Karen Salmansohn, best-selling author of a self-help book called “Prince Harming Syndrome” shares some of her thoughts with couples who may be in an open marriage or are being asked to live in an open marriage.
Karen was deeply involved with a man (let’s call him Steve) when he surprised her with an unusual request. One night, Steve explained that if and when they got married, he would always want to have a separate apartment where he could be “alone.”
In his version of their lives, Steve’s “alone” was when he would step out on their relationship—up to three nights a week. Steve wanted an open marriage—a nonmonogamous, polyamorous arrangement wherein he could go his way and she could go hers.
This request caught her totally off guard. The concept of open marriage was very foreign to her, but she considered herself open-minded. “Was four-sevenths of a marriage to Steve better than no marriage at all?”
Was it at all possible that the pros of an open marriage agreement could outweigh its cons? We all know that deceiving someone you love feels horrible on both sides—so could creating a system of rules for cheating actually prove to be helpful? Does operating with transparency when cheating lessen the stress of an affair? Is the true immorality of cheating the act of dishonesty rather than the act of sex itself? Here’s some thoughts on—the good, the bad and the @#$@ of open marriages.
What’s good about open marriage?
When open marriages work, it is most likely because the unconventional unions are focused on good old-fashioned open communication. Telling the truth shows your partner respect, as does following agreed upon rules—for example, keeping your partner in the loop as to where you have been and with who. The goal being to never have to lie thereby creating an environment where you can be open about anything that makes you uncomfortable or afraid.
The thought is that if you truly love your partner, you want them to live their fullest life—flings and all. Flings are simply superficial sensory delights. In a good open marriage, you are simply creating a buffet of sexual experiences, so nobody feels like they are starving for new sensations. This honesty enables couples to avoid the emotional downward spiral of hidden affairs because the need for secrecy is removed.
And what about jealousy? Most open marriages make strong distinctions between sex with others and romance with others. Couples who subscribe to open-marriage philosophies typically agree to keep their spouses first at heart—no matter who else they mingle with.
The whole point of marriage is to show your love and commitment by protecting your union with fidelity. There’s a great deal of calm and security that comes from knowing your partner is directing his love and attention to you and you alone.
Open marriage have several ingredients—resentment, competitiveness, jealousy, insecurity, curtailed time, scattered affections, feelings of betrayal, lack of security—all inevitably blur the lines of a healthy marriage. A healthy marriage asks you both to bring out your highest selves. Calm and security may not sound as hotsy totsy as sex and more sex, but many of us believe it brings far more happiness in the long run. This security brings with it the confidence of knowing your partner is committed to you “till death do you part” rather than until their next Wednesday evening date.
Open marriage is pretty much the opposite of marriage. It seems to be about avoiding commitment—one of the cornerstones of a happy marriage. You may be able to agree on the “rules for cheating” in an intellectual way, but doesn’t the emotional nature of love always get in the way?
By the end of Karen’s research, she firmly believes that open marriage is merely an excuse for getting away with behaving self-indulgently and recklessly. Prince Harming is someone who does not make his partner feel safe, calm, secure, confident.
Dating is for making the most of your options. Marriage is for nurturing the one wonderful union you’ve been lucky enough to find so it grows into something incredibly wonderful.
So what happened to Steve? Karen said no to his suggestion for an apartment he’d go to three days a week. You can’t be four-sevenths married. If you are going to cheat, why bother asking someone to marry you in the first place?