InThe New York Times, Susan Dominus explores the concept of open marriages, something more and more people are doing, but don’t necessarily feel comfortable talking about. Here are some of the misconceptions she breaks down in the course of her enlightening article.
1. Open relationships can mean many things, arrangement-wise.This can include one night stands with people outside the marriage, or even ongoing relationships. Sometimes the husband meets the wife’s boyfriend; sometimes they don’t. Every open marriage’s rules are different.
2. Tammy Nelson, a sex and couples therapist in New Haven, Connecticut, calls it “the new monogamy,” and even wrote a book with that title. Nelson breaks down the main ideas that many people in open marriages subscribe to: “The new monogamy is, baldly speaking, the recognition that, for an increasing number of couples, marital attachment involves a more fluid idea of connection to the primary partner than is true of the ‘old monogamy. Within the new notion of monogamy, each partner assumes that the other is, and will remain, the main attachment, but that outside attachments of one kind or another are allowed — as long as they don’t threaten the primary connection.”
3. Technology is making open marriages easier. However, they’re experiencing a surge, largely because online technology makes it so much easier. Websites like OKCupid make finding new partners easier than ever, and even Facebook has the option to mark yourself in an open relationship.
4. People in open marriages are still judged. That said, as Dominus points out in her article, open relationships aren’t exactly celebrated in our culture. Many of the people she interviewed for her article didn’t give their full names, stating that they feared judgment and possible job loss.
5. However, some people in open marriages are really, well, open about it.Zaeli and her husband, Joe, even have friends who refer potential new partners to them. Zaeli also developed a business, working with other polyamorous people to help them find the right balance in their relationships.
6. Sometimes a third partner can even live with the couple. As was the case with Zaeli and Joe when they invited her boyfriend to move in with them. “People think of this as a home-wrecking. But this can be a nice family structure,” said Zaeli.
7. People in open marriages prize keeping their marriages “normal.” Meaning, that even though the marriage was open, they would still try to keep things as normal as they could between each other.
8. Open marriages make them more open, sexually. Dominus said that many of the people she talked to said their open marriage “changed the nature of their sexuality.” They opened up to role playing, or a desire to sleep with someone of the same sex.
9. Open marriage is an option for people who crave differences in their marriage, but still want to be married.As Dominus points out, openness in a marriage lets couples keep their relationship but also keep their individuality. Many people see it as a natural progression to the growing variety of family arrangements.
10. Like any relationship, there are pros and cons.As Daniel, one of the people interviewed for the article, says, sometimes it can be hard to be in one relationship when you’re distracted by the other. “There is a third person in our relationship who is pervasively there and not there. The theory of nonmonogamy is easier than the practice.” But then, he mentions that one of the benefits is that both he and his wife are more introspective, and sexually excited, within his marriage as a result of the openness. “We are playing in the sexual energy often, and it feels really good. We are having a lot more fun together.”