly christian. There is definite anecdotal evidence of successful sexual relationships between more than two people - so I think its pretty reasonable to assume it is possible for at least a few people.

andros, one of my major concerns in the issue would be, as you said, society’s hang-ups or taboos with this type of relationship. The pressure put on the individuals from this alone would be quite significant and detrimental to the success of said relationship. Unfortunately, the only real examples of this kind of thing “working” have been the stereotypical “open for sex” type. Whereas I would be more interested in a mutually beneficial relationship; almost a community, on a much smaller scale.

“Teaching without words and work without doing are understood by very few.”
-Tao Te Ching

There was another study in Britain where they took 50 happily married couples, and asked them to abstain from sex for several months. They tracked the development of their relationships over that period of time, and in almost every single case the relationships deteriorated somewhat. The conclusion was that sex in a committed relationship brings love and tolerance, whereas celibate relationships devolve into ‘roommate’-type relationships where people start fighting over the tiny details.

This has nothing to do with polygamy, but does indicate that sex changes our relationships in complex ways.

tracer, yes, there have been ‘sexually open’ communes. Some [I wont say which] would have a schedule on who you sleep with each night. They are less common these days due to Aids, etc.

As for the many questions about Open Marriage:
Nena O’Neill, who with her husband George wrote the classic book,
“Open Marriage” is still a close —and I have learned
much about this issue from her through the years. I recommend their
book for anyone interested in understanding more about this issue. (By
the way, most people completely missed the O’Neill’s point in their
book. They were only saying that sexually open marriage might be
possible for some couples who had already evolved an open relationship
IN ALL OTHER WAYS. The public took their term “open marriage”
and interpreted it as “SEXUALLY open marriage” when the sexual
aspect was a very small part of the overall kind of open marriage they
were suggesting MIGHT be possible for a FEW enlightened couples.)

     I've known couples involved in sexually open marriages, but I've
     known only a few who were able to sustain it over a long period of
     time. Unfortunately, neither long-term monogamy nor long-term
     sexually open marriages are either easy or prevalent. Most people
     "profess" monogamy, but deceptively have affairs in secrecy. So THIS
     is the issue we've dedicated ourselves to understanding.......

Democritus: What I meant by referring to “the creation” was that the only way that humans come into existence is by sex between the two different genders. I am not referring to artificial insemination, but as Aristotle would say, “the natural way.”

Your idea about Aristotle’s instrumental ends and mine may differ. What do you think he meant by the concept?

Aristotle’s views were Christianized by Aquinas that is true, but if I remember correctly Aristotle came before Aquinas just a tad.

Thank you for bringing up the fact that you know that I know about “the knife.” Yes, I know about it. I also know when it is appropriate to use it and when it is not. Something Robert Pirsig did not know.

Aristotle when read properly showed many times that he knew how to use the knife correctly, Pirsig misunderstood him. Something he even alludes to in the book.


For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes.

Dhanson: can you find a link to that 50 person study somewhere? I’d really like to see it.


Open marriage? Hell, my marriage is so closed we don’t even have sex with each other.

(I have been SO waiting for the perfect time to use that…)

“…all the prettiest girls live in Des Moines…”
–Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Phaedrus, ok, if we’re going to do this, let’s start from the begining:

Why not refer to artificial insemination? Does a human concieved under these means
not have a soul or something? Why seperate the two? And where exactly has Aristotle said that that is “the natural way”?

Why? It is obviously not self-evident. I’d appreciate a little more explanation of the “Aristotleian” view that this is supposed to emulate. Do you indeed consider this an instumental end? BTW, my understanding of an instrumental end is an act that is done as a means for another end. This being said, if it is, how would recreational sex, between two people(any gender and under no strictures)conradict the ultimate end of happiness? I haven’t seen Aristotle define procreation as the ultimate end, have you?

If you consider 1500 years a tad…

To clarify, the pre-electric shock therapy Pirsig did not know when it was appropriate, but he never misunderstood Aristotle. A more accurate account is that he was biased against him. And Phaedrus, if you knew when it was appropriate to use the knife, "The earth is flat, I read in the paper… " thread could have been reduced by about 7 pages. If Aristotle knew, most of his works could have been halved.

Chris, heheh, I’m so sorry, anything I can do? :wink:

“Teaching without words and work without doing are understood by very few.”
-Tao Te Ching