Open Marriage: Is it healthy?

Everything about it is "open," yes, but its very basis is nothing short of self-annihilation

CoupleThere are three types of people. The first type who tell their partners, that, “You have your fun and I’ll have mine.” The second type say, “You can have your fun as long as you keep me materially and financially satisfied, and well-provided for.” The third type is the one for whom marriage vows come from the heart. The vows are sacred to them, an inner commitment. They don’t necessarily require a priest to stand witness to their marriage vows. Their heart is prayerful and loving, and it is part of a magnanimously beautiful relationship called marriage. For the third type, marriage vows reflect how s/he truly feels within, and who they really are.

In the first two cases, marriage vows are merely a convenient means to adequately meet physical, material, and emotional needs – nothing more. Therefore, for a committed person, Open Marriage, as it is called, is a mockery of the sanctity of marriage, and is, in effect, no marriage at all. On the other hand, a true marriage fulfils the needs of our physical being, and we continue to evolve as spiritual beings.

Personal growth is possible only when it is mirrored in the face of relationships. The more intimate the relationship, the more clear and accurate this mirroring. So, one who chooses to escape such mirroring has opted to escape personal growth and maturity, and also ignored the potential of his/her spiritual evolution.

Today, it is considered fashionable, trendy, liberal and mature, and you are with the times, respecting each other’s “space,” if you believe in, or practice, the Open Marriage concept – i.e., consensual extra-marital relations for both spouses. Flirting between married couples is also rampant in elitist society, and if you do not have a taste for it, you are considered square and primitive. The famous song by American artist Paul Anka, “I’m a one man woman, I’m a one woman man,” is mocked at by such “mature, exclusive” people.

Another extreme form of extra-marital sex is “swinging,” seen in cities, today. Here, married couples exchange partners with each other, with all parties agreeing to the arrangement. This is generally an underground activity – which only proves that if someone needs to hide something, they know that what they are doing is wrong.

How do people react to having such experiences? Some people find exactly what they are looking for – i.e., re-assurance that they are not really getting old, or they still have sex appeal. They also feel they can get away from boredom, release pent-up tensions, get “even” with their spouse, satisfy their curiosity, change pace from “ordinary” sexual diet, or think of it as a getaway. Others find the experience empty, guilt-provoking, awkward, frightening, and psychologically de-stabilising.

“Escapism” sure offers excitement, variety, and the thrill of the forbidden. However, available data show that the pleasure of extra-marital sex is lower for men and women, in general, than what relates to overall sexual pleasure in a normal, happy marriage.

Minnu Bhonsle
Dr Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills. Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle.
Rajan Bhonsle
Dr Rajan Bhonsle, MD, is a consultant in sexual medicine and counsellor. Along with his wife Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, who is a consulting psychotherapist and counsellor, he runs a unique therapy centre


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