A few days ago a good friend and I engaged in a conversation surrounding a topic that seems to be everywhere in LGBT culture right now. As the issue of marriage equality moves through the clogged arteries of the United States Supreme Court, and the population of America grapples with the idea of redefining an institution so long unchanged, the question of what that redefinition contains is incredibly important. Recently, a study by Hunter University, examined a common facet of LGBT relationships, showing higher levels of satisfaction in couples not bound by monogamy. Although this study exposes a large portion of America to a common truth about LGBT relationships, the facts examined in this study are really nothing shocking to myself, and many of my friends.
The idea of the open relationship is nothing new. Since the 1972 publication of the O’Neill’s seminal book, The Open Marriage, monogamy has been in public contest for years, forcing people to question the appearance of a relationship, and ask themselves if monogamy is truly the only way to happiness. A recent article on Queerty.com discussing this study mentioned, “Roughly 40% of the survey’s respondents said they were partnered, with 58% of those men claiming to be in strictly monogamous relationships. Of the 32% in non-monogamous pairings, though, 47% were “monogamish,” a phrase popularized by Dan Savage to refer to relationships that were mostly closed, but with a little wiggle room.”
But what this study seems to forget, and what my marvelous conversation surrounded, is the effect these open relationships have on singles. As single individuals navigate their way through the marketplaces of courtship, finding a mate is very difficult, especially when some potential lovers are already in relationships. Scanning the location based phone applications, open relationships are quite common, allowing coupled individuals to specify their status as “Committed,” “Partnered,” or “Open.” But even with these statuses available for the choosing, this influx form of a relationship needs a third or fourth party to happen.
Relationships have no set form or appearance, and I’m not really one to judge anyone’s relationship and how they want to handle it. But for those that are practicing openness, a few of my friends feel as if there should be some type of courtesy extended to those looking for a mate, rather than simply cruising. I understand this qualm, and I’m totally sympathetic to the woes of dating, but I feel as if this courtesy is being a little too soft in a world that could be full of some excitement we are all missing.
Remember that feeling you had when you went on a date with someone you really enjoyed, or still do enjoy? Remember when you put your hand on their leg that was pure exhilaration and took your speech away for a few moments. These are feelings that are real, and our entire lives are constructed to block these feelings. Working, school, errands, economic hardship, all destroy thrill in our lives, creating unnecessary blocks to feelings we all could experience all the time. The idea that one person gives you these feelings, and provides them for the rest of your life, in all honesty, is a modern concept so deeply embedded and followed by contemporary America, our ability to question it, especially for those that are single, is nearly gone.
I understand the plight of single individuals looking for that one ideal companion to share their self with, and reveal their vulnerabilities to. But looking as we move into 2013, I feel as if we should not be confined to the relationship pattern and lies that destroyed the happiness of married individuals everywhere. As we get closer and close to marriage equality, I feel as if what LGBT couples can do for the ever-mentioned “institution” is look at it, and make it better. Take out the boredom, monotony, and pain that causes so many marriages to end, and replace it with excitement, exhilaration, and happiness.
If the world of dating is going to get any easier for single individuals, we need to stop searching for the myth of true love, and embrace what could liberate us from the stale institution that is failing millions of married couples each year. This incredible study is something we could all learn from, or at least give us a little wiggle room as the blandness of daily life erases feelings that could move us in a better direction.