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Health & Sex

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The Truth About Open Marriage

Couples who practice ''polyamory'' say it's good for their relationships. Some therapists disagree.

What's the Appeal of Open Marriage? continued...

When she goes to a romantic comedy with Jemma, for instance, Block says there's no eye rolling, as there usually is when she goes with Christopher.

Franklin Veaux, an ex-partner of Cherie, says he, too, is hardwired to be a polyamorist. "Why does the princess or the prince who lives in a castle have to choose?" he asks. "There is enough room for everyone." He keeps in touch with Cherie through instant messaging, although they are not romantically linked right now.

"Every partner adds something to my life," he says. "All of these things make me a better person." The big attraction, he says, is emotional intimacy. "Everybody adds value to my life."

Marriage and Relationship Experts Talk

Those who pursue an "open" or polyamorous relationship are obviously not conventional types, says William Doherty, PhD, director of the marriage and family therapy program at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. "There are always some people who want to push the limits of their experiences -- their joy, their ecstasy in life," he says. They feel convention and tradition inhibit them.

Those who pursue multiple relationships simultaneously, Doherty says, say they are capable of many loves and passion and that "artificial cultural constraints" tell them they should restrict their love and passion to just one person.

Polyamorists, to their credit, are often open about it, Doherty says. "There is a kind of idealism around these folks," he says. "They want to be completely open and honest about it."

Louanne Cole Weston, PhD, MFT, a Fair Oaks, Calif., marriage and family therapist and WebMD's sex and relationships expert, agrees that the concept of open relationships has evolved to become more idealistic. "In the '70s, there was the playing loose around the edges idea," she says. "Poly is trying to come across as thoughtful and considerate."

An obvious benefit, Weston says, is that sexual monotony seldom sets in. Polys are not apt to be bored in other areas of life, either. "You always have Plan B," she says.

Some say they learn something about relationship skills from their other partner or partners, something that can be applied with the primary partner, she says.

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