Probably in reaction to un-evolved people like us who can't fathom conquering jealousy, two books in one month have come out on non-monogamy: the first is Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships  by Tristan Taormino, one of our Bedpost Interviewees (the second is Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block). While Jenny's is more memoir, Tristan's is more guide--how you actually make it work (though Tristan's never afraid to talk about the ins and outs of her own experiences). In conjunction with the book, she's started her own open community. We asked her the same five questions we're going to ask Jenny. Stay tuned for the next post, then compare and contrast.

Em & Lo: What's the biggest misconception people have about open relationships?

Tristan Taormino: This isn't the biggest, but since every interviewer has asked me this question, I need to come up with a different one each time: if you're non-monogamous, it's because you are confused and indecisive. Most non-monogamous people are very clear about why they choose non-monogamy and what they want and need out of their relationships. It's not that they can't choose between partners, it's that they don't want to and believe strongly that they don't have to. 

Do you think anyone could be in an open relationship with the right attitude, or are some people just hardwired for monogamy and others are hardwired for polyamory?...

Some people do believe you are hardwired for one or the other, but I think it's a lot more complex than that. Certainly, there are some people who gravitate toward monogamy and it works for them. There are others who cannot imagine being in a monogamous relationship and all attempts they've made have felt wrong for them. I want people to create the individual relationships that work for them, and not get so caught up in what they think they should be doing, what everyone else is doing, or what they're supposed to do.

We have a totally unscientific theory that an open relationship works best with a hetero male and a bisexual female. Thoughts?

Among the 126 people I interviewed for the book, who were from all different backgrounds and places in the U.S. and Canada, bisexual women were the biggest group, but they were partnered with everyone from straight men to queer transgendered people.

What advice would you give a couple who were thinking about opening things up for the first time?

If a relationship starts out being monogamous and both partners want to open it up, there will be a transition period, and--I won't lie--it can be rocky for a lot of folks. You need to rethink the ways in which you've been interacting; it's like re-training your brains. New rules apply, and you've got to let go of the way things used to be and your old dynamic. It's a new day. Any cracks in the relationship can be exposed and magnified. Confronting the dysfunctional patterns, unmet needs, and other demons in your relationship is not easy, and this could be a good time to seek counseling. Ultimately, you want to resolve any major conflicts and issues and bring the relationship to a place of stability before you explore non-monogamy.

Why should people buy your book?

Because it is helpful for folks who are curious about open relationships, those who are already in them, and loved ones who want to know why their sister/friend/aunt has two husbands and a girlfriend.


Marissa said:

Here's a do couples in open relationships deal with STIs? The vast majority of people who have herpes HPV do not know they have it, and yet can still spread it. Do people in open relationships just not care about that? You would have to get a herpes test after every partner to be sure you haven't gotten it, and that seems a bit much.

Social Kink said:

People in open relationships handle getting tested for STI's like anyone would. There should be no difference in people being tested and practicing safe sex in any type of relationship.

Sarah Sloane said:

Marissa, first of all, HPV and Herpes are two different diseases - HPV is Human Papilloma Virus, not Herpes Simplex 1 or 2 (usually abbreviated by HSV). In Tristan's book, she notes that the core negotiation point she found in the group of people that she interviewed is safer sex agreements; each person / relationship determines what safer sex behavior is appropriate for them, and they negotiate that behavior consciously with other partners prior to being intimate with them. Being in an open relationship doesn't mean that someone is less careful about sex; in fact, most of the people that I know that are in open relationships are considerably more intelligent about disease transmission and safer sex practices, and far more likely to have been recently tested and to communicate their status with other people.

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Em & Lo, more formally known as Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey, are the self-proclaimed Emily Posts of the modern bedroom.

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