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My wife is asking for an open marriage and more ''space'' in our
relationship as she believes her needs cannot be met by me
alone. There is no sexual dysfunction and I think I am a fairly
easy-going open minded person, but this is causing me emotional
difficulty. I want to keep the marriage together, but I don't
really want to go along with this idea.
I've expressed my disinterest in the idea to her already, but I
believe she already has outside relationships and will continue
whether I want her to or not. I'm wondering if others have had
any experience with this type of thing and what advice they
I am sorry for your pain. I urge you both to have an open
discussion and find out if she is having affairs or just
fantasizing. If she is and refuses to stop or is in denial, she
could have a sex addiction. There are many good web sites to get
information on this. ( SLAA- sex and love addition, SAA- sex
addicts anonymous etc and you can google others) No matter what,
you need to take care of yourself and don't do anything that
would compromise your integrity to ''make her happy'' ...it never
Both of you should be in marriage therapy pronto. Did you know
when you got married if she was into polyamory? If so, you may be
the one with the problem here. If she told you she was into this
when you got married, you should have known what to expect. On
the other hand, if this is a new thing with your wife, she may be
using polyamory to keep you in her life while going out with
other partners. Or perhaps she has been having an affair and
wants to use polyamory as an excuse. An open marriage is a
decision shared by both spouses. If one objects, it can't be an
open marriage. I would start calling marriage therapists ASAP.
I am sorry for your pain. I hope you don't have any children in
the middle of this. Years ago, my wife, who I had supported
through 2 degrees, asked for space--in this case, going to work
in another state--and I told her she could have all the space
she wanted, that she was free go live her life elsewhere. Not
that I had a choice in it, but saying that was the hardest
thing I'd ever done. After a few months, it was clear that she
had no intention of coming back. I met another woman later on,
a much kinder, wiser, less self-centered, more compatible
partner; we've been married for 25 years now and have kids as
well. Looking back, I can see the many wrong signs in my former
relationship--the struggles, the misunderstandings--I'm so glad
she chose to leave! I could very well be wrong, but maybe this
one is not meant to be for you, my friend, maybe something
better awaits you.
If you're not comfortable with an open marriage, then don't do
it. I think you two would benefit from counseling, or you would
if she won't go. I personally know three different couples who
had open marriages. It was disaster in all three cases, mostly
because in each case, one of the spouses only went along with it
because the other spouse pressured him or her into it.
Here's how they turned out: Two of the marriages ended in
divorce, and the third marriage eventually survived, but only
after the spouse who didn't want the open marriage had a serious
nervous breakdown. As for those that ended in divorce, here is
what went down: In one, the wife initiated the open marriage then
went completely Fatal Attraction when the husband took a lover.
In the other, both said they were into open marriage, but I knew
the husband very well and knew he wasn't all THAT into it. His
wife fell in love with a lover and left him.
I'm not trying to freak you out, but you sound like you love your
wife and want your marriage to survive. I don't think letting her
sleep with other men is the answer. You two need to figure why
she thinks this will solve whatever problems she/you have. I
think you will feel used and diminished if you go along with the
open marriage just to make her happy. I hear plenty of open
marriages work, but I personally have never seen it happen.
This sounds very familiar -- my best friend had a similar
experience with a woman he was involved with for a long time
before they got married. He was not the type of person to want an
open relationship, and from what he says, he knew nothing about
her views before they got married. So, when she asked him he
thought they could work this out (mostly by him trying very hard
to adjust to her approach).
His conception of how his life was going to be, what his marriage
was going to be like, and what he wanted his future to be were
were based on the implicit assumption that it would be a
monogamous marriage. This was going to be a very big leap for
him. For him, this wasn't ''normal'', and he didn't have any
understanding about how to approach the issue, what it meant, how
he could cope with it, and what to do in say social situations
where his wife might be flirticious, etc.
Some people do believe in open marriages, and so long as they
have a basic understanding and agreement of how they relate to
one another, whatever they choose to do should be fine. It is
also possible that people could change, and no-one has a
guarantee on anyone's future behavior.
