Art, Ethics, Family, Literature, Love, Marriage, Poetry, Quotes, Relationships, Sexuality, Values, Writing

Is Sandra Hanks Right About Open Relationships and Marriages?

The idea has come niggling that
a thought I should be giggling at
might actually have merit

That you and I should suck it up
and try not now to fuck it up
and see if we can wear it

It seems it’s been not all that great
since what was ‘us’ succumbed to fate
but, Lordy, could I bear it?

You say that if I marry you,
yet promise not to harry you
on women when you share it,

perfection would be happening
we both could have our little fling
but that would be the rare bit

If giving all that in and out
while putting yourself all about
means I cannot care, it

seems it may not be so wise
to do this drastic compromise
for what can I inherit?

Oh, yes, I get to be the Queen
but what that gives me can’t be seen.
With what shall I compare it?

Two artists living as they will
by different rules, but yet there’s still
the worry: Can I bear it?

Sandra Hanks

The swing, the strong rhythm is just one of the things attracting me to this poem by Sandra Hanks.  Another quality attracting me to this poem is Hank’s skill at being both light and serious at the same moment.

The short lines, simple rhymes, and light meter all contribute to a dancing feeling.  Meanwhile, the poem is completely serious in covering its territory — the cost/benefit of a proposed open relationship or marriage.  Did Hanks have the help of a ballerina in her word choice and the help of an accountant in laying out the ideas to be expressed?

All I really know is a lesser poet than Hanks would most likely treat her partner’s proposal to open up their relationship in a more conventional way.  That is, they would most likely write a heavy, judgmental, moralizing work.  That’s pretty standard when you are speaking about something that offends you.

The name of this poem is Grim … and bear it.    I might have, for the above reasons, passed on using the word “grim” in the title, but then I didn’t write the poem, so I don’t get to name it.

At any rate, those are my thoughts about it.  What are yours?

52 thoughts on “Is Sandra Hanks Right About Open Relationships and Marriages?”

  1. I’ve heard a few people talk about experimenting with open relationships. There are apparently lots of swinging couples around here but I don’t know who they are. I’ve also heard that it works for some people but you “have to be wired for it.”

    While completely acknowledging my limited knowledge and lack of experience on this topic, I’m not sure I buy into the claim that open relationships are healthy for certain people as long as they are wired for it — only because the few people I know who have expressed interest seemed to be looking for something they were missing in themselves. Does that make sense?


  2. Thanks much for sharing this bit of my work, Paul, and for your kind words.

    A bit of the history behind:

    The man who suggests I could be Queen asked me to marry him a few years back, and I accepted. At the time, there was no question of the relationship being exclusive, and as a serial monogamist that is a basic for me. Over the years … and distance, as he lives in Europe and I’m in Seychelles … issues of fidelity arose, along with his dick. He would be on the island with me for months at a time, then away for a few, then back. When together, we were solid, good, great even. Apart, not so much.

    Two other points needing mention — he’s 20 years younger than I am, and a musician.

    His most recent proposal, outlined obliquely in the verses, stems from his desire to have his cake (me) and eat it, too (the ever-offering legions of female fans), and his idea that the cake is old enough to understand the inconsequential quality of casual sex. (Ah … one more salient point — he’s Latin.)

    The poem is a thought process that sees the cake worrying of ending up like the cheese that stands alone, and pondering options.

    Enough with the food already.

    Right now, in this moment on a Wednesday morning, I don’t want to be Queen and I know I couldn’t bear it.


  3. @Sandra

    Ah … one more salient point — he’s Latin

    What’s the matter with you non Latin people out there eh? 😉


    I never believed in swinging couples, I being a Latin male (and Paul Costopoulos one too)


  4. Sandra dudette, I don’t know what the hell we are. Our PM signor Berlusconi surely liking any kind of exchange, but he certainly being not my genre really. You seem a pretty interesting woman in any case. Pace e bene. Seychelles, what a paradise. Smart choice.


