The Truth About Open Marriage
Couples who practice ''polyamory'' say it's good for their relationships. Some therapists disagree.
The Back Story
When the O'Neills, trained as anthropologists, wrote their book, Open
Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples, they weren't just talking about the
freedom to explore sexual relationships outside the marriage, although that
idea got the most attention.
They also suggested that marriage partners be free to have their own
separate friendships and that they trade domestic chores, for instance -- novel
ideas back then, at least to some.
Now, the term polyamory or "poly" is viewed as the hipper term, with
numerous web sites offering chat rooms, bulletin boards, and personal ads. One
even posts a glossary of poly terms, explaining that relationships can be
triads (three people), vees (in which one person has two lovers who aren't
involved with each other), quads (four), extended networks, and other
What's the Appeal of Open Marriage?
Freedom of choice is a big draw, says Cherie, a 34-year-old technology
consultant who is traveling around the country and telecommuting with her
partner, Chris, also 34 and in the same business. Chris and Cherie asked that
only their first names be used in this article.
Before the road trip, Cherie had three boyfriends at once. Right now, she
and Chris are monogamous, she says, but they plan to pursue other relationships
"Over the years," she tells WebMD, "I have been involved with a
very wide variety of relationships and configurations, from triads, vees,
quads, and extended networks. At one time, I even co-purchased a house with
three other partners."
Her partner, Chris, says that his heart is "wired" for multiple
relationships. Those classic love triangle movies, he tells WebMD, were always
frustrating to him. "Why should the hero or heroine have to choose between
two partners?" he asks. "Why not have both?"
While variety in sex is a big part of multiple romances, polyamorists say
it's not the whole story. And polyamory is definitely different from swinging,
says Block. "Swinger lifestyles are very sex oriented," she says. For
her, having multiple relationships not only helps her fulfill her sex drive,
but other needs as well. Her female partner, she says, is also her best friend
and gives her a lot of emotional support.
When she goes to a romantic comedy with Jemma, for instance, Block says
there's no eye rolling, as there usually is when she goes with Christopher.
Franklin Veaux, an ex-partner of Cherie, says he, too, is hardwired to be a
polyamorist. "Why does the princess or the prince who lives in a castle
have to choose?" he asks. "There is enough room for everyone." He
keeps in touch with Cherie through instant messaging, although they are not
romantically linked right now.
"Every partner adds something to my life," he says. "All of
these things make me a better person." The big attraction, he says, is
emotional intimacy. "Everybody adds value to my life."