Relationships

What It’s Like to Have an Open Marriage

What It's Like to Have an Open Marriage

Have you ever wanted to try an open relationship? “Non-monogamy is way more common than most people think,” says Ava from Texas, “But it’s rarely discussed in public.” So, I recently spoke to three women about their open marriages — the pros, the cons, and how they make it work. Here’s what they said…


Catherine, 30, lives with her husband in Pennsylvania. They’ve been together for six years, and their relationship has been open since the birth of their son four years ago.

How it began: When we met, I was 23. I knew an open relationship was his preference, but we kept ours closed, and I never felt pressured. We ended up getting pregnant a few years later. While breastfeeding an infant, I didn’t want to be responsible for my partner’s sexual needs. I was more than happy to open our relationship, and I was able to separate the emotion from his physical need.

Her first experience: When our son was around two, I became curious to see what was out there for myself. I went on a Tinder date and had so much fun — that new feeling, a rush, I hadn’t experienced it for so long. My husband sometimes gets a little jealous. It’s funny because he introduced me to this lifestyle, but I’m probably better suited to it. I think you can choose to work through your jealousy and grow tremendously as a person.

Meeting new people: At first I used Tinder, but recently I’ve been wanting to meet people more naturally. I teach yoga and there are male students who I think would be into it. I also put it out there to one of my guy friends, and we’re going to hang out soon. For my husband, it’s more of a sexual thing, but I need a connection with someone — we go for drinks and dinner first. I’m also open to having a longer term boyfriend.

The impact on marital sex: It has been nothing but great for our own sex life. I read someone saying that monogamy was bad for their libido and I agree. The more sex I’m having, the more I want to have. My husband brings stuff back to our bedroom — he’s a little kinkier. He wanted to learn how to do ropes, but I wasn’t willing to be his guinea pig. He can practice with someone else, refine his skill set and come home to do it with me!

Why she likes an open relationship: The independence is a turn-on for me — dressing up, going out by myself, switching away from my role as a wife and mom. I started dating my husband when I was young, so it’s nice to be able to have more partners in my lifetime. I can’t see us going back to completely closed; I kind of forget other people don’t live like this.

Telling friends: It’s funny to see friends’ reactions — I’ve gotten a lot of, “Oh that’s so great but I could never do that.” I’m sharing this about myself. Our relatives don’t know — our parents would probably freak out a little. But it’s a wonderful part of my life, and I want to talk about it.

Breaking up: For a few months, I had a relationship with a neighborhood dad. (He and his wife had an open relationship, too.) We all knew each other, and our kids did karate together. It was a little too close to home, so we ended it before it got serious. I was really bummed. I had the urge to turn to my husband for comfort but it felt like too much to ask. He’s my husband, not my girlfriend. That was a learning experience.


What she wants people to know: I’m married, I’m a mother, I’m non-monogamous. Of course an open marriage is still a marriage. Nobody should be made to feel less-than because their marital needs don’t fit the mold. Nobody should be made to feel like they need to keep their love a secret.


Hadley is 31 and lives in Scotland. She has two primary partners — Gregory and Clark. She also sometimes casually sees other people. She identifies as bisexual.

On having two partners: I’ve been with Gregory for nine years (we are married and live together) and Clark for a year (long-distance); but they’re equally important to me. I would never want one of them to feel secondary.

A fluid marriage: Gregory and I met when I was 21 and he was 23. The idea of marriage always felt a little strange to me, but we got married because he was British and I wasn’t, and that’s how immigration works. Like most people, we were monogamous at the beginning – that’s what you do!

Voicing needs: I would broach the topic of non-monogamy with Gregory every two or three years — maybe now? But, nope. He’s very shy and wasn’t into it. Every relationship is going to involve compromises, so that was okay with me. Then, in 2015, we went into business together and bought our home. We agreed we were solid — if something were going to break us up, it wasn’t going to be someone else. And I pushed him to identify: What’s the fear here? What are you actually afraid of? I’d had these really fun friendships when I was younger — they were friends but we’d also sleep together, and I enjoyed the variety.

A husband’s transformation: Although Gregory wasn’t into casual dating, he met someone more like him, who also valued fewer, more intense relationships. I encouraged him — it’s okay that you have feelings as long as you can maintain your commitments to me. They fell pretty hard for each other. Eventually he said she was his girlfriend. They’re still together, they’re coming up on two years.

On meeting a second primary partner: I use OkCupid, Tinder and Bumble. Last summer, I swiped on an American guy who was traveling through town. He was only in town for a day, but we developed an extraordinary connection. Now I fly out to New England every other month, and he flies here every other month, and it’s wonderful. So, now I have Gregory and Clark, plus the occasional sexual friendship or casual date. I value the patchwork of different relationships in my life.

Confronting jealousy: People always ask, “Are you a magical creature who doesn’t get jealous?” But you could just as easily turn it around and say, “You’re monogamous, do you get bored?” You have to reflect on your values and emotions, and think, “Do I want the benefits and drawbacks of monogamy or do I want the benefits and drawbacks of non-monogamy?” And, if it’s non-monogamy, do I want to share a home with someone, do I want to just date, do I want to have a giant house that I share with 12 people? It’s the same as deciding whether to live in the city or country or suburbs — there’s nothing wrong with any of them, but one will probably feel like the more natural direction for you.

On telling others: If anyone asks if there’s someone special in my life, I say, “Yes! I have two wonderful people.” I just let them be shocked and hold their hand through it if I need to. Honestly, most people don’t care — they’re shocked for two minutes, they want the really good gossip, and then they’re like, what’s for dinner?

Explaining an open marriage to parents: My parents have always known Gregory, and when Clark and I got more serious, I told my parents about him, too. It was important to me that nobody felt like a dirty little secret. Even if my parents thought it was unusual, I knew I wouldn’t be disowned. I also wanted to tell them so that if their friends were saying, Oh, there’s this weird new culture, they could say, Oh, no, that’s my kid! it’s normal.


Ava, 30, met her husband eight years ago. They’ve had an open relationship (on and off) over the past five years. She identifies as bisexual and lives in Texas.

On marriage: My husband is my life partner. We adore each other. We tell each other everything. We’re looking forward to starting a family. We have sex. We go on dates together. We also date and have sex with other people. And it has added so much more than I ever thought it could.

Starting an open relationship: After we had been dating for five years, he suggested opening our relationship. My initial reaction was curiosity. I had always been inclined to be monogamous; it had been my model growing up. But a good friend had been in an open relationship and had had a great experience. So, we came up with lots of agreements, and then we went for it.

Setting boundaries: We were very cautious at first — we tried to space out our dates and keep things casual. Now we’ve realized that if you’re going to date someone and see movies and have dinners, you’re going to get emotionally close. But we still say “no sleepovers” — that’s a little too intimate — and we don’t bring anyone to our home.

On jealousy: We both struggled with jealousy at first, but you learn to work through it together, just like with anger or any other difficult emotion. It has added a big element of support and trust to our relationship. We feel like we can do anything now. If we’re able to work this out, what else can we accomplish together?

A fuller sex life: The novelty of an open marriage keeps our marital sex life exciting — you were with someone else, and you’re my husband. We have this analogy: My husband loves to go two-stepping; the more you dance with other partners, the better you get. Also, I’d always thought about dating women, and to be able to do that within our relationship is really special. I get to live part of my life I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to.

On meeting new people: My husband is more extroverted and hits on people when he goes dancing. But I use dating apps. I like to go on a few dates before things get sexual. I also think that there’s sometimes a perception about open relationships that everyone is super sexually active all the time. That hasn’t been our experience. You’re busy, and you’re still going through the dating process.

Heartbreak: That feeling of falling in love with someone else — it’s the best and also the worst. The thing I’d never thought I’d be dealing with in a marriage is heartbreak. You’re sad about someone, but you want support from your partner. There’s no model for that, so we’ve navigated it on our own. I’ve actually been surprised by my capacity to listen to my husband when he’s upset, and say, “Let’s talk about it.” That blew my mind.

On the capacity for love: You can love multiple children, and you probably have more than one friend. You feel love for all of them, even if you’re closer to one. No one says, “Oh, you have too many friends, you should stop.” Just because I’m starting to feel affection for someone else, it doesn’t take away the love I have for my partner. A big thing to realize is that you can’t be everything for someone; it’s good to have other people — it’s just whether they’re friends or lovers.

What might surprise others: Some people assume that open relationships are free-wheeling, do what you want — but we have rules and boundaries and conversations all the time, and it’s not always fun. People also sometimes think that you’re trying to fix something in your marriage, but we started this because we felt very stable — we thought we could throw this new thing in the mix. A couple could always try it, and if it doesn’t go well, they could close it again. It’s your relationship, it’s up to you. A few years ago, I never would have thought I’d be in this position, but it has been overwhelmingly positive.


Thank you so much for reading! Any other questions you have? Have you ever been in an open relationship? Of course, all relationships look different — couples who date couples; people of different sexual orientations; relationships that are open for one partner but closed for another; the list goes on and on. Please share your experiences, if you’d like! xoxo

(Illustration by Nina Cosford. Names have been changed for the privacy of the people interviewed.)

  1. Erica says...

    I vowed to my husband that I’d “love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as we both shall live.” They were beautiful, meaningful words all those years ago, and they’ve been a beautiful, meaningful way to live life. A life of monogamy can be intensely satisfying. I feel the need to point this out in case anyone reads this and assumes that monogamy is always dull, or even impossible.

    • Erica says...

      PS: I meant to say immensely satisfying, not intensely. Pregnancy coupled with “advanced age” seems to cause me to constantly say words that sound similar, but aren’t the actual words I mean to choose!

  2. Thanks to Cup of Jo for introducing this topic! I wanted to add my voice to the mix just to affirm that I loved reading this piece and hearing about how relationships function differently for different couples. The quote about how you can love multiple children and have multiple friends without it being a zero sum total, and how that can work for intimate relationships too was really eye opening. Thanks for your (as always) amazing interview series.

  3. Arev says...

    Thank you for this article and everyone for your honest and insightful comments. I’m one of the people with whom the concept of open marriage resonates and feels endlessly liberating. I’d like to comment on the idea whether open marriage is good or bad for people, society, etc. I want to challenge that and say that the concept of a traditional marriage is actually the one that needs to go. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a successful traditional marriage! But the problem is that we as a society have a vary binary system – married or not married. That truly works for some people but for many forced them into constructs that don’t make sense to them without providing alternatives. Divorces are ok these days – but divorces suck! Can we through that package of traditional marriage out of the window and allow ourselves to create relationships that truly nurture us and our relationships? For some it would be monogamy. it will be monogamy for some of us. It will be something different for others. But we need perspectives and alternative models.

  4. This article (and the comments) has been a interesting read. I say do what makes you happy!

  5. Carina says...

    Well I don’t post here but have been a reader for quite awhile. I find it so interesting but yes only a tiny glimpse on the topic. I wouldn’t be able to handle this type of relationship. My husband and I keep to certain Jewish customs of seperating during my period and we find this works wonders in our marriage as when we can be together again it’s renewed .we never have it being boring and it has become something special for us .

  6. Sara says...

    I’m single – after ending a 4 year relationship after my second emotional affair (read, no sex, not even physical). In the last months, he slept with someone else. I feel it was tit for tat, but it didn’t ‘worry’ me – it was premeditated. It was disclosed.

    I believed prior to that relationship, and now, in exploring polyamory. Why? Cause I can’t or won’t satisfy one person’s needs (sexually or otherwise) nor they mine. So why not have more than one partner? Sure, there can be boundaries and rules, and FOR SURE it’ll be challenging and tricky, anything with emotions is. The more I think about it, the more I feel it suits my strong independent nature. But it’s NOTHING I would ‘force’ on anyone, as I note a lot of strong comments here. What I do note is… polyamory sets rules in a way that makes it less destructive than an illicit affair that gets found out – that can only be a positive in my opinion.

  7. Laura says...

    I have never commented before, but have been reading COJ for years. I found this post fascinating and thought provoking, which I appreciate. My friends and I have already talked in depth about it. My biggest takeaway from reading the post and a lot of the comments is that our culture has an unhealthy focus on personal happiness. Living life through the lens of happiness alone seems empty and ultimately fleeting. Our human nature is to seek our own fulfillment, but it never lasts – we temporarily feel fulfilled by sex, new clothes, a house, a bigger salary, but after a while we want something new, better, or different. Purpose and meaning, so much richer than happiness, oftentimes come from serving and loving others even when it’s scary and difficult, whether that is family, children, a spouse, friend, etc. I want to leave this world a better place, and that means sacrifice, endurance, and putting others before myself. That doesn’t always line up with my personal happiness – but instead I gain a sense of purpose and contentment from looking outside myself. That’s how I view marriage, too. It’s joining together and making a commitment to each other even when things get boring and I no longer “feel happy.” Marriage is bigger than ourselves, and hopefully will beautifully display the highs and lows of an enduring partnership at the end of our lives. While marital love often evokes a sense of happiness, the choice to continually love each other is more important than our own personal happiness. I love hearing a different perspective because it makes me consider an alternative way of thinking but then also do the hard work of figuring out and articulating what I believe.

    • Meghan Ulloa says...

      I agree with you Laura. Also, how do people have time for multiple relationships? I find it challenging to stay on top of my business, motherhood and marriage. I’m also curious as to the level of satisfaction people have with their life outside of their marriage and sexual relationships. For instance, if I wasn’t engaged in interesting work I may be more inclined to want a rush of excitement somewhere else.

    • emmanuella says...

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I really appreciate it.

    • Margaret says...

      Yes! All of this.

    • Candice says...

      I wholeheartedly agree with this, Laura! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Whitney says...

      Wow this was so well said. I agree on all levels!

    • Violeta says...

      Thank you! Exactly my toughts… :)

    • Cara says...

      This is so perfectly said and I think the same thing. I kept thinking of words like “selfish, instant gratification”, etc, but the way you said it, with relation to an unhealthy focus on personal happiness is perfect. Some in our generation have this need for instant gratification and it can be too hard to work through the tough stuff in life and the feelings that go along with that, so it seems easier to just move on to the next, or take a break from it with someone else. Excellent comment!

    • Jules says...

      Beautifully articulated. Thanks Laura!! I completely feel the same way.

    • Cheryl says...

      You took the words right out of my mouth! Thank you.

    • bisbee says...

      I have come back to this post and these comments after several days. I also wonder about personal happiness being the most important thing in life. Somehow, I think that there are many more important things, more meaningful things that we can find in our short lives that are more fulfilling than personal happiness.

      Just a thought.

    • Cammie says...

      This is exactly what I would have said were I able to articulate it as well as you, Laura. Thank you.

    • Emily says...

      Such a beautiful and well-articulated response, Laura. I completely agree! It reminds me of this quote by sociologist Hugh Mackay:

      “I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that – I don’t mind people being happy – but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying ‘write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep’ and ‘cheer up’ and ‘happiness is our birthright,’ and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position – it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say ‘Quick! Move on! Cheer up!’ I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word ‘happiness’ and to replace it with the word ‘wholeness.’ Ask yourself, ‘is this contributing to my wholeness?’ and if you’re having a bad day, it is.”

    • Nicole says...

      I don’t think generosity/selflessness and non-monogamy are mutually exclusive. Maybe these marriages are fulfilling in the deep difficult times as well.

    • Mari says...

      My friend’s mother is a famous brazilian sex guru and she have several best selling books about open relationships. So this is a subject that it’s constantly there and I just didn’t really know how I felt about it. People put it in a way that makes it sound so amazing, but I just couldn’t agree, you know? And you hit the spot perfectly.
      When the woman says “While breastfeeding an infant, I didn’t want to be responsible for my partner’s sexual needs.”, I can’t feel anything else but sorry for her. She was in the most emotionally intense moment of her life and her husbands sexual needs, somehow, got bigger than her right of developing her new motherhood.
      For me, as a married woman, the moments I value the most in my marriage are exactly the moments when I get to be his other half, family all the way. I’ve always hated living with my parents and my brother, even though we are the perfect loving family and talk 24/7 on whatsapp. So a friend asked me how could I like living with my husband, since I’ve always been someone who valued being truly alone. And the truth is: when I’m with him, it’s like I am alone in a better version of it. There is no boundaries for our intimacy, so it’s really as relaxing as being alone. That’s real shit. Being able to be true and honest. So when the hard moment comes, there’s no holding back. I’m all here for him and he’s all here for me. And that takes so much time and energy. I couldn’t possible share that. God, I don’t even imagine how it would feel to take vacations without him. I can’t imagine myself in Iceland, like we were a few months ago, seeing all that beauty and not sharing it with him. Not that I haven’t traveled without him… Sometimes it just impossible, but I wouldn’t choose to go with anyone else. I honestly believe that maybe you could fall for a fling in a hard time of your life, a slip or something. “A moment of weakness” lol. But just as meaningless as eating that trashy burger you regret 5 minutes after eating. But dressing up and going out to LOVE someone else? I rather dress up and have him looking me up like I’m the most beautiful thing on earth, even though life is hard and we just got into a fight about netflix or whatever.

    • Rebecca says...

      Thank you Laura. I 100% agree with you about happiness being the wrong thing to pursuit.

      Where I disagree is that it seems that you believe that having an open relationship and commitment can’t co-exist. I am extremely committed to my marriage AND have bandwidth for additional intimacy in my life. Both are precious to me.

      Further, our marriage was and is rock solid. We didn’t open it because we were bored… or no longer felt happy. We opened it because we were really happy and things were going extremely well — and we thought we could handle it.

    • ANNA says...

      Thank you for your words Laura <3

  8. June2 says...

    Well, this post has me thinking!

    1. Is this what is possible for very secure couples who want to deepen their understanding of love and commitment?
    2. This is scary!
    3. This is maybe very amazingly eye-opening, and something to consider…
    4. Might be a healthy way to retain healthy boundaries so neither gets lost in or codependent on the other.
    5. I could only see this happening in a very secure marriage, with a very open-minded partner.

