"I write to you not with ink, but with blood from a mother’s heart."
New York's venerable Jewish Daily Forward (now weekly in its print edition) has an advice columnist who, like many, seems to be coming around:
Help! My Daughter Is Seeking an 'Open' Marriage
By Lenore Skenazy
Dear Bintel Brief: In 1995 one of my six daughters married for the first time. We thought she was truly getting married, and I liked her young man. For maybe a dozen years she had been leading an unconventional, “new-age” lifestyle in the San Francisco Bay Area, perhaps in rebellion against her conventional, Midwestern upbringing....
Some time later, the two of them confided in me and my wife of 50 years that she and M___ were in an “open” marriage.... In private discussions between us, my wife and I... agreed that this so-called “open” marriage was nothing more than a holding pattern until one or the other of them found in a lover someone more pleasing than their spouse. And so it has turned out; the husband jumped ship.
...Curiously, she continues to socialize and spend holidays with, apparently without rancor, M___ and his new wife.
...I have on more than one occasion gently (I hope) suggested that she seek out a more conventional relationship. The last time I did so, she reacted with some heat.... She defended her “open” marriage, declaring that statistics show that an “open” marriage are no more prone to end in divorce than conventional marriages, in which the which the taking of lovers is often carried out in secret and is truly a betrayal.
So here, finally, are my questions for Bintel Brief: 1) Is my daughter’s claim about statistics about “open” indeed true? And 2) If I should ever raise this matter again with my daughter, is there anything else of a non-moralistic nature that I could adduce to the benefit of a conventional marriage?
P.S. My mother, of blessed memory, used to quote in Yiddish... “Dear Worthy Editor, I write to you not with ink, but with blood from a mother’s heart.”
...The one advantage to open marriage, you’d think, is that at least a couple can stay together forever: Why divorce the cow when you can get the milk from all the other cows, too?
But that’s just the problem, says Hara Marano, author of a book all about young people falling apart, “A Nation of Wimps” (Broadway, 2008). When you keep consorting with everyone else, one of you is liable to fall in love. And even if this doesn’t lead to divorce, it usually leads to jealousy, which is about one millimeter away on the misery continuum....
Except that your daughter seems to have emerged unmiserable and unjealous enough to still like her ex and the replacement wife and want to try it all again. So maybe an open marriage can make sense, at least for her.
Having written that line with zero conviction (if you’re Tevye, I’m Golde), I called Richard Woods, an author who lectures about open marriage — including his own. First off, he said, there are no statistics to give your daughter, because there are no hard numbers to base them on. Open marriage isn’t something you check off on your census.
Moreover, he said, the reason it’s not on the census is that open marriage “is the new gay.” Like homosexuality just a generation or two ago, most of the people practicing it don’t talk about it for fear of public censure....
And even if it that kind of arrangement doesn’t make sense to you, Tevye, in the end it’s not up to you anyway. It’s up to your daughter. And maybe the sweep of history.
Read the whole article (July 13, 2009). Thanks to Reb Yankl for the tip.
(Is the daughter, by any chance, reading this?)