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Divorce Help | June 20, 2024

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9 Pitfalls of an Open Marriage - Divorce Help

9 Pitfalls of an Open Marriage
Brian Beltz

Open marriages – for some, they are the functional glue that holds a union together. For others, they’re the key ingredient that destroys a relationship. Non-monogamous marriages remain quite uncommon, even in today’s changing world, but people just can’t seem to stop talking about them.

Polyamory, which translates to “many loves,” is an arrangement that has a goal of total honesty, mutual respect and transparency. Infidelity is among the top reasons marriages fail, and open marriages take a stab at changing the meaning of cheating, and preventing infidelity from ruining a union. Open marriages allow spouses the freedom to explore relationships outside of their own marriage if they desire to do so. When done right, these arrangements can provide couples with the honesty and freedom they have always wanted, but when spouses fail to address key issues they can lead a couple directly to the door of divorce.

The following are nine drawbacks of open marriages:


One Spouse is on the Fence

“At least 95 percent of married and cohabitating Americans expect sexual exclusivity,” said Judy Treas, a sociology professor at the University of California at Irvine. It is highly unlikely that each spouse belongs to that other five percent. When one spouse is coerced into an open marriage, the arrangement will not work. Partners often agree to an open marriage in order to make their spouse happy, or as a last-ditch-effort to save their marriage, while they are truly uncomfortable with the whole idea. Partners in a union must be blunt, true to themselves and on the same page in order for an open marriage to work.




The Green-Eyed Monster

Despite how enlightened and understanding spouses can be about their open marriage, jealousy can rear its ugly head at any given moment. Nurse and counselor Kathy Labriola put it best: “Jealousy can manifest as anger, fear, hurt, betrayal, anxiety, agitation, sadness, paranoia, depression, loneliness, envy, coveting, feeling powerless, feeling inadequate, feeling excluded.” Pinpointing the source of jealousy can be difficult, if not impossible to do.




Time Management

Making time for kids, career, spouse, exercise and entertainment is hard enough without other partners. Not only is it difficult to juggle multiple relationships, feelings of envy and jealousy can arise when the primary partner is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to quality time spent together.




Lopsided Beauty

Let’s face it – not all spouses are created equal. When a couple agrees to an open arrangement, oftentimes one partner gets an abundance of phone numbers, exciting dates and steamy sexual encounters right off the bat while the other is left hanging out to dry.




The Stigma of Being Secondary

When a partner who isn’t your spouse develops feelings of love, and builds an intense and passionate connection, they may want to become a primary partner. Even when rules are put in place that should prevent partners from reaching that point, humans aren’t always able to put a leash on the depth of their emotions or where their feelings roam.




The Risk of STDs

It’s simple. The more partners a person has, the likelier they are to contract a sexually transmitted disease. People in open arrangements who aren’t careful and don’t always use protection are not only putting themselves at risk, they are putting their spouse and their other partners in jeopardy. It is crucial that people in open marriages maintain their health, get regular check-ups and test after every new sexual partner.




Lack of Security

Monogamous marriages create a promise of security. “For better or for worse, till death do us part.” Options of dating are removed and spouses can look forward to a life together in which they are exclusively intimate with each other. When various alternatives are thrown into the mix, partners can become competitive, leading that sense of security to be challenged and maybe even removed completely.




Conflicting Reasons

Why does your spouse want to transition into an open marriage? Is your sex life lackluster? Are you emotionally unavailable? Or have you both come to a healthy agreement that you can simply get more out of your lives with multiple partners? An open arrangement isn’t a cure-all for a marriage that’s on the rocks – it’s a life decision that is meant to add to the joy in the lives of each spouse.




Public Scrutiny

Tsk Tsk, didn’t you know that open marriages are morally wrong and against societal and religious views? Hey, that’s not us talking – it’s your neighbors, family, the parents of your children’s friends and your colleagues. Before entering into an open marriage, spouses must prepare themselves for stares from the neighbors, friends’ raising eyebrows and even shock and horror among respective families. Couples need to sit down together to decide whether they want to keep their encounters private, or to be publicly open. You may enjoy the many benefits that open marriages have to offer, but general society still thinks it’s taboo.



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