Open marriage may have been outright taboo not that long ago, but it’s a concept many at least find fascinating nowadays. Nonetheless, the majority of those into the lifestyle still get the side-eye when people hear that peculiar little detail about their relationship.
Many of us who either stan the idea of open relationships or see it as too much of a deviation mostly see it from too narrow an angle. Like every relationship, consensual non-monogamy has its pros and cons. But often, we have people judging it by one or the other.
Whether you wonder what could possibly be the disadvantage of eating your cake and having it, in marriage no less. Or, if you don’t know enough about open relationships to make an informed decision on it, this post should help.
Below, I highlight what you can call the positives and negatives of opening your love life up against the conventional rubrics—although their occurrence is hardly ever in black and white.
Table of Contents
Starting with the most popular one on the list—yes, the sex really can be as advertised. Imagine being married to someone who loves and is primarily committed to you and still able to get your freak on with and without them without technically stepping out.
Not every encounter will be the best sex they’ve ever had. But the sense of newness and adventure can make even the wack ones worthwhile.
Although each couple usually has to set their rules on how far their relations with other partners can go, it still culminates in more fun than most married couples get. They don’t have to worry about eating the same fruit for the rest of their lives, a significant source of anxiety for those in committed monogamous relationships.
It’s no news that many of the secrets that end up hurting relationships and marriages have to do with sex and intimacy. Either because one or both spouses are too conservative to get to the down and dirty deets of their sexual taste. (An unspoken choice many people make to project a ‘normal’ persona and be considered marriageable.)
Or, because they believe their husband or wife wouldn’t understand, among others. Unfortunately, these things they are too embarrassed or afraid to share with their s/o find other ways to surface, often leading to affairs and/or resentment in marriages.
In open relationships, partners are encouraged to lay it all out in the open from the start, so they are more comfortable sharing the touchy stuff.
I can’t say who coined the term ‘open relationship’, but it couldn’t be more apt. Given effective communication is an issue most couples struggle with, it goes on the pro list for thriving open marriages because honing that skill is key to everything not going to hell.
Being honest with each other consistently is the only way to assuage whatever insecurities their extramarital activities might bring up. Learning to communicate their needs, feelings, and limits effectively leads to fewer disagreements and improve the odds of attracting high-quality like-minded playmates.
Considering the continued well-being of the primary commitment is the universal goal in open relationships, we can say improving communication is one of its ground rules. Consistently checking in with one another is practically a given. Also, the practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes one better at anything.
In addition to helping to polish one’s communication skills, an open relationship can also bring about a higher degree of personal awareness and development.
While there are people who experiment with open relationships, those who go as far as to adapt the style in marriage tend to do so for reasons other than just being late. When you’ve developed a taste for pursuing your own happiness despite what society might think about it, it’s hard to go back.
And that mentality can easily spill beyond just how you approach marriage but relationships in general. You realize that it’s okay to have needs and pursue them. You get more out of life because you’re more empowered to express yourself. And the best part, the connections you form are more likely to be the ones you want rather than just out of obligation.
No matter how close to perfect your husband or wife is. One person can never be everything to you, nor should they be. Although it comes down to the boundaries the couples set, open relationship rules are still less restrictive in terms of getting your needs met than traditional ones.
Even if you choose not to pursue sex or intimacy with someone else, just knowing that you have the option with your spouse’s consent no less is a boon. And to think it’s not just one appetite being fed here, but several.
For instance, by meeting more people and having more sex, you’d be simultaneously fulfilling social and psychological needs like self-enhancement, pleasure, and maybe even attachment.
Meanwhile, freedom works both ways. Just as an open relationship allows you to pursue your interests outside of your primary one, your partner is also allowed to satisfy cravings you can’t or won’t indulge. Even if you happen to like all of the same things, you won’t always be in the same mood, and the tenets of open marriage say that shouldn’t keep either party from getting theirs.
Where monogamy basically throws stuff at the wall hoping one stick in that you hope your partner against their nature stays faithful to you, open relationships are more proactive. Think of it as a preemptive measure against cheating, or giving each other your blessings to ethically have your needs met instead of feeling guilty or anxious about what they may or may not be getting.
Another significant pro of open marriages is its potential for minimizing if not totally eliminating tedium in the long term. Every relationship goes through a lull, of course, but you are less likely to get bored when you occasionally explore with different people than with just one. It’s simple math.
Your experience from intentionality to intimacy and overall satisfaction is likely to be more diverse when you have multiple sources than one person could ever supply. In an open marriage, you get the pros of having a core relationship, but fewer of the cons that come with such commitments long-term, like getting tired of each other.
All the pros on this list are ideally supposed to be towards one goal: strengthening the foundation of the core relationship. While some people tend to make light of non-monogamous couples’ relationships like they don’t love each other enough or something, the reverse actually seems to be the case.
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The motivation behind the freedom in an open relationship is more correlative with the philosophy of “if you love something, set it free.” Beyond being in on your arcane lifestyle together, the fact that you get to share the experience without letting it change how you relate with one another unlocks new levels of closeness.
Again, about the sex. I’ve talked about the diversity factor, which on a purely numerical level, is worth getting excited about. But then, there’s also the added benefit that is the aftereffect of knowing your boyfriend or girlfriend is getting it good from someone else out there.
If such information comes to light in more traditional relationships, that might be hard to get past. However, here, the forbidden nature of your side dealings and the fact that you are both in on it is an actual turn-on that lights up the passion in your private sex life.
