On October 4, 2008 Jenny Block spoke at the Poly Pride Rally in New York City. The rally was part of Poly Pride Weekend, a gathering for polyamorous people, those who maintain multiple loving relationships at the same time. Jenny is the author of Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, which all started on Tango, in her essay, Portrait of an Open Marriage.
The most visible members of a group end up defining the look of the group. Despite the fact that this is an inaccurate and unfair, it's also inevitable. If I had a magic wand, it would be one of the first things I'd change (after getting rid of world hunger and professional wrestling.) But I'm not waiting around for fairy dust any longer. This has been on my mind for a very specific reason. I have chosen to write about my life and when I'm asked to speak publicly about that writing people are often surprised when they see what has been described as my "conservative look." It's disappointing, quite frankly. People in open relationships don't all look the same.
Opportunities for intimacy are all around us, and they don't need to be sexual. (But they certainly can be…) We can have intimate moments with family and friends and they need not have naughty overtones. But we can also have intimacies that are rooted in sexual desire, and having and desiring and pursuing those relationships need not be precluded by our marital state. I hope that everyone who is married has intimacy with their spouse. But I also want to dispel the myth that marriage is the only thing that can provide "true" intimacy.
I call my significant other, "my girlfriend." One of them anyway. The other one I call, "my husband." This language allows me to get away with a certain amount of ambiguity, to "pass" if you will. Once I say husband, it's assumed that, when I say "girlfriend," I'm using the Southern version of "friend who's a girl," no romance implied. But that's not what I mean. Nor do I mean anything dismissive or fleeting when I use that term. And so, I wonder, do I need a new word? If I do, what would it be? If not, what happens to a relationship that's not properly named?
Opening a relationship is no simple task, Jenny Block explains. From the book Open by Jenny Block. Excerpted by arrangement with Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2008. As time went on, she realized that several key elements make a successful open marriage, and though those factors involved the community of people she surrounded herself with, it was mostly about how she chose to act and react, and how to be in her relationship and her own skin. Having come this far, she more than realized that it was never going to be easy. She was always going to need to protect her daughter. Things couldn't always be exactly as she wanted them to be. But she was doing it, and she knew she wasn't alone in her journey.
Readers of this book will undoubtedly form an opinion of me, ranging from flattering to downright contemptuous. I also envision another camp that suspects this story is fiction, and that I do not in fact exist at all. My purpose with this letter is not to influence these preformed opinions, but rather to provide a voice of support for Jenny. I admire the audacity and courage my wife has shown in opening up her most intimate feelings and desires to complete strangers. I want to thank her for respecting my feelings by making our experiences, rather than me, the focal point of her book.
Just to set the record straight: I don't have a problem with monogamy. I don't think people in open relationships are more "evolved" than those in closed ones. I don't think open relationships are always honest and closed ones are always deceitful. I believe in choice and acceptance. I say this because it seems as if people who read my work think that I don't believe in monogamy.
Dan and Carrie give non-monogamy advice to a bisexual woman who wants a threesome with her best friend, but the best friend isn't attracted to the woman's overweight husband. "As I read through Karen's email a second time, and then a third, I noticed a certain passive aggressive sentiment that was hidden between the lines. For instance, Karen seemed to be singing her rotund husband's praises in one sentence, but then cutting him down in an understated, subtle sort of way in the next. It didn't take long for me to realize that I was dealing with a Classic Female Communication issue. In other words, Karen was clearly saying one thing, but insinuating something entirely different. In the end, Carrie and I decided to join together the best quotes from our conversation. Go ahead and look through Karen's email yourself, or simply scroll down to find out what Carrie and I had to say."
"The heart wants what it wants," the saying goes. I can't say I disagree. Last week I answered an email from someone who wanted to know if it was possible to open a marriage and dictate that no one fall in love. You can check out last week's entry for the answer. I'll give you a hint—it depends… But I promised then that I would complete my answer by explaining more about how the concept of polyamory works for me. You see, when we first opened our marriage, I certainly imagined that it was possible for us to refrain from falling in love with someone else. That wasn't the point as far as we were concerned. Instead, it was about seeking sex and companionship that would complement the love we had within my marriage. I figured, like I think most people do, that I didn't need to love anyone else romantically and, in fact, that I couldn't. Nothing could have turned out to be further from the truth.
YourTango readers: When it comes to the subjects of polyamory and swinging and open relationships, what are you honestly, truly most curious about? Do you want to know more about the rules and boundaries Carrie and I have developed for our own sex lives? Do you want to learn about how and why we decided to open up our relationship in the first place? Do you want to know what our friends and families have to say about our situation? Do you want to read more about our plans for the future, like our upcoming "UnWedding," or the possibility that we may one day add a permanent third person to our relationship?