  9. Paige says...

    Well some of these comments are really quite something to read.
    I’m getting married in September. My fiancee is a wonderful man. I am looking forward to being in a long term and Beth committed marriage with him.
    My girlfriend is one of my bridesmaids. Her boyfriend is invited to the wedding too.
    I love both of my partners very much, I love them very differently, but equally. I have known since I was 14 that I wanted to be part of a poly relationship, it’s part of who I am. I was honest with my fiancee from the very beginning of our relationship that a poly relationship was how I would be happiest. My fiancee and I had been dating for four years and had just gotten engaged when I met my girlfriend. The transition into a poly relationship was difficult for all of us in different ways, but that never shoke the commitments we’d made to eachother.
    I love that these type of articles are staring to surface regularily and that they’re getting play (Thank you Joanna, by the way, you have no idea how heartening it is to see this brought to the forfront).
    I am open, honest, and comitted in both of my relationships, which is why I find it deeply hurtful when people classify my happiness as an inherently immoral and selfish decision. That if I can’t commit to the traditional one person I don’t deserve to be married, which is something I’ve imagined since I was a teenager.
    I love my partners, and just like every other “non-traditional” relationship I want the freedom to love them openly.
    I know that different is scary to a lot of people, and I’ve come to understand that this is something I’m going to have to stand up for if I ever want people to accept this as a valid life choice. I love when people ask questions about my relationship! I love the people who take a moment from their lives to understand someone else’s, even if it’s not a choice they’d ever make for themselves.
    Different isn’t bad, it’s just different. And love, as always, is love.

    • Steph says...

      Well said, I too take serious issue with the inherent moral judgment in comments about non-monogamy being in service of selfish, instant gratification, or undeserved “personal happiness”. To me, this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature, and our capacity for love, commitment, and yes, mutual enjoyment of physical intimacy. Do we question parents on their commitment to their first child when they get pregnant again? Is having more than one child an indication that parents are incapable of playing the role of a loving parent and providing the time, love, and resources that each child needs? Of course not, it’s a ludicrous suggestion. Romantic relationships are literally the only type of relationships in which we continue to insist some sort of moral high ground for lifelong commitment to one individual – grind it out, because it’s the right thing to do. Absurd. There is more than enough love to go around, as long as you lead with honesty and compassion.

    • This is such an important point to make. Why do we celebrate when a widow finds love again after she buries her husband who died of cancer, but we denigrate a divorcee who finds love again after she leaves her toxic first marriage? We somehow have more respect for the couple that becomes roommates after 20 years, gives up sex and intimacy and just “grinds it out” until they die than we do for the people that make a different version of life work for them.

      This post isn’t saying everyone could or should be poly. Far from it. Different isn’t bad, it’s just different.

  10. Kerrie says...

    I cringed at the yoga teacher comment and her saying that her students might be interested. Imagine a male teacher saying that about his female students! It feels so unethical to me and as someone who regularly attends yoga classes, I would feel so uncomfortable if I knew that the teacher was assessing me in this way.

    Re: open marriages – To each his/her own, as long as they are being honest with themselves and their loved ones. And are harming no one. Sometimes we need to have a full range of experiences as humans in order to understand ourselves better.

    For me, as an introvert and sensitive person, just the thought of my man being with anyone else makes me physically ill. I also understand and can empathize with feelings of boredom and wanting novelty. However, it’s almost unfathomable to me to devote that much time to developing romantic relationships – one is more than enough! Any excess energy goes into my creative endeavors. It’s really a matter of what you prioritize and where you choose to direct your energy.

    • lucie says...

      umm, yes, to all of this.

    • Kristen says...

      I feel the same way. No qualms about others doing it, but it would destroy me to think of my husband falling for another person.

  11. Mae says...

    I’d love to see a post on how to navigate developing really strong feelings for someone else when you’re married. This recently happened to me and I know that pursuing it would end my marriage. It feels really consuming and makes me sad. A post from someone who wanted to have an affair and didn’t would be very welcome.

    • June2 says...

      Maybe ask your husband to read this post, then discus?

    • A says...

      Mae, I agree. I went through this same thing in 2013/14. It was so consuming and I still think about it almost daily, even though the man in question is no longer in my life. My non-affair was exhausting, thrilling, devastating – even though we did nothing more than once, for a few seconds, hold hands! How people navigate those emotions regularly (and willingly put themselves in such situations) is a mystery to me, though I certainly don’t condemn anyone for it. They must just have more emotional stamina then me.

      My husband doesn’t know I went through this and I often struggle with not having told him. Largely, though, I’m happy with how things worked out, and in a strange way I’m also glad it happened. I feel like I experienced something powerful. It made me stronger. It woke me up. There’s a sharpness and a sweetness about those memories that I don’t regret. I happen to think of this other man as the love of my life, probably… but rejecting him and ‘re-choosing’ my husband has bolstered our marriage and made me think again about what those kinds of phrases mean. My husband has always cared for me, has nursed me when I was sick, has helped me bring a child into the world. He has been my life for more than fifteen years and I no longer take those kindnesses for granted.

      I wish you luck with your own situation. And I promise that whatever happens, your sadness will slowly transform into something else.

    • Ing says...

      Yes, this.

    • Sam says...

      I’m not married but fell in love with someone who was. I felt (and still feel) so close to him, bizarrely…kind of like we were married in a past life or something. I still love him very deeply, and I think I will never find someone I love as much as I love him (and I’d never be able to marry someone I love less, so I think I’ll never marry at all.) But I could never be a part of ending his marriage or a source of unhappiness in his marriage, and so we radically changed our friendship. I would rather live with the misery of never being with him than live with the misery of knowing that I hurt his wife in the way that an affair or divorce would.

      It’s taken time, almost two years (but I’m slow at getting over things), to really be at peace about this, but it does not consume me anymore and overall I’m happy. I am occasionally sad about my situation, but I don’t at all regret the choice I made.

    • Alex says...

      Oh, that would be an interesting post to read!

  12. Sam says...

    Really interesting. I’m curious about what the differences are between the relationships someone has with their married partner and with their non-married partners. Specifically, what are the characterizations of the marital relationship that make it distinct from the others? (I mean, besides things like “we had a wedding” or “we file taxes jointly”)

    • Becks says...

      good question

    • Rebecca says...

      Hey Sam!

      Great question, the answer isn’t simple: it totally depends on the couple. Here are some differences you might frequently see:
      – No sleepovers aside from with husband/wife
      – No lovers at your house (or in your bed specifically)
      – No falling in love
      – Setting the calendar (e.g. I am available for dates on these days)
      – Veto power of the primary partner
      – Use of sexual protection (or specifically lack there of)
      – Emotional intimacy (e.g. you can’t have any as one extreme… to I have to be the one you call first when you’re really excited about something on the other end)

      In my relationship, we are pretty light on rules, but very heavy on commitment.

      We agree that our marriage is our first commitment. Period. This means that I may decide to end a partnership because it is threatening my marriage (hurting my husband, becoming too intense) and it means that we schedule our time before we schedule other time. It also means that ‘default time’ is our time. We rarely do sleepovers (pretty much just if we take a trip with a partner) and prioritize our emotional attachment. But none of these are really “rules” — they are simply the expression of our commitment to our marriage.

      Others have far less and far more rules, but I hope that gives you a taste.

  13. Ver says...

    This is all so interesting. I’m in a relationship (two years so far) and we talked about the potential of opening it up a year ago. We ultimately decided not to, which has felt like a good choice for us so far. However, I’m the more fearful partner so I have been trying to examine my own feelings of jealousy, insecurity, possessiveness, wanting to stay away from the unknown realm of each of us being with multiple partners.

    But….
    recently I have been experiencing more curiosity about other people outside of my relationship. The possibility of flirtation with other people, dancing, romancing, etc. I don’t know if these desires spell trouble for my relationship, or if it’s normal to love the heck out of your partner but also be curious about other people. We don’t talk about this enough! Especially women. It’s one thing to say ‘this framework of monogramy is what I’ve decided to base my relationship on’ and entirely another to say ‘I don’t experience attraction or a desire to connect with other people in a romantic/sexual way’. Choosing monogamy seems like much more of a choice than just the complete absence of intrigue around another person aside from your married partner. Can anyone shed some light on this, honestly? I feel like so often, women just say they only have eyes for their husbands, and I’m wondering how much of that is really true and how much is just the story we say out loud.

    P.S. As I was writing this, my phone autocorrected monogamy twice, once to lobotomy and once to monotony, ha!

    • Paula says...

      Yes, I so agree with you. I think it’s natural to be curious about other people, not necessarily with the intent of being with them. I have to believe that most people develop crushes on someone else during the span of a marriage, it’s bound to happen if you surround yourself with people other than your spouse. And it should be okay to say that!
      Ver, I also flirt with other people, and heck yes it feels good. My intent isn’t to get with them, just to experience a facet of life that is so normal and natural, and I wish that people wouldn’t use the argument of marriage to suppress any attraction one might have to another human being – not even romantically! Sometimes I just feel drawn to other people without wanting to act on it. There is no way one person (a spouse) can satisfy the multiple needs and desires that every person has. I think it’s healthy to be curious about other people!

    • Michelle says...

      I found your comment interesting, especially where you say ‘I feel like so often, women just say they only have eyes for their husbands, and I’m wondering how much of that is really true and how much is just the story we say out loud.’

      I’ve had a conversation about the concept of open relationships with my partner (of almost five years). I found it interesting that we were able to engage with a topic like this – one so intrinsically tied to the values one holds in a relationship – so easily without anyone feeling jealous or protective. I have faith-based reasons for not feeling the need or desire to actually explore an open relationship, and he has an entirely different reason, in that it is a very VERY rare choice in the community we live in (we know nobody in our entire extended social circle/many degrees of separation who has an open relationship) and he’d find it impossible to explain.

      But he knows I find other men attractive. And I know he finds other women attractive. It’s something we can talk about very easily with each other, knowing full well that neither of us feels any desire to actually act on that attraction. I don’t know how common this is (and I wish more people talked about it!). Still, I have no idea how I’d react if he ever came home wanting an open relationship, but I also know full well that it is of no interest to him right now. I’m very much of the belief that love and commitment and relationships are all about making active choices. And I suppose I’m confident that both of us are waking up every single day and making that active choice – and all the other choices that come with it – to commit to our relationship, while still giving the other person freedom to pursue their own hobbies and friendships and letting them check out the hot guy/girl at the bar.

  14. Betsy says...

    I’ve recently had my entire world rocked by my husband and father of my three children. He didn’t come to me self professing his love with another, he just made himself so strange that I figured it out. He became dark and unrecognizable. And it wasn’t love, it is a sexual exploration with someone 22 years his junior. I had to suffer through it, find it, see the texts, and then he left and still lies that the relationship doesn’t exist. It’s probably addiction.

    In a marriage, there is more than sex, people go through pregnancy, childbirth, surgeries, long-distance, illnesses, and to define marriage and make sex the place from where you define it, I find it fitting that the majority of these people are young enough to do so. When there isn’t sex in your relationship because someone is sick, then what does it become? I am glad they are happy seeming. While working through the pain caused to my family, I finally had to accept something I thought was close-minded, but turns out is actually healthy, just because someone thinks something is fun or makes them “happy” it isn’t actually always healthy and it isn’t always right. I don’t judge these choices, but I don’t think we can walk around saying live and let live, we owe it to each other to look at how our choices affect everyone. Parents, siblings, spouses, children, etc. it isn’t all about me me me!!!!

    • Bea says...

      I am so sorry that you and your children are suffering through this. I appreciate your perspective. It is more important in life to have meaning than happiness. And then there is the fact that we are often very poor judges of what will truly make us happy.

    • Sarah K says...

      I’m so sorry for the pain you and your family have experienced. I think you put this so well–marriage is not all about sex. It has to be a commitment that is more than individual happiness if it is worth anything at all. You also point out another thing I wonder about in these conversations: what about the children? There can be so much fallout in their lives when their parents are self-focused.

      I have not been in your shoes, but upon my FIL’s recent death we learned that he had an affair that devastated his wife (my husband’s stepmom) and her children and grandchildren, who had been very close to him. It was horrifying to his children to learn about this, and it was so sad to have to mourn his death while processing such depressing revelations about his character. These kinds of choices have repercussions that reverberate in families for generations. It makes me sad to see this topic treated so cheerfully. Seeking your own happiness above all is really not the path to true happiness.

    • M says...

      This. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Allison says...

      Betsy, I’m so sorry you went through this. My spouse also left me this year. I’m reading Sheryl Sandburg’s new book “Option B” right now — it’s about resilience, and it’s been incredibly helpful. You may want to pick it up. Take care.

    • Jenna says...

      Thank you for saying this!

    • Pamela says...

      To Betsy and Allison, so many hugs. It’s trite and who am I but a faceless stranger on the internet, but you’re in my thoughts and I wish you much happiness even if it feels intangible at present.

    • Claire says...

      Betsy, I’m sorry. This happened to me as well, a little over a year ago. My husband met a woman at work, and two weeks later they were having an affair. A month after that, my kids and I were by ourselves. He had left me (us) for this woman. Just wanted you to know that someone else out there feels your pain <3

    • Betsy says...

      Thank you for the kind comments. I have the book, and I love it. I don’t think anything is “easier” than any other kind of grief, but the man I met and loved is gone, so that part is like a death, but every other day I see this other person he has become. Strangely enough even though he knows I have read and seen it all, he refuses to acknowledge it because he really needs to see himself as a good man. It is a lot to grieve and yet I will say the grief part has fond memories to it, whereas the lying isn’t anything i want to remember. Also, I just saw the movie The Lovers, and I find it gives an interesting perspective, we sometimes make such a mess that we leave ourselves few choices, and also while we may be “happier” others may suffer.

    • Jean ann says...

      You sound very wise.

    • Betsy says...

      Tonight I am without my three children, in our suburban home, where I loved our life as a family of five, and still love my life as the mother of our three children. I don’t like being here without them. So, I came back to check on this website and saw this. It made me smile. The kindness of strangers to take the time to wish my children and me well, we have been hurt deeply, and sometimes it’s like PTSD, your replies saved the empty loneliness I was experiencing. I realized through all this, I wish once he could have simply said “it will be OK”. You all did that for me. Thank you.

  15. Lee says...

    This is so interesting to me, these conversations are everywhere now and they give you so much to think about! As someone whose been married for 6 years and has two toddlers something we spend a lot of time navigating and reflecting on is how to support each others independence and personal intellectual life in a way that is balanced. As a woman especially I find it so challenging to be in long term intimate relationship and maintain a strong sense of self and independence. I always think of it as being rooted to each other in a way that doesn’t drain one to nourish the other, in a way that allows us to each grow. Maggie Nelson addressed this so beautifully in The Argonauts saying of her partner, “I feel I can give you all of me without giving myself away. If you do your solitude right this is what you get.” I also love the way in Fates and Furies Lauren Groff addressed the ways “wives, as we all know, are invisible.” That’s the thing that strikes me about open relationships, it seems to be one way of navigating this, of not becoming invisible, of working out your independence. Leaning into jealousy must really teach you the boundaries of the ways we do and do not belong to each other. At the same time reading these has been illuminating for me in recognizing that I am in no way interested in exploring that by connecting intimately with other people. My husband and I both keep changing, it’s almost funny to me to think about being bored when there’s so much we’re trying to make time for and explore together and as a family!

    • Lee says...

      Quote edit: “I feel I can give you everything without giving myself away. If one does ones solitude right, this is the prize.”

  16. Rachel Simmons says...

    Just like seasons in life and seasons in the calendar, our marriage goes through seasons as well. Profess it or not, sex is not simply physical, it’s biological, chemical and emotional on so many levels. Sex is an investment in your spouse, your marriage and your future with that individual. So how can someone tell me sex outside of our apart from your spouse is healthy for your marriage? Why not invest, not just sexually, but emotionally into your marriage? Date your spouse, make an effort, be loving and romantic. Marriage is, life is, so much more than sex.

    • Cara says...

      YES to all of this!

    • M says...

      My thoughts exactly. Thank you for sharing your thoughts

    • Beth B. says...

      Absolutely. Thank you for sharing!

    • Lee says...

      Yes! I completely agree.

    • Candice says...

      Yes! Thank you!

    • Laura says...

      Yes yes yes!

  17. Thanks for writing about this. I’m a firm believer that consenting adults should be allowed to do what they want without judgment so long as they aren’t hurting anybody. I would love more info on how they deal with jealousy. I’m monogamous and am pretty sure I’ll always be that way, but I’m just so curious about this!

  18. Hannah says...

    I think it’s really strange that Cup of Jo is jumping on the bandwagon of normalizing this kind of behavior. I don’t think you are being open minded, I think you are purposefully trying to normalize it and make it seem like a cool, reasonable choice, when it is the epitome of selfishness and the “have my cake and eat it too” mindset. It also seems like NYtimes and other major “thinking people’s” print media are trying to normalize open marriages as the new model for relationships, and it’s really disturbing.

    A commenter above said “there’s no right or wrong”- I really disagree. Morality exists. Everything is NOT relative. Being faithful to the person that you married and to your vows is right. If not, why even get married?

    • Sarah King says...

      I don’t think anyone is saying it is the “new model” for relationships, but just accepting that’s it’s “A model” that works for some people.

      And it’s not immoral if everyone is consenting and happy and knowledgeable about the situation.

    • Rachel Simmons says...

      Couldn’t agree more with what you said.

    • Jean says...

