Alternative Forms of Marriage Open Marriage Part 1

About the alternative form of marriage known as open marriage, history of the practice and people who have them.

Alternate Forms of Marriage


The Practice: Like many so-called modern ideas, open marriage has echoes from the past, from people who were ahead of their time. In 1792 feminist Mary Wollstonecraft in A Vindication of the Rights of Women advocated equality of husband and wife, a goal to be reached by kicking woman off her pedestal and helping her attain more education and more rights. The Saint-Simonians of the 1800s believed in "men and women giving themselves to several without ceasing to be united as a couple." Judge Ben Lindsey shocked the world in 1927 with his book The Companionate Marriage, which advanced the concept of marriage for companionship and sex rather than merely for procreation. He was accused of "moral decay." One minister's anti-Lindsey diatribe began, "Marriage is, after a fashion, a trades union of women for their own protection. The prostitute and the vamp are the scabs who underbid the union wage ... Married women will do well to reserve their union cards, and keep their dues well paid, and also keep up the high quality of their goods. They have competition." Open marriage, of course, hinges on male-female equality and could not exist in a society which saw women as chattels.

It may be partly a backlash from the smothering "togetherness" of the post-W.W. II era. Margaret Mead said of people involved in a "togetherness" marriage that they "have become so much like a single person that, like most individuals in America, they feel the need of others to complete themselves, to reassure them that they are good, to rid them of the self-searching that comes from being left alone...

In 1970, in an address before the National Council on Family Relations, clergyman Ronald Mazur coined the phrase "open-ended marriage" to describe a marriage in which couples would openly become intimate with others. The term was popularized and the idea expanded upon by Nena and George O'Neill in their bestselling Open Marriage, published in 1972.

Open marriage has become a reality for many couples because of the humanistic psychology movement (Abraham Maslow's term for marriage between self-actualizing individuals is "eupsychian"); because of widespread use of the Pill and the IUD (which allow almost 100% pregnancyproof intercourse); because of the emancipation of women; and because of lifestyle changes, among them increased mobility, which has caused many couples to lose intimacy with their extended family and lifelong friends.

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