Open marriages often get a bad rap by those that don't understand them. As is the case with any personal preference, open marriages provides both partners an arrangement that meets their specific needs. These relationships are ideal for those that agree they want to explore a different type of relationship with a partner who shares their values and romantic goals.
In fact, several celebrity couples reportedly have open marriages, including Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith and comedian Mo'Nique and her husband Sidney Hicks.
Read on for answers to commonly asked questions about open marriages.
What Is An Open Marriage?
Loosely defined by its non-monogamous agreement, an open marriage allows both partners to engage in some degree of intimate relationship with an outside party without it being considered infidelity.
Is an Open Marriage the Same As Cheating?
Not at all! The reason that an open marriage is designated as such is because both people have agreed to a structure that both want. This means that both people know they want to have the open to seek intimate relationships outside of the marriage and agree to ground rules that will govern how this process happens.
What Are The "Rules" Of Open Marriage?
They are different for everyone, but defining boundaries is a good way to have a healthy and fulfilling open marriage. One of the first things a couple should do when discussing an open marriage is determining the boundaries with which they feel most comfortable.
This may happen over several discussions as both individuals find the point at which they are willing to compromise and those components of an open marriage that they feel most and least comfortable with.
For example, some couples are fine with sexual encounters, but require that their partner have a discussion with them before pursuing a serious relationship. Others may want to have an open marriage, but do not want to discuss their partner's other relationships during their time together.
The rules are different for every couple and clear communication is the key to ensuring that everyone gets what they want from the situation.
How Do I Know If An Open Marriage Is Right For Me?
The best place to start is by doing some introspection on what monogamy means to you and how important it is in your marriage. If your personal values do not align with a monogamous relationship, this is something you need to discuss with your spouse.
Then, determine why you want to explore other relationships and what having an open marriage means to you. This internal consideration is an important part of ensuring that you want to pursue an open marriage for the right reasons and not solely because you are unhappy in your existing relationship.
You also need to be prepared for the reality that your partner may not feel the same, especially if you have never discussed this issue before. If this is the case, then consult with a professional counselor on how to proceed so that both of you are able to feel a sense of fulfillment in the marriage.
Do People Get Jealous?
Of course. The difference in an open marriage is that this is an issue that the couple discusses in advance, so that they have a plan in place to address those feelings. This is one of the reasons that communication is such an important factor when it comes to an open marriage. In fact, communication is indeed more important in an open marriage because of the issues of jealously that can surface.
The couple must be prepared to contend with bouts of jealousy and have in place a plan to deal with that issue before it becomes a point of contention.
What Are The Advantages To An Open Marriage?
For many people, the opportunity to explore relationships with different people means that the full spectrum of their needs are being met. This is often a huge task for any one person to take one. This is one of the reasons that people in open marriages report higher levels of overall fulfillment when communication is on point.
When one person is not solely responsible for meeting all the needs of their partner - from emotional to sexual - the pressure on the marriage is diminished in some ways.
What Are The Drawbacks To An Open Marriage?
If an open marriage is what you and your partner want and you are both committed to a healthy relationship, then...none.
An open marriage takes work just as a traditional one does and that work is centered on respecting your partner, communicating and guarding their feelings. This means, if you fail to communicate your needs to your partner or you encroach on their boundaries, you may find yourself in an unhappy situation.
However, if you find that you both want an open marriage to work, then it takes the same amount of work and dedication as a traditional marriage.
How Does Dating Work?
The most important thing to remember when dating other people while in an open marriage is honesty. When you approach someone romantically, be up front about being in an open marriage so that they have the option to be involved in the situation or not.
Honesty is a very important component of open marriage, both for the couple themselves and anyone they date.
How Do We Stay Safe?
When it comes to sexual encounters, the same rules apply as they do to sexual partners prior to marriage. Always practice safe sex and take all the proper precautions to protect yourself and your partner.
Depending on the extent to which you both decide to seek sexual partners outside of the marriage, you should also consider practicing safe sex with one another to protect one another.
Are There Support Groups For People in Open Marriages?
Yes, and this is a great way to reinforce the relationship and find camaraderie with like-minded people. Check out our open marriage community and support group where you can interact with people in open marriages or seeking to learn more about them.