Open Relationships- Modern Day Stigma

By Allie Brickman

For those of you who watch Dr. Phil, you know his brass, honest, and direct approach with guests can make for a pretty entertaining hour of television. While his sometimes aggressive, borderline rude, attitude is different from my own approach with clients, I am certainly a fan of his show. However, while catching up on a recent episode, I came across an episode centered around the topic of progressive love….which Dr. Phil sarcastically referred to each time with air quotes. I could see from the start of the episode that Dr. Phil was not on board with this “unusual” (looks like we can use them too) relationship style.

The couple Dr. Phil invited on stage practices progressive love which is similar to open marriage in that both partners can have many sexual partners, but adds some additional principles (information on which can be found at the end of this post). Dr. Phil proceeded to bombard the couple with questions that sounded more like accusations throughout the show. Some, such as those addressing the fact that the husband did not always use protection, were warranted. Most, however, came from a judgmental, close-minded place—a place the audience seemed to be as well. I was annoyed.

 Perhaps we should expect this from Dr. Phil. But what about a talk-show host who has made a name for herself empowering non-traditional individuals, and promoting acceptance, self-esteem, and freedom of expression? Tyra Banks, a woman who many of us consider to be a bit more hip than Dr. Phil, also invited an openly married couple onto her show. Next to them on stage, she placed another—quite traditional—monogamous married couple. Tyra proceeded to raise her eyebrows in judgmental confusion at many of the sexual practices of the openly married couple, such as having threesomes, sleeping with other couples, etc., while telling the monogamous couple, “You give me hope.” It was clear she was no more open-minded or “hip” than the Dr. himself. And to my surprise (and further annoyance) Tyra’s audience was just as judgmental as she.

 To me, this was all quite saddening. How have we not made more progress? If you are thinking of opening your marriage up and experimenting with you and your partner’s sexuality, society’s stigma—as big a part as sex plays in our culture—can still make you feel judged or unaccepted. I say if having an open relationship or marriage is what is fulfilling to you and your partner, go for it!

 For those of you thinking of opening up your relationship: maintaining open and honest (and continuous) communication with your partner is key. As long as that’s in place and you’re being safe, there is no reason not to have the relationship you want. Society has some catching up to do. In the meantime…have a blast.

For more information on Progressive Love- check out Dr. Phil’s guest’s blog-

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