Hi Everybody, I’m so excited to bring you this exclusive interview today, and I’m giddy with glee to read that many of you were excited too. I know T through a theatre company I used to work with in Chicago and I’m thrilled that she agreed to talk so openly (no pun intended) on this subject. I hope this goes without saying, while smart and thoughtful comments are welcome, let’s keep in mind if you don’t have anything nice to say, please don’t say anything at all! This isn’t a reflection on anyone else’s relationship. This about T and her husband J.
S: How long have you been married?
T: 27 years!
S: How old were you when you met your partner?
T: I was 19, he was 18.
S: When did you decide to get married?
T: Well, J proposed 3 weeks after we met, lol, but we became engaged for real about 3 years after we started dating. We were one of those couples who broke up a lot and got back together, mostly because I didn’t want to be in a monogamous relationship (though I didn’t think of it in those terms back then, I thought of it as ‘not wanting to settle down’) but J was pretty persistent! We always stayed friends when we broke up and kept winding back up together. I was 26 when we got married and I was feeling a little marriage fever, even though I really thought marriage was only important if you were having kids.
S: Do you believe in monogamy?
T: While I don’t believe that monogamy is natural to humans (or apparently lots of animals, lol) it has been a societal construct for so long that for some people, it IS a natural state. For myself, no, I am not monogamous, and it would be something I would have to force myself to do.
S: How does society affect views on marriage and monogamy?
T: I think society puts many constructs on marriage, not just as to sexual fidelity, though that’s the big one! I think that’s the saddest thing about marriage in our society, that two people can’t create the kind of marriage that THEY want… well, of course, they can, but many people, especially younger marrieds, do a lot of things that they think ‘married people are supposed to do.’
S: What is an open relationship?
T: That differs as much as the couple who chooses that. I actually hate that term, it seems so 70’s, but for us, it means we can have sexual friendships outside the marriage, but that the spouse comes first in all things.
S: Were you and your partner always in an open (or non-monogamous) relationship?
T: No. When we were first married we both intended to be monogamous. I had had trouble with that while we were dating, but in the foolishness of youth, I thought getting married would make me want to be monogamous… I was wrong. we separated within a year of being married.
S: Who initiated the idea of a non-monogamous marriage?
T: I did, though we both came to the agreement. While we were separated, (that lasted a year) we started marriage counseling, then went into individual counseling. Part of my therapy was coming to the realization that I was a polyamorous person, though I don’t think that term existed then. In talking it over, we agreed to try having an open marriage.
S: What was J’s reaction?
T: Though I think he could have, and expected to have, a monogamous relationship, he was willing to try it [an open relationship] to keep me. I was pretty sure at that time that I couldn’t BE faithful in that way, and I didn’t want to go back into the marriage with the prospect of being a ‘cheater.’
S: How crucial is being in an open relationship to the success of your marriage?
T: In the long-term, it has made our marriage very strong, stronger than most of the relationships I know! We did go through some rough periods, because one or the other of us stepped over the relationship ‘rules’ (got too close to an outside person, or got involved with the spouse’s friend), but we worked through those things years ago.
S: Does everyone in your life know about it?
T: I’d say about 50/50… our friends know but not our relatives. Some of the more religious or uptight people we know we just don’t tell, not out of being secretive, just more in the ‘Can they handle it?’ vein.
S: How often do you have relations with people other than your partner?
T: A lot less often than everyone thinks, lol! That’s one of the main problems when people know you are in an open marriage, they think you are out screwing around ALL the time… and we’re not. I have had more outside relationships than he has… I THINK, because we don’t discuss it too often, but just by being the woman, I seem to know where he is more often than he knows were I am. I think having a career in theater has made it easier to find people, but it is really difficult to find someone to have this kind of relationship with, unless you are interested in pick-up sex, or sex through websites, which I am not.
S: Do you have emotional and spiritual relations as well or is it mostly physical?
T: Yes, for me, I have to have some emotional attachment to the person. I won’t gloss over, the point of the relationship IS physical, but I need to feel some connection with the person, on some other level. It is REALLY hard to find someone who fits that, who is also OK with my being married. A lot more single people are not into being with a married person, even if it’s ‘allowed,’ than you’d think!
S: Does your partner have relations outside the marriage?
T: He has had, though I don’t think he is currently. He is working a lot right now… he always jokes that we are too poor for him to find a girlfriend, that it takes more money for a man to woo a woman. Also, he doesn’t travel in very wide circles, he’s kind of a homebody.
S: Why is your marriage like everyone else’s?
T: It’s a partnership in which we try to help each other reach our goals, and comfort each other through life’s hardships. When I was hospitalized with what turned out to be Crohn’s Disease, and was so scared, he called his office and told them he wouldn’t be back until I was released. He was there every morning when I woke up, and stayed until I fell asleep. As far as I’m concerned THAT is fidelity and faithfulness.
S: Why is it not (like everyone else’s)?
T: Well, most marriages AREN’T open, and navigating the way when your marriage is different can sometimes be hard.
S: Do you believe the old adage that marriage is hard work and something that needs the couple’s constant attention and care? Why or why not?
T: Definitely, marriage is HARD work! Living with another person, no matter what ‘kind’ of marriage you have, is very difficult and changes constantly. We are STILL working on problems and figuring out our lives, even after all these years together!
S: Your advice for those people who are interested in an open relationship with their partner?
T: Communication! Talking about your feelings and what each partners wants, needs, and expects is crucial. The amount of ‘openness’ as to what each person is doing outside the relationship is different for everyone, but the most important thing must always be your partner’s feelings. The commitment you make to each other is the most important thing and the strength of the relationship rests on that idea, I believe.
S: What is one thing you wish people knew about your marriage?
T: How committed we really are to each other. It’s a good question because I always say that NO one can understand what goes on between any two people but those two people.
S: Anything else you’d like to share?
T: Just this, that for us, open marriage is less about having sex with other people, and more about an openness of mind… the feeling that we are together because we WANT to be, not because a piece of paper, or a sexual relationship, says we HAVE to be.
As we get older, there are less and less outside relationships for him, and I think that’s a process of human aging… men just are less interested in sex as they age, while woman are MORE interested, one of natures little jokes I haven’t figured out yet! So for me, the outside relationships ARE important, because I can be the sexual person I need to be, without putting too much pressure on him. It’s worked for us, at least, it has so far!
Thank you T! This has been so eye-opening. What a beautiful, loving, and well-communicated relationship you two have! I think my favorite line is how J says they are too poor for him to find a girlfriend! 🙂
No two marriages are alike and I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to share this one with all of you. Thanks for reading!
What was the most interesting or most surprising part for you?