Here is the transcript from this week’s episode of Relationship Radio.
Kimberly Holmes 0:07
Today we are talking about open marriages, which seem to be becoming more and more popular. And maybe you are in a situation where you or your spouse has considered doing this yourself. Or maybe you are just fascinated about how an open marriage could even work. Well, we actually have some experience with couples who have ventured into the open marriage category. Plus, we have some experience with the research that surrounds Are they good? Or are they not? And that is what we will be talking about on today’s episode of relationship radio. Welcome, Dr. Joe, who I have with me as my co host today.
Dr. Joe Beam 0:46
Thank you, CEO, Kimberly, my boss that I work for.
Kimberly Holmes 0:51
You could call me master because I have my master’s degree.
Dr. Joe Beam 0:54
Okay, master Holmes.
Kimberly Holmes 0:57
I always say this people never follow through Why are masters not called Master if doctorates are called doctors,
Dr. Joe Beam 1:03
I really have no idea except for the fact that those of us who had to spend all that money and all that time, all that effort to get a PhD, don’t want anybody else to get any credit. But us. I’m joking, I’m kidding. I’m getting.
Kimberly Holmes 1:15
I’m not. I’m in it all of it now and thinking yeah, one day that will be the reward for all of this hardwork.
Dr. Joe Beam 1:24
It won’t be long. You know, Kimberly, back in the 1950s, this thing was called wife swapping. And it became known particularly among military personnel who had to be deployed a lot. And it happened where that sometimes it would like, okay, so we need to exchange sexually, our spouses, that kind of thing. It was actually called watch mapping. And then later, it began to be called swinging. And it got broader into the network of the culture of many countries. And then after swinging, it was called the lifestyle. It was known that as that for a period of time, and now it’s known by many names, polyamory, it’s known as open marriage is open, all those kinds of things. And it’s kind of counterintuitive, when you read the research about it, to find out what kinds of people are more likely to participate. Now, this research I’m about to quote is a little dated. In other words, I haven’t looked in the last three or four years. But when you look at the literature before that, you find a couple of interesting things. One is that the people who get involved in this kind of a lifestyle, typically are not who you would think would be in it. So in America, for example, typically, we consider people on either coast to be more liberal than people in middle America, and people in middle America to be more conservative. Okay. We generally consider Republicans, for example, to be more conservative than Democrats, we generally would perceive Christians as being more conservative than non Christians, that kind of thing. Yet, at least in the research that I looked at three or four years ago, we found that there are more people in middle America than on the coast involved in this open marriage thing, more Christians than non Christians, will Republicans than non Republicans. In other words, it’s counterintuitive. It’s people that you would think, well, these are very conservative people. Why are they doing this? And then another interesting research, this was actually done at a Catholic based institution, a university sponsored by the Catholic religion. Few years ago, were two of the professor’s there actually started doing some research about the levels of satisfaction, happiness, and that kind of thing, in married couples who had started into open marriages, which at that time was so called lifestyles. And when they did that, they found that those people were scoring higher American satisfaction, and higher and marital happiness, those kinds of things. And so their conclusion was, it actually makes a marriage better. What makes it intriguing is the fact that he came out of a Catholic University, which would be very much against their beliefs and values system. Now, you based on what I just said, you might be thinking, well, good grief, Dr. Beam, you’re making it sound like this is a good thing away to go. No, absolutely. Not. You said about your decided research. But there’s an interesting thing about research. And this is what you’ll learn as you finish your PhD that you’re working on right now. You always have to look at every aspect of the research to find out. Are you looking at the big picture, or such a little piece of the picture, that your conclusions can’t be applied across the board? You’d be skewing it? Yeah, exactly. And so if you only study people who have recently gone into that kind of lifestyle, now they have something that’s new, and therefore they may find it very exciting to make fun of your country. If you measure them, it’s not unusual to think well, in the short term, your marriage satisfaction scores do go up, their happiness scores do go up because they’re experiencing something new. But if you really wanted to understand the true effect Tibet, you’d be looking for the couples that had been in it for years, including the couples who abandoned it, and trying to find out why. So he can’t just find that answer. In a short term study of people newly involved, you have to actually do a broader and bigger research. Now, Kimberly, we’ve been working with couples since 1994. Okay, you were very young, back in those days,
Kimberly Holmes 5:27
I was young, I was alive, I look younger than I am, just so people know.
Dr. Joe Beam 5:32
She was alive. But we’ve been doing this since 1994. And we’ve been working with couples in crisis since 1999. So we’ve been doing that a lot of years. And we have had many couples come through our three day intensive workshop, where that they did get into an open married situation where they were having sex with other people, sometimes three, some sometimes for some, sometimes just splitting up, you go there, I go there, that kind of thing. And so therefore, we have seen the people and been able to interact with the people whose marriages became really troubled because of that. So Kimberly, let me ask you this. What do you think is enticing about it? At the outset?
