On Marriage

To you this day am I wed
And to you do I make these promises:

I will love you from my deepest self
Sharing my life with you, I will be joyful
In your sharing your life with me

I commit myself to you , to a life
Of service to our marriage, and our family
And will keep my agreements with you
In a spirit of love and acceptance.

I will love you without conditions
No obstacle, no action will divide this pledge
And I will take you as you really are
And as you will become, as you grow
Into the person you shall become

I will be joined with you in a common bond
To a life of love, acceptance, and growth
To reach out beyond ourselves, and make
Our contributions to the future of our family,
Our people, and our world

I will love you without seeking to own you
Give freely of my abundance, while
Receiving joyfully from yours.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I wrote this poem in 1984 and my wife and I based our marriage vows on it. Our marriage was my second marriage, but her first, and so far, only marriage. These words bound us together in a marital relationship for the last thirty-five years. Our marriage was always unconventional in many ways, and the way it started made it necessarily so.

It turns out that we are quite different in our points of view, on a lot of issues, including, and maybe, especially, what marriage means to each of us. For many years we chose to leave our differences unfocussed and just slightly behind a curtain of apparent and superficial conformity. To our community, and mostly to our children, our marriage appeared to be pretty much according to common community values, one man and one woman, with a raft of kids, going through the process of life. Our initial agreement to be unconventional in being polyamorous was a whisper in privacy.

It was implicitly and explicitly understood that I would be discrete in my external relationships and not bring them home, even in discussion. The policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell applied because she really didn’t want to deal with it, and as long as I stayed away from her circle of friends, she was mostly fine with it. In a sense, she had been a special “friend” with me and mothered our first child while I was in an “open marriage” with my former partner.

Over the many years which followed those early times we both followed what we believed was applicable under the terms of our promises. Suffice it to say that my external relationships and experiences were kept away from the family, and never discussed with her. Any time she did bring up the issue of marital fidelity, I would always remind her of the agreement we made at the beginning. She believed that our agreement was purely a “pro forma” agreement, an agreement made purely to serve as an artifact of our original relationship.

Most importantly, she believed that I merely maintained my commitment to it to retain my intellectual independence, and was not involved with any outside relationships or sexual engagements.

And so we continued until a few years ago, when a time came when I had to explicitly introduce evidence that I had not only engaged intellectually, but had also engaged in sex with someone else. In my view, I was never unfaithful, as our promises never included any promise from me that I would not be involved with other people. In her view, when confronted with specific evidence confirming my external relationships, I’d been screwing around, and unfaithful, for all of the last 35 years.

Front Door
There’s no place like home?

It didn’t matter that we had this agreement, because she felt that it was obtained under duress, or without her full understanding of what it really meant. Over the years when she challenged me on whether or not I was seeing other people, I had always confirmed our original agreement as still being valid, and refused to specifically acknowledge when or with whom I was involved. She’d had many suspicions over the years that I was sexually active outside of the marriage, but had never felt that she wanted to push the issue, knowing that I would continue to adhere to our agreements, regardless of her fears.

The proof that I had been sexually active for years came when I took a battery of blood tests, including one for STDs, that indicated that I was a carrier of Hepatitis B, a disease that is generally contracted by an exchange of body fluids during sex. The first thing I did when this result was made known to me, was to inform my sexual partners, including my wife. Ironically, the test was a false positive, which the specialist stated to me when I went to see him, upon referral by my family doctor. So I’m not a carrier, not even remotely, but by then the damage was done, and the cat was out of the bag.

Suffice it to say, my wife decided that she no longer considers us married, and wants a divorce. I urged her to reconsider on the basis that nothing really had changed, our agreement from 35 years ago is still in place, and I still consider myself bound to its terms.

All of that took place about a year and a half ago, and we’re still living together and cohabitating. We no longer consider ourselves “married’ exactly, but we are both comfortable that we are still “partners” “nesting partners” or even just “friends” living in a common household. Sexuality has not been a facet of our marriage for a long time, so it really wasn’t an issue for either of us.

We have had a really difficult set of discussions and for now are in agreement to stay together for mutual benefit, if not in fact in a marriage, we are still in fact deeply caring people who still love each other, if not the way either of us had wanted. She will remain monogamous and I will remain polyamorous. Where we go from here is anybody’s guess.

