Sunday, July 25, 2010

History of the Term - Open Marriage

Open marriage typically refers to a marriage in which the partners agree that extramarital relationships are NOT considered as treason or infidelity, and can be experienced by both partners together or separately.

There are many forms and styles of open marriage in which partners have different levels of freedom or control over the sex lives of others. Each case is discussed internally among partners, and there is a pattern of relationships.

History of the Term

The origins of the term open marriage "are unclear. Researchers of the 60s used the term to describe individual freedom that people have for choosing their spouses. Closed marriage "was a term used to describe those people who were forced to marry someone against his own will, and the decision based on social rules and prohibitions. Already Open Marriage, at the time, was referring to individuals who chose their own partners based on personal preferences.

Nena O'Neill and George O'Neill changed the meaning of the term in 1972 with the publication of his book "Open Marriage," which sold more than 1.5 million copies. They conceived open marriage as one in which each partner has room for personal growth and can develop friendships outside of marriage. Most chapters of the book with non-controversial approaches to revitalizing marriage in areas of trust, flexibility, communication, identity and equality.

In chapter 16, for example, called "Love Without Jealousy," devoted 20 pages to the proposition that an open marriage could include (or not) some forms of sexuality with other partners. These concepts entered the cultural consciousness and the term "open marriage" became synonymous with sexually non-monogamous marriage (not to be confused with polygamy).

In 1977, with the publication of "The Marriage Premise, Nena O'Neill advocated sexual fidelity in a chapter with the same name. Since then, the concept of open marriage as sexually non-monogamous came to life itself.

Today, with many couples who do not seek a formal wedding, the term is frequently generalized to 'open relationship'. The concept of being sexually open or closed is also sometimes applied to triads or other groups larger than two.

Incidence of open marriages

The incidence of open marriage is the frequency with which such a relationship occurs. There are many definitional problems that complicate attempts to determine the incidence of open marriages. Sometimes, for example, people say they have an open marriage without the consent of the partner. People can also agree with extramarital sex, but having never actually practiced.

Besides these, there are those who say they are monogamous, but practice extramarital sex (such behavior tends to be frowned upon and is not considered open marriage, but betrayal). Some researchers define open marriage with very vague terms.

However, despite these difficulties, it is estimated that the incidence of open marriage is 2% to 6% of married people. This number has remained relatively stable for at least two generations.

Styles Open Marriage

Couples in open marriages may prefer different kinds of extramarital affairs. Couples who prefer to extramarital relationships emphasizing love and emotional involvement have a polyamorous style of open marriage. Couples who prefer extramarital relationships emphasizing sexual gratification and friendships have a colorful style of wedding swinger.

These distinctions may depend on social psychological factors such as gender and may contribute to the formation of separate groups and communities swinggers and polyamory. However, despite these distinctions, all open marriages share the same problems: lack of social acceptance (there is a consensus that the problem is most severe), the need to maintain the relationship as a stable couple, beyond the issue of managing the jealous (which is quite difficult for beginners).

Social Acceptance of open marriages

Polls show that most people disapprove of any sexual activity outside marriage. There are few studies on the same disapproval specifically for open marriages. Often, people disapprove without knowing exactly what is usually motivated by pre-fabricated opinions and prejudiced. Critics raise moral objections, religious, psychological and even pathological to open marriages.

The lack of social acceptance exerts strong pressure on couples, which leads them to hide their choice of family, friends and colleagues. This greatly limits their social support network, sometimes resulting in some countries, loss of rights government health and psychological care.

Maintaining Relationships

The impact of open marriage on relationships varies across couples. Most states have a very high level of marital satisfaction and more lasting relationships. Others give up this lifestyle and return to monogamy. These couples often continue to believe that open marriage is a valid lifestyle, but not for them.

Still other couples experience serious problems and say that open marriage contributed to their divorces. All couples in open marriages should therefore pay close attention to their rules of conduct and maintenance of marriage.

Administration of Jealousy

Couples in open marriages usually arise in situations that potentially can cause jealousy. Most couples reported that he felt jealous at some point in their relationship. Some can handle it very well, others do not feel as safe. There are those who say they do not feel jealous in any way. Finally, there are those who can even transform your jealousy in a positive sense.

Ground rules for the couple early in the relationship are a great way to help manage jealousy in open marriages. However, they may not be sufficient in some cases. The biggest benefit in this sense is that couples usually come to understand more deeply the jealousy and how to deal with that sentiment.

An example of a paradoxical relation between the open marriage and jealousy is in the book "The Other Life of Catherine M" depicting the crisis of jealousy experienced by a famous writer in the midst of an extremely busy sex life.


Couples involved in open marriages or relationships typically adopt a set of general rules defined by the couple themselves, to guide their activities. These rules allow partners to coordinate their behaviors so that they reach common goals with less conflict. Some rules are universal in the sense that they apply to virtually all types of relationships in a particular culture.

Other rules apply to specific kinds of relationships such as friendships or marriages. The rules adopted by sexually monogamous couples (the majority) tend to prohibit behaviors that are seen as acts of infidelity, and sexual involvement with others.

The rules adopted by couples with open marriage tend to prohibit behaviors that cause jealousy, such as avoiding sexual relations with acquaintances in common, but usually are much more flexible than the practitioners of close relationship. Such rules may change according to time and are defined by each couple.

Legal Issues

The practice of sex outside marriage is generally illegal in most countries where adultery is illegal, regardless of whether the partners have agreed or not. Open Marriage is not the same thing as polygamy, where sexual relations are entirely maintained between the partners in a union formally recognized.


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