More Than Half Of Americans Have Cheated, So Why Aren't We Talking About Open Marriages?

How can so many people be doing it and so many more people be ignoring it?

Cathy Young penned an op-ed for the Boston Globe titled "The real threat to marriage, gay or straight," where she seems to imply that extra-marital affairs are equal parts rare and harmful to people and their relationships. Her confusion is as obvious and naïve as it is familar, s o, I hope to be able to clear things up.

Young suggests that open relationships, or non-monogamy, are the "real threat" to marriage, when in fact the true threat is the current structure of the institution itself.

Marriage was created as a business arrangement to join kingdoms or families. Love and monogamy were of no concern. It was a way to ensure that men who fathered children would stick around to raise them.

It was then mixed up with religion in a way that flies in the face of biology. Marriage was already in danger, with unhappy marriages and rampant affairs. The open relationships of some will not be the demise of the monogamous relationships of others.

Characterizing the majority of gay relationships as open (as Young and many others do) is ignorant. Every relationship is unique to the partners involved. And suggesting that men need to be "tamed" by women — another of Young's suggestions — is as offensive as it is ignorant. And "traditional" sexual restrictions. Whose traditions? Whose restrictions?

And heterosexual marriage can suddenly turn gay, despite what Young or anyone else might think. Or, rather, your presumed heterosexual marriage can suddenly reveal itself to be gay as transgendered people decide to live out their true selves and a couple that was once a man and a woman is suddenly two women. Or a marriage separates so that one or both partners can pursue same-sex relationships. 

If you need cultural strictures in place to give you the leverage to coerce your spouse to be monogamous because you want exclusivity, you have a serious problem. A couple should be monogamous because that is the relationship style they both choose, not because "everyone else is doing it." Would you jump off the Brooklyn Bridge if everyone else was doing that too?

Young says that, "Eventually, monogamists may be chided … for being so fixated on sexual fidelity" as a means of arguing against non-monogamy. But I think it's time people were "chided" for following the band instead of thinking for themselves. Monogamy is a perfectly valid choice — to be thoughtfully chosen and carefully adhered to. Otherwise it is simply a mockery of itself.

Sexual exclusivity is not an essential marriage feature. It is a feature that has been proven again and again to be a non-starter by the many people who are in sexless marriages, adulterous marriages, and open marriages. Marriages can exist without sexual exclusivity because they do exist without sexual exclusivity.

Marriage is about social affirmation. But it is not — or rather, should not — be about monogamy. It's about choosing to share your life with someone.  Period. Marriage is about, and only about, those in the marriage. They are not about Ms. Young or anyone else.

And you are both naïve and very poor with math if you truly believe that "Over 90% of Americans think extramarital sex is always wrong," as Young suggests in her story. If that's the case, then how have 40 – 60% (or more) admitted to infidelity? They do it even though they know it's wrong? Perhaps. More likely they do it because it's where their biology leads them.

All of this prudery and Puritanism makes people think they have to cheat in order to have the non-monogamous marriage they desire, all because judgmental people like Young and others are waiting in the wings, whining that so-called traditional marriage will be ruined if they can't force their partners into not straying by strangling them with social strictures.

Being "judgmental" toward open or multi-partner relationships is intolerant. It's not any of anyone else's business how others choose to conduct their private affairs. What about your use of pornography? Or sex toys? Or role-playing? Or whatever other dirty little secret each of us surely has? Should BSDM be socially rejected because some people would lose their leverage to convince their partner that vanilla sex is the only acceptable sex?  

The logic that Young and others like her lay claim to is anything but. Her words and ideas are hurtful, archaic, and infantile. But more than anything, they are dangerous, particularly these:

"But if there's anyone who belongs in the closet, it's people, gay or straight, who want to enjoy the social privileges of marriage and keep their 'sexual freedom' too."

No one belongs in the closet. So I want to offer these words to anyone that Young and others like her have hurt with their thoughtless ramblings.

Don't listen to them. Don't listen. Young and her clan are wrong and misguided and ill-informed. Be who you are. Love who you love. Live how you would live if there were no Cathy Young, oppressive religion, or Disney movie telling you how to live.

In many, many cultures all around the world, people live and love in so many different ways. Only here, in our oppressive, fear-driven culture do people feel they must only live one way, and it's because of propaganda like Young's.

"Open marriage should be opposed by everyone who cares about marriage," Ms. Young says.

Hateful ignorance like Young's and the other social conservatives who care nothing for truth or kindness or understanding, who think not for themslves but who instead blindly follow the piper, should be opposed by everyone who cares about human life and love and dignity, I say.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Jenny Block

Jenny Block is a lifestyle and travel writer and the author of “Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage” (2008 Lambda Literary Award). Jenny holds both her BA and her MA in English from Virginia Commonwealth University and taught college composition for nearly ten years. She is a frequent contributor to a number of high-profile publications and websites, including www.huffingtonpost.com, www.FoxNews.com, www.EdgeOnTheNet.com, and Curve Magazine. Her essays have been featured in the books, “It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters,” “One Big Happy Family,” and “The Divinity of Dogs.” Twitter: Jenny_Block Facebook: Jenny Block Website: www.jennyonthepage.com

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