Are Open Marriages Happier Marriages?

Are Open Marriages Happier Marriages?  There’s an article in the New York Times that share the experiences of nonmonogamous couples and what they say about love and trust http://nyti.ms/2q5fqrA  I found the article very interesting and appreciated both the author’s perspective and the couples’ story about their marriages.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I utilize approaches used by author Tammy Nelson and various other Sex Therapists who work with couples who are in nontraditional relationships. The frequency in which I see more nonmonogamous couples whose ideas about fidelity are more open than when I started my practice 25 years ago have substantially increased.  Therefore, I have accommodated my work to help those who are in and want to be in consensual nonmonogamous relationships.

As a Marriage/Couples Counselor, I specialize in Infidelity and Affair Recovery.  I’m working with a particular couple where the wife is the Affair Partner, she cheated on her husband, and the Hurt Partner (the husband), is the one who got cheated on.  Both want to repair and move forward to try and make a better relationship as they have children.  For the most part, their family works nicely together in that they have similar parently styles and manage the household diplomatically.  Of course, there’s more to a relationship than being able to take care of tasks, intimacy is desired.

The wife, in this case, loves her husband but doesn’t believe she is “in love” with him anymore.  Having had the affair she has experienced a “sexual awakening” and her sexual desires have stretched to wanting more than what she was taught growing up.  Throughout the recovery process, she has stated she believes she wants to move forward in a nonmonogamous marriage.  He is still contemplating whether or not he wants this or can even do this.

They ask me if open marriages are happier marriages.  In my personal and professional opinion, I say, “not necessarily happier, as much as they are more functional and durable for the long haul.”  As people are living longer these days relationships can tend to experience ebbs and flows.  Some couples don’t want the option of divorce as their primary relationship works on a lot of levels.  Sometimes the excitement of continued heightened intimacy can wane as being together with the same partner can be familiar and familiarity sometimes brings about a lack of novelty that can diminish sexual excitement. Opening up the marriage to meeting new people, not just for sexual experiences but for emotional and intellectual stimulation can make all the difference in becoming more interested in life again and what life has to offer.  With that feeling the primary relationship can benefit and feel brand new again.  That’s what I believe makes a marriage happier with opening up the relationship.  Why give up on many years of developing a beautiful life together just because the sex component dried up.  Revive it by bringing something new into your lives.

For more information on doing just that please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

Is An Open Marriage Something You’ve Been Thinking About?

Is An Open Marriage Something You’ve Been Thinking About?  As I have been working with Couples for over 25 years I often come across couples who have been thinking about and want to pursue an open marriage.  It usually starts off with the male suggesting inviting another female into the bedroom.  The female partner typically is a bit nervous about the idea but is open to discussing the process.  I have worked with Couples who have opened up their marriages and have been successful in keeping their marriages in tact in that they have kept the lines of communication open, placed appropriate boundaries and set limits to meet expectations.  Every case is different as each Couple is unique and have circumstances unique to their needs and wants.  It is important to be able to have a dialogue about what the expectations are between the couple and what each partner wants from the experience/s.  What to know before asking your spouse for an Open Marriage is essential.

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Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and photostock

Below are some questions to include in that dialogue provided by Los Angeles Therapist Greg Cason and other experts for broaching the subject of an open marriage with your spouse:

1. Know that an open marriage takes a strong foundation. 

You’re starting off on the wrong foot if you’re seeking solutions to your marital problems via an open marriage, Cason said.

“An open marriage is a sure-fire way to hasten the demise of a marriage that’s already in a weakened state,” he said. “Don’t do it if there is any question about the solidity of your relationship. This is not a remedy; it’s an adventure.”

2. Bring up any and all reservations.

This isn’t a decision to take lightly. You’re heading for disaster if you’re not on the same page about why you’re opening your marriage, said Jenny Block, the author of Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage

“Don’t even take baby steps into it until you are clearly walking on the same path,” she said. “Believe me, you’ll still hit potholes — but if you want to avoid craters, talk to one another and be completely, totally and brutally honest.”

3. Ask yourself: How will I handle knowing my partner is with someone else?

Be honest with yourself about how you might feel if your spouse is with someone else — or ends up having more sexual partners than you — said Chris Maxwell Rose, a sex educator and the creator of the Pleasure Mechanics online courses.

“Keep in mind that in most open marriage situations, women get far more offers than men,” she said. “Partners need to be prepared for this and be ready for their spouses to be with other people, whether or not they themselves are getting any action.”

4. Be prepared for your partner to say “no.”

When you envision the conversation you’ll have with your spouse, give some thought as to what you’ll do if he or she is not interested in an open relationship, said Ish Major, a psychiatrist based in New York City.

“If they give you an unwavering no, be prepared for the fallout,” he said. “First, the disappointment that you would even ask. Then, the insecurity of realizing that they’re not enough for you.”

To curb the likelihood of hurt feelings. Major suggests beginning and ending your conversation with this simple statement: “I love you and I’m committed to you. You’re enough for me but I’m just wondering about this.” 

Couple having complicated affair and love triangle in bedroom

5. Don’t try to coax a “yes” out of your partner.

Wait until you’re sure that your partner is equally enthusiastic about the prospect of an open marriage before pursuing it, said Tammy Nelson, a sexologist and the author of Getting the Sex You Want.

“Your partner shouldn’t feel coerced or manipulated into it,” she said. “If you’re unsure of how to talk to your partner, schedule some counseling with a therapist who understands open marriage. Exploring a flexible, fluid and explicit monogamy agreement is the best way to make an open marriage work.”

6. If you both agree to an open marriage, lay down some ground rules early on.

The best open marriages are those with clear-cut rules that are renegotiated when necessary, said Block.

“Discuss anything and everything you can think of and then wait a week and have the conversation again,” she said. “Repeat until you feel safe and comfortable dipping your toes in the open marriage water.”

To settle on some rules, she suggested starting with a series of questions: Can we get involved with someone apart or only as a couple? What sex acts are allowed and which are not? Are long-term relationships outside of the marriage allowed? Can additional partners be in town or only out of town? 

7. Decide if you’ll tell family and friends.

There will be those who don’t understand your decision to open your marriage. Others will pry for more details out of prurient interest. Ultimately, Cason said, the important thing is that you both agree on who knows about your arrangement and who you tell, “It’s none of your business.”

“Decide who’ll know,” Cason said. “Harboring secrets will cause stress and strain on the both of you and can eventually tear your relationship apart.”

8. Ask yourselves: What do we want our open marriage to look like in a year?

Mapping out where you want to be in a year’s time could help you avoid conflict later on, said Nelson.

“Maybe your vision of an open relationship is sharing a fun, swinging time for a couple of weekends but your partner might be imagining that the rest of your marriage will include other loving, emotionally involved partners,” she said. “Be clear about your ideas and your long-term shared vision for the marriage.”

9 . Be open, transparent and honest in your communication.

Communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship — and an absolute must in an open marriage, said Stephen Betchen, a Philadelphia-based sex therapist.

“Partners must feel safe enough to express themselves at all times, be it anger, anxiety or jealousy,” he said. “Good, quality communication serves to keep the primary relationship close.”

My work as a Marriage Counselor also includes managing the challenges of Couples who engage in Open Marriages as there are quite a few ramifications, pros and cons, to incorporating other people into your primary relationship.  To see if an Open Marriage could work for you and your partner please contact me at (858) 735-1139.