Polyamory isn't a subject that usually emerges in a Republican presidential primary, but that changed thanks to an interview with Newt Gingrich's second and now ex wife Marianne Gingrich that aired Wednesday on ABC's "Nightline." The former Mrs. Gingrich said that Newt asked her for an open marriage when he revealed that for six years he had been sleeping with Callista Bisek, the woman who later became his third wife.
"He said, 'Callista doesn’t care what I do,'" Marianne said in the interview. "He wanted an open marriage and I refused."
Who knows what an open marriage with Newt and Callista would have been like, but it's not terribly surprising that Newt is, or at least was, into the idea. Despite his pro-family platform, he has married two women with whom he started affairs while still married to the previous wife.
And in his alleged yen for an open relationship, Newt had company. Nearly 30 years ago, when Newt was married to Marianne, a study of 6000 couples by Philip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz revealed that 15 percent of married couples had "an understanding that allows non-monogamy under some circumstances" and 28 percent of cohabiting couples had that kind of agreement.
Today, despite the case outspoken advocates like Dan Savage make for polyamory, Americans often seem squeamish about open relationships. GOOD's Nona Willis Aronowitz argued last summer that even though we know that as many as half of all men and women cheat on a significant other at some point in their lives, and many more consider it,
when it comes to changing up traditional ways of constructing our own relationships, we have a tendency to hesitate, or make excuses, or flat-out say “no, thank you.” We've come to accept that forever-and-ever may be unrealistic -- just look at divorce rates and the rise of serial monogamy. Yet while we're in those relationships, exclusivity is still the standard. There’s a strange split between what we think and what we do.
Some claim that open relationships barely have a chance. Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today's Editor At Large, has written that they can't work:
At least not for the long haul. Sooner or later someone will start forming an outside attachment that will threaten the marriage, or one partner will tire of hearing of the other's experiences.
But others say they can. Relationship expert Leslie Gold told Men's Fitness, "As long as there are ground rules laid out and you adhere to them, and you're with the right kind of person, those relationships can survive." The same article quoted David Barash, Ph.D., a psychology professor and co-author of "The Myth of Monogamy," "The key to an open relationship working is that both people really have to want it."
In other words, since Marianne wasn't really into it, it probably wouldn't have worked. Whether Callista would still be game for an open relationship, whether she really "doesn't care," is anybody's guess.
What about you: Would you ever consider an open relationship? Are you a Newt or a Marianne? Tweet your answer @HuffPost Women using the hashtag #opennewt, and we'll round up the responses in a slideshow below.
SLIDESHOW: Our Readers Weigh In On Open Relationships And Newt Gingrich