Sorry, infidelity will never be normal or harmless | New York Post

In the last week, Vice, New York magazine and, for some reason, Bride magazine have all opened up on open relationships. There was the piece in The Post titled “It’s time to rethink cheating in marriage.” Barcroft TV in April brought us “POLY TRIAD: I’M DIVORCING MY HUSBAND SO WE CAN MARRY OUR GIRLFRIEND.” And The New York Times Magazine had an extended exploration of the subject called “Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?”

Not to ruin the ending, but no one who read that article came away thinking the answer was yes.

The Times piece focused mostly on a couple named Elizabeth and Daniel. He asked her to open their marriage; she said no. Years later, she became attracted to another man and decided she was into the open marriage thing after all. Without discussing it with Daniel, Elizabeth started a full-on affair. When Daniel expressed pain over the arrangement, she refused to end it.

Sounds amazing. Why aren’t more people into this?

I’m trying not to feel a sense of smug superiority regarding Daniel’s fate here. But it’s just too perfect.

There has been something kind of weird going on with this lately. A lot more writing lately on unboxing marriage. A natural consequence of winning the SSM is that liberals don’t need to pretend to value marriage like conservatives Except One Thing? Or is this mostly Fake Trend Stuff?

I’m not sure it matters that much. These ideas aren’t really new and they have failed to gain traction in the past for reasons. I’m mostly surprised they haven’t managed to tie it in to SSM more than they have (“What straight couples can learn from openly married gay couples!”

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11 Responses to Wait This Isn’t What I Envisioned At All

  1. Kolohe says:

    Maybe it’s just the circles I hang out in and my own SES showing, but every gay married (either de facto or de jure) couple I know are more bourgeois than the average person I know. They are all relatively professionals/entrepreneurs with homes in well ordered, not at all bohemian urban or suburban neighborhoods. I don’t think I know any ‘open marriage’ gay couples. I know of one bi-sexual woman who is married (to a man) with kids who (I think, but do not know) occasionally goes on dates with other women with her husband’s knowledge. (though I don’t think she does this anymore now that the number of kids she has really fills up all her time)

    So my bet is Fake Trend.

    At best, it’s part of that floating pendulum that’s gone between ‘everyone got married too early in the 60s&70s and thus everyone got divorced in the 70s&80s’ to ‘nobody in late Gen X to early Millennial is getting married until their late 30s if at all’. (and these are all well off white people trends)

    • trumwill says:

      My anecdotal experience is similar. And online, of course, we know some of the same people. There have been studies recently suggesting that gay couples are more open to open relationships. This was inconvenient during the SSM debate, but I was expecting to hear more about it after the debate was won.

  2. I’m not sure how much of a trend it is. Like Kolohe, I have only anecdotes to offer. I know one couple who have told me they’re in an open relationship. I know a few other couples about whom I’ve heard from 3d parties in a position to know that they are open, but who haven’t told me (not that it’s really my business). In all cases, I don’t know the couples well enough to know if it really works for them or if they’re deep down unhappy because of it. In most of those cases, the couples are gay (male) or ones in which at least one person is bisexual. I know no straight couples who have told me they’re in an open relationship.

    When it comes to most gay couples I know, they’re in monogamous relationships and, like Kolohe’s examples, more bourgeois, boring, or working-class than Bohemian.

    I’m also not so sure it’s a “liberal” thing. It might be more a “some liberals” thing, and more about live-and-live’ism than “a practice liberals endorse.” However, I do understand that some people who endorse open relationships and reconfiguring marriage to be more amenable to such relationships may have probably been quieter about it when ssm was still not legalized.

  3. Dragonfrog says:

    What’s to be smug about with Daniel’s situation? He was honest and open and respected Elisabeth’s consent. He was met with deceit and his consent ignored.

    Of course newspapers focus on people whose relationships are troubled – more drama. If you thought the papers representative of reality as a whole you’d never want to fly, because every flight they write about crashes, or at least involves gets delayed for hours over a drunken fight…

    • dragonfrog says:

      To put a rather sharper point on it:

      Can you draw a clear bright line between “I’m trying not to feel a sense of smug superiority regarding Daniel’s fate here. But it’s just too perfect,” and “It’s hard not to feel smug when sluts get raped”?