That said, I also accept that no-one can ask you to change your
world view in such a fundamental way just to be with them. Is
your wife trying to have everything she needs for her happiness,
without any regard for how much of a stretch, effort, or
sacrifice this might be to you? Does the continuation of your
marriage consist of you having to change drastically, and
radically, and her not having to sacrifice anything?
Having seen my friend almost completely devastated trying to
adapt himself to the desires of his ex-wife, I would caution you
to try to be very kind and gentle with yourself and to really
listen to your inner self about what it is you are really all
about, rather than how much you want to meet your partner's
needs, at the risk of injuring yourself emotionally.
What was your gut feeling? Was this a bit of a shock to you when
you first heard it? Deep inside you did you think that you are
expected to accept her wishes as your own way of life, no matter
how different this might be?
Ask a very close friend to tell you whether he thinks you will be
able to handle this type of challenge, or not. My friend was very
tough and severe with himself over his inability to adjust to his
wife's wishes and along with a couple of other friends, we staged
a sort of intervention -- and our only objective was to get him
to realize that marriage doesn't have to be that much of a
challenge. In the average garden-variety marriage there are far
more mundane and everyday things that will challenge you to your
limits (kids, a mortgage, juggling carreers, relatives, etc).
For what it is worth, back then my buddy thought that his ex was
the person that he was meant to spend the rest of his life with,
but he is now happily married to someone he met later, and
together they keep very busy balancing their jobs, their two
kids, their mortgage, etc, and occassionaly taking a 4-day trip
to Hawai to spend a few days by the beach. He was very miserable
back then, and now he is happy that he is married to someone who
wants to spend their time together working on challenges that are
more in line with who he is.
In what you are describing, it should be upsetting that your wife
has chosen to go outside your marriage without first coming to an
an agreement with you about her wish for this lifestyle. In a
marriage, whatever the type, before anyone can make such drastic
changes, they need to square it with their partner, rather than
unilateraly decide what suits them and pursuing that. Noone in
their right mind would consider this unilateral approach to be
unselfish or stable behavior.
Incidentally, I saw a TV report a while back covering the issue
of how some couples have worked through a spouse's desire to take
on a second partner. In one case in Oakland, the wife thought
this never happened anymore, but said they discussed this
together and decided that they should try it out. The husband
especially said that he wanted to be very careful to have a
discussion first, and not to make any rush moves. The end result
is aside from some minor adjustments, all three adults report
they are very happy with the arrangement, and have a great
relationship. Among consenting adults, life can be mysteriously
wonderful, but there has to be respect for the other person.
My sister-in-law and her husband decided to ''branch out'' after
about 15 years of marriage, and each of them started developing
friendships with others. They're now separated, her husband
moved in with his girlfriend a few years ago, and my sister-in-
law is alone with 2 children.
If you're not the polyamorous type, what makes you think you
can stay in this relationship? You could try it for awhile. You
coudl try to disconnect from her inside yourself, and think of
her as a friend with benefits, and do your own thing
additionally, until you're really ready to cut the ties. If
that doesn't appeal, then the sooner you cut the ties, the
better. It only gets worse from here if you're the monogamous
I am in an open relationship going on 9 years and we have a 3-
year-old as well. We do hope to marry in the next couple of
years (the reasons for not marrying have to do with finances
mainly). We are active in the Bay Area polyamory community,
which numbers about 1,000. All my previous relationships were
monogamous and I felt constrained in them. I would be happy to
talk to you about our relationship and other things I have
learned during the past nine years.
It doesn't work for most people. My wife ''talked me into'' an
open marriage back in the seventies and it was a disaster. I
discovered that she encouraged me because she had been having an
affair for several years (I was blissfully ignorant), and wanted
to continue without the guilt.
The problem was that when I ''went along'' with her wishes, I
found myself falling in love with the woman with whom I was
having the extramarital relationship and when my wife decided to
end her extramarital relationship, things got dicey.
To make a long story short, several good people got hurt in the
process; and while my wife and I eventually reconciled (back
into a ''traditional'' monogamous marriage which remained so for
many years until she passed away in the eighties), there has
always been a sense of ''what if'' in my own mind which can still
raise some sense of pain.