Couple holding hands; Shutterstock ID 33263227; PO: aol; Job: production; Client: drone

What I can say for sure, is that we still love each other, and will remain friends always.


18 thoughts on “On Marriage

  1. I don’t really understand why you shared this story. If I can be completely honest, it sounds like your actions caused a lot of trauma, but you’re standing behind some theoretical decades-old contract so you don’t have to own any of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your perspective on this. From what I understand from your blog is that you have had a porn addiction, from which you have learned certain life lessons which you would like to pass on to others.
      That’s cool, and I applaud your motives in telling your story. But it is not the only reason to write about something you have struggled with for forty years.

      In all of that time I have never been even the slightest bit conflicted about my fundamental nature as a man, I am simply not monogamous, nor have I ever been. I never felt, nor do I now, that staking out my beliefs and following them up with clear guidelines was fundamentally wrong.
      She and I made this happen together, but we both failed to stay the course with each other.
      I should never have agreed to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and she should have never accepted a non-monogamous marriage in the first place, if she wasn’t prepared to accept the consequences. So to a great degree we both choose to be wilfully blind and of course it was inevitable that someday our house of cards would come tumbling down.
      If you truly believe that a marriage contract is purely a “theoretical” decades old contract then I don’t believe that you understand the meaning of giving your word, and being determined to live it out until death.
      Our agreement was unconventional in conception, but serious in its intent, with a result being that despite our mutual misapprehension of the playing out of our lives together, we are still supporting each other and loving each other within the bonds made way back then…
      My purpose for telling the story is also to illustrate a moral to the story, which is that more transparency could have prevented a lot of pain and suffering, and just because we made an agreement to withhold the truth, and then did so, doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t have been better to have promised each other the truth, all of the time, and then dealt with whatever came up.
      I think we would have been a lot happier in our marriage, and perhaps we would have learned how to make things work better all around.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s difficult to say, but maybe she had a change of heart with age and now she doesn’t want to accept her previous decision, maybe because she doesn’t know how to bring it forward and she’s afraid of rejection, so it is easier to pretend “she didn’t know” and expect you to change.

    That’s just assumption from me, good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She and I began our lives as a couple by having a baby before we even knew each other at all. All she knew about me was that I was in an open marriage and was available for a brief encounter, all I knew about her was that she was really sexy and for some strange reason, really wanted me. The baby was not intended, but really once he existed everything changed for both of us, but I was still in an open marriage, and she was still in a relationship with a married man. Married, just not to her.
      Over the nine months the baby came to term, she and I got to know each other, and our obvious sexual attraction continued after the baby was born.
      At that point in our relationship there was no concept of being together, except in the sense that we were both committed to the baby we had created.
      For the next four years she was single mom, with me as a Dad, helping out but not really accepting a full time role in the child’s life.
      Our sex life was hot and cold, depending on the month or year, but until my first marriage broke up five years later neither she nor I had ever really considered that we’d end up together for forty years.
      We were friends with benefits, and a kid.
      That changed when I was on my own again, and in deep emotional anguish because of the loss of my marriage (and yes, I did love her a lot). My partner and I moved in together after she got pregnant again, and it was obvious that we couldn’t keep our hands off each other.
      But we proceeded as we started, as friends and lovers rather that having any plan for a future together. Children had popped up as a natural consequence of not being overly careful, and because she really loved being pregnant, even more that she loved sex.
      I still had a number of other lovers during this period, some of whom were left over from my first open marriage.
      I never believed in heirarchical marriage, or in fixed roles that we had to follow.
      It turns that she really did, despite it never coming up in those early days.
      The first clue should have been that she never had any interest in any other man, either sexually or socially. I was it for her, even if she wasn’t totally it for me. If I am polyamorous by nature, she is monogamous by nature.
      But our agreement was largely structured by our history and by my unwillingness to be tied down into a traditional marriage.
      So now, forty years later, and counting we are where we were, really, from the beginning.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting perspective. I have found that a signed document changes expectations. Each adult entered into it willingly. I cannot speak for her or you. The only thing that worried me was the mention of STDs. I hope condoms were used with any women who wasn’t your wife. That is a basic respect regarding her health that she, and the other women, deserve.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: A Case in Favor of an Unconventional Marriage(??). – Wildindigoprisms

  5. Wow. Thank you for your honesty. Nowadays there are lots of open relationships that could be dangerous in the long term. How can you be married with someone and having other relationships out of marriage . Love goes beyond sex… love it transforms with time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your feedback which was couched in the form of a question, but which you really meant as a statement of your convictions. First of all, polyamorous relationships may or may not “open marriages” and in fact most people in poly marriages prefer to de-emphasize the sexual aspects of the poly life in favour of the “love” aspects rather than the “sex” aspects.

