Do Open Relationships Work?

I was inspired to write this post after reading Actress/Comedian Mo’Nique’s remarks about her marriage in Essence Magazine.  (A link to an excerpt of this article can be found here.)  In this article, Mo’Nique says:

I married my best friend. Sid and I don’t put a label on what works for us because it’s ours. But some people might say that we have an open relationship. Some people consider sex outside of marriage to be cheating, but I think you’re cheating when you lie and keep secrets. We’re honest with each other.

Now I’m not trying to judge Mo’Nique or anyone else, but I have to admit her words took me by surprise.  Why?  Because I don’t understand why a person would enter a traditional institution (marriage) just to have a totally unconventional outlook (an open relationship). 

Which makes me wonder how people define ‘marriage’ nowadays.  A marriage (for believers) is a covenant between two people that is ordained by God.  Where two people become one.  Where a husband is admonished to love his wife like Christ loved the church and the wife is advised to submit and obey.  And, where adultery is forbidden.

Now I know we live in 2006 (and not 1006) and that people cheat all the time.  And, yes, I understand that people often have sex before marriage, get divorced and re-marry and that we have many forms of non-traditional ‘unions’ and blended families.  I understand that we live in a modern world.

But does that mean we can marry someone, have an open relationship and expect that relationship to work?  I don’t believe such a relationship lends itself to success.  A relationship should be built on openness, honesty and commitment.  How committed can you be when your partner is entering into that same type of relationship with other people?  Would that increase your faith in him or her or decrease it?

You know what I really think about people who are in ‘open’ relationships?  That it’s just easier to have an ‘open door’ policy because you just assume (nowadays) that your spouse will cheat.  Better instead to just allow him or her that freedom than to set yourself up for the inevitable pain of unfaithfulness.  Or, conversely, that it’s easier to excuse your own unfaithfulness if you go into the relationship with the understanding that you are still ‘free’ to pursue other interests.

What it seems to come down to for people in these types of relationships is an unwillingness to try and make it work in a one-on-one, monogamous relationship.  And again, if you feel that way – why get married at all? 

I hear a lot of celebrities (and non-celebrities) say that traditional marriage doesn’t work.  That men are by nature unfaithful and everyone has a natural curiousity about having other sexual partners.  And that no one can reasonably expect to be with the same person for 20, 30 or 40 years.  We’re living longer, I hear them all say – we should have more partners and more options during those longer lifespans. 

We are unwilling to accept that such an old-fashioned institution such as marriage can stand up to the pressures of a modern society.  So why even try?

I don’t know about you, but I still think the institution of marriage still has merit. God intended that a couple should marry, raise children in a Godly way, and that families become the building blocks for a healthy, God-fearing society.  That marriage imitate the relationship Christ has with the church – one of eternal love, sacrifice and sanctification.

I don’t think having an open relationship can even begin to capture God’s idea of marriage.  What do you think?


15 responses to “Do Open Relationships Work?

  1. I read that article too and it seemed to me that she has settled. Maybe she doesn’t think she’s worth a dignified and focused love. Maybe she thinks her work schedule is too involved to keep her husband satisfied. Maybe watching other folks’ marriages (as well as her own previous unions) crash and burn has scared her off of traditional marriage.

    I agree with her that lies and secrets are bad. I think she’s lying to herself if she thinks this sort of marriage will work. And I believe she secretly desires a one-woman, faithful man…but doesn’t think it can work.

    It’s better to be alone than settle for this kind of pseudo love.

  2. One of my good friends is in an ‘open relationship’. I’ve quizzed him on this several times because I still can’t comprehend how it works. I know I would never be capable of an open relationship – I’m prone to terrible jealousy – and also the idea that my boyfriend/husband didn’t respect me enough to put me first ALL the time would be soul-destroying.

    He says the open relationship is an equal understanding between them and while they connect on an emotional/mental level, sometimes they can’t control their attraction to other people. And that if either of them wants to change it to 100% committment, all they have to do is say the word.

    There’s a theory that people, later in life, marry for companionship. Perhaps this is an example of that; it’s someone to come home to rather than the idea of a committed twosome who stand by each other above all else.

    My friend has suggested several times that he’s interested (in me) and that his girlfriend wouldn’t mind. It’s flattering. It’s heart-breaking. Because if someone IN a relationship isn’t capable of being content then what do the single people have to look forward to?

    And who would EVER want to be someone’s Second Choice???

  3. I think jealousy is a normal emotion – even God said that He was a jealous God! I just cannot believe (no matter how often I hear people say to the contrary) that it is easy to accept that your mate, spouse or whatever is involved with somebody else. Nobody wants to be second choice – they want to be the ONLY choice!

  4. Tangela Greene

    I totally agree with your comments. Thank God for you eloquence and this blog. Why subscribe to a traditional institution with your new LESSER ideals????? That was EXACTLY my question.

    About Mo’Nique’s open “marriage”…I was very dissapointed to here this sista who boasts about her high self-esteem pretend to be okay with a man who sleeps around. She is clearly hurting inside and, I fell, is only pretending to be alright with this arrangement because she feels that she can’t do better. Like you said it’s a defense mechanism.

    What woman really wants a man who sleeps with other women? honestly…no woman. I pray that she’ll realize that this is not what marriage means – it means commitment, dedication, and intimacy…its not an arrangement that allows her to be disrespected so she can say “she’s married now” …how sad.

    Looking deeper I really feel it’s a direct attack on God’s idea of marriage and thus His precious relationship to the Church…God forbid.


