Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fox's Morning Show with Mike and Juliet Gives Open Marriage Nay Sayers Last Word

Update on Friday, September 26, 2008:

Late yesterday after receiving my e-mail letting her know that her portion of this segment had been excluded from video of the rest of the segment posted on the show's website, Jenny Block contacted the show's producers and asked them to play fair and post her segment of the program. To their credit, they agreed, and you can now see it here. You can see the second part wherein nay-sayer, uninformed guests get the last word, here.

Original post:

This morning Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage and pictured to the right with guest couples therapist Dr. Diana Kirschner, was a guest on Fox TV's daily live Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, where hosts Mike Jerrick and Juliet Huddy, pictured below, engage in discussions with guests about hot topics in pop culture, women’s health, fashion, parenting and relationships, and general entertainment.

Unfortunately Fox, like some other talk shows, set up open marriage to discredit it. In the beginning all went well. Jenny did a fabulous job - no surprise there. She spoke intelligently and articulately about her life, her relationships, and got out a lot of great messaging about how open marriage can work and is a valid choice. Juliet asked respectful questions, including some of the usual "but what about" questions that come to people's minds when they first hear about such relationships. So, at the beginning people who saw the live segment heard much positive messaging about open relationships.

Mike actually pointed out that open marriage does work for some people, at least for Jenny and for a poly couple that was seated in the audience and briefly interviewed. (Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get their names.) The wife said she had had a relationship with a girlfriend that recently ended. Both she and her husband came across well, presented themselves well visually and had a pragmatic demeanor when answering questions. Definitely a positive.

The producers of this program spent the last two days thoroughly canvassing polyamory community leadership to find two couples willing to be guests. They sought a couple whose story mirror's Jenny's, i.e. a couple who opened their marriage at the wife's request due to the wife's bisexuality. Finding that couple wasn't so difficult, but they also sought a couple for whom an open relationship didn't work. I respectfully declined to help with that part of the search, since I personally don't see how providing people for whom polyamory didn't work is in our community's best interests. There are already plenty of people who believe polyamory can't work, why would we help perpetuate that myth?

Evenso, the person the producers found to serve that purpose was Jennifer Gates, author of Survivors of an Open Marriage. Gates blamed inability to control emotions as the reason her open marriage nearly ended – after ten years of it being open, BTW. It is still intact today, though now closed and monogamous.

It's too bad that Gates and her husband didn't have the kind of resources now available - like Jenny Block's book, for example - to guide them through dealing with the emotional challenges of polyamory. Many, many polyamorists know that for those who are serious about it - as Gates and her husband clearly were for ten years - emotional challenges don't have to result in broken hearts.

It's also too bad that it is only Gates' story and the very negative opinions of Dr. Diana Kirschner that Fox has decided to make available on their website. More on that below.

So when asked to respond to Gates' story, Dr. Kirschner said, "Usually this whole thing is a recipe for disaster. There is competitiveness, jealousy, very limited time and affection, time for sex, and all these resentments start. The head says we think we can handle this but other feelings take over and you get a run away train effect and a lot of people get their hearts broken."

If I had been there to respond, I’d have said that this isn't necessarily so for those who have or are willing to develop great relationship skills and whose existing relationships are solid. Failure IS NOT inevitable. This is where Dr. Kirschner may wish to update her understanding of this subject.

Juliet then asks Kirchner, “What happens 10, 20, 30 years down the line? Two people are agreeing to do this and they’re adults, then you start to blur the lines of love and monogamy and communication and loyalty. What’s going to happen to the state of marriage, the culture, in 30 years?"

Kirchner’s response: “It’s interesting. Of course the divorce rate is very high, and that’s with just two people. Can you imagine with three people, how much more complicated that is, whose going to be left out, who’s going to get a broken heart?”

So there it is, the conservative party line that says that open relationships are dangerous and further weaken marriage, an already seriously weakened institution. And that may be true to the extent that people don’t have access to education that has the power to result in a positive outcome and MORE happiness than monogamy brings for many people.

Mike asks, “Does open marriage ever work?" and Kirchner responds, “Yes, for some people, but by far for the vast majority of people it backfires completely."

And that’s it - the uninformed opinion got the last word. Fox has chosen to post on its website only the second half of the open marriage segment. The entire first half which includes Jenny’s interview is excluded, with only the part that says that open marriages don't work included. Of course, this *is* Fox we're talking about here, and it seems that Fox doesn't have the integrity to include the whole story, not if it sets them up for accusations by their conservative viewership of promoting or sanctioning open marriage.

For another review of this see Joreth's blog post.


Alan said...

Hi Anita!

The first half of the show, with Jenny, is indeed on the Morning Show website, but it's a bit hard to find. Here's the URL:

Alan M.

misspolyamory said...

