IN January, reports rolled around the world that the ex-wife of Newt Gingrich — a candidate for the 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination — said Gingrich asked for an "open marriage" in which he could have both a wife and a mistress.
Marianne Gingrich said she refused to go along with the idea that she share her husband with Callista Bisek, who would later become his third wife. She said her husband conducted his affair with Callista "in my bedroom in our apartment in Washington" while she was elsewhere.
"He always called me at night and always ended with 'I love you'," she said in an AP report.
Conversely, in a New York Times interview several years earlier, actress Mo'Nique said she and her husband, Sidney Hicks, have an open marriage, where sex with other people isn't a deal breaker. It's a situation that occurs in many other relationships, where couples agree to allow a third, or more persons in, whether for spice or other reasons.
Camille S was leaving the island for six months, and knowing that her boyfriend of three years couldn't be faithful, she decided to choose the woman he could be intimate with during her absence. Her choice: the best friend the couple had already used as a third party in spicing up their love life before. That way she would get regular updates on what they did and how often, and she even gave her friend tips on what her boyfriend liked and disliked.
"I felt it was a better way to keep track of things because I didn't want him to get involved with some strange girl and form a meaningful relationship with her," she said.
Sex therapist Shelly-Ann Weeks said these types of arrangements only work in instances like Camille's case, where she was totally comfortable with allowing someone else in.
Giving permission is not something that should be done solely to satisfy the other partner, Weeks said.
"Some women do this to keep track of what their partner is doing, but if she cannot handle it and she knows that deep down she won't be able to cope with the situation, then she should not allow it," Weeks added.
Some other women go this route because they may be unable to fulfil their partners' need for intimacy for health reasons, as happens with women suffering from certain cancers, for example.
Barbara B thought of it when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and knew she would be unable to be intimate with her husband for a long time.
"We were young and quite passionate," she said. "One day when I was in pain, and at my lowest, I thought about it and I broached the topic with him, and his response quickly squelched that idea," she said. "He said 'no way', he said he would wait for as long as it took to cure me, and I appreciated that, but I would have allowed him to go outside the marriage if he had expressed a desire to."
Weeks said even in extreme cases where the woman may be suffering from health issues, the choice should be left up to her, and should not be done even out of pity if she is uncomfortable with it.
"This would be added stress for her on top of the stress that she is already feeling, and so she should not do it," Weeks said.
Weeks said the same principle applies to threesomes, as she often tells persons to only allow them if it's something they really want to do. It should not just be about pleasing the other partner, she said.