Are you considering an open marriage? This is a topic many couples discuss at some point. You are not alone in considering an open relationship. Dr. Taji Huang, PhD, is an experienced couples’ and marriage counselor based in Glendale, CA. She is available to assist you and your spouse with deciding if this step is right for your relationship.
What Is An Open Marriage Or Relationship?
An open marriage or open relationship can be many different things depending on whom you ask. For some people, it means they never become exclusive partners with anyone and date and engage in sexual activity freely.
To others, it may mean inviting others into the relationship only for sexual experiences — what some may refer to as “swinging.” Other people believe it means staying committed to one partner and dating others for sex and possibly emotional attachment.
For some couples, it means pursuing a committed additional partner. All of these may fall loosely under the umbrella of having an open marriage or relationship.
It’s Not Cheating
What an open marriage is not is infidelity or “cheating.” Infidelity occurs when partners have agreed to monogamy, and one partner breaks that trust by engaging in sexual or emotional bonding activities with someone else. In an open relationship, both partners need to agree on how to proceed together and give consent.
Two of the most common ways that partners engage in open relationships are ethical non-monogamy and polyamory.
Ethical Non-Monogamy (ENM)
Ethical in this sense just means all partners are in agreement and consent about practicing non-monogamy. There is openness and honest discussion. Most couples in open relationships do so ethically. They also often engage the services of a licensed therapist to help with communication and setting good boundaries.
Within ethical non-monogamy, one or both partners may seek to date, have sex, or connect with another partner. They can do this together or separately. Each couple must determine their own comfort level and “rules” surrounding their relationship.
Polyamory is a kind of open relationship in which multiple partners are committed to each other in a relationship with three or more people. Polyamory is growing in popularity as many couples find it difficult to meet all of the other person’s needs, and as people express their sexuality and gender in new ways.
For some couples who may be bisexual or pansexual, this affords an opportunity to fully express themselves sexually in a safe and committed way.
What Are The Pros & Cons?
Stepping out of society’s expectations of monogamous relationships can be scary and a little daunting. There are pros and cons to practicing an open marriage with someone who you love and respect. Will the rewards outweigh potential risks and emotional pitfalls?
Open Relationship Pros
- Relief: You Don’t Have to Meet All Needs
- Excitement: You Get New Experiences
- Freedom: You Can Pursue Your Attractions
- Expression: Fully Explore Your Sexuality
Open Relationship Cons
- Anxiety: Anything Could Happen — Uncertainty
- Health: Risk For STDs Or Unplanned Pregnancy
- Emotions: Potential For Jealousy & Pain
- Endings: Breakup Is Possible
How Can Therapy Help?
While nothing can guarantee that having an open relationship will work for you and your partner, therapy can help you set boundaries, facilitate healthy communication, and give you a safety net. A skilled psychologist can help you ask the right questions and see potential problems before they happen.
This is especially important if one or both of you is feeling uncertain, even if you are excited. You can freely discuss everything you feel and see if there are solutions to make you feel more secure in this decision.
Alternatively, talking with a marriage counselor may also help you see that being in an open marriage is not the right choice. Either way, you will have the support of a therapist who cares and is committed to your mental health and well-being.
A Relationship That Works For You
Everyone deserves a relationship that feels right and allows them to express themselves freely. If you are considering an open relationship and need guidance from a therapist, consider Dr. Taji Huang, PhD. She serves clients locally in Glendale and is available for telehealth appointments for clients through the state of California.