Opening up - book by Cleis Press Inc. - review by Dawn (Lilac Distraction)

An Open and Shut Case

I thought this book would help me make a decision on something I was on the fence with. It did become a tough read because of the negative attitude it takes to monogamy which turned me off on it for quite a while. If you've already made your decision then this book should be required reading, but if you're on the fence like I was you may want to give it a little more consideration. Now that I'm single I've opened up to the ideas it has presented to me.
Wealth of practical information, witty and interesting read, many resources
Has a strong bias against monogamy
Rating by reviewer:
extremely useful review
A Little Backstory:

I'd been in a relationship for about six months when the boyfriend expressed his desire to have an open relationship. The idea of polyamory was something I'd always agreed with but never had real experience. However, when your relationship is falling apart it's not something that's a wise idea. I tried to voice this concern but he said it was something he felt strongly about. I was slightly angry and frustrated because of this but I decided to give it some serious thought and picked up this book to learn more and figure out how to make this all work.

First Impression:

Every review on this book had five stars, so I was expecting a good read. During the first few chapters I started to despise this book. I felt disrespected because Tristan Taormino seemed to have a huge bias against people who chose monogamy after considering the alternative. There was a sentence in the book that made me want to throw the damn thing across the room because I felt so offended. "One study found that an individual in an open relationship tends to be individualistic, creative, an academic achiever, creative, non-conforming, stimulated by complexity and chaos, inventive, relatively unconventional and indifferent to what others said, concerned about his/her own personal values and ethics, and willing to take risks to explore the possibilities." These were all things I considered to be true about myself, but I didn't want an open relationship and didn't know if I could actually do it. Taormino insinuated that monogamy is something people are brainwashed into and little is said about people who choose it after giving thought to other relationship styles. After my relationship ultimately dissolved (because we did open up and I realized that I found much more satisfaction in others) I gave this book another chance because I didn't hold as much of a grudge as I did before.


In the Introduction Taormino gives an introduction to monogamy, nonmonogamy, and introduces the view that society has been brainwashed into conventional relationships. (Yeah, that.)

Section 1 is what irritated me so much, but it should have done the opposite. Taormino gives the history behind nonmonogamy, dispels the myths surrounding the lifestyle, presents factors to consider when choosing an open relationship and the key features that a relationship of this sort needs to be successful. She backs this up with psychological studies and survey results to add some solid evidence to all the fluff.

Section 2 goes into detail about the types of open relationships and non-monogamous relationships. She covers partnered non-monogamy, swinging, polyamory, solo polyamory, polyfidelity, and monogamous/nonmonogamous and mono/poly combinations. She defines each of these styles, lays out the pros and cons and difficulties of each as well as things you consider and how to get each of these to work. Each chapter here gives more than enough information to help you make a wise and educated decision and find which works best for your current situation. These chapters provide a wealth of information and a definitive look at all of the options, but it starts to seem a little strange because they're all so strictly defined and relationships, be they open or closed, are never something that fit into a template. She does mention that these aren't boxes you have to place yourself in, but they are good ideas to start with.

Section 3 becomes your start-up guide. It covers how to communicate with your partner about boundaries and needs that you both have with the relationship. The chapter on jealousy was one I found incredibly interesting and useful because it presented practical information that anyone can use and it forces you to look inward and change those thoughts and feelings that lead to jealousy. It also gives some advice to help you avoid things in the relationship that may lead to jealousy. The third chapter of this section focuses on "compersion" which is the act of finding joy and happiness for your partner engaging in romantic or sexual relationships with other and suggests that being able to do this takes a very self-aware and wise person.
The two following chapters cover issues that come up in open relationships such as new relationship energy, time management, miscommunication, what to do when boundaries are crossed, and how to handle changes that occur in the relationship. The final chapters of the book cover how to handle and explain the relationship to children and family, and has information to consider about "coming out" about your alternative lifestyle, safe sex (of course), and the legal and practical issues that non-monogamous couples may face such as discrimination, the rights of those involved, and several other related things.
The back of the book contains several resources for further information. It points you in the direction of support groups, further reading, organizations, resources, and anything else you would really need to help support your non-monogamous relationship.

To sum it all up:

This book is basically the bible of non-monogamy. When I was researching the technical and philosophical aspects of open relationships I found that this book contained the most comprehensive collection of knowledge and information woven together with insight and wisdom. Other books out there were just full of theories and did nothing but hype up non-monogamy, but they didn't give any practical advice. This book is the best of both worlds here.

I wanted something to help me make a decision about the direction of my relationship, but sadly this wasn't the book for that. It seems as if it would be a great thing for people in my situation, but after reading it it seems as if it would be more suitable for those who are already confident in their decision to get into non-monogamy. I'm not an easily offended person, but I the negative attitudes taken towards monogamy rubbed me the wrong way and made it difficult to get through this. It caused even more internal conflict because of the bias it had.

All in all, I'm glad I took the time to read this after my relationship had come to an end. After getting some experience and a taste of the freedom, feeling of liberation, and massive amount of love that open relationships create it's something I feel is right for me. This is all useful information for the future.
Follow-up commentary
After hating this book so much I ended up donating it to a friend, but warned them that it was highly biased and to take that into consideration. I'm really disappointed in this book still, especially since the author has written many books that were much, much better. This book had turned me off on her for a little bit, but I've since warmed back up to her.
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Do you like this review?
  • unfulfilled
    Thank you for sharing. I would have been offended by that sentence on the study as well because I'm monogomous and find myself to be a lot of those things. I think section 3 on jealousy would be very important.
  • Dawn (Lilac Distraction)
    I actually have had this book for 9 months and couldn't bring myself to write a review until just now and I still look at the book sideways sometimes.
  • Airen Wolf
    I had some trouble with all the monogamy is unnatural and people are brainwashed into accepting it...the thing is people ARE brainwashed into believing that monogamy is the only TRUE love path. We can't compound the issue by trying to stamp out belief in the rightness of monogamy either, though. Reverse discrimination and brainwashing is STILL discrimination and brainwashing. The book has alot to offer but I hope that when it is time for a rewrite Ms. Taormina can moderate her language to allow people who actually are suited to, and thrive in, monogamy their rightful place beside polyamorists.
  • FemmeFlo
    Thanks for the very thorough review.
  • Geogeo
    Thanks for such a detailed review!
  • TransMarc
    Thanks for this review. Whatever path works for you is the best.
  • thisisadeletedaccount
    Thanks for your review! I'm frustrated at how the main books on non-monogamy are so insulting to monogamous people, thanks for providing a nice review with some critique.
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