      I’m not accusing you of the latter. I’m sure you’d be just as disgusted by the latter as most of us would.

      But I think the former may differ from the latter only by degree, not kind.

    • trumwill says:

      I suppose it’s mostly that I take a pretty dour view of men that seek to change the parameters of an existing relationship (in this case, marriage). In this case, you are right that he did take “no” for an answer and that’s certainly more than she did. The flipside is that he got what he wanted, eventually. And it turned out that he didn’t want it. Why didn’t he realize it would hurt? Because when he thought “open marriage” he thought he would be the fulcrum. It’s a sort of entitlement I’ve seen before. One they often get away with. One that typically leads to a happy enough ending for him and heartbreak for her. This one went off-script. “Smug” probably isn’t the right word for my uncharitable impulse, but it’s something.

      • dragonfrog says:

        It doesn’t seem to me he did get what he wanted, or what he asked for, though.

        An open marriage has to be about, first and foremost, openness of communication, honesty, compassion. Openness to other romantic or sexual partners can emerge within a discussion in that framework.

        He asked for openness, vulnerable honesty. He got a fait accompli, and an implied ultimatum. They’re different things.

        As far as proposing to change the parameters of an existing relationship – we do that all the time, don’t we?

        We ask for a raise (but we don’t say “Hey, I’ve been stealing from petty cash for the past year, can we formalize the arrangement?”)
        We ask if the landlord is willing to amend the lease so we can have a dog (before getting a dog, not after a year of having one in secret)
        We ask sex partners if they’re into trying something new in bed (before the act, not “Hey, did you enjoy the thing I sprung on you there?”)

        It’s the asking openly and respecting our counterpart’s decision that makes it a working relationship in the first place. If you can’t ask for a change, that’s not a relationship of mutual respect, it’s a jailer / prisoner scenario.

      • dragonfrog says:

        The more I think about it, the more I think my analogy above gets to the heart of the thing. If a reporter wrote a story that went something like:

        “In 2010, Daniel asked Elizabeth if she wanted to have sex. She said no, and Daniel respected this. In 2013, Elizabeth raped Daniel. He finally got what he wanted, and yet he wasn’t happy.”

        … we would have no trouble, no confusion, no hesitancy, calling it bullshit. Because we instantly get that consent is the thing that distinguishes sex from rape – and it’s not a trivial detail, it’s of crucial importance.

        And yet, we get a story like the one in the Times, “Daniel asked Elizabeth for if she wanted an open relationship, she said no, he respected this. Years later Elizabeth had an affair and then confronted him with it. Daniel had gotten what he wanted yet he wasn’t happy.”

        … and we miss the bullshit. Because we somehow get confused that consent is just as big of a deal in differentiating an open relationship from an affair, just as much not a trivial detail but of huge importance.

        • trumwill says:

          While parameters do change in any relationship, this one is both (a) a pretty big one, (b) one that has enough negative associations in my mind that I tend to fill in the gaps with uncharitable assumptions. Which I don’t do when it comes to someone who wants sex or doesn’t want sex with a particular individual.

          So I look at why he thought it was a winning arrangement and why (until he came to terms with it) it really wasn’t, and my impressions aren’t charitable. He thought that since he was more interested in sex – along with some beliefs perhaps about how men and women are wired – that things would work where he had multiple partners and she had just him.

          That is… a really common assumption. I think especially among cases where the couple didn’t get in to the relationship both wanting that. Indeed, a lot of the negative associations I make are because he does actually have the leverage to get what he believes he is due. And more than once, she went along precisely because she believed she had to in order to save the relationship. Which, of course, it didn’t, and at the end it was basically an indefinite dangling or, even worse, “Sure, I’ll hang with you if you can bring another chick along.” (The entire concept of consent here is often quite murky, in the more abstract sense.)

          It’s not that I don’t think he has the right to change his consent. It’s that I believe he thought he would be on the “winning” end of this, and when he thought that it was all about rationality… and then when the reality turned out different his view on the ground changed.

          Hers too, of course! His suggestion prior doesn’t make what she did okay. Neither does her illness. It’s just maybe a bit easier to see how she is reacting to events, rather than advancing them.

  4. trumwill says:

    Trying to get a couple pieces ready for tomorrow morning, so hope to respond sometime tomorrow.

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