      Everyone has their own ideas of what is “right and wrong”. Morality does exist but that doesn’t mean it has to be the same for everyone. If an open relationship feels wrong to you, then that is a moral code you choose to set for yourself. But for others, it adds additional meaningful experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise get. The concept of marriage was created and defined by people. It only exists because people decide to believe in it. Some people don’t eat meat because they believe it’s wrong, some people don’t have sex before marriage because that feels wrong. Who are we to decide what others should believe in? I don’t know what it feels like to be anyone but myself. The experiences that bring meaning to my life are my own and no one else but myself can say what that might be. Some may say this view is an excuse to act selfishly, but it’s up to us to decide if our actions make us feel selfish. We all know deep down what feels right and wrong, and it’s not selfish of us to realize those feelings are different from what society told us they should be.

    • Emily says...

      Hannah, you took the words right out of my mouth! Could not agree more!!

    • Sarah K says...

      I profoundly agree with you, Hannah. Right and wrong do exist. What if the “consenting, happy” members of the relationship are a 50-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl? Or a 30-year-old high school teacher and her 15-year-old student? We cannot pretend we live in a world without morals. None of us would want to.

    • Hanna says...

      Totally agree!

    • Alice Jones says...

      But no one is talking about minors here!!! No one here is saying that a child or young teenager consenting — that’s why the concept of statutory rape exists (even if a child/young teenager consents, it’s still legally considered rape). that seems very inaccurate to make that analogy.

    • Dany says...

      I agree wholeheartedly.

    • Thank you so much for your courage and your careful articulation. I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said.

    • d says...

      Couldn’t have said it better, Hannah!!

    • Kate Harvey says...

      Thank you, Hannah, for standing up for what is right.

    • Margaret says...

      Couldn’t agree more. Marriage is incredibly hard work, and very rewarding, but it is not a casual thing!

    • Katharina says...

      I find your comment very offensive.
      It has been hard for me to put my finger on why exactly I read it as offensive and it is still difficult to put it into words.

      It isn’t the fact that you disagree.
      You have the right to disagree with a lifestyle choice and to be bemused or irritated. But these are your emotions and your point of view and that does not make it an absolute truth.

      I think the interviews and all the comments have been an interesting read. All the comments expressed a lot of different opinions and insights and I loved reading about how relationships function differently for different couples. Some readers found the concept of open marriage disturbing, wrong or just not right for them but I always felt like there was some basic respect for other people’s choices.
      I don’t read respect in your post. Quite the opppsite in fact.
      You choice of words and your tone irritated me.

      By “jumping on the bandwagon” you make it sound like there was a conspiracy trying to undermine the (conservative) values you seem to hold up high.
      You made “thinking people” sound like an insult.

      But I think being open minded is exactly what most commenters have been by taking other people’s choices into consideration even when they make decisions they don’t think are right.

      As for my humble opinion:

      There is no “normal” in human relationships. They are always different and shaped by society, different cultural norms and the spirit of the age you live in.
      For the times they are a-changin’
      Any form of relationship between consenting adults should be normalized. It’s all just fifty shades of whatever.

      As another commenter said:
      “Families are all different, marriages are all different, and just because something is traditional or works for some people doesn’t make it right, or for everyone. Just because your idea of marriage is one thing doesn’t give you the right to assume that is what marriage means to everyone.”

      And what Sarah King said in her first comment to your comment.

    • Rebecca says...

      Hannah,

      Thank you for this interesting perspective — specifically around morality not being relative.

      One thing that I think you may be overlooking is your assumption about what the vows people took in their marriage. Not everyone makes the same vows.

      My husband and I vowed to be kind, to be compassionate, to encourage the best in each other and to be as deeply committed to each other’s growth as our own. We committed to each other.

      But, never, ever did we commit to monogamy.

      Why did we get married? Because we wanted to commit to each other in front of our family and community. Because we want to spend the rest of our life supporting and encouraging each other. Because he is my #1 priority and my vow is to keep him as my #1 priority.

      But none of those are mutually exclusive to an open marriage.

  19. Ciara says...

    Where do people find the time for this kind of activity? I can hardly keep up with my monagomous marriage and kids. And for the record, would not change a thing.

    • Katie says...

      Haha, ditto! With three kids under 6, I can’t imagine ever having the emotional or physical time for this. If anything, I’d love more time ALONE!

      Also, this just makes me sad to think about. Maybe I’m just traditional, but to me there’s something beautiful about marriage being two people working hard to stay together for their entire life, and for those two people to look back on what they’ve built together. In my opinion, this cheapens that.

  20. Anon says...

    Hi guys! I also have an open marriage. Thank you to COJ and these women for sharing. In regards to whether or not polyamory is a “choice”: My understanding of sexual orientation is that it refers to the innate sexual preferences of an individual. Monogomy, just like heterosexuality, feels natural and normal to some – but certainly not everyone! I don’t think it’s necessarily a choice – I think some people, like these interviewees, and myself, are naturally suited to polyamory and would be deeply unhappy denying that preference and living without it. I think the preference for monogamy or multiple partners is absolutely part of an individual’s overall orientation. Either way — It’s 2017. It’s not OK anymore to feel entitled to approve or disapprove of another person’s consensual sexual preferences.

    I would also like to respond to the many comments asking how anyone, especially a mother, finds the time for extramarital dating. We all find time for what we prioritize. I prioritize my sex life. Do I prioritize it above my family’s health, happiness and harmony? Of course not. Questioning how a mother could possibly “find the time” to explore and express her sexuality seems to reflect the notion that women can’t/shouldn’t/don’t enjoy sex, casual or otherwise.

    • Corey says...

      I wholeheartedly agree with all of this. Thank you for sharing :)

    • Beth B. says...

      As I have read in other reader’s comments, Anon, then why get married if you are “naturally suited to polyamory”? Do those in open relationships find themselves desiring polyamory, or does this develop over time? I’m not attacking, but just asking to find out more about the thought process behind this style of relationship.

      Thanks!

  21. Linh Taylor says...

    I think these open marriages define what exactly marriage between 2 people could potentially be like. Marriage is hard, the long haul, the boredom, the fight, the responsibility, working hard to make it exciting day after day, rekindle the love we had during dating, new sex positions, new locations to have sex, making time for date nights, and etc. It’s a lifetime amount of work. I’m glad open-marriage work for these couples. I can’t help but wonder if it’s a new way of reversing a marriage back into dating stage without going through a painful and soul breaking divorce?

  22. SBE says...

    This article made me feel very, very sad. I guess I have to look to myself to understand why that is the case. Good luck everyone doing this, I hope it works out for you.

    • Pamela says...

      Me too. I’m still sad a day later and I’ve been searching hard within myself to answer why!

  23. aga says...

    Whoa. I’m gonna have to think about this. I’ll be honest, I was cringing reading this and thinking about my partner having sex — even just looking or touching someone else romantically!

    • Rachel Simmons says...

      Right?!

    • Kate says...

      Really? I’m kind of excited about the idea of my partner being with someone else (though in reality would probably feel quite jealous). Instead, I find the idea of myself having sex with someone else highly repulsive.

      It seems non-monogamy really is closer to an orientation than a choice.

    • Kristen says...

      YES!

  24. Heather says...

    Joanna, would you consider doing a relationship piece on cheating in a marriage? I’m suddenly struggling with this now and am finding it hard to hear stories about women who choose to stay or who chose to stay but ultimately left.

  25. Steph says...

    A more accurate title might be ‘What it’s like to be happy in an open marriage’, acknowledging this is a very complex topic.
    Not taboo, just complex and interesting; I would be interested in hearing from someone who has had parents openly participating in an open marriage. Like others, I imagine a negative impact.

    • Cara says...

      Me too- I’d like to see some other perspectives about maybe adults who grew up with parents in an open marriage, or people who’s spouse decided they want an open marriage but they weren’t open to it and how that affected their marriage, or even people who have tried an open marriage and it damage or ended the marriage. There is WAY more to this topic and I feel like this post only covered one tiny perspective.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      cara, i love your ideas! we’d love to cover more and had so many ideas of where this post could go, but at the end of the day, it’s a very short post and not a book, so we have to stop somewhere :) here, we chose to cover the perspective of three Cup of Jo readers and answer some of people’s frequently asked questions about open marriages. still, we’d love to keep covering different lifestyles/decisions/jobs/family models/viewpoints etc etc and will keep trying and growing! thank you!

    • Kendra says...

      My parents had an open marriage and my husband’s parents as well and my husband’s parents have been married for 35 years. My mom has been married twice (not because of an open marriage). It was and still is such a beautiful place to have lived in. I find that I am more honest, realistic and and understanding of my marriage. While we are monogamous, we also understand that cheating is not an end-all for us. It’s like any other struggle and it’s more important to be honest neat and forgiving (of ourselves and the others). I am beyond grateful (and my husband is too!) of our upbringing!

    • I agree Steph & I realise that you needed to keep this short, but I’d also like to hear other sides: What hearache has this caused couples? How do people explain this to their children? When things don’t work out?

  26. bisbee says...

    I’ll have to say, good for them, not for me. Actually, I’m not totally convinced that it is good for them…so I’ll say good for them for now, maybe not good for them forever.

    I can also say that this idea holds absolutely no pull for me at all. I was married to my first husband for 28 years until he left the marriage. I am married to my second husband for 12 years. I like being married…I like not having to look for new people to be attracted to…I love being comfortable in a relationship. Just one…and believe me, there will NOT be a third husband!

    • Erica Ramirez says...

      Me, too! I also really like being in a committed and monogamous relationship.

      But even though I’m not interested in being in an open marriage, this article was still relevant for me.
      I’ll volunteer that I have lots of guy friends and that there have been times over the course of my 16 year marriage that a guy friend has emotionally moved toward being more of a boyfriend. i still haven’t fully figured out how this happens but the dynamic just changes and it takes me a long time to see it.

      And these experiences have felt complicated– very recently one actually verbalized being polyamorous with me as a possibility. These examples started with people consciously opening their marriages but this idea has come from outside my marriage– which has been stressful .

      After having thought through the possibility of an open marriage I conclude I’m Not into it. I just appreciate the simplicity of what my husband and I have built together and I don’t want that to change in this way.

    • Erica says...

      Me, too! I also really like being in a committed and monogamous relationship.

      But even though I’m not interested in being in an open marriage, this article was still relevant for me.
      I’ll volunteer that I have lots of guy friends and that there have been times over the course of my 16 year marriage that a guy friend has emotionally moved toward being more of a boyfriend. i still haven’t fully figured out how this happens but the dynamic just changes and it takes me a long time to see it.

      And these experiences have felt complicated– very recently one actually verbalized being polyamorous with me as a possibility. These examples started with people consciously opening their marriages but this idea has come from outside my marriage– which has been stressful .

      After having thought through the possibility of an open marriage I conclude I’m Not into it. I just appreciate the simplicity of what my husband and I have built together and I don’t want that to change in this way.

  27. Ally says...

    I recently left the Mormon church after years of trying to reconcile with it’s polygamous and polyandrous past. It is a past that the church rarely speaks about for many reasons. After spending years digging into the history of it, and years of reading the journals (and modern-day interviews) of the people involved… I just couldn’t find peace in any of the pages I read, let alone with my own feelings on the matter. While Polyamory doesn’t necessarily require marriage between multiple partners, polygamy does technically fall under this broader term of polyamory. And so, in reading this article, I just couldn’t shake the dread I felt when I researched how polygamy effected the people in the church I grew up with. To be clear, there were some accounts from women that seemed to genuinely love their polygamous situation. But the majority of the women, including women who entered into these relationships knowingly and willingly, suffered in ways (emotionally) that pierced my soul.

    I can see the value of finding and living your own truth. But I also feel that polyamory is so sensational right now that it’s hard for many people to truly understand the depth of the emotional impact this may have if practiced. I agree with an earlier comment that CoJ should have found a more diverse set of interviewees to better represent this topic. It deserved a closer look.

    • Lana says...

      Have you published any of your findings? It seems incredibly interesting to read and I’m very curious of your opinion on the subject. Thank you

    • Paige says...

      Such an interesting perspective! Thanks for sharing.

    • Ally says...

      Lana – I’m not really planning on publishing anything… sorry! That being said, here is a link to a historian that has done an amazing job documenting the lives of the wives of some of the founding leaders of the church, as well as delving into modern polygamy. She lists many of her resources, and makes the information very accessible via her podcast. It’s a good place to start! There are many great books being written on this subject, and of course, still much work to be done collecting the stories and journals of the women and men that have experienced this.

      http://www.yearofpolygamy.com/

      I also highly recommend the book, “In Sacred Lonliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith.” https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Loneliness-Plural-Wives-Joseph/dp/156085085X

      Good luck! It’s a very tough subject.

    • Lee says...

      This is such a crucial point. Discussing this lifestyle from the perspective of privilege and freedom without recognizing or accounting for the reality of many people’s experiences with forced polyamory does feel a bit irresponsible now, or at least a bit less meaningful.

    • Ali says...

      Great thoughts Ally. I agree. It’s been presented in the media lately as the latest thing, and here also. None of the darker side anywhere to be seen! When you think of the trail of partners described above, I’d be so surprised if there isn’t one devastated, heartbroken partner or child somewhere along the line….

  28. Mary Bresnahan says...

    My mom gave me some advice that took years for me to figure out how valuable it was. She said don’t worry about your sex life in marriage, you have your whole lives to figure it out together. Boredom can set in but it changes and then the next month or year it’s not that way at all! There is no free lunch, sex in marriage is no plaything. Promiscuity hurts people. My best advice is if you really love your spouse and want to stay married, don’t mess around and if you’re bored today chances are you won’t be bored tomorrow.

    • Alex says...

      Glad someone can see straight enough to comment this way. It seems to me the trouble is largely that sex is seen as an end in and of itself and that no trait is given higher credence than self-gratification.

    • Karen says...

      Wow! I love this advice, Mary. So practical and true. Tell your Mom thanks from me!

  29. Marie says...

    A previous commenter noted that while Hadley and Ava’s sexualities were noted, Catherine’s was not. I also find that odd. What was the reasoning behind this editorial choice?

    It only seems relevant to note sexual orientation in Ava’s case, because she speaks directly to the way that being bisexual has impacted her decisions and experiences.

    But if you’re going to put it out there for two out of the three women, why not do it for all?

    Anyways- super interesting topic!

    • EJ says...

      I’d like an answer to this too please, Jo

  30. Whoa, very interesting! I’ll admit, the thought of this idea made me feel very anxious to imagine being in an open relationship. I’m not knocking it – more power to the couples that can do it! I’m glad they’re happy.

    http://objectsicantafford.com

  31. BW says...

    There’s a narrow demographic here – women about 30 who have been married for a handful of years; one is a parent but two are not. It’s interesting how different your twenties are from your thirties and (early, for me) forties, and how your priorities shift as roles develop over time and your relationship is tested by factors outside your control.

    Perhaps this approach to marriage will be sustainable over time for these couples, but I don’t read this as an example of open marriage as much as an example of an approach to the first few years of marriage. Those years are quite different from the years that follow for everyone I know, in ways both challenging and fortifying. This seems like phase 1. An interesting follow-up would be to feature the experience of people who took this approach early and where they are 15 years later, etc.

    Apart from the emotional aspect, the amount of time these folks have for discretionary activities is reflective of a certain time in life, at least for people who plan to have kids. Would these individuals be cool with staying home with the kids on Saturday night while the other spouse was out on a date+? Or paying for a babysitter and associated entertainment costs so one spouse can go out on dates while the other is traveling for work? Or forfeiting spending time together as a family when discretionary time is scarce? Maybe so, but that level of trade-off is pretty different from 20-somethings whose time is all their own.

    In my experience, marriage vows become more meaningful over time – that’s sort of the whole point of marriage, that it’s a grounding foundation for a family as their needs and dynamics change. I’d guess that a short and early period of the institution is not a great example of the experience as a whole.

    Personally, I think there’s real value in the commitment of two people to each other. It’s a different thing entirely than the arrangements described here. That’s not to dismiss these as something less than ‘marriage’. Marriage takes all forms. But keeping those marriage vows – *especially* when it’s hard, whether related to fidelity or anything else – is often an investment that compounds in value over time. I see what my husband and I have been through as life has kicked us around and I’m really grateful that we prioritized that commitment. In my case, keeping this partnership between just two people without extramarital romantic involvements is something that has grown even more valuable over time. I expect that will continue over the decades as our little family boat rides the tumultuous waves of life ahead and it makes me think there’s a reason fidelity is the norm. For most of us, it’s worth it. :)

    • Jann says...

      thank you for your very thoughtful and well-written comment! I agree…very very narrow demographic represented here and a rather superficial treatment of the topic/experience. If my husband propositioned me to have an open marriage – I’d say “sure! Let’s get a divorce and you’ll be free to sow your oats wherever you want. Call me a romantic, but I want a partner who is heart and soul and bodily committed to me.”

    • Dana says...

      Great comment/perspective. “Marriage vows become more meaningful over time.” Love that. The NYT article featured couples that have been together much longer, have kids, etc. It is all so fascinating to me. I’m in my mid-30s, my husband of less than a year is 40, we’re pregnant with our first (I have a 12 year old stepson), and no way in heck does an open marriage even compute for either of us. But I LOVE the love and respect these couples have for each other. As a newlywed, I’m fascinated with seeing how others “do marriage” even if it wouldn’t work for me.

    • Joy says...

      so much wisdom in this comment. thank you!

    • Michelle Ruetschle says...

      Thank you for voicing this so thoughtfully. The journey of loving one person continues to stretch, challenge, grow and satisfy me more and more (seventeen years later!). I love that I get to embrace what I have always felt to be a beautiful design for the human heart. Yes, it’s hard sometimes, but mostly it is enormously satisfying. I’m still pinching myself that I get to grow old with my love. There is also so much freedom in knowing that neither of us are ever leaving – rather than giving less freedom, I have found that it gives me more, both in my marriage and in life itself. And when the commitment is long and firm, children thrive as well. I’d love to see longitudinal studies on these types of polyamorous set ups. Anecdotally, they don’t last. At some point, someone falls too hard for their fling and all is lost.

    • Erica says...

