273 of 279 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2010
I bought this book after running into several folks over a ten year period that were into polyamory--having more than one lover at a time.
To be honest, I was half way between fear and weariness in my emotional take on this book. Fear? I was and am monogamous so fear for sure; but weary of judging my two or three friends who were oriented this way with multiple lovers. I felt their honesty and candor and approach to sexual integrity was scoring far better than mine. Not to mention more often! Yes, finding more integrity in their relationships than many of my church friends, some of whom were defending to the death their long dead marriages; lifeless, dry, sexless "relationships".
With Taormino's interviews of 100 plus folks in alternative relationships, a few things stood out for me as a traditional type married and sometimes churchy guy. All of us could learn a good deal from Tristan's book here on the matter of communication and honesty. I've learned from this title what a joy it is, for example, to have permission from a spouse to notice hot ladies in the street or market. And to have talked out before such events just where the jealousy thing begins and ends and to simply be able to feel free as a man to appreciate the life force around me. Yes, feel good.
Relationship with self? Yes, important. I decided to come out erotically with my thoughts yet with the blessing of my monogamous spouse. Communication and honesty! Saying out loud who you are and what you want, what you desire. That's what this book was about for me.
Opening Up will open up a few closed minds. This doesn't have to mean that if you are into traditional marriage that you have to dial down your commitment to monogamy or start groping ladies in elevators. Contrarily, it is an invitation to appreciate how people around us are different and how others approach communication and truth telling, approach honesty with those whom they care deeply.
Another thing that stood out for me with this book is how incredibly mature a couple or an established threesome has to be to have a polyamory-styled relationship that works or seems to work. If anything, the book gave me new faith in why a jealous God just might have designed a more vanilla styled monogamy (dare I say "dumbed down"?) for the rest of us as a matter of course. Let's face it. Most of us just simply are not grown up enough to do this multiple lover thing with the integrity, honesty and full out communication needed for it to work. If it indeed can work over the long haul. But then we high horse church folk must be reminded: just how many of our marriages work or are even long haul these days?
Again, to be honest, Taormino's research and writing is just a fun, voyeuristic read. Like going "people watching" downtown for fun. It's always a kick to see how other folks live. And how sweet to learn of the post WWII "flyboys" that invented polyamory in this country, men who would take on a second woman, a widow, in order to fulfill a dying wish of a comrade in war; that a friend, a war buddy, take care of the woman he loved and must now leave in death. My, my.
Couples should read this together as it is sure to fuel many an interesting conversation between traditional spouses. And it will, as I have said, go a long way towards bringing insights into the monogamy path--like how to get over the thoughts and behaviors around "owning" someone; and how to be better at living in the abandonment and falling part of love. Indeed, how does one let oneself be in love in the moment, holding a beloved's heart gently in an open hand; rather than tightly in a closed and married fist? Interesting question.
Hey, and this, too: we are getting older. So think about it. Is death not the other lover (Eros and Thanatos, ever the pair in literature) who will edge in one day and get his or her way soon enough between the monogamous two of you? Indeed.
So maybe all mortal and traditional marriages are threesomes. Foursomes I suppose, if God is watching and participating, or invited to. Hey, open up!
Yes, traditional folk in happy relationships could gain from reading Tristan Taormino's scary work. But then lovers who care for things to stay hot and edgy must always be brave I think. For one, I'm a romantic and a one woman kind of man. But I loved this book. And, I also confess, I just got brave enough to read Ethical Slut. Now that took courage, learning how to be ethically naughty? Nice.
141 of 142 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2008
A number of good and okay books on nonmonogamy and polyamory have been published in the last several years. I read most of them: some were focused on particular forms of nonmonogamy; others dominated by a spiritual bent, others were just poorly written or edited. Some were downright Pollyanna-ish in their superficial treatment of the challenges of open relationships, occasionally reeking of smug superiority over less-evolved monogamous couplings. None of them was the perfect book I wanted to recommend to the curious, the novice, the baffled and disapproving. This is that book.
