For this week’s column, I’m going to have to borrow the schtick used by my friend and colleague Kira Davis, and write an open letter to a man named Michael Sonmore. On July 16th, Sonmore penned an article for New York Magazine’s “The Cut” section in which he attempted to justify his wife openly sleeping around on him while he stayed at home with the kids.
Before I launch into it, I should mention that there’s a very sound theory that there is no Michael Sonmore. The article reads like it was written by a third-wave feminist professor, and includes all the feminist rhetoric and theory you’d expect to hear from her pulpit – I mean – podium.
Rhetoric like “…not to get all women’s-studies major about it, patriarchal oppression essentially boils down to a man’s fear that a woman with sexual agency is a woman he can’t control,” is not something I see being written outside of any place but feminist Tumblr blogs and Jessica Valenti-esque articles.
Even the wife’s boytoy “Paolo” sounds straight out of a romance novel. It’s ethnic, it’s sexy, and it sounds like fantasy.
I’m fully ready to believe the article is a hoax. In fact, part of me really wishes it were, but this letter will be conducted under the assumption that Michael Sonmore and his inextricably horrible marriage are very real.
Dear Michael Sonmore,
I read your article last Sunday on NYMag.com. I did so after promising myself that I wouldn’t look at the headlines that day. Working in the business that I do, you read headlines and articles that primarily revolve around tragedy.
Looking through that lens is to see a world on fire, and sometimes you have to remove yourself and remember that the world is not suffering as badly as many would have us believe. A man can be driven mad by too much bad news. He has to garner distance and find a place of peace away from it if he’s to keep his head.
Michael, I think your world is on fire, and what’s worse, you have no way to get away from it. Your place of peace, your family, your getaway – it’s burning, and you’re allowing it. Furthermore, it’s obvious you clearly don’t want it to be happening, but here you are fanning the flames in the name of…what? Feminism?
I don’t believe you.
For the benefit of folk who can’t stomach your article (indeed, having to read it multiple times to write you this letter did my stress levels no favors) I’m going to quote you on the various times you expressed distress.
“How does it feel? It feels great … mostly.”
“There are of course moments of jealousy, resentment, and insecurity.”
“I’m not sure there’s actually a word for the unique blend of acute terror and unforgivable shame I felt that morning imagining that I’d lost my wife to Ryan, the maybe graphic designer.”
“I don’t want her to fall in love with anyone else, and every time she goes on a date, I confront the possibility that she might.”
“Watching it happen, I was confused, angry, and terrified that she wanted to leave me.”
“My open marriage has made heavy demands on my ability to silence the voice of doubt in my head, that gnawing feeling of worthlessness.”
These lines read as the most honest parts of your article. Your terror is very plainly written, while everything else feels procedural – as if you’re attempting to write the positives out of a sense of duty to something you’ve pledged allegiance to. It looks like a North Korean news report.
Indeed, as I stated earlier before I began the letter, I don’t see that kind of writing outside of very specific outlets. There is a very narrow community of true believers, and your honesty about your fear is indication that you aren’t one.
You write about how it took you six months of talking and “oceans of red wine” before you were convinced. The fact that you admit you still feel gnawing worthlessness and a fear that she’ll leave you tells me you’re not convinced at all. It sounds to me like she spent six months wearing you down and that wine was your only shield.
I bet as you wrote this piece you were still dipping into that ocean.
What I’m trying to say is that all your terror, doubt, and uncertainty is very real. Your harping on about feminism, and your wife’s sexual agency sounds like parrot talk. You mention the term “gnawing” which means that there is a persistence to the former. It’s a feeling that a part of you is rejecting it still.
Funny thing about gnawing. Eventually the thing being gnawed on will eventually break or collapse. Ask anything infested with termites, or any bone given to my dog.
I wanted to tell you that you have every right to embrace your fear. You wish it wasn’t happening this way and that you were enough for your wife. You let on as much in your article when you say that you fear her falling in love with someone else every time she goes out. Rest assured, that’s a real threat, and it will happen one day.
When it does happen, you can bet that the man she leaves you for will very likely not allow her to run around on him like you did, and it’s very likely that she wouldn’t dream of it. She’ll say that those days are behind her, and they probably will be. She’s found a man that put his foot down and forbid it.
I can feel your feminist mentality protesting. “Women are not objects to be owned!” it screams.
The mentality is correct, but not in the way it thinks it is. Feminism has a bad habit of boiling down women to objects. It’s a mentality that only finds women useful. Any woman who has stepped outside the bounds of the movement, or rejected it, can attest to that. Feminists speak about objects because objects are all they know.
Because of this, what feminism and feminists can’t understand is that a husband’s ownership of a wife doesn’t fall within the realm of “object.” A wife is something greater to a man than a walking vagina with boobs attached. She’s the greatest recipient of his care and affection. He works hard to give up what he gained for her because he loves her.
