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Open Marriage & Respecting the Foundation


Well. Here is a post that has been a long time coming—the discussion of open marriages. So often, discussion of non-monogamy goes off track, because all people can hear is, “Oh my god! This is not like how we do things! I don’t think I want to do things this way! This must be wrong!” But APW-ers are really good at listening to each other without screaming at each other, so I’m delighted for this post. It makes me think about the rules under which I live out my relationship, and the ways we communicate. Hearing about other ways of doing things makes us stronger. Even perspectives as seemingly diverse as waiting till marriage to have sex, and open marriage show me that we’re all more alike than we are different, and we all have wisdom to share with each other. And with that, I bring you Christina:

Open Marriage & Respecting the Foundation | A Practical Wedding

When my husband asked me to marry him in a vineyard a year and a half ago, I was overjoyed.  We spent a beautiful day together in the Valley talking about our life and the wedding that was now in our immediate future.  When the day was done and it came time to share the news, the first people we called were the lovely couple we had been dating for just shy of a year.

My husband and I have what I like to call a respectful-and-consensual-quasi-non-monogamist-marriage—but since that’s a ridiculous mouthful, we just call it an open marriage.   Ever since I was in high school I knew that I was going to have an open marriage.  I didn’t know anyone in an open relationship nor had I ever seen one before, but somehow I got it in my head that it was something I wanted before even really knowing what it was.  Maybe it was because I had seen my parents dealing with infidelity, or maybe it’s just my genetic makeup.  Who knows. I just knew the idea of lots of people loving each other appealed to me.

I read somewhere that there are about as many kinds of polyamory as there are polyamorists, and my husband and I just have one kind.  Like any relationship, figuring out what you want your relationship to look like is no easy task.  For us it took loads of communication, tons of honesty, and a willingness to explore and occasionally figure out some things you don’t want to do.  Over our five years together, we’ve learned two basic things about how we want to engage in an open marriage:

1. Our marriage will always comes first.  Feeling and showing love is *awesome*.  We want each other to feel as much of that through life as possible, but never at the expense of our marriage.  We’ve promised never to use other relationships to hide from problems we might be having together.  If an outside relationship is causing too many problems in our marriage, it ends.  If one of us needs to be monogamous for a little while, we do it.

2. We don’t date people separately from each other.  People always ask if I ever get jealous- I did before we learned this.  It’s the difference between splitting and sharing.  Husband gone for a few days visiting a girl with whom I don’t have a relationship?  That’s splitting, and I get jealous.  Us both dating the same person (or people) with whom we occasionally have one-on-one time?  That’s sharing, and it makes my heart feel all full and happy.  We want to share our love, not divide it up.  We want to ADD to our relationship.

Like anyone trying to do something outside the mainstream, I get a lot of unsolicited advice and tons of loaded questions.  You ladies making non-WIC choices for your weddings probably know what I mean.  Take for example this gem I get all the time:

“Your lifestyle is fine and all, but what’s the point of getting married if you aren’t faithful to each other?”

It’s a common misconception, but my husband and I *are* faithful to each other.  We never cheat, meaning we never go beyond the pre-determined boundaries that we laid down together in our relationship.  My husband still has the ability to cheat on me, just in a different way than you might think.  Over the years we’ve come to refer to this faithfulness as “respecting the foundation,” and it’s pretty much become our relationship motto.

So why did we get married?  For me, being non-monogamous doesn’t erase the desire for a life partner.  I wanted someone to grow old with, have children with, and potentially love forever.  It’ worth saying, too, that I can love more people than just my husband without loving my husband any less.  For us, love is not a zero sum game.  My girlfriend was the leader of my bridal brigade and was totally there for me on my wedding day.  Does her presence there take away from my husband?  Absolutely not.  All of us there together, loving each other, makes the love even bigger.

I’ve heard people say that they could never have an open relationship because it would just take too much work.  I’d love to say that isn’t true – but it ain’t no joke.  This sh*t is hard.  Take for example when we were dating a couple—there weren’t just two relationships going on.  After mapping it out one night to sate our own curiosity, we realized there were really 15 relationships going on.  Yeah. It can be challenging.  But no marriage is easy, right?  Sometimes it’s pull-your-hair-out-hard, but you work through it because you want it.  Being able to love my husband, have him love me, watch him love others, and love others together– I feel so surrounded by love, sometimes I feel like the luckiest person on the planet.  It makes all the work we put in feel utterly worth it.

Truth be told, there isn’t a relationship out there that wouldn’t benefit from the amount of work, communication and constant introspection that it takes to manage an open marriage.  Husband and I are always assessing our needs and wants and talking to each other about it.  We don’t have a lot of relationships to emulate or look up to, but that has served us well.  We rarely compare our marriage to others, and we get to build our ideals and boundaries from scratch.  How awesome is that?

Of course there’s all sorts of odds against us, and horror stories about how our marriage could end up.  But what marriage doesn’t have that?  Wedded bliss is supposedly a risky thing these days.  Sure, I could opt out of marriage like a lot of people in my social circle.  I could choose not to try.  But I chose otherwise.  It might be stupidity, but it feels more like bravery.  Because even with all the statistics against us, we still want to work for something that makes us happy.  Call me crazy, but isn’t that kinda the point of life?  Yup.  It is.  And it doesn’t have to be anyone else’s definition of “happy”.  Just ours.

Open Marriage & Respecting the Foundation | A Practical Wedding

Photos by Kali Kraum Photography.

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  • Rachel

    I love that you said this: “We never cheat, meaning we never go beyond the pre-determined boundaries that we laid down together in our relationship.”

    I think that’s such an important point, not just for open marriages, but for all relationships. It is entirely up to the people involved in the relationship to decide what is and isn’t acceptable for them, in all areas, and no matter how different from the ‘mainstream’ that decision may be, if it’s right for the people directly affected, it’s right. That’s all that matters.

    Thank you for sharing your story, it’s very beautifully and eloquently written, and such an interesting look at a relationship style I’ve never experienced before.

    • http://thehoneymoonproject.com Emma

      Thank you so much for posting this, Christina. It was beautifully and thoughtfully written.

    • ellobie

      Agree. Even in a “standard” marriage, a couple can have cheating going on that’s not necessarily physical. It all depends on what the foundation is.

  • Clare

    ‘respecting the foundation’. love it.
    thanks for such a thought-provoking post

    • Mayweed

      indeed. wow, was my first thought when I finished.

    • Sarah M

      Thanks for sharing your choices and philosophy. Total eye opener. The essay on open marriage from “The Bitch in the House” left me with a lot of questions– including how it was possibly making the author happy as she wandered around lonely in her husband’s dirty socks waiting for him to come home at night from his girlfriend’s house. Your incredibly articulate post really helps me see how this choice can not only work for some couples, but also allow them to thrive.

  • Desaray

    Thank you again, Meg. And friends.

  • Louise

    Christina, thanks for sharing such an interesting post. It wouldnt work for me/us but it’s extremely interesting to read your thoughts on marriage and it’s really brave of you to share!

  • Edelweiss

    Such a wonderful post! I subletted a room in a home of a couple that had an open-marriage. I have to admit before having that experience, I struggled understanding how love could survive in a situation like that. As Christina said “it ain’t no joke. This sh*t is hard” but “It makes all the work we put in feel utterly worth it.”

    What I learned:
    – they had extremely open, healthy communication between each other that I’ve seen in any relationship. Not just about their girlfriend, but the work they put into their communication about this aspect in their relationship clearly paid off in dividends when they had to have tough conversations about finances and work schedules
    – they were two incredibly loving, generous and extroverted people. I’m not saying every couple in an open marriage has these traits, but it made their choice make sense for them. They had a ton of love to give and they thrived on being in the company of others. The husband once explained it to me as a technique that helps their marriage because both of their emotions ran so strong, having another outlet to share with prevented the two of them from over-whelming each other.
    – they loved and respected each other in ways some of my friends in “traditional” relationships dream of.

    Regardless of the type of marriage people have, Christina nailed it when she wrote that all relationships can benefit from dedicated introspection, communication and work. I think the conscious, careful way couples in successful open marriages “respect their foundation” can teach a lot of us good practices for any type of relationship.

    Thank you for sharing! I love how this site makes me appreciate the strength we derive from challenges.

  • Alicia

    This is amazing. thank you.

  • http://www.misallocationofresources.blogspot.com Jenn

    “Respecting the foundation”? Genius!

    Thanks for reminding us that relationships should be defined by what works for the people in them, and not someone elses’ ideals. You and your husband, which such clear and open lines of communication, are a step ahead of many couples who aren’t sharing that deeply.

  • Liz

    Brave, smart, and beautifully written. Thanks.

  • Amy

    So thought provoking and smart. Thank you to Christina for writing, thank you for Meg and Alyssa for posting. I’m one of the many “not getting married anytime soon” (I don’t think!) ladies who come here everyday anyway because of posts and coversations like these. “Respect the Foundation” is going to become my new motto. Thank you!

    • ItsyBitsy

      “…one of the many “not getting married anytime soon” (I don’t think!) ladies who come here everyday anyway because of posts and coversations like these.”

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one!

      Also loving today’s post. It’s great that there can be a community like this one to share such different perspectives about what healthy relationships can look like for different people.

  • http://recessionistawedding.blogspot.com/ Mallory

    I think your post is amazing. I love that APW is so accepting of all lifestyles too. People should have the freedom to be themselves without judgment.

    What you have to say about boundaries, communication and work in a relationship are all very important points that resonate with me; that, and they are 100% applicable to all relationships. Thanks for having the courage to share!

  • http://www.fancynotion.blogspot.com/ Kerry

    This was hard for me to read, which means that it was good for me to read.

    Thanks APW team for including things here that I wouldn’t seek out myself.

  • http://www.lovelyatyourside.com LovelyOlivia

    You could easily use the motto “respect the foundation” in terms of wedding planning too…I know, with my ceremony and wedding, there’s certain things I want to accomplish, and other people have to “respect the foundation” that the FH and I are setting down for ourselves.

