Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Tale of Three Relationships

Another one bites the dust... a celebrity marriage, that is, or at least the public perception of perfection. On the not-too-distant heels of Tiger woods' cheating debacle comes the news of Sandra Bullock's hubby, Jesse James, and his multiple extra-marital affairs.

But all is not lost in the world of high-profile, role-model, celebrity marriages... here are three examples of functional, loving relationships, each with their own unique flavor.

1) The (Semi-)Traditional - Amy Grant & Vince Gill

Amy Grant and  Vince GillAmy Grant and Vince Gill met in 1993 while taping an episode for Gill's Christmas show. Both were married at the time, and the Christmas show became a yearly collaboration as their friendship grew. Though they maintain that there was never any sexual impropriety during their marriages, their emotional connection was undeniable. Gill divorced in 1997, Grant in 1999 - and no, they were not in collusion at this point - and they married in March 2000 after a whirlwind courtship of less than a year.

Grant is one of the most influential Christian entertainers of her generation, and she took a lot of flak with the media for her divorce. Nonetheless, they seem to have created a successful family to include Gill's daughter from his first marriage, Grant's three children from her first marriage, and their own young daughter.

Some of what makes this monogamous marriage work is their willingness to learn from their previous marriages. Grant is quoted as saying, "You get into a second marriage and you go, Oh man, some of those weird dynamics, those were just me, and I've just dragged them off to the future! I shouldn't have been so hard on that first chapter!"

Knowing when
not to talk, asking for support instead of resenting not receiving it, giving up being right for it's own sake, and getting clear on (and telling the truth about) your own motivations are some of the tips they use for creating a productive partnership. "A big reason why our relationship is so good," says Gill, "is that it begins with respect and kindness. If you have those two things on the front burner, then the rest is kinda easy." (Quotes from Good Housekeeping, Feb. 2010)

2) The Sexually Open Marriage - Mo'Nique & Sydney Hicks

Mo'Nique and Sidney HicksMo'Nique, shortly before winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in 2009's Precious, was profiled by Barbara Walters for her final Oscar preview show. Not only does she share her experience with child abuse at the hands of her elder brother, and why she doesn't shave her legs, she also discusses her third marriage to long-time friend Sydney Hicks - an open marriage.

Although she does not admit to having had sex outside of her marriage to Sydney, she strongly asserts that either of them could do so without ending the marriage. "That's not a deal-breaker," she says. "That's not something that we would say, 'Oh my God! Because you were attracted to another person, and because you happened to have sex, let's end the marriage.'"

By Mo'Nique's definition, an open marriage is one without secrets, in which you can tell each other your every thought and deepest fantasy, so that there are no surprises, and she credits this arrangement, her best-friendship to Sydney, and their deep knowledge of who they are for their ability to operate this way. "What if it's 20 times?" she asks, in response to Barbara's questioning of more than once. "So what?... I'm very comfortable and secure with my husband."

3) The Emotionally Open Partnership - John Byrne, Tilda Swinton & Sandro Kopp

Tilda SwintonAlright, technically this one isn't a marriage, as Tilda Swinton (Oscar-winning Best Actress for Michael Clayton) and her playwright partner John Byrne are not married, but given their twin 11-year old sons, and the fact that they've been together for 19 years, I'm inclined to include them. Here are some interesting facts about their partnership...

Byrne is 69, Swinton is 49, and Kopp, an artist, is 30. Byrne and Swinton, and sometimes Kopp as well, live in a large, rambling house in Scotland with Byrne and Swinton's twins. Although Swinton and Byrne ended their marriage over five years ago, shortly after which Kopp entered the picture, they chose to remain living together, and both men play a major role in the children's lives. "We are all a family," she has said. "What you must also know is that we are all very happy."

This is not, however, an example of the stereotypical polyamorous relationship - one with multiple emotional and sexual partners. "When you say you love the father of your children and you also are in love with someone else, they immediately assume you're all in bed together," Swinton is quoted as saying. "Maybe the unorthodox thing, it's sad to say, is that we [are] all so happy, and this comes as a shock to people."

I acknowledge and celebrate these couples, or triads, for creating relationships that fulfill them, and that will hopefully stand the test of time.

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -

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