Sex on another level
YOUR relationship is good and you love each other - but you want variety. Perhaps an open relationship is the solution, says Collin Grey, a relationship expert.
Grey says open relationships are becoming popular in South Africa. You find them in universities, offices and "God help us", in churches too.
He says an open relationship is an interpersonal union in which couples want to be together, but agree to a non-monogamous relationship.
This means you can be happily married or in a stable relationship, but both partners can have sex with other people.
There is no commitment. Partners can have intimate and sexual relations with others without guilt or explanation . Open relations have different levels of commitment and understanding.
Grey says open relationships are more complex than closed ones. Such relationships use up a lot of emotional energy.
The biggest problem is the fear of calling one lover by the other's name in a passionate moment and the issue of safe sex Grey says.
He says though open relationships seem reasonable to some, they are not socially acceptable, as in the old days, when a man openly had a "umakhwapheni" (mistress).
"As more women become educated and liberated, they want exclusivity. In the old days, many women were not financially liberated so they were much more tolerant of affairs," Grey says.
He says there are different reasons for some people wanting open relationships .
"It might be because a person can not find a perfect partner, fears losing a partner or getting dumped. Some people have a phobia to commit or do not want to have babies or extended families," Grey says.
He says there are different types of open relationships and they also vary from couple to couple.
"It is not like being single. When you're single you can choose to sleep with or flirt with anyone you want. In an open relationship partners establish boundaries and agreements. Your choices should take into account your partner's needs and desires," Grey says.
He says most open couples have agreements that help them feel safe and comfortable. They might not be the same agreements that monogamous couples make.
"Some women accept open relationships because their partners are celebrities or rich and they're getting something else out of such a relationship. Others agree because of money or status. And some partners like to have sex with a lot of other individuals," Grey says.
He says open relationships can work.
"They can work if handled with maturity and care. You need to set ground rules to protect your health, home life and the relationship," he says.
He adds that it takes very brave people to be in open relationships because people are by nature sexually jealous of a partner being with someone else and from a biological standpoint, people are resistant to a partner having another relationship.
"People interested in open relationships are usually complex," he says.
But Asiphe Ndlela, a psychologist based in Illovo, Johannesburg, says these relationships don't work.
"Sooner or later, someone will form an outside attachment that will threaten the marriage or relationship. We form and need that primary emotional attachment and it is the crucible of much of our growth as adults," Ndlela says.
She adds that often only one partner wants an open relationship, but is presented as something they both want.
Ayanda Peter, feminist and women and children's rights activist, who is in an open relationship, says open relationships are liberating for women.
"They are empowering for everyone, especially women. As an adult, the freedom and autonomy I felt in relationships helped me understand my self-worth as an individual, separate from my partners," she says.
"I learnt to speak up for my needs and desires while respecting others' feelings. I like sex and think it's fun and interesting to explore that level of intimacy with different people."