Help! I Want an Open Relationship

March 17, 2011  |  

A few weeks ago I wrote Open Relationships: Is It The Way to Go? And the article created much buzz and discussion. People asked me whether I advocated open relationships. And my response was this: “Whether I advocate them or not is irrelevant. But what I do advocate is knowledge and healthy relationships based on a foundation of honest communication.”

Shortly after the article, I received an email from a young woman (married 5 years) that expressed concerns about her desire to sleep with a male friend. She wrote this: “I’ve always found monogamy to be kind of unrealistic and stifling. I’ve never understood why I can have lots of friends but only one lover. But I’ve always kept these thoughts to myself because I was afraid what people would think. I love my husband and I don’t want a divorce. But I constantly find myself thinking about one of my guy friends. He’s a great person. I fantasize about him and I enjoy spending time with him. This is weighing heavy on my heart and I’ve gone into therapy. I would never cheat on my husband, but I feel like I’m already cheating on him because of my thoughts. Is there something wrong with me? What should I do?”

This story isn’t uncommon. I’ve talked with countless individuals that have expressed desire to sleep with another person (even though they’re happy and in love with their current partner). And I’ve spoken with individuals that believe they are in love with more than one person. Do I think there’s something wrong with them? No.

The model of heterosexual, monogamous relationships is a lifestyle that has been sanctioned by society, religion, and the law as the only acceptable type of sexual relationship. As a result, most people find it hard to understand or accept any other way of life. In fact, we are so heavily socialized to believe in the ideals of monogamy and marriage (despite the divorce rate and statistics on cheating), that many people cannot even imagine any other option. But the reality is that many successful models, other than traditional monogamy, do exist.

Ultimately I told this young woman that she needed to speak openly and honestly with her husband about her feelings and thoughts. I offered advice, encouragement and asked her to follow-up with me. I’m curious to see if she and her husband will decide to explore the possibility of an open relationship. I explained to her that open relationships, just like monogamous relationships, take work. And having a successful open relationship/marriage is not easy- but it is not an impossibility.

What’s sad about this situation is that many people will chastise her. Many people want to believe or argue that all people who desire open relationships are just “unrealistic” and looking for a reason to “ho around.” I think this is a very ignorant point of view. This woman clearly states that she loves her husband and doesn’t want to get a divorce. Would it be better for her to say nothing, smile in her husband’s face, and continue to feel tormented because she’s secretly fantasizing about her guy friend?

I commend this young woman for seeking advice, therapy, and for not just acting on her desires without trying to gain clearer understanding and perspective. Her actions speak volumes about her character. The conversation with her husband won’t be easy, but I’m happy she’s willingly to put in the hard work to be a better wife and person.

Interestingly enough,  many people cling to the idea of monogamy, yet cheat and have extramarital affairs. And perhaps it is this, more than anything else, that puts many people off to the idea of open relationships: Cheating is simply easier.

What would you do if your partner wanted to discuss having an open relationship?

What if you were the one that wanted an open relationship? Would you tell your partner how you felt- or keep the thoughts to yourself?

If you liked this article and want to know more about our writer, Dr. Phoenyx Austin, fan her on Facebook! Dr. Phoenyx is a physician, writer, & media personality. She is a young woman living passionately and truthfully- hoping to empower, educate, and entertain readers through her witty, straightforward commentary on love, relationships, sex, and hot topics. She is also currently working on her first fiction book- a psychological thriller.

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  • smooch

    I got married to my lovely husband over a year ago but unfortunately i felt in love wih my co worker we felt in love gradually and i still love him, i was always mentioning him in front of my husband and he always made joke of it until i told him i want to sleep wih him. He got upset and he wont be able to be in open relationship. I know i have to forget that guy somehow hopefully it will gradually cease. it is very stupid situaton to be in. Our other coworkes saw we are madly in love and they strongly disagreed as i am married but i still tried to point it out to my husband but i guess i have to let go.

