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Why I Have an Open Marriage
by Jasmine

  A large percentage of people have a strong need for Other in their life. One can argue endlessly about shoulds and oughtas, but it won't  change the simple fact, that many, many people need Other. Peggy  Vaughan, in The Monogamy Myth, states that 60% of men and 40% of  women will have an affair during their marriage. This doesn't include the people who end a marriage before an affair, but because of the  need for Other. If shoulds and oughtas worked, there would be little  adultery or leaving a marriage for another.

Sometimes there is no strong need for Other. This is wonderful! This  is the happily monogamous couple in which neither spouse ever seriously  considers extramarital sex. More power to them!! Their lives are simpler  than mine, and I applaud their happiness. They should keep right on  doing what they are doing, and being happy at it.

But for the rest of us, how can one deal with this real need for Other?

1) Repress it. This is a standard, "approved" solution. One problem is, it  doesn't always work. Another problem is that it is often at the cost of  isolation and distance, to prevent any possibility of attraction. When it  does work, it often leaves at least one spouse constantly miserable and/or  angry. This has it's own set of problems.

2) Get a divorce, and start over with some Other. This is another standard,  "approved" solution. But when children are involved, divorce is an ugly  mess. Recent studies show more damage is done to children by divorce than  was previously believed. And sometimes, couples just don't WANT to divorce.

3) Cheat. This solution is not "officially approved." But it certainly IS standard. Look again at those statistics. 60% of men and 40% of  women are estimated to have affairs, according to The Monogamy Myth.  The author, Peggy Vaughan, suggests these affairs affect about 80% of  marriages, since not all straying women are married to straying men. Affairs can get really ugly and wreck lives.

4) Open marriage. In open marriage, spouses are honest with themselves  and with each other about their needs, even the needs that are most  difficult to discuss. This creates an opportunity for depth of communication  and intimacy, IF the spouses choose to pursue it. Secondary relationships  in open marriages are not as powerful or as out of control as affairs, because secrecy and the fear of discovery is removed. Also, one has the  opportunity to seek advice from the most important person in one's life one's spouse.

Open marriage has plenty of problems, not the least of which is pariah status in conservative communities. However, options 1, 2, and 3 all have serious problems of their own. Open marriage, as one possible solution to a strong need for Other, is worth considering.

I have a strong need for Other in my life. I don't know why, but I do. I am healthier because I faced this fact about myself and chose to deal with it honestly. When I get close to men friends, physical or emotional attraction WILL occur, and not getting close is NOT an acceptable option for me. Repression didn't work for me. I was a bitch, not fit to be around. I hated myself; I made my husband miserable. Neither my husband nor I wanted divorce, with all it's heartache and hardships. Cheating was never a possibility for me. No way.

We tried open marriage. I never imagined the changes it would work in my life. I thought we were just experimenting with something we wanted to try. But low and behold, I found out some things about myself, things I needed to know. I stopped hating myself. When that happened, everything changed. I stopped being a non-stop bitch. I stopped making my husband miserable. I discovered wonder and beauty and magic... and it continues.

When I read about affairs and all the pain and destruction they cause, I want to shake these people and say, "Wake up! There's a better way to deal with these very real needs!" But most people don't want to hear it.

I wonder if anyone noticed. I talked about the need for Other, but I did NOT specify sex. Everywhere I mentioned need for Other, it might or might not include sex. Even affairs might be purely emotional. People jump to conclusions that open marriage is all about sex. However, it's really about recognizing and respecting needs, about looking deeply at oneself and one's spouse.

So it's not all or nothing; it's a continuum. One woman who traveled to a weekend party said that the trip was not a problem for her husband because they trust and respect each other and allow each other space to be individuals. This is Openness, to a lesser degree than mine, but still Openness. Another person wanted to come to this party, but could not
because of her husband. Nothing open about this.

Open marriage isn't right for everyone. But it is right for some of us. It is right for me.

copyright JasmineGld 1997

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Last revised: March 25, 2005.