Open Marriage? All the cool kids are doing it!

open marriage cover

Open Marriage:  A New Life Style for Couples
O ‘Neill
Any baby boomers out there remember this controversial title?  (I believe my mom called it a “cheating manual”.)  Of course this WAS an appropriate (if controversial) choice in the early 1970’s.  It really does belong in an archive. The condition of this particular title is in pretty bad shape and should be weeded on condition alone.  If you get beyond the groovy pop psychology talk,  it is basically saying that one single person can’t be responsible for fulfilling all a marriage partner’s needs.  The controversial part of this book is the chapter that questions sexual monogamy.  I know this title is significant for the time and should be kept in a collection– probably in a university or large library with a broad psychology/marriage collection.  Any marriage experts/psychology people want to comment on the viability of this title in a popular materials collection for a public library?  In the meantime, enjoy a few of these morsels.

(married for 28 years and too tired to open up the marriage to anyone else)

open marriage expectations

open and closed marriage


  1. I spent an inordinate amount of time reading Emerson and Margaret Fuller as an undergrad, and it’s interesting to see the authors use the ‘spiraling upward into transcendence’ model for this.

  2. I’d say the topic of open or even polyamorous relationships is a reasonable one to include in the relationships section in a public library but that there’s got to be something more up to date than this that covers the topic, especially since there are more health risk factors to consider when it comes to multiple sexual partners than people tended to address back then.

  3. I dunno, if the bizarre people I occasionally read about on internet fora and the occasional academic blog are to be believed, people are still spouting excerpts from the above book, or at least similar philosophies.

    Though perhaps an updated version should include regular STD testing and the use of condoms.

    My first thought on the occasional open academic blogger is, “How is it that you have TIME to be a professor (and often a parent, and a blogger) AND keep multiple men satisfied?” Obviously I am energy-deficient, among other, more jealous and prudish, things.

  4. “Any marriage experts/psychology people want to comment on the viability of this title in a popular materials collection for a public library?”

    Currently? In an average library? Not so viable. There are more current and relevant titles on polyamory available now.

  5. I kind of find it funny that people who are all about open marriage are so closed minded about traditional two-person marriage. Haven’t they ever heard of “Different strokes for different folks”?

  6. Open marriages/relationships/polyamory (whichever name) is a relevant, current topic to a large group of people I know in California. There are more current books about the topic, to be sure, which I think have a more comparative-but-equal outlook on traditional monogamy than this book, which is strikingly negative. Any current book on polyamory will have a section on STDs etc, which is really important. So, is this book relevant to current times? I’d say yes, but its attitude and practicality about the subject is probably outdated.

  7. What Sarah said. The recent book I hear most cited by the poly community as a starter reference is The Ethical Slut; this being the modern era, though, most of the discussion is online, and that may be where interested people ought to start.

  8. What I want to know is, where the heck do you get that “Privacy” with all these people coming over for sex?! Is “synergic” a synonym for “exhausted”?

  9. A good alternate title for this book would be: “Yeah, Right!;” “Good Luck With That;” or possibly: “As if!”

  10. I love the 70’s lingo of ‘living in the now’ and ‘hang-ups are bad’. There have to be newer books dealing with open marriage that mention protection. People have to do a lot more trusting these days.

  11. I really can’t comment on open marriages because hey…whatever makes you happy. However, it IS now officially my goal for the week to find a way to use “smothering togetherness” other than in this comment.

  12. I love that they make it sound like monogamy is an awful pile of awfulness with more awful on the side.

    To each their own I say, but really, there must be some less judgemental books about this topic out there.

  13. Nicole wrote: “My first thought on the occasional open academic blogger is, “How is it that you have TIME to be a professor (and often a parent, and a blogger) AND keep multiple men satisfied?” ”

    Wow. Just… wow. Do you really think a woman’s role in sex is all about keeping the man satisfied? Seriously? NEWS FLASH – to paraphrase the wonderful Eliot Gould, the only thing a woman needs to do to sexually satisfy a man is show up. Maybe she’s the one who is the center of attention and it energizes her for all that work. Who knows?

    Open relationships – hey, whatever you like. They aren’t always necessarily sexual, though I’ve yet to come across a couple who has an open relationship where the the whole point wasn’t having sex with others. Always the husband, and usually the wife. In this day and age where marriage is no longer considered a pre-requisite for living together, or a committed relationship, or even rearing children, I’d think couples who don’t want the “restrictions” of marriage would just… not get married. And agree maturely that they may be committed to a life together without sexual exclusivity.

    Book’s a weeder, though the issue does need to be covered. I, too, recommend The Ethical Slut, if you must have a print reference. Far more relevant.

  14. We totally had this in our small academic (non-research) library–until I weeded it months ago. It seemed a little dated, as well as creepy, but I weeded it becuase of it’s dated-ness.

  15. Uh, Carolyn, NO, I do not think that a woman’s only role in sexual activity is to keep a man satisfied and I am not sure how you got that from my comment. Good grief.

  16. Yes, I remember this book when it came out! I would have been in high school and found it in the bookshelf of some people I was babysitting for! Kind of sorry it’s getting weeded. It was part of the age.

  17. @Tommy – Yeah, I just can’t wrap my mind around how judgmental this book is about traditional marriage. I’ve known some people whom are perfectly happy in an open marriage but there’s some people for whom one on one marriage is the only thing for them. And still others whom are happier never marrying at all.

    Isn’t the best way to get people to be less judgmental is to lead by example and not judge others?

  18. I weeded this in 1989. It was a famous book, so I hesitated, but after skimming it, it seemed really dated, even then, as well as being simplistic and unrealistic.

  19. “Does that work for those people?”
    “No, of course not, it never does. But they delude themselves into thinking it might…But it MIGHT work for US!!”
    -Arrested Development

  20. Appropriate? Hard to say when the fallout from those fabulous ’70s lifestyles fuelled the divorce/sexual exploitation culture. The one commonality among demographics that track being mired in poverty vs. having some kind of a succesful life is having a two-parent family. Books like these are “understandable” and “potentially useful to some people who want to make those choices,” yes. But a good idea in general? Tell it to the children of a fourth generation poly welfare family…

  21. @Carolyn… except the fact that a couple that loves each other may want the ceremony anyway as well as the long list of things marriage provides as benefits. *especially* in the case of a couple with children.

    It’s not really as simple as not getting married.

  22. You know, this book is cited in one of the best-selling and most requested self-help books of all time, The Road Less Traveled. For that reason alone it should stay on the shelf. IMO. That’s why I bought it. The thesis is not simply about sex, but about being yourself in a couple, which is as timely now as ever. I doubt you’re culling RLT, so why cull this?