Alison Taylor on relationships: Unconventional relationships are definitely 'on trend'

According to the founder of an online dating site there's such a thing as 'ethical cheating'

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The Independent Online

I went to dinner with friends a few weeks ago, a belated birthday do, and one of the party asked if he could add an extra person to the table. Turns out the extra person was the trois in my friend's new ménage.

"The more the merrier" was the group-email response from the friend who made the booking. I think she was referring to dinner rather than their relationship set-up, but I couldn't be sure. Perhaps more does mean merrier?

Unconventional relationships are definitely "on trend" at the moment. I read an interview in the New York Times last week with the founder of a new online dating site aimed at married people and called Open Minded. The impossible-not-to-click headline was: "Is there such a thing as ethical cheating?" Where Open Minded differs to the likes of recently hacked Ashley Madison (whose tagline is "Life is short. Have an affair") is that the extramarital shagging is, supposedly, all out in the open.

According to the site's founder, Brandon Wade, "ethical cheating" involves telling a spouse in advance that you are going to be unfaithful, or including the spouse in the arrangement. "There is a growing movement of people who are able to be honest with their mate that the traditional model isn't working," he says. It's certainly all very progressive in the sign-up stages. Under the "Looking to Meet" heading, you can tick "monogamish", "poly-dating", or "swinging". I mentioned it to the boyfriend and his response was: "It all sounds a bit Eighties cul-de-sac."

Back in the 1980s, there was an actual swinging scandal in my local pub in Yorkshire. Somebody pinned the names of a group of people all allegedly involved in swinging parties in the village on the notice board: a lo-fi hacking, if you like. Everyone feigned outrage at the time and I'm sure those who were outed were embarrassed, but why should they have been if they were consenting adults? All these years later, I'm kind of impressed that there was a hint of Bloomsbury in my straight-talking northern village.

I've been watching the new BBC drama Life in Squares, centred around Virginia Woolf and her friends, who were famed for their extramarital arrangements as much as their art. "We can mould marriage to suit our own ends rather than be moulded by it," reasoned Woolf's sister, Vanessa Bell, before her nuptials.

Bringing us back up to date, a friend of mine calls it the 80:20 rule. "You are 80 per cent accounted for, the other 20 per cent is, well, unaccounted for. You can't get everything from one single person." As long as the person you're with is aware of the odds, I reckon fair game.