Yesterday, Jill Scott ignited a firestorm when she tweeted, “What do u think about “open” relationships. Been considering. Many friends are making it work. Not sure if I’m that girl but not sure if I’m not. Sometimes there’s an understanding that nobody else gets…”
After spending four years at ESSENCE, I feel like my knee-jerk reaction to that is supposed to be a Susan Taylor-worthy battle cry of condemnation. But maybe my inner feminist is broken. I say, have whatever type of relationship you want as long as you’re not doing it because you think that’s all you can get. You want to have your clichéd cake and eat it too? God bless you. But know what you’re in for.
The argument for open marriage goes something like “50 percent of married people cheat and lie about it to their spouses, anyway. At least we can be honest about what we do and who we are.” Legendary actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, married for 52 years, are infamous for making this same argument.
“It occurred to us, from observation and reasoning, that extramarital sex was not what really destroyed marriages, but rather the lies and deception that invariably accompanied it — that was the culprit,” Davis wrote in the couple’s 1998 biography, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together. “So we decided to give ourselves permission to sleep with other partners if we wished — as long as what we did was honest as well as private, and that neither of us exposed the family to scandal or disease.”
But you know what they decided in the end?
“Sex is fine, but love is better…Is extramarital sex something we recommend as a regular part of marriage? Not now… not anymore. Not since AIDS has entered the equation, and genital herpes, syphilis, and other diseases,” he continued.
As much as practitioners of open marriage want to advocate for new experiences and other incense burnt smoke screens, they’re conveniently overlooking the headache of dealing with another person’s expectations and needs. (Am I the only one that watched HBO’s “Big Love?”) They’re not thinking about condoms breaking or the risk of STDs (you all know that herpes, an incurable disease, can be spread with or without a condom… right?). They’re being naïve to expect the third and fourth folk in your relationship to be faithful, and to look out for their best interests.
I wonder what will women in open relationships do when faced with the very real scenario, “OMG!!! I’m pregnant! Now is my husband or my boyfriend or my jump off the father?” Or perhaps, “I have an STD, who gave it to me?!” Do they just head to clinic and keep it moving?
If you don’t want to be a Maury guest, don’t put yourself in the position to get caught up in ratchet circumstances. But if those aforementioned scenarios are cool with you? Be grown. Live! Have your cake, and eat all the drama, headaches, and confusion that come with it.
Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. She has recently been nominated for an African American Literary Award. Vote for her now on literaryawardshow.com