Among the book's chief strengths is its breadth. Taormino conducted over 120 interviews with a diverse sample of the nonmonogamous - people of varying ages, sexualities, and (most of all) approaches to relationships. This variety is highlighted by six chapters on different types of open relationships, discussing each types particular advantages and challenges and sharing the experiences of individuals, couples, and group relationships.
The later chapters tackle particular issues and problems common to open relationships, from the emotional (managing jealousy, coming out) to the practical (safer sex, legal and financial protections). Taormino moves beyond the platitudes common to discussions of nomonogamy - "Communicate! Be Honest! Own your feelings!" - and provides concrete advice on how to approach difficult conversations, disentangle emotional reactions, develop and follow agreements, and respond to change.
The book's heavy use of quotations and anecdotes from interview subjects, and its effort to be accessible and inclusive, result in an approach that mutes the distinctive voice and focus on sexual exploration that mark Taormino's other work as an author, editor, educator and pornographer. In-depth discussions of group sex are not to be found (Taormino recommends Vicki Vantock's Threesome Handbook); instead, the focus is on the emotional aspect of relationships, and sexual details come up only in the context of forming agreements and protecting your partners. With a few exceptions - such as her criticism of the "radical honesty" school of intimate communication - the book presents varied opinions and approaches in a neutral, descriptive fashion; rather than question the importance of gender and heterosexual intercourse to many people's relationship agreements, for example, she simply recognizes these as emotional facts to be addressed.
This book will be most interesting to those relatively new to thinking about, or doing, open relationships. But while those for whom nonmonogamy is familiar may be tempted to skim or skip this book (or any new book on the subject), nearly everyone will find something thought-provoking, such as the discussion of mono/poly relationships (which poly folk sometimes regard as doomed to fail, in much the way many monogamous folks regard polyamory generally), the evolution of group relationships, and coping with major changes in wants, needs, and circumstances.
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2008
Tristan Taormino has done it again. Her flair for intelligent, engaging journalism takes a hotly debated subject and demystifies it in a pragmatic, yet charming manner. As a relationship counselor, specializing in alternative affairs, I have, by this time, given all of my initial order copies of Opening Up to clients and friends. This easy to read primer holds priceless value to anyone involved in an intimate liaison and is not only for those in or contemplating open relationships. Taormino's talent for translating thorough research into entertaining reading is made even more beneficial through her use of checklists, guides, definitions and practical advice on etiquette, negotiation and more. What could have easily been just another boring, clinical look at alternative relationship models is presented in a vividly human way and accentuated via the many personal experiences which can be found throughout the book. By shattering countless misconceptions, fabrications, myths and rumors about open relationships, Taormino also brings to light the fact that monogamy is a choice and not an expectation. As well, this delightfully honest author clearly communicates her deep understanding that there is no "right" model. Opening Up vividly illustrates, through tireless research, skillful writing and real life accounts, that all manner of relationships require periodic reevaluation highlighted by meaningful, sincere communication and negotiation in a fearless, loving environment. In her inimitable style, Taormino gently urges the reader to awareness that these are key elements for success in relationships of any kind. I have and will continue to recommend this revealing book to not only those experiencing ambivalence about their current relationship but also to those who are curious about breathing new life into their existing arrangement. Opening Up is so filled with readable, practical information that it is likely to provide the necessary evidence which could change, "I think I'd like to....," into "Be careful what you wish for;" giving it enhanced value for enlightening those who may be impetuous or uninformed thus perhaps avoiding ill conceived forays into potentially treacherous relationship territory. In a world where marriages and families fail at an alarming rate, this refreshingly entertaining "how to" provides essential insight and practical advice - making it near mandatory reading for any and all who are contemplating relationship counseling, marriage or any other intimate, family arrangement.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
This book provides basic information concerning open or non-monogamous relationships: the various types of arrangements, psychological demands and difficulties, and practical considerations involving going public, raising children, legalities, and safe sex practices. The book is primarily motivated by the well-chronicled difficulties that many experience within the confines of monogamy. According to the author, expanding a monogamous relationship has the possibilities of enhanced sexual fulfillment, more freedom to choose, and personal growth.