      I just nodded my head the whole way through your comment – so much truth there.

  32. There’s a lot of people saying that they wish couples who have tried non-monogamy and not liked it, and while I do feel like that would have added another level to the post, and sometimes I’m sure it’s coming from a place of curiosity, I really feel like that’s often a more socially-acceptable way of judging people who choose non-monogamy. If this were a post about monogamous marriages, would there be comments asking to hear from divorced couples, or people in nonmonogamous marriages? People who tried monogamy and said “this just isn’t for us?” Comments saying things like, “Can we have a post about divorce and couples who have chosen not to be monogamous? I feel like this post glorifies monogamy in a way that is really unhealthy.” Doubtful. It’s mostly people who don’t agree with polyamory as a life choice and want to hear stories about how it’s gone wrong.

    I also wish people would stop asking “but what about the kids?” Kids are going to normalize whatever situation they grow up in. Be it with traditional monogamous parents, single mother or father, divorced parents, extended step family, nonmonogamous parents, parents who are together and not married, parents who are gay. If a kid grows up in a house with parents who are married but also date other people, they will know it to be normal. The parents may have to answer questions about it, but probably no more than a single parent will have to answer questions about the missing one.

    Families are all different, marriages are all different, and just because something is traditional or works for some people doesn’t make it right, or for everyone. Just because your idea of marriage is one thing doesn’t give you the right to assume that is what marriage means to everyone.

    • Corey says...

      Thank you for your thoughtful and articulate comment, Katie. I couldn’t agree more.

    • Sarah K says...

      I would just like to respond to one point you made, Katie. I don’t think it’s true that kids normalize any situation they are in, and I don’t think long-term rigorous studies would support that. Just from personal experience, every single person I know with divorced parents is deeply scarred by it. Every one. This includes my husband, who told me when we were dating that his parents’ divorce hadn’t really affected him–and then years later admitted that he had spent many nights weeping while he listened to his parents fighting, and that those fights still haunted him. And for a kid’s perspective: when we were about 12 I asked my cousin, “Do you ever wish your parents would get back together?” He looked at me and said very seriously, “Every kid with divorced parents wishes they would get back together.” I have never forgotten that. I think the notion that we can do whatever we want, and the kids will be okay, is a dangerous myth.

    • Claire says...

      I keep thinking “what is the point of marriage then?” And maybe the answer is, the answer is different for everyone.

    • jen says...

      thank you for this comment. i’m dismayed that so many comments are judgmental and narrow-minded. we have a saying in my (monogamous, married with kids) family: you do whatever works for you and your family.

      I think it’s interesting to hear different ways of making a life with another person. the NYMag article also goes into much more detail and different situations.

    • Ava says...

      “Kids are going to normalize whatever situation they grow up in .” I couldn’t agree less with your reasoning regarding children in these situations. My parents both remarried when I was six and being fully aware that my mom was sleeping with someone new, in our home, was greatly unsettling to me and caused feelings of insecurity and distress.

    • Cara says...

      Katie- to some extent, I agree with you saying “kids normalize whatever they grow up with” and while that might be true, that their home life is their norm, that does NOT mean that it won’t have some long term affect on them and how they view and act in relationships in their life. This also goes for people who have married parents who are monogamous. I just think that there are 2 sides to this, and the people who are pro-poly think that the people questioning this lifestyle (whether from curiosity or judgement) are wrong for being narrow-minded. It goes both ways and each side is entitled to their beliefs. This is a controversial subject, it just is.

    • To respond to Sarah K.: There are children who absolutely would have been better off had their parents divorced. I am a divorcee because my in-laws stayed together. Their marriage was toxic, deeply abusive, and they hid none of it from their children. They managed to actually be loving and supportive parents when interacting directly with their two children, but they were utterly HORRIBLE to each other. And no surprise, both of their children grew up with deep psychological issues, chronic anxiety for both of them, and both are completely unable to handle a healthy relationship on their own (both are twice married, my ex husband twice divorced. I was wife #2). Both of their sons now admit that they frequently wished their parents would divorce, and admit today that they would have been better off as children and adults if their parents had divorced. My ex once told me, he couldn’t remember a time even as a very small child where he ever felt safe and secure. I asked him if he could remember a sustained period of happiness in his life, and he told me he had none. What an AWFUL thing to do to your children.

  33. While I personally subscribe to marriage being sacred between two (ANY two) partners, I feel that people should be allowed to define their marriages in any way they choose. Reading this piece, I was overcome by the thought that these stories of fulfillment and happiness mirror that which I find in my own marriage, and isn’t that the point? Finding fulfillment, peace, and happiness in ourselves and with others.

    We don’t get to live that long. Live your truth :)

    And bravo to Jo’s team for continuing to post in ways that make me think and give me broader perspective (and understanding! and compassion!). I really appreciate that about this space!

  34. Annie Green says...

    It all seems very time-consuming. And I suppose it depends on the vows you took as well. What I wonder about is – why marry in the first place? Why not just see lots of people? Or is the marriage bit the safety net? Fortunately, I won’t be in the position of ever finding out as this would not be my idea of an interesting life. Ever since the phrase (much bandied) You Can Have It All came to prominence in the 80s, I have doubted the veracity of such an idea. Why should you?

  35. Leanne says...

    Years ago, I read an article written by a man, talking about his decision to be faithful to/monogamous with his wife. He said something like: “But there are so many women I haven’t been with. How am I going to stay with the same woman for the rest of my life? I love to travel – I don’t want to stay in the same village, I want to go to all these different places and experience different things!”

    And she said: “But if you travel lots, you won’t know what it’s like to live in one village. If you choose to date lots of women, and a life of non-monogamy, you won’t know what it’s like to be monogamous.” True monogamy is long, and slow, and – I think – rare.

    I see it less as a lifestyle choice and more as a long-term attempt. My husband and I agreed to be monogamous, but to really be truly monogamous, we need to be faithful to each other for the rest of our lives. If I go an have an affair 20 years from now, I won’t know what it’s like. It’s a daunting undertaking, but I’m so curious – if we make it – what it will feel like to be 85, holding his hand, with the knowledge that we’ve done it.

    That said, it’s not for everyone. Lots of people choose to spend their lives travelling and exploring, and good for them. Consenting adults should be free to do whatever they want in their bedrooms.

  36. Kate says...

    I think this idea is interesting but I echo the other women who spoke out about the other people affected by the relationship. I think it would be so difficult to be the other “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” or even the couple’s child.

    Also, how do they have time to do this? With work, kids, building their own relationship, exercise, volunteer work (hopefully), travel, and just general life duties, I would think that something would have to give to make way for dating another person. I constantly think about the concept of “You can’t have it all” and think it would especially apply to these situations.

  37. Natalie says...

    “Meeting new people: At first I used Tinder, but recently I’ve been wanting to meet people more naturally. I teach yoga and there are male students who I think would be into it.” As a yoga teacher myself, this made me cringe simply because I don’t think it’s appropriate to hit on students… I think it can give the profession a bad rap. But, I’m glad it worked out for her.

    Interesting topic. Thanks for sharing, Joanna!

    • laura says...

      My reaction too! Yoga has had some very public, bad examples of teacher/students relationships so I hope her interactions are ethical and respectful of the teacher/student relationship.

  38. Lissa says...

    I’m old…hahaha…married faithfully for 34 years and honestly don’t get it. I figure that’s what fantasies are for :). Especially as a religious person I found a special meaning in words such “holy matrimony”, “forsaking all others” and probably wouldn’t have understood the purpose of marriage without the exclusivity that came with it. As a nurse, pregnancy and STDs would have to still have to occur with some frequency.

    • Lee says...

      Yes to the issue of pregnancy and stds which was not addressed in this post, any discussion of multiple partners should emphasize the importance or at least existence of this issue!!

  39. Sarah says...

    Hot topic!

    I’m 34, have been with my husband for almost 12 years, married for almost 7. He’s actually the only man I’ve ever had sex with and as I’ve grown up and become more confident the idea of sexual adventures with other people has become more appealing. It’s been uncomfortable and exhilarating to slowly come to the realization that our marriage is whatever we want it to be. Like many other commentors though, I find the logistics mind boogling and the risks intimidatingly high.

    Fascinating topic though, thanks Jo!

  40. I’ve read the article and some of the comments (I don’t have all day to read them all, ha ha!) and this is the most controversial and interesting read I’ve had in a long time! Thank you and well done for handling an apparently taboo topic so tactfully.

    In my opinion, find whatever it is that works for your relationship and do it! I love hearing about unconventional relationships and these are so interesting! When you trust each other and are willing to be honest with each other 110% it could be fun! xo

  41. Monica says...

    W-O-W. Just WOW. Great article, great approach to an unfamiliar topic that seems to really be more common than we think!

    • Karen says...

      wait–so weakness equals monogamy? the cognitive dissonance here is staggering.

      maybe instead of shame-fest 2017, we can all leave this as: “good for them, not for me.”

    • Beth B. says...

      Oh my. This is very disheartening to read.

      Monogamy is weak? Remaining faithful to one, imperfect person, loving and serving them and putting your selfish desires aside to consider your spouses needs? That takes remarkable, supernatural strength.

  42. Rosie says...

    So glad to read something like this! Loved what the woman said about how it’s like living in the city or the suburbs – both great for different reasons/people. Wish other commenters could get over their “discomfort” and show respect for how each individual chooses to live their life – no one ever implied or said that this is the one correct way to have a marriage and if you don’t open it you’re not doing it right. To each her own! I personally doubt I will ever open my relationship but am thrilled that other people have such great experiences with it.

    • Zahara says...

      I respect what you’re saying, but at the same time you and all of humanity are allowed to feel uncomfortable. You simply saying that gives the impression that you’re uncomfortable with others being uncomfortable. And that is ok to feel that way, just as it is for those that politely express their opinion about it. Again, I am in no way trying to be disrespectful, just saying what I saw when I read your comment.

  43. Tiffany says...

    I don’t typically comment on blogs but I feel like in articles regarding open relationships, all the focus is on the couple. There’s really little consideration or regard for people who are dating the people in the “core couple” who often get disregarded and treated as a disposable secondary. While a lot of couples experience joy and further closeness, I feel a voice needs to be given the single people who sometimes experience a lot of pain in the hands of the coupled people they’re seeing.

    • This is a really great point. I’d be interested in hearing a point of view from the people they are dating as well. This article was new to me in regards to the content so it was interesting to read on it’s own, however, I did feel like that was missing.

    • G says...

      I really enjoyed reading this post and think that it would be great to have two more posts—one that is from the prospective of people who tried an open relationship and don’t recommend it, and another from the people who have been in open relationships but not part of the core couple.

      Having been the third wheel of a couple’s open relationship, I’m happy to volunteer.

    • R.S. says...

      I’m currently dating a man who is engaged. When he first told me he had feelings for me and that his relationship was open, I freaked! I’d had a crush on him since the day we met but I walled him off in my mind, knowing he was unavailable. To suddenly be confronted with the fact that I could be with him was terrifying – how would it work? How many things could go wrong?
      We talked about it for a month, mostly he and I, but sometimes his fiancee as well, and finally decided that our connection was too deep to ignore. We’ve been together for 6 months and I’ve never been happier. I like his fiancee and I am glad she can be there for him in ways I can’t – they connect on totally different levels than he and I do. It’s a perfect overlap!
      He was clear from the start that he would never consider me a “secondary” partner, and we schedule things so that we have the most time together that we can. It’s really made me up my communication and real-talk game! =)
      I never thought I’d be with a man who was also with someone else, but here I am, and it’s so worth it.

    • Corey says...

      I saw a guy who was in an open relationship, and it was great. The two of us had a lot of fun together, as we share many of the same hobbies and interests, and have similar senses of humor. He was also AMAZING in bed. However, I never would want him as a life partner, as our ideas for our futures and what kind of lifestyle we want in regards to work, where to live, religion, kids, etc differ.

      He and his girlfriend have been together for several years and have an incredibly strong, committed relationship full of love and respect that I admire. They share the same vision for their future, and prefer the same lifestyle choices. I ended my relationship when I moved away, but I still consider the guy a close friend, and have spent time with him and his girlfriend (just hanging out as friends) when I’m back visiting the area.

      When we were together, I wasn’t looking for a long-term relationship, but didn’t want a string of casual hook-ups either. I was scared of starting a relationship with someone and having them fall hard, and then having to end it. I saw dating someone in an open relationship as a great solution because it allowed me to have a meaningful romantic relationship without the risk of it becoming more serious for one person than the other. We never pretended like his girlfriend didn’t exist and I always knew that, as special as our relationship was, she was his #1. Since I knew the dynamic going into the relationship, that never bothered me.

      All relationships (open or not) are different, and each presents its own unique challenges. However, by having realistic expectations, knowing yourself, listening to what your heart is telling you, and communicating with your partner(s), you’re much better able to navigate those challenges. There are people who have been hurt by being in non-traditional relationships, but there are also people like myself (and many I know), who have had very positive experiences.

  44. Maureen says...

    This article makes me very, very sad. On the surface, if it keeps marriages strong and families together, how is that a bad thing? But how will your children feel about it when they hear about it when they are older? Will you hide it from them? If so, why? I think if people look deeper, it may just be another attempt to fill an emptiness of the heart, like a new pair of shoes. Sex instead of retail. We consume resources, we consume food, and we consume people, and move on and on and on. It’s a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself.

    • cp says...

      I agree with what you said Maureen.

    • MH says...

      Agree. Establishing boundaries in many areas of my life and teaching my children to do the same has been one of life’s most challenging and important lessons.

    • Lindsay says...

      Agree

    • Julia says...

      Great comment! Thank you, Maureen!

    • Anna says...

      Thank you for articulating what I was feeling, and so sensitively.

    • Dany says...

      I agree wholeheartedly. You put into words how I’m feeling about this article.

  45. Natalie says...

    This was a really interesting read and I appreciate the Cup of Jo team for continuing to post things that make me think. Everyone has the right to make decisions with their partners that are right for their relationship. However, I do not think the concept of an open marriage is a healthy one. That is just my opinion. It doesn’t mean I am a hateful person nor does it mean that I feel “threatened” by something I don’t agree with. It is frustrating that in today’s society if you speak up and don’t agree with something you are labeled as judgemental or ignorant. People have the right to disagree with a lifestyle choice. I still love and respect my friends and family even when they make decisions I don’t think are right.

    • Katie Larissa says...

      Perfectly said, Natalie. It’s strange to me how having a different opinion = bad in this day and age.

    • Ana says...

      Well said. Thank you.

  46. Sasha says...

    To each their own. If it works for you, good for you. My grown daughters have talked with me about this, we are all curious, because it’s interesting, right? I’ve known five couples who’ve been openly non-monogamous, four are divorced, and the other is unhappy. I know unhappy or divorced monogamous folks too. Maybe some people just get really lucky and find a person who is everything. I think I’m lucky like that, 22 years married and I can’t imagine being with someone else. I don’t want anyone else. Also, I’m a minimalist with most things- 1 man is enough for me. How complicated these life styles are just makes me tired.

  47. cp says...

    I am in my late 20s, non religious & open-minded–>Obviously NOT. This is not new. I heard of this and I know that a lot of people do this. But for me, I will never ever be in an open marriage/relationship.

    If my partner will ask for an open relationship, I feel like he wants to have a security of having someone (something constant in his life) while he explores and have fun. I will feel used. So it’s best for him to find another person who shares the same values. If my partner feels bored, well that’s what relationships are, it’s boring sometimes. And it’s okay.

    If he’s not happy being bored with me then we can find ways to make our relationship work that doesn’t involve him asking for my consent to have sex with other people.

    The people interviewed are all women. I wonder if we can do a post on men’s views on open relationships/marriage. It would be nice to hear both sides. Those who are against it and those who advocate for it.

  48. Julia says...

    People should absolutely be free to make their own choices. As society becomes looser, it becomes more and more confusing and harder to figure out who you are and what to believe. But it’s also hard for me to imagine what good bringing this level of disruption into one’s romantic life would do in the long run.
    My best friend had always idealized open relationships since the start of high school and had many hiccups with monogamous boyfriends. About 10 years ago, she was finally in an open relationship with her long-term boyfriend, who grew up with parents in an open relationship. But jealousy always seems to exist on some level, especially when my friend would have her own outside loves – her boyfriend would get very weird and couldn’t handle it, even when he had his own second girlfriend. The boyfriend and his three siblings, who had always seen their mom especially having outside boyfriends, all could not seem to handle romantic relationships well and some really sad things happened in their family. His youngest brother, from a young age (like 6 years old, no joke), tried to make sexual advances toward my friend. His other brother committed suicide in his early 20s. His younger sister lives on the streets in New Orleans and doesn’t ever want to have an open relationship. The boyfriend, now an ex, goes to swingers clubs and invited my friend (who is not married) to go with him recently, even though he knows she’s now married in a monogamous relationship.
    I 100% believe people should be allowed to make their own choices. I just hope they make the right ones for their families.

  49. Stephanie says...

    My first thought is judgment–complete and utter judgment. I’m going to have to sit on this for a while before I open my big fat mouth and say something terribly nasty. Thank you for continuously asking your reader to think outside their norms.

    • Lily says...

      I love this! What a great example of recognizing that sometimes an immediate reaction might not be the right one, and that taking time to think on it can prevent a lot of angst and arguments.

  50. Debbie says...

    This is one of the most fascinating articles I’ve read in a while. A great introduction to a different, emerging, yet still very fringe life style. More power to the couples who can handle this, but I know with certainty that my husband and I would not be able to do it. I think it would lead to a lot resentment. I get jealous even imagining my husband with another woman! And goodness, how do these people find the time? Especially those with children.

  51. Emily says...

    I just read the NYT article on open marriages. It’s really fascinating to hear more of these stories as our culture becomes more open. I could never be monogamous, though. To me, one of the huge benefits of a relationship (or marriage) is having a unique type of and level of intimacy, which comes from that singular relationship which you have with just one person. I respect the choices of those who are exploring other options, though!

