“Have your cake and eat it too.” It’s an old phrase to describe a person’s ability to have a good thing without having to sacrifice another (seemingly mutually exclusive) good thing. We see this with the keto versions of bread at the store. We see apps like Klarna that offer consumers the ability to stretch out their purchases into four payments. And now we’re beginning to see this with marriage: if your spouse isn’t meeting your needs, why not consider an open marriage?
What Is an Open Marriage?
An open marriage is a type of non-monogamous relationship where parties are able to have intimate relationships with persons other than their spouse. This is not the same thing as bigamy or polygamy where there is a formal commitment to more than one person. An open marriage may mean that parties are able to go on casual dates outside of the marriage, or it may mean that the parties are able to have romantic relationships outside of the marriage. The rules often vary from couple to couple. Some couples engage in a practice called “swinging” in which parties are allowed to engage in sexual activity with other people, but are not typically allowed to form romantic relationships with them. Most of the time, people do not start their marriages as open marriages. It’s typically a decision that the couple makes after the wedding. However, some couples get married with the intention of keeping their relationship open.
Does It Really Work?
There are many couples who have had success with opening their marriage. On the other hand, there are many more couples who have not enjoyed such success. Jealousy may be more likely to occur in non-monogamous relationships. Furthermore, things may become complicated if the couple has children who are involved with the extramarital partners. On the other hand, if a person has needs that one spouse cannot fulfill, an open marriage may allow the marriage to survive despite a spouse being unwilling or unable to meet their spouse’s needs. However, many people struggle to share their spouse with another person, whether romantically or sexually. And this tends to prevent couples from having success with an open marriage.
We Do Not Advise This
Many family law attorneys advise against open marriages because they have a tendency to cause more problems than they solve. If you are unsatisfied with your marriage, and your spouse is unable or unwilling to meet your needs, opening the marriage may ensure that you get your needs met, but an open marriage is far too often used as a “band-aid fix.” Open marriages may treat symptoms of the problem, but they often leave the real problem unaddressed. Furthermore, opening the marriage often creates new problems as many people struggle to cope with sharing their spouse in an intimate way, even in situations where there is open communication. These situations can also be harmful to the couple’s children in the event they learn about this behavior or other conflict arises.
We Do Advise This
Before seeking an open marriage, we highly recommend couple’s counseling. Not only will a therapist provide you with a safe space to explore solutions to marital dissatisfaction, a therapist may also be able to recommend constructive solutions to enhance you and your spouse’s marital satisfaction. If you’re considering opening your marriage because your spouse isn’t meeting your needs, it may be time to review your expectations and reflect upon them. Are your expectations realistic? Are there some things that you’d be willing to negotiate upon, or completely go without. Furthermore, have you clearly communicated your expectations to your spouse? In some situations, a couple may need to seek individual counseling as well as couples counseling in order to achieve the best. It is not recommended to open the relationship unless both parties want to engage in this behavior. Conceding to your spouse’s desires to have an open marriage can cause additional emotional and mental harm to the party not interested or comfortable with opening up the marriage.
Can All Marriages Be Saved?
Most marriages can be saved, especially when both couples are willing to make changes, improve themselves, and compromise for the sake of the marriage. However, if your spouse is unwilling or unable to meet expectations that are reasonable and very important to you, you may need to either consider how you’ll cope with those unmet expectations, or consider filing for divorce. Though most marriages can be saved, if one person is stuck in their ways and unwilling to change, it may be difficult to save the marriage. If you’ve tried everything, and nothing’s worked, it may be tempting to consider opening the marriage. However, if you feel as though the marriage could not be saved, it may be best to end the marriage so you can move forward.
No One Dies from Divorce
As we’ve previously mentioned, although many couples have had success opening their marriages, not all couples have success. If your spouse is not meeting your expectations, and you’ve tried everything to communicate your expectations and work with your spouse, it may be time to either change your expectations or file for divorce. If you’re considering filing for divorce, pick up a copy of No One Dies from Divorce today.