Once trans issues become passé, poly living will be the hot new fashion. Gotta keep the sexual revolution chugging along, after all. I’ve seen a few more enthusiastic pieces over the last year or so trying to stir up interest.
Tui wasn’t wrong. The New York Times is but the latest mainstream publication to ask:
Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?
Daniel, then a 27-year-old who worked in information technology…
Now this may not be relevant, but both the former partners of the polyamorous woman I knew worked in IT. And it goes without saying that they, like the people in this article, lived in New York.
But as with any happy marriage, there were frustrations. Daniel liked sex, and not long after they were married, it became clear that Elizabeth’s interest in it had cooled. She thought hers was the normal response: She was raised by strict Catholics, she would tell Daniel, as if that explained it, and she never saw her own parents hold hands, much less kiss. It was not as if she and Daniel never had sex, but when they did, Daniel often felt lonely in his desire for something more — not necessarily exotic sex but sex in which both partners cared about it, and cared about each other, with one of those interests fueling the other.
So a man gets married and soon gets bored of banging his wife and wouldn’t mind sleeping with other women. How very unusual.
Elizabeth, baffled by Daniel’s disappointment, wondered: How great does sex have to be for a person to be happy? Daniel wondered: Don’t I have the right to care this much about sex, about intimacy?
Woman frets over whether she’s making her man happy in the bed. Man belatedly realises that getting married impacts one’s sex life. This is some groundbreaking stuff right here.
Occasionally, when he decided the answer was yes, and he felt some vital part of himself dwindling, Daniel would think about a radical possibility: opening up their marriage to other relationships.
Man fails to understand that being married is a trade-off.
He would poke around on the internet and read about other couples’ arrangements. It was both an outlandish idea and, to him, a totally rational one. He eventually even wrote about it in 2009 for a friend who had a blog about sexuality. “As our culture becomes more accepting of choices outside the norm, nonmonogamy will expand as an acceptable choice, and the world will have to change as a result,” he predicted.
Some of us are incapable of holding down a normal, functioning relationship and attempt to address severe self-esteem issues with meaningless sex. We demand the rest of society approves of our lifestyle.
He was in his late 30s when he decided to broach the subject with Elizabeth gingerly: Do you ever miss that energy you feel when you’re in love with someone for the first time? They had two children, and he pointed out that having the second did not detract from how much they loved the first one. “Love is additive,” he told her. “It is not finite.”
He’s using his wife’s love of their children in attempt to convince her to let him go and shag other women. Lovely.
He was not surprised when Elizabeth rejected the idea; he had mostly raised it as a way of communicating the urgency of his needs.
Man tells wife about his need to shag other women, wife doesn’t take it well.
Elizabeth did not resent him for bringing it up, but felt stuck: She was not even sure what, exactly, he wanted from her, or how she could give it.
Yes, she’s confused: that’s what happens when you’re stuck with a manipulative shit of a husband.
In the fall of 2015, Elizabeth met a man at a Parkinson’s fund-raiser. Joseph … asked her to tea once, and then a second time. They understood something profound about each other but also barely knew each other, which allowed for a lightness between them, pure fun in the face of everything. They met once more, and that afternoon, in the parking lot, he kissed her beside his car, someone else’s mouth on hers for the first time in 24 years. It did not occur to her to resist. Hadn’t Daniel wanted an open marriage?
Woman rejects concept of open marriage but cops off with a bloke offering her tea at a charity bash. Remember, these polyamory types are perfectly normal, just like you and me.
Elizabeth did not announce that the friendship was turning romantic, but she did not deny it either, when Daniel, uneasy with the frequency of her visits with Joseph, confronted her. That she intended to keep seeing Joseph despite Daniel’s obvious distress shamed him: He was suddenly an outsider in his own marriage, scrambling for scraps of information and a sense of control.
Man who wanted an open marriage fails to understand it’s a two-way street.
This was not at all what Daniel had in mind when he proposed opening the marriage.
No, he thought he’d be banging waitresses and cheerleaders. Instead he’s been cuckolded.
They had not agreed on anything ahead of time; they had not, as a couple, talked about their commitment to each other, about how they would manage and tend to each other’s feelings.
That’s because they weren’t in an open marriage: he suggested it, she said no, and then she went and had an affair. Hubby is now playing catch-up and trying to apply labels which don’t fit.
“It wasn’t like we had a conversation about it,” Daniel said the first time I met him, in April 2016, when they were just starting to put that painful period of their relationship behind them. “It was more like: This is what I’m doing — deal with it.”
