by Demetria Irwin – The Grio (Original Post 12/19/11)
Let’s pretend for a moment that the idiotic ‘Great Black Love Scare’ never happened. (The Great Black Love Scare is the approximately 10,589 articles written about the alleged inevitability of spinsterhood for an entire generation of black women.) Those skewed statistics have been exposed as fraudulent many times over by now. But let’s just say that none of that ever happened and there was never any panic among black women about the possibility of finding a lifelong partner.
So now, would you ever seriously consider having an open relationship? The reason I wanted to take out the Great Black Love Scare is because, as far as this conversation is concerned, I don’t want an open relationship to be seen as a last resort or last ditch effort to keep a man…any man. Would you be open to an open relationship just on its on merits? Some celebs seem to have gone that route.
Academy Award winning actress Mo’Nique told Barbara Walters in a 2010 interview that although she has only slept with her husband since she jumped the broom, her husband could step outside of the marriage and she would stay.
“Let me say this: I have not had sex outside my marriage with Sidney. Could Sid have sex outside of his marriage with me? Yes. That’s not a deal-breaker. That’s not something that would make us say, ‘Pack your things and let’s end the marriage.’”
Will Smith and his wife Jada have both made comments that suggest they are in an open marriage and even the much heralded marriage of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee included a period where being with other people was okay. They discussed that subject in the book they penned together.
“It occurred to us, from observation and reasoning, that extramarital sex was not what really destroyed marriages, but rather the lies and deception that invariably accompanied it — that was the culprit. So we decided to give ourselves permission to sleep with other partners if we wished — as long as what we did was honest as well as private, and that neither of us exposed the family to scandal or disease.” (With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, HarperCollins, 2000) Ruby Dee eventually went on to say that the open marriage thing didn’t really work for them and they did go back to a more traditional monogamous marriage.
Not everyone who dabbles in open marriage goes back to the traditional route though. From looking at the “reality” shows devoted to the significant others of professional athletes and other big timers, it seems that some of these women have (begrudgingly) accepted infidelity as part of the package. They seem to take the MC Lyte “Georgie Porgie” stance.
“As long as he was smart and kept his girls in check/Made sure I never saw them and showed me respect/He didn’t have to be loyal like men should be/I don’t care about the other girls, just be good to me.”
Some argue that a completely monogamous marriage is a fairytale and completely unrealistic. But it seems that a lot of times, when an “open marriage” is the topic of conversation, it’s usually just the man doing whatever (and whomever) he pleases and the wife choosing not to squawk about it. But a truly open marriage would entail both the husband and the wife having the license to sleep with other people.
Attraction to others does not magically cease once a marriage certificate is signed. How we deal with that attraction plays a big factor in how such a scenario impacts our marriages. People in open marriages rationalize such behavior by having “rules” (no overnight stays for instance) and relying on the notion that physically being with someone else does not in any way minimize the love one has for a life-long partner.
I agree that physical and romantic activities can be two very separate things, but please believe, that given enough time, they always collide. A “purely physical relationship” for any extended amount of time always (and I mean always) ends with someone catching feelings one way or another. Someone either wants to take it further or someone feels cheapened/shortchanged by the whole process. There’s always a casualty, especially when such encounters involve a long-term partnership.
So, putting that in the context of a marriage, what’s the point in being married if such a relationship is allowed to intrude upon the marriage? For women married to professional athletes and other rich and powerful men, the largest perk seems to be the guaranteed lifestyle and the public image (though some still chuck deuces).
But for every Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant or former President Bill Clinton, there are 20 guys who are regular Joe Schmoes working at car factories, consulting firms and law offices who don’t have that level of prestige associated with their names or public image. Many women have implicitly agreed to open marriages/relationships by virtue of staying.