Though the author obviously favors open relationships, she cautions that substantial self-awareness and self-evaluation are needed before embarking on such. She emphasizes that communication, honesty, boundaries, and trust are absolutely essential to form and maintain viable non-monogamous relationships. Even in established relationships, feelings of jealousy, envy, insecurity, and loneliness are constant threats to stability. Renewal and adaptability are watchwords for success.
While not blatantly so, the book is somewhat geared to bisexuals and gays involved with non-monogamy, perhaps reflecting the composition of non-monogamous practitioners. Only a few of her interviewees were completely straight and monogamous. Also, while the author issues warnings about embarking on non-monogamy, one gets the sense that the emotional difficulties and ramifications of opening up are considerably understated. The author makes no claims to being a psychology expert, instead relying mostly on her personal experiences and of those she interviewed. Nonetheless, the book seems to be good overview on the subject of non-monogamy.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2008
To be honest, I wasn't sure what I would take from Tristan Taormino's new book Opening Up - A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. That's not to say that I wasn't excited about reading it - I'm fascinated by how people navigate different relationships and don't think monogamy is always the best choice. However, I am in a monogamous relationship, because that's what works for us. I assumed that I would learn more about different kinds of open relationships, but didn't think Taormino's wisdom would be applicable to my life.
The good news is, I was wrong. Taormino has really outdone herself and created a resource that will be many things to many different people. Within this one book, the author offers the reader a brief history of non-monogamy, details the numerous types of open relationships, and offers advice for dealing with everything from coming out to raising children to legal problems. Whether you're trying to work the kinks out of your own open relationship, contemplating non-monogamy, or simply trying to better understand how other people live, you're sure to find help in this exhaustive guide.
Besides being packed full of information, Taormino's accessible style of writing makes this an enjoyable read. She also interviewed over 100 people who are non-monogamous. Their personal stories give an inside view into the ups and downs of open relationships, which sound often similar to those I've experienced in monogamy. By offering a glimpse into the lives of people who choose to have multiple partners, it's easy to see the similarities and relate.
I was also surprised to find our choice of monogamy completely validated in a book that is about healthy open relationships. It makes sense that core principles like trust, communication, and respect would be the foundation of any relationship and in her discussion of these things I found a lot of validation. In fact, about a quarter of the way through this book I had a sneaking suspicion that I was not only reading, but enjoying, a self-help book.
While non-monogamy isn't for everyone, as Taormino point out throughout, the author has written a guide that offers honest advice on sustaining fulfilling relationships. I highly recommend it to anyone who's the least bit curious!
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2009
Tristan Taormino's Opening Up is a high-quality resource for nontraditional relationship styles. I would recommend it for colleagues in the helping professions, as a self-help handbook for those forging open bonds, and as the best 'first book' to introduce someone to the idea of open relationships.
Taormino interviewed many individuals and groups involved in a variety of different intimate relationship structures. She shares a wealth of stories in the book, and they are something sacred to experience. Many courageous, imaginative folks have ventured where there are few role models in order to embody all kinds of different relational orientations and build all kinds of different love styles. The unique gifts and challenges of polyfidelity, swinging, single poly, mono/poly, and other relationship styles are explored.
The author doesn't stop at sharing those stories, however. Taormino provides clear analysis of essential, universal relationship skills and shows how these skills successfully interact with each relationship structure. There is more than just a simple respect for diversity here; Taormino offers a theory of relationships that assumes human diversity in bonding, and then offers tools for the real work of building and maintaining those relationships. The result is an empowering and educating handbook that starts from a place of valuing and building self-knowledge, and then moves on to developing the skills and creating the structure that best nurture each of our unique selves.