    Very thought provoking post! Great writing. APW is a wonderful place.

  • http://made-of-sun.blogspot.com/ Trisha

    Thank you for sharing your story, and your relationship with.

    This –
    “Truth be told, there isn’t a relationship out there that wouldn’t benefit from the amount of work, communication and constant introspection that it takes to manage an open marriage. Husband and I are always assessing our needs and wants and talking to each other about it.”

    I think some of the best talks my husband and I have had have come from discussions about our boundaries are and what we both want, need and expect from each other. (Thank you Dan Savage, for giving us the opening.)

    and also this –

    “We rarely compare our marriage to others, and we get to build our ideals and boundaries from scratch. How awesome is that?”

    This. I think that this is a beautiful way to live, and probably something we all could benefit from. I know I can.

    • Cass

      I like to listen to Dan Savage’s podcast show sometimes. It makes me want to feel more open to other different relationships. Although I choose not to have an open marriage, myself, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn something new from others who choose to love this way.
      I can say that I learned something good from this post, too.

      Yay broadened horizons!

  • http://onegirloneguytwocats.wordpress.com/ Heather

    This was an incredibly interesting post, and I loved reading it. While an open marriage would probably not work for my husband and I, we have talked about it once or twice in curiousity. Would it be cheating? It would feel like it… but the way you described how a healthy open relationship can work doesn’t make it feel that way. It definitely opened my eyes to the concept, and as the others have said it’s about “respecting the foundation” which works for any marriage.

    Thank you for this post, Christina!

  • http://www.twitter.com/eskaybe eskaybe

    “Truth be told, there isn’t a relationship out there that wouldn’t benefit from the amount of work, communication and constant introspection that it takes to manage an open marriage.”

    This is exactly what I was thinking as I read the post – by having a monogamous marriage, my husband and I haven’t been forced to address – in a really head-on and direct way – some aspects of our relationship. Because our relationship seems to fit a more traditional model, we haven’t tackled issues of what cheating means to us and what we need from our relationship vs. what we need from other people.

    Between this post, and the list of questions posted last week, we’ve got talking to do! Christina, thanks for sharing your perspective. Meg’s right – it is wisdom we can all learn from.

    • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

      Even if you don’t have an open marriage, this is still something you have to tackle. My fiancee and I have discussed the definition of cheating extensively after a few couples who were close to us ended up having problems from “cheating.” For some folks, cheating is flirting, and for others, you aren’t cheating until you have sex. We all have different lines, and it’s really important to know where those lines are. If you have needs that you think should be met by your marriage and aren’t, that’s something that must be discussed.

      Oh, and I should add, it is essential to respect those lines. I should think that would go without saying, but I’ve known some people to have issues there. I had one time, in a work situation, where my open-marriage coworker didn’t understand why I, a single lady, wouldn’t get involved with him. Sure, he was cute. But just because he was okay with his open marriage didn’t mean I wanted to be involved in the situation. So respect is necessary from all angles.

  • Martha

    I love this post. For real, this is why I read APW every stinking day (rarely commenting, but still).

    I don’t have an open marriage, and am not sure that we would benefit from one, but I really appreciate what you’re talking about here. The topic seems to really be communication, and how, with enough of it, you can define your own boundaries and really create the exact relationship(s) that you need and want.

    Also, can I give a shout out to Dan Savage? Love him.

    • Martha

      Also, I know an older couple who have had an open relationship for ages. It’s kind of an awesome thing to see, because they are a TEAM.

  • Lethe

    Thanks so much for this truly interesting post. You got right to the heart of how to define “cheating:” for some couples a kiss is cheating, for others it’s not; for some couples feeling emotions for another person that you never act on is still cheating, for others it’s not; and you have your own definition of cheating that does not include certain types of contact and relationships. I think it benefits everyone to realize that we ALL actually have our own personal definitions of cheating, whether we’ve consciously recognized that or not. The important thing is to verbalize those definitions with our partners and then respect the boundaries we agree on. A great reminder and a great post.

  • http://www.piratemarrieswench.blogspot.com Wench

    …… and this is why I read APW, smart, interesting women with all different kinds of relationships working on their own definitions of ‘happy’

    Thank you so much for sharing

  • http://www.ohdeerio.com Rachelle

    To me, the larger theme that everyone can take away from this wonderful post is the public vs. private, us vs. them, what works for us vs. what is expected battles that every couple must face. Even the most “traditional” marriages deal with this issue and I think you’ve set a great example for all of us. Living your life your own way is one of the hardest and bravest things I think we can do.

  • Erin

    Thank you for this. My husband and I are in the process of figuring out what type of open marriage we want to have, what our boundaries are, and so forth. Until we both know what we want, we’re staying monogamous, but an open marriage is something we both think we would enjoy. It’s great to see someone else saying the things that I’ve been saying (that you can love your husband AND someone else, that it’s not cheating if it’s within the boundaries of your marriage, and that your marriage always comes first).

    You might not have had a lot of models when building your marriage, but I think I might have one now.

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      “[...] but I think I might have one now.”
      For some reason, this strikes me as very sweet.

      And this, of course, is why we all get together and talk about all of these things.

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    Christina’s post is a fantastic example of how important honesty and communication are to a couple. No relationship works if one or both partners are hiding their feelings and not being open with the other person. Although I don’t think I’d ever be secure enough in myself to have an open relationship, I think Christina and her husband are totally on the right track. I’m a firm believer that almost any kind of relationship can work if both partners are mature and honest.

    • meg

      I also want to throw out there that I think you can have a level of being honest in a very respectful way, with your partner about who you’re attracted to, without having an open marriage. And not totally repressing any part of your sexuality that doesn’t have to do with the other person can be really healthy.

      That said, I’ve been in relationships where that REALLY didn’t work (but those relationships had a welter of other problems too.)

      • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

        Excellent point Meg. That kind of honesty is hugely important for almost any marriage, especially when it comes to sex. I’m all for people being as open and honest as possible about their sexuality in relationships, and that definitely includes monogamous marriages.

        • Mindy

          I think you’re being hard on yourself by saying
          “Although I don’t think I’d ever be secure enough in myself to have an open relationship”

          because I don’t think it’s insecure to say that you need a monogamous relationship, I think it takes a lot of honesty and being secure with yourself to say that one thing or another just doesn’t suit you. Whether that means monogamy or polyamory or whatever.

          I think any kind of relationship will work as long as both partners are on the same page. To some people pornography is cheating, to some it’s only cheating if it’s actually sex. Neither one of these definitions are wrong. Christina is right that it depends on the couples predetermined boundaries and honesty with each other.

      • liz

        Meg– just wanted to say I appreciate this comment +this post a ton.

        My husband and I, while clearly monogamous, are extremely up front with each other about what—and who—we find sexually attractive, whether or not we actually plan to go there. We’ve had some very amusing (not to mention very hot) nights scheming and dreaming about who we’d do together, and I’d much rather that we talked about it and joked about it than let those those feelings fester jealously. The honesty itself is a turn-on.

      • ann

        Totally. I learned this the hard way. My now-fiance and I had an open relationship when we first got together, but more because I think it just seemed to make so much sense and be so honest (but we ARE attracted to other people!) than because it’s what either of us really, viscerally wanted.

        We decided to take a break and close it after an uncomfortable incident that made it clear we needed more time to negotiate boundaries with each other. But then we decided to keep it monogamous because, well, for us it WAS too much work to maintain the open relationship*… and because it turned out we could be honest with each other about the parts of our sexuality that don’t necessarily involve the other…we are, and it’s great and totally trust building.

        *Kudos to people who decide it’s worth it, though, and put the effort in, like lovely Christina here.

  • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

    In fact, I do know one marriage like this that has lasted over 40 years. It takes a certain kind of people, living in an accepting community, but is not impossible. Good luck you two. Love and commitment – of any sort – matter more than almost anything else I’ve come across.

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      Sorry in advance for making you blush, LPC, but I just wanted to say thanks for hanging out here and sharing your thoughts and experiences. Those of us with less life experience are very lucky to benefit from the thoughtful perspectives of those with more. I appreciate that you take the time to think critically about things, and even more so that you are then open to sharing your observations.

      • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

        Kahlia, thank you. It’s my pleasure.

    • Class of 1980

      I think it comes down to knowing yourself. Some people can innately handle such a relationship better than others. And some could not handle it and don’t want to.

  • http://bluesuedeidos.com Beth

    Wow, what a great post. I’m so glad to have this perspective, since like you I don’t know anyone else (at least no one has revealed) who has a respectful-and-consensual-quasi-non-monogamist-marriage.

    I think there’s so much we can all take from your post, but especially the idea of boundaries and cheating. Cheating is overstepping the boundaries which we set for ourselves, not the boundaries everyone else sets for us.

  • anonymous

    This idea was one of the ones we discussed on the night I proposed. Being open about the possibility of one day being attracted to someone other than my husband made me feel more comfortable with the concept of marriage. My parents split up because of infidelity and I recognize that sometimes we want something more than the relationship gives. My fiance basically told me that he would be fine with an open relationship if we decide to try one, because when it comes down to it, he wants to be with me until the end. Knowing that he is willing to work on our relationship to the point of opening it up so that both of us are happier, because he doesn’t want to lose me made me realize that this was the person I wanted to have a marriage with.

    We aren’t in an open relationship right now, and I don’t know if we ever will be, but this outlet makes me less afraid of divorce for reasons of infidelity. Of course, like you say, he or I could still cheat on the other, but the openness we established early on allows us to discuss the need for a change. We basically decided that if it came to that point we would discuss it, and any action taken without this discussion would be as you say, “not respecting the boundaries”.

    • Christina

      Major kudos to you two for having that conversation!

    • Class of 1980

      Keep in mind that infidelity is a big subject.

