Thursday, June 12, 2008

Open Marriage...

A new book was just released entitled Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block. Block, a suburban wife and mother, talks about her own life in an open marriage, addresses the stigmas attached to the concept and challenges long-held beliefs around the virtues of monogamy.

I've not yet publicly discussed my views on the subject, but have written and thought much about this. I'm not sold on the whole monogamy thing. It doesn't sit right with me. While it may work for others, I don't see it as fulfilling my great capacity for love and relationship. I've been perusing Block's book and find my soul nodding along with many of her thoughts. Regardless of your views on the subject, it's a fascinating and challenging look at what relationship means.

tall penguin

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Even if we refer to the Bible for authority on morality, monogamy seems a bit of a sketchy ideal. Many Bible characters seemed to enjoy polygamous lifestyles without damaging their relationships with God. If I recall correctly, only in Solomon's excess was it a cause for counsel, and even then mostly because some of his wives were foreign and therefore considered a corrupting influence.

Some Christians now try to rationalize polygamous behavior in the Bible: "God allowed it to protect the lineage of his seed" is a common excuse. It seems a bit insulting to suggest that this same Power that steered nations to clash in battle for the fulfillment of Its prophecies was incapable of protecting his own darn lineage without compromising on morality, but there you have it.

I'm not sold on polygamy. But I'm not particularly sold on monogamy, either. Both have been employed as excuses to tighten control on and abuse women, and both have been enjoyed as "frameworks" for successful relationships.

As a Christian, I was a very jealous lover. I tried not to let it show, but I felt very upset and threatened when I saw someone else taking an interest in my partner. It's funny how the Christian mind can fail to make connections: on the one hand, I felt strongly about feminism and not treating women as property etc., but on the other hand I think I somewhat equated adultery with theft; theft of my possession of a partner.

These days, I don't feel so strongly about the subject. As a consequence, I think I'd be more open-minded, and certainly more forgiving, if my partner approached me about adultery or polygamy. I have a hard time convincing myself that this is a -less- healthy mental state for me.

So maybe the Bible's got it right on this one. Polygamy? Not necessarily evil.

matt said...

Yet another book I must get! :)
The only animals who structure monogamy seem to be humans -- Interesting enough, I'm guessing penguins are polygamous, but it seems the male will stick around to help take care of the child, I believe? Or maybe that was just in the cartoons I've seen. :)

I still can't seem to find my entry, maybe I didn't write it as a post, but a reply to someone else's.

I enjoy my stance of singledom. If I'm free in all other things, can I really shackle someone down on such an important thing as love? If the love sways, can I really jealously hold on to them? No. Like you said, there's moments, live the moment, be the moment. :)

I agree with you anon! Very well said! When are you going to have a name? :)

Jenny B said...

Hi-

Thank you so much for mentioning my book on your blog. I would love to hear more about what you think!

Best,
Jenny Block

www.jennyonthepage.com

Alice said...

I don't know if I can wax on about my thoughts on this, but I definitely want to check this book out now. I'm intrigued!

zensim said...

Whilst not quite at the point of having an open marriage, my husband and I have had lots of discussions about this in the past year and a half.

I figure we must be pretty open just to be able to discuss this without going into a clash of emotionality due to fear, control, possession, religious and cultural programming etc. We are very present to each other, even if we don't always like what we are hearing.

A book that really helped me is 'Mating in Captivity' by Esther Perel. She is very insightful and part of her take is that there is no simple answer, it is important to live in the tension of our dual natures.

I look forward to reading Jenny's book now :)

tall penguin said...

"Some Christians now try to rationalize polygamous behavior in the Bible: "God allowed it to protect the lineage of his seed" is a common excuse."

I too thought this was a pretty lame explanation. But then, so many of them were.

"It's funny how the Christian mind can fail to make connections: on the one hand, I felt strongly about feminism and not treating women as property etc., but on the other hand I think I somewhat equated adultery with theft; theft of my possession of a partner."

Yes, it's called cognitive dissonance. And it will slowly drive people crazy.

This idea of possession is an interesting one. It seems that, regardless of one's religious beliefs or lack thereof, traditional marriage still implies a sense of ownership.

There is so much fear of adultery, not necessarily because of the love between partners but because of the ego-driven need to call something one's own, to derive a sense of security from having MY husband, MY wife.

I can't say I don't feel jealous at times. I most certainly do. I am also working towards expanding my heart and my capacity for love, within which there is no room for ego.

And like matt, I hope I get to put a name to your posts sometimes soon! :)

tall penguin said...

"I enjoy my stance of singledom. If I'm free in all other things, can I really shackle someone down on such an important thing as love? If the love sways, can I really jealously hold on to them? No. Like you said, there's moments, live the moment, be the moment. :)"

There is no more profound love than that which is lived fully in the moment, without thought of "Will he/she still be here tomorrow? Is it going to last?" All things end eventually. The sooner we come to accept that, the easier it is to let go and love, right here, right now.

tall penguin said...

Thanks Jenny for stopping by. I sent you an email through your site. I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts as I move through your book.

I think this is a topic on a lot of people's minds these days. I believe a revolution around what relationship looks like, is continuing to unfold. We can only hope. :)

tall penguin said...

Hey alice, I hope you'll share your thoughts as you read the book. Interested to hear what you have to say.

tall penguin said...

"I figure we must be pretty open just to be able to discuss this without going into a clash of emotionality due to fear, control, possession, religious and cultural programming etc. We are very present to each other, even if we don't always like what we are hearing."

Thank you Sim for your personal experience. As Block speaks about, a successful open marriage is even more reliant on open, honest communication. It forces one into a more revealing, authentic paradigm. Perhaps there are lessons in that for all marriages and relationships.

I wish you and hubby well. You are brave souls.

Anonymous said...

How cool is that: you actually got a comment from the author!

Thanks! I'm pretty sure there's at least two of us anon's at the moment, though (unless I've been making sleep posts) so I can't take all the credit! :-)

tall penguin said...

"Thanks! I'm pretty sure there's at least two of us anon's at the moment, though (unless I've been making sleep posts) so I can't take all the credit! :-)"

And that's why you need a name. So I can distinguish my anon's one from the other. :) Regardless, you are a valued member of my blog community and I appreciate your input here.

mike said...

My 2 cents...

As long as everyone goes in openly and as equals who cares! Monogamy will work for some, polygamy will work for others. But the the key (I think) is openness and equality.

My only problem with polygamous relationships, (Latter-day saints style anyway) is more often than not the women seem to be under the impression that they have no choice. "It's God's will and I will conform to God's will." They're obeying, not openly choosing.

matt said...

Polygamous Monomomentus (a love for every moment)
I coined it! Send royalties this way. :)

Ged said...

I'm all for people having whatever relationships work for them and make them happy.

I can't help thinking tho if sometimes it's a case of not yet having found someone you want to give it all to.

tall penguin said...

"I can't help thinking tho if sometimes it's a case of not yet having found someone you want to give it all to."

I was hoping Jenny would come back and address this comment.

Sure, it's a valid observation. Of course, there's probably lots of people in monogamous relationships that enjoy and give their all to one partner, but would also like to explore sharing with others as well. I think that's what Jenny's book is about, that it can be a both/and situation rather than an either/or.