More on Open Marriage

They're all over these days - articles about non-traditional marriages or open marriages or no marriages. "Polyamory" seems to be the new relationship/non-relationship buzzword everywhere. Tango On-Line Magazine has numerous pieces on marriage without monogamy, as does the Huffington Post in its "Living" section. It seems that now, 36 years after Nena and George O'Neill wrote their best-selling book, "OPEN MARRIAGE," the concept is making a real comeback.

Wikopedia defines "open marriage" this way:

"Open marriage typically refers to a marriage in which the partners agree that each may engage in extramarital sexual relationships, without this being regarded as infidelity. There are many different styles of open marriage, with the partners having varying levels of input on their spouse's activities."

In my therapy practice, especially over the last ten years or so, I have definitely witnessed a shift in the consciousness about marriage and relationships. For one thing, fewer people are getting married at all, and those that are thinking about it are not considering it at least while they are in their twenties, or even early thirties.

I think that's great. No one who gets married before they've really experienced adulthood for a good while is getting married for a healthy reason. Period. No one. It's all about fear and fulfilling images when you're that young. How can you tell? Because young people who get married think it's a momentous occasion, a really big deal, a... UGH!... commitment! In other words, a contract! With clauses that, no matter how poetic, basically claim that the spouses involved won't have to worry about being alone ever again: "I might get fat, you might get lazy, we might stop having great talks and great sex, but I've got a contract that says you have to be with me."

Now, of course, only the most out-of-touch people these days don't know that divorce is a routine part of adult life, since over fifty percent end up there, but that statistical fact doesn't change the fantasy for so many. Still, something positive must be up, since the "institution" of marriage seems to be under siege, among people of all ages.

Okay, but what about "open marriage" or polyamory as alternatives? Well, first of all, why not? What's wrong with having more than one love and/or sex partner? Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx both understood a century ago that monogamous marriage was a constructed social arrangement that mainly benefited societal institutions and economic systems, not the individuals in the marriage. Freud saw marriage as a way for society to control sex, and Marx saw marriage as an efficient consumption unit designed to fuel capitalism. (I agree with both Freud and Marx on this, by the way, and I want to add that, in general, traditional marriage as it is widely practiced is NOT GOOD FOR THE KIDS!)

But I want to say something else beyond just that traditional marriage with contractual monogamy is an institution built on personal fear and societal control. I want to say that marriage can also be a celebration. It can be an enthusiastic way of saying to the world, "We're in love!" "Yahoo!" "Check us out!" "We're immersed in a high order of Love-Eros-and-Sex and it's the shit!"

Yes. That's it! It's the party part of marriage that makes sense, not the "marriage" part. And if you're truly partaking of that kind of Love-Eros-and-Sex, you will find yourself arriving to a place that I've called, "spontaneous monogamy," a place where you're just having so much great sex and great talks and great life with your partner that your desires are focused like a laser on that one love partner. No need for a contract. No obligatory co-dependency. Passion, pleasure, fun and love, and yes, the sharing of the responsibilities of careers and parenting, and accepting the challenges of coming face to face with each other's character flaws, too. But always driving it all is the laser. Perhaps in that place, you might even decide to experiment with extramarital sex at some point, but it will be in the same spirit of celebration, not because, as described in so many of the open marriage articles, your sex life with your love partner has gone flat or doesn't meet all of your needs sexually, etc.

So, okay, one last point. Open marriage, or open anything in human relationships, has nothing to do with outer behaviors. Having sex with several persons, or just one person can be open or closed. It's really about how open you are to the full range of your own emotions, how free you are of your inner belief systems, how readily you can reveal yourself to another, and how connected you are to your own soul.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a wise therapist told me years ago when the book, "Open Marriage" first came into circulation, "Open Marriage doesn't work because it doesn't take care of the (Not-OK)Child part of the partner - who wants to be special and cared for exclusively." This therapist was a TA (Transactional Analysis - also popular at the time)therapist. I agree. However you want to look at it, Open Marriage does not work and it is a silly idea for people who still think they can have it all.


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