      Many people assume that people cheat because they want variety. But tons of people cheat because their emotional and/or physical needs are not being met in the marriage. It is often a desperate act.

      I don’t think open marriage solves damaged relationships.

      Perhaps that wasn’t what you meant, but I had to throw it out there.

      • http://www.jeliza.net/jepblog/ Jeliza

        You are absolutely right — open marriage doesn’t solve damaged relationships. One of the things we (we being my triad of 10+ years) most often tell people when they ask us for advice (we are out, and therefore poster children) is that you shouldn’t start a new relationship when the old one is in trouble; it is far more likely that you’ll send both down in flames.

        I’ve now been poly longer than I was monogamous, and can no longer imagine living any other way, but it is definitely *harder* than monogamy; I’m just also happier. I’m a major introvert, and I suck at being someone’s one and only, especially if they like to be social (which most of my partners, historically, have been.) So my partners go to scary movies together so I can stay home, play with the kids, and do my art.

        • andthebeautyis

          This: “you shouldn’t start a new relationship when the old one is in trouble; it is far more likely that you’ll send both down in flames.”

          I have to admit this post was hard for me because I have watched 3 different open marriages fail – all for that reason. When things got hard in the marriage, one or both partners found comfort with someone else. The “new love” was (of course) so much more exciting, and lines like “I never really loved you” started coming out.

          BUT – this post was great in that it gave me hope for couples who really find joy in marriages that are “open” not just in interpersonal boundaries, but also in communication. I can see how Christina’s version is a beautiful relationship with a great foundation.

          Thanks for sharing your joyful & mature perspective.

      • anonymous

        You are totally right. Maybe it wasn’t clear enough in my comment. I absolutely agree, having watched my parents go through that. I guess what I meant was that if this side wasn’t working for us, but everything else was good we would be willing to entertain the idea rather than throw away a good relationship. I am also very cautious about no longer having emotional/intellectual needs met but that is a different issue. However, all of those aspects would have to be examined before embarking on an open relationship. Basically, you have to talk that stuff out before ANY action is taken. I was just expressing that it relieves me to know that my partner wants to make things good for us and wants there to be enough open communication that even this isn’t off the table. It makes me feel secure enough to discuss other things that also require as much open communication. :)

  • http://saraeileen.com Sara Eileen

    This post is thrilling to see here! I’ve been in polyamorous/open relationships for almost 10 years, and happily head-over-heels in a poly relationship with a man I could see myself marrying for just over 2.

    Just as Christina said, there are as many types of poly relationships as there are poly people. (I’m convinced this is true of monogamy as well.) So it’s fascinating to hear the way you make it work for you, which is in some ways very different from us, and in some ways precisely the same. For example, that he and I always come first for one another. (Yes! So much yes!) But we do date other people separately, instead of as a couple, and that works for us really well.

    Thanks for giving some air time to my lifestyle, APW, and Christina, thank you so much for writing this!

  • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ Anna

    No one can say that APW takes the easy way…! This is quite a brave topic but its’s really cool that it can be spoken about in a safe way. Definately so much of what Christina says applies to any relationship – about communication, trust, boundaries, respecting other people’s choices and owning your own. Personally, I think there’s a strong beauty and simplicity in choosing to make your life about one person, and them being enough for you..putting your eggs all in one basket so to speak. For me, that’s kinda what marriage means. But it’s so…valuable…(that’s the only word I can think of!) to look at things from different sides.

  • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ Anna

    Also, love that you linked to “Waiting until marriage…” post. Not only was it a amazing re-read (and hilarious!), but it’s another really good example of choices away from the mainstream, which other people might not ‘get’ if they looked in from the outside. So much to think about!

  • Lucy

    Not to be hurtful, and hopefully not to be critical of other’s lifestyle choices, but this is the kind of post that makes me be very thoughtful about my choice to keep visiting APW. The post does present interesting ideas (and I applaud the writer for sharing with this community!) but… there’s not a lot of meat to chew on there. Which I’ve come to realize is not really the point of APW, it being more of a women’s magazine type of blog than a Serious Pointy Head Blog. Like duh Lucy.

    For instance, one of the topics roiling my circle of snooty intellectuals is the current impulse in Western civilizations to redefine institutions, including marriage. I’m not talking about gay marriage, but about redefining all the elements in general. When you take out gender, number of participants, sexual exclusivity of participants, and permanence of the bond, what is left of the concept of marriage?

    Taking into account the probably inevitable legalization of polygamous marriages and gay marriages, marriage basically becomes a sanctioned partnership between any size group of adults of any gender that can be dissolved at any time. If you remove sexual exclusivity, it is indistinguishable from a business group, except that their association with each other is based on love and not profit.

    Maybe that will be the new definition of marriage: A sexual association of people based on love? But anyway. The problem my friends and I discussed last night instead of watching our movie was the possibility of redefining institutions away. The point made was that marriage was not all that long ago very specifically defined, with sharp demarcating edges all around: either married or not, pledged to you forever or not, pledged to you alone or not. That is supposedly what made it a powerful institution; it said something very specific about your relationship .

    As the demarcating lines grew blurrier it has lost its pull (an institution is stronger and more powerful when society defines it for you; less so when you get to define it for yourself. Regardless of the rest of the argument I think that’s very true). I think the data is clear that marriage is in decline as a category people choose for themselves, period, and could it be because they don’t see the point? In fact one of my girlfriends last night said it exactly, she doesn’t want to get married because it’s pointless because it’s not necessarily forever.

    And so, at the end of this novel-length comment, this is the kind of issue I would have liked to see addressed in the post, but I realize that APW is not a philosophy blog or ethics blog and maybe Christina hasn’t wrangled with such issues or just doesn’t feel like articulating her thoughts on them, which is fine! Maybe I’m a bit biased because I personally don’t feel open relationships aren’t an ethical choice in the 21st century given the epidemic of sexual disease. I realize not everyone feels that way!

    • meg

      You can’t fault someone for not writing the post you would have written. She wrote a very beautiful, honest post about her relationship, but it’s clearly not about the way you’re thinking about relationships at the moment.

      More specifically, the argument you’re making does not carry a lot of historical weight. For most of the history of marriage it has commonly involved one man and multiple wives. So your argument works only if you’re looking at a very limited historical period. While APW is not an academically focused blog, and never will be, I do spend a fair amount of time researching the history of weddings and marriage (I am, after all, writing a book), and I don’t think you’re giving your argument near enough historical ballast.

      I also don’t agree with the argument you’re making, and am never going to make that the over-riding message of APW, but that’s another story.

      • Emily

        I agree that the historical dimension is important but I think if it’s being invoked, we need specificity. When we talk about “the history of marriage”, what culture are we talking about? What span of time are we considering? What are we recognising as marriage? The word only enters the English language in the medieval period, and at that time it’s actually something very similar to what’s currently recognised in Britain.

        • meg

          The point is the historical definition is *not* in fact being invoked, at all. If I were to invoke it, it would be with footnotes. That might happen at some point in the future, but it wasn’t part of this post and it didn’t need to be. This post was beautiful on its own.

          • Emily

            Oh sure, my observation was only in response to the two comments above which seemed to be talking history – I don’t think Christina’s post should have been anything other than what it was.

    • http://somewhatbookish.wordpress.com Carrie

      I think you are right in saying that part of the strength of marriage is that is socially/culturally defined construct that has a defined meaning. As a woman who is married to another woman I really appreciate that folks know what I am talking about when I say I am married or when I refer to my wife, because there is that shared cultural understanding of marriage.

      I think you are wrong in implying that marriage has always meant one thing and one thing only and it is being defined away. Like all cultural institutions, marriage has changed over time and is different in different societies. Plural marriage is still common in many parts of the world (although it’s usually only the men who get to have multiple spouses). The age at which we get married has changed over time, as have cultural taboos about marrying relatives. Marriage is a dynamic institution, which gives it strength and meaning and, I believe, keeps it relevant to those who chose to enter into it.

      • Lucy

        You’re totally right that marriage is a dynamic institution and that it’s different in different parts of the world. But the question is, what happens when a particular culture engages in rapid re-definition of an institution? Does it build the institution up (make it more adaptable) or wear it down? In the space of about one generation (40ish years) the Western concept of marriage has been altered quite a bit, practically overnight when you look at how fast we can effectively absorb social change. I would expect to see similar decay among poly-amorous societies that switched to monogamy over the same length of time.

        • http://hartandsolphoto.com Maddie

          While I agree that there has been significant change in the instution of marriage over the past 40 years (yay birth control!), I think it’s important to also acknowledge the significant change seen in the 40 years before that. The idea of romantic love leading to marriage is a relatively new one, whereas 150 years ago (estimated) marriage was more of a business exchange. I think if we look at marriage in a vaccuum, sure it’s evolving, but not at any more of a rapid rate than it ever has.

          I think it’s also important to distinguish the difference between a blog that seeks to reinforce a certain definition of marriage and one that seeks to represent the definitions of marriage in all their many forms. I would put APW in the latter category.

          I think if we look at APW for example, we could argue that maybe it’s not the definition of marriage that’s changing, but our willingness to acknowledge those marriages that are different from the culturally defined norm that has evolved. Maybe the Christinas of the world have been here all along, and only now are we open enough to acknowledge that they are a valid part of the married community (which for the record, I believe wholeheartedly).

          • Emily

            A small quibble to ensure fair representations of humans of the past :) Romantic love leading to marriage goes back an awful lot longer than that (you can read impassioned attacks on the barbarity of parents forcing their offspring into loveless matches from 16th- and 17th-c. Eng., for example, or just look at the literature), and on the other hand I would say the business/financial/economic aspect of marriage is still very much present.

          • meg

            While that’s of course correct, the fact that the institution of marriage is changing just as fast (or as slow) as always, still holds.

        • Sarah

          It builds it up, no question.

          As a woman married to a man, my marriage … and other’s views of my marriage … is not in any way diminished by the changes in law over the past 40 years. No one looks at us and says “yah, but THEY can get married too, so it doesn’t mean anything.”

