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27 February 2009, 2:00 pm 4 Comments

Interviews: Jenny Block: The New Gay Interview

This interview was submitted by sometime TNG contributor Katie. Jenny Block will hold a free book reading Saturday at Georgetown University, followed by a PolyAfterParty at Be Bar.

Jenny Block, married and living in Dallas, TX with her husband, girlfriend, and daughter, writes about her experience with polaymory in Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage. Three years into her marriage Jenny discovered that she wanted to explore other relationships. She encouraged her husband to consider an open marriage, a decision that may have in fact saved their relationship. Jenny currently splits her time with her husband and live-in girlfriend. She previously taught composition at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she received her BA and MA in English.

Full interview below the fold.

The New Gay Katie: How did you come to write Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage? What was the writing process like for you?

Jenny Block: I had written an article about my marriage for Tango Magazine called “Portrait of an Open Marriage.” Seal Press contacted me and asked me if I thought I had a book in me. Naturally I said yes. The process was tough. I wrote in fits and spurts. About four months into the process, I had a really bad case of writer’s block and I didn’t know how to break out of it. So, I was talking to my girlfriend about my dilemma and she said, “Well, what’s the book really about?” In that instant, the whole book manifested for me. I wrote down almost exactly what I told her and that became the prologue and the framework for the book. Then I just wrote, wrote, wrote.

TNG: How would you define polyamory? As compared to swinging?

JB: Polyamory means many loves. Generally, swinging is about sex alone. For my husband and I, polymaory is all about being open to love. It means we are open to change, open to new ways of seeing ourselves, of viewing sex, of defining marriage, and of being. We are open to outside partners. But more than anything we are open to ideas and to thinking about things and looking at the world in a new way instead of simply saying, “That’s the way it is. So, I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be” when it comes to love and sex and marriage and relationships.

TNG: What are some of common misconceptions people have about open marriages?

JB: Many people think non-monogamy is just about sex or about having one’s cake and eating it too, as it were. But non-monogamy can be about a lot of things. For some people it’s about love. For others, it’s a life philosophy. But, ultimately, it’s about living honestly.

Many people think that being non-monogamous means being a bad parent, a bad person, a slut, a sex-addict, an immature person. The thought is if you’re not like everyone else you must be wrong or bad. Those things simply aren’t true, at least not for me.

TNG: When were you first aware that you wanted to explore a non-monogamous relationship with your husband?

JB: I had an affair three years into our marriage. For three years after that, I simply tried to keep my nose clean. But then I started to do some thinking about what I really wanted and some reading about love and marriage and relationships. It was then that I realized that there could be another truly viable way to live and that that way might be a better fit for me than traditional, heterosexual, monogamous marriage.

TNG: What is your current relationship with your husband and girlfriend? How do you decide to split your time? Does jealousy ever abound?

JB: I live in a house that I own with my husband. Most weeknights my girlfriend stays with us. We all hang out and have dinner. She and I generally spend the night in the guest room. On the weekends, my girlfriend and I tend to stay at her condo in the city. It gives us time alone together and him time alone—which he loves. We haven’t had to deal with jealousy honestly and I am very grateful for that. We all understand one another and we all are getting what we need. So it works for us.

TNG: What kind of responses have you gotten to the book?

JB: Mostly positive. I’ve gotten great reviews and lots of articles have been written about me and the book. I get tons of supportive and grateful emails. I also get a handful of nasty emails and I have received a few bad reviews. People get online and say less than nice things on their websites and blogs. But that’s the risk you take when you put your life out there, I suppose. And those people who are unkind are merely fearful. As hard as it is for me to remember sometimes, I know that their unkind words are not about me, they are about them.

TNG: You talk a lot about the marriage of your parents and their importance to you—how did your family react?

JB: They have all been great. All of them. They love us and they see how well it all works. It’s hard to argue with a happy family, especially when there are so many unhappy families around.

TNG: What suggestions do you have for couples considering open relationships?

JB: Be sure to talk openly and often before actually doing anything. Once you step out there, there’s no taking it back, so be sure to take baby steps and to discuss those steps as you go.

You can always slow down or even stop, but you can never go back. The key is this—communicate and remain flexible. You can’t predict the future. All you can do is live fully and intentionally. That’s what I work towards every day—being present, being honest, and being forgiving of myself and others. Relationships are never easy, open or otherwise. But when you invest yourself in them, they’re always worth it.

Free reading: Join Jenny Block for a conversation about non-monogamous relationship on Saturday, February 28th from 7 pm to 9 pm on the campus of Georgetown University (ICC 115). She will read from her memoir, Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage.

The PolyAfterParty: Come to be bar and meet Jenny Block on Saturday, February 28th. Enjoy entertainment and dance until you drop. This party benefits Women Empowered Against Violcence (WEAVE). Tickets are $10 at door; 18+ with ID. be bar—1318 9th St NW Washington, DC; doors open at 9 pm, DJ & entertainment from 10 pm to 2 am.

More about Jenny: Visit Jenny’s website at jennyonthepage.com

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  • Anonymous said:

    So most nights during the week she sleeps in the guest room with her girlfriend, and she spends weekends in the city with her girlfriend. Doesn’t sound to me like hubby is getting very much out of this deal.

  • Anonymous said:

    Hubby’s doing just fine, don’t you worry! Don’t assume you know or understand what his or her needs are, just ask if they are all getting what they want out of it and open to the possibility of re-negottiating when necessary.

    And one of the more common reasons for people who are very much in love to explore open relationships is having incompatible sex drives. You can’t judge successful relationships from appreances, just from outcomes. Happy? Supported? Loved? Good outcomes.

  • Jack said:

    All of these parties are sinning against God.

  • dlf said:

    If individuals can become evolved enough to maintain an open relationship and take care of these “issues” they become more suitable and attractive as mates. At this point a couple is able to break down their barriers and become truly close and intimate. It’s at this point that a couple in an open relationship will become so close that they will likely become more monogamous than most people in supposedly closed relationships.