“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” ~ Sophia Loren
When many of us think of open relationships, the average person will get heart burn. What’s the point? Is it worth it? Do I really have the time?! Why engage in emotional roulette and suffer for it; why lose the good steady thing you had? Isn’t it just a phase, a fling of experimentation some of us feel the need to go through at some point in our lives?
Well, one thing we all know from a spiritual perspective is that attachment to form; material possessions, the model life and a partner is essentially, an illusion. If the narrative and structures put in place around us are an illusion, then so is the way we are taught to view relationships… But wait, let’s go back to the beginning. What is a relationship in the first place?
It IS attachment.
Attachment in a psychological sense, is ‘A deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space’ (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969).
That is, feelings of love and security for another person. The obvious downside to experiencing a lack in this area during childhood – having a negative or abused attachment to our caregivers – results in a confusion around the appropriate levels and forms of attachment in a romantic partner or our peers later on in life.
If this is out of balance, we can run into a negative cycle of projecting those needs onto others. The ‘upside’ of this toxic pattern could be that in understanding and experiencing that lack you become better able to see the illusion of attachment for what it really is and become more likely to achieve personal sovereignty and enlightenment in this lifetime.
A person who has experienced a healthy attachment with their caregivers may argue that those who have not are doomed to a life of searching for others to fill up their cups. They may see monogamy through the lens of positivity, which serves only to highlight that there should be no set model at all.
I’m not saying that those who have experienced healthy attachments chose monogamy and those who haven’t chose polyamory, but only wish to highlight the fact that those unhealthy attachments may attract those who are seeking to recover the fragmented parts of themselves… And that that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In not knowing ourselves fully (through the experience of non or abused attachment) we ironically open ourselves up to a greater degree of expansion because we search for ourselves in the other. By engaging in this and realizing that there is no self in the other – we discover only a mirror of what we need to expand upon or heal – we consistently grow.
That’s not to say a ‘healthy’ relationship based on consistent attachment doesn’t involve this process, but it has the potential to lead to ‘contentment’ in the mirror image and we may miss the many other aspects of ourselves just waiting to be discovered.
We may of course find these aspects in friends, colleagues and family members rather than a romantic partner, which is just as much an adventure than having multiple partners.
Those who have experienced disharmony in their family structures seem more readily drawn to the ideas that there is more to life than your 9-5, marriage and children lifestyle. A lifestyle that is more welcomed by those with loving parents have had. Therefore, with imbalance, we discover we have a spiritual itch to scratch. One that can be explored much earlier than usual, and we don’t have to wait for our mid-life crisis to discover it.
Relationship therapist Esther Perel, believes that this ‘itch’ is not constrained to those who have experienced disharmony in their attachments, and that actually all humans require an equal dose of security AND freedom in our romantic relationships.
She states that monogamy is a requirement of a healthy parenting model and family structure, but that it doesn’t necessarily feed the desire and eroticism innately interwoven into what it is to be human.
She points out, that even in the most egalitarian nations where parenting partnerships that have been built around creating extreme freedom and focus for the children inviting the healthiest attachments you can get, the relationships are often completely lacking in sexual desire. So you could say that desire transcends race, culture and political structures, and most importantly, is independent of the family structure.
So if these two; the parental model and the relationship of desire, are separate counterparts within one relationship, then to focus too much on one is to deny the other. In reference to female sexuality, Esther’s findings have proven that a woman’s desire is equal to a man’s, and that it is only the requirement that society invariably puts upon the woman to focus on the family structure more than the man, that obscures this fact. And no, this is not a feminist point.
If talking about female sexuality full stop is feminist and makes men switch off, then it may explain to those kinds of men why your woman keeps wandering!
It is becoming increasingly accepted (or at least should be in a progressive society), that female sexuality is just as much about freedom and desire as a man’s, she just may be more subtle about it and guard it secretly in the recesses of her heart. Female sexuality has only been misunderstood for so long because of the prevalence of the male gaze in culture and media platforms; platforms where the female gaze has been excluded. She IS just as lusty as you, get over it!
But this ‘problem’ or imbalance in society feeds us nicely into how monogamy has been a structure of control in that (OK so it honours the family structure which is apparently better for economics and society as a whole), it suppresses a huge chunk of both gender’s creative expression, an expression that goes hand in hand with sexual expression.
If love and money are inextricably linked, then so are creativity and sex. As a civilization becomes more creatively and liberally free, so run the waters of gold and the blurring of sexual boundaries and gender roles.
Open relationships can be an extension of our creativity and expressions of the multi-faceted avenues we immerse ourselves in as humans. And they can be a means to explore those facets; both creatively, and spiritually.
If only to appeal to and challenge the fairytale of the ‘One’, open relationships are essential to human progression, and if a golden age is taking hold, then we must plunge into new ways of being. We as a species can take non-attachment to new heights.
Open is an attitude; a spiritual journey that pushes the boundaries of our conditioning.