  • Sarcastic

    Remember, it is not theft if you hand over the goods!

  • Megs

    As a woman who's been married for 5 yrs, in a completely open relationship I will say this…. It has done only good things for my marriage. It's indescribable to be in a relationship with my husband that involves no jealousy only 100% honesty. I love my husband more than I can say and this is a decision we've mutually agreed upon and believe we're better people for it. And yes, I'm completely ok with my husband sleeping with other women bc I know he's coming home to me at night. A 1 sided open relationship rarely works.

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  • chocolatebutterfli

    I think it is crazy to go with the flow of an open relationship simply because cheating and affairs are occurring. The problem is people don't cherish marriage like in the past, so why on earth would we change our beliefs simply because of individuals that want to cheat or have affairs. It is crazy to encourage this woman to tell her husband she wants to sleep with her buddy, and as stated above I am sure she wont be so willing to accept him sleeping with multiple women. Just because I want a denali doesn't mean I am gonna go out and get one in spite of my finances, same thing applies, if your married you don't go out and sleep around just because its what you want to do.

  • taylabo

    @LidiaAnain i agree 100% and im married

  • LidiaAnain

    I'm going to regret posting a comment to this site. I know I am because all the comments here are usually very negative attacks on the authors and topics. Funny how few comments you'll find on the positive posts here. But wait I think this is a positive post but I am one of those sick sinners that needs Jesus because I believe in open relationships.

    First off, like the author said IT IS EASIER TO CHEAT or get a divorce. It takes so much courage to approach your life partner and knowing that what you want might hurt them. It takes a strong man or woman to sit down and listen to your desire, take it in and come to a decision with you. Yes, nobody puts a gun to your head to get married but after you do maybe you want to experience something else sexually or maybe your partner can't meet your needs in every way. To me it is unnatural to expect any one person to be your everything. We as humans are way too dynamic for that to be possible.

    FYI – not all open relationships are purely about partners getting off sexually. There are many dynamics to open relationships…MANY!

    Okay, y'all can get back to being close minded and negative…

    • At the risk of sounding a bit biased- I'm going to have to agree with you 100%. LOL. Thanks for checking out my article, and being courageous enough to put a face with a comment 😉

  • Igbo-boy

    This is Nonesense and should feel bad for even posting this. This is America right? You choose to get married and to one person; nobody had a gun to her head to do that and if thats not what you want get a divorce. This is just stupid seriously

  • Sarita Alexander

    If both people agree that an open relationship is what is best for them, then okay. it's their business. the truth is, a lot of people cheat (yes, some with multiple partners) rather than have this conversation and give it a try. I don't think it's fair to say it's sinful – that's what your religion tells you. There are many, many things outlined as being 'sinful' in christianity, and most people have done them. A sin is a sin, stop pretending someone ele's are worse than yours.

  • Garbage Man

    Wow, this has to be one of the worst articles I have ever read. "Many people cheat and have extramarital affairs." Yes, and many people honor their covenant marriage with God and their spouse. To espouse the idea of an open relationship in a marriage is just absurd, ignorant and plain sinful. I agree with Purple, please stop this nonsense!!! Just because an article creates buzz and discussion does not necessarily mean that it is good.

  • Purple

    This world is such a sinful place….The author of the article and the woman in the article BOTH need Jesus! It is one thing to sin (cheat) it is a whole OTHER thing to act is if your sin is ok….#stopthenonsense

    • Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Would you call the many men in the bible who were considered prophets sinners who had multiple wives.

  • Theresa K

    I won't state my viewpoint on the whole idea of open marriages, but i will aske this question–if her husband agrees to these arrangements, is she okay with him being with multiple other women? See, many times it's all about what we want when we want it, but when it comes to the other party doing the same that is when we take issue. So, I would like her to put the shoe on both feet and be honest with how she would feel.

    BTW, I do agree with the above posts as well. Especially if the guy isn't what she is dreaming he is sexually. I cringe at the thought of such a horrid let-down.