Are You Open To Open Marriage?
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, Brad and Angelina Jolie, Mo’Nique and husband, Sydney Hicks,… Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee! Huh, say what?
Yes, this is a list of celebrity couples who have been candid about their open marriage philosophies and experiences.
Are you just as shocked as I was about the last two names mentioned? Our beloved Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, both gone on to glory now, admitted in their autobiography, “With Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee: In This Life Together,” that they too experimented with the open marriage concept. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were married for almost six decades. They had three children together, and spent their lives building a legacy of fine art and activism. They are both NAACP Image awards recipients, Kennedy Center Honors recipients, and they both were awarded the National Medal for Arts.
Talent, intellect, activism, black love, greatness, and open-marriage?
In their autobiography published in 2000, Ossie had this to say about their experience:
“It occurred to us, from observation and reasoning, that extramarital sex was not what really destroyed marriages, but rather the lies and deception that invariably accompanied it — that was the culprit. So we decided to give ourselves permission to sleep with other partners if we wished — as long as what we did was honest as well as private, and that neither of us exposed the family to scandal or disease. We had to be discreet and, if the word can be apt, honorable in our behavior, both to ourselves, to whomever else might be involved, and most of all, to the family. And for the most part, we were.”
Sources sight that this time period in their life happened during the sixties. By this time, they were almost two decades into their marriage with children. Their marriage obviously survived this time period, but it does leave to question is fidelity possible in a practical sense. There will be those who say yes, and site moral and religious reasons as just grounds. And yes, morality and character are just grounds for being moral.
We also must look at the blueprint those with real living experiences and testimonies leave us. According to scripture Jesus was never married, so he is not an example in this regard for Christians. In Islam, I believe the prophet Muhammad had many wives, and modern day muslims still practice polygamy when religiously aligned.
In light of all of this, what example do we have to commit to fidelity in marriage?
In October of 2005, post the death of her beloved husband earlier in the year, Ruby Dee sat down with Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Susan L. Taylor of Essence magazine for an interview. Here is what Mrs. Ruby concluded on the topic:
In your book With Ossie and Ruby, you both discussed having had what was called an open marriage for a short time during the 1960’s. You allowed each other to have outside lovers. That’s a huge leap for Black folks.
Ossie couldn’t lie. He refused to lie. He felt strongly that extramarital sex didn’t destroy marriages, but that lies and deception did. Of course this was before AIDS and at a time when ideas about sex and marriage were changing rapidly. We both understood that there were absolutely marvelous, beautiful people in the world, that there were temptations to be with them, and that we two weren’t the only ones we’d be attracted to. So we gave ourselves permission to have other partners if we wished to, as long as we were honest, kept it private, and didn’t expose the family to scandal or disease. Ossie prided himself in not being a jealous person. “The most miserable thing,” he would say, “is to love and not trust.” And he was such a loving and giving person. Not just to me and not just in a romantic sense.
How did this period in your marriage end?
It didn’t last long, and when Ossie put an end to it, I was glad it was over. He saw that it could hurt many people and break up families. It’s too dangerous; you could come up on somebody you can’t let go of. We saw that what you treasure most could be lost. And Ossie and I had matured. We began to understand that it is possible to be married to one person and be faithful to that person all your life, and that in a marriage loyalty and fidelity and trust cannot be compromised.
If there is anything I could ask forgiveness for, it is this.
Well maybe we do not have an account of fidelity to blueprint, but wisdom is our greatest teacher. After six decades of legacy and wonder, Ruby Dee expressed that her only regret was the time period of open-marriage she and Ossie experienced in the sixties. That folk’s is enough evidence for me!
What are your thoughts on open marriage?
Clarissa Joan is a spiritual life coach and editor-in-chief of The Clarissa Joan Experience. She resides in Philadelphia, Pa with her husband, their two girls, and a yorkie named Ace. Clarissa is also an expert in impact investing.