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Book Review: Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships

Hello my fellow kinky book worms. I'm working on deadlines (and gearing up for CatalystCon!) so today I'm re-posting one of the first book reviews I did for The Unlaced Librarian. I still remember reading this book in bed before I opened up my own relationship, and before I started writing about sexy things on the internet. This book was so important to me at that time and remains one of my favorite sex-positive/relationship/open relationship books. I'm delighted to share it again. XOXO -LV


When my husband and I began early discussions of an open relationship, I was wobbly and dizzy and kind of confused. I knew there were things I believed in. I knew there were things I thought were right and fair. I knew I was having new and strange feelings. I knew why I was having some feelings, but for others I was completely left out to sea. I had heard the terms "compersion" and "polyfidelity" in various places through the years, but as I tore apart my old psychology textbooks and the few relationship books at the library, I was given scant paragraphs here or there and left pretty much in the same place. Many blogs and websites about polyamory helped, but these myriad of voices were all in different stages of life. Conversations with my husband were also helpful, but we were too at different stages in our "open" philosophy then as well. Even though I did figure things out, it wasn’t long before I knew I needed a more organized and personal way of working through some of the emotions and questions I was having.

Enter this book. Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Maintaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino.
I loved this book when I first read it and I still love it today.

The book begins with pointing out the expectations monogamy places on a relationship and why breaking those expectations aren’t bad. At the time I was opening up, I was having issues because where I live, the highest value in relationships is monogamy. At the time, I was more afraid of breaking the idea of monogamy than having a good relationship. The book pointed out that things in monogamous relationships that are bad, like lying or being untrustworthy, are also the bad things in open relationships. It really helped strengthen my philosophies of what it means to have a fulfilling relationship in the face of many social expectations.

The book explains many different types and forms of open relationships. I didn’t realize there were so many ways to do open relationships. It also pointed out that couples may bounce from type to type. I found a great relief in being able to explore the different possibilities.

I really liked that the book includes interviews and quotes from people living in the type of open relationship the chapter covers. Readers get to hear firsthand the struggles and rewards of the relationship, how it began, and how it works out. It was great to see examples, but the quotes really gave an added edge, and most of the text I highlighted were quotes from people because they rang true to what I was feeling.

Upon my first read of the book, there were things that I didn’t get. But after some experience I would look back and remember something I read and think, “Oh, hey, that does work!” For example there was a quote where a person related that having sex with other partners meant that when they came back to their primary partner there was all this built up energy and they had amazing sex. At first I was like "…uh… No… how could having sex with others improve sex between you and your primary partner?" I was still working through some jealousy issues, but after some experience I can say, yes, it works (at least for us). It was interesting to be able to explore things and look back at the book and see how far I had come.

A lot of the concepts included in the book helped my husband and I in our monogamous relationship before we branched out. The information regarding setting boundaries, communication, and handling jealousy is sound relationship advice, not just “open relationship” advice. The contents in this book could help couples get along with other people better, explore other sexual avenues (like pornography or BDSM play) that they might not have wanted to explore in their relationship before, and help point out the emotional backing necessary to make it work.

There are chapters in the book that discuss children and family life, laws pertaining to medical issues and owning property, and STD’s. I personally haven’t gone to the lengths of having children or living with more than one partner, but these are very important issues and it’s good to know I’ll have a starting reference if any of these things arise.

Overall I highly recommend this book. The introduction and the way the book is laid out provide a wonderful way to build on ideas. Though the book gives advice and points out alternative ways about thinking of relationships, you are ultimately left to make your own conclusions. I’ve grown and learned a lot since reading this book. Some things you just have to experience to get. Like the sex with other people line I cited above. And of course, there were things discussed that I might never experience, but I still applied a lot of what I read to our relationship. This is also a wonderful book to bring out and share when “breaking the news” that we are in an open relationship. It answers a lot of questions eloquently and someone can read it on their own, in their own space.

When I need to figure something out about society or life I turn to books. A book gives me personal time and space to think and figure things out. And this book was an excellent friend while I did that, in a strange but exciting time in my life. Of course, you’ll keep growing long after you’ve read the book. But at the time it was an excellent place to begin, and I continue to use the book often for myself and others.


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