My best advice is that, for most folks, ''open marriage'' is
doomed to failure and is dangerous to one's health, both
emotional and possibly even physical. If one is not happy in
one's marriage, and cannot resolve such, then end one
relationship before embarking on another.
Coming up on my 41st birthday and have been married to a sweet
man for 13 years. Suddenly, I'm finding that I am sexually
interested in women. My sexuality has blossomed over the last
few years (yes, very sexually repressed for along time)so this
part of my life with my husband has improved and been good.
What I'm wondering is: are there couples where one or both
partners are bi-sexual and they have openly and successfully
enjoyed ''playing'' with someone else outside of the marriage but
have stay committed to their marriage?
My husband and I have had an ''inclusive'' marriage from the beginning.
We have been married for 16 years and we have 2 children. We are allowed
to share intimaticies with any other person provided that person is
non-toxic, as in emotionally stable and non-distruptive to our family.
We also practice safe- sex. For a bisexual woman, that means dental dams
or other barrier devices for any bodily fluid contact. For men, bisexual
or straight, the same thing applies and condoms condoms condoms.
I will admit we VERY often are much too busy to take advantage of this
arrangment, but I trust him and he trusts me and we communicate about
any plans with other people. I hope you find people to be with who will
be good for you.
There is a great support network out there called Straight Spouse
Support Network: http://www.ssnetwk.org/ Within that group there are
many great support groups via yahoo groups that you can learn about
couples who continue being married in your situation. It is possible.
Good luck to you!
I am dealing with the very same issue. I have been attracted to women
since middle school but have never acted on it. I consider myself
bisexual. My husband is very open to the idea but more in a ''let's do
a three way''. Um...no. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this
and working with a therapist.
I know my husband says that it is ok but for me to have sex with a woman
but if I did it would be because I care for that person and that makes
it a threat to my marriage. I am not a casual sex one-night-stand
person...with either sex. So for me I don't see how it can work out
unless I am single and that is not an option for me. It is hard. I am
conflicted. I am still thinking about it and will continue to discuss it
with my husband and therapist.
Yes, generally speaking there are few things that will make a man more
angry and he will find less sexy then his wife's bi- sexual dalliances.
I apologize for the sarcasm, but your question seems more like an intro
to erotica then a legitimate question. Most men should be fine with you
experimenting with women, especially if they are included, at least
I should note, some more conservative men will find any dalliances or
bi-sexuality in general to be painful and unacceptable. Also, if you
want to have relationships which exclude him, he may rightly be jealous
and hurt, especially if you want to experiment but demand he remain
A warning- while all of this may be fun and is likely healthy, I have
found that while many men enjoy and are aroused by being with a
bi-sexual woman, the ''extra'' activity, even group activity which
involves them, can be hurtful, and the man may not even be aware his
feelings are being hurt.
All in all I say congratulations, enjoy yourself, include your husband
as much as possible, and be aware that he may not be aware of his own
I identify as bisexual, but have been happily married to a man for
almost 11 years with a child and another on the way. Before this, I
mostly was committed to women partners. I am glad that you are explorig
your sexuality, and that can be very freeing and exciting. However, I
would ask that you look beyond the gender issue and look at what you are
really asking about- a sexual/emotional experience outside of your
marriage. Gender aside, I know of very few committed relationships that
have been able to survive a change to an open relationship, because it
affects so deeply both partners and the family that you have created. I
know of many people setting up this type of relationship from the
beginning, and that has seemed to be the only way this works, regardless
of gender. If I were you, I would explore your feelings with a really
good, experienced psychotherapist. I can tell you that the same issues
that you are probably having with your husband right now, (who does what
chores, how free time is spent, who watches kids, how money is spent,
how much sex you are having, extended family issues,
etc.) are all of the same issues that came up in my long term
relationships with women. In fact, these were magnified and made much
worse by the fact that society did not approve of our relationship in
the first place. So, its great to fantasize, but before you act on
anything, figure out more about what is going on with you and your life.
Not an easy thing to do... but worth it.
happy with one ''person'' at a time
this page was last updated: May 27, 2009
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