Katie Roiphe on Successful Open Marriages
The controversial feminist (some have said anti-feminist) writer Katie Roiphe has done an essay about the possibilities in building a nonmonogamous marriage. Her article is in the August 2009 issue of the high-end fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar:
Liberated in Love: Can Open Marriage Work?
...Take the unusual and much-talked-about ménage of flame-haired actress Tilda Swinton. She lives in a large, rambling house in Scotland with her twins and their father, playwright John Byrne — and her lover, Sandro Kopp, a beautiful, shaggy-haired artist nearly 20 years younger than she is, sometimes lives there too. When pressed by reporters, she has called her arrangement "sane," which is about the last word most of us would associate with that kind of home life. "We are all a family," she has said. "What you must also know is that we are all very happy."
...Is our idea of love perhaps too narrow, too literal, too unimaginative? The legendary journalist Gay Talese has been married to his glamorous editor wife, Nan, for 50 years this past June, and he is currently writing a book on their extraordinary and epic relationship. Over the years, he has had what he calls "romantic friendships" with other people, but the Taleses have maintained a closer and deeper connection than that of many more ordinary couples. "One can coast on the pillow talk of an affair for years," Talese says....
In the 1910s and '20s, it was fashionable in certain circles to carry on with this type of romantic experiment. Virginia Woolf's sister, Vanessa Bell, a ravishing, statuesque painter who liked to wear gypsyish head scarves, lived on an English country estate with her lover, Duncan Grant, his gay lover, and her children, and her husband sometimes popped by for a week or two. She believed it was more important to live fully than to be conventionally comfortable or secure. One of Bell's frequent guests and ex-flames, the art critic Roger Fry, called her unorthodox household "a triumph of reasonableness over the conventions."
Open marriages have always fascinated and unsettled us because they threaten our assumptions.... But are open marriages happy?... The fantasy that one can transcend rogue feelings like possessiveness and anger is rarely ever true, but one still can't help noticing that there are some unconventional marriages that endure where more traditional unions fail.
...It is an act of imagination to live differently from everyone else, and maybe, in rare and magnificent moments, it works.
Read the whole article.
Roiphe's most recent book is Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910-1939 (2007).
Update August 14: The article has been reprinted in MSN's Lifestyle section.