Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Open Marriage + Open Communication = Successful Black Love?

By Chiderah A. Monde

Will Smith and Jada’s confession about their open marriage last year during an interview is still a hot topic. Since then people have been able to really think about what open marriage has meant for the Pinkett-Smith union, and what it could mean for black couples everywhere.

Black people continue to look up to Will and Jada as the pillar of black love. They represent the ideal successful black couple: complete with two gorgeous people in love, wealth, happiness and beautiful children to top it off.

It could all be so simple as to accredit their successful marriage to the agreement they have with each other, allowing them to be able to sleep with whomever they want as long as they inform each other of those happenings. Could it be that in this day an age, [open relationships + open communication] is the only formula that equals a successful relationship?

Let’s consider the possibilities.

The most important part of having an open marriage is that the idea eliminates the number one reason why people break up in this country- cheating. Open relationships require as much trust as one can possibly put in a person. Trusting them not to lie, trusting them not to hide things, and trusting them to remain faithful. It sounds like all of the basic necessities of a regular relationship are present.

Black couples that last are growing more and more rare. The current statistics claim that just about 45% of educated successful black women do not get married, and just as many get divorced. Those numbers are scary. At the same time interracial dating is becoming more popular, and more black men get involved with white, Asian, Latina and mixed women. For those situations where black women feel threatened about their husbands cheating, perhaps an open marriage could save them from this trouble, and save marriages from their demises.
Also, having an open relationship facilitates a key component of successful relationships- communication. Many marriage therapists focus mainly on the type of communication between husband and wife when couples come in to try and save marriages. People find that their spouses aren’t telling them things, especially when it comes to how they feel.

I don’t know, open relationships sound like a great idea. However, there must be dire disadvantages.

I asked some of my friends around campus, and got similar opinions about open relationships and open marriages. Most men agreed that they would love a woman who was gorgeous and successful, and who would allow them to sleep with other women. They said they would rather not know whom their wives are sleeping with, but if the trust between them is there, there shouldn’t be a problem. Most men could see themselves always coming back to their “80% women” regardless of who they slept with, since those outside relationships would be solely based on physical attraction. Will Smith said the same thing.

Most women that I talked to said that the situation is rather unrealistic. They all agreed that problems in the long run would be inevitable. They could see their men preferring the outside sex to their own, which would lead to wanting to leave, or more arguments about how drastically their sex lives have changed. It comes as no surprise to me that the women thought more about potential problems than the benefits of open relationships.

How about what an open relationship would mean for the black family?

When you take it outside the bedroom, it seems that an open marriage is not such a good idea. How do you explain to your kids “mommy and daddy spend nights with aunties and uncles”?

For Will and Jada, this conversation has to be had, considering their lives are public and their kids are sure to hear about it sooner or later.

Then there’s the problem of STDs and/or AIDS. Let’s be realistic, no sex is exempt from possibly introducing transmitted diseases- celebrity sex or not. Couples have to be twice as careful about using protection and being checked regularly for diseases, and extremely aware of the sexual history of the people they decide to sleep with. Maybe open relationships are not such a good idea…there’s all the extra background checking and detective work one must do just to have sex.

As far as religion goes- open marriages completely contradict morals established in the black church. Isn’t that considered adultery? But then again…so is cheating, and people still do it. God might not like this idea either. Accepting open marriage and open relationships in the black church would require review and revision of morals established by the church. As crazy as it sounds, open marriage is the “less immoral” way to commit adultery.

It may just be that having a Will and Jada kind of relationship can only work for Will and Jada.

Black couples that aren’t celebrities may not be as prepared to deal with problems such as children from outside relationships, STDs or AIDS, and paying for child support if children were to result from their extramarital affairs. Jada considers Will’s oldest son to be one of her own, even though he is a result of one of Will’s previous relationships. Jada has the patience, the money, and the time to take care of children that are not her own- most women do not.

I am not knocking the strategy though, I think some people would do well in these kinds of relationships, but it definitely isn’t for everybody. Just like marriage isn’t for everybody. It depends on the people involved and their personalities.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Having many encounters or an open relationship is not about bedpost notching or bragging about your conquest. It’s about learning what you don’t like and wanting to meet the love of your life. According to Dr. Babe Livewilder at Jivelo.com, dating has a self-education component. Having various relationships doesn’t make you promiscuous, it makes you someone who doesn’t want to spend his or her life with the wrong person and who has hopes of finding the right one.

Anonymous said...

The post is primarily about having an open MARRIAGE. If you're married you really shouldn't still be "looking".

Anonymous said...

I believe that an open marriage is for people who are not happy in their marriage and are not committed to the marriage. If you love your spouse, you will resist temptation and try to work things out. But in the real world, people do cheat, it depends on the couple how they handle it.