Alex Blaze

Does marriage change you or do you change marriage?

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 28, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: ideas, LGBT, marriage, New York Times

Divorce counselor writes in the Huffington Post that gay male relationships should be a model for straight ones considering divorce:

gay-divorce.jpgBut not every extra-marital experience needs to lead to a divorce -- and that is a lesson that many gay couples could teach to straights. It's not that straight couples don't experience infidelity, nor are all gay marriages open ones. Rather, it is the marriage culture overall that demonizes the behavior and imposes an idealized notion of marriage that suggests that every breach of marital vows should result in a divorce.

The challenge is to face the truth of sexual exploration openly, and try to work out the underlying emotional issues that frame the behavior -- and not just declare it a "fault" and proceed with a blame-ridden divorce. And, even where a dissolution does ensue, take it from a divorce mediator who has seen it all: make every effort to move past the emotions of fault, and accept that the affair has a broader and deeper background and is rarely just one party's fault.

I don't think that an open relationship is the cure for infidelity, although it can be in certain situations. What I like about the gay couples I know is that they can at least talk about sexual desire outside of the relationship, which occurs in every conjugal relationship, without discombobulating.

Is marriage a threat to that sort of lifestyle? Obviously that's not an easy question to answer, but it does remind me of this passage from a much-maligned New York Times article a few years back that also quoted Frederick Hertz (I just noticed after I looked it up; he seems to be the go-to gay divorce expert):

I asked Marc and Vassili if it was wise for any couple to become engaged before testing their domestic compatibility. Why not live together for a year? The couple deflected the question with a you-must-not-really-understand-the-power-of-our-love look common to so many lovesick young couples. "We just know we'll be fine," Vassili told me, rubbing Marc's back. "We love each other, and that's all that matters."

"We know we're compatible," Marc said. "We've thought a lot about household roles. I'm going to clean, and Vassili is going to cook."

"I like doing laundry and ironing," Vassili told me. "He likes yardwork."

"I don't think either one of us is really going to be the wife, per se," Marc said.

Still, they insisted they would be "traditional" in one important way: they vowed to be monogamous. "I know that some gay couples who've been together awhile open up their relationships," Marc said, "but we're not going to do that. I mean, we wouldn't be getting married if we didn't plan on being monogamous. To me, that's a fundamental and important part of marriage."

It is for many young gay couples. Frederick Hertz, an attorney and mediator who co-wrote the book "A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples" and who has helped gay couples of all ages negotiate prenuptial agreements, told me that young gay men get the most impassioned when talk turns to monogamy. "A very common thing I hear them say in my office is, 'If he has an affair, he's not getting any alimony!' " Hertz said. "That's just not something I hear among older gay men, who often make a distinction between emotional fidelity and sexual fidelity. There's an emerging rhetoric around monogamy among young gay couples. In that way, they're a lot more like married heterosexual couples than they are like older gay couples."

And I'm reminded of this from the CNN exit poll done in California in 2008 after the passage of Prop 8 (keeping in mind the large margin of error in these polls):


Not being married myself, although I've been called everything from "a friend" to "a husband" to Alberto over the last few weeks, I wouldn't know. So maybe the married people out there could enlighten us: does getting married change one's opinions of what constitutes a marriage? Or is it just that people with more... traditional ideas are more likely to get married in the first place?

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Paige Listerud | December 28, 2010 5:14 PM

All marriage-bound same-sex relationships should take heed:

1) one third of all opposite-sex marriages end up becoming platonic.
2) by conservative estimates, 60% of heterosexual married men and 40% of heterosexual married women have extramarital affairs, even if 90% of heterosexuals think that extramarital affairs are wrong.
3) someone is having an affair in about 80% of heterosexual marriages.
4) most extramarital affairs begin within 2-3 years of the marriage.

There's an age old form of heterosexual open marriage--it's called "he keeps a mistress." Everyone knows about it; no one says anything--it's the heterosexual DADT.

Now, if you think your gay relationship will improve on those stats, the best of luck to you.

My partner and I have been together for 35+ years. We were monogamous for the first 4 or 5 years, but slowly opened up our relationship. Since that time we have strayed outside of our relationship maybe 1 or 2 times seperately, and have developed strong sexual friendships with 2 or 3(mostly married men)that have resulted in some very enjoyable threesomes. Our relationship has grown and evolved over the years, as all relationships do, and we are more in love and committed to each other than ever before. We can truly say that we have never been emotionally unfaithful. After all these years there is still no one else we want to wake up to each morning, and kiss good night each night.