What To Do When Your Partner Asks For An Open Marriage

March 30, 2018  |  
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Having your partner ask for an open marriage can definitely knock the wind out of you. For some people, it can feel like they’ve never really known who their partner was, all along—like his asking for an open relationship is his way of revealing some secret identity. It can also, for some people, feel like admitting failure. You may think, “Hold on so—remember when we first got together? When we had that I want to be exclusive talk…You want to undo that?” It can feel like breaking a contract or taking back an agreement. For some couples, unfortunately, if one person so much as hints at the idea of having an open relationship, the relationship falls apart entirely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Didn’t you agree, when you got together, to hear each other out, and do the best you can to meet each other’s needs? Dismissing the open relationship talk entirely doesn’t respect that agreement, either. So here it is: when your partner asks for an open marriage.



It’s not about his level of attraction to you

First, understand that your partner’s desire for an open marriage is not indicative of some declining attraction to you. He can find other people attractive, and still find you very attractive. In fact, that has always been true and has probably always been going on.


Remember, he could have cheated

Give your partner a little credit: he could have just started sleeping with other people, not told you, and disrespected you in that way. But he doesn’t want to humiliate or lie to you. That’s why he is bringing this up.


Know he isn’t a freak for asking

You should also know that your partner isn’t some sex fiend or freak for wanting this. In fact, most men are at least a little keen on the idea of an open marriage. It’s in their nature. He just has the guts to admit it.

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Is this a symptom of deeper issues?

It’s important to ask your partner why he wants this. He could give you a variety of answers, but the important thing is that those answers don’t have anything to do with problems in your relationship. If his answers have to do with seeking something positive rather than avoiding something negative, that’s what you want to hear.

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Know that it’s just a band-aid

I mention the last point because polyamory cannot save a relationship that is on the rocks. In fact, most relationship counselors agree that only very strong, solid, stable relationships should attempt open relationships. Polyamory is usually the straw that breaks the camel’s back for already rocky partnerships.

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Consider how long you’ve been together

If you have been together for several decades then, well, this isn’t totally out of the ordinary. But if you’ve only been married for, say, five years, then this is not exactly what you signed up for. Your partner’s request for this so early on could be a sign of his discontent in the marriage.

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Remember, it’s just a discussion

Don’t freak out: it’s just a discussion. Your partner is allowed to bring things up, just as you are allowed to bring things up. Too many people react to their partner’s suggestion of an open marriage as if their partner is insisting on one, or has even already started pursuing one.


You don’t have to participate

Some people hesitate at the idea of an open marriage simply because they don’t want the pressure of dating and seeing other people. But you can actually tailor this to be whatever works for you. You don’t have to see other people just because your partner does.


But, are you okay if only he does?

Of course, there is a caveat to that last point: are you okay with just your partner seeing other people? Or would you feel like he was getting a free ride? It’s okay to admit it if that’s how you feel. It’s better to admit that now, then to pretend you’re okay with this all, and wind up resenting your partner.

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Ask what that would mean to him

Ask your partner exactly how he envisions this open marriage. Do you go to swinger’s parties together? Or, do you perhaps not want to ever see or know the other people your partner sleeps with? Do you have to approve of them? Can they have repeat encounters? Again, there is no one way to have an open marriage.

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Make sure everyone’s needs are met

In the most successful open marriages, the primary couple always makes one another feel like the top priority. The openness of things never interferes with their obligations, commitments, or attention toward one another.

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Is it a deal breaker for him?

Is it a deal breaker for your partner if this doesn’t happen? Too many people jump to the conclusion that their partner will leave them if they don’t agree to this. Many men are okay with you saying no. They’d rather be monogamous with you than not with you at all.


Is it a deal breaker for you?

Even though you shouldn’t jump down your partner’s throat for bringing this up, you should admit to yourself if you find it very troubling that he did. Maybe this conversation shows you that you could benefit from couples counseling or that you at least have some things to talk about. But if this really disturbed you, you can’t pretend it never happened.


Take time to mull it over

However you decide to approach the matter, just don’t rush things. An open marriage is a difficult thing to take back. Nobody can undo the things they do in an open relationship. This isn’t something to be impulsive about.

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Talk to couples who have tried it

Chat with couples who have tried open marriages. Chat with those who tried it, and wound up breaking up. Talk to those who are happily in them. Talk to those who tried it and went back to monogamy. Why not make use of the information that’s out there?

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