Ask An Expert: My Spouse Just Asked for An Open Marriage. What Can I Do?

Sometimes no matter how well you know someone (such as a spouse) they can still totally surprise you. As polyamory is becoming more mainstream and accepted, more and more people are considering it as an option in ways they never have before. This is leading to some new situations for couples who may have met each other before open marriage were widely accepted, or before they considered themselves as someone who would want to be in an open marriage. Whether or not you and your partner have been together for months or years, your relationship dynamic is bound to change as you grow as individuals and as a couple.

In some cases, this growth might inspire one person to open up the relationship, which can potentially cause some strain in a relationship. If your partner just asked for an open marriage and you don’t know what to do, consider this advice:

Process the request

The first thing you should do if your spouse asks you for an open marriage is to fully process the request. While you may feel like this request is completely out of left field, maybe your partner has been hinting about wanting to open up the marriage for a while and you have just overlooked these requests? Consider how your relationship has changed in the past and more recently and think about how these changes could have led your partner to make this request. Has your sex life been off? Do you feel like you are lacking intimacy? Does your partner have a higher sex drive than you do? Are they more open to experimentation? There are many reasons your partner would want to open up your marriage, and most of them do not have to do with you. Even if this request feels like it’s about your connection to them, it’s often about their personal desires that are unrelated to you. It’s important to fully process their request to open up the relationship and ask them all the questions that are on your mind so that you really understand where they are coming from.

Consider the possibilities of an open marriage

After you have fully processed the concept of an open marriage, it’s time for you to think about it as a real possibility for your relationship. Is it something that you have ever considered? Are you intrigued by the idea? What would opening your marriage mean moving forward? It’s important to spend time thinking about these ideas so that you can make an informed decision. A lot of people may be tempted to go with their gut reaction, especially if they have never considered an open marriage before, but it’s important to spend some time and really consider what an open marriage can be. Are you and your spouse going to open up your relationship to a third partner and have group sex? Is your partner interested in exploring sex with someone of a different gender? Are you interested in doing so? Or are they/you interested in exploring casual sexual relationships with other people? Open marriages can take a lot of different forms, so it’s important to consider the possibilities of an open marriage before making a decision.

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Reflect on how you feel about an open marriage

The next step is thinking about how YOU feel about an open marriage. While some people are tempted to go with their gut response, others are tempted to blindly agree in order to support their partner. Instead of obliging your partner, think about what you really want out of your relationship. Afterall, you did not agree to an open marriage when you first met this person, and it is okay to want to stick by your initial commitment to monogamy. It is also something that can be worth exploring, especially if you do not have any experience with polyamory. It’s important to note here that polyamory is not for everyone. If you are not sure about opening up your marriage, you can always agree to try it out for a bit of time (as a sort of trial run) and re-evaluate later. But you are not obligated to try it out! Opening up your marriage is something that you can back track on, but it is not something that you can undo. If the thought of your partner being with another person makes your skin crawl, then tell them as much! Your partner is asking you about this, which means that you can say yes or no (or even maybe!)!

Moving forward with an open marriage

If you and your partner do decide to open up your marriage (or to try it out for a bit), it is very important for you to establish ground rules and boundaries. What kind of open marriage are you going to have? Is there someone that your partner has a specific interest in pursuing? Is that okay with you? Are you opening up your marriage to just casual sexual relationships? Or more emotionally intimate relationships as well? What are your boundaries in terms of time spent with other partners? Do you want to know about your partner’s other partners? Or will you have a don’t ask, don’t tell type of policy? Are you going to share that your marriage is open with other people? Or is this something that you would like to keep private? While this might seem like an overwhelming laundry list of considerations, it’s important that you and your partner are both on the same page so that you feel respected and informed within your open marriage. It can be helpful to establish a timeline and schedule check-ins so that you have time set aside to talk about the state of your relationship and how the open marriage is going.

Walking away

If you are absolutely not open to the idea of an open marriage, you need to communicate this to your partner, and ask that your partner move on from this idea. There is nothing worse than coming to a decision and being repeatedly asked to reevaluate it when you know that you have come to the right decision. If your partner is insistent about wanting to open up your relationship, and you know that you are not interested, then it might be time to end the relationship. Monogamy and polyamory are not compatible, and compromising on something so fundamental about your relationship will likely cause serious riffs elsewhere. Walking away from what was a happy marriage can be difficult, but it is often better to do so before one of you is hurt by infidelity or the ongoing desire for an open marriage.

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