Defining relationships beyond the traditional realm

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.

Brief background:

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.

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”.

You can read more about Amelia’s background here.

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.

It takes a special kind of strength to exhibit such confidence at a time when society did not celebrate the sort of diversity we have come to see all around us today.

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.

46 thoughts on “Defining relationships beyond the traditional realm

  1. Interesting post. I’m all for people being true to their tastes and sexuality. I told my hubby from day one, no hard drugs, no lying, and I am monogamous. Up front traditional. We have each other. But I don’t judge people who tastes change and ideals go somewhere else.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is fascinating. I actually asked my husband for an open marriage. He refused. He understands that some people live that way, but HE doesn’t want to, so we don’t. I admire her and any woman who knows before they marry what type of marriage they want.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I once asked my partner what he thought about open relationships, and he had nothing really to say. His views, like many people I know IRL, are very traditional. Nothing wrong with that, but since the topic of alternative relationships interests me and is part of my WIP character research, I come across a lot of liberal attitudes online that touch on this topic. 🙂

        I sometimes wish I had people to talk with about this, to stimulate my creativity, but family and friends aren’t interested so I bug my blogging buddies. 😀

        I’d love to ponder your conversation with your husband sometime if you’re up for it. Privately in email maybe.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m afraid the best I could do was to strip all of the “obeys” out of the ceremony–the first of which was pretty informal–in a courtroom, between the calendar of traffic citations and misdemeanor offencses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I declined the office ceremony because (are you sitting down?) the walls were painted Pepto Bismol pink and the giant vase was full of plastic flowers covered in half an inch of dust.

      Then I declined making it official and…20 years later, I still don’t want a wedding. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. With years of marriage, I say that here one gives one’s own person to the spouse without fear of what the future will bring. Acts of trust and hope, otherwise it does not work. The material symbol of marriage is a seamless, one-piece, closed ring, where nothing strange enters that upsets the harmony of the circle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amelia was such a badass. I have mad respect for her.

    Open marriages…

    Great in theory. I don’t know if I could handle that in reality. I’d certainly love to try a threesome or two and reevaluate then. I do feel secure enough in my love for my wife that I know Team MarTar will always be together regardless of anything else that happens…and I suspect it would bring a spark and strengthen our marriage even more. But, I suppose, you never know until you’re in that situation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a tricky topic, this open marriage thing but it seems to work for some people…

      I don’t know if I am made that way, but then I’ve never been in it so I can’t say either way…

      I guess my point really was that Amelia was secure and sure enough to express her desires and needs up front. I see so many relationships struggle with this kind of communication, frankly to have it before marriage is kind of mind-boggling since communication in marriage is an evolving thing.

      Like

  6. I would wonder why someone needs to write a list of requirements to get married but I more so in truth, wonder why we live in a society where we see this is the norm over so much money spent over it over someone else having control over your relationship as in legalised. I’ve never married and don’t see the advantage over just being in love with someone and getting on with it. I feel like as a society, we force marriage so maybe where her letter came from? I would fear trappings too of not being able to have “alone time” anymore. I tend to set out my needs over time in relationships over two people connecting honestly and emotionally over communication, I wouldn’t write a list over telling them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess a written list is a good idea but only if it’s received by the reader and appreciated and accepted… I live with a bunch of anti-list people which makes it hard for me to communicate my list making needs…🙂

      Like

  7. If you read my pages you know how my relationship rolls. It is constantly evolving and nothing like I would have imagined on my wedding day 22 years ago! Is it the way it will always be? No. It is like a garden needing constant attention and care.
    On the topic of outspoken women in history, Caroline Chisholm gave an ultimatum to her would be suitor about the way she wanted her life to be as well. Whilst it wasn’t about monogamy it was still very unconventional and she lived in the 18th century!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have a very interesting and intriguing blog and I enjoy reading there.

      I’m impressed by Amelia and Caroline because they are so self assured and knew what they wanted. I’m constantly negotiating for my own needs and then end up putting them on the back burner to accommodate other people and it’s kind of tiring…

      Time to make some changes I think…

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      1. Don’t worry the same happens here. Interestingly spending a short amount of time with Second Mate who is very dominant sexually has notched my confidence up a level and led me to be more assured about what I want.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. If I ever get married again (heaven help me 😁, as I am afraid), if I ever make this decision I would add a clause that after our one year anniversary either one of us will have the option of calling it quits without any hard feelings. And we would visit this every anniversary after this. An escape clause. 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post. Interesting stuff about Amelia. I love that she openly defined her idea of freedom. Even women today still have difficulty with that. Too afraid or unable to live with the guilt that comes with such a decision.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My marriage wasn’t “legal” until 18 years after we got together. The vows had no meaning.
    I personally would not have had the self-knowledge or courage to say any of those things at 19 which is how old I was when I got together with my ex.

    Now? I’d totally be down for whatever was agreed upon by all parties. I think as long as there is respect and honest, continuous communication then each person’s tolerance or willingness to participate is on them.

    Adult can format whatever relationships they want with other adults and it’s nobody else’s business IMO.

