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Polyamory Observations #20

Earlier this week, the ex-wife of Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, told ABC News that he had asked her for what she called an "open marriage."  Subsequent stories have made it clear that Newt, after conducting a clandestine affair with the woman who would eventually become his third wife, asked the  woman he was married to if she would "tolerate" his mistress.

She said, "no."

The whole sensational business has caused quite a media dust-up, so let's talk...

I am no fan of Newt Gingrich.  I will acknowledge that the man is bright, but beyond the intellect, he is a pure mess -- arrogant, dishonest, manipulative, ruthlessly self-absorbed.  However, I am just fascinated to watch how the conversation about Newt's marital relationship foibles has evolved.

Newt is a "traditional marriage" guy, ironically enough.  He is a signatory to the so called "marriage pledge," which reads, in part:

   As President, I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted under my leadership as Speaker of the House, and ensure compliance with its provisions, especially in the military.  I will also aggressively defend the constitutionality of DOMA in federal and state courts. I will support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification.  I will also oppose any judicial, bureaucratic, or legislative effort to define marriage in any manner other than as between one man and one woman.  I will support all efforts to reform promptly any uneconomic or anti-marriage aspects of welfare and tax policy.

Read more:

As readers here might surmise, I am opposed to DOMA, and I believe it ought to be overturned.  The catch-phrase definition of marriage as "between one man and one woman," is a great piece of marketing.  It is easy to remember and it is easy to repeat in that sort of mindless, robotic sort of way that clever sales people love.  Newt is, in a perverse sort of way, the perfect spokesman for the DOMA-ites.  Hypocrisy is part and parcel of their insistence that all of us, every one, should be constrained by their paternalistic, myth-driven religion.  Newt doesn't really buy that "one man one woman" thing.  That is clear.  He panders to his evangelical and conservative political base -- and they are gullible enough, and fervent enough, to buy the story he (and others like him) tells.

But, knowing that Newt Gingrich doesn't live up to his own press isn't all that interesting.  What is interesting and instructive is the reactions and responses of the media types.  They are the on camera actors who play out what they perceive to be the feelings and beliefs of all of us.  Their almost universal "ewwwwww" is demonstrative of the assumptions that are made everywhere within our society:  
If he was cheating on his wife, that's bad behavior on his part ...  but for him to attempt to have that relationship and his marriage both?  Well, that's just disgusting and scandalous.

From Fox News to MSNBC, and from ABC to CNN, the consensus is that there is only one way to DO intimate and loving relationships; only one way to have a "marriage;" and no reason to even question the assertion made by Gingrich's second wife, Marianne, that "that is not a marriage."  

I've pointed before to our ubiquitous belief that the only way to do adult relationship is to march in lockstep and pattern our lives and our loves and our families on the template defined by the mainstream religious establishment and the wedding industry.  There's no tolerance for differences... not even the capacity to imagine anything other than that one man one woman wedding cake topper fantasy.  

There has been a flurry of excitement in the polyamory community as people point to the fact that just the mention of "open marriage" brings the conversation to a different place, and I suppose there is some validity to that perspective.  I just don't know that I see much hope for this to move the needle.  Those who cannot imagine themselves in anything but a traditional marriage aren't going to be convinced.  The serial monogamy practiced by Gingrich might cause people to question his character, but it won't cause them to wonder about the essential nature of monogamy itself.  The obverse argument that is Newt Gingrich and his series of weird and strange wives will never convince most people that it is possible to love more than one person AND do that with openness, honesty, and integrity.  But then, I am not sure that Newt and the "ladies" are really a very good case for the whole marriage idea either.



  1. Anonymous12:54 PM

    What angers me so much about the Newt Gingrich story is not the issue of polyamory (something I don't practice but accept as right for others). It's the fact that he "asked" his wife after the fact. And that he presented it as an ultimatum. (Oh and of course all the hypocrisy of engaging in such scummy behavior while berating Clinton).

    I have read your blog all the way through, and I understand that in entering into the 3-person marriage you, Tom and Teresa now share, the three of you AGREED, and you have a sustained relationship.

    My first husband (this was back in the olden days when "open marriage" was still the phrase du-jour) also asked me for an "open marriage,'' which meant he could screw around whenever and with whomever he pleased. I said no, but he did it anyway (just didn't tell me). I'm just saying, I think there is a big difference in screwing around (aka Newt and Husband No. 1) and engaging in mutually agreed upon polyamory.

  2. Anonymous9:15 PM

    Nitwit Newt is a hypocrite, he was engaged in an affair with the woman who would become his second wife, while divorcing his first wife who by the way was dying of cancer. He engaged in an affair with his 3rd wife while married to the second, and asked her for a divorce soon after it was discovered she was suffering from MS. A really loving caring kind of guy. :(

    I'm sure the conservative evangelistic voters see Newt as a 'born again' Christian, as he adopted Catholism when he married the 3rd wife. I guess they figure he is "saved" now and walks in the light!

    Newt is a two-faced liar, he wanted to impeach Clinton for exhibiting the same behavior he was engaged in. Go figure. The question of divorce with the second wife came about, according to her, just after he had delivered a rousing speech on family values.

    I would hope advocates of polyamory wouldn't use him as a spoke figure. As anonymous said, polyamory is best entered into when all parties mutually agree before hand, not after having someone on the side for a few years and later asking your spouse for an "open marriage". Wonder if he would be politically active if Marianne had agreed to the arrangement. Food for thought.

    Regardless of how bright the man is, he lacks veracity and is not trustworthy. Thanks for letting us all vent!


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