I have been happily married for 9 years. We’ve had our ups and downs for sure, mostly when our daughter was born 5 years ago, but generally I thought things were pretty great. Recently my husband began dropping some hints about wanting to spice up our sex life but when I tried to discuss specific ideas with him he would get uncomfortable and try to blow it off.
However, last weekend he asked if we could have an “open” marriage. I assume you know what that means: he wants to be able to sleep with other women and says I can sleep with other men. We’ve since discussed it further and he has finally admitted he really wants to try this.
I am no prude – before we were married I had a very active and somewhat adventurous sex life and the idea of settling down was hard for me but I did it because I loved him. Sometimes I meet other men I am very attracted to but I have never cheated because I am happy in my marriage and love my family.
I’m worried he will consider divorce if I don’t at least entertain this idea with him – he has basically said as much. Do you think it is possible to have a happy open marriage?
Scared and Confused in NYC
Dear Scared and Confused:
Of course it’s possible to have a happy open marriage. Anything is possible.
Wait. If anything is possible I suppose it’s possible that a happy open marriage is impossible. Ouch. Moving on before my head explodes…
Is it statistically probable that a couple can have a happy and successful open marriage? I have to vote “no,” even when both parties enter into the marriage with the intent to have a polyamorous relationship. Of course, this begs the question: why get married at all? While open marriage proponents claims to seek honesty, mutual respect and transparency, the relationship vehicle (marriage) isn’t one that’s built for multiple partners.
Marriage is a two-seater, not a mini-van.
In your case, your reason for considering an open marriage is not your own desire or sexual curiosity, but rather your fear you will lose your husband and your family. This is unfair – you made a deal and now your husband seeks to change the fundamental terms and conditions under which that deal was negotiated, using as leverage a threat to default on the contract.
Shit, I suppose I’m still a lawyer at heart. Damn.
Since this is my blog and you wrote to me for advice, I am going to have to ask you to pour yourself a drink, sit down and steel yourself for some bad news.
Studies that have yet to be conducted (and that don’t need to be because I know everything) show clearly that when one party suggests an open marriage, one of two things is usually happening:
1. The requester is really asking for the other party’s permission to fuck someone they are already fucking or whom they want very much to fuck. In other words, they are falling/hot/hard/wet for someone else but they are too chicken shit to be honest with their spouse and/or leave the marriage to pursue the other person.
This is like buying a very expensive dress for a black tie affair but keeping the receipt in case you want to return it after the dance. You may have really enjoyed wearing it for one night but you’re not sure you want it to occupy a permanent place in your closet because it’s REALLY FUCKING EXPENSIVE. This is also known as having your cake and letting the poor people eat cake too (except they get cupcakes), or something like that.
2. The requester is already having multiple sexual experiences outside the marriage and is feeling guilty or planning on how to justify their actions once they are caught doodling on someone else’s pad. These people are smart enough to know they will get caught.
It’s pretty hard to get away with infidelity in this day and age of electronic devices that both help the unfaithful plan their sexcapades but also tattle on them to their partners when the eventual peeking and snooping happens.
I hate myself for suggesting this (no I don’t), but since you told me in our email exchange this discussion about an open marriage coincided with your husband’s recent strange behavior and unexplained absences, I’m afraid he may be firmly planted in Group #1 or #2 already. It may be time to do a little investigating so you can know what you are dealing with.
Two more bits of advice: re-start your career which you told me you left five years ago and make a visit to your doctor and have a battery of STD tests run. Better safe than sorry. You need to start protecting yourself and thinking about what you will do if (when) your husband announces he wants to leave the marriage.
In any case, whether he is already cheating or just considering his options, my advice blog can’t provide the services your situation calls for. I can give you my opinion on open marriages (blech – not for me) but that’s the tip of your marital iceberg. The two of you should sit down with a counselor and hash out this issue together because your marriage is in a very deep pile of shit.
Make sure if you pick a female therapist she isn’t too good-looking; you have enough problems as it is.