Monday, March 16, 2015

Open Marriage, Modern Style

What isn’t wrong with this picture?

Robin Rinaldi has just written a book about what she calls her “wild oats project.”

Rinaldi was happily married to a man who refused to have children. At first, she was tentative about wanting a child. Then she decided that she did want one. Her husband did not. He even had a vasectomy in order to ensure against the dread eventuality.

When she was over forty, Rinaldi decided that if she could not have a child she could at least get in touch with her sexuality. She moved out of her house and set out in question of sexual pleasure….

But, only on weekdays. On weekends she moved back in with her husband in order to… work on their marriage.

Unsurprisingly, all of this happened in the San Francisco Bay area. As for why Rinaldi was doing it, the Washington Post offered her rationale:

Rinaldi can’t seem to decide why she’s doing all this. The project is her “rebellion.” Or “a search for fresh, viable sperm.” Or a “bargaining chip.” Or “an elaborate attempt to dismantle the chains of love.” Or just a “quasi-adolescent quest for god knows what.”

OK, it wasn’t exactly a rationale, but, you weren’t expecting clear thinking, were you?

It takes a great deal of enlightenment-- to say nothing of a great many wild and crazy orgasms—to be that clueless.

Naturally, this good and wholesome woman did not consider that she was punishing her husband for his moral dereliction. Or perhaps she was punishing herself for not being strong enough to leave him.

The Post explained the somewhat diminished afterglow:

When the year runs out, Rinaldi returns to Scott, even though she soon starts an affair with a project flame. She’s no longer so upset about the vasectomy, regarding it as a sign that Scott can stand up for himself (though it may also mean she now cares less about him, period). No shock that post-project, their chemistry is off, and when Rinaldi makes a casual reference to their time apart, Scott finally explodes. “Do you know how many nights I cried myself to sleep when you moved out!?” he asks. “Do you care about anyone’s feelings but your own!?” She was “too stunned to reply.” But the fate of this marriage, revealed in the final pages, is anything but stunning.

At least, it’s original. A man who has a vasectomy because he refuses categorically to impregnate his wife is now said to be standing up for himself.

Unfortunately, Rinaldi decided that she was to blame. It sounds as though she underwent some serious therapy.

The Post says:

“These are the sins against my husband,” Rinaldi recounts. “Abdicating responsibility, failing to empathize with him, cheating and lying.” After blaming him for so long, “in the end, I was the one who needed to ask forgiveness.”

Of course, Rinaldi is a true believing feminist. But how does it happen that a feminist end up blaming herself for her husband’s dereliction.

In truth, no one is forced to have children. And yet, having children is a part of the marital contract. If a man cannot bear to have a child he should either do it because he has a conjugal duty or he should walk away from the marriage.

There is nothing strange or abnormal about her desire for a child. Instinct has a say in this matter, even though the unhappy couple does not seem to be willing to listen to what it has to say.

It is wrong for a man to denounce his wife for being selfish while he has robbed her of any chance to have a child... for reasons that smack of self-absorption.

The disgrace is his. But, how does a good feminist like Robin Rinaldi not see this?

For the record, the marriage did not survive the experiment. Mutual abuse, even freely consented, rarely leads to a happy ending.


Anonymous said...

Well, at least it didn't come to this:

Sam L. said...

Two selfish people; too bad they didn't realize it before they married.

Ares Olympus said...

I figured this blog topic was going to be a lecture on the virtue of traditional propriety, don't kiss and tell, especially when you're the naughty one.

I think about TV's House character and his line "Everybody lies", but what are the lies? And we can read the book, so must depend on the articles about the book.

Myself, I see no need to assign blame from the outside, and the timing of everything is unclear. Who failed to be assertive and when?

And her rationale was: “Sleeping with a lot of guys is going to make me feel better on my deathbed. I’m going to feel like I lived, like I didn’t spend my life in a box. If I had kids and grandkids around my deathbed, I wouldn’t need that. Kids are proof that you’ve lived.”

So let's assume she is forthright and sincere. She feels she lost a part of herself, her chance to be a mother. How should a women express her grief over that? How should a hushand who feels responsible for his wife's grief express that responsibility?

I know two couple that married and diverged over kids within a couple years, and divorced.

Or second case was strange, wife didn't want kids, husband agreed, but then he started going to strip clubs, apparently to improve his self-confidence, and then confessed his late nights, forcing his wife to divorce him, and soon after he proceeded to marry a younger woman and now they have 3 kids.

I also know another man who wasn't sure about kids, and made an agreement with his wife that she would be responsible for raising them. That doesn't sound very great, but maybe he's a better father than he thought he'd be, and it gives him permission to say no to things he didn't want to deal with?

I know a final couple that definitely didn't want kids, and the wife was curious if she was bisexual, and had an open marriage for a while. They called it polyamory, and also set ground rules before starting. I don't know how it turned out, but they're still married and that was over 10 years ago.

Mostly I'd conclude that sexuality is something complicated, and messy, and as much as I'd like to judge people for doing wild anonymous sex, you know, like animals, its also a good place to experiment with "personal responsibility", assigning boundaries, learning how to be assertive.

And by Jungian psychology, of the anima and animus, projection is easy, and confusing, so at least 40 year old confusion seems better than 20 year old confusion.

And perhaps they can skip the alcohol. Like also remember the claim that sex is in the mind, as much as the body, and that reminder says whatever people discover in their sexuality means being self-aware, and other-aware, and whatever maturity is required for that.

I also think of Schumacher's talk of higher and lower levels of being:
The traditional view, as Schumacher says, has always been that the proper goal of man is " move higher, to develop his highest faculties, to gain knowledge of the higher and highest things, and, if possible, to 'see God'. If he moves lower, develops only his lower faculties, which he shares with the animals, then he makes himself deeply unhappy, even to the point of despair." This is a view, Schumacher says, which is shared by all the major religions. Many things, Schumacher says, while true at a lower level, become absurd at a higher level, and vice versa.

So is it possible to connect to our "higher being" through our "lower being" and how do we know what that looks like and what it doesn't look like?

Maybe if you feel despair, you're going in the wrong direction somehow, so probably should work on that, and ideally in a way that doesn't hurt people you care about.

Divorce does sound more compassionate.

JP said...

"So let's assume she is forthright and sincere. She feels she lost a part of herself, her chance to be a mother. How should a women express her grief over that?"


I'm pretty sure that there are a bajillion unwanted babies or babies in trouble out there.

At some point, I suppose I will capitulate myself and agree to a foster baby.

JP said...

"Mutual abuse, even freely consented, rarely leads to a happy ending."


Reality is amazing that way, isn't it?