Is the new marriage an open marriage?

“We’re in an open-marriage,” is the kind of announcement that would have once silenced a dinner party. Now the more likely response is a few polite inquiries about how that actually works and what the arrangement is. Or perhaps even, “does this mean I can now flirt with one of you and have an affair?” The rise of on-line dating profiles gives us a window into people’s sexual preferences. In fact, some dating websites ask the user to specify their interest in monogamy at the sign-up. Are they strictly monogamous, mostly monogamous, non-monogamous or in an open relationship? If the user wants to connect with other people on-line, they must choose where they lie on the spectrum of monogamy. It sparks the questions; what am I, really?

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It is common to see a profile of a couple seeking a third person to join them. More often, it is a photograph of a single person who states right up front they are in a loving, open marriage. Deeply committed to each other, but non-monogamous.

Marriage has existed before recorded time, as an alliance between families to secure their wealth and property. The Bible states very clearly what a marriage is and the Catholic Church put a stop to multiple wives or the common practice of a man ending a marriage when the woman proved infertile. So what is marriage now, with such a high divorce rate? American Sociological Association in Chicago found women initiated 69 percent of divorces compared to just 31 percent of men. Women want to be married more than men and yet they initiate the majority of divorces. The number one cause for divorce is infidelity. What the studies haven’t specified is if the man was cheating, or the woman. Nor does it tell us if they are getting a divorce because they wanted to cheat. For some people, finding out their spouse has an on-line account in the hope of meeting someone for an affair is cause enough to end a marriage.

The data leaked from Ashley Madison, the dating website for married couples who want discreet encounters, revealed 38 million paying accounts world-wide. These discreet encounters are presumed to be with other married people, although accidentally meeting your own spouse on-line while you are both trying to cheat would make a good film. 85% of Ashley Madison users are male. That’s a lot of husbands.

Part of this discrepancy can’t be explained in the easy conclusion that all men are dogs, but a more complex picture emerges when we consider women find it easier to meet men in the real life to have sex with. It might be women who no longer want to have sex with their husbands which initiated the man’s interest in seeking sex elsewhere. After all, women’s sexual appetites are more likely to wane after childbirth. For some women, it’s after a year or two of marriage and the consensus is – women have lower sex drives. The alternative many couples, the open marriage, might be because women are even less suited to monogamy than men. It’s not sex they want less of, just sex with their husbands.

We are seeing a new shift in the concept of marriage, as women can now leave their husbands and not get stoned to death in the local square by the tribal leaders. Perhaps the New Marriage is one where the husband agrees to his wife having extracurricular affairs, because it increases her sexual activity with her husband? Or perhaps they have an agreement about one affair a year for both of them? Will monogamy no longer be the assumed sexual preference among married couples? When a woman tells her friend she has found out her husband is having an affair, rather than the usual words of consolation, the standard response might become, “Was that part of the agreement you had or not?”

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