Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 23, 1972 · Page 68
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July 23, 1972

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 68

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, July 23, 1972
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SF--July 23, 1972 Sunday Gazette-Mail ---Charleston, West Virainii--· New Life Style Calls for 'Open Marriage' ByMurryFrymer George and Nena O'Neill met as students on the Columbia University campus one day in 1944. "I stopped dead as if I were struck by lightning," George said, recalling the scene vividly, if somewhat romantically. Nena said she remembers what she was wearing that day. And later they were married. There had been no premarital sex. The point is made because now (he's 50; she's 48; they have two grown sons)-- they have written a book, "Open Marriage--A New Life Style for Couples," that might be considered sexually liberal in its philosophy. What is "open" marriage? In the book the O'Neills say it is, among other things, "An honest and open relationship between two people, based on the equal freedom and identity of both partners. It involves a verbal, intellectual and emotional commitment to the right of each to grow as an i n d i v i d u a l w i t h i n t h e marriage." Or, t h e y call it "a n o n m a n i p u l a t i v e relationship between man and woman--neither is the object of total validation for the other's inadequacies or frustrations." And, "Open marriage is a relationship of peers in which there is no need for dominance and submission ..." The O'Neills are both anthropologists and say that marriage is a fit topic for anthropological study. They say that their experience in the science taught them that society did not need to func- tion in any particular fashion: that marriage could have its variations. IT IS DIFFICULT to say j u s t what v a r i a t i o n the O'Neills' marriage has. They look much like any other couple and their conversation, with its gentle stepping on each other's toes, sounds much like that of any other couple. For example: "When you married, how did you determine who would do what?" they were asked. "This is my area," O'Neill jlimped in. "No," Mrs. O'Neill came back, "this is my area because I . . . " "We determined we would be equals," O'Neill said, ignoring protocol. "I'd give her her right to have her say and we'd come to an agreement." "He really tried," Mrs. O'Neill said sympathetical- l y , " b u t w e ' r e s t i l l creatures of our culture. A partnership we have had. But there's nonequality, too, due to conditions under which we live ... In other words, George's job always took preference." An even tougher question, and a natural in a discussion of open marriage, deals with extramarital sex. The .open- r n a r r i a g e p a r t n e r , t h e O'Neills would have it, should be able to go his separate way with "open trust." "Trust is the most important quality two partners can share in a marriage," the O'Neills' book says. And jealousy? "We would like to lay to rest the idea that sexual jealousy is natural, instinctive and inevitable," the O'Neills say. "The idea of sexually exclusive monogamy and possession of another breeds deep-rooted dependencies, infantile and childish emotions and insecurities. The more insecure you are, the more you will be jealous." From this, the O'Neills move to the idea of "open love," a nonpossessive brand of the art. "Sexual fidelity." on the other hand, "is the false god of closed marriage . . . In an open marriage, in which each partner is secure in his own identity and trusts in the other.'iiew possibilities for additional relationships exist, and open (as opposed to limited) love can expand to include others." * * * AND LATER the O'Neills say: "We are not recommending outside sex, but we are not saying that it should be avoided, either. The choice is entirely up to you. and can be made only upon your own knowledge of the degree to which you have achieved, within your marriage, the trust, identity and open communication necessary to the eradication of jealousy." All right, do the O'Neills date outside their marriage? The book says it can lead to individual growth. The answer came haltingly. "We're so busy, we haven't had time," she said. "Total freedom is the strongest bond any two people can have together," he said. Could they conceive of extramarital sex? "I could conceive of it." she said, and then both went into an attack on deception and the illicit affair. But would they each have extramarital sex? p'Neill answered first, but indirectly. "George, let me give my viewpoint because he asked me," Mrs. O'Neill interrupted. "If George has a relationship with a woman," she said carefully, "and it is rewarding to him, then I'm going to benefit from that." George was looking on intently. "I can't be everything to George," Mrs. O'Neill said. "I can't fulfill all of George's needs. Even after 26 years of marriage." "And we're growing,'' O'Neill interrupted. "It's awfully egotistical of me to think I can fulfill all his needs," Mrs. O'Neill continued. "If it's some kind of rewarding thing conducted with integrity, I'll come to benefit. He'll become more of an individual." Couples Not Discouraged By Marriage 'Badmouthing' As many marketing men have learned, you can't trust those young folks under 30. Guess what they're doing now? Getting married. That's right. You would think after all those stories about polygamous, polyandrous and even, f r e e f o r m marriages--nobody would go for that square old-shoes-and- rice routine anymore. But, they're doing it, reports the Institute of Life Insurance. In 1971, for example, there w e r e some 2 , 1 9 6 , 0 0 0 marriages, about 17,000 above 1970 and 51,000 more than the year before. This despite all t h e b a d - m o u t h i n g t h a t marriage has been getting in the 70's: Obstetricians at their last convention were warned about