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Because they started off dating long-distance (Ryan was living in Colorado at the time), it was understood that they would not be exclusive: They initiated a policy Leah describes as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But when Ryan moved to New York and began living with Leah a year and a half later, he assumed they would transition immediately into monogamy.

“I thought, ‘All right, the long-distance shenanigans are over now, we’re moving in together, and it’s time to have a real go at this,’” he says, taking a sip of his beer.

For Kristina, two boyfriends are exactly two too many. When she arrived at Syracuse freshman year, Kristina had certain ideas about what her romantic life would entail.

It’s a Friday night in January 2013, the last weekend of the term that sorority girls at Syracuse University can go out until rush season is over, and so it’s pretty much destined to be a rager, especially for Kristina, a 20-year-old junior who jokingly calls herself the “Asian Snooki” because of her impressive ability to throw down. In a small bedroom in Kristina’s sorority house, her friend Ashley stands in front of a mirror wearing a blue miniskirt and a loose tee, the bagginess of which Kristina eyes skeptically. “As a freshman, you're like, ‘OK, maybe I'll find my college sweetheart and we'll be together forever and we'll graduate and it'll be perfect,’” she tells me later.

Or, more specifically, that going outside the partnership for sex does not necessitate a forfeiture of it.

“I was at a practice where we would meet every week, six to eight therapists in a room for teaching purposes and to bring up new things coming into therapy that weren’t there before,” says Lair Torrent, a New York-based marriage and family therapist.

One of the things all the therapists had noticed over the past few years was “that couples – and these are younger people, twentysomethings, maybe early thirties – are negotiating what their brand of monogamy can be.

They are opening up to having an open relationship, either in totality or for periods of time.

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It’s not that she means to be rude, it’s just that Jim has been traveling for work, so it’s been a while since she’s seen him. As her “primary partner” and the man with whom she lives, he is the recipient of most of Leah’s attention, sexual and otherwise, but he understands her need to seek companionship from other quarters roughly one night a week.But Leah and Ryan, 32 and 38, respectively, don’t fit these preconceived ideas. She wears pretty skirts; he wears jeans and trendy glasses.They have a large, downtown apartment with a sweeping view and are possessed of the type of hip hyperawareness that lets them head off any assumptions as to what their arrangement might entail.He was therefore surprised when the first thing Leah gave him after the move was a book called Certainly, open heterosexual relationships are nothing new.Even the term “open relationship” seems like a throwback, uncomfortably reminiscent of free-love hippies, greasy swingers and a general loucheness so overt as to seem almost kitsch.