How to Know if an Open Marriage Is Right for You
In This Article
You might be hearing the term, open marriage, for the first time. Or, you may have heard of and experienced it before.
For some, open marriages are the perfect idea of bliss. But the reverse is true for others. While some can thrive in an open marriage, others can’t. That is why you must understand your preferences and approach them from an enlightened perspective; if you decide to attempt them at all.
In this article, we will take a quick look at different open marriage meaning open marriage rules and also examine the best practices to get the best out of them if you eventually decide to walk this path.
What is an open marriage?
In the last few years, ethical non-monogamy (ENM) has become a more widely accepted phenomenon worldwide. Ethical non-monogamy is being emotionally or physically involved with more than one person simultaneously.
The major difference here is that in the case of ENM, all your partners know and consent to this unique relationship dynamic.
An open marriage is a form of ENM in which partners seek to establish external connections apart from their significant other, albeit with the knowledge and consent of their partner. Usually, open marriage aims to establish sexual connections beyond a significant other, explore one’s options, and (maybe) have fun at the same time.
Open marriages are built on effective communication, a clear understanding of boundaries, and the ability to prioritize one’s partner (the one they are married to) above and beyond every external sexual/emotional connection they may have established with others.
Back to statistics. A recent survey revealed that about a quarter of eligible Americans are interested in open relationships in 2023; even open marriages. This is a sign that open marriages and relationships generally might be here to stay.
If you ever decide to walk the path of an open marriage, you must intentionally decide to make the most of it. You’ll learn how in the next sections of this article.
How to have a successful open marriage
Now that we have established that open marriages are more common than you may have thought, the next question you may ask is how to deal with an open marriage.
Do open marriages work and how?
In a nutshell, maintaining an open marriage takes as much work as a conventional one. The first step is to mentally and emotionally prepare for the unique dynamics of an open marriage.
Then again, there are unspoken rules of an open marriage. To succeed, you must identify all these rules and follow them to the letter. This is the only guarantee that you won’t lose your significant other while keeping an open marriage.
In the next section of this article, we will be going over some ground rules you must adhere to if you want to have a successful open marriage.
5 rules for a successful open marriage
Strong rules guide healthy open relationships. To improve your chances of success in these types of relationships, you must understand the rules and play by them. Here are the 5 top rules you must keep in mind.
1. Prioritize your partner
As we have already established, any other marriage or relationship you’ll try to pursue (away from your significant other) should serve as an accompaniment.
Bear in mind that one of the main demerits of pursuing an open marriage is the knowledge that your partner can soon slip into a place of anger and/or resentment toward you – especially if they’re not on board with the idea of open marriages.
Intentionally prioritize your partner. The time you spend with them must not dwindle because you suddenly see someone else on the side. They must never feel neglected or unwanted because they have found someone else to spend more of their time with.
The aim of an open marriage is to spice up your love life with your partner, not replace them.
Suggested video: How to be a priority, not an option.
2. Effective communication is key
Another factor determining the success or failure of an open marriage is how well both partners can communicate their needs and desires in the marriage. Any attempts at having an open marriage can be considered null if your partner isn’t in the loop.
From the start, you must talk about the terms with your partner. What do you seek in an open marriage? Do you need to explore other parts of your sex life? Do you just want to spend more time and establish a deep emotional connection with someone else?
You must have open conversations before you set up an open marriage.
Some pertinent questions include, “do we both want this?” You’ll experience serious opposition if both of you aren’t on the same page concerning having an open marriage.
While communicating with your partner, clearly define the terms of your open marriage. How many times a week are you allowed to see the other person? Is this a joint adventure (where you will only see the other person when you mutually agree)?
Talk terms. Is your partner allowed to see more than one person simultaneously? Do you have to approve of whoever they want to see before they can proceed?
Are they allowed to have fun with random people or do they have to stick with the person you agree with? What happens if one of you suddenly becomes uncomfortable with the idea of having an open marriage? These and more are some topics you must cover while communicating terms and expectations.
While at it, you must also talk about safety. How do you guard against STIs? How do you protect yourselves from getting struck by any life-threatening health challenges? It would help if you had the health conversation as often as possible to get it out of the way.
Open marriages may not be for you until you’re comfortable having uncomfortable health conversations.
Every relationship thrives based on effective and constant communication. Considering the ever-changing nature of open marriages, you must be willing and ready to keep your partner in the loop as the relationship evolves.
Now that you have talked about modalities, it is time to perform your research.
