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Washington Post: “Open marriage” never did work

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By W. Bradford Wilcox

The Open Marriage by Nena and George O’Neill was published in 1972, as the sexual revolution gathered steam in America. The bestselling book encouraged spouses to “to strip marriage of its antiquated ideals” and, most famously in one chapter, to explore sexual partnerships outside their marriage, if they so desired.

Fortunately, the book has since come to be seen as an antiquated relic of the Me Decade, when all too many men and women put their own desires—in the sexual arena, as in so many other arenas—ahead of the needs of their spouse, their marriage, and their children. While swinging may have seemed reasonable to some at the height of the sexual revolution, many couples and the vast majority of Americans have since turned away from the idea.

In fact, notwithstanding the recent marital misbehavior of athletes, actors, and politicians, public tolerance for marital infidelity has fallen since the 1970s, with fully 79 percent of American adults now saying that infidelity is “always wrong.” Moreover, recent research from the National Marriage Project indicates that infidelity has also declined in recent years to the point where just 16 percent of married men and 10 percent of married women now report that they have been unfaithful. So, clearly, in contemporary America that vast majority of couples reject infidelity in theory and practice.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Salcia

    To say, “Americans think infidelity is wrong, so they think open marriage is bad” is overly simplistic. One can support open marriage while believing that infidelity is wrong because people who are in an open marriage don’t consider extramarital sex to be a form of infidelity. The boundaries within an open relationship are different, decided on beforehand by the couple and (ideally) revisited often so communication stays open and no one is hurt. It takes a great deal of maturity and self-awareness to get it right, I’d guess, and it certainly has potential to turn bad (though I guess most marriages have that anyway). But it’s nowhere near as morally bankrupt as this author is making it sound.

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