Kimberly Holmes 6:14
Yeah. What’s enticing about it, is it’s gonna bring some of that new that newness into back into the relationship. So actually, when we look at the beginning of relationships, many times you have talked about limerence, right? We know that when limerence happens, there’s a high dopamine response in our brains, it’s and dopamine is the anticipation chemical. It’s not really the pleasure chemical, though, people sometimes call it that it’s the anticipation of pleasure chemical. And so we chase that in a new relationship. Well, once we get married and kind of settled in, it becomes those here. And now chemicals, so to say that take over, which is not going to have that same excitement factor, that same anticipation factor, because now I know my husband, right, like I know how he is and all of his quirks and all of his good things and bad and there’s no longer the anticipate his anticipation. So when we look at the draw of this open marriage, it’s this anticipation of, well, what’s it going to be like? Who are the people that are that we could do this with? How does it open our world kind of the world is our oyster. But the thing about dopamine, and it being the anticipation chemical, is it doesn’t always mean that you’re doing the good things that you want, when the things that dopamine drives you to do are not always the best things for you.
Dr. Joe Beam 7:41
No. We know that, you know, sexology is part of what I study in teach. I taught human sexuality at a university here in Middle Tennessee for eight years. And there’s a thing we know in sexology, called Sexual habituation. And basically, sexual habituation says that after a couple of years making love to a person, you’re going to actually decrease frequency and decrease a repertoire, which means you’re not going to do as many different things as you used to do. And you’re not going to do it as often. And one of the reasons for that is because of the fact that you become used to each other. And so one of my friends who is a tremendous expert, when it comes to dealing with these things, Dr. Barry McCarthy, who’s just brilliant, a researcher and a teacher, Barry and I were discussing retirement, he said, Look, Joe, but people don’t understand is that in a good, strong, solid marriage, about 85% of the time, sex is just okay, because you get used to each other. Now, if people think that that sexual titillation is the be all end all, like, I’ve got to continue to be sexually tailor titillated, then they have to keep trying something new. And so some people then will do that through pornography. This is some way to at least vicariously explore something new, other people will actually go a step further and get into the open marriage kind of thing, where it’s like, if I have sex with this person, that person and that person, but understand, that’s what it’s about sex. It’s about the sexual thrill. Now, I’m not saying that sex is on important. I’m not saying that a sexual thrill is not something that’s good. What I’m saying is what you sacrifice is relationship. Because the way we’re designed now, if you believe in God, God designed us this way, if you don’t believe in God, then nature doesn’t this way. But the way we’re designed is actually to have a committed relationship with another person so that we can raise children in an environment where they have stability, and are taken care of by mom and dad, those kinds of things were were made in such a way as to propagate the human rights. Keep us going in a way that’s safe and stable and those kinds of things. And if it becomes just about sex, then you’re going to be constantly chasing the new thrill, constantly chasing the new thrill. So that one guy who was in open marriage has actually told me once Kimberly, he said, I go to church, and they want me to tell my 16 year old daughter, that she should save herself for marriage and be true only to one man after she marries. He said, what I want to tell her is she should have sex with as many guys as you want to for the rest of her life. Oh, my gosh, this was a father talking about a 16 year old daughter. And, of course, when I got to dealing with him interacting, I began to found out why he felt that way, which is more involved for us to talk about right here. But it had to do with the fact that he had had relationships taken away from him that were very meaningful. And so the fallback position he got to was, then relationships shouldn’t matter. It should just be sex. And that really is what an open marriage is about sex. But what we see is that because people are made to have relationships, okay, that people who get into marriages sooner or later, and we’ve seen this so many times.
Kimberly Holmes 10:58
It can start great. But over time, one or both of them will begin to not only feel jealousy, not only feel maybe anger at times, because guess what one of those people is going to fall in love with another one of the other people in this open thing, and this open marriage and whatever they’re doing. And so there was one girl, I remember she called into our radio show. This was a couple of years ago, we were doing it and she said we started. My husband was you know, he was bored. He was wanting some passion. We were wanting more excitement. He wanted to do an open marriage, I agreed at first it was great. Then he fell in love with the other woman. And now, it’s not great. And I want out I want this to stop. But if he doesn’t want to stop now, because this he’s getting the best of everything in his mind. So yeah, exactly. So to say in his mind. And and so there’s hurt feelings, there’s lack of trust that ends up coming from it. There’s, it’s it goes against, like you said, everything we are built for to be seen to be loved to have attachment to know that someone’s always going to be there for us. All of that falls apart. When this in and what makes it worse is it’s been allowed. And so it’s different. It’s a type of affair, but it’s different than they went out and cheated on me. It’s a now there’s there’s just this whole other level of shame that I’m sure she had of how did I even allow this to happen? And how do I get this to end because I agreed to this.
