Today, the news broke that one of Newt Gingrich’s ex-wives is going public with the information that he had once asked her for an open marriage.

I really can’t speak as to the repercussions of this publicity on his political career, such as it is. I suspect that the folks who like Gingrich will continue to like and defend him, and those who don’t (I count myself among those) will use this as fodder to denounce his suitability as a Republican presidential candidate.

What is worth commenting on is Gingrich’s reported approach to open marriage. According to the story in the Washington Post, Marianne Gingrich, Newt’s second wife, reports that after conducting a six-year affair with Callista Bisek, Newt proposed an open marriage in which he would be partners with both Marianne and Callista.

Marianne turned down the offer, and Bisek became Gingrich’s third wife.

This case is high-profile because of Gingrich’s potential presidential candidacy and perhaps also because of his steadfast promotion of family values, which presumably do not include having a long-term affair. Additionally, as the Post points out:

The House speaker who pilloried President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky was himself having an affair at the time.

So there is a strong element of hypocrisy to the situation as well.

Newt, yer doin’ it WRONG

But even that isn’t what bothers me most here, on this blog devoted to polyamory. What I’d like to tell Gingrich is that open marriage and other forms of non-monogamy are not your back door for when you get caught. Non-monogamy in its many forms takes a tremendous amount of communication and work to ensure the happiness of all parties involved, and it is most decidedly not an escape hatch for a guy caught with his trousers down.

What Gingrich offered his wife Marianne wasn’t an option; it was an ultimatum: share me or get lost. And I can assure you that almost every instance of the “relationship broken; add more people” approach has failed. This was not a conscious decision made with the full knowledge and consent of all parties involved; this was a cheater backed into a corner seeking to extract himself from an unhappy marriage.

And in that, he succeeded. It just annoys me that he used a proposal of open marriage as a blunt object to rid himself of his second wife. Just cheat, divorce, remarry your mistress and be done with it. Don’t drag our hardworking model of non-monogamy into it. Some of us actually work at this, and you’re sullying the institution of non-monogamous marriage.


Commenting area

  1. “Just cheat, divorce, remarry your mistress and be done with it.”

    Yes, but could you leave the cheating part out? If your marriage is broken, then divorce!

    • Cunning Minx January 24, 2012 at 1:06 am · ·

      Is it bad that I assume cheating is going to happen 70% of the time? That’s probably bad, right?

  2. I have a few points to make.
    What does he mean with open marriage?
    Open marriage might not be synonymous to none-monogamy or even polyamory.

    Did he use “open marriage” as an back-door when caught?
    Or did he sincerely did not know that there were a alternative lifestyle like none-monogamy?

    My feeling is still that a lot of people do cheat because they have no clue that there are other alternative lifestyles next to monogamy. These people never intended to cheat or hurt their partner in the first place, but it happened. Years later they feel so unhappy that they have to cheat that they start to search the internet in search for help and accidentally end up with the word polyamory.

    • Cunning Minx January 24, 2012 at 1:07 am · ·

      From the reports, he carried on the affair for six years and when caught, proposed bringing the mistress into the marriage. After lying about her for six years. I’m sure that Gingrich is aware of honesty; he just chooses not to use it.

      • “I’m sure that Gingrich is aware of honesty; he just chooses not to use it.”

        Nice wording! 🙂

        • Thanks for the great list. We’re going to be using one of temehs for our site redesign. Thanks again and God bless.

      • @ – One more:I think Marks aenwsr is generally the way he and Matt both feel about the guideline with themes and plugins. In this matter, I think you’ll have to realize that this is the way it’s going to be, despite your best arguments against it. While I still don’t like the fact that I can’t control the behaviour of revisions from the back-end of WordPress, I’ve given up my argument for it. Somethings in the world of WordPress are just going to be the way they are. This is one of those issues.I don’t think we should ever give up arguing against an obviously discriminatory practice, just because it’s “the way they are” or because it’s “the way Mark and Matt both feel”.The argument that plugins are required to make credit links optional and default to “disabled” because a site may display several such plugin credit links, but a theme is allowed to provide such a link with no user option to disable it is acceptable because a site would display only one such link is asinine.The principle is user choice – not SEO (theme credit links can be SEO-spam, too, after all), not number of links displayed (if all credit links are required to default to disabled, and must be enabled by the user, then all such credit links would have been explicitly enabled by the user).The guideline for plugins enforces user choice, by requiring plugins to provide a configuration option for the credit link, and requiring that option to default to disabling the credit link. The guideline for themes utterly ignores user choice, by allowing themes not to provide a configuration option for the credit link – much less requiring that the (non-existent) option to default to disabling the credit link.There is no reason whatsoever to accept this discrimination just because it’s “the way it is”.If Mark and Matt believe any of the above arguments for this practice, then, plain and simply, they are wrong.

  3. Poly and Pissed Off January 20, 2012 at 9:29 pm · ·

    “What Gingrich offered his wife Marianne wasn’t an option; it was an ultimatum: share me or get lost.”


    Furthermore, if it had been Marianne doing the fooling around with Congressional aides or rent boys, does anyone think for a hot second that “open marriage” would have been on the table? Or a negotiated arrangement of any kind? With all of Newt’s “family values” cant? She would have been slut-shamed and out on her ass, no more marriage, no Tiffany diamonds, divorced, done.

  4. It’s even worse than that. He STAUNCHY AND ANGRILY denied having asked for any such thing! He’s a serial cheater, by gum, not some slippery-slope sheep-marrying freak!

    I liked how Dan Savage put it: Newt Gingrich denies having an open and honest relationship with the ex Mrs. Gingrich, and promises not to have open and honest relationships with any of the future ex Mrs. Gingriches.

    That he swept South Carolina last night just flat boggles the mind.

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