Ask Lilly – Open and Polyamorous: Why be married at all?

Recently on OkCupid a very unlikely candidate messaged me and he eventually started questioning me on topics surrounding open marriage; apparently I was the first he’d run into on OKC who admitted to being in an open relationship. I suspect he wasn’t looking very hard.

I’m very interested in trying open relationships for a change. In the past I would fall in love quickly, spend too much money, make too many compromises, and then watch things fall apart for reasons that were beyond my control. I always thought that the open relationship lifestyle (if you want to call it that) was more natural and more honest than the sort of till-death-do-us-part mentality I had. I haven’t meet many people who are living this way, what can you tell me about it? How do you handle being married and seeing other people? Why be married at all?

My answer to him was:

You might want to do some reading research on the differences between polyamorous relationships and open relationships.

You can still have that “til-death-do-us-part” mentality and to a big degree my husband and I do. What we DID remove from our vows though was “forsaking all others” (it was a tiny ceremony and I re-wrote the traditional wedding vows in a way that subtly reflected our lifestyle and lack of religion whilst being showy and emotional enough that the parents never noticed what was missing). Many people DO want what’s called a “primary partner”. Someone to share your home and potential children with (if children is something you might want), a rock to always have around……but with the ability to explore other relationships. People in the non-monogamy camp firmly believe that no one person can be one other person’s “everything”. After all, your platonic friends to a degree provide something that your primary partner might not, so why not a lover?

It’s not easy. Unless you are mostly devoid of jealousy and have perfected (or are trying really, really hard to perfect) the ability to maintain compersion for your other partners’ joy in their other loves, as well as all parties having the self-control not to completely drown in their “new relationship energy” at the expense of their primary relationship. 99% of people are not that perfect. So that’s why I say it’s not easy. It has perks and benefits, yes.

Why be married at all? As I said before, just because I want to have the ability to lust and love others doesn’t mean I don’t still want a primary partner to lean on and raise a home with. As for the institution of marriage itself – it’s more the legal and common necessity than anything else. At one point yes, the romantic side of us wanted to be married for the sake of marriage, to wear the rings and say “husband” and “wife” but this was when we were younger. Currently I personally don’t feel the need for legal marriage to fortify our relationship, I don’t worry that if we weren’t married we’d be any less committed to each other. My husband and I have been serious since 1998, but only got married a couple years ago (we had been waiting until we were able to afford a decent wedding, the wedding I’d planned and dreamed about, not to mention a proper length honeymoon) solely because he really needed to be put on my health insurance as I was the one working and had really good insurance. So it was a tiny ceremony with just our parents and felt more like a “green card wedding” than what I’d always dreamed of. But, oh well. Beyond the health insurance issue is all other sorts of legal benefits, very adult and boring matters such as taxes and wills and etc.

6 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    “People in the non-monogamy camp firmly believe that no one person can be one other person’s “everything”.”

    I’d say that’s not true. Obviously, no one person can be someone’s only source of interaction with others, but two people can be each others’ romantic and sexual ‘everything.’ There’s nothing wrong with wanting more people involved, but having just one person isn’t wrong either. I’m monogamous, and I believe that mono and poly people all need to respect and understand each others’ choices.

    ~ Ok I should have used the qualifier “many”, my bad. I never said in my post that having just one person is wrong. For some people, it’s just right. But that wasn’t his question or his mind-frame. He specifically asked about the thoughts behind marriage and open relationships and such. I have never disrespected the choice of monogamy. I chose it for awhile, myself. I agree that not EVERYONE in either camp respects the other side’s opinions, though. There is no one right way for every person.

  2. Ms.Inconspicuous says:

    I have had people ask me the same question: why be married?

    For the reasons you state–for benefits, for security… but most of all (for me) because being married is pretty damn great.

  3. Joker_SATX says:

    This is an excellent post. Well written.

  4. Cinnamon says:

    Stopping by from my advice blog on Swinging. I’d love for you to stop by and check out an article or two. Thank you. My “vanilla” blog gets all the attention and my swinging side is getting jealous…LOL

    ~ Fellow readers….am I wrong here?
    My email: “Hi Cinnamon – I appreciate that you’re trying to get your new blog traffic but…..comments are a place for people to comment on the article at hand. To offer their experiences, their appreciation, their opinions and advice…not say “Hey great but why don’t all your readers come to MY place for this advice instead?” ”
    Cinnmon’s response:” I don’t believe that I said that. But I apologize if you feel that I did. You don’t know me, so have no idea that I spend a great deal of time commenting on blogs. I would have done so with yours as well, I didn’t have anything to add to yours at the moment. Doesn’t seem like dialog will take place here. Thanks for your advice, but at 54, I’ve been around for a while. Sorry to have bothered you. Have a great day. At least you got one comment, even if you didn’t like it.”
    When I called her out on being rude she says”: You are right. I was. But I was NOT trying to steer traffic to my blog. I was inviting YOU there. But I don’t think you’d get anything from it. You don’t seem quite as open minded as someone who would enjoy differing views. You only want people to come to your blog and fawn over you. You’d rather have someone come to your blog and do as Mr. Joker did….spam you. What kind of comment advice did you share with him?”
    Uh…you’re not the first comment, on this post, lol. Since you’re in an open marriage your input, if you’d had any opinions, would have been really great here. And people might have stopped by your blog after reading your thoughtful opinion or advice. You didn’t choose that route.
    *stomps feet I’M A DIVA, FAWN OVER ME DAMMIT! oh wait, no, I’m not. LOL.

  5. Molly Rene says:

    Frankly, immigration issues. Being marriage made getting my work visa significantly easier.

    Beyond that, I could really say why anyone, open or not, would get married. Marriage has never been big for me. I don’t really see it as something I needed or even wanted to do. If I had continued to live in the US, I wouldn’t be married right now. I realize many other people see marriage much different and the only thing I ask if that if you’re going to invite me to your wedding, have an open bar.

    More seriously, I don’t understand why people ask non-monogamous couples why they got married, as if marriage is purely defined by monogamy. Is what attaches you to your spouse really your monopoly over their genitalia?

    ~ “monopoly over their genitalia” LOL well put. Some people kinda do believe that, yeah. Some people believe perhaps that marriage is more permanent. Getting divorced isn’t easy – leaving a boyfriend doesn’t involve divorce lawyers, alimony, etc etc. So maybe people think that because divorce makes breaking up harder to do, it will cause each partner to work harder to work things out at rough patches. ? Just a thought.

  6. Bex says:

    My husband and I had a wedding…. but we are not “legally” married in the conventional way. We had the big ceremony and wrote up our own contractual agreements. We got “married” because we want to spend our lives together working towards shared goals. That desire does NOT preclude others from joining and spending their lives together with us working towards those goals as well, which is why we decided against a marriage certificate. For us, marriage was about committing not just to enjoying each other’s company and spending time together as long as it happens to be enjoyable, but making a promise to each other that the goals we share for our lives will be something we work to achieve together.