It seems this day-in-age, open marriages are trendy or trending. Famous people like, Dolly Parton and Carl Dean, Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith, Ethan and Ryan Hawke and Mo’Nique and Sidney Hicks are all doing it. What does this all mean? Is the sanctity of marriage going to hell in a hand basket? Are the end times upon as most religious scholars would say? Are the naturalist correct in their assertions about human behavior? Buckle up and strap in, because we are going down the rabbit hole.
First things first, definitions. There are different types of open relationships aside from the marriage aspect. You have: monogamish, swinging, and polyamory. Monogamish being mostly monogamous with a one off here and there. The term was coined by sex columnist Dan Savage. Swinging is essentially husband and wife swapping, whereas polyamory is the practice of having more than one intimate partner (intimate meaning more than just sex). These differing types of open relationships are thus created based on the set of rules each participant agrees to. Different rules equate to a different experience, which the experience part I will come back to later.
So, why the fascination with openness in a marriage? Well, I think for most people the expectation of having a long lasting traditional marriage is not realistic for all people. Aside from its success rate; we live in an age where we as a species are questioning and redefining what is really means to be human. We are waking up to the ideas of what is, fundamentally considered to be "right" and "wrong". Right and wrong, are no longer being prescribed solely by ancient religious texts, but are looked at in terms of how they are being applied given context and situation. Once the fear or guilt of merely examining an open marriage dissolves we are left with the substance of what kind of experience an open marriage or open relationship has to truly offer.
As we all know relationships are all about relating to each other and more importantly, how that interaction allows you to relate to yourself experientially. If you distill life down into its components, you have experience at its core. Experience is something you cannot take with you and can only be lived. Hence my favorite expression,
"Life is meant to be lived."
Experience is not something you can quantify or even prove in the scientific sense. It's something that is observed, with you being front and center, which makes being sentient and human all the more interesting. The "right" and "wrong" aspect to experience have a lot to do with whether the experience was desirable (right) or undesirable (wrong) and whether that desirability applies to you in both roles as the observer and the participant. My apologies if that is too abstract, but I think it's fundamental if you are seriously thinking about having an open marriage or an open relationship. It aligns really closely with the golden rule,
"Do onto others as you would have done onto you."
If you are okay with opening your relationship, it's only fair that you allow your partner to do the same. The ground rules are incidentals, in which setup the pretext and foundation for what each person believes is desirable and undesirable.
To beg this question of right and wrong further, think... each partner you've had gave you a different experience in love. I can honestly say for myself that each person I have been with and loved, I had a different experience of love. Does it make sense for me to say that one love was "right" or the other conversely "wrong" because one ended or lasted longer? Of course not! If anything it expanded my observations of what love can symbolize and mean, which I'm grateful for.
Now with all the pseudo-philosophy mostly out of the way, most people entertain the possibility of an open marriage, because they see a way for themselves to gain a new exciting experience from it. For men, sex (but not limited to). For women intimacy (but not limited to). Regardless of the reason, it's okay. Just know that with all experiences, some doors open and others close. That what makes the experience real. This is were you hear stories about open marriages or relationships being the best thing ever, or going horribly wrong. It's hard to say what each person wanted, because as the openness of their relationship took shape, ideas about what is desirable evolved. Open marriages follow the same logic only more is at stake (on the upside and downside) because of the legal and economic implications as well as if those involved are actually introspective enough to understand what they are experiencing.
I cannot answer the question as to whether or not open marriages or open relationship are for you. If you want to read stories about what worked for people making this choice, there are plenty. However, I hope that I have at least gotten you to ask some more questions of yourself. Of course there is only one way to actually know and that is, life is meant to be lived!
If this only deepened your curiosity further, join our online marriage support group and ask others what they think. As always, I only offer a perspective and there is a sea of others perspectives that might be more compatible with the experience you wish to seek.