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Open Relationships, Darwin and Longevity

01/31/2013 03:59 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Mention 'open relationships' and a vivid debate is guaranteed. Folks feel strongly about the matter. Let's add fuel to the fire.

Open relationships will save the day. They are the ultimate remedy to lies, jealousy, broken promises. Open relationships are a better and somewhat ethical alternative to cheating; they represent the path to complete honesty. And, what's better than breaking the absurd societal expectations about monogamy, really? What's healthier than challenging imposed boundaries to keep the spark between partners?

Stephen X. is a gay man living in San Francisco; open relationships' unchallenged capital. He is in a functioning and marriage-bound open relationship. In his own words:

Open relationships simply acknowledge the truth that already inherently exists in every relationship, like it or not. Namely, that our ability to experience physical attraction outside of the relationship does not suddenly stop when we commit our love to one person. To deny this truth is to deny a truth about our nature. I find it far more evolved to acknowledge this truth and then meet it head on with a relationship built on faith in the commitment to your love, honesty about your needs, and a lot of communication.

Case closed? Not so fast.

Open relationships are a wide open Pandora's box. They are the easy way out; the carnal strategy for boys and girls who are too insecure to be single, not mature enough to abandon the thrill of the hunt. An open relationship is an unusual mechanism that strives to promote physical freedom, often creating layers and layers of broken rules. They threaten couples by welcoming the possibility of outside attachments. Open relationships ultimately function on a lack of stability, strength and focus on your alleged one-and-only.

I was in a relationship. We tried all different solutions: don't ask/don't tell, ask/tell, must tell, three ways, etc. None of the options worked for both of us; one person was always dissatisfied. Trust was gone, and the intimacy faded away as well. We ended our relationship after over nine years together,

says Robert from New York City. Robert thinks that being open lessen the emotional depth of many relationships and ultimately contributes to instability.

All valid points. No competent judge to pronounce a final and balanced sentence.
No judge, but time.

The cold and unemotional lens of science suggests that if open relationships make humans stronger, healthier and able to reproduce, they are here to stay and to expand. If they kill people, they will disappear with them.

Monogamy is largely esteemed across cultures. There must be historical and Darwinian good reasons behind the alleged functionality of exclusive relationships, right? Wrong.

Eric Anderson says that monogamy's regard is maintained through a series of cultural myths. The truth is that the notion of monogamy -- genetic, sexual, social and even marital -- is not supported by global anthropological record. Most societies -- and species -- condoned social and genetic polygamy, while monogamous systems were not very common. Biologists explain that sexual monogamy is rare in mammals.

However, just because sexual polygamy is natural, there is no reason to think that dyadic, exclusive relationships are impossible or purposeless. Marital and social monogamy was widespread in the ancient Middle East before Christian socio-economic influence.

People often take history, Darwin's evolutionism, anthropological observations, sacred books and run with them. Social monogamy, sexual monogamy, marital monogamy and genetic monogamy can occur in different combinations. Modern open relationships are just another combination, a reheated old soup.

This statement leave us exactly where we started, with opposite, valid positions.

Except for a minor, yet relevant observation.

Those of us with the tendency to monitor behaviors under a public health policy perspective cannot ignore the fact that promiscuity threatens longevity. People with multiple sexual partners are considered at risk for sexually transmitted infections, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, oral cancer, and anal cancer. Promiscuity combined with other risk-taking behaviors like smoking, substance use, lack of sleep, and poor diet, can contribute to several chronic diseases. People with multiple sexual partners have been considered risky organ donors and prone to infertility.

Contribute to the evolution of your open relationships for years to come by protecting you, your significant other, and your possible progenies. Go ahead, challenge boundaries and myths, create your manual of rules, fulfill your somatic desires, but don't forget your male and female condoms, your dental dams, your finger cuts, your latex gloves. Option one.

While Robert from New York City quotes ABBA: "Don't go wasting your emotion; lay all your love on me." Good, ol' option two.

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