Perhaps this Psychology Today author should take another look….

I have some issues with this post: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beyond-don-juan/201108/why-open-marriages-dont-work (link unfortunately no longer works, as you will see may have to do with some passive/aggressive activities by readers). I highly suggest Anne Rettenberg, LCSW, discuss polyamory with those who embrace this lifestyle.

Anyone who knows me knows I have comments nearly exploding in my head and heart.  I will try to keep this rational.

1 – Open Marriages:  Openness to non-monogamy is not all the same.   My experiences range from infidelity to ethical non-monogamous relationships, and include my current polyamorous structure, a subset of “open marriages.”   Please do not judge all by one.  I have a feeling a lot of monogamous couples would feel the same way, if suddenly monogamy was on the judgement block because of the divorce rates in the world today.

2 – Open marriages are male-promoting sexism: Not in my experience, though I am sure there are subsets of non-monogamous couples where only the male has outside rights.  But in today’s world, and in the relationships I know, the women have the far better end of the deal.  It is easier for women to get attention on sites such as ok cupid, easier for a woman to get a date, easier for a woman to develop a relationship or get what she wants in terms of physical connection with another partner.  Good luck finding a large number of men who have had many interested parties reach out to them.

3 – “People who desire open marriages often don’t think about how they would feel knowing their partner is sleeping with someone else” And this is a problem.  But I argue “not thinking about all of the consequences” is a larger problem than just in open relationships.  How will I feel if I finish that extra large slurpee?  How will I feel if I don’t go to the gym this morning?  How will I feel if I don’t tell my partner I didn’t like that dinner, and it becomes a stand-by meal for the rest of my life?  Think about what you want, about what you don’t want, and make it known.  Communicate.

4 – “…an “open” marriage, a term that connotes that each member of the couple has sex with whoever [sic] they want outside of the relationship.”  That is NOT what the term connotes, at least not in the open relationships I have experienced.  It means that other relationships are up for discussion and decision, and that rules (which should be established before the relationship is deemed open) will be followed.

5 – “People who attempt “open” relationships end up with multiple attachments, confusion, and/or jealousy.” Yes, they do.  So do parents with more than one child, friends with more than one bestie.  Multiple attachments are not something to be feared.  If they were, wouldn’t we all be hermits?  I would much rather live my life fully, embracing love, and learning to deal with the downsides of life responsibly and gracefully.  My open marriage has helped me to learn to fall with dignity, has learned to pick myself up and brush off the dirt.  My marriage is nearing its tenth anniversary, and open has nearly always been a defining piece of it.

6 – A better option  The key to an “open” relationship is a frank discussion with your partner about your differences and how to manage them within the relationship while respecting each others’ needs, concerns, and desires.  My suggestions for a re-write.

About SoManyHandles

30-something female, intent on living life.
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4 Responses to Perhaps this Psychology Today author should take another look….

  1. Kelly Cookson says:

    Actually, Anne said open marriages based on an agreement to have sex-only relationships (i.e., no emotional involvement with outside sex partners) typically didn’t work because it’s too easy to develop emotional feelings with sex partners.

    There are studies supporting the idea that open marriages which prohibit emotional involvement with sex partners often don’t work. One problem is exactly what the blogger mentioned–developing unwanted emotional feelings with sex partners. In a 1974 study of people who dropped out of swinging, the development of outside emotional attachments was the third most common reason for dropping out (Denfeld, 1974). In a 2010 study of long-term male couples in non-monogamous relationships, “one or both getting too emotionally involved” with outside partners was the second most difficult challenges of non-monogamy, right behind jealousy (Spears & Lowen, 2010). Another problem not mentioned by the blogger is boredom with emotionless sexual activities. Two studies of swingers mentioned boredom as a reason for dropping out of swinging activities (Denfeld, 1974; O’Neill & O’Neill, 190).

    The mistake made by the blogger was over-generalization. Her article applied only to a certain type of open marriage, not to all open marriages. This could easily have been pointed out and corrected.

    Unfortuantely, instead of nonviolent protest, a few people in the poly community resorted to passive violence.

    First, Psychology Today felt pressured to remove Anne’s article from the blog. I consider censorship to be an act of passive violence. One way that being forced into a closet injures people is that it censors them. People who feel forced into closets feel like they can’t talk about their lives with others. They have to keep quiet about their lives. Censorship injures people, whether it is the censorship of a closet or the censorship of someone who has power over you (e.g., an editor). Anne felt injured by being censored. It was the actions of a few polyamorists that directly led to this censorship.