Dr. Joe Beam 12:25
Right. We said that kind of thing all the time. It’s a matter of as you said, sometimes jealousy I’m not as pretty as he is. I’m not as handsome as I’m not as endowed as the other person might be, et cetera, et cetera. And even if it hasn’t happened yet, if you’ve saved, I’m watching this, but we’ve been into the lifestyle now for about five years, and neither one of us has fallen in love with anybody else yet. If that’s the case, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. As a matter of fact, if you’ve gone five years, it’s kind of an anomaly, I would think. But if indeed, if indeed you continue this lifestyle, and you continue to have the great possibility that one of you is going to wind up wanting to be with somebody else, because he or she is a better lover, or because they relate to them better in some fashion, et cetera, et cetera. And so we have seen so many of these, where they wind up coming to our workshop, saying Help us save our marriage. And if they’re talking to me, before they come, I’ve always asked the question, are you going to give up the lifestyle? And if they say, No, we want to stay like this. My response is, I think I would save my money and save my time, and not come to the workshop if you’re going to continue to live this lifestyle. Because even if we help you work it out, now, it’s going to happen again, human beings are made to re produce other human beings in an environment where that our children are taken care of. Now, that doesn’t sound exciting. It’s not as exciting as having a wild and wooly sex life. It’s not, but it’s fulfilling. And it’s meaningful to the core of your being. It keeps society functioning in the way that it should function. If you don’t believe that, look, what’s happening to society today, around the world, where relationships are falling apart at rapid rates and high high numbers, and look what it’s doing to our entire cultures, not just American culture, cultures all over the world and see how they’re changing in ways that very, very few people would say, that’s a good change. Now has some good change happens? Sure, some good changes have happened. But we see more crime, we see people less and less inclined to want to be in a long term relationship. We see well, Kimberly, you’re the expert on all those things. So the bottom line is, you may be able to enhance your sexual thrills for a while if you go into the open marriage. But the ultimate result is…
Kimberly Holmes 14:44
It’s relationship destruction. And when we as society which has been happening for a couple of 100, several 100 years now when we put happiness equaling sexual freedom, whatever you would put that as.
Dr. Joe Beam 14:58
Actually the other way. Sexual freedom equals happiness, that’s how people tend to think.
Kimberly Holmes 15:02
Yeah, exactly when that is what makes me happy, then you’re going to chase the things that ultimately are destructive, long term, or to your relationships, because all I’m focusing on is my sexual happiness and in that mindset, and that is what is so and that’s what this is. That’s what open marriages is I’m looking for happiness. And this is the way I’m looking to find it. And it’s only going to last a short period of time.
Dr. Joe Beam 15:29
And so trust erodes.
Kimberly Holmes 15:31
Dr. Joe Beam 15:32
Because trust is based on
Kimberly Holmes 15:35
believing that my spouse is going to make the best decisions for our relationship over time, like over and over and over and over. And so trust erodes. And it’s sad…
Dr. Joe Beam 15:50
Because I realized that your relationships are mostly made about your sexual thrills. If you’re saying but wait a minute, are we just going to abandon sexual sexual fulfillment, then? No, no, no, no, what you will need to understand is that you can actually develop a level of sexual relationship as you get older and are committed to each other, that doesn’t have the same kind of thrill, but has much, much more fulfillment. That’s why Snar short that book, passionate marriage years ago, based on his research, that actually is in your 50s and 60s, you’re going to end up having the best sexual relationship in your marriage, because of the fact that so many of the things that have been taking your attention begin to fade away, and you begin to focus more on each other. And so it’s not as much of a sexual thrill and a sense of newness. It’s more sexual completeness, fulfillment, where this like this, this is the way it was meant to be. So I guess we’re not recommending open marriages, would that be correct?
Kimberly Holmes 16:48
I would be highly correct. For the record, we do not recommend open marriages. However, as we wrap up for the people who are listening to this, and they they’re saying, Okay, I hear what you say, We’re made to have this one on one monogamous, committed relationship. But what about the Polygamy In the Old Testament, for people who are people of faith?
Dr. Joe Beam 17:13
Well, without getting into a deep theological discussion, we’re talking about a period of time where the women far outnumber the men. And men were often in battle, often in war, okay, there were all kinds of things causing the man to die, so that many women would not be able to have any kind of a husband or have any children unless they actually did have a man that had more than one wife. But even then there were certain requirements put on that, that he had to provide for her food, he had to make sure that she was taken care of in all kinds of ways he had to take care of her children. In other words, it was it was not just him having a bunch of different sex partners. It was him actually having a bunch of different wives, that he owed obligations and responsibilities to each one into the children of each one. And as the world became more balanced, it’s not completely balanced. But as the world became more balanced, you find that actually going away. Now, it still exists. In some cultures, they still exist in some cultures and United States. I think in nearly every state, if not every state, it’s illegal to be married more than one person. So looking to the Old Testament and saying, we can justify this through polygamy, you’re not talking about, because polygamy was not just having sex with whoever you wanted.
Kimberly Holmes 18:31
It wasn’t sexual fulfillment.
Dr. Joe Beam 18:31
It was marriage.
Kimberly Holmes 18:32
Right. It was provision. It was relationship and all those things. Make sense? If you have enjoyed this conversation, please leave us a five star review that helps us to reach more people. It helps the podcast get more notoriety, and we appreciate you doing that. And for more information about what we do at Marriage Helper, you can go to marriage helper.com and see a whole bunch of things that we can do to help you and serve you to support save and strengthen your marriage, or your one marriage, your single spouse marriage to last a lifetime. Thank you for being with me,
Dr. Joe Beam 19:08
Doc. Thank you for having me.
Kimberly Holmes 19:10
I’ll see you all next week.