  5. RomaDude, my fondness for Italians comes close to legendary in this bit of paradise, but Berlusconi would not be my cup tè … no matter how much zucchero he tried to stir up in the tazza.

    Yes, I am interesting and smart. I’m cute, too, and very much like hearing the words: Ciao, Bella!, but I get a bit too much of that from married Italian men. One thing is plus, though, with you Italians on that one: so far, you’ve all been very honest about the married bit. That’s a good thing, since my limits do not stretch to dipping into another woman’s vassoio della carne, but does often convey a propensity on their part to share themselves around.


  6. Vassoio della carne .. very evocative. Don’t arouse my Latin stupidity Sandra. You belong to Paul Sunstone’s harem and I always respect male friends 🙂

    I’m a bit of a verbal joker, but I’m more serious than I seem.


  7. Two, MoR. The first was to a woman from Bohemia who had immigrated to the US as a child. She was native or near native in 4 or 5 languages and at one point was a translator for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

    The second was a woman from Japan, of mixed Japanese and American ancestry, who came to the States at 16. She had been raised mainly by her grandmother, who was quite traditional, so she knew, among other things, much classical Chinese literature. She could get by in five languages, although she was native only in Japanese.

    I mention the languages, MoR, because it amuses me no end that I am without a single drop of talent for any language but English — and yet my ex-wives both were quite gifted by my standards. No wonder we didn’t communicate! 😀


  8. Amazing set of wives, with wonderfully romantic origins. Yeah, languages. Talent doesn’t exist possibly. One has to start young or have a lot of passion, since it takes A LOT to learn one decently. They once used to say the Japanese women were the ideal wives. I wonder if it is true and in which sense. I once met an Italian guy who married a Chinese woman. “My fatal mistake – he said – was to think Chinese women were like the Japanese: they were not.”

    Is it sex? Is it devotion? A special sensitivity? Special powers? Look at John Lennon.

    Mistero, in any case.


  9. It is quite sad, MoR, but my second wife, Tomoko, had been abused as a child. When she became an adult, she passed that abuse on, so to speak. I am convinced the reason that brilliant, beautiful woman was quite unable to put an end to the abuse, but instead passed it on, is that the childhood abuse of her had resulted in Borderline Personality Disorder.

    If you are familiar with Borderline Personality Disorder you know it is most frequently caused in girls by childhood sexual abuse and that it permanently alters four key structures of the developing brain. The net result is the person, for the rest of their life (there happens to be no effective therapy for the disorder — the damage to the brain cannot be reversed) is prone to certain behaviors that are both dysfunctional and abusive of others.

    Unfortunately, during the time I was with her, MoR, I knew nothing about Borderline Personality Disorder. I was clueless that her behavior could never change. Instead, I thought with enough love she would be made whole. So, like Sisyphus, I kept trying for years to help her change herself, but without any real progress.

    The thought has occurred to me since then that a lot of what I thought had Japanese roots instead had roots in an illness. For instance, she would put me on a pedestal and treat me like a god for a couple of weeks before knocking me off that pedestal. I used to think, “That’s the Japanese woman in her. It’s how they treat their men.” But that’s Borderline Personality Disorder, MoR. It’s a classic symptom of it.

    So, to sum, I was once married to a woman who’s personality and culture were masked by an illness.

    But let me mention just one thing I recall that could not have been her illness, but might well have been her culture: She had an awesome sense of aesthetics, MoR. I would even say her sense of beauty was brilliant.


  10. Excuse the interruption here, guys … but I’m not part of anyone’s harem and, quite frankly, I find the whole idea insulting and arrogant.

    Not to take this too far off the path, but I do think there needs to be some reality check going on. I have come to the thought that one reason so many of the men in my life have been significantly younger has a lot to do with a certain mindset that seems to solidify in men of a certain age that pigeonholes women in ways they’re not aware of … an arrogance, as it were. I don’t think it’s intentional … in fact I’m guessing backlash against comes as quite a shock, since most think themselves quite “liberated” in their thinking, but I’ve seen this time and time again.