          MARRIAGE has nothing to do with the law, and everything to do with loving someone enough that you want to spend the rest of your life with them, and they with you. In all the many shapes and forms that can (and does) take. No amount of law is going to make that any less special.

          Legal recognition is fine and dandy (and, I believe, should be available to ALL), but it does not MAKE a marriage. Lives and hearts and partners do.

          • Class of 1980

            AMEN.

            Marriage law is only concerned with property rights and children.

            WE ALONE define what marriage is to us.

            If you are in a room with 20 married couples, you have 20 different definitions of marriage right there.

        • clampers

          I view this argument the same way I view the argument that the English language is decaying due to technology. That is, our language and grammar rules are changing drastically and quickly because of the internet, web writing, texting and email. But language is constantly evolving and has been for centuries. If it wasn’t constantly evolving, we’d all be speaking Latin or some shit.

          Same thing with marriage. Marriage right now is changing drastically and quickly, in part because of technology, but it has been evolving for centuries too. If it wasn’t, all of us and our dowries would be handed over by our fathers to whoever was within our class.

          Should we stop progress just because there’s a possibility that it might wear the institution down?

          Like language and grammar rules, the institution marriage is not going anywhere anytime soon.

          • Sarah M

            Just want to hop in here and say that just because 1) people have more choice in marriage and 2) divore rates are climbing at the same time does not mean that #1 causes #2. Widely available divorce is a fairly recent development in the evolution of the institution, so I think that it is fair to consider that people stayed together because there was no alternative. Of course marriage is forever if divorce doesn’t exist; but does that mean that those were happy and healthy marriages? Absolutely not.

            As to the point that marriage has become a pointless institution– other people’s choices do not invalidate ours. Christina choosing an open marriage does not lessen the value of my marriage. If Christine decided her $20 bill looked better cut up and taped to her wall, my $20 bill would still be worth the same amount– we just have different preferences.

        • http://www.onebarefootbride.blogspot.com Walking Barefoot

          “I would expect to see similar decay among poly-amorous societies that switched to monogamy over the same length of time.”

          But no “switch” is complete. It’s not a black/white, on/off situation. I do field research in place where people have practiced polygamy and polyandry for centuries. (Are those just the anthropological terms for ‘polyamory’?) Changing economic and political conditions have re-shaped those traditional practices toward [explicit, state-sanctioned] monogamy – but that doesn’t mean the historical practices go away over night. Neither does the rise of gay marriage, polyamory, and diverse forms of partnership in the US mean that ‘traditional’ [whatever that is] marriage is on the decline. It means there are a greater number of practices to suit the needs of various individuals – some of which were simply underground or unlabeled in the past. Marriage is as much a political and economic institution, and an institution of social discipline, as it is a moral and ethical one.

          • Sarabeth

            Late here, but this is my field of study. Polygamy, polyandry, and polygyny are all terms for multiple marriages. Polyamory is a term for multiple romantic relationships. Some polyamorous people are interested specifically in polygamy–although they might not call it that, given the word’s negative connotations. Many are specifically NOT interested in being married to more than one person, even if they seek romantic relationships with more than one person.

    • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ Anna

      I don’t really think APW is more like a woman’s magazine…in fact compared to all the other wedding blogs saved on my computer, this is by far the most thought provoking…it tries to get to the root of issues rather than just showing us pretty pictures of flowers (which are nice too!)

      But, I do think you kinda said in a smarter way what I was trying to say before. Is it not the exclusivity of marriage that defines it as marriage? Maybe it all depends on how see marriage in the first place… as a social construct, a nice way of expressing love, as security or something more. For me marriage is those things – but it’s also spiritual- it’s a uniting and a connection between two people in this crazy close way, in a way that you don’t connect with other people. And one of the crucial parts of it is that you give yourself to one other person, and they give themselves to you. A somehow those two people become one person.

      I guess what I’m trying to say in the most loving way is that…whilst I don’t agree with everything that this post says, it’s made me think, it’s made me re-question what I think marriage actually means and my definitions of it, it’s made me think about trust and commitment, and that’s a good thing.

      • meg

        “For me marriage is those things – but it’s also spiritual- it’s a uniting and a connection between two people in this crazy close way, in a way that you don’t connect with other people.”

        Yes. But part of the point is that you can still have this in a polyamorous relationship. Their primary relationship is still with each other, and they share things with each other that they DON’T share with others. It’s just that they are able to define those things that they share as being more than sex. And while I’m not in a poly relationship, I think they are right. My spiritual/ religious bond with my partner is about a whole lot more than sex.

        • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ Anna

          I wasn’t talking about sex at all really. I was more talking about closeness and comittment…

          And yeah, I see how Christina says that their primary relationship is with each other. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t work out in my head, with my understandings of marriage, for my relationship, and I don’t think that’s a particularly bad thing to say. Through Christina’s post she’s let me see a bit into her world, how it can work for other people too, which is really interesting.

          • Alice

            As someone who has been in a poly relationship for 11 years, and married for 1, this is a really interesting discussion for me to read.

            The fact that my husband and I play (have sex with/flirt with/engage in kink with) other people does not in any way diminish the level of closeness and commitment that we have for each other. We chose specifically to get married because we believe that we want to spend the rest of our lives together, because we are the most important people in the world to each other, because we are lucky enough to get to participate in a ceremony that gives us legal rights based on those things. Our wedding was a celebration of our love for each other, in the same way that any monogamous couple’s wedding would have been.

            I understand that the things that we allow each other to share with other people may seem strange and confusing, but it is no more strange and confusing than rigidly defined gender roles or separate hobbies that your spouse hates are to me.

            Marriage is about sharing your life with someone. About planning a future and enjoying a present. The fact that we have close friends who we have sex with and you have close friends who you don’t doesn’t make our marriages fundamentally different.

            I’m not sure how well I’ve expressed that. I hope it makes sense.

            Thank you to Christina and Meg for the post. It’s lovely to be represented. : )

      • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

        If more women’s magazines were like APW, I would subscribe to a whole lot more women’s magazines.

        • Class of 1980

          We don’t need no stinkin magazines. ;)

    • Jessica

      I found your post thought provoking, but I would argue that APW does touch on the main issue you raise; the “why” of getting married today.

      The one line of your comment that rubbed me the wrong way came at the very end. As a future-sex-educator, I have to object to your opinion that open relationships are unethical due to the “epidemic of sexual disease” (I think that’s what you meant right?)

      It’s perfectly valid to say that you are not comfortable with the health risks involved with non-conventional-monogamy, but it’s another to project that discomfort onto others. There are numerous ways for people to be responsible about their sexual health, and it’s up to each individual to decide what level of risk they’re willing to take. As long as all parties involved are being honest and open about their choices, there’s nothing unethical about it.

      • http://saraeileen.com Sara Eileen

        Yes. This! Exactly. I tried to make this comment earlier and couldn’t figure out a way to say it that wasn’t prickly.

      • Class of 1980

        Jessica,

        That is a great clarification about ethics. Ethics and risk are two different things.

    • Benny

      Meg already said this in other words, but I just wanted to add: I think there are two ways to consider the issue of a changing definition of marriage in the West or polyamorous relationships specifically. The wide-angle lens view considers sociological and cultural shifts. The narrower view considers the reality of the microcosm of one relationship or group of relationships. Christina’s essay is about the truth and functioning of HER relationship, and this is just as valid a discussion as a truth about large sociological and cultural trends. I don’t think that her failure to discuss the context of her relationship in the wider culture negates the truth of her own experience.

      Also, I would strongly recommend Stephanie Coontz’ Marriage, A History.

      • Katie Mae

        I loved Marriage, A History! I re-read it before my wedding and my husband read it too. I also read What Is Marriage For? by E.J. Graff, another one I can’t remember, and articles on the site unmarried.org. I had read all of this the first time for a term paper in college on redefining marriage in the US… now I want to go back and check it all out again. :)

        Anyway, I highly recommend Coontz’s book as well.

    • Lydia

      A heads up, when you start something with “not to be hurtful,” it’s basically an indication that you know what you’re saying is hurtful, same as “not to be rude, but” or “I’m not racist, but”. If you find yourself leading with that kind of phrase, suck it up and acknowledge that you’re being a jerk, or hold your tongue.

      I spent a good chunk of my engagement hearing about how giving me rights similar to marriage (not even the word! not even marriage!) would devalue the concept of marriage.

      This stuff is personal for some of us.

      • Class of 1980

        LYDIA WROTE: “I spent a good chunk of my engagement hearing about how giving me rights similar to marriage (not even the word! not even marriage!) would devalue the concept of marriage.”

        Lydia, don’t you wish those people would at least ATTEMPT a more logical argument?

        Oh wait. There isn’t one. ;)

    • Carreg

      I noticed you were also talking about the duration of the bond as well as the number of participants. As a legal institution it’s true that it isn’t necessarily until one dies. But I think practically everyone still enters into marriage with the intention that it should end with their death or widowhood. I don’t see that adding extra people in changes that. So maybe that’s a part of the definition of marriage that remains. It’s not part of the legal institution, but then nor is love — the government can hardly check up to see if you love each other.

      I don’t feel like my concept of marriage is weakened by hearing about open relationships (though not for me — being in love with one person is enough vulnerability, eh?) I think the legal institution of marriage would be weakened by having marriage between more than two people, or by not assuming that marriages are sexually exclusive (ie not assuming a child’s mother’s husband is that child’s father). But weakened in the technical sense, like a definition is weaker when it has fewer conditions in it, not weakened in a literal sense, like a bridge. It might be a good thing.

      This is a jolly serious discussion for a women’s magazine, isn’t it? It’s only a matter of time before someone starts talking about necessary and sufficient conditions, or paradigms, or something. If APW were academic it would be too much like being at work for a lot of people here!

