Can people be happy in an "open" marriage?


The New York Times had a very long article exploring the joy of open marriages, through the story of one couple who were unhappy with their marriage but became thrilled when they started fooling around with other people:

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.

Actually, as you will soon see Elizabeth's interest in sex hadn't cooled; only her interest in sex with her husband. She met a guy named Joseph who soon started satisfying her needs.

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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.

Tammy Nelson, their therapist friend, had long been telling Daniel he should meet the man Elizabeth was seeing. When Elizabeth and Daniel arrived at the bar, the men shook hands. Daniel felt the need to reassure him. “It’s O.K.,” Daniel told him. “We’re good.” He even felt a pang of empathy.

Daniel is bonding with his wife's boyfriend!

Daniel assessed his wife’s boyfriend and decided with a defensive dismissiveness that he was “not a threat.” The conversation stayed light, the encounter ended without incident and then Daniel and Elizabeth went home and had sex: Reclamation sex, as it is sometimes called among the polyamorous.

"Reclamation sex". It sounds like recycling! Some scenes from an open marriage:

Scene 1: His wife taking photographs of him to post on his OkCupid profile. Scene 2: He reaches under his pillow on a night when his wife is with her boyfriend and finds a note she has left, knowing his hand would slide precisely there. He opens it up to see a picture of a heart, with their names written inside, a plus sign between them. Scene 3: One night, close to bedtime, Daniel and Elizabeth explain the concept of polyamory to their two teenage children and tell them that although their mother is seeing someone, the marriage is still strong. Their son, who is 17, sounds almost proud of them....

It's even good for the kids! What more can you ask for?

But when Daniel went off for a sexual weekend with another woman, Elizabeth was not entirely thrilled.

Elizabeth claimed to have no ambivalence about his weekend away. And yet when Daniel returned, he found her a little bit cold, judgmental not about the premise of the weekend, she said, but about the particulars. She and Joseph had waited for months before having intercourse, building the relationship first; Daniel did not wait, which bothered Elizabeth.

Elizabeth felt that she committed a purer, more wholesome kind of adultery than Daniel did.

Elizabeth was still seeing Joseph one year after she and Daniel opened their marriage. The fact that Joseph’s wife didn’t know troubles her, and she wrestled with guilt. But he had become someone she loved. Daniel had come to see Joseph as “part of my tribe.” He often helped Joseph out with computer problems; when he heard that Joseph had the flu, Daniel texted to see if there was anything he needed.

“The marriage is better than it was when it started,” Daniel said in March. “It is. It really is.... we were just lying in bed talking, and [my wife] said, ‘What can I do to make you happy?’ ”

The article makes it seem that women are more willing to satisfy their husband's needs when their own needs are being satisfied by someone else.

What do you think? Are you envious of the kind of relationship that Elizabeth and Daniel have? If your spouse started seeing someone else, would you be grateful for their assistance, offering them cold medicine and computer help as needed?

[originally in AT]



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