Newt Gingrich may be a shameful excuse for a husband, but I can't help but think that he is also a perfect example of how we could all benefit from more creative thinking about marriage as a whole.
Newt apparently views marriage and fidelity as something to stick with just until the whole 'in sickness and in health' agreement becomes a drag or a younger, newer model offers herself to you. And at that point you ask for an open marriage... or bail out altogether. While to you and me this might seem like a despicable choice, to Newt, it obviously seems like a valid and sensible idea.
Well, if ol' Newt were a little more innovative and insightful, he might realize that not only would the countless gay Americans he rejects benefit from an updated, more expansive and creative view of marriage, but so would he.
Newt's second wife Marianne said in her ABC interview that an open marriage is not a marriage. While I have no respect for the way her former husband treated her or her predecessor, I have to disagree with her statement. An open marriage clearly isn't the one she signed up for. And suddenly proposing an open marriage after 18 years together, while you are already sleeping with some blonde, is not a good idea. But an open marriage is as valid an idea as any, if it works for the two people involved and if it fits with what they wanted going in.
Marriage has been evolving and changing from its beginnings, and that evolution isn't going to stop any time soon. In its current form, marriage is an institution that only works about 50 percent of the time. And fewer people are choosing to take part in it (while others are fighting for the right to marry all the while). Why can't the next incarnation of marriage include more tailor-made unions that work better for two individuals (of any gender)? We could make it look any way we choose -- open marriages for people like wandering-eyed Newt, others that aren't intended to last forever (also perfect for Mr. Gingrich), or renewable time-limited marriage contracts that last for five, 10, 20 years, depending on individual desires or needs, like, say, if a spouse plans to run for president and needs you by his side during the election campaign but not beyond it. The key is, both parties need to be honest with themselves and each other about what they want out of the marriage and what they want the relationship to look like.
The possibilities are as endless as they are initially shocking. But if we get over the instinctive attachment to the way marriage should be and move on, instead, to thinking about the way it could be, it becomes clear that this may very well be the only viable way forward for the otherwise stumbling institution of marriage. And this could prove to be a good thing for all, even Newt. As it stands now, he, on his 3rd marriage, has a 70 percent chance of divorcing (1st marriages -- 50 percent failure rate, 2nd -- 60 percent, 3rd -- 70 percent). Some creative thinking might give Newt and Callista a better chance for the future, especially once her Botox stops working its magic.
Follow Kate Schermerhorn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marriage_doc