  5. Nice replies…..

    Take it from me, from a person who has been in a one-sided open relationship for the past ten years, its wasteful ,time consuming and emotionally damaging.

    Here’s my story…

    A Decade Too Long

    After the first three years, I should have given up on Kevin. Something about him just kept pulling me back to him. It did not matter what he did, or how he showed me numerous times that he was not the one for me, I never gave up. I met this man when I was nineteen and here I am now thirty, still alone and no Kevin. Sad life, I lived ,making a man, an ultimate goal in life, without exploring other goals and other opportunities.

    Realizing after all this time, I didn’t like myself very much. He was a test from every angle. A test against my judgment, my morals, my intellect, my pride, my womanhood….The absolute worst a woman can have. And what was worse, I think I was more in “love” with the fact of breaking him down. It never happened.

    Now, I cannot watch love stories, listen to overly romantic love songs, no jazz, nothing that could resurrect any memories of him. Being in a one-sided relationship is like inviting the devil into your heart to dance with you, seduce you with his good looks, make you laugh, make you cry, make you weep with ecstasy from the lovemaking. Only to wake up the next morning lying next to a fallacy. An demented illusion you do not recognized. Everything that he smiled at about you, turns to disdain, judgment and disgust. This how I felt when I was with Kevin. Nothing I ever did or said was right, and friends wonder what I saw in him, what made me stay as long as I did. How did I keep forgiving him after every infraction , with the degree of those infractions growing in intensity each and every time. I made myself a promise that I had to let him go, no matter how much I loved him or could not function without him, I had to. But , it had to take something drastic like sleeping with a coworker for me to leave him alone.

    I was betrayed on both ends, because the coworker wasn’t woman enough to let me know she liked him or that he had hit on her . And him, testing me on every front ,actually thinking, I would still be with him after that. Narcissism at it’s finest, I had to let this cat go. I have to force myself not to remember anything about him and believe me, it’s a battle everyday. I have to realize I never really lost anything, I’m old enough to know that real love don’t feel like this. Real love will never ask you to compromise your beliefs, or ask you to stop being your real self..And it’s through the grace and mercy of God, that I was able to finally let him go, because the kid was surely addicted, and addicted to nothing at that. How could I have been lost for so long? Why did it take this epiphany forever and day? A decade was a decade too long.

  6. NAWH, UN-UNHHHH, NO WAY, of course not. Open relationships is a cowardly excuse to say that I love you enough to deal with you past my 2 month mark but even though we can go that long I might not love you enough to stick with you for life. For real, that is a really tired and lame way of saying so many things inbetween the lines.

  7. seeing that this is suppose to be a christian site ( i could be wrong this is my first day looking here for some single christian info) theres no way we should be having extra marital affairs. it just aint right . the scripture tells us ” there is a way that seems right unto a man , but the end thereof is death”

  8. Open relatsonships = No self control

  9. Ms. T:

    You’re right – there should be no extramarital affairs in the Christian life. The sad truth, however, is that there are. Christians face the same challenges that those of the world do and many fall prey to their own weaknesses, desires and emotional issues. Being a Christian is about being forgiven – not being perfect. Quite honestly, none of us is perfect and we ‘fall short’ all the time. Romans 3:23-24 says, “All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.” This is not to say we should continue in sin, just that God will forgive us in our struggles to become more like Him.

    I hope that God blesses you in your life.

  10. The world is a freak show–and I use the word FREAK in it’s native connotation–ergo, completely screw’d up. godless people can always make god in their own image and thus make up their own rules, in the end being a ‘victim’ of the consequenses. This stuff was prophesied ages past. No matter what the epoch people change little or not at all. Just remember Solomon lost it because of an “open Approach” and he had it ALL aAND knew the Lord intimately. Keeps things in perspective, don’t it?

  11. Then why were there people in the bible who had more than one wife? Doesnt cheating have to occur to an extent when one seeking another wife? There are many countries today that still practice having more than one wife at a time. My father is Nigerian. My grandfather had four wives and they are a Christian Family. Cheating, lying, and sleeping around is wrong. But how can we condone those who have extramarital affairs for the purpose of finding a new wife? For many it is part of their cultures, beliefs, and religion.

  12. OPEN, you said OPEN?
    The only thing thats going to be open is the front door when I kick my cheating husband out of it!!
    Thats all I have to say on the subject.

    ***Now Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night****

  13. Fiddlewinks. Open Relationships are definitely for believers… check out mine.

    And check out Solomons!

  14. “I think jealousy is a normal emotion – even God said that He was a jealous God! ” He’s also can go after for revenge if one knows his/her bible. Christ showed anger at the Temple as well. I’m not saying to be vengeful, have a bad temper and show it, or go around being jealous of others. I would say that these are very valid emotions; if so, we wouldn’t feel them. Marriage is a very big commitment. I just don’t think most of us are really cut out for it if some of us think we can handle an “open relationship” for whatever purpose or reason. If some guy tells you he’ll be committed to you, but he may want to have affairs or even just other sexual encounters with other women AND call himself a CHRISTIAN, now that’s very false~witnessing. If you are a Christian and you put Christ First in you life, just go to Jesus. Ask him, “Christ, do you think this person is really capable of loving me?” I bet His answer would only be “no.” Then, I think Jesus might say, “Even though I said there are no marriages in heaven, I still believe that if you obey my Father’s Words, you will know True Love. This love is not selfish or boastful, it’s not greedy or mean. Committing to your spouse is showing true commitment to Me and to our Heavenly Father.” I am sure that’s exactly what he would say. Anyone want to argue that one with me?;)

  15. wow! super!

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