Opening Up by Tristan Taormino
I’m a heterosexual man in my early 70s who’s spent my entire adult life in two monogamous marriages. My wife died recently, and suddenly I found myself a widower embarked on a voyage of self-discovery while adrift in a tumultuous sea of relationships. I don’t wish to remarry, but I definitely do want sexual intimacy and joyful connections with women. How to find these?
I’ve discovered Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. Her book provides a wealth of helpful background on the full range of non-monogamous relationships, and is at once both informative and inspiring.
Taormino covers all genders in all combinations with many examples. She discusses the myths surrounding monogamy (myths I understand only too well), the pros and cons of open relationships, and the range of such connections from partnered non-monogamy to swinging, to polyamory, and polyfidelity. All of these styles of non-monogamy share the basic premise that “one partner cannot meet all their needs and they may want to have sex or a relationship with someone other than their current partner.” Instead of hiding it, they “bring this fact out into the open.”
Taormino emphasizes that open relationships only work when these significant elements are present: self-awareness and self-discovery, mutual consent, good communication skills, clear boundaries, honesty, trust, fidelity, and commitment. She addresses issues of possessiveness, control, and jealousy—widely associated with monogamy—emphasizing the importance of relinquishing and overcoming these for non-monogamous relationships to succeed.
She devotes an entire chapter to the idea of compersion as the flip side of jealousy: “compersion is taking joy in your partner’s pleasure or happiness with another partner.” Taormino notes, “Jealousy is a learned behavior. The first step to achieving compersion is to work on unlearning jealousy—letting go of feelings of insecurity, possessiveness, and fear.” While compersion may not be crucial to a functional open relationship, she argues that it is “bound to enhance your relationship.”
I have sufficient self-insight in my 70s to recognize that non-monogamy offers me a path forward toward sexual closeness, non-possessive happiness, and mutual commitment without the encumbrances of marriage and exclusivity. My challenge is to find others who share this perspective and who possess the requisite maturity, self-awareness, communication skills, and commitment to honesty to make a consensual non-monogamous relationship work. Like me, I think that others of you will find Taormino’s Opening Up of great help in charting a course as we venture forth on this journey.
Note from Joan: Shamus MacDuff is the pseudonym of a retired university professor and author. Other than his name, he promises that everything he says about himself is true. His earlier guest post, “Great Sex Without Penetration: A Man’s View,” attracted so many readers and such positive response that when he offered to review some books relevant to sex-positive seniors, I quickly agreed. He now also reviews sex toys for penises. Find his posts here.