If you agree that all relationships take effort, you can understand how much more of a requirement it will be in managing more than one partner. The whole notion of ethical non-monogamy is based on both primary parties consistently making the right choices for their marriage, which is more complex than it seems on paper.
Doing the hard work of building a stable, trusting relationship alone can take some couples a lifetime. Let alone opening it up to other imperfect people like themselves and risking a teardown from within.
An open relationship will test all you’ve been programmed to believe, and mistakes inevitably made along the way will shake the very core of the marriage you’re meant to protect.
As far as cons go in open relationships, feelings are perhaps, the most pervasive ones because we are all human, after all. Your emotions will be one of the most resilient battles you will have to fight to succeed at consensual non-monogamy. For instance, jealousy won’t disappear just because you find the relationship style reasonable.
There’s a reason so few people (four percent of adults) are managing to pull consensual non-monogamy off despite the growing popularity. It’s because discussing it is one thing, but actually living the reality of your spouse being intimate with another person is more daunting.
It takes emotional intelligence, lots of it, to sustain an open marriage, but even at that, things can get muddled up real fast. You know how people are with feelings, it’s easy to get carried away in all the passion and attention. What ought to be a side interest, something to do together to spice up your relationship, can end up clouding your judgment and make you lose focus.
Yes, there are usually boundaries set for this exact reason, but those are based on the premise that both parties stay logical at all times. You can see how that can be an issue amid a whirlwind of passion and adventure.
Another angle not often explored in discussions about the pros and cons of an open relationship is the resources that actually go into sustaining the lifestyle. Most people have their hands full with monogamy, imagine having to split between two other relationships on the side while still trying to maintain everyday life.
The time, energy, and money that go into keeping all parties happy in an open relationship can be better utilized if they are less spread out.
As it stands, a large percentage of people who hear you are in an open marriage think you're some sex-crazed people taking it a little too far. They think your relationship is all about threesomes and orgies with no real-life problems.
Then there’s the stigma that accompanies the stereotype where they assume you chose an open relationship/marriage because you’re either perverted, insecure, incapable, or all of the above.
For those who can move past the social stigma, among other cons, there’s still the matter of being forced to live a separate life. Society isn't exactly welcoming the idea of consensual non-monogamy with open arms yet, which can be an issue when the going gets rough.
In most cases, besides the main couple and their partners, maybe a few friends know about the details of their relationship, half of whom only care about the fantasy part. Some things you just wish you can run by your Mom or aunt, but you know they'd never understand.
In fact, two couples in open relationships can run in the same circle and not know because of how tightlipped people usually are about it for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, all this means the needed validation you get from knowing having a village of a support system as is practically established for conventional couples is not there. Not in the same way.
A relationship based on honest, tell-all communication is obviously the goal, but there's some information you just don't want to share. Details you omit not because you're trying to cheat on your husband or wife, but you'd just be more comfortable that way.
However, not knowing things can put your significant other on edge in an open relationship because checking in is how they know you're still on the same page. Remember, people who practice non-monogamy aren't bred differently, they are as prone to slipping as anyone.
Even the most successful ones are still a work in progress, so they need to reassure one another continuously, which takes consistent transparency. Unfortunately, that can sometimes violate both party’s right to privacy in the relationship.
Perhaps, the biggest argument against a couple having an open relationship is the high rate of failure among those that lead to marriage. This is probably due to jealousy or lack of true love. Although, it’s worth noting that the statistics on open relationships, especially marriage, should be taken with a pinch of salt as they are drawn from a limited sample size for the aforementioned secrecy concerns.
That said, a 2010 study found that only about eight percent of open marriages make it, meaning 92% of the time, it ends in divorce.
Considering divorce rates keep climbing even among exclusive couples, I suppose it helps not to get carried away by the numbers and focus on the relationship instead. Like the polyamorists next door put it, monogamy or not, adults sometimes divorce.
It’s hard to say for sure the divorce rate in open marriages as the whole concept is still very much shrouded in secrecy. Keep in mind that the few who are vocal about their experiences in open relationships are not representative of the majority. It is speculated that 92% of open marriages end in divorce.
Experts say married couples in open relationships can be every bit as happy as their monogamous counterparts. The idea is that it’s not opening a relationship that determines its fate as the foundation it’s built upon, and the effort put into maintaining it.
Some people try their hands at an open relationship and find it’s exactly what they need. Whereas the same attempt can be catastrophic for other marriages.
Any open relationship/marriage is only as strong and healthy as the relationship at its core. There is nothing wrong with being non-monogamous as long as all parties involved know what they are getting into and set clear rules to keep them grounded.
However, going into polyamorous relationships hoping they’ll solve underlying problems is an unhealthy move that’ll most likely end in tears.
Though there are no hard and fast guidelines for open marriages, it is recommended for all such relationships to prioritize and respect their primary connection in all they do. Boundaries around how far each partner can go sexually and emotionally are also advised. Other than that, the rest of the rules are what you make it.
Some people consider open relationships in marriage to spice things up sexually. Your husband could be craving variety, or it’s just one more thing he wants to check off his list. Consider having a conversation with him to know for sure what his motivations are.
There you have it, the pros and cons of open marriages. Hopefully, this clears things up a bit on what goes on within non-monogamous relationships. It’s worth remembering that polyamorous relationship styles can be every bit as varied as the more traditional alternatives, too, so as not to keep lumping them all in a box.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and share the post if you found it helpful or even remotely interesting.
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