      Polyamory means loving more than one person at a time but doesn’t automatically include sex. True, if often does, but the ideology of multiple relationships rests more on a person’s right to engage in intimate personal relationships outside of a formal hierarchical structure. In some respects it’s the social and familiar extension of the ideas of the Libertarian philosophy, which postulates that the individual is the highest test of freedom. Anything that impinges on individual freedom and the personal right to control her/her own life is contrary to this philosophy, and that includes traditional marriage customs of almost all religions and legal systems.

      So “free love” is the lowest level of the idea of polyamory, included but hardly the point of it for most of us. Many in this community are part of the LBQ… community as well, with certain blurring of the lines of gender identity and sexuality as well. It also includes BDSM and other types of experimental behaviour for many followers.

      But Poly is also not kink. A kinky person may be polyamorous or a traditionalist believing in the one man/one woman type of marriage. But he/she may also be extremely interested in maintaining their own independence of thought and action, regardless of choices made as to their sexual partners or co-parents of their children.

      I respect that your concerns have more to do with maintaining a stable, loving home, both for the benefit of children having two parents in the home, as well as for the husband and wife, who can have the comfort of maintaining lifelong stable relationships.

      However, families such as you describe are rapidly vanishing in contemporary society, and seldom, in history, were seldom more than a minority of the population. Single parent homes now out number two parent homes in many communities, especially in millennial families.

      Recent social trends and statistics suggest that polyamorous relationships are on the rise, radically so. On a recent CBC TV special recently it is now believed by certain social scientists that more children have multiple parents (ie: more than two) than are being raised in two parent families.

      There is strong historical precedence for this. If you take the issue of sexual fidelity out of the question, and simply look at the number of children raised in homes with only one adult or two parents in the historical past, the number was small.

      Families often included the two parents, at least one grandparent, often a couple of aunts or uncles, and siblings of the partner. Even today, in Vancouver’s East Asian families, there are many many homes which house as many as twenty five people at once, including the children. The same is true of many families from China, where the one child rule pushed people together to collectively raise children for their welfare.

      The nuclear family is inherently unstable, even in the best examples of western values. Do you have any idea of the number of these traditional families who break up over and over again, reforming into new arrangements and new parenting partners? It can scarcely be better for kids to go through repeated divorces and remarriages than to live in long term polyamorous families with multiple parents in constant attendance. My poly friends mostly have a number of children, and their children are raised in the wider family community.

      One last point. The nuclear family, and its necessary companion, the single parent family, are financially a disaster for most people. The addition of more than two people to help share the load makes all the difference in the quality of everybody’s lives, including the children. When there are multiple people earning incomes it is much easier to be able to afford a home, feed the family, have nice cars, and afford family vacations together every year.

      So don’t be quite so quick to judge. Those quirky people who live in these weird situations may have it much, much better than your realise.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for all explanation. You are very passionate about this subject and I know exactly what you mean as I am divorced with kids . I was single mum for 5 years and now I am in a new relationship as blended family. We both share our kids so it is definitely a big tendency and unfortunately the stable marriages are disappearing.
        I completely respect people choices and whatever freedom they want to have in their relationships.
        I am old fashion in many ways and I want to show my kids that is possible to love and being honest and being loyal to just one person even in the society we are living in.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Of course it is possible to love just one person and be loyal to just one person. Hopefully you could also be honest and loyal to more than one person as well. If someone asked you to love only one of your parents, could you choose between then, what your children? But of course romantic love is different than those kinds of love.

        Right? Maybe not so much. I love my partners deeply, and am loyal to them to a fault. I cheer for them in their celebrations and victories, and cherish them in their sorrows. I would never abandon someone I love, either romantic love, paternal lover or fraternal love.

        To me, love is love is love, and it requires a lot. What it doesn’t require is for you to choose between the people you love, how could it? Either you love them or not. Right?

        Thank you for your thoughts, and I respect that you are pursuing a value system that makes choices that helps define who you are. Me too.


  6. Pingback: A polyamorous life…some thoughts. | Rain Coast Review

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