Open Marriages Don’t Work….

The only way I would agree with that statement is if you add: 
…..if you’re marriage already has problems.  But even that part is not universally true.
Sadie recently posted about her and her husband’s decision to separate. On Twitter later that day, she commented that open marriage didn’t cause the split.  I recently was directed to an article published in Psychology Today where they also claimed all marriages are opened as a result of a deeper psychological issue.  The author claims it is why all open marriages will fail.  
Like my title that drew you in implies, I believe that open marriages don’t work …..if there is already a problem.  Just like any other marital decision, if done for the wrong reasons, you can spell disaster for the marriage.  
Marriages fail for a lot of reasons: poor communication, unresolved issues, dysfunctional behavior, codependency, etc.  These are the root causes in the end.  Open marriage is not a universal sign there is something significantly wrong with the marriage and individuals within it.  It is not the warning flag that the marriage is about to end.
While open marriage is not for everyone, neither is having kids, buying a house, getting a dog, moving to a new place, or making a major job change.  All of these things can cause existing issues within a relationship to surface, get worse, and cause the self destruction of the relationship.  None are the cause or a sign of a problem.  Just can be catalysts for kicking off the beginning of the end.
That being said, at the end of the day, it is what the individuals do at that time that really define how the marriage will turn out.  If people have children and realize there are relationship woes, they can let them consume them – or do something about them.  Those who choose the latter give the relationship a chance to survive.  It’s all in what the couple does with what they are learning about themselves and their relationship.  
I have seen examples of situations where an open marriage did nothing to the relationship except enhance it.  These marriages have been open for 10+ years.  I have seen examples of where open marriage can spell the beginning of the end because they were done for the wrong reasons.  I have seen examples of where an open marriage was chosen and shocked the hell out of the couple when they discovered there were issues that only the open marriage could bring to the surface. I have seen couples open their marriage for what seem like the wrong reasons on the outside, but caused no issues in the end.  I have seen couples open it in response to an issue, discover the problem, then work through them to keep the marriage in tact.
For me, hearing people believe the open marriage is the beginning of the end is silly.  I’ve had friends “save their relationship” through bringing children into the marriage.  Let’s talk about screwed up – and now they have kids tangled in the mess.  I cannot help but feel that since this is considered “not the norm” that people are quick to assign a problem to the marriage if a couple decides to open it.
Why did G and I decide to open our marriage?  We were curious.  We wanted experiences that required us to bring people into our relationship in some form or fashion.  While over time, it evolved into what we have today – it evolved not out of a response to problems in our relationship. It evolved consciously and with thought to how it could effect our relationship positively and negatively.
Why don’t I worry about our marriage?  We communicate.  We listen. We do not judge each other.  We realize neither of us is perfect, but the respect we have for each other allows for us to realize in those moments that nothing is being done out of malice.  We are continually learning from our experience, growing from them, and allow ourselves to feel genuine happiness for each other and what we are discovering about ourselves.
Does jealousy happen? Hell yes.  But we know that it is a sign that we are out of synch, so we do something about it.
Do we have miscommunications? Yep.  And we work through them.  
Is it easy? Most of the time it is, but sometimes it is not.  When it is not, we talk and work through it together.  We are partners – and we know we will only get through it together. If we don’t work together, we risk our relationship.  We know that and are mindful of it.
We are not perfect, but for us our journey has worked for us – for the same reasons we have been able to get through other parts of our relationship. We remember we are a team and must function as a unit to make it work.  
Will it work for everyone? Hell no.  Anyone who thinks that should have their head examined.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Lusting Lola says:

    Great post, Emmy! I think relationships are different for everyone and there is never an easy or blanket reason to explain when one ends. I love that this works for you and G!

  2. John and Ann says:


    I appreciated your thoughtful reply to a question that begs for a nuanced response like you offered as opposed to a simplistic one. Another question begged by your essay is what exactly counts as “open?” It seems that there are many different definition–is just when couples see people independently or does swinging fit in there somewhere?

  3. I think this is very well written, and I agree with it completely. There’s a lot of people out there that are stubborn and don’t understand that relationships require patience and understanding.

    +applauds+ : )

  4. Myli says:

    I enjoyed your post. I think each couple needs to figure out what will work for them. There’s no one correct answer. I’ve never had an open relationship, but I can’t say that I never will. Who knows.

  5. Hubman says:

    We’ve been told that our marriage is doomed to fail for the sole reason that it’s an open marriage.

    I agree with you, ANY marriage that already has problems has a shaky future, whether it’s open or not. Blaming Sadie’s marital woes on her open marriage with Scott is just an ignorant knee-jerk reaction.

  6. Kurt says:

    I’m glad you’re writing about how your open marriage works. More people should hear about relationships like yours.

  7. You said all the things I was thinking. If the statistic of 50% of marriages not making it to ‘death do us part’ is true, then how can you pinpoint one thing to dooming the marriage.

  8. Some relationships fail. There’s no way of knowing whether if one thing had been done differently that it would have survived. Openness is simply something people can point the finger at, in the same way as if there was cheating involved. Relationships work because both people want them to and work at making it happen; open or closed.

    Faile x

  9. BlogLady says:

    Nice post. When I read Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, it really opened my eyes to all of the possibilities and responsibilities of different relationship types.

    People are too quick to judge. Different things work for different people. People like scapegoats and often the Different Thing is just that.

    Great thoughtful post. xoxo

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