Let me state upfront that I completely lack the capacity to be in an open marriage, and I will venture to say that almost no one walks down the aisle thinking they will have an open marriage or will need to outsource their sexual needs. However, long after the honeymoon phase is over, things do start to break down– especially around the 7 year mark, which is when 50% of all divorces occur. At this juncture, some people find it easier to maintain the status quo at home and just have others meet needs that aren’t being met at home.
Outsourcing happens a lot, and of course I only see the 50% that finally decide to call it quits and get out of their marriage, but I am well aware of the fact that many others just continue to sleep in separate bedrooms and lead separate lives under one roof while agreeing to an open marriage. Many of my clients have admitted to maintaining a separate lives arrangement for 3-9 years, often applying a don’t ask don’t tell policy. I guess to them ignorance is bliss?
When pressed as to why they’d stay in this kind of situation for so long, the most common excuse is that they stayed together because of the kids. Really? I don’t quite understand that– because what behavior are you modeling for your children by staying in a loveless marriage? Are you trying to instill in our youth that if something is comfortable and easy, you shouldn’t rock the boat, even though you are dying on the inside? Is the message you want to send that money matters more than your integrity or happiness?
The decision to divorce is not an easy one, but if you can’t fix the relationship you have with your spouse, then why wouldn’t you leave? Kids are resilient, and they will be fine as long as you keep it together. (See Dr. Emery’s book “The Truth About Children and Divorce.) Children are not stupid, and they can often sense that their parents are miserable. Who wants to subject a child to growing up in a tense environment? More than anything, they need stable, healthy parents, who can model good behavior and loving relationships. You don’t need an intact marriage to do this, I see it done every day by hundreds of divorced parents.
Ultimately, I find open marriages and the tactic to outsource certain needs is just a short-term fix, whereby you are delaying the inevitable, and perhaps the reasons for doing this are based on some false assumptions. Divorce is painful, no doubt, but no one has ever died from a divorce. Meanwhile everyday we see people die much earlier than anticipated as a result of stress, anxiety, and depression– so really it isn’t just about choosing happiness in my opinion, it’s about choosing to live, with greater honesty and integrity to boot.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.