People sometimes ask me, "What is the difference between working with open relationships and working with relationships in general?" The answer is often "Not all that much, but the small differences are quite significant." One area where this is the case involves types of commitments.
In the myriad types of open relationships commitment can take many forms. This came to mind because of an essay about the concept of fluid bonding and what the term means to the writer and readers of the essay. One challenge is that here isn't a simple definition of fluid bonding. For some, it is Penis-In-Vagina (PIV) sex without a barrier. For others, it is no exchange of fluids including kissing except with a particular partner or partners. Another challenge is whether or not fluid bonding reflects a different type or level of commitment. Fluid bonding may also be both or neither of these.
Since there is no one definition of fluid bonding (much like there is no one definition of making love) people use it in different ways. Some use it to indicate that they have stopped using barriers with one or more partners. Others use it to mean that their relationship has moved to a new level.
In some monogamous relationships, regardless of the composition of the relationship, the commitment can be somewhat simpler than in an open relationship. While each monogamous relationship is unique, most center on some kind of one to one partnership between two people. Many partnering ceremonies--a more inclusive term than marriage for my purposes--have language to this end. The concept of fluid bonding may even be built into the relationship structure and may reflect a deepening of the relationship.
In some open relationships, the discussion of fluid bonding can be the similar, though it can also involve pregnancy mitigation, sexually transmitted disease mitigation, and other concepts. Some people chose to have "closed open relationships" meaning that their relationship is more than two people, a triad or a quad for example, and there is exclusivity within that structure. This relationship is "open" in the sense that it does not look like a monogamous relationship but otherwise it may be more like a monogamous relationship than what people think of as an open relationship. In other open relationships, the discussion of fluid bonding may come up more often because there are usually more people to consider in the decision making.
There are many opinions for, against, and neutral regarding the use of the term fluid bonding and whether or not it reflects a type or level of commitment. I am curious about how people think and feel about the concept of fluid bonding. Do you use the term? If so, how do you use it? If you don't, do you have any judgments either way. Feel free to comment below.