      It would be a funny old world if we were all alike! (That’s my profound insight anyway…)

      • Carreg

        Um, this post looks less-than-tactful under Lydia’s post. It isn’t personal for me, so I’ve probably put my foot in it. Oh dear…

    • http://oversized-cliches.blogspot.com Zan

      I’m late to the party here but that’s par for the course.

      Anyhoodle — as someone who has studied lots of STD related stuff I can tell you that humankind has pretty much always had “an epidemic of sexual disease.” Why? Because people like to boink and it’s just one of those things. (Can you tell I am trying to keep this short and sweet?)

      Old timey sailors with syphillis? Ladies of the night with the clap? These things have been jumping from host to host for as long as people have been inserting Tab A into Slot B (or D into G or whatever your bag is).

      Just because AIDS is a relatively new kid on the block doesn’t mean that STDs are a modern phenomenon.

  • Kim

    This quote applies to so many aspects of life…”It might be stupidity, but it feels more like bravery. Because even with all the statistics against us, we still want to work for something that makes us happy.” Thanks for sharing your awesome perspective with us.

    I love how you talk about sharing instead of splitting. This is very valuable, regardless of the basis of the relationship (i.e. I seem to get jealous every time my husband hangs out with his guy friends…I obviously need to work on this!). So thanks. You rock.

  • Katelyn

    My beau and I “dated” our best friend. We celebrated our anniversary with her for 3 years in a row. I was always a little confused about how we managed to be such a successful trio and the friendship not stepping on our relationship’s toes, but it worked out so wonderfully. Now that she’s across the country, we both miss her a lot.

    Thanks for helping me understand these feelings better – we may not be in an “open” relationship, and our trio was not sexual in nature, but a lot of the themes you talk about rung true for us, and I can appreciate what you say about “love is not a zero sum game”.

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

    I’m really glad to see this post. I have known people who attempted non-monogamy and really struggled with it. I completely support doing what works for you, however, so I love hearing what various things work for different people. I find it highly wonderful to talk about boundaries and foundations and how things change and flex and have to be right for the two of you.

    I highly respect you taking this less-traveled road, and opening yourself up this way takes crazy strength.

  • RachelC

    ah, yes. Thank you APW, this is why I love you.

  • http://hitchdied.wordpress.com Robin HitchDied

    I loved this post. I love your point that “there are about as many kinds of polyamory as there are polyamorists,” because I’ve seen so many different approaches to open relationships—some which work and some which set off drama bombs. I’m so glad you and your partner have a framework that works for you.

    And on a more personal note, I delighted this post was completely devoid of monogamy-bashing, which Dan Savage is sometimes guilty of. Then again, people who think polyamory can’t possibly work can get snapped out of that mindset by being told that monogamy can’t possibly work, and thinking, “Don’t you tell me what I want from my relationship!”

  • http://www.themaidenmetallurgist.com The Maiden Metallurgist

    I love that you wrote this, and I really enjoyed reading it. I truly believe there are as many different kinds of love as there are people in the world, and I’m so glad to hear about your love and relationship and how it is working outside the mainstream.

  • tirzahrene

    I love this post so much. My marriage ended a few years after opening it up, but that wasn’t because of opening it up. It was because of why and how we did it, and all the things that were really really wrong in our marriage that were just impossible to hide when the marriage was opened.

    It would take absolutely amazingly right circumstances for me to ever think an open marriage is right for me again (and the fact that I was pressured into it the first time says a lot about why that marriage is over, no?), but in the process of learning about polyamory and all that nontraditional relationship stuff, I’ve acquired a deep respect for people who love well in any configuration. It’s not easy to engage in ethical nonmonogamy, and I salute the two of you for doing a good job of it, both with each other and with your other partners.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com/ Morgan

      You and me both! Opening a relationship for the wrong reasons almost dooms it to failure, I think.

  • http://lincolnparkonalark.wordpress.com Anni

    Thank you for inviting us to have a look into your marriage. I know it’s a very personal (and brave) thing to open up on a subject people already have such preconceived notions about. An open marriage/relationship is not for us, but you two have a very similar foundation to your relationship nonetheless. And those things – communication, showing love, consideration for the other, a defined set of principles that make up your relationship – those are the common ground that are important. Congratulations on your lovely marriage and I wish you all the best.

  • http://www.firstmilkmaid.com Amanda

    YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY!

  • Shayna

    This is the first explanation of open marriage that has made sense to me. Thanks, Christina. I knew that the concept wasn’t so weird, but your words really make sense. I’m always surprised that their aren’t more open relationships when people seem equally enamored with monogamy and sewing their oats (for lack of a crude opposite).

  • Clem

    This was a very interesting and thought provoking post. While I know this could never ever work for me, it is in a funny way, comforting to know that there are people for whom it does work, who work hard to make it work.

    However, I do have questions. Are you and you husband planning to have children? Will your marriage continue to be open after you have had children? I ask, because I know how exhausting and difficult life can be once you have had children, especially when they are little, I know many couples who struggle to make time just for their own relationship, let alone for other relationships. Children are also notoriously indiscreet, and I am unsure how ‘open’ you are about your open relationship. Is is something you would be comfortable parents and teachers at your child’s school knowing about? While I think secrecy about one’s relationships is seldom a good thing, I wonder how you feel about potentially opening up yourself to judgement and criticism from others? How do you deal with that now? After all, there are few communities as supportive and open-minded as the APW community.

    I am asking these questions out of genuine curiosity, not from any spirit of criticism.

    Thank you for sharing the details of your marriage with us.

    • Christina

      Actually, we talked about the kids thing a lot. And really, it depends. So to answer your question about being open after we have kids….
      The short answer is: probably not.
      The long answer is: We’ve entertained the idea of having a poly home. A commune. Whatever you want to call it. If we were in a relationship with another couple or another woman and decided to all live together in the country and raise our kids together, that would be awesome. But the chances of that working out are pretty slim… so I guess you could just call it our fantasy :) And we would probably be open about it within our community.

      Truth be told, the only people who don’t know about our lifestyle are our parents. Everyone else knows, and you wouldn’t believe how many people are totally cool with it. Maybe that’s because we live in San Francisco, but maybe not.
      Thanks for the questions, I hope I answered them!

      • meg

        I’ve known of poly communities, so I think it can happen. I think often, though, when the kids are young no one has energy for other relationships, but then things may change again when kids are older.

      • http://somewhatbookish.wordpress.com Carrie

        My former neighbors had an open marriage (I assume they still do, but I’ve lost touch with them since we both moved). They had two small boys when living in our apartment building, and I asked how that worked with kids (we had the kind of relationship where we could talk about this stuff – it wasn’t just a random question). She told me that in practical terms, with a toddler and an infant, they weren’t really acting on the openness in their marriage, but were looking forward to getting that back once the boys got a little older and their care wasn’t so all consuming. There are lots of ways it can work, as you discussed above, but this is one way I’ve known closely.

    • http://www.jeliza.net/jepblog/ Jeliza

      Not Christina, obviously, but as a poly person with kids — My triad has 2 daughters (5 & 7), conceived in the triad, not before — it is surprisingly easy deal with (though it helps that we are lucky in our jobs not being the kind of care.) Given how common divorce, step-parenting, and same-sex parents are, a lot of people don’t even blink that my girls have two moms and a dad. And even the ones that take the time to figure out the actual configuration pretty much roll with it when they see that my girls are happy and healthy. (Admittedly, I live in Seattle, which helps.)

      And for me, since I was out as queer long before poly was an issue, it was pretty natural… the closet, on the other hand, was a real struggle.

      • Christina

        Jeliza, your comment is incredibly encouraging! I don’t know any poly couples with kids, so it is nice to hear that it can work out so well down the road.

  • Class of 1980

    This post leaves me with one burning question, and maybe it’s beyond the scope of the post.

    I understand the point that the marriage comes first, before any other partners. And I understand stopping an outside relationship if it’s impacting the marriage in a negative way.

    BUT, how do you care for the feelings of the third or fourth party? If you back away from them to nurture your own marriage, what do you do about their feelings?

    Like I said, this question may to straying too far into details that the post isn’t intended to cover. ;)

    • Christina

      I think that’s a really valid question. And it’s usually handled like this:
      When we begin dating someone, we are very clear that our marriage comes first no matter what. Recently we decided to reign it in and be monogamous for a while, and it required turning down the heat with a third party. It wasn’t easy for anybody. But the third party was incredibly understanding, and admired us for being able to know that we needed it AND being able to deal with it so openly with her. It’s just like any other breakup. It’s disappointing, but it happens. And it’s better if it’s all handled maturely.
      With that said, we don’t do it all the time. Like dating someone for two weeks and calling it quits every other month…. We’re very cautious about getting into relationships with others mostly because of this issue. We try to only give ourselves when we know we’re in a good place and will be for a while. I could say a ton more on the topic as it’s kinda, well, really complicated — but I’ll leave it at that :)

      • Class of 1980

        Thanks, Christina, No need to say more. Obviously, the third party has to understand what they’re getting into and be sure they can handle it.

        I asked that question because I’m imagining my own feelings in an open marriage or being the third party. But then, I’m a Leo with Scorpio rising and a Scorpio moon. We are intense, loyal, and possessive folk. LOL

        (never believed in astrology till I saw my personal chart)

        • http://www.onebarefootbride.blogspot.com Walking Barefoot

          I’d love to hear from ‘third party’ who had a happy and successful long-term committed relationship with a couple. A close friend of mine was that person for awhile, but eventually had to leave the relationship because it was hard to get her emotional needs met. That left me wondering if the third, fourth,… nth parties need to have their own, different primary relationship(s) to ensure that they have someone in their corner.

          • Christina

            In my experience… the third party either has their own primary. Or they are the kind of person that needs a lot of space, and a situation like this gives them just the right amount of emotional attachment, or whatever you might call it, that they need.
            But having never been a third party myself, I would also love to hear as well.

  • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

    I love that at the core of this post is the topic of communication and being in touch with your own needs and wants and being in touch with your partner’s needs and wants. This is something I think every couple struggles with at some point, no matter what type of relationship they have. The thing I think is so wonderful about Christina’s relationship is her and her partner’s ability to listen to each other. It’s incredibly mature and I applaud them.

  • Amber

    This post could not have come at a better time for me! My fiance & I have been navigating the challenging and fulfilling waters of Polyamory for roughly a year now. Going into a marriage with polyamory as a current lifestyle choice has really forced my fiance and I to search our souls, challenge ourselves, and discuss EVERYTHING. It can be tiring, stressful & overwhelming at times, but our relationship has reached new depths because of the openness polyamory requires.

    It is so encouraging to read that someone else is going through the same struggles that we are. APW continues to impress me by tackling so many subjects with such thoughtful and respectful posts. Christina’s words give me hope that our divergent path is still a healthy one and joy that other couples are finding success and richness in their polyamorous relationships.

  • Lily

    “At the end of the day I think marriage and gender and class and race, will all be strengthened by the grey areas, where we wrestle with what they mean and are.”

    “There are lots of other ways to be a partner and an adult.”

    YES YES YES. These points are so, so true. I wish I could “exactly” the above a million times.

    And for the record, I really appreciate the issues that APW brings up, and the people that make those issues real. I think that the types of discussions that are generated are deep and thought provoking, because the people who come to share are genuine and open. The fact that the community (and writers! Thank you Meg and Alyssa!) allows these types of discussions is unique among wedding blogs, and I seriously would be lost without it.

  • Theresa

    Beautiful post! I love the way you describe the respect in your marriage/relationship, and that you two have a plan to put your marriage first. It’s very obvious how much you love and cherish each other. Thank you for such an informative post about something I didn’t have much knowledge about! :)

  • B

    Wow. I crept into work late this morning, made myself a cup of coffee and immediately opened APW. I was shocked (and delighted) to see the topic of non-monogamy come up in a post. Thank you Christina and thank you Meg, for this post!

    “Truth be told, there isn’t a relationship out there that wouldn’t benefit from the amount of work, communication and constant introspection that it takes to manage an open marriage. ”

    Absolutely…and to address Meg’s comment that you don’t need to be in an open relationship to have that sort of communication, those of us who have experienced it know how much work it is, and how you get to the raw emotions so much more quickly than I have experienced in any traditional relationship. You’re right Meg, you can get there in a more traditional relationship, absolutely. In an open relationship where you’re dealing with conscious non-monogamy, it’s required. You set boundaries, you feel, you talk, you re-set boundaries, you talk, you experience, you re-set them again.

    I was just married in January to a wonderful man to whom my first words (after “I like your hair,” of course) were “I am not a fan of monogamy and I like women. Are you okay with that?” Thankfully, he was…and we built the foundation of our relationship knowing that if we were being honest with ourselves, and one another, that neither of us wanted to or were capable of sleeping with the same person for the rest of our lives. Beginning our relationship with that sort of raw honesty has been an amazing gift to both of us.

    Like Christina, we don’t split, instead we share. Unlike Christina, our non-monogamous lifestyle isn’t about emotional connections and loving relationships with “others,” it’s just about sex. I could go on and on for days on this subject, but I should be working.

    Thank you Christina, for shedding light on your open relationship. :)

  • http://www.patrickpike.com Patrick Pike

    Chtistina~ Much love to you for making this work! I really appreciate that you and your husband know what you want out of life, what makes you happy, and are constantly striving for it. Thank you for sharing and I wish the best of life!

  • http://mightycourage.blogspot.com/ Nicole

    There are so many wonderful things in this post! My husband and I toss around the idea of an open marriage, but we’re just not sure how to be comfortable with it. I appreciate your honesty and your insight. I also appreciate the discussion which you have created here. You’re wonderful for being so open about your marraige.

  • Carreg

    “Wedded bliss is supposedly a risky thing these days.”

    Surely it always is and always has been. Just because people got divorced less in the Old Days (a great phrase, ‘the old days’, saves knowing any actual history) doesn’t mean more people were in happy marriages. Oh and I entirely agree with the person above who said the Christinas of the world have always been with us, it’s just now people are allowed to be upfront about it — seems highly likely to me.

    Thanks Christina!

    • http://silver-sandalled.blogspot.com Margaret

      “Just because people got divorced less in the Old Days (a great phrase, ‘the old days’, saves knowing any actual history) doesn’t mean more people were in happy marriages”

      This is sort of a tangent, but — am reading *House of Mirth* right now, and it’s tremendously eye-opening re: marriage in “the Old Days.” Fewer divorces, yeah, but lots of simmering unhappiness, suffocation, marriage-as-business-merger, and (often publicly acknowledged) affairs/flirtations.

  • Ashley B

    Thought provoking post and commentary. I think you touched on some insightful points about the importance of boundaries and communication and their importance in all marriages. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • suzanna

    Thanks to APW and Christina for covering this topic! So well put. I’ve been in open relationships in the past, and while it’s not what works for me anymore, I did learn a lot from going through them. The big love thing is HUGE. I had no idea I had been living under this myth that there’s only so much love in me, or in my partner, or in the world, and we have to divvy it up carefully. So not true. It also really teaches you to really spell things out with your partners. What exactly you want, need, what works and what doesn’t. Fabulous stuff. I’m happily monogamous now, and wouldn’t have it any other way, but going through the experience of open relationships really taught me a lot about the assumptions we all make.

  • Lindsey

    This is my first response to a post on APW, but I feel so strongly about what Christina wrote. To me, the key things to learn from approaches to polyamorous relationships/open marriages are communication and honesty. As everyone else has pointed out, these lines really struck a chord with me: “Truth be told, there isn’t a relationship out there that wouldn’t benefit from the amount of work, communication and constant introspection that it takes to manage an open marriage. Husband and I are always assessing our needs and wants and talking to each other about it.” It takes a lot of self-reflection to know what you can get out of your partner(s) and what you need.

    Both my fiance and I read “The Ethical Slut,” (by Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt, who are both amazing women) which I highly recommend for people everywhere on the monogamy scale (we have always been monogamous with each other, for the record), because it focuses SO MUCH on the importance of communication with your partner and how to assess your needs. (We actually read this completely independently, before we met, which reinforced how perfect he is for me when I found out.) It also made me realize that so much emphasis is placed in this culture on your partner/husband/wife meeting all your emotional (and physical) needs, which is unrealistic most of the time. It’s up to any couple to really dig deep within themselves and see if they are on the same page (or even in the same book) to make sure the relationship is as healthy and nurturing as possible for everyone involved.

    Whoo, that was a little rambly. (And obviously I love to use parentheses.) Christina, thank you very much for writing this post!

  • Marchelle

    Interesting and thought-provoking. Classic APW.

  • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com Koru Kate

    Thank you Christina for your brave & honest post! I know little about open relationships & I appreciate the opportunity to learn more. While I notice vast differences between our marriages (& really, how many marriages are exactly alike?), I noted the similarities too: how my hubs & I work together to create our own unique version of marriage, how constant communication is key. Lots of differences but some common threads too! Best wishes to you~

  • http://www.jamieandmax.com Jamie

    I love this post! For me, one of the greatest gifts of being a queer person has been learning to step back and question whether or not a variety of hegemonic ideas and traditions have a valuable place in my life. My partner and I (married 5 months -yay!) are sexually monogamous at this point in our relationship. In fact, we’ve always been sexually monogamous with each other despite the fact that monogamy wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice. I say that we are sexually monogamous because, while we are each other’s primary relationship, we each have a number of deep relationships with other people. These are generally non-romantic relationships (though thay may involve casual flirting), but they are still very important. I appreciate my other relationships beacause they make me a better and more self-sufficient person. I appreciate my partner’s relationships with his close friends and chosen family because I love knowing that Max is so well cared for.

    We were also very careful in our wedding not to make vows about monogamy or “forsaking all others” because, while monogamy works for us now, we don’t really think monogamy is a morally superior system than polygamy. We have lots of friends in healthy, happy poly relationships. We respect them and understand that they are just as committed to one another as we are. Also, there may come a time in our relationship in which monogamy doesn’t work for us. I don’t see that happening any time soon, but I can say that I believe our relationship would be strong enough to make that transition if we ever needed to (assuming that we made the decision collaboratively and honestly). Our commitment to one another is about so much more than sex or exclusivity; it is about being there when the other person wakes up from surgery, raising a family (someday), and loving each other at our lowest points. Those are the real gems of marriage (or otherwise very committed relationships called something other than marriage).

    • Wasabi

      Jaime, I totally identify with what you said. We also carefully decided not to make any promises of monogamy in our vows. Monogamy works for us now, but we are open to change given the right circumstances.

  • http://www.thehandmadeevent.com Kari

    What a wonderfully explained and brave post. Bravo to you for speaking so openly about something that might – in some places – be considered taboo. Kudos to Meg for having the atmosphere that encourages thought provoking discussions.

    A few comments have indicated other poly couples, or potential for, and perhaps there may be others beyond Christina that can answer this question but I wondered if the relationship would work so smoothly and openly if Christina and her husband did not (if what I gather from the post to be correct) have such fluid sexuality.

    Meaning, tactlessly – could this work for couples who consider themselves strictly heterosexual? I would have to imagine that it would limit the Sharing as opposed to Splitting. I guess that it would have to be only couple to couple or the joint agreement to see other people that the marriage partner isn’t seeing.

    Do we think that the base of the happy nature of this relationship (beyond all the communication required and well done) is that there is participation by both of the married partners sexually with the “outside people” (I am sure there is a better term but I am unfamiliar – no offense meant)

    I, too, was reminded of the story in “The Bitch In the House” and contrasted what I felt was that author’s wistful, and perhaps jealous, outsider status from her husband’s relationship with his girlfriend, to this “surrounded by love” account. Do we think that if she had been interested in a same sex coupling she could have joined the husband and been a little happier about it?

