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Are open marriages viable? A sex therapist wades in on Newt Gingrich.


We have a house in Florida so anytime the television was on this week it was showing the recent Florida Republican Primaries. I stopped frolicking in the sunshine long enough to watch an interview with Newt Gingrich (and the new Mrs. Newt) talking about their marriage. They are denying the allegations of Newt’s second wife Marianne that claimed he asked for an open marriage, despite acknowledging an affair with his current wife while still married to the Mrs. Gingrich the 2nd. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the judging business and I think most people would engage in infidelity if they could get away with it. And given that I can’t vote in the US, what I think about Newt’s politics (ick!) has no relevance. What I am fascinated by is men’s seemingly endless need for newness. Especially men in positions of power.

John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Pierre Trudeau, and now old Newt would like to live like King Kamaya Maya and have multiple partners while they conquer the world. And I don’t think its only high end politicians who have this urge. I have men all day saying that they really, honestly try not to succumb to the next swaying hips that walk on by. They really love their wives and don’t want to chase hot waitresses. I’ve had men ask me for a pill to turn down their sex drive as it’s getting in the way of work, kids and life in general. The truth is that there is no such pill. I also believe that men are tempted easily. Maybe its a million years of evolution, or maybe all guys are just dogs, but heads will turn. And sometimes hands will wander.

So what do you do? A willing partner at home helps. But for loads of men (especially successful men), its not enough. The European men I know don’t understand what all the fuss is about. They simply have mistresses, and culturally everyone seems to get that. So what about an open marriage?

The Walrus book about snagging a Type A man, suggests that smoking cigars, being mysterious and turning a blind eye occasionally is the answer. I’m not sure. I think there is an inherent risk when your partner is having romantic interludes it can be threatening. Everything from lunches, seductions or just an occasional body fluid exchange at the pay-by-the-hour motels, puts the intimacy of your relationship at risk. Your partner is giving attention to someone else, and the possibility of emotional attachment is high. I think a better solution may be to play together. Set out the rules, keep everything in the open and be sexy together. This may mean simply having an affair with your partner. It may mean accompanying him to the local rub and tug and watching. It may be dancing with other couples at a sexy night club. Or even visiting the local swing club in your neighborhood. Although that’s probably not an option for the Gingrich’s. Couples who play in a sexy way (everything from visiting the local nude beach to full on swing parties) tend to have a much, much, much lower divorce rate (see The Lifestyle book by Terry Gould for the stats).

So should women married to powerful men (or any other wandering guy) turn a blind eye? Or should they they have the attitude that “if you can’t beat them, you should join them?” Or that it isn’t fair that the men have all the fun? What I do know is that marriages need passion to thrive. And men need newness in some form or another. You draw your own conclusions. And despite Mrs. Newt’s blank barbie-like stare in the above photo she’s thought to be a nice person by the pundits on Capital Hill. I hope she finds happiness in her marriage for the Presidential candidate. Psychological theory about people not changing suggests that unless there is something to keep him sexually focused Newt will be on him looking for the next shiny thing once the bloom is off the rose.