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Open Marriage: A New life Style for Couples -- Book Review

1972 Classic

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


©M. Evans and Company, Inc
©M. Evans and Company, Inc
by Nena and George O'Neill
©M. Evans and Company, Inc.
1972; Reprinted in 1984

This 1972 classic, reprinted in 1984 is a disappointment to those looking for a how-to on being a swinger. The book only has 20 pages referring to sex outside marriage. The openness in the title refers to the openness of challenging your own thoughts, expectations, attitudes, and behaviors.

Contemporary Marriage

Although George and Nena O'Neill intended in 1972 "to strip marriage of its antiquated ideals and romantic tinsel and find ways to make it truly contemporary", their classic book, Open Marriage, has been viewed more as a guidebook for swingers and as a license to cheat.
Source: NYTimes.com
Much of what the O'Neills wrote in Open Marriage seems rather fundamental to a healthy relationship in today's world, but their writing was considered revolutionary in 1972.

Open Marriage Concepts:

  • Fill your own needs because your partner should not be expected to fulfill all your needs.

  • Live for now.

  • Have realistic expectations about your marriage relationship.

  • Be open and flexible in your roles as husband and wife.

  • Develop honest and open communication with one another.

  • Respect one another's privacy and personal space.

  • Encourage equality in your marriage.

  • Support personal growth and identity.

  • Build trust.

  • Accept outside friendships.

What Others Say

"This book shows how ... the stifling, limited arrangement you've always thought marriage had to be can be opened up into an honest, undemanding, joyful relationship. The authors introduce you to the open marriage concepts: trust, liking, role flexibility, individual freedom and growth. (pp.278)."
Source: Iastate.edu

Mary Stewart, reviewer, on the concept of couple power: "Stated negatively, it means there can be no happy and healthy marriage until the individual partner is happy and secure ... It is only when the individual is secure in his own identity and self-worth that he can contribute to the marriage in a healthy, non-degenerative way."
Source: Mary Stewart, "Book has no easy answers", The Argus, May 5, 1972.

Jeanette Volckmar, friend: "She [Nena] told me that she realized later that they had underestimated jealousy in the book as a source of trouble. When she again interviewed the subjects years later, she found few of those with sexually open marriages had stayed married. Of the 100 or so couples Nena spoke with, the longest sexually open marriage was two years."
Source: Melanie Thernstrom, "Rethinking Matrimony", The New York Times Sunday Magazine, December 31, 2006.

Other Books by George and Nena O'Neill

Shifting Gears: Finding Security in a Changing World
by Nena O'Neill and George O'Neill
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The Marriage Premise
by Nena O'Neill
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