As the saying goes, “marriage is work”. We all know what happens to people when their lives are all work and no play. Especially if their job involves being away from their spouse for long stretches of time. But they don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Savage Love columnist Dan Savage coined a term for open marriages and relationships that involve strict ground rules and respect: monogam-ish. It seems to have worked for Savage and his husband Terry, for over 2 decades.
Therapist Ian Kerner says that it works better if both partners come into the relationship with openness in mind. Bringing it up mid-stream is a sign that maybe the couple isn’t as romantically compatible as they once thought.
There are a variety of reasons why the celebrity couples on this list have tried opening up their marriage. For some, it was an experiment that failed epically and led to the dissolution of their union. For others, they used what they learned from the experience to fortify their relationship and stay together. A few liked it so much that they kept it up.
Here are 15 Celebrity Couples You Didn’t Know Tried Open Marriages.
15 Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer are unconventional in their art, so it stands to reason that their marriage would follow suit. Even before getting hitched, the Dresden Dolls front-woman and the fantasy author always saw eye-to-eye on monogamy (or lack thereof). Palmer has said, “I've never been comfortable in a monogamous relationship in my life. I feel like I was built for open relationships just because of the way I function.” But they approach it with a pragmatism that ensures equality and respect. "We would not allow another relationship to imperil what we have," said Gaiman.
However, they shelved the polyamory after the 2015 birth of their son. Said Gaiman, “Right now it’s kind of moot [because we are] sharing a bedroom with a two-year-old who’s just figured out how to get out of his crib.”
They will revisit things once everyone’s sleeping through the night.
14 Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris
It’s probably not surprising that Hugh Hefner practiced polyamory with his third wife Crystal Harris. The 26-year-old model married the 86-year-old Playboy founder on New Years Eve, 2012. Harris told Huffington Post Live, “... for me it meant more security, knowing that I am the one for him... there are always girls in and out and always the feeling of maybe being replaced... And he made sure I didn't feel that way anymore and that was what the wedding was all about.”
It wasn’t Harris pushing for commitment either. Hefner wanted to marry Crystal in 2011, but she got cold feet. During their brief separation, Harris trashed Hefner’s bedroom prowess to the press. After reconciling, Hugh made Harris sign an ironclad prenup and did not add her to his will.
13 Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt
In a 2009 interview with a German magazine called Das Neue Blatt, Angelina Jolie said of her relationship with Brad Pitt, "I doubt that fidelity is absolutely essential for a relationship. It's worse to leave your partner and talk badly about him afterwards… Neither Brad nor I have ever claimed that living together means to be chained together. We make sure that we never restrict each other." At the time, the Mr. and Mrs. Smith actors had been together for 5 years but had yet to marry.
But 2 years after their 2014 wedding, news dropped that they were divorcing. Among the myriad rumors about the reason for their trouble in paradise was that Pitt had cheated with his Allied co-star Marion Cotillard. Either Jolie changed her mind about those “restrictions” or something else was to blame.
12 Tilda Swinton and John Byrne
Tilda Swinton and John Byrne were technically separated when she hooked up with painter Sandro Kopp. But in 2004, The Chronicles of Narnia actress and the playwright were cohabiting with their 2 children when Kopp moved in. In 2014 Swinton told The Daily Mail that the arrangement wasn’t as salacious as it sounded. “It’s all quite boring really. The father of my children and I are good friends and I’m now in a very happy other relationship.”
Still, Swinton believes her lifestyle choice isn’t for everyone. “It's not something I try to promote as a radical lifestyle choice. But it's a situation I find very healthy. I can maintain my life with my children and their father and spend time with the man I've become very fond of. I am very fortunate there has been a lot of understanding by the men."
11 Mo-Nique and Sidney Hicks
Mo'Nique has always been outspoken about her open marriage to husband Sidney Hicks.
The Oscar-winning Precious actress told Barbara Walters, "Could I have [relations] outside of my marriage with Sidney? Yes. Could Sidney have [relations] outside of his marriage with me? Yes. That's not a deal breaker. That’s not something that would make us say, ‘Pack your things and let’s end the marriage.’ What if it’s 20 times? So what? We’ve been best friends for over 25 years, and we truly know who we are. Often times, people get into marriages and they don’t know who they’re laying next to. I’m very comfortable and secure with my husband.”
In a 2016 Watch What Happens Live interview, Mo'Nique professed that it was all her idea, saying, “I'm a performer and I want to have it all.”
10 T-Pain and Amber Najm
In a 2013 interview, rapper T-Pain opened up about his monogamish marriage to Amber Najm. “[M]e and my wife just sleep with other girls together. It’s not like we can just go off and have relationships with other people.” It seems to be working for them. T-Pain continued, “It’s that mind frame that has us together… It’s not just the smashing of the women. Before any of y’all heard of me, I was married.”
But accidents happen. In 2007 T-Pain knocked up a woman outside of their arrangement. “Me being famous, I’m getting left and right temptations. We all got things we need to work on.” The “temptation” in question was reality star Elisa Hood (aka Ms. Cherry from VH1’s Miss Rap Supreme) who sued him for child support 2 years later.
9 Alan Cumming and Grant Shaffer
Alan Cumming and Grant Shaffer’s marriage is so solid that they sealed the deal twice (a 2007 civil ceremony in London and in NYC on their 5-year anniversary). Their secret is that they are on the same page about what they can realistically expect from each other. Though they don’t currently practice an open marriage, seeking physical love outside their relationship is not a deal breaker.
