My Husband And I Tried To Have An Open Marriage. It Epically Failed.

I really just wanted a divorce but was too afraid to leave my marriage.

My Husband and I Tried to Have an Open Marriage but It Failed NDAB Creativity / Shutterstock

Some married couples swear by non-monogamy. They consent to opening their marriages, agreeing to have sex with other people. Instead of harming their relationships, having other lovers improves their bond. They increase communication and trust, often enjoying stronger relationships than monogamous couples do.

So what happened when my husband and I opened our marriage? It failed. We ended up divorcing. Why?


One, we came to the decision to open our marriage only after cheating on each other.

Second, I agreed to the open marriage only because I really wanted to leave my husband but was too scared.

My husband and I both cheated on each other.

That my husband and I both betrayed each other was a bad sign from the start. Clearly, we had bigger problems in our marriage that led us to cheat on one another. Neither of us was happy. 

Why else would we both have done the worst thing a partner can do to their spouse? Let’s face it: the trust between us was already broken.

Sure, after we both came clean about our cheating, we forgave each other. Neither of us could be angry at the other since we’d both committed the same offense. We’d both been adulterous.


But we couldn’t go back to trusting each other either  —  at least not if we were going to stay married.

My husband said he didn’t want to divorce me. He only cheated because he felt neglected. 

Yes, after our sons were born, I found myself incapable of giving my husband the attention he needed. I was exhausted by motherhood, too busy with the kids. I was no longer in the mood for sex.

As a result, my husband started cheating on me. But then he was neglecting me as well! Guess what? I also took a lover.

We finally confessed our mutual sins. Why didn’t we just divorce?

My husband said he still loved me.

I stayed because I was too scared to leave him.


I was too terrified to get a divorce because of the financial strain it would cause me.

We lived in L.A., an expensive city. Our kids attended a good school in a nice neighborhood. I knew that if my husband and I split up, I couldn’t afford the rent on our house anymore. 

RELATED: Why We Chose To Have An Open Marriage Without A Legally Binding Contract

I’d have to move to a crummy part of town and put our kids in substandard schools. To make matters worse, I was also bankrupt. Years earlier, I allowed my husband to take out a loan in my name. He invested the cash into a Ponzi scheme. The scheme imploded and suddenly I owed thousands of dollars. 


I claimed bankruptcy but that meant my credit was in the toilet. If I left my husband, I doubted I could get a landlord to rent an apartment to me, even in a less desirable part of town.

I was working but only part-time. For years, I’d tried to be the perfect mom. Yes, I had cheated on my husband, but I did everything I could not to let my bad behavior affect our children. I volunteered in our kids’ school and made sure dinner was on the table every night. I helped our sons with their homework. But in doing so, I hadn’t focused on my career.

My husband had his own financial issues. He wouldn’t be able to help much if I left. No alimony, little child support. It was better to stay together. 

But I just didn’t see how we could have a monogamous relationship after cheating on each other. He couldn’t, either.


At least if we opened our marriage we could be honest with each other if we wanted to have sex with other people.

At first, I was relieved to open our marriage.

In the beginning, I was ecstatic about having an open relationship. I could date other men and not have to lie about it. I felt incredibly relieved by this. 


I remember making a date to meet with a man and telling my husband. He wasn’t even angry about it. This was awesome!

I met up with the guy and the date went well. I ended up going home with him. It was bizarre to text my husband to let him know that I wouldn’t be home that night and to put the kids to bed himself.

Yup, I was actually letting my husband know that I was going to have sex with another man. It felt insane to do this, but it also filled me with happiness. 

I was free! Only I wasn’t.

I was still married and the truth was, I really wanted a divorce.

My husband still wanted to have sex with me even as he dated other women.

My husband also went on his first date in our open marriage. The problem was, when he came home afterward, he was still interested in being intimate with me. It was late when he slipped into bed beside me, reeking of cheap perfume. He’d clearly been physical with the woman he’d met up with.