    Second, Ann reports other acts of passive violence. She mentions angry phone calls directed at the Psychology Today editors and hate mail directed at her. I agree with Marshall Rosenberg that anger is violence-provoking thinking, and I have little doubt that some unknown number of people expressed their anger in aggressive, passively violent ways. Hate mail is even more clearly an act of passive violence. Anne specifically said she felt “attacked.”

    Third, I saw examples of moral disengagement on a poly list devoted to professionals who are trained in critical thinking. People engage in strategies of moral disengagement to keep themselves from feeling bad about harming others. Some strategies of moral disengagement include:

    * moral justification (it was done for a greater good)
    * advantageous comparison (others have done worse things)
    * euphemistic labeling (it sounds better if you call it something else)
    * minimizing, ignoring, or misconstruing consequences (it wasn’t that bad)
    * dehumanization (it was done to one of “them”)
    * attribution of blame (it was what they deserved)
    * displacement of responsibility (we did what we were told to do)
    * diffusion of responsibility (everyone was doing it).

    I saw people on the poly list engage in moral justification, euphemistic labeling, minimizing, ignoring or misconstruing the consequences, and attribution of blame. I did not see anyone engage in dehumanization, but I did see people define Anne as outside their moral in-group (i.e., moral exclusion). Moral disengagement is then combined with the anonymity of social media activism. No one really knows who does what, resulting in a deindividuation that allows people to feel freer to harm others. It’s not suprising that some people engaged in passive violence such as hate mail. It’s lucky that no one was so taken in by the situation that they ended up resorting to physical violence.

    The thing that most disappoints me is that passive violence was not necessary. Anne mentioned that she received a number of nonviolent emails:

    “…mostly I received long emails from people who wanted to tell me about how they managed their polyamorous relationships. I appreciated these emails, since I always enjoy hearing people’s personal stories. In fact, I was considering writing a follow-up post based on these stories, but now I will not do so. I’ve decided that free speech-a cornerstone of our democracy-is a more important topic that the diversity of the polyamory community.”

    She responded positively to emails sent with the intent to educate her and win her over to the idea that poly relationships can work. She even considered writing another post as a corrective to her first post. But the actions of the people that made her feel attacked won out…and she decided against a corrective post. I personally asked Anne if she wanted to co-author a new post, reaffirming some valid points she made, while acknowledging that other types of open marriage can work. She said it was tempting, but that she felt burned out by the whole situation. An approach using methods of integrative nonviolence might have had a much better outcome–winning Anne over to the idea that poly relationships can work and, from her own pen, a new post stating as much.

    We need Anne to be a poly ally. She already sees poly people in her clinical practice. That’s not going to change. We therefore want her to be well educated and friendly towards poly people and towards the poly lifestyle.

    That’s where I’m coming from…others are free to disagree.

    Kelly Cookson

    References:

    Denfeld, D. (1974). Dropouts from Swinging. The Family Coordinator, 23, 45-49.

    Spears, B., & Lowen, L. (2010). Beyond Monogamy: Lessons from Long-Term Male Couples in Non-Monogamous Relationships. Dowloaded from http://thecouplesstudy.com/wp-content/uploads/BeyondMonogamy_1_01.pdf

    O’Neill, G., & O’Neill, N. (1970). Patterns in Group Sexual Activity. Journal of Sex Research, 6, 101-112.

  2. orangeya says:

    I appreciate your followup to this article, Kelly. While I honestly cannot tell where you believe my response to the article may fall on the non-violent protest – passive violence reaction scale, I firmly believe that my words were even and a productive way of opening a discussion that never happened with Anne. I heard that other respondents did receive additional communication from the author. I, however, did not.

    • K says:

      Sorry. I did not mean to imply that your post here was an example of passive violence. I was referring to the people who worked to have the article censored and who sent hate mail to Anne. My apologies for the confusion. To be clear:

      I definitely do *not* consider your post to be an example of passive violence. It’s an example of free speech.

      I am simply trying to point out that a few members of our poly community gave in to venting their anger. Venting anger may have made some people feel good. But was it really the best way to help Anne and the non-monogamists she will no-doubt counsel in the future?

      Kelly Cookson

      • orangeya says:

        Over the course of the past few years, as I have moved into the community and away from private exploration of polyamory, I have found many vocal members of the poly-persuasion do little other than vent and spew anger, aggression and libel.

        I fear for how a community based on love and compassion comes off to the greater majority because of that.

        I do my best to keep my heated words to empty rooms. They are more difficult to hear and respond to in healthy manners than whispers filled with logic in my experience.

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