If you search the internet for “open relationships”, it has all the signs of being a trend. Whether these signs derive from the endless op-eds written about open relationships in the New York Times and Psychology Today, or from the fact that open relationships are legitimately trending online –meaning, websites and articles about open relationship are picking up steam– from a superficial standpoint, it might be perceived that open relationships are merely a trend. Indeed, many seem to be very keen on referring to it as merely a trend. Meaning, that they are only in the here and now because they are popular. Is this actually the case though?
It is definitely not the case. Non-monogamy is far more extensive and deep than a mere trend.
Firstly, we can take this conclusion from a historical and cross-cultural perspective. Non-monogamy has been a practice that has persisted throughout human history. Likewise, across history and currently, non-monogamy is a cross-cultural phenomenon. Hence, it cannot be said to be something that is wholly new –which, in part, is what a trend is. Non-monogamy has always been around, and it will always be around.
On top of this, however, is the case of its relevance to society as a whole in the modern world. Its popularity seems to be representative of a real shift in societal and interpersonal needs that have before been neglected. Many of these needs are simply serving as a buttress of the failures of monogamy.
For instance, the success rate between non-monogamous marriages versus monogamous marriages is quite astonishing. Where nearly half of monogamous marriages fail, it seems to be that only a quarter of non-monogamous relationships fail. This seems to display a need that has yet to be met by traditional societal norms: that is, a form of romance and sexuality that is more reliable in generating feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
Now, it is difficult to say which sort of relationship is better suited towards happiness –monogamy or non-monogamy. There isn’t any study that holds up an equal amount of people in monogamous relationships to an equal amount of people in non-monogamous relationships, sets all of the parameters the same, and measures the difference in happiness. Moreover, it seems unhelpful to pin these two sorts of relationships against each other, as many publications seem to enjoy doing nowadays. All adversarial frameworks do is divide us, and negate the fact that non-monogamous and monogamous relationships easily co-exist with one another.
However, just given how happy those in non-monogamous relationships seem to report themselves to be with non-monogamy, it is safe to say that a need that previously was not filled, is now being filled. Especially in the context of Western cultures, the notion of non-monogamy was simply taboo. Admission of non-monogamy up until very recently was tantamount to an admission of harboring sexually-transmitted-diseases and being a hedonistic lazy person.
Many people, whether or not there is a taboo against non-monogamy, have the desire to be in non-monogamous relationships. Given that the taboo against non-monogamy has recently begun to lift, the freedom to fulfill this desire with less scrutiny has also opened up. Hence, the need that is now being met is as follows: a formerly suppressed need no longer requires suppression. We live in a time now where no one should feel unsafe in expressing their desire to be non-monogamous. It is about time. And the data speaks for itself that it is certainly making a lot of folks much happier.
Picture being incapable of expressing your love for someone. For those who desire non-monogamy, that has been their reality for a long time. Now that the stigma is being lifted, no more is that a reality, but a thing of the past.