"Open Marriage," as the book's champions said emphatically and often, was never intended to be a guide for swingers. Indeed, the book embraced marriage.Only the elite few can pull it off with the requisite taste and élan. Surely, you don't think you're one of them! And yet the book was a huge best-seller, and even if you didn't read the book, you knew the phrase "Open Marriage." You read about it everywhere. "Open Marriage" would be the way of the future, life after the Sexual Revolution. Better get up to speed!
Its purpose, the authors wrote, was simply "to strip marriage of its antiquated ideals and romantic tinsel and find ways to make it truly contemporary."
Read today, "Open Marriage" is a period piece, a window onto a distant age of experimentation and abandon. Its ideas can appear shockingly ordinary, even quaint....
Three of the book's 287 pages explore, ever so tentatively, the elastic properties of marital fidelity. Forever after, those pages were all anyone seemed to remember about "Open Marriage."...
When "Open Marriage" appeared, some readers interpreted its choicest lines ("Sexual fidelity is the false god of closed marriage") as a license to cheat.
But on the very next page, the O'Neills seemed to back away from that provocative stance: "We are not recommending outside sex, but we are not saying that it should be avoided, either. The choice is entirely up to you."...
"The whole area of extramarital sex is touchy," Ms. O'Neill told The New York Times in 1977. "I don't think we ever saw it as a concept for the majority, and certainly it has not proved to be."
A dialogue from the era:
"Don't you believe in Open Marriage?"