Last week I ran a post called An Open Marriage Can Save Your Relationship, which featured a Q&A with and advice from psychotherapist and sexpert Dr. Julie Elledge, who maintained that truly healthy open marriages are possible. But even though I published the post (and asked her the questions), I have to disagree with the good doctor about one thing and say: You open marriage will never work. And here’s why.
I am married. But that doesn’t mean I think that lifelong monogamy is the only normal, healthy, feasible option out there. I don’t. In fact, on its worst day, lifelong monogamy seems pretty damn unsustainable; on its best day, it’s an utterly bizarre concept. Still, in most “unopened” (that is, not open) marriages, like mine, the monogamy issue is a choice – as is picking the person you want to marry in the first place.
Sure, an open marriage is also a valid, legal choice, but it’s not one that makes logistical or emotional sense. How so? An open marriage is just too damn hard. It requires too much advance planning, research, and foll0w-through. You have to do twice as much communicating. Résumés must be collected. You need to take more showers and shave your legs more often. Medical records must be procured, released, and shared. And your scouting and interviewing skills really need to be top-notch. It’s basically like having another full-time job (with benefits, depending on your point of view). Exhausting.
I once seriously dated a fellow who was convinced that an open marriage was totally the way to go, and he wanted me along for the ride. He was very adamant about the fact that this wasn’t merely an experimental phase for him; it was a lifestyle choice and he intended to be very adult, responsible, and circumspect about it. (Or as circumspect as one can be while sleeping with other people outside the relationship.) During the latter stages of our relationship, we did a fair amount of sexual experimentation on this level – experiences that my partner found to be overwhelmingly positive and successful. I, however, was a bit more skeptical. We weren’t married, but my partner liked to think of this as our refundable trial period – although I don’t think he ever had any intention of returning the merchandise. I went along with these sexual experiments (I was young and impressionable; he was hot), but this whole open long-term relationship idea was really his thing, not mine. We were youthful and experimental, but, for me, this was not going to be a viable lifestyle choice – with him or anyone else.
Despite the fact that he constantly assured me that he loved me and wanted to get married (I didn’t, actually), and believed with his whole heart that this was the best, healthiest, and most sustainable lifestyle choice out there, I was pretty sure that his main motivation was somewhat less lofty: That is, buying the cow, but then forever stealing all the milk from his neighbor’s cows anyway. Basically, my guy wanted a lifetime guarantee of as much sex as possible with as many people as possible; but for some weird reason, he also really wanted to be married. (Luckily for me, I never seriously considered accompanying this fellow on that road trip called marriage, and not just because of our different convictions about open marriage.) Eventually, our already unhealthy relationship imploded (yay!), but I really can’t blame the controversial issue of open marriage for that. Instead, I thank the controversial issue of open marriage for allowing me to never regret moving on from that relationship.
The truth is that an unopened marriage trumps an open marriage every time, because, even at its nadir, it’s so much effing easier. My husband is not at all boring, but even if he were, I’d much rather be occasionally bored with him as opposed to frazzled by the scheduling demands of however many other people in the relationship, however briefly they’re present. And anyway, who has the friggin’ time? We’re both too busy and overtired as it is, as I’m sure you and your partner are. We barely have enough time to see our friends with whom we don’t have sex, much less spend that precious time looking around for new friends with whom to have sex. Plus, our apartment is just way too small for sexual experimentation on that level. And let’s face it: An unopened marriage appeals to my (and everyone else’s) innately lazy nature. And laziness isn’t always a flaw; for my husband and me, it’s a shared source of healthy contentment. It’s a choice. And I’ll always maintain that – long-term – it’s the right one.