Having an open marriage might seem pretty straightforward, but it goes beyond having a random fling with another person you meet. Hence, you must understand the different types of open marriages, what to expect of your partner, and how to manage expectations in these unique marriages.
Don’t limit your research to conventional modes only. If you have open-minded parents and older loved ones, talking to them might be a good way to start your research. Seek their honest opinion and let them in on your plans. Permit them to share their honest and unbiased feedback with you.
Books are another place to turn to when you seek verifiable information on how to have an open marriage. Consult with relevant books on the subject and listen to perspectives from experts.
At the same time, consider getting into mutual groups (physical or virtual) and listening to others share their experiences with open marriages. It helps to get into this type of relationship knowing what to expect and hearing others who have been there talk about their experiences.
Related Reading: 10 Most Common Reasons for Divorce
4. What will the sleeping arrangements be?
It is necessary to define this as you attempt to get into an open marriage. Sleeping over goes beyond just warming a bed because it can easily be interpreted as expressing how much you love or appreciate someone. Hence, talk about sleeping arrangements with your partner.
How many nights are you allowed to spend at your other partner’s house per week or month? If you have children, you may want to consider their feelings as you make this decision.
Different couples will have different approaches to these. For some, spending some nights a week with the other partner is okay, as long as it happens at an agreed time. Others may prefer that their partner comes home by the end of each night, maybe for the sake of their kids.
Some people may be okay with their partners going on short vacations with their lovers, while others may not. The key to enjoying your open marriage is to understand the uniqueness of your relationship and work with preferences both of you have agreed on.
Related Reading: 5 Tips to Enjoy a Night’s Sleep Without Crossing Your Partner
5. All your partners must feel appreciated, loved, and celebrated
These three factors contribute to the health and satisfaction of every relationship. Your relationship with one must not make the other feel cheated or neglected by you. Hence, you must think about the best way to make everyone feel loved and seen by you before you attempt to get into an open marriage.
Please keep in mind that your other partner is not a second-class citizen.
Even though you may be married to your primary partner, share a home with them, or have shared responsibilities that may force you to spend more time with them, ensure you treat your secondary partner(s) with all the love and respect that they deserve.
To accomplish this, communication is key. It would help if you were open about your feelings with your partners. Make a habit of telling them how much they mean to you. Spend quality time with them when you’re with them.
Never make your partner feel like you’re thinking about the other person when you hang out. Take each of them private dates when you can. Give them unique experiences that reassure them of your feelings.
To continue enjoying your open marriage, you must treat all your partners like kings/queens.
One last thing to do to make your open marriage work is to learn to read the room. If your primary partner begins to drop signs that show they’re uncomfortable with the open marriage arrangement, you may want to reassess your stance.
One thing to note about open relationships is that they are constantly evolving.
Your partner’s feelings about open marriages may change tomorrow. Hence, you must consistently read the room – even when they say everything is alright. Call off an open marriage when your partner becomes uncomfortable with the whole arrangement.
Related Reading: 10 Characteristics of a Good Partner
Some commonly asked questions
Open marriages might seem confusing and raise certain questions in your mind. Here are a few questions that can help clarify some of your doubts
What is an open marriage?
An open marriage definition describes it as a form of ethical non-monogamy where married partners mutually agree to start seeing other people away from the one they are married to.
Open marriages aim to help them establish deep connections with others; these connections can be sexual or deeply emotional.
How do I know that an open marriage is right for me?
Let’s establish one fact. You can know if an open marriage is for you or not. One of the first steps to take is to evaluate yourself.
Do you fancy the idea of exploring life beyond your partner? Do you see yourself connecting with another person? Would you like to explore another live/romantic interest that is not your partner? Open marriage would not be for you if you answered ‘no’ to most of those questions.
Another way to know for sure is to speak to a non-monogamous therapist. Doing this allows you to tap into their knowledge (as a licensed therapist) and experience (as one in a non-monogamous relationship). These conversations will come in handy as you make the final decision.
What percentage of open marriages survive?
Research says that about 92% of open marriages eventually fail. While these numbers are disturbing, they mostly depend on the unique situations of the marriages involved.
If you are convinced that having an open marriage is the right thing to do, don’t be afraid to give it a shot. You have to be on the same page with your partner and be committed to making it work.
It takes a lot of work to maintain an open marriage. The first step is to define if it is the right thing for you. One mistake you don’t want to make is to get into an open relationship because you feel pressured to do so.
Marital counseling will be vital as you settle into your new relationship dynamics. Please reach out for some professional help where necessary.
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