15 People Reveal What It’s *Really* Like to Be In An Open Marriage
While monogamy is still considered the “default setting” in most romantic relationships, nowadays, people are more open than ever about their alternative arrangements. That, of course, includes things like polyamory, open relationships, and swinging. Some people are even outspoken about their belief that monogamy is straight-up unnatural — just ask Scarlett Johansson.
In a recent Reddit thread, people in non-monogamous marriages got real about why they decided to open things up, how it works (or doesn’t work) for them, and what effect (if any) their non-monogamy has had on their relationship. Here are a few of the most enlightening responses.
1. “We set up a lot of ground rules initially, things like you can’t hang out with that person all the time and sleep with them more than three times, etc. Things that would mean that you were now in a relationship with someone else (we wanted open play, not poly relationships). Now, we just can’t be bothered seeing other people, and the sex was never as good as with each other. We might bring in a person to jointly play with once or twice a year, but we’re kind of just over seeing other people lol. Honestly, we’re mostly the same as before we were open.” —SpookyKins
2. “It’s not as cut and dry for most couples that practice something besides strict, classic monogamy. I have a low sex drive, and my wife does not. I am a lesbian, and my wife is not — she is bisexual. She remains attracted to men, despite being married to me. With those two things in mind, we developed a method (with strict boundaries and rules) for her to explore her interest in others. It’s usually a friends with benefits situation, but there has been a one night stand (which violated several rules, and we had a heavy argument about it).
Our rules are as follows:
- No surprises. I want to know when you realize you’re attracted to someone and to know in advance when you plan to or want to pursue something.
- No dating. I don’t want my wife having another relationship, I just want her physical needs met where I cannot meet them.
- No unprotected sex, unless we’re very familiar with that person. And even then, birth control is required on her end.
That’s pretty much it. I want to know when it’s happening, who it’s happening with, and that she’s safe. There are some other nuances that aren’t exactly ‘rules,’ but that I prefer. I would rather it not happen in my house so that I don’t have to look at it or go somewhere else. Keep in mind, this has only happened a few times, and she’s currently in between FWB [friends with benefits].” —SheaRVA
3. “While we’re not truly open, we are non-monogamous and actively have other relationships. As of late, things have been very tough because one of the women we met on OKC [OkCupid] originally as a playmate turned into something else for me. I realized, finally, that I am not just non-monogamous but am actually polyamorous, and my wife can’t accept the kind of emotional connection I had with this woman. So, after much work and hand-wringing, I broke things off with our third last night. Any kind of consensual engagement in a relationship like ours requires tons and tons of communication about desires and what each partner can handle. She can handle me fucking someone else (in fact, she loves it) but can’t handle me loving someone else. So that’s where we’re at right now.” —vertexavery
4. “I was in polyamorous relationships for about 10 years, and for five of those years I was married. When I met my ex-husband, we were both interested in exploring non-monogamy and didn’t see the need for strict monogamy in long-term relationships. It was fun, terrible, super sexy, really difficult, and at some moments felt like the best thing ever. Things I learned that you will likely need to do in poly/non-mono relationships: 1) plan/schedule/g-cal everything, your life gets super busy, 2) tons of time will also be spent talking about EVERYTHING, 3) negotiate and renegotiate rules, peoples’ boundaries change, 4) be endlessly committed to self-reflection and personal growth, and 5) be ready for exercising your patience for DRAMA — even those trying to avoid it have drama, because if you and your partner are dating multiple people, you end up with a huge connected network and drama surely happens somewhere in that network at certain points. I feel like I gained some valuable skills and insight during my time practicing non-monogamy (like communication skills, managing my emotions, learning more about what’s most important to me, learning how to be good at being alone, being super awesome at negotiating sexual boundaries, etc.) While in my heart I still feel like I’m more naturally inclined toward non-monogamy than monogamy, I’ve actually found that monogamy suits me better in this current world/reality.” —Hail_Nebula
5. “It’s good! Although we’re more what Dan Savage calls ‘monogamish.’ When we started dating, we both wanted to try being open. We each proceeded to hook up with one other person. I freaked out and couldn’t do it. She said sure, let’s be exclusive! We got some good advice from a friend — revisit the idea when you’ve been together for a while and you’ve had time to build up trust. So a few years, a marriage, and a kid later, we talked about it again and came up with an area-code-dependent model. If she goes away for work (and our kid is having grandparent time) I’m allowed to do online dating or adult-themed parties or whatever (and vice versa). This has happened twice so far. Fidelity is like sexuality — you can discover more about it, but you can’t change it. It takes extra work and understanding. But it always makes me appreciate my wife more, and I’m so glad I’m coming home to her. She really is the best. I would give it up in a heartbeat if she asked. It’s just a nice bonus.” —Derptron5K
