Monday, February 9, 2009

Open Relationships - Where do you draw the line?

My husband met Robin Gibb once in Miami. He was working as a personal fitness trainer and had the good fortune of taking on some notable clients, among them the wife of the Bacardi rum heir. Through these social links he was able to attend a party hosted by all three Bee Gees. He enjoyed himself, had nothing but good things to say about his hosts, and remarked that Robin's wife was exceptionally pretty.

I read this article of Robin's recent extramarital activities, which include fathering a child with the housekeeper, and I now have to wonder what kind of party this was that hubby attended. Of course, I shouldn't think that way - private things remain private until the likes of People Magazine get a hold of the news. The link I have doesn't offer much detail, but I had found information on the Gibbs' marriage. For the most part, it was open: Robin might stray, the Mrs. enjoyed men and women - sometimes with Robin - but at the end of the day they were still man and wife. Sex, they shared and distributed, and in recent years the Mrs. came to embrace a religious faith that promotes celibacy among its followers. Can't say if this was the catalyst for Robin's relationship with the housekeeper, since it had been going on for some time, but the media reports this love child marks a breach of trust in the relationship according to the Mrs.

So why I am bringing this up here? I write erotic romance. A series I write, Dareville, features characters who engage in openly sexual relationships. While every night is not filled with sweat and tangled limbs, there's quite a bit fun happening between the book covers. As I continue to write this series I realize, too, I may have to set some boundaries with regards to the relationships portrayed.

How far is too far in an open marriage? Outside pregnancy? Contracting a disease and bringing it home? Enjoying the company of a person who hasn't been "approved" by the spouse? So far in the stories I've written nothing has happened with one character that the other didn't know, and this being romance I don't intend to stray into difficult subjects like infidelity or pregnancy because I feel it would disrupt the rhythm of the stories. Yet apparently, infidelity is still an issue if you are in an open relationship - it's not just about sex, but the breaking of trust. If you are willing to allow your partner to be with other people, it stands to reason full disclosure is a given, right?

So where do you draw the line? Should authors cross that line in their stories?


BrennaLyons said...

Actually, each open marriage I've encountered has had its own rules and level of trust.

In one, there had to be complete openness between the partners as to who was with whom, and no chance of disease or pregnancy outside the marriage. Another took it further into...and no messing with someone who is married and cheating on his/her wife/husband, because that can land them in a legal battle they don't want to be part of.

One took it the other direction...because the wife wanted a child, and the husband wasn't able to have one. He allowed the chance of disease/pregnancy, simply because there was no way for them to afford fertility treatments of other sorts. Weird choice, but their choice.

In still another, the wife/husband had the right of veto on anything that went past the flirting stage. One more didn't even allow flirting without permission.

I could go on into a few others. But, the bottom line is, the couple has to set their comfort zones.

I suppose my complaint about open marriages (not having one personally, I'll note) is that I've found one partner or the other (or both) breaking the agreed-upon terms more than I find them keeping to them. I can name precisely ONE open marriage I'm familiar with where it's functional and not a constant breach of trust...and a half dozen where they can't seem to live to their own rules.

What's worse is when the poor sap, who is the outside interest involved, believes party A that X is the rule then finds out from the spouse that party A lied to her, and the spouse lays the blame on both party A and the outside interest. Sorry, but it's enough to make you want nothing to do with the couple in question...either of them, because you are being blamed for their head games, and that's to no one's tastes, I'm sure. This particular couple...historically...wonders why they lose so many friends, BTW. It's rather disconcerting that they can't see why people avoid more than a casual acquaintance with them. Shrug.


Alessia Brio said...

I haven't encountered many truly open relationships. I only have my ideal and the boundaries established in my current relationship to use as a benchmark. Our rules are simple: disclosure and safe sex. Beyond that, it's all fair game. We've agreed that the other has the ability to "veto" a playmate, but neither of us is eager to exercise that power.

Things might be considerably different if we were younger and desirous of more children. That has the potential to get very complicated.

kema042290 said...

The line should be drawn when its almost like your in a relationship with the other man/woman. I did the open relationship thing and it didn't work with me. Open relationships are good sometimes but when you decide to become serious that's when the problems begin. Open relationships are good if you really don't think you ever want to get serious with a person because its hard to move from an open basically doing what you please to a serious relationship with someone you may want to be with long term.

Angi said...

I think that line is different for everyone. So as for authors writing it ... they should cross it only as far as they are comfortable with. Otherwise it'll come across as strained.

As far as open relationships go ... well I'm not in one and only knew one person personally who was in one, so my opinion is limited. It worked for them and they had their own rules of what was and was not acceptable. And they pretty much stuck with them as far as I could tell. But it was also abundantly clear that they both understood the difference between sex and love.