I felt his hand on my leg. What? He expected sex with me after he’d been doing who knew what with another woman? 

“I’m not in the mood,” I snapped and he removed his hand from my leg. But why was I so offended? We had agreed to have an open marriage, hadn’t we? 

The understanding was that we’d still have sex with each other, too. But I just couldn’t do it. 

I found myself in a new relationship while still married to my husband.

I kept dating other men but finally settled into seeing a guy named Joe pretty frequently. He lived nearby, so every evening, after I put our kids to bed, I went out to see him.

One night, as I was leaving the house, my husband stopped me.


“You and Joe are like boyfriend and girlfriend, huh?”

He looked shocked. We were having an open marriage, weren’t we? This was bound to happen. Didn’t he foresee that I might actually fall for someone else?

RELATED: Don't Get Into Polyamory Until You've Honestly Answered These 5 Questions

I had fallen for Joe. I really liked him. I even considered leaving my husband for him. But I felt like we needed to get to know each other better. But still, that I was so enamored with another man shows how sick this whole situation was. 

I wasn’t polyamorous. Polyamorous people can love more than one person at once. I wanted to love only one man: a man who wasn’t my husband.


My husband didn’t want me to love anyone else but him, either. He was fine with the idea of me having sex with other men. That was all he wanted: sex with other women. But having an actual relationship with someone else? That irked my husband.

He was having an open marriage to deepen our relationship. I just kept growing farther and farther away from him. 

My husband also started a casual relationship with another woman.

My husband started dating a woman named Debbie, but they rarely saw each other. Debbie was married. Joe wasn’t. Joe and I saw each other all the time.

However, three months into our relationship, Joe suddenly broke up with me. He said he wanted to find a girlfriend who didn’t have the baggage I did. 


Oh, I had baggage. I was dragging suitcases around with me that were filled with all my problems. I couldn’t dump this extra luggage unless I left my husband. I couldn’t begin to unpack my issues unless we divorced.

It was ridiculous that I was trying to have another relationship while I was married, open marriage or not. I was stuck in this purgatory because I wouldn’t leave my husband. Joe got sick of it. I don’t blame him.

Still, it broke my heart that he dumped me. My husband wasn’t home when Joe called to say it was over. My husband was with Debbie at a hotel. 


Immediately after getting off the phone with Joe, I called my husband. I wailed into the phone, “Joe broke up with me.”

“I’m busy right now,” my husband said. “I’m on a date.”

Reality struck. I wanted to cry about my breakup on my husband’s shoulder while he was at a hotel with another woman? This was so dysfunctional! We had to end our marriage.

We finally divorced.

Soon thereafter, I told my husband I was leaving him. Yes, it was hard to make a go at it on my own. I had to enlist my father’s help to cosign on the lease of a tiny apartment in a depressed neighborhood in L.A. But this was where I moved with our kids.

Luckily, I could keep our sons in the same school. I took on more work and started earning more money. 


I didn’t have a choice. My husband lost his job and wasn’t giving me anything in child support. 

I spent a terrifying year, wondering if I was going to survive, if I could handle all my bills on my own. But at least I wasn’t lying to myself anymore, pretending that I could stay in my marriage by opening it when I really just wanted a divorce.

Our open marriage failed.

I look back now on my open marriage and wonder what I was thinking. What were we thinking? 

My husband actually believed our open marriage could work. I think I always knew that it never would.

Some people can have happy, successful open marriages. We couldn’t.

Open marriages aren’t for everyone, and they’re definitely not for me.


RELATED: The Unfiltered, Real Truth About Being In An Open Marriage

Elle Silver is a former writer for Playboy. She also spent several years right out of college writing for Larry Flynt, the late creator of Hustler. She currently writes about women’s issues for her blog Soccer Domme and relationships for her blog In Vain Asylum. Follow her on Twitter.