Why So Many Long-Term Couples Get Into Open Marriages

October 7, 2019  |  
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open marriages pros and cons

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Those in open marriages are becoming more, well, open about it. I often meet couples who are quick to tell me that they are in an open marriage. It seems that the social understanding is that we are to accept arrangements like open marriages, swinging, and polyamory very much in the same way we welcome our LGBTQ community. They’re just doing love and sex in the way that feels most natural to them. I do find it fascinating though. Any time large groups of people start to go against “the norm,” you have to wonder: what drives them? What’s the incentive? It’s never exactly easy to do the opposite of what society expects of you, so when you do, there’s probably a very good reason. I spoke to some of the couples I know who are doing love and sex the non-traditional way, and here’s what I learned about why so many long-term couples turn to things like swinging and open marriages.

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Sex doesn’t=love

Many individuals feel that sex and love do not have to go hand in hand, and in fact that they don’t go hand in hand. They don’t believe that a sexual encounter with one person is a betrayal to their primary partner because there were no emotions involved. Some couples only require emotional fidelity to feel content.

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To stay in it for the kids

It’s common for married couples with children to try an open marriage as a way of staying together, to keep the family together. Rather than start to resent their partner and grow unhappy in their home (certainly not a good dynamic for the kids), they agree to see other people, and that manages to keep the equilibrium in the household.

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To stay in it. At all.

Some couples would rather explore non-traditional arrangements than get a divorce. They feel that the rules and regulations of marriage are very constricting, and almost push people into divorce. They don’t want to be one of those couples who are forced into divorce, all because they don’t do things exactly as they’re “supposed to.” So they stray, in order to stay.

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Jealousy sparks passion

A little jealousy can go a long way in reigniting that passion. That feeling of needing to fight to keep someone sort of goes away when you’ve been married for decades. Open marriages reintroduce feelings of jealousy into a marriage—perhaps to just a healthy degree—that can bring back the passion.

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It’s better than cheating

It’s common for a couple to get to a point where each person wants to sleep with other people, but doesn’t want to lose the primary relationship, and certainly doesn’t want to lie and sneak around behind the person they love. An open marriage removes the elements of betrayal for extramarital sexual encounters.

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It’s better than worrying about cheating

Knowing one’s partner is sleeping with other individuals can be better than worrying that he might, and not admit it. For many, getting into swinging or having an open marriage is just a way of keeping everything out in the open. No secrets. No wondering.

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Life is long for just one partner

Life is quite long to be with just one partner. And remember, older generations didn’t do the whole have three serious relationships and live with several boyfriends before getting married at age 36 thing like millennials are doing. Some such couples may have been married for forty years by the time they turn 60. That is, truly, a very long time to be with just one person.

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Less pressure on their sex life

It’s common for long-term couples to feel their sex life declining, and to feel a lot of anxiety around that. It happened to my partner and I. We honestly have come to terms with the fact that we don’t do it every day anymore, but some couples feel something is truly wrong if they don’t have an active sex life. Sometimes, however, the love is still there, but the sexual desire comes and goes. Green lighting external sexual encounters can remove those fears of, “Am I blue balling my partner?!”

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The mystery reignites a spark

A sense of mystery—of wondering what your partner is up to and whether or not he was with someone else that night—can reignite the spark for some individuals. Long-term couples otherwise tend to know exactly what the other person is doing, at all hours.

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Getting their sexual needs met

Sometimes, a pair just develops conflicting sexual tastes over the years. If one individual needs BDSM to feel satisfied and the other gets no pleasure from it, the two may decide they’re allowed to look elsewhere to get those needs met.

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Getting their emotional needs met

When it comes to polyamory or open marriages in which an emotional, external relationship is allowed, there are reasons for that, too. We’re never going to get literally everything we need from one person. Sometimes, a couple decides to allow for additional romantic entanglements so that each and every emotional or intellectual need is met of both parties.

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They can learn to appreciate each other again

Many couples find that by being with other people, they learn to appreciate each other again. They remember all the things they find intoxicating and fascinating about one another, through comparison of being with others.

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Sexuality is a spectrum

Some would say that everyone is bisexual, at least to some degree. If that is true, then there’s no way monogamy could be completely satisfying for everybody. Some couples begin open marriages so that every party can satisfy each side of their sexuality.

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They still like a core relationship

As for why couples get into non-traditional arrangements rather than just splitting up, it’s because they do like that core relationship. They like a life partner and a companion with whom they have history and routines.

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They possibility need to feel fulfilled

Ultimately, many long-term couples can begin to feel depressed if they believe they know exactly what life has in store for them, forever. They need possibility in the air in order to feel happy. And for them, an open marriage delivers that feeling of possibility.

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