    Any idea how tedious it gets having guys expressing apparent surprise that I’m smart and funny, and how fucking condescending it is to hear congratulations on the fact that I have the capacity to think circles around them?

    This isn’t a shocker to men under 40 for some reason … not that they don’t have their own issues.

    It seems a bad habit, this mindset, dudes … and something worth examining.


  11. I’m sorry I’ve insulted you, Sandra. I’ve gone back and read the exchange, and I can see it is my fault that I’ve insulted you, for it is not clear from the words I chose that I am actually taking the suggestion you are in some kind of harem as a mere joke, and not an idea otherwise worthy of consideration.


  12. It’s the ‘jokeyness’ that is part of the issue, Paul … and no need for an apology. I do understand, but it is important that YOU understand the blind spot.

    And that what it seems to be … a blind spot for men of a generation that completely misses a dismissal.

    I’m used to it, as are all women who deal with this daily. Some find it charming, in a way. Others ignore the slam. For some reason, I am compelled to point it out when I see it. Not that it does me any good, of course. Just one more reason I don’t have a date over the age of 50 … ever. Damn!


  13. You’ve got a nice sense of humor about it, Sandra, but I think we should discuss this some more. I would like to clearly understand what you are getting at and I’m not sure I do yet. If I can get a clearer idea of what you are getting at, then at least I can decide whether to change myself or not regarding it.

    From my point of view, some of what you’ve said or hinted at is a surprise to me. For instance, I am not aware of your having an ability to think circles around me. My impression is we are more or less equals. Am I wrong about that?


  14. I wasn’t speaking specifically about you, Paul, since I haven’t known you long enough to establish much of anything about where we sit on the see-saw. It’s more a reaction to a reaction, if you catch my drift.

    I often get reactions to my writing that voice surprise … couched as praise … that I’m able to string words together in ways that provoke thought. This never comes from women. Never. Nor does it come from young men. It’s always from some guy around my own age who seems to consider it the highest possible compliment.

    Sorry, Paul. It’s late here and I’ve had a day of writing about sex, so am brain-fried and not a happy bunny. It could be that I’m just taking it out on you. Please, however, refrain from blaming it on my time of the month. (And THAT, my friend, is a joke … )


  15. My mother was a successful business executive for 35 years. I’m kind of use to strong, intelligent, self-sufficient, creative, etc. women. Such women don’t surprise me. At worse, they make me feel homesick.


  16. “Where’s that comment I see in my mail, but not here? It’s a good one! I like!
    It’s just not right …damn it!”

    I deleted it. I thought I was whining. Although what I said is true.


  17. It was clear you deleted, but wanted to let you know I saw it. And you weren’t whining, not that I could detect.

    Your mention of your mother prompts a wondering …

    I’m wondering if one of the difference in attitudes between the generations correlates with women … mothers … entering the work force in larger numbers. Hm. Gonna think on that.


  18. Maybe it does correlate, Sandra. I don’t know enough about myself and others to rely on any answer I would give to that question.

    Of course, I must, if the psychologists are right, make assumptions about women that are at least partly based on assuming all women are like my mother — unusually competent, above average intelligence, possessed of a certain sense of “intellectual” humor, overly critical, a creative problem solver, perhaps too stoic, certainly far too self-effacing, and punctual as a demon, among other things. I bet deep down, I’m a little boy who knows only his mother and assumes all women are like her. Ugh! I’m feeling a wee bit horrified right now.


  19. I’m thinking if you post on this topic, you could get a good conversation going. Who doesn’t have an opinion about his or her mother’s influence on their views of women? I look forward to whatever you do with it.

    Sleazy sex? Speaking of sex, sleazy or not, I’m just back from reading your Bill Maher post.

