On Open Marriage: Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis / "In the process of trying to unravel this thing call life"

I never knew that Ruby and Ossie -- wed in 1948 -- had a period of open marriage. Interesting, especially in light of Erykah Badu's recent comments on marriage.

Here are some quotes taken from various sources, their joint biography With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together, and an interview Ruby did with the website Broadway To Vegas.

Ossie: "We were living one of the great love stories, I think, of the 20th century and we didn't know it, nobody told us... It occurred to us, from observation and reasoning, that extramarital sex was not what really destroyed marriages, but rather the lies and deception that invariably accompanied it -- that was the culprit. So we decided to give ourselves permission to sleep with other partners if we wished -- as long as what we did was honest as well as private, and that neither of us exposed the family to scandal or disease. We had to be discreet and, if the word can be apt, honorable in our behavior, both to ourselves, to whomever else might be involved, and most of all, to the family. And for the most part, we were... But looking back, I'd say no matter what did or did not happen, we freed each other. And in doing that, we also freed ourselves... Sex is fine, but love is better. That's the most important part of being free. In light of what we learned, is extramarital sex something we recommend as a regular part of marriage? Not now... not anymore. Not since AIDS has entered the equation, and genital herpes, syphilis, and other veneral diseases..."

Ruby: "Fifty two years being married, there's been a lot of overcoming! ... There's been a lot of struggle there. But marriage is everyday. You think you love somebody, but love is an aspiration. Marriage is more than putting up with each other. It's a growing up together, coming into maturity and seniorhood together. It's been a journey, a profound learning experience about each other, about men, about women. Ossie is a very sensitive person... I came from a background I considered to be a very chauvinistic. Women of the house did all the work, even in poor neighborhoods. I call my self lucky in terms of marrying a man who had a great sensitivity and intelligence and who realized that the equations were lopsided. It's Ossie that taught me about women's equality. He said - Ruby you've got a brain... Love, I think, is one of the most difficult equations that humanity is faced with... Love thy neighbor as thyself. Well, whoever wrote that don't know some of these neighbors God put down here, huh? I have this spiritual argument with myself. But I think we're put down here to explore, to understand, and to practice love. Whatever it is that is called love - that has kept us together, and we almost know what that is after 50 years - we almost know what love is. Ossie wanting an open marriage was part of our 52 years... That period there - I don't know - I guess all couples go through some period of disenchantment or believing that the grass is greener. And it may not be crab grass on the other side. It may be beautiful. But you come to the conclusion that it's one of these elements in life where you decide if what you have is really is what you want. The complications of being involved with other human beings - and the world is full of marvelous human beings. You could find one maybe every week or every year or something. And, it would be such a topsy turvy affair - in terms of family, property and all kind of things. But, we both came to realize that we were very fortunate that, in all of the deep profound, fundamental ways, we really, really only wanted each other. It was like a rediscovery of something from the beginning. It's not something that you'd recommend to everybody. But often Ossie has said - and I've though too - the best way to have somebody is to let it go. If it doesn't come back you are free in another kind of sense - in that you find the strength to let go and wish somebody well. So, we thought an open marriage was appropriate for us but it turned out not to be. But then that's what we're all about... We are moving from one position to another in the process of trying to unravel this thing call life."

Originally Posted 7/25/2008

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