Wonderful. What a lovely couple. I’m at a loss to decide who is the bigger selfish, narcissistic, shit here.
Elizabeth’s intransigence, and Daniel’s pain, had brought them back into couples therapy. After several months of surveying the situation, which seemed to be deadlocked, the therapist told them in early March 2016 that she thought they were most likely heading for divorce.
I wonder how much they paid their therapist before she reached this conclusion?
For several nights following that therapy session, they talked in their bedroom, with an attention they had not given each other in years, sitting on the strip of rug between the foot of their bed and the wall. The sex, too, was different, more varied, as if reflecting the inventing going on in their marriage. Elizabeth was still someone’s wife, still her children’s mother, but now she was also somebody’s girlfriend, desired and desiring; now her own marriage was also new to her.
Hmmm. I think the journalist ought to have expressed a little skepticism at this point, don’t you?
When I met Elizabeth and Daniel, Elizabeth had already received Daniel’s permission to keep seeing Joseph
She was seeing him anyway, IIRC.
Daniel was contemplating how he might, in turn, meet someone.
I bet he was. Like a lot of middle-aged men who bail on their marriages in the hope of getting hot and sweaty with pretty young things, he found the reality to be somewhat brutal. I only hope he didn’t grow a pony tail and start wearing hoodies.
Their marriage had already strained to accommodate another person, someone whom Elizabeth would meet while Daniel was at work, whom she texted in the car while her husband drove.
This must do wonders for the self-esteem, which likely wasn’t very high to begin with. I wonder how his “love is not finite” analogy is holding up at this point.
But Daniel said he was past the point of fear. “Basically you could say maybe we loved each other before all this — but maybe we were just asleep. And maybe being asleep is more dangerous and worse to you as a person than what’s going on right now. I want to be married, and I don’t want anything to happen to us. But I have no idea what would happen either way. Would you rather be asleep and have things fall apart? Or rather be alive and have things fall apart?”
Yeah, that therapist really helped, didn’t she?
“The new monogamy is, baldly speaking, the recognition that, for an increasing number of couples, marital attachment involves a more fluid idea of connection to the primary partner than is true of the ‘old monogamy,’ … Within the new notion of monogamy, each partner assumes that the other is, and will remain, the main attachment, but that outside attachments of one kind or another are allowed — as long as they don’t threaten the primary connection.”
In short, the “new monogamy” accepts “But she meant nothing to me!” at face value.
The spectrum of those attachments included one-night stands and ongoing relationships; as she understood it, honesty and transparency, rather than fidelity, were the guiding principles underlying the healthiest of these kinds of marriages.
I wonder just how healthy the healthiest of these marriages are?
The couples did not perceive their desire to see other people as a symptom of dysfunction but rather as a fairly typical human need that they thought they were up to the challenge of navigating.
Well, yes. Everyone would like the freedom to fuck whoever they want if the opportunity arises, but that’s something you give up in order to be in a relationship. You hope that the overall benefits of being with one person are greater than being single and free to do what you like. Nobody says monogamy is easy, but it’s a trade-off. If you could get the benefits of a monogamous relationship without the downsides, everyone would do it.
Terms have long existed for arrangements similar to those she was seeing — they could fall under the category of polyamory, which involves more than one loving relationship, or the more all-encompassing term, consensual nonmonogamy, which also includes more casual sex outside of marriage or a relationship.
Polyfuckery would be a better description for a lot of these arrangements. Or simply shagging around.
Divorce, or not marrying in the first place, might seem like a more logical response to a desire for openness. But even as marriage rates have declined in this country, the institution has retained a seductive status for Americans.
People still believe in marital arrangements that have gone on for millennia. Who would have thought?
And yet the tradition is nonetheless at odds, he argues, with the country’s emphasis on individualism, a tension that leads to high rates of divorce but also to remarriage, with worrisome outcomes for finances and children.
Ah, this old chestnut: traditional marriages often fail so polyamorous ones are worth considering. What nobody ever does is closely examine the rate at which polyamorous relationships fail, the mental state of the people involved in them, and the effect on any children unfortunate enough to be caught up in them.
And yet open marriages — and to a lesser degree open but nonmarital committed relationships — are still considered so taboo that many of the people I interviewed over the last year resisted giving their names, for fear of social disapprobation and of jeopardizing their jobs.
