Understanding WHY there is a stigma around open relationships so we can tackle HOW to deconstruct it:
Tradition & Values
It is no shock that open relationships are often against what society has chalked up as “normal.” If you’re reading this I’m sure you’ve heard this snarked at least once- “but a relationship is between ONE man and ONE woman…” Opinions like this are common in communities where religion is strong and the population is more conservative. This is often the case because of the values held around traditional, monogamous relationships that have been passed down from generation to generation. Generally, people in this realm struggle to grasp the idea of non-monogamy, simply because the ways in which they see open relationships do not align with their morals. However, as conversations around topics like non-monogamy become more common and honest, people’s ideas of what relationships “should” be like, are changing.
“I mean... what is an ‘open relationship’ anyways?” If you’re reading this, you have been or will be asked this question. This question often comes as a means to understand- not judge- and provides a chance to fix any misunderstanding the asker may have. Society is teeming with people who believe that open relationships are just a way to cheat on your significant other. Because they just simply can’t relate and are misinformed, they conclude that this isn’t for them and shouldn’t be for anyone. Based on her own experience with this question, Valerie Fischel, a blogger who works to combat confusion surrounding open relationships, claims that “the one rule with non-monogamy is that all sluttery must be done ethically, safely, and with consent of all parties involved.” What people are often most misinformed about is that non-monogamy is ETHICAL
Worry & Fear
This is common in the close family and friendship sphere. Due to the misconceptions regarding non-monogamy, people nearest to you may worry that you are being taken advantage of or that you will be hurt in the end. Their ideas about non-monogamy are frequently influenced by the scandalous and skewed media portrayal. It is critical that they know that you are happy, safe, and respected.
Stripping open relationships of their negative perception
Advance and revise the media lens:
The media portrays open relationships as cheating, scandalous fiascos, done solely for exhilaration and revenge. In movies and shows, one party is upset and uses open relationships to “fix” their problems, when in fact, non-monogamous relationships are real, healthy relationships. While it is hard to change the media’s lens on topics like this, hard conversations help address the media’s portrayal (and how they perceive non-monogamy based on what they know), and how your relationship is different than what they’ve been exposed to. Fischel explains that “it is important to clearly state that being in an open relationship is just an umbrella term for non-monogamy and that it is ethical, safe and consensual on BOTH ends.” In her experience, her and her partner have “eliminated the temptation element, so sex isn’t [the] risky, adrenaline-driven sin” that is on the media’s display.
Reeducation- Be honest and detailed:
If you really want people to start changing their ideas around open relationships, they have to know how they really work: the rules, the consent, the communication. Fischel emphasizes that in her experience, her and her partner “...build and modify the relationship—and the rules—as [they] go. Yes, [they] have rules!... There have been instances where something has felt uncomfortable, or times [they’ve] felt hurt, so [they've] modified…[they] learn from it, and make a new rule.” Another crucial point Fischel makes is that through experience and research she has “... learned that a successful non-monogamous relationship must prioritize communication, honesty, openness, collaboration, and respect—the same things that are important in any relationship.” And that is the key- a non-monogamous relationship works as any other relationship does and when communication, openness, respect, and honesty are present, “the outcome is extraordinarily empowering.”