Two couples with open marriages who swap lovers with their friends say relationships are built on trust and love
It’s hard enough making time for your partner on top of trying to keep in touch with friends.
But for a group of eight pals in Massachusetts, four of whom are married, the challenge is made easier by the fact they are all sleeping with each other.
Not only that but the extra-marital relationships and boyfriend and girlfriend swapping between the eight are not, as some may imagine, fleeting dalliances but rather long-term, trust-based partnerships.
Sierra Black, 33, from Somerville, Massachusetts, is married to university research scientist Martin, 47 who preferred to go by his first name for ABC’s new show 20/20 in which their bizarre story features.
The couple, who have been married for almost nine years have two young daughters: Rio, seven, and a four-year-old whose name is not specified.
For all intents and purposes they would seem like a happy, traditional family unit, but traditional they certainly are not.
When Sierra is not playing wife and mother, she can be found with either her boyfriend Aaron, or one of girlfriends, Romy or Molly.
David also enjoys a bit of fun on the side with his girlfriend J, who asked not to be named in the episode that will be aired tonight on ABC.
But neither David nor Sierra see anything deceitful about this arrangement which is entirely out in the open and accepted.
‘There’s no cheating’ Martin insists, but the relationships are yet more complicated.
Molly, Sierra’s 35-year-old girlfriend, and her husband David, 43, are the other married couple in the clique who aside from their 12 year marriage also enjoy sexual relationships with their friends.
David has been seeing J for three years, while Molly has has been intimate with her lover Mark for five.
Molly explains the benefits saying: ‘I get a lot back from this. I have a tremendous amount of love and support in my life, and that is because I have all these strong relationships.’
So much sexual mingling may sound somewhat sordid and dishonest on the surface but Sierra assures naysayers: ‘We are committed to being an open book with each other, and it’s all based on a really high degree of love and trust.’
Dr Elisabeth Sheff, a former sociology professor at Georgia State University who has studied people in open relationships for 15 years is quick to sing the praises of such an arrangement.
‘They have a very specialized ethical code,’ she said of the group. ‘There’s a real ethical basis by which they manage their relationships. In the end they may even be more egalitarian and kinder than those in monogamous relationships…which are often on auto-pilot.’
‘We are committed to being an open book with each other, and it’s all based on a really high degree of love and trust’
It is estimated that about half a million people in America are in open relationships and any lack of clarity on numbers is due only to their disinterest in marriage.
Though most would raise both eyebrows at the idea that such a situation like Sierra and Martin’s could be good for their children, for their part Rio and her sister seem unfazed by their parents’ game of musical beds.
When asked if she thought her family might be a little odd, their daughter Rio answered: ‘Not really.’
Clinical psychologist Esther Perel explained to ABC: ‘[Parents in open marriages] don’t have orgies in front of their children. … [Y]ou’re not giving a message to your children of a romp.
‘You’re giving the message to your children that this is an important dimension of life and that you take it seriously and that you negotiate it with care, with responsibility, and with respect.’
Sierra agrees: ‘My kids have every advantage that they would have if Martin and I were monogamously married. They have a stable, loving home. … [They have] this wonderful community around them of people who are really just supporting each other.’
And just because their parents chose to live this way, doesn’t mean their offspring are conditioned to do the same.
Dr Sheff expanded: ‘Some will certainly choose open relationships because it’s happening right before them. But for some it’s a pain in the ass.
‘Because, really, relationships with one person is so much easier.’