For many, lockdown was a time marked by boredom and drudgery.
Many of us tried to get rid of the dreariness by getting into puzzles or going on long, ambling walks around the park.
But for others, more drastic action was needed: namely, opening up a relationship.
As a result, the number of Brits considering open marriages has soared by 45%, according to sex therapist Dr Tammy Nelson, who reports a dramatic rise in calls, emails, and appointment bookings from bored married couples looking for guidance on open relationships.
Dr Tammy said: ‘People are emerging from the pandemic feeling the need to start picking out who the important people are in their lives and whether that’s sexually, emotionally, or romantically.
‘And many of them have started to outsource their needs in the shape of affairs or by discussing open relationships.’
This marries up with a 2021 prediction of an ‘explosion’ in cheating as lockdowns ended and vaccine rates rose. As we embrace our freedom once again, we want this to extend to all areas – including our sex lives.
The good news is that rather than going straight to cheating and affairs, many of us are exploring the idea of ethical non-monogamy.
Dr Tammy says the number of people contacting her from around the world to discuss their sex lives since the pandemic has doubled.
The majority are expressing a desire to begin an open monogamous relationship, which involves an agreement that both parties are free to have other partners, with certain rules or guidelines in place.
Dr Tammy, whose book Open Monogamy: A Guide to Co-Creating Your Ideal Relationship Agreement came out in January, added: ‘Couples are now keener than ever to spice things up a bit.’
There’s a bit of a difference between how the genders face the prospect of going open.
Dr Tammy says the majority of the conversations are started by men, but it’s women who tend to find more fulfilment in non-monogamy.
‘Men bring it to the table, women think about it for a long time, then after they do it, women don’t want it to stop,’ she said.
‘Men are the ones who are quicker to say, “I don’t want to do it anymore” whereas women are likely to say “I don’t want to stop, this is great! I want to carry on”.
‘If people are heterosexual, they will look for heterosexual people but there is also room for people to explore gender fluidity.’
More and more, polyamory is becoming less taboo.
Experts previously told us that they predict a greater move towards non-monogamy, with Janet Hardy, author of The Ethical Slut, noting: ‘I don’t think humans are biologically inclined toward monogamy
‘No other primate is monogamous and monogamy is very rare in nature.
‘Many creatures who have long been thought to be monogamous, like swans, are in fact biologically inclined to be pair-bonded – but sexual monogamy is not usually part of of that bond.’
Rachel, who’s part of a throuple, backs this, believing that embracing open relationships and other forms of polyamory could make us happier – and our relationships stronger.
‘Our methods for courting and dating have changed drastically with the rise of Tinder, Grinder, Bumble etc,’ she says.
‘Sex and connection are more easily accessible.
‘There’s a perception that you can’t trust your partner, or you must keep on eye on them to prevent them cheating, emotionally or otherwise, because they are not fulfilled by monogamy and unable to express that.
‘I think polyamory is one solution that many people will discover as it becomes more openly represented and less taboo.’
How to start the open relationship conversation
Make sure you’re sure. This isn’t something you should do on a whim or after a few too many drinks.
Think about why you want an open relationship. What will it give you? What are you searching for? Is this something you genuinely want, or are you searching for a sticking plaster for a deeper relationship issue?
Choose your moment wisely. ‘Start this conversation at a good time when both you and partner are feeling OK,’ says Dr Martina Paglia. ‘Don’t start this conversation while having an argument, or when you or your partner are feeling nervous, worried, sad or frustrated over something, otherwise the situation may escalate and get out of control.’ Make sure your relationship is in a stable, healthy place.
Make it private. Don’t bring another party into the conversation – for now, this is just between you and your partner.
Express your desires honestly – but with kindness. Intimacy coach Duchess Iphie recommends something like: ‘I love you very much but I have been exploring the idea of us being in an open relationship. This is not because you are not enough, but I want to explore my desires outside the confines of monogamous relationship.’
Give your partner time to process. Let them mull it over – don’t rush it!
Have a chat about your ‘rules’. ‘Going into an open relationship and a sudden change in relationship dynamic can lead to discrepancies when rules and boundaries haven’t been made clear,’ says clinical sexologist Ness Cooper. ‘Setting time aside to have a conversation around setting relationships ground rules is important.’