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The 2-body problem and open marriage


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This post is meant as an encouragement and reassurance for all people facing the two-body problem in academia. An encouragement I wish I (we) had had.

We made it work in combination with an open marriage. (OK, it's only been a year - full disclosure)

Many of you might have seen this article on Open Marriage in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/11/magazine/is-an-open-marriage-a-happier-marriage.html?_r=0

(A rather convoluted but honest presentation of what my - our - experience has been with that.)

In a nutshell: the main issue with open marriage is jealousy. My spouse and I were unable to overcome it. But we have found ways of avoiding it, and since we have established a set of rules, the main of which is "don't ask don't tell", our marriage has become happier.

The reason why we needed to go with open marriage was because both my spouse and I are currently in graduate school, just not in the same country. And the way it looks, I doubt we'll ever live in the same town due to the nature of academic careers - we are not willing to settle for anything less than the best we can get. So we now live apart, and we had been together for 10 y. But we have our needs, and our "philosophy" says that polyamory is fine just fine. So ever since we started living separately we have been in an open marriage and it has been great. We renewed our vows mid-way through the academic year, because we felt a much stronger connection than ever before once we met on a honeymoon-style vacation.

That's the big advantage of solving the 2-body problem by living separately. You only get the best of the relationship:

-- Nobody gets frustrated over not being able to fully pursue their career potential. And we f----ing love what we do.

-- Every meeting is a honeymoon, when each spouse makes an effort to be at their sweetest, most exciting, most energetic self.

-- When you're away, you share with each other the best things happening to you, you share happiness and joy, and you don't overload each other with the transient day-to-day crap that gets resolved within a day (I'm not talking about major issues).

-- You get to make your own schedule for sleep, work, play and you pick what you eat :P

-- You learn to deal with stuff by yourself, and you become stronger from it.

-- You get lots of free time to explore who you are, to pursue hobbies or other lovers, instead of just compromising on your time off with your spouse. Then, you share with each other the independent discoveries that you made and you make each other that much richer.

-- You get funny comments like: "You're a power couple" and it makes you all nice and fuzzy inside. (That's actually an important point: you gotta project the image of success and learn to present the long-distance relationship in a positive light, and "power couple" is one socially acceptable way of talking about it.)

And it's not just us! I have talked to other academic friends and once they heard me talk openly about the pluses of living in different cities, they all confirmed that yes, they actually enjoy extended time off from their spouses/families. It's just that society makes it so unacceptable for anyone to ever admit that.

So to all you out there contemplating sacrificing one of the careers over living separately, it is not always the best choice. Long-distance relationships are not that bad. People focus on the bad when they talk about it because that's expected of them, but you make your own happiness and the smart couple of academics that you are - you are in an excellent position to make it work if career is key for you.

Edited by random_grad
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I've gotta say, maybe it's because I'm somewhat "old-fashioned", but in my opinion a "don't ask don't tell" policy in marriage is a shaky foundation on which to build a relationship, but alas, this is not marriageadvicecafe, it is gradcafe. That being said, I wish you two the best.

I don't regret my time in a long-distance relationship, but I don't think that it's for everyone. It's totally possible to make it work - we ended ours (~3 years) because we were long-distance indefinitely (both in 6+ year grad programs, and I decided not to go to the same university as him as it was not nearly as good as the one I wanted to attend), but I think we could've made it work otherwise. Sometimes it was easy. Sometimes it was hard. The decision to pursue one is an entirely personal decision. 

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5 hours ago, Pink Fuzzy Bunny said:

I've gotta say, maybe it's because I'm somewhat "old-fashioned", but in my opinion a "don't ask don't tell" policy in marriage is a shaky foundation on which to build a relationship, but alas, this is not marriageadvicecafe, it is gradcafe. That being said, I wish you two the best.

that was my opinion too for a while. whatever works!

I agree that longdistance is not for everyone. It s just that the message society sends is that it is for nobody. And I m just saying that is not true.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Haha glad to see people are in open relationships too in academia. I am polyamorous so I have three committed partners all over the place and they all have accepted that I will be busy with grad school so if time between us is limited, they understand why.

Then again, I wouldnt suggest open relationships as a way of making it work between people in long-distance relationships. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to handle all of it and just some people aren't up for it. I'm also not a fan of the don't ask, don't tell policy in relationships. My partner and his partner tried to have that and it just did not work out well (she was also monogamous too so it was rocky to begin with).

Edited by MinaminoTeku
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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

I have been openly non-monogamous in all my relationships for the last 8 or 9 years. I appreciate this post and your honesty and don't see why so many academics are being so narrow minded here with their response. I know some people DADT works well, myself I like to encourage my partner and be encouraged by him to pursue and see other people. We live together however, so there is also the matter of logistics! ;) 


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