    I agree that Amelia was awesome in being able to state her desires so clearly. I’m seeing bisexuality in there too, or maybe lesbian. The line about sharing the part he knows & seems to want…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. To me marriage is sacred. I don’t think I’d ever be down for having multiple partners. Although I will say my wife and I are both monogamous bisexuals. If anything we share in our mutual attractions, but neither of us has ever strayed or considered an open relationship. I always felt like that about a threesome, eventually two of three people will probably hit it off potentially severing an established relationship.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There is nothing wrong with sacred marriages. Sometimes people find their soulmate, and that’s a beautiful thing. Sometimes people change over time or find new soulmates, it really isn’t predictable.

      As you say, there are alternative aspects to your relationship which is your unique thing, and wonderful that you’re both on the same page.

      As always, thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Which part have you not heard about, the open marriage thing?

      About two years ago I too did not know much about any of this. But I’ve done a lot of research into this and came across all the alternative ways of having relationships and it’s been endlessly fascinating to the point where I write fiction about it. 🙂

      Thank you for your comment, and for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Go Amelia!

    I’m quite impressed with people who manage to do open relationships and polyamory successfully. I’ve never been inclined in that direction, but it seems to me like a relationship with one person is complicated enough, and the more people that get thrown into the mix, the more complicated it all becomes.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Does using the word “marriage” still imply a singular commitment to just one person, as viewed by most of society? Words have such power, and while social norms are changing I would guess the majority still view a marriage to be undertaken in the traditional sense, regardless of the sexual identity of each person, but in terms of commitment expectations. Would I have had the courage prior to marriage: No. No way I would have been as forthright as Amelia, but then I have come to realize just how naive I was back then, about so many things. Honestly, if I could go back knowing myself so much better now, I would not have married . I would, and should have lived life on my own for some time just as Amelia desired. A partnership in some form or other at some point after that might have been more successful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I lived on my own but felt so much pressure to get on with it while everyone around me had weddings etc.

      I hate the modern, over-the-top expensive weddings. I also do not feel that it is necessary to marry traditionally to have a valuable commitment. Having said that, would I feel less, or more, attached were I traditionally married with a legal certificate?

      All I know is my own situation. I am not the same person I was 20+ years ago. We both evolved. But what does this mean for the relationship? Or its definition? Or, if we’re debating, its function while minors still live at home?

      One of us is much more traditional than the other…

      It gets tricky.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I had a cousin who set out an agreement with her soon-to-be-spouse that after five or ten years of marriage (can’t remember which) they would re-evaluate the relationship and either commit or walk away. She decided to walk away. He was heartbroken.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t heard of this before. It raises questions:

      Did one of the two imagine they were incapable of remaining monogamous?

      It’s an interesting proposal to talk about prior to a traditional wedding where vows were said. I am common-law, no vows were said, so I don’t feel that same sort of “but we said vows” – I wonder if this makes it different.

      Interesting contribution. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Ok….here’s my thing. I have trouble keeping up with one guy. The thought of more than one gives me anxiety. My biggest problem with the concept of alternative marriages are 1) I don’t know f children actually get this concept and I am big on making sure we take care of kids 2) I think human nature is thus one person will become jealous…. I just don’t think most people are mature enough 3) if a woman has multiple male lovers, are all the men going to become needy about domestic issues?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. These are valid points.

      Re the children – there are many diverse and alternative relationships already in and around our area, so as far as kids in my orbit are concerned, that seems to be less of an issue today than it may have been even just ten years ago.

      Jealousy – yep. There’s that. But I’m ‘old school’ – do the millennials feel jealous when they’re in poly relationships? (I only know of millennials who are in poly – anyone want to contribute?)

      The third point? I have a thing about living alone and having ‘visitors’ (I don’t live alone, I’m raising kids in a family unit, but I sometimes fantasize about living alone…)

      Thank you for your comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I always fantasize about living alone. I mean really, that would be my biggest thing…too many people!! I know one person here who was in an open relationship. It did not go well for anyone involved, so the only first hand knowledge I have is the one I saw. But if all are up for it I say go and enjoy

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Re the kids. Mr Jones and I dated a single mother for quite a long time. Her children and ours were of a similar age and were all friends. When we had sleepovers the adults would all sleep in the adult bedroom and the kids slept in the kids room. In the morning they would all come in and say hi to their respective parents(s). No one, kids or adults, seemed bothered. No one, kids or adults, was left out or neglected.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think if it works for someone then they should do whatever works. But I do think most people are not mature enough to handle this situation.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I think it’s a misconception to assume the children need to grow up in a traditional heterosexual parental relationship. We know that is no longer the case in many places. I also think the kids are resilient and perfectly capable under the right circumstances and with proper dialogue and communication to adjust to pretty much any type of relationship they see their parents in.

        But it takes work and an open mind and not everyone is in it or believes that…

        All I know is the traditional family unit. But when you think about it even just 20 years ago the word blended family didn’t really exist… And it’s pretty much the norm now. Each family is unique… and so is each relationship.

        It also makes me wonder what really goes on with people I know who claim to live a certain way… Lots of people have interesting private lives going on that they don’t divulge.. 😉

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      3. We have this idea that the “normal” family unit is firmly entrenched in our history. I think it is wrong. About a hundred years ago it was normal for people to die young and leave behind spouses and children. Blended families were very normal.

        My own grandmother had a child out of wedlock in 1939. The child was cared for by her family until she was married and established and then she and her husband took the child to raise until he started working. It just wasn’t openly discussed.

        Liked by 1 person

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