June 13, 2014

Homosexuality & Infidelity:
The evolution of marriage?

On June 4, Family Edge posted a piece by Nicole M. King titled, "Infidelity is the key to a stable marriage?" I've included a "do not link" for your reference.

King makes several assertions linking "recent research" into open relationships within the gay community to the devastating effects of adultery on marriages. Kings says:
In contrast with the expectations among “gay marriages,” recent research indicates that adultery is likely the greatest factor in causing divorce among heterosexual marriages. Thus, the expectations and norms regarding fidelity seem to differ greatly between heterosexual and homosexual couple. Perhaps defining stability in terms of the mere duration of the relationship is not enough to capture what ought to be the relevant factors when considering a “stable marriage.” 
This is the basic tenet underlying the entire piece, and yet, it is, in fact, complete and utter bullshit.

You heard it here first, folks, and I know you are shocked, but yes.

A marriage equality opponent is putting forth complete and utter bullshit and calling it fact.

The grandstanding begins with the claim that this is "recent research" published in the New York Times. The Times did, in fact, publish the research--on January 28, 2010. The article King references is not the entire research. Rather, it is a small peek at the research, couched in a kind of bizarre human interest piece.

So we are already dealing with information that is four years old, which is practically ancient.

Across the population, estimates place open marriages at between 1 and 9% of all marriages. There's no way to include open relationships outside of marriage in the accounting, nor is there a way to account for those that do not identify themselves openly as polyamorous.

Obviously, then, open relationships are not something that is unique to the homosexual community. In fact, Dan Savage has often advocated for a more open view of fidelity in his Savage Love column:
Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity
The real issue, however, isn't the data itself, but the connections that King is trying to make. An open relationship, simply put, is not adultery.

King gives us this damning information:
Looking particularly at more than 16,000 ever-married respondents who were queried, in survey years from 1991 to 2008, as to whether they had ever committed adultery, the psychologists established that a history of adultery—what they euphemistically term “extramarital sex” or EMS—significantly raises the possibility of experiencing divorce or marital separation.
Moreover, the research team found that among respondents reporting no adultery, 60 percent of men and 49 percent of women were currently married with no divorce history, and only 17 percent of men and 22 percent of women were currently divorced or separated. In contrast, among respondents reporting adulterous relationships, only 33 percent of men and 23 percent of women were currently married with no divorce history while 41 percent of men and 48 percent of women either currently divorced or separated.
To say that adultery is devastating is to put it mildly. But again, I can't stress enough, people in open marriages and relationships do not see it as adultery.

Austin Cline, writing for Atheism.About.Com, puts it like this:
It is questionable whether the existence of “open marriages” harms marriage generally, and even more questionable whether there is some identifiable and quantifiable level of commitment that is necessary (and if there were such, wouldn’t that mean that the government would have to start giving tests to all prospective couples in order to ensure that they rate high enough to be allowed to marry?).
What two people decide is the boundaries and parameters for their relationship is between them. It's a personal matter, not a social one, not a moral one. For millennia, polygamous arrangements were the norm in many echelons of society.

Over and above the facts that open marriages happen among heterosexuals too, and that they aren't adultery, there's the fact that the relationships in the study are not marriages. We do not have much data on adultery within gay marriages, because, surprise, they haven't been around for long.

Without more research that's applicable to married homosexual couples, it's hard to suss out what the actual effects of adultery are. It's also hard to generalize about marriages based on data that isn't about marriages.

As Cline explains:
For one thing, it is not clear those gay couples who already display the interest and willingness to go through the steps to come as close to marriage as they are currently allowed are in more “open” relationships than straight couples.
Perhaps the ways we determine marital bliss are short-sighted. Perhaps they are limited. As the Times points out:
The study also found open gay couples just as happy in their relationships as pairs in sexually exclusive unions, Dr. Hoff said. A different study, published in 1985, concluded that open gay relationships actually lasted longer.
Savage agrees:
Savage says a more flexible attitude within marriage may be just what the straight community needs. Treating monogamy, rather than honesty or joy or humor, as the main indicator of a successful marriage gives people unrealistic expectations of themselves and their partners. And that, Savage says, destroys more families than it saves.
The malicious manipulation of data to support anti-marriage equality suggestions is dangerous. As a man far wiser than myself once said:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
I could not say it any better myself.

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