I am personally very grateful for this book. I am monoromantic and my partner is polyamorous. We are both relationship geeks, and I have training and experience in ministry and counseling settings... and yet finding support for us - both of us - as we began our relationship was a painful struggle. To find such a content-rich book that is unreservedly supportive of the spectrum in between mono and poly styles has been a joy and a treasure.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2008
This book is a fabulous tour of the world of nonmonogamy and open relationships. Taormino conducted several one on one interviews with couples from throughout the US about their open relationships. Here she breaks down the subtle differences between several different forms of open relationships and polyamory like swinging, solo polyamory, polyfidelity and even polygamy. She is candid in her descriptions and really makes a point to explain the benefits, challenges and fludity that exists in open relationships and uses testimonials and stories from her participants to bring those concepts to life.
While not a fringe lifestyle (An Oprah.com survey found that 25% of their respondents were in some sort of open relationship) it is one that is seriously misunderstood. The sudden emergence of tv programs and films relating to polygamy are certainly not helping to clarify nor represent the range of relationship styles that exist in the world today. As a result, misinformation is rampant. This book aims to set the record straight and give a "how to" for couples and individuals to consider.
While a definite champion of the lifestyle, she is also very careful to caution that this is not the type of relationship that is right for every person. However, I do agree with her that if all couples had the kind of in depth, honest conversations and negotiations that are necessary for a successful open relationship, infidelity would decrease. The most crucial belief in the open relationship world is that relationships, (just like individuals) are meant to be fluid, ever changing, dynamic, transformative. Open relationships require that the participants communicate their needs, fears and desires. The rules can change and having that sense of security can make all the difference in the world. You're never stuck in a situation that isn't right for all of the people involved.
I particularly appreciated the chapters that talked about disclosure to one's community, families and children regarding living an open lifestyle. With so much misinformation, you can get a lot of push back from loved ones who feel that an open relationship style is immoral. The questions and suggestions she gives are right on point.
So the queen of anal (The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women) hit it right on the mark with her most recent tome. Easy to read and very informative. If you have ever considered going open, this book will help you process all of the questions that you may have.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2008
Tristan Taormino is an over-achiever, a multifaceted woman with an impressive breadth of expertise and talent. To her long list of accomplishments she now adds this latest book on open relationships. At almost 350 pages, it leaves nothing out.
This is a book of amazing diversity with personal stories of people from a wide range of sexual orientations, lifestyles, and styles of open relationship. It was thoroughly researched and includes references to a significant number of well-known alternative relationships experts, sociologists, anthropologists, researchers, therapists and communications and relationship skills experts.
Far from a dry technical manual, throughout the book Taormino includes compelling quotes from and the personal stories of many of the 126 people she interviewed. These lend a valuable perspective by which the reader can identify and connect with the information and advice offered. She includes checklists and questions for negotiating the terms of open relationship and explains terminology to help people who are new to open relationships get a handle on what kind of open relationship they want.
Chapters that particularly impress me are the chapters on compersion (which is the most comprehensive I've seen on that topic), coming out, raising children in open relationships, safer sex (also excellent) and legal and practical matters.
The book is thoroughly annotated and includes statistics about the age, locale, gender, sexual orientation, etc., of the interviewees. There is a comprehensive and up-to-date resource guide that includes a lengthy book list, (I have the impression that she's read everyone of them!), a list of conferences and events, GLBT/queer resources, local, regional and national and international organizations, online groups, listservs and communities, professional directories, resources on research and activism, spirituality resources, and so on.
Opening Up will quickly become a mainstay for those learning how to successfully conduct their open relationships.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2011
Very good book, allot of good information about relationships. Even monogamous people should find many useful tools. I found this to be a much better book then "The Ethical Slut".
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2008
Tristan Taormino has created, in her uniquely approachable and sensible style, a book that truly gives readers an array of information on open relationships of all types. Tristan offers suggestions and information to help readers to more fully understand open relationships, and includes checklists and other guides to help determine one's own desires and limits, and to communicate them clearly and openly with one's partners. Tristan's book is ideal for people who are just exploring the concepts of open relationships, but it's also a treasure trove of information for those who have been engaged in any type of open relationship that want to understand themselves better, expand their options, and discuss their relationships more clearly with other people.