Opening up - book by Cleis Press Inc. - review by Dragon

Opening up

Book by Cleis Press Inc.

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Non- Monogamy? Other Sex partners? Make this book your first partner!

If I could rate this book higher than five stars I would. It's comprehensive, accurate, personal, thoughtful and well designed. It covers more issues in depth than I could even imagine.
Easy to read. Personal profiles. Fantastic and accurate information. Thought provoking.
Slight emphasis on polyamory in some chapters. I needed a book cover to read at all times.
Rating by reviewer:
extremely useful review
After having approached non-monogamy from the paths of fantasy, spontaneous actions, emotion and very long conversations, we’re starting over reading this book. Actually it’s been incredibly helpful. It covers many of the issues that we’ve had personal experience with, others that we haven’t discussed. I love it! It’s comprehensive and provides both information and a starting point for many conversations.

The organization of this book is designed better than most non-fiction books that I’ve ever read. You can read it straight through or jump from section to section. The book is broken into three sections and an appendixes. The first section is “Choosing an Open Relationship.” The second section is “Styles of open relationships.” The third section is “Creating and Sustaining your relationships.” Each chapter includes personal quotes or stories to better understand both problems encountered, emotions and issues. At the end of the chapter there is a personal profile of one of the interviewees involved in a non-traditional relationship. The author interviewed 126 couples as research for this book. The appendix includes information about the interviewees, resource guides, references and an about the author section.

Back to the beginning… This section was fairly straightforward. It covered a brief history of open relationships (speculation that swinging started among air force wives in WWII), myths about non-monogamy, is an open relationship right, and what makes it work. An example of the myths is “People in open relationships have intimacy issues and trouble with commitment.” Actually, it’s much harder to process all the emotions and honor everyone’s feelings. It does include several questions to ask yourself honestly and some of the real reasons why you should not be looking at open relationships. My husband and I pretty much covered all of this awhile ago. Still useful as a summary or starting point for conversations.

Section 2 covers styles of relationships. I was impressed that she had broken it down into so many different categories. Partnered non-monogamy, swinging, polyamory, solo polyamory, polyfidelity, monogamous/non-monogamous and mono/poly combinations. Wow. It’s true that there is crossover in some of them. Polyamory is relationships that involve significant emotional investment including love. Polyfidelity is a group of relationships, usually 3-5 that are both emotional and sexual within the group but not outside of it. Some relationships are monogamous with one partner and non-monogamous with others. Reading this section was interesting for us, because it took us outside of our own views. It was clear from the beginning that some things aren’t our style, but gaining a broad perspective is useful.

Section 3 is my favorite, and the one that I was pushing my husband to get to. It starts with “Designing you open relationships” and is followed by “Jealousy and Intense feelings.” We needed to look at those sections! Designing your open relationship includes ideas about the entire framework of what each of you want as individuals, what you don’t want and areas that need to be discussed. This can include who, when, where, how much you communicate, prior notification, specific activities and veto power. Definitely covers the list of what you need to talk about. (We ran into some of those issues by error!) The section on Jealousy actually breaks down many of the different types of feelings you may feel, many examples that you are not the only one. This includes fear of abandonment and inadequacy.

Other chapters in this section talk about “compersion” – or feelings of love and joy when your partner is happy and sexual. Common challenges- including time management, agreement violation and new relationship energy (and stupidity!) “When something changes.” – new desires, coping with change, moving from primary to non-primary, returning to monogamous. “Coming Out” – This section was particularly well written. It discussed both legal, job, custody, family, and job ramifications of telling people that you are in a non-traditional relationship. It gave some very concrete suggestions about how and how as well. There are sections on raising children, legal practices, and the future of relationships.

This book also has an entire chapter on safer sex and practical health. This section is one of the most comprehensive that I have ever seen and includes recent and up to date information on both practices, and diseases. I’m tempted to copy it for my children. It also mentions that people have very different definitions of safe sex from condoms for vaginal and anal intercourse and no barriers for anything else to condoms for vaginal and anal intercourse, condoms for fellatio, dams for analingus and cunnilingus, gloves for manual penetration, condoms for sex toys. It’s worth thinking about more carefully.
This book is absolutely superb. I was trying to read it every chance that I could. Including exercising in the morning or when the kids were around. I found that the information matched a great deal of our personal experience and probably would have saved some grief and time if we had read it in the past. An example is jealousy. My husband felt that nobody else ever had jealousy issues.

A few times, I wanted to put the book down just to process some of the emotions and thoughts that the book generated. I think that's great though. It means you are thinking on your own.

