Help! My Daughter Is Seeking an 'Open' Marriage

Dear Bintel Brief:

In 1995 one of my six daughters, married for the first time. We thought at the time that she was truly getting married, and I liked her young man. For maybe a dozen years before her marriage she had been leading an unconventional, “new-age” lifestyle in the San Francisco Bay Area, perhaps in rebellion against her conventional, Midwestern upbringing by her mother, my ex-wife.

Some time later, the two of them confided in me and my wife of 50 years that she and M___| were in an “open” marriage — meaning that each of them was free, with the other’s knowledge and consent, to take lovers. My wife and I didn’t say anything at the time, which my daughter and her husband interpreted as acceptance. On more than one occasion, they thanked us for our being so understanding.

In private discussions between us, my wife and I weren’t so understanding, and we agreed that this so-called “open” marriage was nothing more than a holding pattern until one or the other of them found in a lover someone more pleasing than their spouse. And so it has turned out; the husband jumped ship.

Subsequently, my daughter’s life has settled down. Curiously, she continues to socialize and spend holidays with, apparently without rancor, M___| and his new wife.

All of this sets background for the reason for this letter. To wit: In discussing her future with my daughter, I have on more than one occasion gently (I hope) suggested that she seek out a more conventional relationship. The last time I did so, she reacted with some heat, asking me not to raise the subject again. She defended her “open” marriage, declaring that statistics show that an “open” marriage are no more prone to end in divorce than conventional marriages, in which the which the taking of lovers is often carried out in secret and is truly a betrayal.

So here, finally, are my questions for Bintel Brief: 1). Is my daughter’s claim about statistics about “open” indeed true? And 2) If I should ever raise this matter again with my daughter, is there anything else of a non-moralistic nature that I could adduce to the benefit of a conventional marriage?


P.S. My mother, of blessed memory, used to quote in Yiddish an example from Bintel Brief. The translation went something like this: “Dear Worthy Editor, I write to you not with ink, but with blood from a mother’s heart.”

Lenore Skenazy, a former columnist for the New York Daily News and the New York Sun, now writes a syndicated newspaper column and hosts a topical humor contest that runs in The Week magazine. She is the author of “Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry” (Jossey-Bass), published in April, and “Who’s The Blonde That Married What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know – But Can’t Remember Right Now” (Penguin), published in June.

If you have a question for the Bintel Brief, e-mail Questions selected for publication are printed anonymously.

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Help! My Daughter Is Seeking an 'Open' Marriage

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