unemployment; a U.S. Public Health Service survey showed singles more tranquil than married folks (though the marrieds get to live longer), and a Canadian scie' ·' .suggested draining off Niagara Falls. Yet the Swinging Seventies have been busy, weddingwise. As for 1972, it is not .expected to be m u c h different--for that we have the word of Alice Hetzel, Director of Marriage Data at the National Center for Health Statistics. So far, the Center has chalked up 139,000 marriages for the first month of this year, some 6,000 more than in January of 1971. As for the marryin' season--June through September--it is expected to be "business as usual," Ms. Hetzel told the Institute. It is plain to see then that marriage has been getting a bum rap, like they used to say in the 30's--and rumors notwithstanding, it's still a Heavy Scene in the 70's. Almost as happy as the ;many brides and bridegrooms of leap year 1972, are expected to be manufacturers of fur- niture, appliances, linens, and all the home furnishings n e w l y w e d s w i l l , need to decorate their new nests. Another demand not expected to diminish will be for financial protection for growing families. Brides and bridegrooms busy starting new 1 jolds are expected to be prime generators of life insurance purchases in 1972. Some 33 per cent of all buyers of ''ordinary'' (most commonly purchased) life in- suran're in 1971 were those in the J. . 34 age bracket, a g r e a t m a n y o f t h e m newlyweds, reports the Institute. Employed Brides on the Increase Today's bride not only takes a husband, but she takes a job as well. A new survey of brides-to-be reveals that 94 out of 100 intend to work after their marriage. Moreover, the .great majority (78 per cent) .expect to work full-time while still keeping house. Whether in spite, or because, of the women's liberation' movement, the trend towards this dual role continues. While a similar study five years ago showed 11 out of every 100 planning to stay home to care for house and family, this year the future has "fallen to 6 in 100. And those who are giving up their days at home are going into full-time, not part-time work. Who is this future working bride and what causes her to desert dishes and diapers for the office, classroom, or factory? A Bride's Magazine in- depth poll of readers has revealed her median age as almost 21 years, having been engaged for 10 months to a man 24 years old. With the bride also working after marriage, the new couple will start off with a combined annual family income of $12,900. Her average weekly earnings of $97 compare with her civilian fiance's $151, the study shows, and she expects to continue working about, three years. According to Robert M. T T h o r s e n , p u b l i s h e r o f Bride's, "today's bride has' changed. She is more mature, has more money, more education, and is engaged longer." One of the reasons for the w o r k i n g b r i d e i s t h a t , although she is slightly older than in previous years, there is less of an age differential with her fiance at the time of the first marriage. Recent U. S. Census Bureau figures show that husbands are younger than in previous years, and therefore have not had the- time to establish' themselves in their chosen career. Thorsen feels, too; that the completion of college, military service, or both may have delayed the husband's career, and increased the bride's desire to contribute financially to the marriage, particularly in time of economic stress and rising prices. Another factor is the availability of more leisure time as wives become freer, t o some e x t e n t , f r o m domestic duties because of t i m e - s a v i n g h o u s e h o l d appliances; and the trend toward smaller families. Cen- sus Bureau figures claim that we are entering a period of the two-child f a m i l y , with a lessening of labor in raising children and taking care of the house. The decline in birth rate has been brought about by the promotion of family planning, liberal abortion laws, rising economy, and, of course, the desire to have fewer children in an already overcrowded and polluted world. It is almost safe to assume that an educated bride is a working one. The Bride's sur-. vey reveals that 93 per cent of the brides-to-be graduated high school, "IT'S SYNERGY," O'Neill said, meaning "a process by which the whole becomes more than the sum of the parts." "And he's going to be a fuller and richer person," she said. He can expand. He can discover d i f f e r e n t . . . " "Realities." he said. " . . . What's different in marriage," she said. O'Neill said: "We've had so much that jealousy has been eliminated. I have absolute trust in Nena and I believe the best bond between people is freedom. If she wants to h a v e cocktails with someone, she has the freedom to do it. Years ago, I would have been jealous at the idea of h e r g o i n g o f f t o s e e someone." And then O'Neill added: "I suppose if Richaifd Burton was chasing after her, I'd be disturbed." "He'd be affected by the status of Burton," Nena explained, "until I came home and said Burton drinks too much." That seemed to make O'Neill feel better. * * * THE OLD ... Herb and Elaine Berman live in a Port Washington development of lookalike h o m e s in the c r o w d e d northern corner of that community. They have been married 18 years; he is 44, she is 39; they have one son, 6. Herb Berman has a doctorate and likes neighbors to call him "Doctor"; E l a i n e has a master's and a Phi Beta Kappa key. He is proud of her accomplishment. Herb and Elaine met at a fraternity-sorority party. He was at NYU, she was at Queens College. They had a fight that first night "because he didn't want to drive her home. They feel they have a good marriage. Divorce is inconceivable. "Sure," Herb says, "we fight, we argue, she'll cry, I'll cry. Yet it's solid. AH the emotions are there. Jealousy, anger, that's what a marriage is. When those swingers say t h e y can have ( e x - tramarital) sex without jealousy, I don't know what t h e y ' r e talking about. Jealousy is part of the beast." Berman is a marriage counselor. He's been a lot of other things. He's been "in" textiles, wholesale beef, life insurance and has taught. He comes to marriage counseling from participation in early encounter sessions on the West Coast when he was a p o s t g r a d s t u d e n t i n mathematics at the Universi-. ty of California at Berkeley. He says he was licensed as a counselor in California; New York r e q u i r e s no such procedure. Anyone can claim the marriage counselor title. When it comes to marriage and most other aspects of his l i f e , B e r m a n i s a traditionalist. The O'Neill's call for an "open" marriage, he says. "They just have the same address. Marriage is a familial relationship. It's a unit. 1 Bride '.s- nf all ages you 'irili Fall in lore with our fttvrp.