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.