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Open Up Marriage—To More Children

"Polyamorists have a term for the high they chase in courting a new partner: “new relationship energy,” or N.R.E. They talk about the sense of risk and excitement that comes from meeting and bonding with someone new. My family was friends with many religious couples with large broods of children. A thrill much like N.R.E. accompanied the arrival of each new child, by birth or by adoption. And the thrill was not limited to one person, but swept through the community. The children transformed their parents’ identities but also allowed older siblings and friends to take on new ones: older playmate, babysitter, mentor. Institutions like godparenthood allow babies to deepen bonds of friendship, so that, thanks to a baby, two more people can join in your circle of intimacy.

The couples Dominus profiles all seem to have zero, one, or two children, cleaving to bourgeois norms of family size if not of erotic arrangement. Perhaps they should rebel not against marital fidelity, but against filial parsimony.


Daniel and Elizabeth’s experience (and that of couples like them) makes an important truth very clear: The current practice of middle-class American marriage, with its atomized nuclear families, sparse and carefully spaced offspring, and long empty-nesting period before grandchildren arrive, is a recipe for dissatisfaction. The solution is indeed to open up marriage—not to novel sexual partners, but to the greater novelty of true friendship and of more children, who present the opportunity to fall in love again and again and again."

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