    • Emily says...

      oops, **non-monogamous!! the spell check took my ‘non’ right out haha.

  52. Sue R says...

    WOW! I absolutely had no idea. I can barely stay afloat at the end of the day with two teenagers, job, husband, one dog and two cats. Kudos to all these couples! Live it up! Live large! No explanations needed. To quote John Krakauer on climbing Everest: to those who do not feel it, it cannot be explained.

    • Raquel says...

      Love this quote!

  53. Elizabeth says...

    Amanda, is the other side you wish was represented monogamous marriages? Because that is what is constantly represented as the norm. In fact, it is so deeply ingrained as the norm that anything that strays is considered offensive or in this case, disappointing.

    I don’t think it’s your place to determine what is real and what isn’t. These are three people saying it is real and works for them. Likening an approach to marriage to an entire movement to discredit it is unnuanced and just wrong.

    Not everyone thinks that making a promise of monogamy that 50% of the population breaks in a clandestine, behind your back kind of way is the way to go. Some of us see that that ends up being more hurtful and destructive. Or some of us have identified that going against human nature would create a lot of resentment in a relationship over time.

    No one is forcing you to do this, but I’d hope that an open-minded person like you say you are would not feel the need to tear others down or call them wrong because you don’t agree. Not everyone can live their lives within the narrow confines of your particular world view.

    • Carrie says...

      well said

    • Zahara says...

      Completely agree! No one lives our lives and has our particular needs except us.

    • Amanda Stuart says...

      Upon further reflection, I would just like to say an open marriage just ain’t my thing.

  54. Jessica M. says...

    I love posts that push my mind to consider things from a different perspective. I live in a conservative area where this would NEVER be talked about! Thanks, Joanna and the ladies who shared, for letting us see into your lives a bit. I’m curious about how parents in open marriages deal with their children? Do your other partners (if they are serious) hang out with your kids; do you have family events together? Or do you keep those worlds separate? I’m sure it’s different for everyone but I’d would love to hear thoughts.

  55. Lauren E. says...

    I say, to each his own! My husband and I dabbled in polyamory for a short time and ultimately I just couldn’t handle it. I need to be the only woman in his sex life. But I absolutely see how other people do it. I’ve had sexual feelings for other men and it in no way reflected on the status of my marriage.

  56. Reading through the comments I have a different perspective to add. I think most of us say/think we would be the main person and our partner would have side fun. And that’s hard to imagine being that person. But what if we were the side fun? Honestly, sometimes, I’d just like to have really good sex with no commitment. But with someone I could trust to not hurt or infect me. Or even bother me when we’re done. Or, maybe, someone to talk to when I want but not all the time. I’m busy. I’m a single mom. I don’t want to introduce a guy my son might imagine as a father figure. But someone to chat with sometimes, maybe go out to dinner…and great sex? While keeping emotion out of it. Not worrying will we move to more serious, will he dump me, knowing up front what to expect….Sounds awesome to me.

    • This is a great idea. I’m a single woman and not so sure marriage is my calling, however, someone to spend time with on occasion would be nice:-)

  57. Kylie says...

    It’s so important for health professionals to realize this is common. I was listening to a Dan Savage podcast a few weeks back about a woman who asked her doctor for an STD test, and the doctor said, “Why? You’re married.” The woman was able to speak up for her own needs, but is worried about other individuals who might be afraid to talk to their health professionals about their personal choices. Bottom line: DON’T BE. You shouldn’t talk with your doctor like you do with your parents!

    • Anu says...

      That’s such a weird comment for a doctor to make in any case. Even if the situation is not an open marriage, it’s not uncommon for either partner to cheat – maybe the wife is having an affair, or maybe she’s afraid her husband is. She shouldn’t have to explain anything to get an STD test!

  58. This was very insightful and interesting. I have never been interested in a 3 some or an open relationship. I think I thought I would feel less than and wonder why a person couldnt be happy with me…like they are looking for something better? They might love them more. But now that I’m older, and possibly more secure, I could see how it might be beneficial. Its better than someone cheating, right? Not in a relationship now…and I’m not feeling like I need to be in one. I don’t get much out of dating continuously so I don’t know if that would appeal to me or I’d just curl up with a book at home and say “go have fun.”

  59. JL says...

    As an older (compared to the women in the post) woman in a happy, secure non-monogamous marriage—I’ve been married for 13 years, together for 16—I was really heartened to read (most of :)) these comments. So much acceptance, so little judgment. I really appreciate when people try and understand others’ choices even when they challenge their own—that what works for one couple doesn’t necessarily have to be the model for others. My experience among many of my 40-something peers has been that the idea of a happy non-monogamous relationship can sometimes make even the most tolerant, open-minded people freak out and become defensive, even tho I’m not a proselytizer at all. So thanks, Cup of Jo readers! One thing I would like mention, some of the comments are assuming an initial feeling of dissatisfaction/lack/boredom with their spouse that people then try to fill via opening up their relationship. But this was not the case at all for us—it’s not a fix. It would never work if it was. It’s just the way we are … I’m unconditionally loyal to/honest with my husband and find a ton of comfort and joy in our relationship, even though it doesn’t fit the culturally accepted mold. Also, regarding divorce, there’s a lot of it no matter what your choices—unfortunately, it’s everywhere. Thanks so much for this post!

    • Sarah says...

      Yes, thank you! Really sad and disappointing to see some of the negative comments here about open relationships (as someone who has long been in one myself).

      There are, of course, unhappy relationships of both kinds but it is very frustrating to see how many feel threatened somehow… or have absorbed a lot of moralising about it. We just do it because it makes us happy :)

  60. Beth says...

    While I definitely see the appeal of making these sorts of life choices, it really makes me wonder what is left over for the spouse? A lifelong friendship and someone to talk about all your adventures with? Someone to fall back on when things aren’t going well with other people? This is coming from a place of genuine curiosity. Like, why get married at all? In French culture, there is a certain acceptance of the naturalness of going outside the marriage but this seems to be coupled with a strict don’t ask/don’t tell policy. I guess I just can’t personally imagine having “enough” left over and would only consider this arrangement as an experimental phase before heading straight to divorce. To each their own! It sounds like a dream if you can make it work. :)

  61. myhanh says...

    this was so interesting to read. part of my family’s philosophy is to “do you.” be free of the agreements that we have made or others have thrust upon us. whether i agree with their decisions is irrelevant. i celebrate that THEY have CHOSEN to live with openness and love to others, especially themselves and partner(s). i love the part about love being infinite. thanks for sharing!

  62. Tshego B says...

    Wow! This article gave me so much anxiety. Don’t think an open marriage is for me lol

    • Becky says...

      Agreed! I wish that I could see myself being accepting of this and not jealous, but it made me sick to my stomach. Maybe that just shows my insecurities with myself and the cheating issues I’ve had in past relationships.

    • Kristen says...

      Same here. Just reading it made me feel inadequate – like the women in the article are more emotionally evolved than me. It would hurt me so much for my husband to be with someone else. I wish I could be OK with it and not jealous, but I think trying an open relationship would scar me for life.

  63. Ella says...

    I dont know, I must say I am very confused, I am generally very tolerant an open minded but this is a step too much for me, Open relationships within two consenting adults , ie both agreeing that this situation works for them and not just to please the other person why not, but why an open marriage, why getting married in the first place? Or if deciding to open their marriage, why stay together?
    To me it feels like an emotional nightmare, especially if there are children.

    • Melanie says...

      I agree whole-heartedly.

    • Laura says...

      I felt the same thing, why get married if you still want to have multiple partners.

  64. Ileana says...

    I must confess I was uncomfortable with the positions expressed by these three women. I understand that they believe having an open marriage is healthier for them and their spouses, but I don’t believe that. The concept of marriage is one that merges two people together: mind, body, and soul. Allowing another person or other people into that bond destroys the special nature of that which exists between the spouses. I notice that some of the people featured here indicated that they must feel an emotional connection to the person with whom they are intimate with, but that connection should be something that only your spouse (if you are married) should be privy to. What is the point of being married to someone if you are willing to open your heart and body to somebody else?

    • Julia says...

      Are you married? I hope you are (or will be) because you have summarized the essence of marriage so beautifully. :-)

    • Liz says...

      It’s confusing to me that you think you know better what works for these women and couples than what they actually have said works for them. I totally get if non-monogamy doesn’t work for you but why presume you know better? If the women featured here said, “I know Ileana thinks that monogamy is healthier for her marriage, but I don’t believe that” you would feel (correctly) defensive. It’s not our place to decide what works for someone else.

  65. Trisha says...

    Wow. I love this. I never expected to read something like this on COJ and I am so pleasantly surprised. This might sound kind of sad but I could totally see my life this way, but I don’t even think I could jokingly bring this up to my husband. He would never go for this ever. All the things each of the women said just rang so true for me and I just feel like this would feel like the most natural thing for me. Maybe in another life for me.

    • Erin says...

      I felt the same way. Im engaged to be married in the fall. he’s so traditional and i dont think he could get over me being with someone else. But this appeals to me a lot.

  66. Ciara says...

    I don’t know why – but something about this comment made me feel instantly uncomfortable: “While breastfeeding an infant, I didn’t want to be responsible for my partner’s sexual needs”. Must a wife be ‘responsible’ for her husbands sexual needs? To me, sex is a mutual experience upon which we both work on, and that’s so important to me. If I do have a child down the line, I expect my husband to understand that my sex may have to take a back seat as we both become accustomed to such a huge life shift. I can’t help but feel there’s something misogynistic in a couple of the stories outlined about – particularly where the mothers are the primary carers. Just a thought.

    • Right. I expect my husband to be an adult and not cheat on me while I’m recovering from birth and nurturing an infant (HIS INFANT!)…just like I didn’t cheat on him while he was away caring for his dying father. Being married doesn’t mean all the sex all the time no matter what. It means being there for whoever needs propping up all the time no matter what, in whatever form that takes. It’s not the open marriage I object to, it’s the idea that a man has a right to sex whenever he wants it.

    • jill c. says...

      Ciara I totally agree!!!

    • L says...

      I agree with you that the “responsible” wording is not great. But I also think that what she’s describing seems like a real benefit of open relationships. My husband and I have both had times during the course of our relationship when one of us was not interested/able to have sex as often as the other person wanted. Of course we both understand that sometimes sex takes a back seat to life events, health concerns, etc. and we default in the direction of the person who wants less sex during those times. But it also can be hard when you have a need that you rely on only one person to fill, and they aren’t able to fill it. For most of our other needs like emotional support or even help around the house, we rely on each other the most but we also can get help from other people like our friends, parents, and siblings. When I’ve had a rough day, crying to my mom isn’t the same as crying to my husband about it, but if he really can’t be there for me, it helps. But with sex I don’t have anyone else who can help if my husband isn’t able.

      I agree that the idea that wives are responsible for their husbands sexual needs is misogynistic, but it’s not misogynistic to open up your relationship to help meet the sexual needs of one or both partners. In fact, two years later she did the same thing.

    • Leanne says...

      I totally agree. I never see myself as “responsible” for my husband’s “sexual needs”, and the thought of seeing myself that way makes me deeply uncomfortable.

      I actually mentioned that comment to my husband specifically, and his response was the same as mine. Like, of course there are going to be times when one person wants sex and the other doesn’t – that’s what masturbation is for.

    • Lisa says...

      After I had my first child (and I think this was a combo of hormones and reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart) I did kind of understand the appeal of a polygamous marriage. I was so exhausted and occupied with the baby that I totally neglected my husband. In that sort of traditional society, he would still have had the other wives for company (and sex), taking the pressure off the new mother. And – in built childcare!
      But post newborn phase I got over it

    • Liz says...

      I completely agree. That line kind of made my blood boil. Isn’t it reasonable to expect that one’s husband accept that maybe a woman who has gone through childbirth and is nursing might not be interested in sex for a while? It also enrages me to imagine the husband off spending time with another partner when there is a new baby in the picture!! Arg!

      I’m really surprised this is the first comment I’ve come across to mention this.

  67. Liz says...

    Joanna, this is clearly a sensitive, polarizing, and somewhat taboo topic. Thanks for posting content like this.

  68. Alice says...

    This is wonderful, and kind of makes me want to cry all at the same time. My boyfriend and I broke up this past weekend, partly because he wanted a more open relationship, and I just couldn’t. At my core I think it’s so great for those people who want this lifestyle, but for me, I think I’d just find it too hard.
    I do love that you’re talking so openly about this, and there was a great episode on Beautiful/Anonymous about this just recently too… Brava, CoJ team for all of your amazing work!! You really are touching on some seriously great topics lately.

  69. Rachel says...

    I so appreciate Cup of Jo’s dedication to having out-of-the-box conversations, especially when they’re tough. Has your team considered portraying stories of women on the opposite side of the cultural divide? There’s a good chunk of the country who has a totally different moral and cultural base from what’s usually represented in the NYT…

  70. Laura says...

    This post makes me feel really unconfortable.
    I ‘ve also read it to my 44 years old “boyfriend” who is much more open minded than me on several topics and on this too. He says he feels unconfortable too… very much…
    Laura from Italy
    p.s. : not catholic.

  71. Rez says...

    Some days (months?!) my husband and I can barely communicate effectively as it is! Amazing these couples can talk through jealousy. We can’t talk through dinner options some nights, haha.

    • Lisa says...

      Right!! I thought I was the only one thinking that.

  72. M says...

    Oh how I wish this wasn’t getting so much attention. Why is it trendy to want to rock the sanctity if marriage? It’s ok for marriage to be hard. In fact, it is supposed to be. And the greatest rewards come from getting through the difficult times. The conversations and work my husband and I put in to making the trying issues has improved our lives. And we did it without bringing other lovers into our fold. I’m proud of that and our marriage is better for it. I get it – people are different and want different things out of life. I wouldn’t tell anyone to live a life other than the one they’re living. But when topics like this get so much traction, I worry about what happens to the stability of an institution like marriage. And there’s so little writing, support, popularity for digging in and working to make a wonderful life with the ONE you married.

    • JL says...

      Respectfully, people like me in open marriages understand very, very well the rewards that come from getting through trying times. Open marriage requires communication, communication, communication. Honesty and intimacy are increased; there’s a much greater understanding of and appreciation for the spouse as a result. Yes, marriage IS difficult, that’s exactly why we work so hard at it.

    • Marie says...

      “but think about this children!!”.

      Your response is a little alarmist, no?

  73. Jess says...

    This is an interesting article but I think a broader spectrum of perspectives would be helpful – I’m sure that for every relationship that has managed to establish a breezy acceptance of non-monogamy there is at least one more that was a painful mistake. I think it’s a bit dangerous to portray this as an unreservedly great idea, without any balance or caveat.

    • Hmmm, why? This isn’t a unbiased news organization (if there is such a thing). This is a lifestyle blog. They have no obligation to be unbiased or present an article with pros and cons. Would you ask that for someone’s clothes posts? High waisted jeans are not flattering on most people, right? House posts? I mean having a couch in white is just ridiculous, right? So why on this? Because its a moral stance you disagree with? I think the questioning or disagreeing comments make a great counterpoint. Finally, I don’t see any bias from the interviewer – just people saying “this is how my life is.” I think that’s awesome.

    • Meghan says...

      I agree! My sister is going through an intensely painful ordeal right now because her partner wants to open up their relationship. She is trying to be open minded, but can’t help wondering why she is not enough for this man. She is having a hard time reconciling their conversations about future marriage, buying a house and kids… and then him adding in the idea of a threesome or open relationship. It’s heartbreaking to watch. I feel like the stories portrayed here were all through rose-colored glasses. What happens when things go wrong? How do you navigate this with kids? What are the rules? How and where do you establish boundaries (if any)? And while I agree COJ is not under any obligation to post in-depth or balanced stories, it would certainly have made for a more interesting read.

    • jill c. says...

      Meghan – i feel for your sister. I was in the same position but after having been married for years with two small children. I hope your sister can just find what is true for herself and make a decision based on whatever that is. For me it was going our separate ways as I realized (in my particular case) that the “openness” wasn’t about “us” but was really just about him and his needs and what worked only for him. We weren’t a team, we weren’t unified and that is ultimately what I wanted out of a relationship. I hope your sister can find some peace and calmness through it all and make the best decision for herself.

    • L says...

      Honestly, there is no lack of stories or people saying that open relationships are a bad idea or even wrong. You’re talking about broader perspectives in one post but if you open up the picture a little, most of the content and conversations about this topic are negative so one positive article IS providing a broader spectrum of perspectives (just maybe not the one you want). The idea that one positive post about open relationships is dangerous is such a close-minded view to me.

  74. Ann says...

    At the end of the day, all that matters is that everyone is consenting and happy (none of us have any room to judge). But… The thought of my guy and I openly seeing / pursuing other people makes me sad. Not for me,

  75. Sarah says...

    Thank you so much for writing this piece. It feels much more positive than the NYT article (and many others out there) which were really frustrating me (as a woman also in an open relationship–been open most of our 2.5 years so far).

  76. Lo says...

    This is incredibly fascinating. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be with someone else, but then I look at my hubs and know I couldn’t get any better so I’m not going to look elsewhere!

