Last weekend after I got off work, I went home and got dolled up to get drinks with a man. Prior to our date, he had told me that he was married and in an open relationship.
I read the word “married” and suddenly something about our whole interaction felt forbidden and wrong. Marriage implies possession; something sacred only between two people who are joined together to become one, right?
A majority of us have been taught that there is only one way to be in a marriage: two people who share their lives only with each other. For a long time conventional meant only man and woman can join together, which is absurd. It has only recently become openly acceptable for two of the same sex to be married.
I’ll admit that my first instinct was to stop talking to him because it made me uncomfortable. Why did it make me so uncomfortable, though? Maybe it’s partly due to society training me to feel weird about unconventional unions.
After the date I started thinking about marriage and how messed up marriage is in the United States. Half of all marriages end in divorce in the United States, and in ⅓ of all marriages one or both partners admit to cheating.
Those two stats have to be connected. Are so many getting divorced because we naturally have an urge and a desire to be with more than one person? And when one does explore those options without a partner’s consent it is betrayal, but what if the spouse knows and agrees to letting the other explore separate people? Would that help decrease the lack of communication and trust?
Even in marriage, it would be impossible to say that being with another has not crossed the mind of a spouse. It’s not deviant to be attracted to someone apart from your significant other; it’s human nature. Some of us are just better at admitting to those desires.
An open marriage consists of both partners who are comfortable with one another dating and having sexual relations with others. Perhaps an open marriage permits and encourages those urges. I admire the people who have enough trust to let their spouse explore those needs and desires, because it must be trying to strip away possession and jealousy.
Maybe it also encourages the ultimate form of trust. Having the confidence that even after exploring sexual paths with others, the person you share your life with will still be by your side at the end of it all.
Open marriage conceivably makes communication a key. On my date with the married man, he took calls and texts from his wife, who knew that he was at a bar with another woman. Open and fluid communication would be essential for these types of relationships.
Prior to my date, I had been judgmental of people in these types of relationships. It is my belief that judgement comes from a lack of knowledge. We judge when we don’t fully understand something and that causes apprehension and uneasiness, but with a little inclination and an open mind we can step into others’ shoes, which helps diminish these judgments.
Here, I would like to say that I’m neither condoning nor condemning. Nor am I an expert on the subject at hand: just an inquisitive person trying to gain some perspective.
I understand that this type of lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but I respect the fact that marriage is certainly not exclusively one thing anymore. There are many ways to be in a union.
I also realize that this may make some people feel uncomfortable, and to them I say, it’s a new world we’re living in. Step into the discomfort; get comfortable with the uncomfortable.