- Jessica Klein
- BBC Worklife
Dedeker Winston has been in non-monogamous relationships for over a decade, but I’ve never seen more interest in open relationships than I do now. This topic has traditionally been a big taboo in many places, including the United States, where you live.
In 2014, when he launched his podcast multi-colors She and her co-producers had to decide whether to use their real names on the show about non-monogamous relationships.
“At the time, there were only one or two podcasts that really addressed this topic,” says Winston, who is a relationship counselor. “And the people who produced and hosted that podcast used pseudonyms.”
But things have changed. Around 2016, Winston noticed an “explosion of interest in non-monogamous relationships.” That was about a year after she started working as a consultant specializing in this type of relationship.
“That’s when I noticed the biggest change. Suddenly a lot of people on the internet were ready to talk about non-monogamous relationships, and express their interest in this kind of thing.”
Sarah Levinson, a psychologist specializing in sexuality and relationship dynamics in Creative Psychology Psychotherapy in New York, USA, has also noticed an increase in interest in open relationships over the past decade. “It was unknown 10 years ago,” she says. “Now it’s incredibly common.”
These reports and some data show a growing interest in non-monoharmonic relationships, including open ones. Experts say that many social and cultural factors have led to the increased adoption of non-traditional relationship patterns and that the pandemic may also be influencing this process.
But while interest in open relationships may be growing, experts are divided over what their true scope is — at least, for now.
Free passes and exchanges
For Levinson, there are many forms of non-monogamous relationships. “It can range from living with multiple partners and sharing expenses to offering a relationship ‘free pass’ once a year when your partner is traveling, for example, to a professional event in another state.”
Open relationships are a type of non-monogamous relationship, but many people tend to distinguish them from other types, such as polygamy.
Polyamory often means having several serious relationships at the same time. On the other hand, open relationships are often associated with people who have a major partner but may have other informal, mainly sexual, relationships with other people.
In other words, open relationships are less focused on emotional connections with people outside the primary relationship, but more on sexual connections.
For some people, this means going out on casual dates and having unfettered relationships with people other than their main partners. For others, an open relationship just means occasional “free passes” for a one-night stand or a quick sexual outing. For others, the deal seems to involve more exchanges – like having sex with other couples as a couple, but not dating separately.
Winston also includes among open relationships “prefer not knowing” couples, in which each spouse allows the other to have sex with other people – but they simply do not want to discuss these experiences with each other.
Other terms, such as “monogamish,” promoted by American Sex and Relationships columnist Dan Savage several years ago, may contain definitions that match some of these three forms of open relationships. Savage discussed his semi-monogamous relationship in his podcast — partners are committed to each other but still have unfettered sex with other people.
People of all types are open to open relationships. Over the past few years, Levinson says, he’s seen “a lot of diversity” among people who are in open relationships in his sessions — both in terms of social class and in terms of race, gender, and sexual orientation. But she admits that her sampling is different from what can be found in other, more conservative parts of the United States, as a psychiatrist working in New York (a very progressive city).
Among Winston’s client base (podcast listeners and visitors to his website), many people who are interested in or involved in open relationships tend to be relatively young, between the ages of 25 and 45.
Many identify as gay, bisexual and/or heterosexual. But in her work, she has served clients who are interested or in open relationships between the ages of 19 and 70.
“People knocking on my door cover the whole spectrum,” she says.
Dating app trends are helping highlight the growing interest in open relationships.
On the one hand, there has been the emergence of platforms specifically focused on non-monogamy, including open relationships, to address the growing curiosity. But even traditional dating apps like OkCupid have seen a sharp rise in interest in open relationships.
An OkCupid representative told the BBC: “While the majority of OkCupid respondents are looking for monogamous relationships, the number of users searching for non-monogamous relationships increased by 7% in 2021.”
Among the more than 1 million OkCupid users in the UK who answered the question “Would you consider being in an open relationship?” , 31% answered “yes” in 2022, up from 29% in 2021 and 26% in 2020.
Data from 2022 from dating app Hinge also showed that one in five Hinge users would “consider” trying an open relationship, while one in 10 actually had that type of relationship.
It could be an effect of the pandemic, says Hinge’s director of relationship science, Logan Urey, because she believes it “was the perfect opportunity to take a break and think more about what we want.”
Psychologists and other professionals such as Sarah Levinson and Dedecker Winston have also seen an increase. Winston says a lot of the recent interest I’ve seen in open relationships comes from Millennialswho “wonder how they were brought up” – in most cases, to believe that long-term monogamy is the goal of intimate relationships.
Levinson thinks this may be a result of a general tendency toward open-mindedness. “As a society, we are all more open to all kinds of less traditional identities…People are more willing to question social constructs in general.”
It also opened the door for people to question their desires. When you “keep choosing monogamy and it doesn’t work… you start to get curious [se] There is another way,” explains Levinson.
And for those curious, there are more features than ever. Winston adds that along with an “explosion of interest” in open relationships, there is an “explosion of content creators and people writing about it in the press…on apps, and in community gatherings.”
This means that information about non-monogamous relationships is widely accessible — not in the “dusty old online personal journals in the corners of the internet”, where Winston claims he needed to dig up the information more than a decade ago.
More fantasy than reality?
Despite the increase in the number of people adopting non-monogamous arrangements and the increased visibility of open relationships, public perception remains negative.
Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute in the United States, said: “Opinion polls, including public opinion, indicate that the attitude toward non-consensual monogamy is mostly negative, although there appears to be a more positive trend in recent years. “. Countries and podcast host Sex and Psychology.
These negative attitudes may not stop people from considering open relationships, but they can prevent them from adopting them.
In his research on sexual fantasies, for example, Lehmiller concluded that “most people fantasized about being non-monogamous in some way, such as by participating in partner exchange, opening their relationship, or embracing polygamy.” But, he adds, “relatively few people do this in real life.”
There is no post-pandemic data on how many people have adopted this type of relationship, but a 2019 Canadian survey put that number at around 4% — and a similar number appeared in a 2018 study in the United States.
Sarah Levinson believes that this stems in part from an ingrained perception that open relationships are generally considered “unhealthy.”
Among his fellow therapists, Levinson notes, many still consider “double bubble” or “couple bubble” to be “the only viable way to have a secure connection.” She feels these situations can “separate people who think this is a viable option for them”.
Religious beliefs can also prevent people from engaging in dating and/or sexual relations with more than one person at the same time, as well as cultural norms in certain societies.
However, Dedeker Winston points out that people, especially millennials and Generation Z, continue to move away from the idea that one partner can meet all of their needs (something traditionally encouraged by the concept of monogamy).
It indicates an increase in the number of platonic friends deciding to live and raise children together and a decrease in marriage rates, to indicate a possible future social change in the way people engage in relationships.
“People are more open to forming the relationships that make the most sense in their lives,” Winston says.
For similar reasons, Levinson agrees that there will be a continued rise in “creative relationship structures,” but does not believe that it will become a global phenomenon. Many cultures around the world pose difficulties for people who intend to open their relationships and taboos remain.
OkCupid’s head of global communications, Michael Kaye, has a different opinion. For him, “The behaviors we see among people dating today have always been there. But people are becoming more open and transparent about who they are.” [e] About what they want in a relationship. I think with every passing year we judge others less.”
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