    Lo

  77. Deirdre says...

    Joanna, you’re always on the pulse…you did it with pillow pets and now open marriages. Whenever i am talking about something poof there you are delving into it deeply and answering my questions! Our whispered discussion at the little league game tonight was open marriages…

  78. Hannah says...

    The last relationship I was in was open, and it was my idea. I just felt so comfortable with this person that I could be myself that way. I made sure to always be honest and put the person I was seeing first. I heard a great saying, ” You don’t always get everything you want in one partner”. Not sure who said it, but it resonated with me. I could never imagine being with one person for the rest of my life, and I don’t think others in open relationships should be judged for it. Being in an open relationship allowed me be myself in many ways. I’m not a jealous person by nature and it sucks to be with someone who is. I don’t think open relationships are for everyone. I think this is a great topic to bring up, and it’s hard to talk about with friends and family sometimes because they don’t understand. Though in the end that relationship fell apart because he couldn’t handle it in the end. I’ve been called “too free spirited” by other people I’ve dated. I’m still looking for that one person who gets me and allows me to be myself. I also just wanted to say I really appreciate you bringing up this subject. I have been reading your blog for a few years now and you’ve been very inspiring. I have loved watching your family grow and watching your children turn into handsome young boys. I’m not so inclined to start a family of my own just yet but I live vicariously through yours. Thank you for everything you post, we need to bring up more conversations like this.

  79. Paula says...

    I think non-monogamy only works if it isn’t being used to fix problems within a relationship. The couple must be very stable and secure about each other before opening their relationship, otherwise the whole thing is just a thinly veiled excuse for infidelity. Having thought a lot about this topic since the publication of the NYT article (and the reader comments on here about 2 weeks ago), I can absolutely imagine opening up my (still very new) relationship at some point. My partner has said a few times that a monogam-ish sex life is of interest to him, and at first I was deeply offended. Why am I not (good) enough? How can he already want other people when we’ve barely begun? But after talking through this together very in-depth, I realized a few things:
    1. It is absolutely imaginable that if you are together with someone for decades, it is natural for the eye to wander and wonder about other people. I think this is natural and doesn’t necessarily have to be ignored.
    2. It doesn’t have to be a crushing, jealous experience if boundaries are clear and neither of us have “permanent” second partners.

    Already just talking about how we feel about opening up our relationship has brought us infinitely closer. I guess my partner’s “fear” was sleeping with the exactly same person for the rest of his life, which is a concept I sometimes struggle with too. Now we are discussing trying swinging at some point, and I love that we can talk about these things without judgment or jealousy (at least not yet :-). I don’t see this as a way for him to have his cake and eat it too, as one friend put it, I see it as a fun thing to try for both of us as long as we are doing it together and with the focus of the other’s pleasure. I know society likes to portray men as the bad guys for wanting other people (sow their oats, so to speak), but women want this just as much.
    Funnily enough, once my partner and I started talking about non-monogamy, HE was the one who revealed at one point that he doesn’t want to have to think about me with someone else, that the thought right now makes him a bit jealous (we have been seeing each other for 3 months). Not gonna lie, that also felt pretty amazing :-)

  80. Absolutely fascinating. I can see how this can work for people. When I was in college, I had a gay, male friend who was married to a woman. When I found out, I thought it was so strange, but he explained that he had a lifelong connection with this woman and they knew they would always be partners in life. They both had separate romantic relationships as well. I was about 20 when I learned this and I thought it was so beautiful. It made me think of marriage differently. Marriage is a partnership, not just romantic love. BTW, he and his wife were in their late twenties. I went to an art school where the student average age was 28.

  81. Stacy says...

    Plain and simple, I’m pretty sure that people have been doing this for years (probably even people you know) but keep it a secret. It’s nice to have things out in the open.

    Having been married for almost 21 years, I can sort of see the benefit in this. I’m not sure that I could do it. WAIT, I could do it. It’s when my husband went to meet someone else that I’d freak! It’s totally my own insecurities that would come into play. So, for me, it will be just my husband and me and maybe things will be a little boring and that’s okay. And for others who wish to have open marriages that’s okay too. Maybe I can live vicariously through them?

    Who are we to judge? The older I get, the more I sort of don’t care what people choose to do if it makes them happy. Life is just much too short to be worrying about that.

  82. Stephanie says...

    To all those who were asking what it’s like to be on the other side of an open relationship… it sucks. Or, at least it did for me. I find it funny that all these articles (NYT, this one) focus on the couple and never on the third party. I had a very short experience with it several years ago and it was definitely not for me. The guy was super nice, we had fun together, but I cannot describe how lame it feels to be like an after-thought or a side-piece (gross term, I know). I don’t even know how to put it. I felt like I was imposing if I texted or wrote. Everything was on his terms, scheduling, what we did. There were so many rules. Maybe that was it. It didn’t feel like freedom to me, it felt very constricting — seriously, all the rules and limitations! Getting together was always just about sex, like no friendship really was developing. His home life came first all the time. He had so little time. Which makes sense, I get that, intellectually speaking. But emotionally speaking, it made me feel really awful. Maybe it would have been different if I were in an open relationship (I was single at the time), things might have been more even. It’s hard to describe — I was perfectly ok not having anything serious. I was fine even being more like friends who hung out and had sex (which is kinda how he sold it to me but not how it was in reality). I’ve had relationships like that before and they were great because I guess things were balanced. But this one just felt so different. Despite his being a nice guy and all, I always felt so small and like in the way and I ended it after just a few months. So overall it was a bad experience for sure. I’m sure there are tons of stories of this being great for people so I don’t mean to say this is how it would be for everyone. It was definitely not for me!

    • Rachel says...

      Thanks for sharing your story! As I read the article, I wondered how the outside parties felt about dating someone who’s married.

    • sadie says...

      This really speaks to me. It seems very emotionally unpredictable, especially for the third person. Once you start having sex it’s so hard to predict emotional entanglements.

    • Tiffany says...

      This definitely happened to me and I think more of a voice needs to be given to us!

      I was treated abusively and then ultimately vetoed out of a loving relationship by my partner’s partner.

    • Celeste says...

      I have wondered about this perspective! Maybe there could be a follow-up article, Joanna, about the third person’s experience? I would love to see how it is navigated by everyone. In the NYTimes article, there was one family who all lived together—the husband, the wife, and the boyfriend—but I don’t recall other boyfriends/girlfriends being interviewed. It would be fascinating and maybe give some insight into how to help the third person be comfortable with it (or not, if it’s not their jam).

  83. Jenna says...

    This was so interesting and I think I have an opinion that is totally against the norm – but if my husband had needs that were not being met (which is definitely the case in our house with 2 little kids) – I would rather he just had the occasional one night of fun, using protection, and for me not to know about it. For me to do the same. And then we just carry on with life as normal.

  84. Marie says...

    Thanks CoJ for producing such an interesting and thought- and conversation-provoking piece. I definitely enjoyed and would love to know even more about the emotional levels (v.s logistics) within the relationships. From my own perspective, I’ve been with the same person my whole adult life, and one of the hard lessons I’ve learned in the recent past is that, sometimes relationships go really well, for so long, and then, they just change. Sometimes you see it coming and sometimes you don’t. But that’s made me realize that relationships can exist in waves and have incredible ups and downs and that you find yourself making things work, or not work, in ways you never expected.

    So, with all of that weighing on my own mind, I really enjoy pieces that showcase a non-mainstream view on ways of life because life doesn’t always unravel like you think it was going to and you may find yourself living life in ways you never thought. I’m not hinting that the interviewees were unhappy or in difficult marriages, etc., but just saying that to live with choices that are outside of the mainstream takes resilience and open-mindedness, and I think this article represents that well. Thanks Jo!

    • Trisha says...

      Everything you said- yes!

  85. Elise says...

    Not for me unless I can do it with Daniel Craig. When the novelty wears off after a few sessions you realize men are essentially the same.

    I’d rather spend all that time and effort on the relationship with myself. Go read a book girl!!!

    • Steph says...

      Haha, same!

    • L says...

      I laughed when I read the line about how no one ever says you have too many friends to make a new one. I feel that way! I’m an introvert and between my family, friends, and work, I definitely don’t want to fit any more human interaction into my life right now, even with someone I might be great friends with. I have plenty of friends, and I have even more books on my to-read list. Just goes to show how different people are.

    • E says...

      YES. This!

    • Yes!

      There’s a song celebrating this that’s been around for years: “You’re the Two that I Want,” by The Roches. It captures the exhilaration some women feel. But to me it sounds exhausting. I’ll stay home with my book.

      After 20 years of monogamous marriage, we have yet to run out of things to talk and laugh about. I hope we’ll still be talking and laughing the same way when we’re 90. I feel I never get to spend enough time with my husband, so the idea of having to listen to some stranger tell me all about himself has zero appeal.

  86. Trish says...

    I love this! It’s not for me but I support people who do it. Honestly, it seems like a ton of work! I am married and have three kids, I’d be terrible at this. I fall asleep with my kids way too often. The thought of maintaining a few men seems way too exhausting. Lol! I’m tired of society judging others for not participating in what is ‘normal’. Just be………:)

  87. Margaret says...

    Cup of Jo is one of my favorite blogs, but this article is one of the most lacking/disappointing I’ve read from Joanna. Where is the diversity in these women, their stories and their histories? It was not the time to write this article; you probably should have waited to meet and speak to a better representation of individuals who are entwined in this lifestyle. Very narrow-minded coverage of this topic indeed.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you for the feedback, margaret! i hear you, and i agree that there are an infinite number of ways to structure relationships/marriages/lifestyles. in this case, i spoke to three Cup of Jo readers — it was meant to show a small slice of open marriages, and i hear you that it would have been great to show many more. i would love to keep covering different types of relationships and people and stories in the future and can always work harder and get better at that! thank you again for your note.

    • Daynna Shannon says...

      This comment is for Jo –

      I really admire your responses to negative feedback. I’ve only seen a handful, but I’m continually impressed that you seem to try to understand where the person is coming from and offer to do something in the future that might better fit the persons needs or complaints. It’s a respectable, and unfortunately, rare, stance.

    • Mo says...

      I am in an open marriage to some extent and have read a lot about the subject. I thought this was a great piece and I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see a topic close to my heart covered here! Seeing the NYT article posted on the link round up made me so happy and then seeing this show up in the newsletter made my day. It’s just something no one talks about and I love seeing it brought to more people so it’s more understood by people who haven’t experienced it. THANK YOU. It feels good.

  88. Anna says...

    My marriage is open & it works for us! My husband is my love, my partner, and I’m totally committed to our relationship. But I also have a dear friend who I occasionally have really great sex with. I don’t think it will be like this for the long run, but right now it’s fun.

    • Julie says...

      GOOD for you Anna !!!! I too have an arrangement with my husband. We have a great marriage but for me, there was just something missing. My husband and I have a great sex life but I needed more. I have two male friends who kind of take up the slack. I have a “Date” with each of them once a month and sometimes spend the night. I feel that they are my very closest friends, I want them to be close friends with my husband also but that will take time. My husband is glad that I am happy.

  89. Savannah says...

    I’m a queer woman. I’ve had plenty of really awful reactions to coming out of the closet that I don’t, not with everyone. I have to gauge whether or not someone is going to take it well, if it’ll be spread around at work and that will be all right, if that person is safe, etc. I’ve had my best friend turn on me. Some of my family have heard through the grape vine, but they are hyper-religious, so I do not discuss it with them. I’ve felt physically unsafe in classrooms at school as a younger person. I don’t know what Catherine is thinking it’s like for a gay person. We don’t come out and have everyone be, you know, “oh, cool!”

  90. Julia says...

    This was very interesting, but I’d like to read an example that didn’t go well. I doubt the relationships are all as light and breezy as these made them out to be. I’d also like to hear the perspective from somebody of their partners outside of the marriage. Fascinating subject.

    • Katie says...

      Totally agree! From a happily married (monogamous) woman, I was interested to read the stories, but expect that there’s some reality that’s going to show (like every relationship) that it doesn’t quite work well.

    • Greta says...

      I second this!!!!

    • Florrie says...

      I agree that it would be interesting to hear from one of their partners outside their marriage but that seems like another post for another day.
      As for including an example that didn’t go well, I ask you if you would expect an example of a nasty divorce with every post about good monogamous marriages? I think not.

    • M says...

      I agree with this. I recently read The NY Times article on this piece and felt the same way. I always try to be open minded but this concept goes way against my gut instincts. It might work for a small subset of people, but I have to imagine there’s lots of negative aspects that weren’t addressed here.

    • Carrie Brass says...

      that’s what i was thinking – what if they met someone and fell more in love with them than their husband/wife? also who has time for this? i hardly have time for my kids and husband as it is? do they tell their kids?

    • AmyS says...

      I had a friend whose husband proposed this concept to her and it ended up making her feel awful, left out, emotionally drained, and left her as the main caregiver for their two kids. She had to see it all on social media as well. They got divorced.

  91. Hadley says...

    I’ve read through all the comments and I’m still giggling at the thought of Fred Savage hosting the Savage Lovecast. I mean who knows maybe he could do just as good a job as Dan Savage does but when I picture Fred, I still see that cute nerdy little guy from the Wonder Years hahahahha.

    • Jill C. says...

      I’m dying now with your comment about Fred Savage! I totally didn’t catch that while writing my comment…so freakin’ funny! Thanks for pointing that out to me ?

  92. Sandra says...

    This was definitely interesting! I noticed that the people profiled are all youngish/met their spouses young. I didn’t get married until I was 39, and I saw enough naked men during my single years that I can’t imagine wanting something other than my husband now. I’m done! :-) But it was really interesting to have my ideas about marriage broadened/challenged.

    • Babs says...

      I so agree. At the age the women profiled in this story decided to try non-monogamy, I guess I was as well. It was called being single and dating. Non-monogamy sounds no different except you have a safety net. Where I am now (41, married) I have absolutely NO interest in revisiting the dating scene. It would interesting to read about women who are non-monogamous who aren’t prime swipe left/swipe right age and see how this works for them.

    • Olga says...

      I agree too. By the time I eventually got married I felt like I’d had plenty of adventures. I also don’t understand how people have so much time and energy for this — wouldn’t somebody or something in your life suffer if you’re maintaining more than one relationship at a time?

  93. Paula says...

    I have seen the girlfriend of the husband of a married couple suffer because she was in love with a man she could not have a marriage or a family or a future with. It seemed very selfish of them to put her in this position.

    • Laura says...

      Obviously I can’t speak for this woman but I don’t think it’s necessarily selfish. She may be just as important to this man as his wife and considered a part of his family, his marriage. Plenty of people who aren’t legally married have a long and happy future (and even children) together. It was also her choice to get involved with someone in an open relationship.

    • Paula says...

      I see what you are saying, but in order for these couples to maintain their relationships, they set boundaries, as in “no sleepovers”, so the new partner is always secondary. There will be collateral damage.

    • Paula says...

      Also, part of his family, but not part of her own family. She deserves more.

    • Florrie says...

      I think that she needs to take responsibility for herself. SHE puts herself in that position.

    • L says...

      Assuming she knew his situation, it wasn’t selfish at all. She just got into a relationship and then realized that it wasn’t the type of relationship she wanted. That happens all the time to all kinds of relationships, monogamous or not.

  94. Jordan says...

    What a great and interesting article! I really appreciate how your portraying new perspectives on life and really stressing how you can still be a wonderful “normal” person.

    As a lesbian, it took me a long time to be open about my sexuality at work because I just assumed my Christian white southern baby boomer coworkers wouldn’t know what to think and risk discrimination. But then I had a friend/mentor from a different office whom I was out to bring up the fact that I may be their first exposure to a gay person and I could help open their eyes and potentially squelch some of their stereotypes. Now I’m completely out at work and it’s treated as such a normal thing.
    I’ve even seen the evolution of somr of my co-workers who used to skirt around the issue and refer to my partner as my “friend.” They now openly ask what my girlfriend and I are doing for holidays, vacations, etc. It’s actually pretty rewarding to think that I’m likely the only gay person they’ve really gotten to know and I’m proud to be out at work.

    • Daynna Shannon says...

      Good for you, Jordan. Who knows? Maybe because of you, some of your coworkers may vote differently, or speak up against bigotry now. Maybe a million things. You’ve probably ‘paid it forward’ progressively in a myriad of ways you may never know.

  95. Rachael James says...

    I’m one of those people having a hard time wrapping my head around non-monogamy. And something Hadley said helped me understand it best: “You have to reflect on your values and emotions, and think, ‘Do I want the benefits and drawbacks of monogamy or do I want the benefits and drawbacks of non-monogamy?’ “. The benefits these couples are experiencing -personal growth, open communication, increased trust, sexual confidence- are the exact same benefits I get from my monogamous marriage! Monogamy allows my husband and I to feel secure and loved enough to grow both as a couple and as individuals. It’s cliché, but Hadley helped me to really get it: we are all humans striving to understand ourselves and each other and depending on who you are and who your spouse is an open- or closed-marriage may help you do this better. Thank you Hadley (and to all the couples) for sharing your insights and experience!

    • What an insightful comment! I loved reading your thoughts and was moved by your insight into us all being humans striving to understand ourselves and each other.

  96. Carmen says...

    What an interesting post! My friends and I talk about this a lot. Here are my thoughts on this topic:

    I won’t say that I “couldn’t” have an open relationship. I could. But it seems like more work than it’s worth! I barely have enough time for myself, let alone another relationship. Does anyone else feel this way?

    I would rather take that energy I’m investing in a third party and invest it back into my relationship. My fiance and I have been together 7 years. We have had our ups and downs for sure. We went through a sexual lull two years ago and it was the pitts. But we worked at it, talked to each other, experimented and now we have the most amazing sex ever. It comforts me to know we can work through tough issues like that, and is part of the reason I agreed to marry him. We make a good team.

    I would say we have a happy medium between monogamy and an open marriage. We have a “no penetration rule” but can bend the rules here are there. There was that one time we drank too much champagne after thanksgiving and had sex in the living room (alongside our best friends who were also doing the same). Last weekend I threw a bachelorette party and two guys ended up day day drinking with us, dancing into the night with us and staying over at our place. My fiance definitely had fun at a typical vegas/strip club/lapdance bachelor party last year. Lapdances= great. Penetration= game over.

    That is how we keep it spicy without dealing with all the issues that come with sex (attachment, emotions, more rules, pregnancy, STDs, etc). That is enough for me at this point in my life (29, F, straight). But who knows. Maybe I will change my mind!

    • May says...