They did end the show on the "did not" work side, but Jenny got a good segment in. It's all good - I am sure a lot of viewers now see there are at least 4 options: be happy mono (as lots are), repress yourself, cheat, or ... talk and open the relationship. Also, people who already identify as poly going into relationships as a poly person. xo

George said...

While I think that what the show did was a shame, I think it was a mistake for you to decline to help the show find a couple for whom an open marriage did not work.

What I think you should have done would have been to find a couple who determined that open marriage did not work for them, but still believe that open marriage could potentially work for other people. This would have portrayed open marriage as I'm sure you know it to be: a good option for some but not something for everyone.

Juliet Huddy said...

As the host of the show you just maligned, I'd like to respond to your accusations. Suggesting my colleagues are inserting their political leanings into the content of our show is not only offensive, it's wrong. Suggesting they lack integrity is also offensive, and WRONG.

The 'missing segment' you're referring to was a mistake made by a young webmaster, it's as simple as that. There was no strategy to eliminate your "side"; there was no conspiracy. It was an oversight and it was corrected immediately.

Our producers came up with this topic because they felt it was worthy of discussion. They worked hours trying to find a fair balance, and they achieved that goal. Mike and I both agree it's a fantastic, interesting, worthy subject to discuss.

The only one who lacks integrity...

Well, let's just say it's easy to buy into stereotypes ("Of course, this is Fox we're talking about here"). It's also real simple pick up a phone and get the facts. Your sneering comments about Fox and our fantastic, fair producers are inane. Fox gave you an outlet to air your side, which Jenny did quite eloquently. Do your homework and quit insulting my colleagues.

Anita Wagner said...

Ms. Huddy, I can understand your anger and your desire to defend your producers. Perhaps in your pique you did not notice that the same day the open marriage segment aired I added an amendment to the very top of the post that says that when asked to make the entire segment available instead of only the anti-open marriage portion of it, your producers agreed to do so. There was no reason for me to believe that the duties as to what goes up on your website would be left in the hands of someone who was not up to the task. Impressions count for a lot, and for whatever reason, the failure to include both sides of the story gave a very poor one.

Also, unfortunately for you and your show, Fox has a well-established reputation for leaning to the right. My perception is founded in reality and not on stereotype. There is plenty of data to illustrate that Fox has a vested interest in not offending the conservative base that represents the majority of its viewers. When one then factors in that anything other than life-long, heterosexual, one man/one woman marriage is considered contemptible by social conservatives, there is absolutely no reason for me to believe that your show is somehow exempt. You may not like being judged by the company you keep, but it is a fact of life. That said, based on the information you have provided I am willing to accept that it is possible that not all Fox programming is the same. I’m happy for the update and your defense of your producers, but in truth what is unknown here is to what extent your programming is controlled by Fox executives.

Fox’s intentions would have been a lot more clear had Dr. Kirschner not been given the last word. Many psychologists think they know all there is to know about open relationships and are only too happy to speak on the subject for pay, lack of knowledge notwithstanding. In fact, there exists amongst untrained therapists an inexperience-based bias against open relationships because all they see are people for whom it isn't working. People for whom it is working don’t seek them out, so their "knowledge" is based on a flawed and incomplete perspective. It is entirely untrue that failure is inevitable in open relationships. I know many, many couples for whom it works and works well, and as they learn and implement the relationship skills required, there are more of those all the time. Your show ended by giving quite a different impression without asking Jenny Block or any other person for their response. As such, I stand by my criticism of that aspect of the show.

I appreciate that there was interest in the subject, and should that interest continue, I'd be happy to assist your producers to be sure that any future treatment of it achieves their goal of being genuinely fair and complete.

Anita Wagner said...

Note: After posting my response to Ms. Huddy I now see that for some unknown reason Blogger only just sent me her comment for approval, though apparently she wrote it on September 26, the day after the open marriage segment aired. It was not my intention to refuse to publish her comment and in fact did so as soon as it was received.

Joreth said...

Frankly, I was pretty unhappy with the hosts of the show and the format. A standard debate format is to give the first person their say, have someone challenge it, then allow opportunity for rebuttal. Talk shows do not do this, they leave the final word for the challenger with no opportunity for the original person to explain, contradict, or educate.

It is a well-known psychological phenomenon that people tend to believe the last thing they hear, so what the uneducated will take away from this show is that it's only a matter of time before Jenny's marriage blows up in her pretty little face and that "all open marriages fail" sooner or later, with absolutely no one to stand up and say "hey, therapists only see the ones that fail in the first place". There was no one there to do any educating on statistics and sample populations and the scientific method to refute the so-called expert.

I found this show to be highly irresponsible "journalism" and I blogged about it in my own journal