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Special Report: Open Marriages

Updated: Tuesday, April 21 2015, 11:15 AM EDT
Special Report: Open Marriages story image
From The Huffington Post to Slate to The New York Times to Rolling Stone Magazine, marriage, monogamy and the expectations surrounding both have become increasingly thought provoking topics for articles and blogs profiling changing models of love and relationships. The basic tenants of monogamy have some questioning if long term exclusivity between partners is unrealistic.

"Yes, I believe in it," said 35-year-old Laurel Henley, who's been dating her boyfriend 32-year-old, Charlie Levine exclusively for two years.

"I am practicing monogamy at the moment," said Henley.

Levine who was visiting Asheville with Laurel for Moogfest says his parents had a great marriage.

"When I was growing up they seemed like a rock solid, perfect example of marriage," said Levine. "But this year, my parents, who are in their seventies, got divorced."

Charlie said he was shocked, never suspecting his parents had grown apart.

"My father has a girlfriend now," said Levine. "I don't know that my Mom is with anyone right now."

Divorce attorneys confirm there's a growing trend of what's called "Grey Divorce."The term refers to couples in their sixties and seventies calling it quits with hopes of a new romance in their twilight years.

One divorce attorney, Allison Patton, News Thirteen spoke with, who blogs for the Huffington Post said she thinks the drug Viagra has had an impact on older married men.

Before the medication, men who would not have been able to perform sexually may have seen that part of their lives as over. But with the drug on the market, Patton feels it's given older men the ability and interest to continue an active sexual life which can often mean pursuing a new mate.

Second and third marriages have become commonplace in modern society.  Duke and Colleen Woodson were both married to other people at a young age, before they found each other in their thirties. They now live in Asheville.

"We'll be married thirty years next month," said Duke. He and Colleen are an example of a couple engaged in serial monogamy, which is a monogamy commitment to one partner over time.

But there are also other kinds of relationships being written about that include exploration into Polyamory or what's also called 'Open Love."  Polyamory advocates define their relationships in varying ways. But experts said most believe it's possible to have deep, committed relationships with more than one person at a time.

Kenya and Carl Stevens are new to Asheville and re-located to the city about eight months ago. The Stevens have been married for twenty years.

"My husband and I practice polyamory," said Kenya. "And sometimes people call that an open relationship."

The Stevens have three children, and say their relationship evolved from monogamy to polyamory for the past ten years. Kenya who also works as a love and relationship coach with her husband wants to make one thing clear.

"We don't have sex outside our relationship just so we can have more sex," said Stevens. "We have other committed, long term partnerships, and that is a huge difference between what people think about open relating and what open relating actually is."

"Sex for me has been great with other women," said Karl Stevens. "It's still wonderful with Kenya, but I've had some great sexual experiences outside of our marriage as well."

The couple say they teach people how to openly love with multiple partners working through any jealousy.

Antoinette Izzo is a polyamory researcher at the University of Las Vegas. She's talked with hundreds of polyamorous people and described polyamory in the following way.

"It is ethical non-monogamy, or consensual non-monogamy," said Izzo.

She said culture has created monogamy as the standard for ethical coupling or "pair bonds."

"The culture tells us to assume, or hope for, or plan, that this will be our one and only intimate partner," said Izzo.

"And often what ends up happening, is that that's just not the case. We end up either with serial monogamy or what's even more prevalent I think is that we end up in pair bonds, but then have infidelities, with people being deceitful to one other."

Izzo also feels "Poly's" as they're called, feel misunderstood.

"Ironically polyamory is not specifically about sex. So contrary to a lot of beliefs that polyamory is this free for all, where people are going to go have casual sex with all these other partners, what I've found is that polyamory is about building multiple consensual, meaningful relationships, with multiple people at the same time."

Izzo said through her research she has found a large majority of polyamorous people do have what she calls a primary couple who then open their relationship up to others.

But some experts feel poly couples can have serious challenges.

"It becomes a higher risk way of bonding, because it actually ends up threatening somebody who eventually, gets burned," said Shannon South an Asheville therapist who has seen couples try polyamory with good intentions.

"Unfortunately what happens is it, even though their mind say that, it ends up being much more complicated," said South.

South feels monogamy offers couples she sees a more stable way to find happiness.

"I think most people are wanting when they come, a secure attachment, meaning they want to feel secure, they want to feel supported and loved and trusting and good."

The world is made up of all kinds of loves. Some open to many lovers, others like Ken and Kathy O'Renick who live in Kansas City, happy with just one. They were visiting Asheville over the busy Moogfest weekend.

"October second of this year we will celebrate forty-nine years of a blissful marriage," said Ken, who says he considers his near half-century marriage with Kathy, a moniker of who they are.

"I don't understand anything but an exclusive relationship," said Ken. "I think the sacredness of love is something we strive for, and if we dilute it with all kinds of factors, and all kinds of people and inter-relationships, it just minimizes the significance of it."

by Kimberly King
Follow Kim on Twitter @KimKingReports Special Report: Open Marriages
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