Here’s my own position: I have no objection to consenting adults doing what the hell they like, but don’t try to sell me polyamory as a viable option for those seeking a normal, functioning relationship.
It is no surprise that most conservatives would perceive the concept as a degradation of marriage, of a key foundation of society.
And you know what, perhaps they’re onto something?
But even among progressives I talked to, the subject typically provoked a curled lip or a slack jaw. The thought bubble, or expressed thought: How? How could any married person be comfortable with, or encouraging of, a spouse’s extramarital sex? The subject seemed offensive to many at some primal level, or at least ridiculously self-indulgent, as if those involved — working, married people, people with children — were indecently preoccupied with sexual adventure instead of channeling their energies toward, say, their children, or composting.
An admission, at last, that those who practice polyamory are rather different from the rest of us and are capable of mentally accepting things which most people would find abhorrent.
It was several months after he posted his profile that Daniel went on a date with a woman he met on the site, someone who was also in an open marriage. … Drinks flowed, and around midnight, Daniel found himself in a Ford Explorer, kissing a woman who was not his wife for the first time in 25 years.
Two middle-aged people copping off in an SUV on the first date after meeting online. Anyone who thinks polyamory lacks class better think again.
They were still making awkward conversation at a bar when a woman sitting nearby asked how long they had been together. Daniel and his date exchanged glances; Daniel shrugged, as if to say: “Go ahead.” “He’s married to someone else,” his date said. “I’m married to someone else. We’re on our first date.”
The first rule of polyamory: advertise it to the whole world.
Susan Wenzel, a therapist in Winnipeg, Canada … felt equipped to manage the arrangement, and she and her boyfriend cautiously agreed that they could see other people, so long as those relationships remained casual. Susan did not feel it detracted from the strength of their relationship when she started seeing someone who is, like her, an immigrant from Kenya. But when that faded and her live-in boyfriend started dating someone, she found that jealousy hijacked the relationship.
Meaningless extra-marital sex with African immigrants have detrimental effects on the marriage. Who knew?
She sought therapy with Nelson, working by Skype to identify the source of her own jealousy.
I have no words…
She also had two young children from a previous marriage who lived with them…
Lucky them. And let me tell you how surprised I am to find that a practitioner of polyamory has a feeble track record in holding down a lasting, stable relationship.
She eventually wrote her boyfriend’s female friend a note of apology, adding that she had resolved a lot of her own insecurities.
All perfectly normal, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
The chief adjustment she and her boyfriend made was the one that seemed the least likely: They married, a year and a half after they first opened their relationship. Her boyfriend felt, for the first time, happy to commit to a woman he loved, knowing he had the freedom he wanted; and the symbolism of marriage gave Susan enough security that she could grant him that freedom, and exercise it herself.
Or, more likely, it was a vain attempt to put a veneer of respectability on a degenerate lifestyle that was causing them to be shut out of ordinary society.
In August, Elizabeth and Daniel made a road trip to a Lower East Side bar in New York to attend Poly Cocktails, a monthly event founded in 2007 for people who are interested in nonmonogamy, or practicing it.
A pickup party, in other words. Not exactly low-key types these polyamorists, are they?
For the most part, the socializing was studiously nonsexual, but a young woman with a retro look — red lipstick, baby-doll dress — was flirting with a tall man in a sleeveless T-shirt, a 45-year-old dad from brownstone Brooklyn, a musician with a corporate day job.
Brooklyn. Where else? And what’s the betting the girl in question has some sort of severe Cluster B personality disorder and enough daddy issues to fill a book? Can we come back and see how she’s doing in ten years time?
Elizabeth and Daniel had ostensibly come to be among people who would not judge them.
Meaning, form opinions as to their chosen lifestyle and characters.
Instead he spent most of the evening talking to a married woman who complained that she felt underappreciated by the crowd at the bar.
Woman who goes to a party for those who practice indiscriminate sex feels underappreciated.
Conventional wisdom has it that men are more likely than women to crave, even need, variety in their sex lives. But of the 25 couples I encountered, a majority of the relationships were opened at the initiation of the women; only in six cases had it been the men.
When I last wrote about polyamory I said:
It is almost a certainty that the men in a polyamorous relationship will be noodle-armed omegas of hipster persuasion. On the odd occasion this rule doesn’t apply, he will be an astonishingly ugly, middle-aged man with a pot belly and wearing bad knitwear.
Look at the pictures in the article then tell me I’m wrong.