In 2014, The Good Wife actor told Out magazine, “What I do believe is that monogamy is not a natural state... So, in my own life, I realized it’s not possible, and I don’t pretend I can do it… If you are kind and you are honest and you are faithful in a true way, then it is not the worst thing that could happen—that you have a little something on the side.“
8 Kendra Wilkinson and Hank Baskett
As Hugh Hefner’s ex, Kendra Wilkinson has experience with open relationships. The former Playboy model once lived in the mansion with 2 other women. Wilkinson has been candid about how little she enjoyed the arrangement, but she reconsidered her stance after husband Hank Baskett’s 2014 cheating scare.
The former NFL athlete claims he inadvertently allowed himself to get fondled during a botched attempt to purchase narcotics. Afterward, a remorseful Baskett bequeathed to his wife the freedom to be mentally "single."
“I had divorce in my mind -- and there came a point where I actually liked the feeling, and I accepted it," said Wilkinson. “I was like, 'Oh my God, I love him, but, like, I feel like I want to be single’... So Hank gave me the freedom to explore it… And I ended up coming out of it that knowing that this is truly what I want."
7 Ethan Hawke and Ryan Shawhughes
Though Ethan Hawke doesn’t regret his marriage to Uma Thurman or their two children, he no longer believes in monogamy. In 2013, he told Mr. Porter, “Fidelity can’t be the whole thing you hang your relationship on. If you really love somebody you want them to grow, but you don’t get to define how that happens.” For instance, the Boyhood star grew into a guy who wanted to sleep with their nanny, Ryan Shawhughes.
"People have such a childish view... To act all indignant, that your world has been rocked because your lover wasn't faithful to you, is a little bit like acting rocked that your hair went grey." Though Hawke professes his love for the woman he calls his “present wife”, he warns, “neither she nor I know what shape the future will come in.”
6 Dolly Parton and Carl Dean
Country icon Dolly Parton isn’t saying she has an open marriage with business man Carl Dean. But she’s not not saying it. The Rhinestone star has said, “If we cheat we don’t know it, so if we do cheat, it’s very good for both us. I don’t want to know it, if he’s cheating on me. If I’m cheating on him, he wouldn’t want to know it. And if we do, if that’s what’s making it work, then that’s fine too.”
She later told Oprah, “That just means we let each other be who we are and how we are. But I’d kill him if I knew he was with somebody. We love people. He knows I’m a flirt and a tease, but it’s harmless. I’ve never met the man that would take his place.”
5 Larry and Shawn King
One would hope that talk show host Larry King has learned something from his 8 marriages. He has been married to Shawn King since 1997 and though it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, something must be working. One of Larry’s exes, Julia Alexander King, told The Daily Mail that their secret is turning a blind eye to their affairs with other people.
However, some sources claim that it’s actually just cheating and it’s tearing them apart. Others say that Larry is in love with his sister-in-law.
One of Shawn’s escapades involved her son’s basketball coach, whom Larry had hired. In 2010, Larry filed for divorce from Shawn because of it. He also threatened to cut her out of his will. But he never went through with the divorce and they are still together today.
4 Shirley MacLaine and Steve Parker
In 2012, screen legend Shirley MacLaine dished to Oprah about her 28-year open marriage to Steve Parker. The Postcards from the Edge actress admitted that though she had “an awful lot of lovers… and a lot of awful lovers,” her extramarital love life was relatively tame. “Had three people in one day... Not my style at all. I was a serial monogamist and had many love affairs."
Though their arrangement worked for a while, MacLaine considers it a failed experiment. “I would never get married again. There's so much involved with marriage that is confining…“ She added, “I want to do a book on what happens to the promises and the monogamy of love in a marriage when you're attracted to someone else.”
3 Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis
Hollywood legends Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were married for 57 years, till Davis’ death did them part in 2005. Though famous for frequently working together, they granted each other emotional and romantic freedom.
In their joint autobiography With Ossie and Rubie: In This Life Together, they observed that extramarital relations were "not what really destroyed marriages, but rather the lies and deception that invariably accompanied it.” Wrote Ossie, “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.”
Allowing such freedom was also what showed them they didn’t need other partners. Said Davis, “We freed each other, and in doing that we also freed ourselves."
2 Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb
Robert Crumb and his fellow comic artist wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb were always open about their polyamorous ways. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing since their 1978 wedding. While promoting their 2012 graphic novel, Drawn Together, Kominsky-Crumb admitted that jealousy over another woman catalyzed the collaborative illustrated memoir about their torrid love life.
Despite the occasional blow-up, the Crumb’s open marriage is mostly idyllic. Robert said of Aline’s “second husband”, Mr. Coudurès, “Between the two of us, we kind of make an ideal husband, because he can do all the masculine things I can’t do.” Though Robert added, “If she ever started making comparisons... I might get jealous.”
Once a year, Robert travels to Oregon to visit a paramour. R. Crumb said of their arrangement, “It’s the only reason we’ve stayed together all these years.”
1 Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith
Though they share a laissez-faire attitude about extramarital affairs, neither Will or Jada Pinkett Smith has explicitly admitted to the practice.
In 2008, Will said, “If it came down to it, then one would say to the other: ‘Look, I need to have [relations] with somebody. Now I’m not going to do it if you don’t approve of it.” In 2013, Jada seemingly corroborated their policy. “I’ve always told Will, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be okay."
But then a fed-up Jada attempted to give Facebook a definitive answer. “Here is how I will change my statement…Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship…this means we have a GROWN one.” The tabloids are filled with “sources” claiming the Smiths doth protest too much.
Do you know of any other celebrity couples who have tried open marriage? Let us know in the comments!