The Dynamics of an Open Marriage: Misconceptions & Guidelines

The Dynamics of an Open Marriage: Misconceptions & Guidelines

“What is non-monogamy? Can an open marriage really work?” These are questions many individuals in committed relationships ask. Often, polyamorous or “open” relationships are touted as salacious or tumultuous. However, multiple partners are introduced into marriages and long-standing relationships for a variety of physical and emotional reasons. Couples who participate in open relationships point to their openness and sexual experimentation as a “saving grace.”

Therapists and mental health professionals debate the practice, some claiming it can cause serious rifts if communication isn’t clear. Let’s look at the world of open relationships and the effects they may have on consensual partners.

What is an Open Marriage, or a Polyamorous Relationship?

Polyamory may sound complicated but it has a straightforward definition: multiple loves. The addition of new sexual partners occurs more often than one might think. Just how common are open marriages or non-monogamous relationships? It’s estimated that less than 10% of American adults have an open relationship agreement. While the “rules” differ from couple to couple, those who engage in an open relationship seek additional physical and emotional connections than the ones provided by their long-term partner. Some couples introduce a new partner as a way to ignite sexual desire and excitement, while others simply don’t subscribe to the constraints of a monogamous relationship. Some couples add multiple partners for years on end, while others take a brief period to experiment.

Every situation and relationship is unique, as it should be. If you’re considering polyamory, it’s important to be honest with yourself and your partner about what is motivating your desire to add a different dynamic to your relationship.

The Importance of Establishing Guidelines

While the reasoning might be different from couple to couple, mental health professionals agree that it’s of the utmost importance to have all parties agree on the exact ways introducing a new partner might affect an existing relationship. It’s even recommended that polyamory be pursued much like a business contract, to avoid unintended consequences like jealousy, resentment, or even a breakup. Couples must consider all the positive outcomes, and the realistic nature of negative outcomes that may occur.

When agreeing on guidelines, have open and honest conversations about:

  • Protection, including condom use and STD check-ups
  • Sleeping arrangements
  • The understanding and relationship between your primary partner and your secondary partner(s)

Common Misconceptions about Open Relationships

Some common misconceptions about open relationships are that those involved in them must be “sex addicts.” Another misconception often touted is that those who agree to new partners must have serious commitment issues. The truth of the matter is that steering from what’s traditional doesn’t mean it’s wrong. In fact, pushing the boundaries of a relationship often brings couples closer together. Men and women are able to experiment sexually, often introducing new positions, new toys and new levels of sexual freedom. They’re also allowed to be emotionally vulnerable with other people, often strengthening the emotional bonds in a stale marriage or long-term relationship.

Is an Open Relationship Right for You?

Only you and your partner are able to decide what’s right for both of you. While many might see an open relationship as a way to “fix” it, it’s actually relationships that are secure and stable that are able to fare the complicated dynamics of non-monogamy. Establish rules and boundaries and constantly communicate your comfort levels. You can try opening your relationship, and if you decide together that it’s not for both of you, it’s in your power to close it back up again. Every couple is different and as long as all partners involved are operating with respect, honesty and safety, you should express love as you see fit.

Giddy’s here to help

Regardless of whether you’re in a polyamarous relationship, monogamous relationship, or anything in between, Giddy strives to help men and their partners of all lifestyles life happier, more fulfilling lives. We encourage anyone experiencing a sexual health issue or challenge, or wants to learn more about a certain topic, to stay tuned into Giddy’s Sex Ed blog and social channels to continue the dialogue about sex, relationships, and much more. And for those who may experience a benefit from our wearable medical device for ED, we invite you to try Eddie (and free online video series about ED) for yourself today. 

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And remember, if you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

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