Amelia Earhart wrote a letter to her fiancé outlining her expectations about what marriage must look like for her. In short, she proposed an open marriage.
Amelia was an American aviation pioneer and author who flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean at a time when such things were almost unheard of for most people, let alone a woman. She disappeared in 1937 and was officially declared dead in 1939.You can read more about Amelia’s background here.
She spent a lot of time with her publisher George Putnam who proposed to her six times. She had a letter hand-delivered to him on the day of their wedding outlining her expectations of how their union would, or should, look like once they were married.
She later labeled her marriage to him “a partnership with dual control”.
Amelia’s pre-wedding letter is now famous. I came across it recently as it was circulated and shared on social media by people who believe, or aspire to, either open marriages or polyamory.
Open relationship: a core relationship between two people but allows sex with other people. Another name for an open relationship is consensual non-monogamy.
Polyamory relationship: a person with multiple partners in which love and emotional connections as well as sexual relations drive all of the relationships (in other words, you are in love and have sexual relations with more than one person with consent from your partner who has the same freedom).
Before everyone looses their head, I have written several stories which touch on this topic of open marriages, poly and related alternative relationships. Some were partially released on open platforms, others are works-in-progress to be published.
I’m interested in the many relationship dynamics that exist in contemporary society today which I explore at length in my creative writing (including the erotic stories).
I chose to mention Amelia’s letter here because it feeds into some interesting dynamics I’ve written or am in the process of writing about.
What intrigues me the most, however, is that Amelia was one of those women who was not afraid to state clearly what she wanted and needed in a relationship.
Pretty amazing given I’m still struggling with communicating my deepest desires and needs and I’m older than Amelia was when she wrote that letter…
Liberal domestic attitudes, especially for women, were not openly accepted by society during Amelia’s time (1930s) which is why this is so interesting to me; she expressed her opinions anyway.
How inspiring is this?
Amelia certainly defied traditional societal norms by rejecting five marriage proposals by the same man. She finally agreed to marry him when he proposed to her a sixth time, but only if her conditions and expectations were met.
Here’s the letter, if you haven’t seen it. Pay extra close attention to the highlighted wording.
Right off the bat, Amelia openly admitted to being reluctant to marriage, linking her reasons partly to work:
“… my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means most to me”.Amelia Earhart
She also openly admitted to expecting non-monogamy after marriage:
“…I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness…
“…nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly”.Amelia Earhart
Essentially she declared intent to stray with consent from her husband.
A friend of mine suggested she may have had lesbian or bisexual tendencies… I’m not sure if this is relevant one way or the other, but perhaps back in those days, it’s possible that if she did, in fact, explore same-sex relations, it certainly would have been frowned upon (or worse).
Every sentence she wrote in that letter is so intriguingly composed, I’m impressed by how thoughtfully she managed to craft her ideas. I believe, reading this letter, she was prepared to walk away from the wedding (and subsequent marriage) if George had dismissed, or refused to accept, her terms.
Nowadays, attitudes in many places are more tolerant, more liberal and more accepting of alternative relationships than just a few decades ago, be they poly or open, bi- or homosexual, or whatever. There is, of course, an undercurrent about sexual behaviour running through Amelia’s letter (and our minds, as was pointed out by my friend), and I have a lot more to say about this but will leave that for another day.
For now, I’d like to hear what you think about relationships, particularly the partnered/married ones.
- Would you have had the will or courage to be so forthcoming with your expectations when you first got together with a long-term partner?
- Did it even occur to you to state out loud (or in writing) what your or their responsibilities were in terms of the commitment going forward?
I realize traditional wedding vows do some or part of that, but I’m looking for a different perspective, one that develops over time after the relationship has endured some of the messier struggles, hardships and challenges.
Has your definition changed? Why or why not? How?
Thank you for reading! See you in the comments.