She worries about us being in an open marriage. Not so much because she doesn’t think that it suits us as a couple, or that we couldn’t navigate it responsibly, or because it is something that she has a moral opposition to. Her concern is directed squarely at the place where one would expect it to land-with our daughter.
My mother is my mother, and as such she knows me well. She watched me date in high school and college as I juggled boys as a clown might juggle valuable pieces of Spode Christmas plates while a collector looked on-competently but carefully. She has never held any preconceived notions that I’d do much of anything rigidly aligned with what might be expected of me. She’s full of surprises, that one, she used to say.
Having an open marriage is a way for me to do things the way that I want to do them, an avenue of my choosing, of my husband Scott’s choosing, of our cooperation and of our mutual responsibility. But as my mother points out, our daughter is in the middle of it. Unwittingly even.
And she is right. Our daughter is in the middle of it. She would be in the midst of our marriage regardless of how we’d decided to structure it, regardless of who we were as people, regardless of if we’d made the right decision to marry or if we had the tenacity and commitment to see it all the way to the Til death do us part bit.
Which is my point. No one every really knows how it will all end up. The hope is that it will last, but more often than not, it doesn’t. But I’m really hoping that hope wins out in this instance.
My dear mother is right to be concerned. As I am more vocal about my open marriage, as I become more public in announcing our arrangement, and as Scott and I both start to be more transparent in our discussion with our child about the nature of our marriage, we risk the possibility of people finding out. People who she knows. People who know us, and who know her, and who perhaps judge us for having a non-traditional relationship … and who judge her by proxy.
This is of course the biggest risk of all. Who wants to offer up their child up for judgment and condemnation? Certainly not I. But at the same time, I understand that nothing gets done when we hide who we truly are. Doors don’t get opened, taboos don’t get stripped, attitudes don’t shift for the better and minds stay shut as tombs when we act only in a manner consistent with the cultural majority.
My mother, in fact, understands this well.
And my daughter knows this too because we discuss such things. So if she does encounter judgment with regards to her parent’s marriage, hopefully she will be armed with the resources needed to educate her critics about the value in the freedom of choice. The choice to be who we are, authentically and truthfully, and the choice to live our lives with the people we love.
Whomever (and however many) they may be.
How will she know how to do this, stand up for choice, defend against the freedom to live our lives according to models we’ve created for ourselves?
Well, Scott and I will each continue to indoctrinate this philosophy just as we instill others of similar weight – competently but carefully. And she will glean from it whatever she wishes, and eventually leave the rest, as children who become adults who think for themselves often do. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened sooner than later, based on her broad capacity for contemplation and insight.
Either way, she will figure it out. Of that I am certain.
That, and that no matter what… Grandma? She will always have her granddaughter’s back.