    • Jess

      Hmm. Yeah. I agree that these are very interesting questions that I would love to hear answered by more couples at different places on the spectrum.

      I was just about to write in to Meg requesting a post on this subject, and here it was this morning! Thanks APW. I can’t get enough of you.

      Over the course of our two year engagement, I have only recently begun to question my own feelings about monogamy in a serious way. I guess this is because my partner and I have done some very deep thinking lately about what we want from our marriage, what it means to us, what the future might hold and how we will get through it together. You know, like the Team Practical list of questions.

      In past relationships, my questions about infidelity have always hinged on this: Do I love my partner enough not to cheat on him? And when the answer was no, I felt it was time to leave the relationship.
      The fact is, that in every relationship I’ve ever had, I’ve been attracted to other people. I always thought this meant that my relationship wasn’t enough for me… that something was lacking and that ultimately, it was because my partner and I were not a good enough match.

      But now that I’m in a deeply loving, committed, sexually satisfying relationship that makes me truly happy… and I’m still finding myself attracted to (and in one case in love with another person)… well, it has been confusing.
      There is so little information available, even from Dan Savage, on what it means to LOVE two people at once… what this does to trust, security and intimacy… and I don’t even know where to start looking for the answers except within myself and my partner.

      Because it’s only been in the course of my engagement that I’ve allowed myself to really deal with these issues, my fiance and I have been lucky enough to have some really amazing (and sometimes very erotic) conversations on the subject. The conversations have also been really scary. I loathe the idea that our sexuality must remain fixed and constant for the rest of our lives… that we need to promise to always feel the same way about our own sexuality in order to promise to love each other for the rest of our lives. But I am so without a frame of reference (the only open relationships I’ve seen in my circle have ended as horrible disasters), that it can be a lonely process of self discovery. That said, my fiance has been AMAZING. It has brought us so much closer, and I feel so much more excited about entering a marriage knowing that these questions won’t threaten or break what we have, if handled with maturity and honesty. I had no idea, when we got engaged, how much of this I would end up NEEDING to think about before I could be truly comfortable with the idea of saying our vows. And if I didn’t have a place like APW to come to, I really can’t imagine how much harder it would have been to deal with this.

      Thanks Christina! Thanks Meg! And thanks to all you thoughtful ladies who always augment really smart posts with intellectually and emotionally challenging responses. This is anything but a ladies magazine!

      • Christina

        There are tons of books on the matter. I recommend The Ethical Slut….. I can’t remember the author’s name. But also Sex At Dawn by Christopher Ryan. Both very interesting reads.
        I think almost everyone is attracted to other people even when they are deeply in love with their partner. It doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t in love with your partner. For realz. I think it’s awesome that you and your fiance are having these conversations.

        • Jess

          Thanks Christina. I’ll have to check it out.

          I guess that my only real source of info about polyamory has been Dan Savage. I mean, I love him, but I often feel like he’s heavily slanted towards the sex side of open relationships, without really addressing the ‘love’ side of things. My partner and I kind of know what our options are if we wanted to pursue a threesome (or whatever) in a casual way (opportunities abound, it would seem), but neither of us have ever really been comfortable with casual sex, so it loses some of it’s appeal. To me, the biggest turn on has always been knowing someone, and finding their intelligence and sense of humor and personality attractive… but that takes time and intimacy, which means more emotional involvement and risk. I kind of think that if we had a casual threesome, it would be less exciting, but also less difficult for us than having a real relationship with another person. But if that attempt at a real relationship with another person were to fail, the risk is so great (re: the possibility of threatening our marriage) that it almost doesn’t seem worth it.

          Also, I’m bi-curious, but my partner is straight. I am attracted to women, but more often fall for men…. My partner is open to the idea of maybe involving another woman in our relationship at some point, but he doesn’t see how it would work with another man, and neither do I. Yet, there are other men I’m attracted to. I’m not saying I have to act on that, because I really don’t, and won’t unless my fiance is truly fine with it…. but it does present some interesting questions.

          Don’t worry Christina… I’m not looking to you (or anyone) to answer all of this for me. But I think the response to your post proves that it can be very helpful to hear about other peoples journeys and dilemma’s when it comes to questions of monogamy and fidelity (and the difference between them).

          I think we have some reading to do, and a lot more conversations on the subject. That said, this is still in a tender early phase of being introduced into the relationship dialogue, and I don’t want to make my partner feel threatened or insecure because it is suddenly coming up so often. Wedding planning has been hard enough as it is! It’s so crazy to have to plan the biggest party of our lives, at the same time as we are trying to articulate what marriage means for us, and how we’re going to go about building a life together…

          Tough stuff.

          • Alice

            Hi Jess.
            As someone from Australia, I don’t know who Don Savage is, but I can highly recommend Ethical Slut (there is a second edition out) as a good book to start on. There are also lots of books mentioned in this blog
            http://polyinthemedia.blogspot.com/ (look at the book review tag) and all of them should be available on Amazon or The Book Depository.

            I think someone (was it Christina, I can’t remember now?) mentioned that love is not a zero sum game. You don’t have a set amount of love which ‘gets used up’. You have a set amount of time, and sometimes a set amount of energy, but love can be infinite. I know I feel like I love my husband a little more each day, and I don’t think that will end.

            It also doesn’t end if I get a crush or fall in love with someone else. It just means there’s more love.

            The issue about sexuality will be tricky. Just remember that ‘dating’ someone without your fiance/husband or having sex with someone when he isn’t there may be an option, as long as it is within your rules. And those rules don’t have to start out where they end up. Mine and my husbands have evolved considerably over the years, as I got over jealousy issues.

            I can only recommend to read read read, and talk even more. There are lots of online resources, and the books in that blog will be a good place to start.

            I hope that helps a little. And good luck. : )

          • shorty j

            I want to say that I actually do not recommend Ethical Slut for folks who are more interested in polyamory. This is purely my personal opinion, but I think it takes a very looking-down-the-nose tone of “you’re jealous? that’s just because you’re not evolved enough.”

            There are a lot of great online resources, here are a few of my favorites:
            http://www.xeromag.com/fvpoly.html
            http://www.faqs.org/faqs/polyamory/faq/

            Also, try looking for meetups in your city–there are often poly social groups that get together for discussions and hanging out periodically that can be a great low-pressure environment to meet new people.

            Plus honestly if you can tolerate snark, polysnark communities are a GREAT place to learn based on what not to do, haha. Unconventional relationship models are complicated, yes, but they’re also really simple–respect your partner, talk to each other, all that good stuff.

            Really, in my opinion, the best place to start is with your partner. Talk about stuff, hypothetically–not about a specific person. Figure out what you think you might be comfortable with, and then try it, and then check back and see how it went over. Everyone has different needs–some people love to share everything about their SOs with each other, and some of us don’t. Only you can figure out what makes you comfortable.

            And then talk to other people. You would be surprised how many people are interested in poly stuff and just never had an audience to talk about it with–that’s how I met my girlfriend, she was one of my best friends, and it turned out she and her then-boyfriend were trying to open their relationship but didn’t have anyone to open it WITH.

          • Jess

            Thanks a lot Alice, Shorty J. and Abby C.
            I really appreciate your responses. There is are so few people in my immediate circle I feel I could discuss this with, and it so helps to get an outside point of view. @ Shorty J. I just read this dialog: http://www.xeromag.com/fvpolydialog.html
            and found it totally fascinating. It didn’t answer all of my questions, but it did speak to some things I had been intuiting on a gut-level, but haven’t been able to articulate myself. I look forward to reading more.

        • http://ourexquisitecorpses.tumblr.com Annacharlotte

          I just want to jump in and say, can we please read Sex at Dawn for the APW book club? This comment thread has only solidified my feeling it would be SUCH an interesting conversation. Please???

          Oops–I meant for this to follow Christina’s post…I must have clicked the wrong button.

          • Abby C.

            Actually, I agree with Shorty J – I did not find “Ethical Slut” a productive read regarding polyamory. I found it places all the burden and responsibility on the person having the issues, and none on their partner. The overall view was, as Shorty put it, “You’re having jealousy issues? You’re not evolved enough!”

            Frankly, the point of having a partnership is having a PARTNER. If one person in a poly relationship is having problems, it becomes the responsibility of all partners involved in the relationship to work on and solve.

          • Tara

            I very much agree with you! I absolutely loved that book. The friend who was staying with me while I was reading it thought I was a bit crazy (and he was a guy!), but I had my highlighter and pen out, highlighting awesome passages and making notes in the book! I just wish I had people to discuss the book with.

      • Tara

        I know I’m a bit late to the party here, but I waited until I had some free time to go through all of the comments since the topic of this post really made me think.

        “The fact is, that in every relationship I’ve ever had, I’ve been attracted to other people. I always thought this meant that my relationship wasn’t enough for me… that something was lacking and that ultimately, it was because my partner and I were not a good enough match.”

        I completely and wholeheartedly agree with this. I have always gotten to a point in a relationship where my partner just wasn’t enough for me sexually and I have always been attracted to other people while in relationships. Primarily women, probably because I work in software and spend way too much time with men as it is.

        I dated one person who encouraged me to be with other people for parts of our relationship and unfortunately that didn’t work out for other reasons, but I found that one of the things that really kept us together was that we trusted each other to talk about the other people we were attracted to. Plus, we were often attracted to the same people, which was pretty cool.

        I think one of my problems is that I am pretty shy when it comes to dating and it’s really difficult enough to approach men and pretty much impossible to meet women through my groups of friends. (Surprisingly, in Seattle, I really only know heterosexual people.)

        Thanks Jess. Your comment was good food for thought and it’s amazing to know that I’m not the only person who has felt like that at some point in time.

    • B

      “Meaning, tactlessly – could this work for couples who consider themselves strictly heterosexual? I would have to imagine that it would limit the Sharing as opposed to Splitting. I guess that it would have to be only couple to couple or the joint agreement to see other people that the marriage partner isn’t seeing.”

