"Honey, I'm Home From My Date: Mass. Families Open Up About Open Marriage"
Update: The show aired and yup, darn good. The host struck an incredulous tone (this is normal), but whole extended group got to explain their community of loving relationships and the benefits to the marriages within the group, to the group as a whole, and to their kids. Who had their say too. For 7½ minutes altogether. You can watch it here; click "Two Marriages, Many Lovers."
The article below includes a fair amount of what was said. Good job, people.
Just ahead of tonight's "20/20" segment on polyfamilies (as part of the show airing Friday April 20th), ABC News has put up a wonderful companion article on the web.
Honey, I'm Home From My Date: Mass. Families Open Up About Open Marriage
By MARC DORIAN and MICHAEL MENDELSOHN
To most people, the idea of their loved one dating and having passionate sex with other people is repellent. But for two married couples -- with children -- in Somerville, Mass., and thousands more across the country, this is the happy, stable norm.
Sierra Black, 33, is a writer for a popular parenting website. She's been married to Martin, 47, for almost nine years. Martin is a research scientist at a nearby university. (Martin and others in this article will be identified only by first names.)
Though most nights they're home together to put their two young daughters, ages 7 and 4, to bed, on other nights Sierra might be found canoodling with her lover, Aaron, and Martin might go on a sleepover date with his tall, blond girlfriend, whom we'll call J.
..."I make [dates with J] the least disruptive as possible," said Martin. "Sometimes, we just go out and have dinner ... and other times I have a sleepover. And I let [my kids] know that I'm having one, so if they wake up at night ... [and] need to go to bathroom, they know that I'm not there, but I'll be back in the morning."
You might think Sierra and Martin's daughters think their parents' arrangement is unusual, but when "20/20" anchor Elizabeth Vargas asked their daughter, Rio, if she thought her family was different from other families, she replied, "Not really."
Rio's definition of an open marriage was fairly precise, for a 7-year-old: "Your parent or one of your parents is dating a different person that's not part of your family," she said.
Sierra and Martin are very close friends with another local couple: Molly, 35, and David, 43. They have an open marriage, too, and are parents of a 6-year-old daughter. Those aren't the only things the two couples share.
Martin's girlfriend, J, is also David's girlfriend.
...Said Molly, "I get a lot back from this. I have a tremendous amount of love and support in my life, and that is because I have all these strong relationships."
These extracurricular relationships are not fleeting affairs and the couples aren't "swingers." Though Molly and David have been married for 12 years, Molly has been seeing Mark for five years, and David has been seeing J for three. Molly and Sierra have also been intimate for three years. And friendships were often cultivated years before things got intimate.
Honest, continuous communication is key, say many couples with open marriages.
As Martin put it, "There's no cheating."
Sierra added, "We are committed to being an open book with each other, and it's all based on a really high degree of love and trust."
"They have a very specialized ethical code," according to Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, a former sociology professor at Georgia State University who has studied people in open relationships for 15 years. "There's a real ethical basis by which they manage their relationships. In the end they may even be more egalitarian and kinder than those in monogamous relationships...which are often on auto-pilot."
...Molly and David have a daughter. But what kids of open marriages see, Molly said, "is lots of stable relationships with people who chose them consciously and happily."
Clinical psychologist Esther Perel, who wrote about open marriages in her book Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and Domestic, said "...You're giving the message to your children that this is an important dimension of life and that you take it seriously and that you negotiate it with care, with responsibility, and with respect."
Indeed, when "20/20" caught up one night with Sierra, Martin, David, Molly, Mark, Aaron, Romy and J, they were having a tame evening, with the three children joyfully playing around.
To those who might criticize such a family life, Molly said, "We all put so much love and effort into this life that we've created for our children, and saying, 'Oh, you're a bad parent' because you've chosen to structure your relationships in such and such a way -- I find that hurtful."
...Could open marriage join premarital sex, interracial marriage, gay rights and easy access to contraception on the list of former taboos now widely accepted in mainstream society?
"I don't think that open marriage will become a dominant model," said Esther Perel. "But it will become one of the many models for relationships. ... [T]here isn't one-size-fits-all."
Read the whole article (April 20, 2012). And add a comment.
The show's permanent online home should eventually be here.