What You Need To Know About Open Marriage Before Trying One

If you're not into the idea of an open marriage, don't agree to one.

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I have always taken the position that marriage is for grown-ups. It takes a lot of maturity to successfully navigate all the changes involved in building a life with someone who has an equal say in what that life looks like.

Having to take someone else's wants, needs, and desires into account when you are used to only thinking about yourself is the biggest challenge any couple faces. Deciding what your marriage will look like is just one of many agreements that must be negotiated if your relationship is to become successful.


RELATED: 4 Reasons Why Having An Open Relationship Helps So Many Struggling Marriages

So, how does the concept of an open marriage play out? According to a study, many have no objections for other couples having open relationships. They are not so sure about it for themselves.



The big question is whether this is just a societal norm that we've all been conditioned to accept, or whether there's something about open relationships that doesn't appeal to everyone.

Over the years, I've been working with couples and been struck by the difficulties that infidelity has caused. The visceral hurt and bone-aching sense of betrayal experienced by one partner are truly devastating to behold.

Is it merely the lack of honesty from their partner or is it something deeper? I would argue for the latter. This is because sexual fidelity is more than possession. It can be the ultimate melding of two souls — connecting on not only the physical level, but the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual ones as well.

Monogamy isn't merely who has access to your sexual organs, but who has access to your deepest self.


The study asked about six situations a person might be willing to engage in, ranging from sex with anyone else (using condoms) with no questions asked, to taking a third partner into your relationship on equal terms. Men responded that they were more willing to engage in each of the behaviors than women.

So does this mean that men are more mature in relationships? Not in my experience.

Several years ago, I worked with a couple who was involved in the swinging lifestyle at the urging of the husband. He became very distraught when she started her own "swinger" Facebook page and got emotionally involved with another man.


RELATED: 7 Ways To Have An Open Relationship When You're Married

Again, you might think that the problem is a function of honesty, but I believe it is a function of agreement. And I have found that nothing is harder to get agreement on in a relationship than sex.

Marriage is a relationship of equals. Unfortunately, that isn't always the way it plays out. If you neither believe you are equals nor claim your space as an equal, you leave yourself at the mercy of your partner's desires.


If your partner wants an open relationship but you don't, your options are limited. You can go along, you can leave, or you can try to live with the tension your disagreement creates. The one who fears losing the relationship will be the first one to blink because most people don't have the maturity to honor both who they are as individuals — and as partners.

As in anything, if you agree to something you don't really agree to (e.g., an open marriage), you put your relationship at risk. This is because fear is incompatible with love.

Sex and sexuality are such personal matters. To be able to discuss them openly and safely depends on the maturity of both people. Egos, feelings of love and acceptance, not to mention fears of rejection, all come into play when "open" marriage is on the table.


Clear rules are necessary to make it work, but the heart isn't always open to following rules. Add in other people — your children, the other partners — and the situation becomes even more complicated.

While it may work for some, not many of us are capable of keeping all those balls in the air. If you can't, the damage from the fallout can do real damage.

RELATED: Asking For An Open Marriage Made Me A Better Wife And Mom

Lesli Doares is a therapist, coach, and the founder of foundationscoachingnc.com, a practical alternative for couple's worldwide looking to improve their marriage without traditional therapy. Schedule a free 1-hour consultation today or email her at lesli@foundationscoachingnc.com for a private discussion.