6. “It’s going pretty good, although I’m a bit frustrated that I’m finding it difficult to date outside the relationship while she finds it easy. I feel like I was monogamous before meeting her simply for lack of opportunity and not because I had any real need to be monogamous. It takes a LOT of work for me to meet someone, and I haven’t gotten any better at it over the years. So basically I’m monogamous in a poly relationship. So that’s kind of awkward. Dating is actually even MORE difficult because not a lot of women want to date a poly guy. I might as well have herpes.” —huuaaang
7. “After a lot of arguing between my husband and I about the lack of sex in our relationship (I have a very low libido because of medications I have to be on), we finally came to an agreement that he could find a FWB. We agreed to some ground rules beforehand, like he couldn’t spend more time with her than with me, he had to be safe, I wanted to know before he he did anything (not immediately before, but I needed a head’s up that he was interested in someone), and if he started developing feelings, he was to immediately drop it. He started looking, and everything was fine. He’d show me some steamy texts he’d been exchanging every now and then, and it was fine; I really wasn’t jealous, and I was glad he was having fun and was at least somewhat being satisfied when I couldn’t help him. Then, he came home and told me he was leaving me for someone else. He hadn’t even had sex with her yet but had met her while looking for a FWB. And now he’s gone. I’m not at all saying that open marriages are bad. I think, if he had been happy with the rest of our marriage like I was (and maybe had been more mature, who knows), it could have worked. I really do believe 100% that I would have been okay with it. I am not at all a jealous person, and I’ve had FWBs before. But I do believe that if we hadn’t opened the door, so to speak, he wouldn’t have left. Or at least not nearly as soon, and not for someone else. But who knows.” —themildones
8. “Trying an open marriage was the last nail in the coffin for us. I have since been in relationships that allow group sex (including my current one) but won’t ever do an open marriage or relationship again. Current girlfriend has slept with six other guys in front of me and gave one guy a blowjob when I was in the other room and that last one was the one I ended up having the most issues with.” —KMApok
9. “Healthy and happy. We can have fun, although I have far more fun than her apparently, but we love each other most at the end of the day. Been together for 22 years.” —Parallax151
10. “Not exactly fully open, but I’m in a cuckold setup with my wife. We’ve been together for over eight years, married for four. I gave her permission, and encouragement even, to sleep with others. Between when we started dating and we got married, she was with two other guys. Since marriage, she’s been with five more. Recently, she found a [BDSM] dom and she is his sub. I’ve never been able to play the role of a dom well, so I’m happy she’s able to explore that kink with someone else. It’s going great. We’ve never been closer and are having a lot of fun together. We have more sex together when she is also sleeping with others. If you seek an open marriage because you’re having issues, you’re going to have a bad time. If you open it up with trust, respect, clear communication, and honesty, you should be okay. It’s not for everyone. We have a few rules, such as to practice safe sex (birth control, STD tests) and to keep it on the down-low. No co-workers or friends.” —hopefulcuck
11. “It went OK for a while, but it just became more trouble than it was worth. It seemed my husband and I were ready to quit at the same time. I think a lot of people go into it thinking it’s all going to love and sex, and forget about all the drama of any relationship. It gets tiresome, at least for me.” —jumblegumby
12. “It was fun until we had a kid. We played with others, had lots of sex, and self-confidence. Now, we are focusing on keeping our marriage in a good space while navigating being parents. We’ll open it up again when the time is right.” —CommandrGylbertAdama
13. “My wife and I have been married for 15 years and together for 21. We both know that we want to spend the rest of our lives together. You know, sitting on the front porch together and yelling at kids to stay off the grass. We also know that shit happens and people will be attracted to others and monogamy is difficult. So, why throw away 40 years of marriage for 30-60 minutes of fun/lack of better judgement? Instead of being jealous and overbearing, we decided to embrace it. We have visited sex clubs together and been with other couples. It is an interesting experience and one we are quite enjoying. Her sex drive is a little higher than mine, so she has joined other couples herself. She did recently fly solo with another guy. Afterwards, she felt a little odd (guilty, I assume). I am fine with it. It’s just sex. Have fun with life. Life should be about experience. On my death bed, I care more about reflecting on how I lived my life and what I experienced than the money in my bank account or car in my driveway.” —Rock_A_Corey
14. “I was in an open relationship for 20 years, marriage broke up over money and deployment to Saudi Arabia in early 1990s. Married in mid ’70s. Neither my wife nor I was interested in a traditional marriage, so we excluded fidelity from vows. We both enjoyed MFM situations with her as the pivot. She also enjoyed one night stands. I preferred LTRs with women (I enjoyed learning how to push their button…) In the ’80s, we had to dial the churn rate back quite a bit due to the onset of AIDS. We had two decade-long relationships with two men, one of whom lived with us for much of that time. It was an extraordinary experience, and I miss it. It wasn’t easy but it was intense. Given the circumstances, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. Currently in a monogamous relationship — wish it were otherwise but my present wife just isn’t into high intensity sex.” —crack_a_toe_ah
15. “It destroyed my marriage. Long story short, she realized she married too young and now she wants her freedom.” —Adary
Answers have been lightly edited for spelling and grammar.