Monday, Aug 21st

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Committed to Being Uncommitted

uncommitted relationhips

After a lot of painful soul-searching, my husband and I have decided that we no longer want to be married. Ironically, we have also come to the conclusion that we will not put our two young children through the inevitable anguish and displacement that accompanies divorce.· According to Robert E. Emery, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Virginia, divorce is more traumatic to children than the death of a parent. So what’s a couple to do?· Surely, there’s a way to keep one’s family intact and·find personal fulfillment outside of the traditional marriage.

Although experts estimate less than 1 percent of U.S. adults are in open marriages––marriages in which couples remain legally bound even though intimate ties have been severed––an agreed upon set of rules to govern such arrangements seem necessary.· So when my husband and I began considering open marriage as an alternative, we decided to meet for coffee, put our heads together, and compile our own decree.· About three lattes in, it became painfully obvious that a relatively high level of commitment would be required of us to stay in a decidedly uncommitted marriage.· As the shop was about to close, this was the closest we came to a consensus.·

The Five Commandments of Open Marriage

  1. Thou shall not disclose the details of this arrangement to family members.·
  2. Thou shall always, without exception, practice safe sex.·
  3. Thou shall not bring “friends” to the family home.· ·
  4. Thou shall continue to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with the family.
  5. Thou shall commit to staying married for a minimum of three years, with the option to annually renew the agreement afterwards.

It took us hours to craft this somewhat brief list; however, neither of us was particularly satisfied.· I didn’t want to over-complicate things.· But my husband, ever the investment banker, insisted we get up to our necks in the minutiae, as if negotiating a multi-million dollar contract for one of his clients.· I thought, geesh, maybe I should have brought an attorney.· Clearly more time was needed.· So we let the Commandments marinate for a few weeks and then took another stab––this time at a bar.· With a clearer sense of what we each wanted (plus three rounds of martinis), my husband and I produced this revised list:

The Ten Commandments of Open Marriage (revisions in red)

  1. Thou shall not disclose the details of this arrangement to family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc.
  2. Thou shall always, without exception, practice safe sex.·
  3. Thou shall not bring “friends” to the family home.· This includes calls to the home phone.· Calls on cell phones from “friends” after 10 p.m. are also prohibited.
  4. Thou shall not “friend” friends of spouse, mutual friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc.
  5. Thou shall obtain spousal approval of new “friends.”
  6. Thou shall not stay overnight with “friends.”
  7. Thou shall “friend” said spouse whenever and as often as desired; after all, we are still married.
  8. Thou shall continue to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, Halloween, and wedding anniversary with the family.
  9. Thou shall remain married for a minimum of 14 years (or until the kids finish college).

10.· Thou shall keep a copy of the Commandments in purse/wallet at all times (so they are always top of mind).

Reading over the final Ten Commandments, we realized that this arrangement would be far less exciting and far more complex than either of us anticipated.· Regardless, we shook hands and toasted to new beginnings.· My husband even joked about who would be the first to break ground on this new frontier.· We laughed nervously, as the bartender ominously announced last call.· Exhausted, we headed home, climbed into bed, and did what we do best.· Despite my wavering opposition to Commandment No. 7, my husband will always be my best “friend.”


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