--expensive looking furniture at inexpensive, prices-Just the thing all brides are shopping for. FURNITURE The Store For Young People of all cr$« 226 7th »V£., South Chariest on Keep a Living Memory of your Wedding Trip! VISIT US FOR ALL OF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC NEEDS! Quality Photo Finishing Trained, experienced personnel in service your orertf phttHtgraphic need. rnrri Album insert poges with filth! e °ch roll of your print film left for processing "West Virginia's-Largest Photo Supply Start" PHOTO SUPPLY "Some people, at 45. thgy want to be a swinger. But at 55, you're not swinging anymore. Wouldn't it be nice then to (stay home with) your kids? Kids are at least someone who will talk to you--who'll shed a tear when you die." Herb and Elaine feel ittle sympathy for extramarital sex. "I never strayed," he says, "and I've found life to be full." GROWTH? Elaine says they haven't stopped growing. "We held off having children so we could enjoy marriage." Corey was born after 12 years. Elaine has her theories as to what's going wrong in the institution of marriage. "Young people started to think that it should be like a Doris Day movie. That it should all be happy and when it's not all happy they end up on a psychiatrist's couch. Herb said: "It's like that with education. Learning is not fun. It's hard. You have to work at it." '·And so is marriage," Elaine said. What about the current demand for flexibility in roles for men a n d - w o m e n in marriage? "No," Herb said. "A woman should know her role. It's her role. Be a mother! And what's so bad in that? When you have that little child and you watch it grow, that is the most exciting thing you can be involved in. "Women!" Herb said to the gender at large. "You've been w a t c h i n g too m a n y TV s t o r i e s . R e w a r d s ? T h e rewards are right before your eyes. What's better? Climbing Mt. Everest?" "It's not all ideal," Elaine said. "We do fight." "But divorce is not part of our thinking. We're going to l i v e t o g e t h e r a n d d i e together," Herb said. For those of his clients who do contemplate divorce, Berman performs what he calls a cost benefit analysis. In other words, he asks them to weigh the pluses and minuses of marriage He is high on the pluses coming out ahead. "For success in marriage," he said, "I have two rules, one, just talk. Keep talking. Don't move out of the house. And t w o , give a little. Forgive. Suffer a little. You'll like it." It is homespun wisdom. Berman says it comes from the Talmud, the Hebrew laws and traditions. He likes to compare it to some of the m o r e m o d e r n t e x t s o n marriage. "You follow some of today's writers and when it doesn't work out and you need help, where are they? You know where the Talmud is." ELAINE SEES little of interest in the new marriage books. Sexual experiments? "You can experiment at home," she said. "You don't have to go outside." And he said, "If you've got a good thing, there's no desire, no need to experiment." What causes marriages to crumble? She said: "I think it's lack of communication. Little things build over the years. You grow apart." Would anything cause her to divorce Herb? She s e e m e d a m u s e d , i n credulous. Finally, she s e t t l e d on " p h y s i c a l violence," but it seemed ridiculously f a r f e t c h e d . Doesn't he have any faults? "Weil," she said, "he gets carried away w i t h his opinions. He can be very adamant." Herb grew very adamant over such things as the Women's Lib marriage contract printed in a recent magazine article. "You have to stipulate who's gonna take out the garbage? These are small minds. They should never have gotten together in the first place. Myjather has been taking out the garbage for 70 years. He knows his role." "We're looking for this mythical happiness that never existed," Elaine said. "I don't know about Women's Lib. I think women have had a good thing and they're giving it up. I love to sit home. (Actually, she teaches at a local junior high.) I d o n ' t want this independence." And if Corey were a girl? Would Herb feel differently about a daughter? He said he would n o t . "If I had a daughter, she'd follow the woman's role in the kitchen." MARRIAGES are failing. Herb said, "because men and women are becoming too self- centered, sounding like psychology books. A man cornes home from work, he's been driven up the wall by his e m p l o y e r , h e w a n t s something from his wife. What? Peace and quiet. Now she says she wants recognition, she wants to be an individual. My mother used to say never to bother my father when he came home from work. Let him eat first. "You hear about this thing called 'Hotline.' People who are contemplating suicide are urged to call 'Hotline.' This is a disgrace, a sign of th.e times sister? What has happened to us that when a man wants to blow his brains out, all he has we live in! Where's the wife, is a stranger to call? What has the husband, a brother, a happened to the family?" 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