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The rise in interest in open relationships has been chronicled in countless print and online outlets over the past five-plus years ( The recent media glut notwithstanding, an important voice has gone missing: that of the extracurricular partner, the lover, the girlfriend or boyfriend—people like Ivy.
The focus is always on the couple—how their adventures in nonmonogamy fuel their partnership and heighten their sex lives; how they're able to navigate sleeping with others without breaking their sacred union.
For a period of six months, she decided, she'd date both her boyfriend his girlfriend.
"It was very clear what the hierarchy was, but he called us both his 'girlfriends,'" she says.
Beth*, a 37-year-old therapist in San Francisco who's currently dating a couple (sexual with the man, "romantic" but not sexual with the woman), is of two minds about the settling question.
If she did end up in a monogamous relationship, the same thing would happen when she hit the six- or eight-month mark: she'd cheat. There she met a man at a conference who was "super polyamorous," she says.
They were excellent communicators, the women said, because to negotiate the inevitable minefields of nonmonogamy, they had to be.
The women attested to feeling loved, adored, cared for: lots of dinners, weekends away, vacations.
What would it mean to be in someone else's open relationship as a single woman?
Would it always seem like the dreaded settling, a lesser version of what one should truly want?