      I’ve seen couples in the lifestyle (I’m talking swinging lifestyle here) where the woman is straight, but it’s not nearly as common as the woman being bisexual, bicurious or bicomfortable. <~~~have to love all of the labels. In those cases, it tends to be a pure couple swap, or the couple is inviting a single guy into the relationship, usually with no contact between the men.

      Speaking for myself personally, I enjoy when we are with another woman, more than when we are with another couple. When there are three people, you're intertwined and experiencing together. I experience disconnect from my husband when we are with another couple and while we've had some experiences that we've enjoyed, our preference is definitely having just one person join us, instead of two.

      Of course, everyone is different and some feel threatened by a third and take comfort in being with another couple…these are all of the things that you have to navigate through and figure out along the way. That said…yes, I've seen straight women in the lifestyle and while it doesn't tend to be the norm, it can work.

  • http://youngsandinlove.blogspot.com valery

    I just want to echo the “this is why I read APW” sentiments mentioned by many above. I’m really thankful for the peek into Christina’s life, as it is different from mine and those around me.
    While reading her post, I was really struck but the sheer amount of *security* that comes across when she talks about her marriage. Regardless of any reactions about her particular lifestyle choices, I thought that was an overwhelming message. It made me realize several monogamous man-woman relationships that I know of that don’t even come close to this. Like she says, it’s hard work, and maybe some relationships with the ‘easy’ road don’t get as much effort and energy put into them. Thanks for the reminder of the hard work that a marriage should get.
    Also, I just simply loved this line: “It might be stupidity, but it feels more like bravery.” It makes me want to go skydiving or something. :)

  • http://peachyringsaredead.blogspot.com Ceej

    Christina! This post rules! I am so excited to send this to my partner now! Excitement and exclamation points!

  • Laura

    My browser isn’t cooperating with the “Exactly” button, so I just wanted to say thank you, Christina, and thank you, all of you, for such thought-provoking discussion!

  • Class of 1980

    So, Meg,

    What is next? A post about polygamy/polyandry? Where is a sister wife post? Or a brother husband?

    • meg

      Where IS a sister wife post. That’s an interesting question. I would love that.

      • Class of 1980

        I’m glued to “Sister Wives” on TV.

        They lured me in with their no-holds-barred-even-when-it’s-killing-them honesty.

        • meg

          Me to. It’s, you know, research (cough, cough, cough).

          • Class of 1980

            That’s the reason I watch any reality show – to see what makes people tick. Few are as honest as the Sister Wives though.

    • J.Co

      I have been FASCINATED with the concept of plural marriage. And yes, Big Love is to blame. But all HBO mini-series lust aside, I’d love to hear first-hand accounts about what works, what doesn’t, and the whys of it all.

  • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

    Add me to the list of people who want to say thanks for this post!
    Learning how other people do things (and how they came to the conclusion to do them in the first place) can be extremely helpful to anyone, in all aspects of life. I love hearing other people’s experiences, because I enjoy listening to stories and especially because it gives me a reason to consider things I may not have otherwise.
    Thanks to all of you who continue to make APW a place where we can learn and discuss intelligently and respectfully.

  • http://offbeatempire.com Ariel

    Such a wonderful post, and so happy to see this here. I LOVE seeing folks explore and define what commitment means to them.

  • shorty j

    oh, I love this post so much. This is exactly it–“It’s a common misconception, but my husband and I *are* faithful to each other. We never cheat, meaning we never go beyond the pre-determined boundaries that we laid down together in our relationship.” I tell people all the time “cheating at relationships is like cheating at Monopoly–you break the rules to get ahead.” The idea that cheating is one particular act that’s universal for everyone really drives me nuts.

    One of the things I love about being in a nonmonogamous relationship is the fact that we *have* to define our own boundaries or it’ll never work. We can’t assume what is or is not okay–we have to talk. A LOT. We have to try things and then decide whether we’re both okay with it. That’s a trap that I fell into a lot when I was monogamous–each person thinks that, because monogamy is the traditional way we conceive of a relationship, the rules are a given. And then when it turns out you mean vastly different things by monogamy, you end up in a hot mess, like when I found out the hard way that my ex considered any form of physical contact, including hugging, to be a form of cheating. (Note: I am not saying for one second that nonmonogamy is a better or superior relationship model; just that, for me personally, it led to a much deeper relationship because we had to spend so damn much time talking about it, haha.)

    Tallboy and I have a very different relationship model than the OP–we almost never date together, and in fact I’m usually the only one who dates, and we don’t share much besides the basics. But that’s the joy of it–we got to just sort of figure out what worked for us as a couple and it’s actually been kinda fun.

  • Abby C.

    LOVE this post. Thank you for being brave, Christina! This is why I love APW – it really does encourage you to stretch your mental muscles and look at things in ways you might not have considered before.

    I’ve experimented with polyamory in the past, and am now in a (very) monogamous situation with my fiance. In the beginning of our relationship, I went through a huge and difficult period of growth where I questioned anything and everything regarding monogamy, non-monogamy and variations thereof – trying to figure out how it all fit in with what I wanted in my life and how I wanted my future with this man to look. At the end, realizing that I was happier in a monogamous relationship than I ever was in a polyamorous one, despite how hard I worked on my issues and how much effort I put into the relationship to try to make it work, was a very freeing realization. Now that the difficult questioning period in my relationship is over, I’m happy and content in my monogamous relationship in an incredibly Zen, knowing way.

    It’s actually been very empowering to me, to CHOOSE monogamy after having tried polyamory. Not because monogamy is the more culturally accepted thing, the “safe” route, but because I know myself and I have discovered what works for me. I look at my fiance and just grin happily at him at times, I’m so much at peace with it. I don’t expect that this will always be the case, that monogamy will always be easyhappyroses, but come the future I know that we can work on it in the same way that we worked through the beginning of our relationship.

    Christina’s article, for me, highlights what I wish all couples, monogamous and non-monogamous, would work through – the conscious choice to make your relationship what you and your partner need it to be. Know Thyself should be a sacred cornerstone of any relationship.

  • Jessie

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s really beautiful.

  • Cortney

    Christina,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your post has instilled in me the hope that my lifestyle can include a happy, healthy marriage.

  • Alexandra

    Awesome post. Living in SF, we know a fair-few poly people.
    Growing up/in HS, I read a lot of sci-fi, especially by Robert Heinlein, that displayed several different varieties of poly marriages as normal and loving. [and generally with the mission of raising kids happily] A favorite quote: “Love does not divide, it multiplies!”
    My fiancé & I are monogamous, but knowing so many people who aren’t has helped to spark conversations about these things, and allowed us to safely talk about a lot of things [like jealousy] which could otherwise be very difficult.
    Congratulations & Best Wishes!

  • Krystal

    Wow. Just wow. This is the first time I’ve commented on APW (I’ve been reading from the first post forward and don’t have the time to read the comments, but this one certainly seemed worth the time commitment). I can’t thank you enough, APW in general, for being the kind of place to have an open honest post like this with amazing conversation in the comments. Open relationships is something my fiancee and I have discussed on and off since we started dating, but it’s never been something I’ve felt comfortable or compelled enough to actually pursue it. This has brought to my attention some of the important questions I need to talk with my future husband about, before we write our vows, before we get married. Thank you again! Keep up the absolutely amazing work everyone! This is so much more than A Practical Wedding, it’s really A Practical Life!

  • http://www.knowtheblog.org Jordan Lee

    I’m happy that you found something that works for you, but you’re playing a zero-sum game if you consider him seeing somebody else (splitting) outside of your relationships as taking away from you. That’s saying you aren’t happy with his happiness when not around you.

    Also, you can have a long-term commitment without marriage. It’s a piece of paper, that’s it. That’s not to say marriage isn’t good for your relationship, but it seems like there were other reasons.

  • http://evavavoom.com Miss Eva Vavoom

    I have always been polyamorous and I was even polyamorous when fantasizing about future relationships when I was a teenager. It is a wonderful thing to have a carefully crafted relationship of equals who “never go beyond the pre-determined boundaries that we laid down together in our relationship”. There is so much confusion about relationship-types that I applaud you for posting this on a mainstream site. This is the least sensationalistic open-marriage article I have had the pleasure to read. Thanks!

  • Anna

    I just discovered this website planning for my wedding (in under two months), and I have to say I’m amazed at this post. This is a topic that a lot of people don’t like to approach, whether out of distaste or fear. My fiance and I have always had an open relationship, and it’s only just now, 6 years later, that I’m beginning to be able to articulate myself on the issues involved with open relationships and polyamory half as well as Christina does here. Her main point, honesty, has always been integral to our relationship. But isn’t it integral to any relationship? I see many of my friends’ relationships go down in flames because they can’t/won’t communicate (grain of salt: I’m only 23, so most of my friends are college-age). When someone comes to me and says “I’m upset because he did X Y or Z”, my first response is always “Did you tell him that when he does X Y or Z, it hurts you for A B and C reasons?” Richard and I spent years hashing boundaries out, sometimes temporarily closing the relationship off to others, even. But in the end, we’ve discovered that nothing, not marriage, not even children (my unborn daughter is thrashing around in my belly right now – night owl like her mommy :) ) has changed our views on whether or not to have an open relationship, only when, where, and with whom it is appropriate to practice. We are even thinking of being polyamorous (yes, there is a difference), though this is only coming up now because of the couple we’ve been seeing casually who are polyamorous themselves. I guess in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been all that surprised that this post was made here – after all, this site is LGBT friendly, and in many ways, I have just as many reservations saying my relationship is open that I find my LGBT friends have in saying their relationships don’t fit the “norm”. I’m still in the closet, so to speak, about the open aspect to many people in my life – mainly parents, but even my best friend of 12 years doesn’t know (very conservative sexually/morally). I hope this issue gets even more attention in the coming years, I truly do. And I hope people will support it as much as the commenters have been supportive of Christina here.