NYT: " ‘We Choose Each Other Over and Over Because We Want to’: Readers share their open-marriage stories"
When the New York Times Sunday Magazine ran its 12,000-word "Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?" a few days ago, it asked readers to send in their own open-relationship stories for website publication. Today the Times posted a selection of them.
A number of you wrote to or phoned the author of the original article, Susan Dominus, to call out white-middle-class exclusivity. Or published about it online. I wonder if I hear a little defensiveness about that in the first line quoted in italics below.
‘We Choose Each Other Over and Over Because We Want to’: Readers Share Their Open-Marriage Stories
"The subjects from our May 14 cover, from left: Blake Wilson; Wilson's girlfriend, Zaeli Kane; Kane's husband, Joe Spurr; Spurr's girlfriend, Alexandra Kirkilis." Credit: Holly Andres for The New York Times
By JEANNIE CHOI
...In many ways, Dominus assumed the position of the average New York Times reader and approached the topic with skeptical curiosity: “The more I spoke to people in open relationships,” she wrote, “the more I wanted to know how they crossed a line into territory that seemed so thorny to their peers.” ...
We asked people to share their stories of engaging in open marriages and relationships and received more than 300 submissions. ...
Several readers shared how they carefully and deliberately opened their relationships. Despite the challenges of an open marriage, the couples felt strengthened by the decision to engage in outside relationships.
...After a little over a year of being together, our sex life fizzled. It was becoming such an issue that both of us considered ending things, but we didn’t bring it up because our partnership in all other facets of life was so strong.
About two years ago, we were approached by a friend interested in sharing a night with both of us, and we went for it. That led us down a path of actual conversation about the matter, how exciting that night had been for both of us and how unhappy both of us were with the state of our sexual relationship. We gradually opened our relationship.
This was not always an easy process. ... There are times when one or both of us needs to feel completely supported, and during those times we will close the relationship because we are each other’s most important person and we recognize that there are times when being open doesn’t make sense.
The most important thing this has done for us is remind us that we shouldn’t take each other for granted. Instead, we choose each other over and over because we want to, not because we are simply on autopilot. —Crystal A.
My wife and I are 80 and have had an open marriage for 40 years. It started when I had a “secret” relationship and has evolved over the years. I told my wife about a later relationship and suggested that we have an open marriage, never imagining that she would agree. But she did.
I have had one-night stands and relationships that lasted for years. She had several relationships that were very satisfying. It hasn’t all been a bed of roses, though. ... There have been jealousies, hurt feelings and times when one of us was in a relationship and the other was not. We told our children when they reached college age and they strongly disapproved. Still, I consider the decision to have an open marriage one of the best we have ever made. —Watson B.
A number of readers in open marriages came from religious backgrounds and had married young. As a result, they felt they had not been free to experiment sexually, and this feeling of deprivation led them to open their marriages.
My husband and I met when we were 17 and were both raised in strict evangelical homes. I had always known I was a little boy crazy. ... While I was deeply in love with the man soon to be my husband, I never stopped feeling attraction to others. We married at 21 and then slowly left the church.
I felt a part of my life had been stolen — the part where you explore your own sexuality with multiple people in your early 20s. My husband also knew he was bisexual, and that was something he had never followed through on....
...This first stage was a dizzying sexual adventure with many ups and downs, and we felt our primary connection was overwhelmingly strengthened by these other encounters. We learned to be more open with each other about our sexual needs, desires and kinks — something that our Christian background had always stifled within us.
While there have been problems, of course, and it is true that polyamorous lifestyles can sometimes require an exhausting degree of processing and communication, overall I feel like a more self-actualized and fulfilled person through the whole process, with so much love in my life. I guess in some ways I have the evangelical church to thank for all this. —Josie J.
I married my husband at 19. We have always had a successful marriage, working as a perfect team to build our adult lives together. Somewhere along the way, he confessed to me his desire for me to have sex or even flirt with other men....
Years later, at 27, I was a stay-at-home mom of two young children with no family in our state, few friends, a husband who worked out of town and crippling depression and anxiety. I loved my husband, but I had lost my spark. He once again suggested I date other people.... Then I met Joe and we fell in love.
Today, the three of us openly live together as a triad, raising our kids.... The combination has been interesting, challenging and beautiful. —Alicia W.
Other readers shared how opening up their heterosexual marriages finally allowed them to explore their bisexuality while remaining in a committed relationship.
As a young adult, I tried desperately to deny that I was gay. ... Coming out to my husband was the hardest thing I have ever done. ... He basically said: “I know you’re gay. I’m surprised it took you this long to admit it.”
...I ventured into the world of online dating, and he reconnected with an old girlfriend. That was four years ago, and we’re still going strong. Our marriage is solid, our kids are happy and we each have a romantic relationship outside our marriage that makes us happy. It’s an arrangement that works for us, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The combination has been interesting, challenging and beautiful. —Kim M.
...It was actually he who first offered the idea of opening the marriage so that I could see other people (women, in particular)... I am now with a girlfriend I’ve been seeing for 6 months. My husband also eventually found himself someone whom he sees very casually. We’ve had ups and downs and miscommunication, but it has also absolutely strengthened and deepened our relationship with each other and with the people we see. —Emily M.
Finally, a group of readers had attempted an open relationship and wanted to share their negative experiences in order to present a more balanced view. Some argued that they still believed open marriages could work under the right circumstances, but could also lead to disaster when both partners aren’t on the same page.
I was in an open relationship in the past, during the 1970s, when people began to experiment with open marriages. My ex-husband and I were close friends with another couple; he fell in love with the wife first and wanted to open the marriage and have sex with this woman. Her husband felt “obligated” to then pursue a romantic relationship with me (he later told me). I loved them both so much that I complied — but I was also in my early 20s and incredibly naïve.
The foursome became emotionally complicated. We were all in therapy. Both marriages finally fell apart, and we and the other couple divorced. In the end, I felt betrayed by everyone and lost my best girlfriend. In retrospect, I felt the whole experiment was an elaborate ploy so that my ex could have sex with my best friend within the confines of marriage.... —Marissa P.
...In my case, after more than 10 years of marriage and two kids, my wife fell for someone else, and I agreed to open up the marriage.
In retrospect, I never really had a choice, and this was the beginning of the end of the marriage. The issue wasn’t possessiveness on my part. I embraced what I saw as an opportunity for growth. The problem was a lack of consideration on the part of my wife. She was going to do things her way with a total lack of control or regard for my need for some kind of boundary around her activities.
I still think that nonmonogamy can work, but it requires deep care and consideration for each person involved (including any children) and extreme maturity. Running off and ignoring adult responsibilities doesn’t work if you want to stay married....
I did learn about myself that I am fundamentally not a jealous person and that I am committed to the happiness of all concerned in my relationships. I also learned that my wife was not the kind of person I wanted to be married to. —Michael B.
Read their full stories (May 18, 2017).
Labels: open marriage