Why? Because she rescues him from himself. Loneliness has a hard time getting to him. She inspires strength, and gives him reason for it. His instinct to care and provide are satiated and in so doing he is fulfilled.
The monogamous sex, while a key factor in any marriage, is a large part of that exclusive bond. She also is being fulfilled in various ways that manifest themselves in a great part in sex. The wife is as much the husband’s as the husband is the wife’s.
Your wife is not receiving that kind of sex or care from you. You’re allowing other men to do that. And according to your stay at home status, you’re not providing either. You’re a weight on her.
You’re the thing burning, and she’s trying to get away from it, even if for a little bit.
The brutally honest truth is that you’re an unfulfilling guy. You stand back while other men undress and take your wife as their own, selfishly, and with desire and make her feel like a wanted woman. She’s falling asleep in their beds while you sit hoping that she’s not overcome with the desire to make that feeling of being with a real man last longer than a night.
That is the reality of it. That terror and insecurity you experience when she goes out to find another Paolo or Ryan is real, because you know deep down it isn’t a desire to “embrace herself” as you put it, it’s the desire to be embraced by something solid and strong.
Understand that – despite the pity I take on you for being the victim of a woman who opens her legs for every guy who asks nicely – I blame you. You’re the one who allowed this to happen. You’re the one bent over backwards to accept this. You’re the one who’s trying to sell this damaging practice to other couples so YOU can feel better about it all.
It makes me fighting mad to think that somewhere out there, your beta-laced article is convincing some poor woman that sleeping with men other than her husband is a viable option. You’re creating victims while you justify your victimhood.
But the real victims in this situation aren’t those oppressed women whom you claim to champion in your sexual martyrdom. It’s not your wife for not having the sexual experience every progressive hopes girls to have at a young age. It sure as hell isn’t you.
It’s the six-year-old and three-year-old slumbering peacefully in the next room.
Did you stop to think for a moment, in all your feminist awakening, that if anything did go south and your wife did find herself a keeper, what would happen to your children? How do you explain to them that Mommy isn’t suddenly coming home anymore? That now they have a new Daddy?
Or worse, for you at least, what if she takes them with her? You don’t have a job, remember?
Furthermore, what happens when the wrong kind of man sleeps with your wife? The kind capable of extreme possession and jealousy. The kind who will show up at your home and become violent when your wife refuses to stay with him?
You also say you don’t recommend this style of relationship for others. Eventually your children will grow up and recognize the signs. You’re teaching them this destructive behavior is okay.
Is this the kind of environment you want your kids being reared in? Under that danger? Under that mentality that you yourself are finding so sour?
Let me tell you how this will probably play out.
She’ll run off with a real man who will treat her like a natural woman, she’ll take your children, and you’ll have nothing but an ocean of red wine and Loretta Lynn on a stereo…if you even get to keep that in the divorce.
Your marriage is in shambles, and you’re trying to paint it as a fortress that’s never been stronger. Did you know you only use the word love in reference to her one time and you use it in the past tense? You know it’s over.
My advice is to get a stable job. Find a daycare for your kids. Start working on being more than some diaper bag-wielding cuckold. Become a man with a chest. Then divorce your wife.
I know I threw shade on the divorce earlier but realize that this divorce involves your children now having a real father and role model. One who left because he wouldn’t dishonor himself and his children like that any longer. This divorce doesn’t happen because Mommy suddenly ran off with another man and finally stayed there. It’s now happening because you’re looking after your kids and garnered new self respect for yourself.
Feminism has put you in a situation that goes against your grain. You don’t NEED it. Get away from it. Be a man. Stop letting other men have sex with your wife.
P.S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t share stats for the benefit of you and anyone else reading this. Suffice to say, open marriages tend not to work, especially in cases when the partners hadn’t agreed to that kind of relationship beforehand. If it’s not a mutual decision, it has the ability to go off the rails very easily.
According to UC Irvine professor Judy Treas, the amount of married individuals who pursue an open marriage sit somewhere around 5%, and the one wanting it is rarely married to an individual that does. It’s only agreed to in order to make the other partner happy. Needless to say this results often in jealousy, which leads to contempt, which leads to hate, which leads to the dark side.
Hailing from Austin, Texas, Brandon Morse has been writing about politics and culture across many websites for the last six years, with a heavy emphasis on anti-authoritarianism. Aside from writing articles, he is also known for voice acting and authoring scripts. He is an avid gamer, dog person, and has a bad habit of making vague references to things no one has heard about or seen. Follow him at @TheBrandonMorse on Twitter.
Click through the gallery below to read more from Morse in his previous EveryJoe columns:
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