Contributed by Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage
If there were no Disney, would girls still spend their lives looking for Prince Charming?
I read fashion magazines. I figure I better confess that up front. As I flip through the pages of the September issue of W, I am reminded of just how airbrushed that universe is, and how brainwashed a readership it leaves in its wake. If Iâ€™d never looked at those pictures, I wonder how Iâ€™d think I â€œshouldâ€? look. By extension, I wonder if other people would care so much that my relationships—and most especially my marriage—donâ€™t look like they â€œshould.â€? What would my world look like today, I wonder, if I hadnâ€™t grown up with the messaging that it was essential to find my Prince Charming and live Happily Ever After?
But since the medium is the media and I am a product of the culture in which I was raised, I donâ€™t have the luxury of wondering about the what ifs. I have what some would consider an â€œunconventional marriageâ€? because itâ€™s open. But when I look around, the only thing unconventional about it is that we tell the truth about sleeping with other people. People who read my article in Tango magazine, â€œPortrait of an Open Marriage,â€? had strong opinions about my choices—and my husbandâ€™s—but most people arenâ€™t so willing to look at their own. For the past few months Iâ€™ve been working on my new book project, Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage, and I keep wondering why I donâ€™t know more people in open marriages who arenâ€™t part of the out poly community. I have wondered about the woman in the grocery store in front of me in line, about the man holding his sonâ€™s hand as they cross the street on the way to school in the morning. Could these people be in open marriages? They look just as normal as me and my husband. Would anyone ever suspect us if they saw me shopping for back-to-school clothes with our daughter at Limited Too or if they ran into my husband at Three Forks? The answer is probably no.
I was curious about why people posted such vehement comments to my article after it ran, and Iâ€™ve come to the conclusion that itâ€™s all about fear. Fear and lack of models of open marriages that are working. My husband and I are happy. Weâ€™re both getting what we want and need and weâ€™re together. We love each other. Weâ€™re good parents. We understand that weâ€™re simply not built for monogamy.
Weâ€™ve been socially programmed to demand fidelity and are told at every turn that jealousy and ownership prove love. I donâ€™t buy it. Iâ€™m guest blogging today to open up the conversation, because I want to know what readers think—specifically what feminists think—about marriage, cheating, and open relationships. Whatâ€™s the deal with Happily Ever After anyways?
Jenny Block writes for Womenâ€™s Health, The Dallas Morning News, American Way, www.ellegirl.com, BeE, bRILLIANT, People Newspapers, Stone, Where, and D. Her writing has appeared in It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters (Seal Press, 2006) and Letters to my Teacher (Adams, 2005), as well as in the forthcoming book, Have I Got a Guy For You: Fix-ups and Blind Dates Coordinated By Our Mothers (Viking, forthcoming 2007). The inspiration for Open stems from her piece, â€œPortrait of an Open Marriageâ€? which ran in Tango, and was reprinted by Cosmopolitan Germany and The Huffington Post. Jenny holds both her Bachelorâ€™s and her Masterâ€™s in English from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she taught composition for nearly ten years.