Open Relationship Advice to a Reader

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I received a comment/question the other day from a reader.  It was on an older post, and I could not find his email address, so I figured I would address it here.  His comment goes like this:

“I’m navigating an open marriage. My wife has been pleased with her prospects, for me, every time I go out, I just feel bad about it. It’s not entirely me. I don’t know how to live inside a framework that’s half open, where she can have multiple partners, but when I date women, I just don’t feel like it’s fulfilling. She insists I’m seeing the wrong people, but in many ways she sabotages me emotionally by making me feel like my choices have been inferior to hers. 


For us, it was supposed to be an experiment. It started as a threesome, me, another man and her as the center of attention. She loved the experience, but it evolved into her insisting the marriage be open, an “all or nothing” ultimatum. I agreed, let’s experiment, try your way, and now it’s a conflict littered with lies and broken promises. I’m not opposed to unconventional relationships, I think each couple has to figure out what works for them, and who knows, maybe we will figure this out yet? We entered the arrangement, probably avoiding other issues that we should have tackled together first. Due to an operation (female issues), we will be shut down sexually for a couple months. Personally, I think it’s perfect timing to re evaluate who we are as a pair without sex.

Any advice for how to negotiate and talk about the terms fairly? I feel like I’ve compromised in places where I should not have. I’m not opposed to her having some occasional extracurricular sex without me, but I have certain requirements to feel respected, important and I don’t feel like she values them. I feel like I’ve communicated it elegantly, but I don’t think either of us went into this with the tools necessary to have a good sensible conflict. Can you suggest things to read together? Maybe suggest some tools to manage healthy discussion and conflict? “

This is where I guess I should give my standard warning – I’m blunt.  I’m direct.  And I do it just so my message is clear – and cannot be interpreted incorrectly. 

You don’t have an open marriage.  You have a marriage built around what she wants.  You even said yourself – this is not entirely you.  You don’t feel fulfilled.  And you feel like it is an experiment gone wrong.

Yet, she is happy.  She mocks your choices when you don’t feel what she feels with her partners.  And you are, in short, taking one for the team (or marriage) just so she can get what she wants.

The fact she ignores your feelings, you don’t feel respected, you don’t feel important, and you don’t feel she values your requirements to make things work in an open relationship are all things that are not good. What it means is that unless it is her way, it is not a way she will respect or honor.   The fact it seems all you are saying is “all about her ”scares me for you.  Why?  Because this is when I see things fail. 

I am going to speculate for a moment.  Go back pre-open-marriage and ask yourself these honest questions:

  • 1.     If you are both on opposite sides of a decision, did she respect what you were saying? Did she try to see where you were coming from? Did she compromise in that situation – or any of the situations?
  • 2.     Has she ever honestly asked your opinion and listened to it?  Maybe even taken action based on what you had as an opinion?
  • 3.     Has communication been mostly good or bad between you?  Do disagreements escalate more often than they don’t?  Do disagreements often degenerate into laundry lists of things that have happened before to the point where the issue at hand is lost?
  • 4.     Do you, at the core, value your relationship as at least equal to any other relationship?

Why do I ask these questions?  Because, regardless of whatever model you want to have for your open marriage, there need to be some core values with the currently relationship.

  • ·      Mutual respect – respect for each other, respect for feelings, respect for thoughts, respect for actions as long as they do not violate the “don’t be a dick” rule.
  • ·      Good, solid communication – both talking and listening
  • ·      Trust – if you can’t trust each other, then don’t do it.
  • ·      Honesty – if you don’t feel you can be honest with your partner, don’t do it.
  • ·      Commitment on both sides to keep the relationship solid
  • ·      Agreement on what defines the open marriage for each of you
  • ·      And honoring those agreements.

Okay – books to read:

·      The Ethical Slut

·      Opening Up

·      Sex at Dawn

I have also heard good thing about 5 Languages of Love as a good relationship book.

Overall, find a good counselor.  During this downtime you all have in terms of going out and find fuck partners, go find a counselor that is open to non-traditional relationships and figure out what is going on with your relationship.  The NCSF is a good place to find recommendations for a counselor.

Today, you are not even reading in the same book let alone the same page.  You need to get on the same page in the same book.  You need to be in total agreement on what this is going to be for both of you.  You need to have agreements – and you need help getting there – help that is not going to be gotten from a book.
Don’t fall into the trap I have seen others fall into.  Where people are on the same page, the marriage implodes.

Maybe some of my open readers can help with their ideas.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. JFBreak says:

    Due to an operation (female issues), we will be shut down sexually for a couple months. Personally, I think it’s perfect timing to re evaluate who we are as a pair without sex.

    Something tells me that if the husband had medical issues and was shut down for a few months, the wife would not consider that “we will be shut down”

    I think your advice is great. But I also wonder why he feels like he has to date others when he doesn’t seem into it. Is it possible to work if she dates 5 or 6 times for every one time he dates, simply because he chooses quality over quantity? Only if she displays that mutual respect you mentioned.

  2. Hubman says:

    I don’t have anything to add, other than I think that your advice to him is spot-on. Well said Emmy!

What do you think?