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Open Marriage, Then and Now

In response to the announcement about the upcoming “Intimacies” Discussion Group on Open relationships with author Jenny Block, I got this email:

“Interesting topic.

“One word-nerd suggestion:  perhaps note then that the original Open Marriage book advocated freedom in interests and communication, but not sexuality?  At least that’s my recollection from reading it, -years- back.  My thought is that the author’s intended meaning/vocabulary has shifted in popular culture, to including, perhaps even being primarily interpreted, as multiple sexual/emotional relationships.  At least “show and tell” the old book’s cover could be an interesting beginning to “class” <g>.  Thoughts?

“best,

(name withheld on request)”

I asked Jenny for a response and she sent this:

 “Thank you so much for your email. The book you are referring to, “Open Marriage” by Nena O’Neill and George O’Neill, was indeed much more about freedom in terms of communication, interests, and maintaining one’s individuality within a marriage. It does, however, devote one chapter to the subject of sex. In it, the O’Neills say some wonderful things about jealousy being a “learned response” and presumed sexual ownership of a partner being the demise of many a marriage. They explain that “Man (and we mean both sexes) is not sexually monogamous by nature.” Indeed! That doesn’t necessarily mean they prescribe non-monogamy. “We are not recommending outside sex, but we are not saying it should be avoided either. The choice is entirely up to you…Outside sexual experiences when they are in the context of a meaningful relationship may be rewarding and beneficial to an open marriage.” In other words, to each their own. The bottom line is this: People deserve happy marriages and marriage shouldn’t be the one-size-fits-no-one convention it in many cases is. So, yes, I do believe this book would be an excellent conversation starter and I have plans to bring my copy along with me to the event. As for the vocabulary, that is indeed a problem. I chose the expression open marriage because it seemed like the lesser of the evils. We aren’t swingers. We weren’t poly then. Though I would describe myself that way now. So, open marriage felt like the best fit. It allows for a number of different permutations, which is exactly what I think marriage in general should do.”

Seems to me that the issues haven’t changed since the book by the O’Neills came out with their book in 1972, but the conversation about it is now more candid and direct.

Any more comments or questions in advance of our discussion on July 16? Foreplay’s good.

One Response to Open Marriage, Then and Now

  • Karen Kreps says:

    I got these as email comments:

    On Jul 15, 2008, at 4:40 PM, Karen Kreps wrote:

    Feel free to forward this to your speaker, if you like:

    Many inexperienced citizens assume “polyamory” to be a phenomenon associated with and triggered by emotional and/or sexual passion (preferably both, right? ).  But, are there any anecdotes, research, fiction/literature/movies, songs, or other info. re. polyamory being caused by, helpful re., or otherwise associated w/ more practical (and less sexy) concerns, e.g., a partner or spouse w/ a terminal illness and long-term considerations like caring for children?  

    Thanks.  Looking forward to attending.

    And Jenny then replied:

    Hi-

    Thanks for the question. I can’t say I’ve been asked this before. 

    I have not heard about this happening. Although I suppose anything is possible!  Human beings are not monogamous by nature. That’s all there is to it. Polyamory is simply a matter of choosing to open yourself up just as monogamy is making the conscious choice to only have one partner. People choose to be with certain people for all sorts of reasons, and that certainly applies to polyamorous ones just as it does to monogamous ones!

    Best,
    Jenny Block

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