      I was really trying to put my finger on why monogamy is for me and what Carmen said rings so true: “I would rather take that energy I’m investing in a third party and invest it back into my relationship.” I feel like there’s never enough time to devote to working on one relationship, let alone more!

  97. Raph says...

    My boyfriend and I started our relationship as “open” 3 yrs ago. He was divorced and had his kids only 8 days a month, leaving him with A LOT of free time. I was a single mom to a 2-yr old and had almost zero free time. So I was completely okay with him having sex with other women. But, I was never really okay with him dating other women. He would seduce them and they would fall in love with him every single time. I honestly felt so much empathy for them, and at one point I asked him to stop. I felt very uncomfortable. I’d love for him to be able to enjoy a more exciting sex life with multiple partners, but he needs to feel a connection with them in order to have sex, and I’m not okay with that. We’re sort of stuck on this front. As for myself, I have so little time for myself that when i do, I focus on me: yoga, running, seeing friends. I personnaly feel that if I turned my focus to another man, my relationship would be doomed. It may change when my son gets older and I have a more balanced life. I can’t imagine myself having sex with the same man for the next decades. I have to say though, that we find a good compromise for the time being: we sometimes invite a woman to join us for an evening… it adds spice and then we revert back to our “monogamish” life.

  98. Sam H says...

    While reading this I was thinking “Oh that’s so great but I could never do that.” Now I realize that’s such a rude thing to say to someone!

  99. Ana says...

    To each their own, but reading these stories just made me feel sad for them and the lifestyle they chose. The NYT published a similar article a couple of days ago and I got the same feeling. I think it’s even worse when there are children involved.

    • Kate says...

      Do you feel that way about gay couples? Single people? Why should you feel bad for happy people? Who is the authority on other people’s happiness?

    • Rachel says...

      I actually feel the same. I read that article too, and it just read sad to me. I’m all for people choosing their own happiness, but I think it’s completely different for gay couples. They don’t choose that lifestyle.

      I think this could get really complicated for children. That’s what makes it sad to me, I guess.

    • Kel says...

      I get it, Ana. I’m with you.

    • steph says...

      I thought the same, Ana.

    • L says...

      I feel sad for people in monogamous relationships who might be happier opening up their relationship but don’t even consider it because they only do what is considered normal and acceptable, even if it’s not what makes them happy. I think the happiest people are the ones who focus on what works for them and their families and aren’t concerned about what type of “lifestyle” it is or what other people who aren’t involved think about it.

  100. Diana says...

    It’s worth noting that these three woman are all 30 or 31 (essentially the same age) and got married young. Maybe a more diverse sampling of ages would have been better so that we could see what happens when you’re, let’s say, 50 years old and have been in an open marriage for 20+ years.

    • Jami says...

      Yes, I thought that was interesting as well. I believe only one person mentioned having a child, too. I wonder what things will be like for that child as it gets older/how others would navigate child-rearing if that were something they chose. I guess that’s what’s on my mind as an expectant mom of a similar age to the women featured. My own thought as a reader was “how on earth do people have time for this lifestyle?” But I suppose I’m more of a homebody than these folks. :)

    • Amy says...

      I noticed that, too! I got married in my early 30’s and constantly think about how grateful I am to have put my dating years behind me. It’s hard for me to understand why anyone would get married at all if they wanted to have multiple partners, but this post made me realize I might feel differently if I had gotten married young.

  101. Stephanie says...

    I noticed that all 3 women met their husbands and got married really young (relatively young for our generation). Catherine met hers at 23, married at 24. Hadley has been with hers since 21, and Ava met hers at age 22. My first thought was they never had the opportunity to be with anyone else for most of their 20s, where a lot of sexual exploration happens and seed-sowing, if you will. I’m not saying that they wouldn’t embark on open marriages if they met and married their partners in their 30s or 40s, and I’m also not assuming they didn’t have a lot of sexual experiences before marriage. It just really stood out to me. I don’t know if that “means” anything.

    But kudos for them to making any sort of commitment work for them. I do think that people who are in these types of relationships have very strong communication skills because it is essential. And that communication can only enhance their marriages.

    I appreciated this story and would like to see more posts about relationships and navigating life as a single person (reluctantly or happily single).

  102. t says...

    super interesting topic. i loved this quote” “Do I want the benefits and drawbacks of monogamy or do I want the benefits and drawbacks of non-monogamy?”

    such a good way to look at it because of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to anything. i would personally love to have an open relationship but only for myself which is pretty self-serving and not at all fair.

    i would just be too dang jealous and i think i would ruin our marriage over the jealousy. it seems that it would be hard to compete with someone new and exciting who doesn’t have to deal with the day to day stress of marriage, life, running a house, raising kids. i would worry my spouse would always prefer the new girlfriend and their relationship which would just be sex and fun over me and the realities of running a household and the constant chore and household house negotiations.

    • Elise says...

      Nodding my way through your entire post. I’d only want it for myself because my husband would totally be having too much fun…

    • Lindsay says...

      So true!

    • Kristen says...

      You make an excellent point. As if a younger, newer model that comes with no strings attached isn’t going to win out over the housewife in track pants who cooks dinner and looks after the kids.

    • From personal experience, open relationships tend to be the most stable when the secondary partner is also in their own primary relationship. It does become a sad situation when you have a secondary partner on the side who has no relationships of their own and is then emotionally getting much less attention overall than the primary partner. There can’t help but be jealousy and insecurity there. There’s also the reality that the secondary partner then generally has less commitments on their time, so they are often more available than the primary partner, which can again lead to insecurity and jealousy.

      I’m now in my second open relationship, without ever intending to be in one again. I had a go at polyamory in my 20s that didn’t go well, precisely for this reason. My boyfriend (I had other partners too, don’t get me wrong) had two secondary partners. One was older than me and had her own primary relationship, one was younger than me and was single. The older, in a relationship one, did not cause any problems between my boyfriend and I. The young single one caused a lot of issues. In retrospect, I’m not even sure that even she knew she was trying to get in the way – she just was more available in terms of her time because she was single, and also because she was single, she was devoting a whole lot of her emotional energy towards my boyfriend. It sucked.

      Over a decade later, as a divorcee fresh out of an extremely controlling monogamous marriage, I’m trying an open relationship again. In this case, my boyfriend met his secondary partner before me. She is already married, is bisexual and also has a girlfriend, and is seeing my boyfriend as an additional secondary partner for some specific exploration. My boyfriend made it clear to her that he was going to continue looking for a primary partner with whom he hopefully could spend the rest of his life. Then he met me. Thanks to good communication skills from all three parties, I’m feeling very safe and secure in this situation. My bf has made it clear he wants a lifetime relationship and is very much hoping that can be with me, and we’ve discussed many times how to manage things if being open begins to cause our relationship problems. I’ve met the secondary partner and liked her a lot. It’s only been a few months – we’ll just have to see where things can go from here.

  103. Jj says...

    This is interesting but do you realize the NYT magazine just did a very long, in-depth article on open marriage ? I’d think you’d want to mention that this is getting national attention right now.

    • Julie says...

      Cup of Jo actually linked to that article about a week ago. :)

    • AK says...

      Agreed. I just read about this in the NYT — weird to run this here now without mentioning that.

  104. Margie says...

    I’m sorry, but reading this article made me feel ill. Just as polygamy does.
    There’s a reason for feelings such as jealousy… why try to dismiss and discard them? Why not work on your one precious relationship? The very nature of marriage is to say “You and no other”.

    • Laura says...

      Actually there are many people who claim that jealousy ISN’T a natural response and that, as most animal species, we weren’t meant to be with only one partner.

    • I wrote a paper on sexual selection for a scientific literature class in college, and there actually is a fair amount of “jealousy” across species. It may not be a complex emotion in animals like it is for humans, but there is a great deal of sexual competition in the wild. Also, the thing that I found interesting was that for monogamous species, it was the female that was more likely to “cheat.” A male duck, for instance, is going to couple with best female duck he can get. A female duck will couple with the best male she can get, but will cheat with a superior male if she has the chance for better offspring. It’s also important to note that while we are technically animals, we are capable of much more complex thought and exist in much more complicated societies than other animals. We have to be careful in our comparisons. I personally think that jealousy is a natural response, but I also think long-term monogamy isn’t for everyone.

    • Jann says...

      I respectfully disagree with the below reply that Jealousy is not natural to humans. Is there any biological or philosophical truth to that statement? I suppose anyone can just jump in and say love, kindness, compassion, envy, greed, etc. is not natural to humans. What of that? Also, to shed some light on the fallacy of your reasoning, I’ve replaced a few words in your quote: “Actually there are many people who claim that [being attracted to the same gender] ISN’T a natural response and that, as most animal species, we weren’t meant to be [attracted to the same gender].” If someone used your argument in that way, you would call them a bigot (at the least, uninformed). I think we can all use more “open-mindedness” PLUS “rational thinking”. Those are not mutually exclusive.

  105. Pamela says...

    Disclaimer: I sincerely hope I don’t come across offensive because that is not the intent. I ask questions in the truest spirit of honesty and knowledge. So … I have lots of feelings and I don’t know how to sort them out. I don’t know why this is upsetting to me so much! (Upsetting might not be the right word. Unsettling? I don’t know.) Maybe it’s that I feel rocked by new knowledge and I don’t know how to place it in my world? I think one of my top emotions is disbelief. I don’t believe that jealousy doesn’t become a larger problem. Admittedly, I’m a jealous person (not crazy psycho gf jealous but certainly the “normal” amount from any average person), but I can’t wrap my head around being married (MARRIED!) to someone who isn’t all mine in every way. And how is an open marriage sustained after children are added in the mix? I guess mainly I don’t understand how marriage continues to hold a sacred place in your life when physical and emotional intimacy feels so … casual? And to echo other comments, the logistics especially after kids sound insane and unrealistic. With 2 kids, my husband and I have been relegated to platonic roommates at this point LOL …

  106. Loribeth says...

    I’m in a monogamous marriage but as someone who got married young, I can totally understand wanting to get to know other people and just experience the thrill of dating. It’s not for me, but I can empathize with some of the motivations that these ladies expressed. What an interesting article, thanks Joanna!

    • Vale Cervarich says...

      Agree! Same. Xx

    • Same. I haven’t been on a first date since I was 19. The idea of getting the chance to date and still keep my husband sounds fun. I also know the reality of it would be terrible for us, personally.

    • Marie says...

      Saaaame ;) I know there is no way in HELL my husband would ever to agree to this, but I definitely do fantasize about the thrill of a first date or casual encounter sometimes…

    • Marie says...

      Saaaame ;) I know there is no way in HELL my husband would ever to agree to this, but I definitely do fantasize about the thrill of a first date or casual encounter sometimes… but I am more comfortable keeping it a fantasy!

  107. Tyler says...

    The comment about people being monogamous while never questioning loving multiple children, or having multiple friends.. never thought of it this way! An open relationship would require so much introspection and self-examination. What a challenge, but clearly worth it for many people.

  108. Cate says...

    Thanks for sharing these different perspectives on how people are living happy, fulfilled lives. As an ultra vanilla, sheltered midwestern mom, its easy to go about my days not realizing people very different from me even exist. Embarrassing and sad to admit but true. Stories like these are so helpful!

  109. Am says...

    To each his/her own, but the “don’t you get bored?” comment bothered me a bit. Sometimes I think younger generations think they’re supposed to be thrilled all the time, probably thanks to the instant-gratification of the internet. The whole Kate Moss “why the {expletive} can’t I have fun all the time?” mindset. Instagram-induced FOMO, etc.

    Elizabeth Gilbert had some quote about how 90% of everything is boring, but the remaining percentage makes it worthwhile – the part you enjoy. Jobs are really boring a lot of the time, same with motherhood, same with marriage after many years. I think learning to be okay with boredom is healthy. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need “more”, it’s just part of getting older. It’s not a bad thing.

    • Ana says...

      I LOVE THIS!

      and I’m young myself. I think there aren’t many couples willing to do the work it takes to have a happy, healthy, long-term relationship/marriage.

    • Faith says...

      I agree! I still remember this quote from one of my professors, “To be adult is to learn to cope with the ordinary.”

    • Kimberly says...

      That is exactly what I thought when I read that comment as well. It bothered me. As a happily monogamous person, I even somewhat took it personally! There is maturity in finding more depth to a relationship than simply the thrill of new and more.

    • Gen says...

      I agree with this–that’s great if you’re happy with being in a relationship with more than one person, but I resent the assumption that monogamy = boredom. Certainly love and marriage shouldn’t be work 100% of the time, but it also doesn’t necessarily equate to boredom. I love the history and friendship that I share with my husband in my monogamous marriage, and I think those things are fun and enrich our sex and love life in general. I think that view of monogamy is very narrow and TBH, pretty jaded. If you’re always looking for the next best thing through meeting new dates and having sex with new people, maybe it’s because you’re unhappy with your life and you rely on other people to keep it fun/make you happy?

    • Suzie says...

      I definitely agree – been married a long time, and definitely have not gotten bored! In fact, my monogamous marriage and partner have only gotten more interesting and deep as time goes on. For me there is no downside or drawback to monogamy as some feel.

    • Your comment reminded me of Nick Hornby’s book ‘High Fidelity’. There’s quite a bit more to the story, but I’ve always loved the ending, where the perpetually waffling protagonist realizes that committing to his girlfriend means that he has freed up a load of spare time (time that he had previously devoted to obsessing over his romantic prospects), and can now shift his focus to… well, everything else in life.

    • Sarah King says...

      i don’t think she was saying that monogamy always and must equal boredom, but just that it is a *possible* risk if you choose to be monogamous with one person for years/decades. in the same way that jealousy is a possible risk if you choose to be non-monogamous.

      also as someone who has been married for 15 years, i ADORE my partner but it sometimes does feel a little….familiar in the bedroom department after all that time! so then you spice things up. (in the same way that you’d work on jealousy if you’re non-monogamous) it doesn’t mean that it’s always boring or that monogamy isn’t great, but just that it’s a possible side effect now and again.

    • Katie says...

      This! Yes.

    • Am says...

      I wonder if a lot of the “looking for more/thrills” has to do with the women being quite young when they married, as other people noted. Especially once you have a kid, it’s easy to be insanely bored and wonder what you missed out/are missing out on.

      I’ve been with my husband for almost ten years, we have two small children, and I’m bored with my life a good amount of the time (the lack of sleep doesn’t help, ha). But I’ve made peace with the stage of life I’m at, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve accepted my stretch marks, I’ve accepted I don’t turn as many heads as I used to, and I don’t get catcalled with two little monkeys climbing on me at the park. That’s perfectly okay by me.

      I’ve never found my husband sexier (especially when he’s holding one of our babies), I’ve never adored or wanted him more, and it’s only made me more committed to building a strong relationship with him because that’s the foundation of our family. I don’t think I’m missing anything, or need anything someone else could provide. I’ve never been more fulfilled. As the popular parenting books says, “All Joy and No Fun”. Boredom isn’t so bad!

    • Am says...

      Sarah,

      It was more that boredom was meant here as a negative quality, a “consequence”. I don’t think boredom is bad, in any facet of life. It’s not realistic for life to be exciting all the time. There are stages to everything.

      Some people are addicted to “newness”, though, and I think that plays into non-monogamy.

    • Pamela says...

      I wonder if participates of non-monogamous relationships still “get bored.” Seems like one can find boredom in just about anything after some time.

    • Francis says...

      Agreed! I didn’t get offended per se, but just felt like responding in person with a “No, I don’t actually!”. We are 10 years into our marriage that has withstood long distance relationships, an affair, tears, reconciliation, career changes, and now three babies. It’s constant cray-cray but we agree that we wouldn’t have changed anything. Marriage isn’t easy but it’s what you make it to be.

    • Kel says...

      Yes! Constantly re-defining how many people you are committed to for the long or short term is not a stable pattern for marriage. Let everyone have freedom of choice but also choose an umbrella that describes those choices. It’s not necessary to constantly redefine and undermine the monogamous, family-stabilizing intention of marriage.

    • K says...

      I completely agree about your point about that it’s ok to be bored. Did anyone else read/hear the commencement speech ‘This is water’ – the sentiment is the same, you have to cope with the ordinary.

      Xx

    • Meghan says...

      Love this comment!
      Someone once said to me that if you are married to the same person your whole adult life, you actually experience at least 3-4 different relationships or marriages with that person. You change, s/he changes, life changes… things ebb and flow. That has been true for me and my husband (together 15 years, married 8) and I have cherished each “relationship.” I also consider myself very lucky that at each stage of my growth or his growth or life change – we fell in love again. Each day we wake up and I choose to be his partner and he chooses to be mine. That might not sound exciting, but each daily choice added up over the years has lead to a level of intimacy that I cannot describe and that I know I cannot find elsewhere.

  110. Bea says...

    I also agree with the gal that commented on jealousy. If you weren’t seeing other people, jealousy wouldn’t be something your relationship would have to work through.
    I think it’d be interesting to follow up with these couples in 10-15 years, because I know 4 couples (my own sister in law included) that were in an open “marriage” and it all ended in divorce.
    And their kids – what will they tell them? What if they get pregnant by a random person? It’s just seems so dang messy and complicated.
    I just can’t get on board with this.

    • KL says...

      Exactly. I worked with someone who was in an open relationship and watched her adolescent children fall to pieces. It created an incredibly unstable home and relational environment for them.

    • Cara says...

      I also wondered about the kids. It seems far too complicated and messy for adults to comprehend, let alone a child, especially as the child gets older and starts to realize more about love, life and relationships.

      Also, in most divorces or break ups, there is always one person who wants out first. I wonder if this is the same in these kinds of relationships? Does the other person just kind of go along with it to appease the person who wants an open relationship and then later says “yeah I want an open relationship”.

    • Laura says...

      I’m curious why you think these arrangements are bad for children? I bet many folks would say that having additional partners means more loving and attentive parent figures for their kids. Or, if they keep their relationships separate from their family, they wouldn’t impact their children at all.