    Naturally, passages such as, “Am I the only liberal, snotty, angst-ridden, happily married, over-fifty woman in the world who gets the screaming steaming thigh sweats over Bill Maher…”, left me wanting to casually rip your bodice off with my teeth. And I’m celibate. So now I’m considering saving money by swapping out drinking coffee for reading you to wake up in the mornings.


  20. Since I’m no longer married, happily or otherwise, that bodice-ripping thing sounds fun … but casually? Hm.

    If I become your morning routine, you may find you want more than coffee.

    The sleazy sex thing … I’m in the middle of a contract writing gig that has me doing an English-version rewrite of a book that was a bestseller in Czech. Posted a request on my facebook page for fresh ways to describe a throbbing penis since I’ve used up hundreds already. Got some interesting responses, but am still open to suggestions.


  21. For the first time in my life, I wonder how to describe a throbbing penis.

    This is the sort of writing exercise I seldom do well at.

    “His pulsating, near bursting, coffee stained penis thrust into the, unusually moist, waiting gap between the buttons of her bodice. Pop! A button was lost to orbit! Pop! There went another!”


  22. “I am the one to blame Sandra. I realise I have used archaic terms and concepts. Pls throw the stones at me and not at poor Paul.”

    I disagree. I think we need to share in this one, my friend. We were egging each other on.


  23. I’ll get there Paul, although I am the one now totally deprived of sleep. Let me say something stuffy.

    I’ve seen that the conversation between Sandra and you has evolved. I admit I have talked superficially.

    Being archaic is the main topic of my blog after all, which is all around history and anthropology. Minds and habits survive in my country that puzzle foreigners, historical remnants whose disadvantages towards modernity are clear.

    Are they only disadvantages?

    Surely some patriarchy we received from the Greco-Romans is not up-to-date, but a pagan, more relaxed attitude towards sex – the men and the women alike – I suppose it is. A totally crazy mixture, possibly, but this is the way we are.


  24. That makes sense, MoR. At least, I know of very few things in this world that are entirely good or entirely bad.

    I hadn’t thought about it that much before now, but I have no problem with the notion that Greco-Roman attitudes towards sex are more relaxed than, say, America’s still Victorian dominated attitudes. I would actually be surprised to find otherwise, now that I think about it.


  25. I’ll jump to that Sandra. I had prepared the following comment without reading yours.


    I believe that as far as sexuality (and other behaviours) one has to study the differences between, roughly, South, Middle and North Europe. Such differences are big, which of course had repercussions on America despite today the majority of immigrants to the US are non European.

    Simply said Italians and other ‘romanized’ folks were highly civilized long before (9-10 centuries earlier) Christianity arrived. While many Northern Europeans were instead more or less brought civilization *together* with Christianity (the Angles, the Saxons, the Irish etc., the Frisians, the Polish, generally the unromanized Germans etc.).

    This makes a big difference and makes us a bit more pagan:

    We have saints (=Gods), more superstitions – remnants of the previous religion(s) – and we are not that torn between virtue and vice, pleasure and sin and similar.

    Even among Catholics, when taking the Italians and the Irish for example, we are not that strict compared to them. See the difference between the Italian nuns and the Irish nuns. Which of course doesn’t want to diminish the Irish, a wonderfully creative and artistic folk.


  26. PS

    Despite my lack of sleep, I could write that because it is the main topic of my blog, where, among the rest, I explored a bit Greco-Roman sexuality and what is left today of such different mores. I have dedicated 5 posts (out of 126) to a “Sex and the city (of Rome)” series that is always at the ‘top posts’ list, as it usually happens.

    I’ll have lunch and then read Sandra’s post.


  27. I am personally not a fan at all of “open relationships”. In my eyes, if you wish to engage in intimate activities with more than one person, then you should be a single person and simply tell all of your partners what your relational objectives are. Additionally, it waters down the sacred nature of marriage. My 2 cents.


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