As part of my upbringing, I grew up believing that Mahabharata had answers to all the complications related to life and relationships. Intrigued with the concept of open marriage while reading a celebrity scoop, I felt like delving deeper and naturally referred to the epic saga – Mahabharata.
Draupadi with her five husbands and an entire epic revolving around her, stirs varied imaginations. How did she handle the physical relationship with five husbands? Were the brothers not jealous of each other? Did Draupadi have a favourite among them and most importantly, how did she handle the emotional and physical dynamics associated with it ? It surely doesn’t sound simple.
Were our ancestors much more open-minded than we are or was Draupadi a victim of circumstances? An open-marriage often puts the sanctity of a husband-wife relationship under scrutiny.
When Nena O’Neill and George O’Neill first wrote about the concept of an open marriage in 1972, their focus was on honesty and openness in a marital relationship. They viewed the concept as one that preserves each partner’s freedom and right to grow as an individual in the marriage. Transparent, open communication and role definitions were seen to be essential for a healthy and open relationship. Although, this included the possibility of a sexual engagement outside marriage, the focus lay in preserving the privacy needs of each partner and on ‘meaningful commitment without destructive jealousy’.
But the concept of an open marriage, now, largely means ‘having sex outside marriage’.
Psychologist Shivani Misri Sadhoo says, “Generally, couples get into this practice to rejuvenate their sexual life as well as to avoid breakup or divorce. This type of relationship concept primarily arises when both the partners realise that they cannot be sexually satisfied by their partner and mutually agree to keep their marriage and love alive.”
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie had once openly said, “I doubt that fidelity is absolutely essential for a relationship. Neither Brad nor I have ever claimed that living together means to be chained together. We make sure that we never restrict each other.”
“Generally, open marriage is not a pre-involved decision where people rarely decide to have open marriage and then get married, rather it’s a resultant of a fast changing lifestyle and relationship perception across the globe, including India. Some find it difficult to accept the decline of sexual performance that their marriage may see over the period and hence they do not find their extra-marital involvement wrong or sinful. Instead of breaking their marriage, they decide to mutually accept and be transparent in extra-marital sex,” adds Sadhoo.
So, it is when couples do not want to fall out of love and marriage because of a bland sexual life that they opt for an open relationship. Over the years, we have read about such relationships prevailing in our Hindi film industry too. Since in India, marriage is a religious commitment more than a relationship, celebrities have always kept such issues under wraps so that they do not tarnish their public image.