Open relationships get a bad rap. Two years ago it was Charlie Sheen and his porn star goddesses, and this year it's Newt Gingrich's adulterous ass.
I get why people don't endorse open relationships, in particular open marriages. Clearly they are for commitment-phobes and sexual deviants! At least, that seems to be the consensus among the American public.
Let's say this is actually the case, that people in open relationships are in fact "commitment-phobes and sexual deviants." OK — now what? Are they to be banished to an island, never to coexist among us civilized humans? Are they not to pursue their own right to happiness? I don't know about you, but if there is one less commitment-phobic creep out there for me to date, sounds like a win on my end.
If for whatever reason — genetics, upbringing, ego, sexual interests — a person does not wish to settle down with one person, who am I to tell him that's weird? I like to eat boiled pumpkin with canned Vienna sausages! (Don't ask.) Ultimately, I'd much rather people with that approach to relationships be allowed the opportunity to comfortably voice their preference so they may find other like-minded people with whom they can share their lives. If a woman is dating a guy who knows in his gut he cannot be sexually faithful, that is certainly something she should know. His honesty would allow him to indulge in his choice with the right woman.
I say "he," but there are women who choose to be in open relationships, too. I think when it comes to open relationships, women are often victimized, with people believing that the man manipulated the woman into a convenient relationship that allowed him to have sex with other women.
When Gingrich asked for his open marriage, his ex-wife claims he said the problem was she "wanted him all to [herself]." In contrast, Gingrich said the woman he had the affair with, the woman who would become his third wife, supposedly "doesn't care what [he does]."
Was it wrong for Gingrich to cheat? Yes. Was it wrong for his third wife to participate in the affair? Yes. Was his second wife's expectations of fidelity wrong? No. Is it possible Gingrich is better suited for a non-monogamous, open marriage? Yes. Would anyone (conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat) vote for a politician who admits to participating in an open marriage? Absolutely not. Is it possible his third wife knows about and really doesn't care about his extramarital flings? Yes. (See also: Hillary Clinton.)
It may seem unbelievable, but women also choose non-monogamous relationships and are happy with their choice. I have been one such woman, as I was in an open-relationship (well, kinda) with a guy I dated. It's true we're no longer together, but I am also no longer together with any of the men who I was in a monogamous relationship with before or after him.
I am not advocating that open relationships yield longer, healthier, or happier relationships — as a matter of fact, it is estimated that open marriages have a 92 percent failure rate, while recently released Census Bureau data found that only 9 percent of every 1,000 men and women in marriages divorce.
The problem is often the definition. An open marriage should be defined as a marriage in which both partners agree to let each other have sexual partners outside the marriage. And just because partners agree to an open relationship does not mean every weekend ends in a sexual escapade. Each partnership has its own rules and regulations. An open relationship could mean dating more than one person at a time, or having sex with another person once a month, or maybe once a year.
People may not want to acknowledge open relationships, but certainly they exist among us, although not common. (The percentage of people in the United States in an open relationship or marriage is estimated at 2 to 9 percent, and most of that data comes from research studies made in the 1980s.) And if you're one of those who think people in open relationships are commitment-phobes and creepy sexual deviants, you may want to consider some culturally influential figures who practiced polyamory, such as Hugh Hefner, Frida Kahlo, Cole Porter, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and yes, even Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Still, it's hard for people to accept. It's unsurprising for me to hear my 68-year-old conservative father say a marriage is between two people, and only a man and a woman. But it is surprising to me when my 28-year-old liberal peer wrinkles her nose at open relationships, saying, "That's so weird."
To me, not at all. To those people who love, value, and respect their primary partner and just so happen to have sex with others on the side, as far as I'm concerned — go for it. I'd much prefer to live in a society where I'm slightly uncomfortable by my unfamiliarity with something than live in one where I'm being bullshitted.
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