I can not recommend this book highly enough though.
Follow-up commentary
I was asked a question in the comments about if this book is a good resource on polyamory. It provided a great opportunity to get my husbands feedback on the book and take a second look at the book. "Polyamorous" is generally characterized as both sexual and loving. These relationships have an emotional component to them. It is only one of several relationship styles that are not monogamous. A second relationship style is "Solo Polyamory." Many people in our culture have decided that their current sexual or relationship status is not that of monogamous. It is not the same thing as "single." "Single" simple means "not married" in a legal term.

This book discusses polyamory as one of several styles. In subsequent chapters, some additional attention is given by default to the emotional component of a relationship style. "Legal and other practical issues" are not relevant to couples without an emotional component. "Raising children" would depend on which members in the relationship have an emotional component. "New Relationship Energy" is clearly a problem that stems from emotional interactions. However, these are situations that could occur in several relationship styles - not just polyamory.

I also found that Tristan Taormino has written and done a lot. She's written The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women among several other things.

I asked for my husband's perspective on this book. He said,

- Tristan Taormino describes the book in the intro as talking to people and providing her results. The book is so much more than that. She gives a broad overview of different types of relationships and the issues that develop.
- I found it amazing how much she wrote in one book.
- This is recommended for anyone that thinks that the only non-traditional relationships are are swinging, which many people have heard of or affairs. She provides a lot of detail about how they actually work.
- "The entire concept of open relationships made a lot more sense to me after finishing the book than before I started. That's about all you can ask for from a book."
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  • Carrie Ann
    Sounds like a great book, DBD. I love it when a book actually makes you take measure of your emotions and responses to those emotions.
  • Victoria
    Thanks for the in-depth review on this book. It seems like quite a useful resource!
  • Liz2
    This book sounds great, seems it covers everything. Great review!!.
  • Dragon
    It is a great book, and a useful resource. My husband and I sat down with paper, as I pulled various headings out of the section "Designing Your relationship." I wanted to get past the emotional side of the discussion so that we could actually have a starting point for an objective discussion.

    I wish we'd had this book in the beginning. I'm not sure what he read, but I think it was mostly on the internet and not the same.
  • Adriana Ravenlust
    I loved your review. LOVED. It was so specific and really helped me understand what the book was about.
  • LucyLemonade
    You said there was an emphasis on Polyamory, do you think there is enough to use it as a source for studying Polyamory? I'm planning on doing a focus paper on Polyamory and I was curious if this book is a good enough source to purchase.
  • Dragon
    CuriousKitten - That's an interesting question. I'll have to look back at the book to really answer that. It's been awhile. Since I'm not specifically interested in "polyamory" that was probably the section that I read the quickest. In general, I think that is a fantastic source and probably worth your investment. It IS by far the best book I've ever read on open relationships, including polyamory. Did you have specific questions before I go back?

    (I admit to being sick at the moment, and not motivated just right now...)
  • Dragon
    CuriousKitten - I went back to the book for you. Polyamory is really treated as one of several different relations styles or possibilities and is examined as such in section 2. In section 3, where there are several chapters about the problems and feelings that accompany relationships the emotional component of any relationship is addressed - although it's not specifically polyamory. It's addressed as more of anything that could actually occur in any relationship.

    An example - jealousy. A feeling which could occur regardless of if you were in a "polyamorous" relationship or "partnered nonmonogamy."
  • LucyLemonade
    thank you for the follow-up, excellent review!! Big smile
  • Airen Wolf
    Polyamory is definately not for everyone though for some of us it is like coming home. Jealousy is the major issue with time management being the next in line. To find a book that treats the topic with respect and honesty is a wonderful thing. I think this book would be a beneficial addition to my bookshelf and might provide my girls proper reading material for later should they be curious. Thanks for the review DBD.
  • Dragon
    It would be interesting to see you review this book as you actually live the polyamorous lifestyle. For me, it was a great review of what we learned, and a great place to go back to for discussions.
  • Airen Wolf
    I am seriously considering reviewing this book...In the circles I travel in it is WELL recommended. I am going to review the book by Jenny Block called "Open" this month. It was also highly recommended by a friend who is also in an open marriage. Money is tight this month (product of an impromptu trip to Canada to visit Arch LOL) but I think I will pick up this book next month.
  • Dragon
    Let me know... I'd love to see it.
  • Airen Wolf
    Will do Smile I'll probably pick it up this month and weigh in with my opinions though I suspect they will be favorable as I love Tristan's other works....can't imagine this being any different!
  • thisisadeletedaccount
    Thanks for your review! Looks like a great book.
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