Black couple educate about open relationships
I first saw Carl and Kenya Stevens (photo) talking about their open marriage earlier this month on Philadelphia local TV news. They got a much better chance to tell about themselves recently in a long interview with BlackVoices. They have also appeared on The Mo'Nique Show on BET, Fox News (part 1, part 2), the Michael Baisden radio show, Mademoiselle, Ebony, and elsewhere.
These are very together public spokespeople for self-creating your life.
From Black Voices:
We're in an Open Marriage: Q&A
By Aisha I. Jefferson
Would you be okay if your husband had a girlfriend? Or what if your wife went on vacation with her male lover without you could you handle that?
Most people admittedly could not, with such ideas often igniting feelings of rage, jealousy, a barrage of expletives or even cause windows to be busted. Yeah, it could get ugly.
But BlackVoices found a married couple who is fine with those scenarios and even spent last July apart with their significant others. Meet Carl and Kenya Stevens, parents of three who, after spending 12 years of marriage monogamously, decided three years ago to try open marriage.
...They say their open marriage has been spiritually and emotionally transformational, and even brought them closer together.
As unconventional as the Stevenses' marital status appears, they aren't the first African Americans to engage in this lifestyle. Academy Award-winning actress Mo'Nique has spoken publicly on various occasions about the open marriage she shares with her husband, Sidney Hicks. Legendary Hollywood couple Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis admitted in their 1998 joint biography, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, that they tried an open marriage but later decided it wasn't for them. Supermodel Naomi Campbell's Russian billionaire boyfriend Vladimir Doronin has an open marriage with his wife. And let's not forget the occasional rumblings surrounding whether A-list couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have an open marriage.
Even though there isn't any statistical data pointing to open relationships as a growing trend among African American couples, you have to wonder with rampant cases of infidelity and marital dishonesty, reports of the single black woman's plight and nearly half of American marriages a reported 70% for African Americans ending in divorce, should African Americans consider this lifestyle?
Black Voices sat down with the Stevenses to discuss how this marital arrangement is working for them and why others may want to consider it.
Black Voices: How do you define open marriage as a couple?
Carl Stevens: For us it's the ability to relate to other people, meaning we can have friendships, we can have intimate relationships, we can have any kind of relating with someone else that we feel is necessary for us as individuals. We also have to be able to be open and honest with each other, and we have a certain line of communication so that everybody is in the loop with how we're feeling and what's going on.
Kenya Stevens: Oftentimes in marriage, parameters are set on even emotional friendships with the opposite sex. If my husband wanted to go and play checkers with the woman who lived across the street, that's deemed as 'not right.' In our marriage, we can have emotional relationships with people of the opposite sex.
...BV: You are love coaches who have a foundation in tantra. How has this influenced your ability to have an open relationship?
Kenya: Tantra is the idea that sex is a sacred activity. It's the most grandiose meditation that two people can participate in together. So we don't think about sex in a pornographic fashion. We think of sex as connecting with another person. And so that separates the idea of just swinging and going out and just looking for sex and so forth.
When we deal with a relationship outside of our marriage, it's a deep connection. The individuals that we are friends with outside of our marriage are also friends with our partners. So my boyfriend is friends with my husband. My husband's girlfriend is friends with me. So we have a tantric connection to each individual that we have an intimate partnership with.
BV: That's a very evolved way of thinking, but it still can't be easy knowing that your mate now has another lover. How did you adjust?
Kenya: Yes, there's a big adjustment period and we're still in it. We're very comfortable right now, three years in, but for the first year it was very, very rough because we're discarding all of these notions and ideas like jealousy. We're replacing jealously with ideas like compersion the state of being actually joyous and excited if your partner is receiving pleasure and happiness outside your union.
So replacing jealousy with compersion was a big, big thing for us. We're at the point now where we're actually very happy when our partner is satisfied outside our union. And we're very happy when we receive satisfaction with each other....
BV: You have three children under the age of 12. Do they understand your lifestyle arrangement? What's their reaction?
Carl: We basically talk to them openly about our lifestyle. We include them in it in terms of communication and they may meet our partners. The only negative effect I see is their being judged by other children or adults who want to pass judgment upon Kenya and I. I think overall, it's a positive thing for our children because they understand they can actually make a choice. They can live the lifestyle they want to live. They don't have to follow tradition or follow the 'cultural norm.'
...BV: What has been some of the feedback you've received about open marriage from the African American community?
Carl: We get a lot of feedback that's against open marriages, but at the same time, I think there's a very large group of people out there who understand that the current institution of marriage does not work. And instead, we need to focus on more of a universal love concept and focus on not being victims in our own lives. I think those people are open to the concept of an open marriage because basically they understand they create their life and have control of it. If a person isn't used to being open and honest in a monogamous relationship and is used to playing games there's no way they will be able to conceive of an open relationship that's built on trust and honesty....
Carl and Kenya Stevens, who authored Tame Your Woman and Change Your Man, respectively, are love coaches who blog about their experiences at www.JuJuMamaBlog.com, where they also operate JuJuMama's Love Academy.
Read the whole interview (Feb. 4, 2011). Great exemplars that they are, I have to say the titles of their books don't thrill me.