  111. Cazmina says...

    I tried an open relationship when I was 20 and my long-term boyfriend I were both studying abroad. It did not go well. But I’d say age, naivety, insecurity, and unclear boundaries contributed to that.
    While I don’t think an open relationship will ever be my cup of tea, I find these stories very interesting and a good reminder to keep an open mind.
    But honestly, as someone commented earlier, one of my first thoughts was “how do they have the time and luck to find not one, but multiple people they love and connect with?! I’d be thrilled to just meet one at the moment!”

  112. Alex B. says...

    To each their own! One thing I noticed with these 3 women was how young they met their spouse. It made me wonder if that impacted their decision to open up their relationships later on, maybe because they didn’t have as many years dating in their 20s? Thanks for sharing their stories, interesting perspective on the concept of monogamy.

  113. Emma says...

    I have to admit that this is one of the more challenging posts I’ve read on CoJ.
    Love and marriage is complicated, and there are as many ways to have a happy marriage as there are individuals in this world. However, to me, one of the most valuable things about a long-term marriage is the partnership: a long-term voyage that’s only for the two of you, built over time. Love changes within a relationship, from the first days of infatuation to the comfort of long-term love to the days when your bond is more transactional than romantic. My gut reaction is that extending this agreemt to include other people weakens it, somehow. I feel like marriage moves beyond 100% sexualized, romantic love, and while we are taught to consider that a bad thing, it’s actually beautiful and meaningful.
    The other thing I kept thinking about: none of these couples have children old enough to understand what’s happening with their parents. Would that change things for them?

  114. Em says...

    Very interesting! One question that came to mind – do people in open committed relationships include that information in their Tinder profile? I assume the majority of the people on dating apps are interested in a monogamous relationship and might not expect that the person they’re matched with has a husband. Curious how you navigate that.

  115. Yasmin says...

    While I respect the choices that these couples are making, there was something in Catherine from Pennsylvania’s interview that really offended me. She compared “coming out” as nonmonogamous to coming out as gay. An open relationship is a choice; being gay is not. Comparing the two trivializes the history of persecution gay people have faced, and continue to face, to have heir relationships accepted by society. I would hope that someone asking for others to demonstrate compassion for her sexual choices would understand that.

    • Cara says...

      Exactly what I was thinking too.

    • Kristina says...

      Agreed !

    • sarah says...

      Good point!

    • Margie says...

      I totally agree! wanting to be “free” and have multiple sexual partners is NOT the same as one’s sexual orientation.

    • Emma says...

      Totally agree and felt the same way when I read that!

    • M says...

      Yes. I had a strong reaction to this.

    • Alison says...

      Came here to write exactly that. Well said.

    • Kimberly says...

      Amen!

    • Agreed

    • Jenny says...

      Yasmin, you are so right

    • Savannah says...

      As someone who sobbed until her head hurt as a seventeen year old queer kid when her state banned gay marriage and then again as an older adult when marriage equality passed throughout the country, thank you so much for speaking up. That felt like such a punch in the stomach.

    • Lacey says...

      Well said.

    • Ashlie says...

      Preach!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for these comments! i completely see your points and i have removed that sentence from the story. thank you again.

    • tricia says...

      I actually thought this was an educational and insightful moment in the article. I absolutely agree that non-monogamy should not be compared to sexual orientation as a direct analogy, and I understand completely how that really undermines the history of vicious persecution LGBTQ humans have faced (and many of my queer friends are also non-monog). It did make me rethink how I approach non-monogamy in conversations, though, where I have often scoffed and said, “Well I couldn’t do that.”

      Sexuality is so fluid by nature, and I feel heartened that society is becoming more open to embracing a variety of situations. While I myself am monogamous, it seems like interest in monogamy is really on a spectrum, and not being monogamous is more than just a “choice” to people – it seems like there is real level of instinct and desire there. So that comment gave me to pause to reevaluate my reaction and how maybe instead I could respond with, “I think I am more naturally a monogamous person.”

      Thank you so much for this post, Cup of Jo team! It is great to have increased visibility of social models that aren’t always familiar to people.

  116. Marie says...

    My best friend just recently (drunkenly) confided to me that she and her husband sort of tried this recently – she had a fling with a woman, and he too supported her when she was hurt by their “breakup.” I am so intrigued and want to know more (will they continue? what about if/when they have kids?). Its also true that when she told me I was definitely thinking “Could I do this?/How would this play out in MY life?” rather than listening to what she was telling me about herself, like some major questions about her sexuality. Definitely thought provoking…!

  117. Melissa says...

    Thanks so much for this! As someone who has been in both monogamous and nonmonogamous relationships, it is nice to read not only the stories of women like me, but comments from monogamous women who are open minded. Then again, I am sometimes surprised by the intensity of distate expressed by some monogamous women, or at the lack of understanding of jealousy. Everyone feels jealous sometimes, monogamous couples included! A husband feels jealous that his wife spends so much time with a male coworker, a wife feels jealous that her husband seems happier to see their female neighbor than her. Jealousy can be dealt with in a healthy way no matter what style of relationship you’re in! It’s just that in a nonmonogamous relationship, managing jealousy is seen as a top priority and essential, so it’s often dealt with more openly. But that’s not a hard and fast rule! Obviously the key is honesty. Re: the distaste some people express about open relationships– I feel pretty disappointed when someone expresses this. I think to myself, how would you feel if I said something disparaging or dismissive about your relationship– which I could, I’m sure, because no one’s relationship is perfect! I also wonder why they seem to feel as if the state of my relationship has any kind of impact on theirs, or on the institution of marriage. It reminds me of what people have said about gay marriage. Why carry such strong moral outrage against something that doesn’t hurt anyone? Though I have come to suspect that the people who react with the strongest negativity are often reacting to their own insecurity… Finally, I’d like to clarify: Infidelity is being unloyal, unfaithful, breaking a promise. Nonmonogamy, as it was described in these stories, is entered into with the full consent and understanding of both partners.

    • Vale Cervarich says...

      Well said :)

    • Mo says...

      Well said!!!

    • LJ says...

      Beautifully explained. Thank you so much. :)

  118. jill c. says...

    At about the time my (now ex) husband turned 40 (and we were 10 years into marriage with two small children) he really pushed for it to be open. He had me listen a lot to Fred Savage’s Love Podcast to see if I could see a different perspective – and although i have no judgement for those in an open marriage I realized that it wasn’t for me. I realized that if I did say “yes” to the open marriage that I wouldn’t be true to myself and what I really wanted. As a result of this (and other factors that are too involved to mention here) we recently ended our marriage. He is now much happier being a bachelor and I’m much happier as I feel like I am in a healthier place. Marriage is complicated and I can see how people would want to make it open after many years together.

    What I do find interesting though is that the age of the people interviewed were all in their early to mid twenties when they got married/started their relationships. I wonder if that generation is more open to this concept than others or if maybe b/c they were involved so young that they felt that they missed out on dating more before becoming so committed? it’s just a thought i had and it really means nothing (i hope to not be offending anyone by wondering such things…)….

    thanks again joanna for bringing up such an interesting topic and for always being so inclusive and nonjudgmental.

    • Kristin says...

      I also noticed the young ages of all three when they met/ married their partner.. I would be interested to see what happens to these marriages as they mature/ see how people who got married a bit later feel about this. (Especially as so many more women are getting married later in life).

  119. Anne says...

    I really like and appreciate that this blog is increasingly giving a voice to experiences that exist outside the mainstream. Bravo COJ!

  120. Katie says...

    “help show the different and equally valid ways people find love and happiness” – yes! Joanna – I love this response & would be interested in more articles of this ilk; so rad to read about people who happily live alone researching narwhals and some other people cannot imagine living without 13 other relatives, including their mother-in-law. I’d be super interested in a series about the ways people find contentment. This comes up a lot through Beauty Uniform interviews, too (:

  121. Rosalie says...

    I don’t really have an opinion about open relationships either way, though I am confused by open marriages. If a couple is happy with each member having multiple partners, what would be the draw of marriage (barring issues such as the immigration situation mentioned by one of the women in the article)? Doesn’t the whole idea of getting married revolve around mutual exclusivity? Or do all of these relationships become open ones only after a period of married monogamy?

    • Lindsey Huie says...

      Marriage can be a deeper commitment for many reasons besides monogamy – the commitment to be together forever, to start a family, to be legally wed etc.

    • Julie says...

      I think it’s like, you know, they’re your home! You might want to have romantic attachments to other people, but in the end, you’d rather hang out with/go home to one specific person. I do also wonder how often people leave their home base for a new one, though. That’s got to happen occasionally.

    • Heather says...

      Marriage is a home. Other partners are vacations. I love to go on vacation! But that doesn’t mean I live on vacation.

  122. My friend is polyamorous and she’s open about it which I really admire (she even told her parents). That means I’ve been able to talk to her a lot about the experience. I think it takes a certain kind of person to make it work but it seems to work. The biggest challenge to me seemed to just be scheduling! It’s hard enough to find time for my partner I can’t imagine trying to juggle 3-4. It was impossible to get together with her sometimes.

    She did get married to one of her boyfriends and her other boyfriend was actually his best man! They ended up moving into a 2 bedroom apartment together and lived that way for years until her boyfriend started getting serious with someone else.

  123. Caroline says...

    Love is love is love is love.
    Great piece!

    • LBintheBK says...

      Yes!

    • Sarah says...

      Isn’t sex outside of marriage mostly just that? Sex? I might need to reread the post, but I didn’t get the impression we’re talking about love here.

    • Caroline says...

      Hi Sarah – I more just meant that the sentiment applies here – i.e. who are we to judge the way that someone else chooses to love? Just like humans, love and marriage and partnership comes in all different shapes and sizes. And thank goodness for that, imagine how boring it would be otherwise!

  124. kim says...

    Wondering, is the reason Catherine’s sexual identify wasn’t specified because she’s heterosexual? Totally captivating article!

    • M says...

      Good catch!

  125. Kate says...

    Woah… “I’m non-monogamous, and that deserves to be treated like a sexual orientation. ” Really? I agree that I’m not here to judge your choices as long as they don’t hurt anyone, but sexual orientation is NOT a choice, and non-monogamy (along with monogamy) is still a choice. Really, really important difference.

  126. Joy says...

    I found this really interesting and definitely difficult to wrap my head around. The big message these days seems to be that sexuality (including gender) is all on a spectrum. Even so, I find myself on the more hetero/monogamous/old-fashioned side of the spectrum, haha. I forget who said, “Be curious, not judgmental,” and this is a great example of that. It helped me understand people in these types of relationships, although I can’t picture myself being in that. Part of the beauty of my marriage is the exclusivity of it. Also, I’m so jealous…I don’t even want to know my spouse’s celebrity crush!!

    • Steph says...

      Yes! I was just thinking that what I love about my marriage is the exclusivity of it as well. It’s like our own private club.

  127. Amanda Blair says...

    I LOVE that you posted this article. I also love that no-monogomy is gaining such popularity. I am not in a open relationship or a relationship at all at that matter. I want a life time partnership-maybe marriage or maybe just lifetime partners– and I want a family. I am also extremely interested in open relationships. What I find the most interesting about them is the honesty and transparency. I have cheated, been cheated on and helped someone cheating and all of them suck because of the lies. I think that people have interest in others is not only normal– how many people have we dated in life before we ended up with long term partners?!– but, it doesn’t have to be something that ends a relationship. I love the idea of really getting to know all of someone, even the parts that make me uncomfortable. The women each brought up that jealousy comes up but that you communicate and work through it. How beautiful is that?! In monogamy I think feelings like that can get shut down and not fully explored and I think that is such a waste. We are the only animals, we know of, that have such a full spectrum of emotion and we run from most of those feelings. I want to really dig in deep with someone and explore the depths of our all of our feelings– that to me is love. Can’t wait to find it haha
    I loved hearing these accounts from women! Thank you so much for sharing. I always have a million questions because I haven’t experienced it yet. I’m also interested in triad type deals where it’s 3 people in a primary relationship.
    Joanna you were the first blog I ever read and what made me fall in love with this particular medium. I started reading your glamour column and it led me here. I loved your writing because you write simply but with such emotive verbiage and I always feel like you’re one of my girlfriends chatting with me. Your blog is consistently interesting, hilarious and eye opening. THANK YOU for putting out such great work. I will read your work until the end of time.

    • lucie says...

      amanda, your comment really struck me — I so appreciate the honesty and curiosity you bring forward, and your accepting and open tone. you sound like you’d be a lovely friend and partner, and I just wanted to share that.

      this was also my “first blog” and the only blog that I check and read daily. thanks for the inspiration and continued forays into new, interesting, and relevant topics. xoxo

    • Caroline says...

      Amanda – YES.

  128. Annie says...

    It’s kind of ironic I’ve had “One Woman Man” stuck in my head all day…

  129. Bravo to CoJ team for exploring this topic! Hopefully, the more we learn, the less we judge!

  130. Em says...

    While I completely respect someone else’s desire to open their relationship, it’s not something I’d ever want to try. I’ve been with my partner for years and seriously don’t think about anyone else. He’s so hot to me, and funny, and interesting — I feel completely fulfilled. Brad Pitt could walk up, drop his pants, and I’d still be like “No thanks…” haha

    Here’s my question: I don’t understand why all the couples say “we worked through the jealousy … it helps us with jealousy…” What confuses me is there’d be no jealousy to work through if you weren’t in an open relationship! It feels to me like that shouldn’t be one of the positive points, since jealousy is just a side effect of the lifestyle choice. Maybe someone can explain?

    • Ashley says...

      I think jealousy is natural in monogamous relationships too. People in open relationships just get more practice! ;)

    • Lori says...

      It seems to me like most people aren’t saying that the jealousy is a positive, and a lot of time acknowledge that it increases esp when you’re just starting. They’re just saying that it they successfully navigated that as a drawback, and that for them, the positives outweigh the potential for jealousy.

    • M says...

      I think, and I don’t know, is that the perspective is that feelings are neither good nor bad, just true. Some feelings are harder to deal with than others, but they shouldn’t be denied or avoided, but worked through. Avoiding jealously, to non-monogamous people, is not a reason to *not* pursue love as they desire it but as you said, a side-effect that comes with the territory that is hard.

    • Margie says...

      yeah i don’t understand this point either.

      Also, i feel like some amount of jealousy (although, of course there’s unhealthy jealousy) is natural when you love someone deeply.
      If my husband caught me making out with some guy and didn’t feel jealous, I wouldn’t believe he cares or loves me. I’d just feel a cold wind.

  131. Ashely says...

    It makes me so sad to see marriage commitments so little-valued in our society, so treated as disposable when you no longer “feel like it.” While I appreciate these couples openness and honesty with each other, to me marriage to me should mean you intend to commit to each other with complete fidelity for life. If you aren’t willing to make that commitment, then just live together or get a divorce.

    Also, I dated throughout my twenties before getting married – and I hated dating. Why on earth would I want to start from scratch when I’ve found the man of my dreams? And aren’t they concerned about STDs? And seconding a previous comment – where do they have the time? How can you focus on keeping your family relationships strong when you are constantly looking elsewhere?

    I try to keep an open mind – but I’ve seen too much of what happens to families – including my own and my loved ones – when “extra” relationships are brought in.

  132. Jessica says...

    How does their extramarital partner feel in these situations? Don’t they feel like there will always be a limit to how close they can get with their partner? Or are they in nonmonogomous marriages themselves?

    • Rose says...

      I had the exact same question!

    • Melissa says...

      I’ve been this person! In my experience, yes, I did feel there was a limit. And no, was not in an open marriage myself. It was a very casual but regular relationship that included fun and dating but not much emotional intimacy. I wasn’t looking for that from him. I believe love multiplies,l itself, but energy and time do not. People have limits on how many close relationships they can sustain, and different comfort levels of how close they are willing to let a partner be with someone else. Because both of us were clear about our expectations, so both of us were satisfied.

    • Ros says...

      Ok, I’ll bite – I’ve been there.

      In my experience: it was great, it was exactly what I was looking for. I was at a point in my life where I was very focused on my career (working 70+ hour weeks regularly), and had a lot of friends I liked to see, etc. And so there was this guy – super charming, absolutely great cook, good conversations, great taste in books, excellent in bed, available 1-2 nights a week… and then he’d leave and be with his wife (and her boyfriend, who they both loved with – seriously great people, I still hang out with them 10 years later) and I could get on with the rest of my life. Brilliant.

      It’s like… if you’re the secondary partner, you know that you’re never gonna come first in their lives. BUT it also means that you’re never gonna be called on as first-level emotional support, that their emotional needs are getting met elsewhere, and that you’re not giving as much.

      In a relationship, coming first and giving that emotional care can totally be a positive, if that’s what you want! But sometimes it isn’t, and it’s draining and demanding and you just don’t have it to give, and being in a relationship with someone who isn’t asking that of you can be really freeing.

  133. AB says...

    This is so interesting and I just think the big takeaway here, as with lots of things, is that you just cannot be judgmental. Let and let live, as they say. For me, this feels like adding complexity and a lot of additional emotions to my basket, but I also don’t know what it’s like to be married and be with one person, day in and day out, for years, forever.

    Just very interesting overall.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, live and let live! :)

  134. Amanda says...

    “It’s good to have other people – it’s just whether they’re friends or lovers.” YES. I’m not in an open relationship, but sometimes people are shocked at the lack of jealousy between my husband and I. I’ve always had lots of guy friends, even flirty ones, and they have been some of the most steadfast, lovely friendships in my life. My husband has plenty of friends who are women as well. He lost a parent in high school, and when a dear mutual friend of ours lost her mother this year and we couldn’t afford 2 last-minute plane tickets, he flew to be with her because he understood in a way that I never could. Some of my coworkers were shocked that I “let” him go stay with a single woman in a city far away, but I honestly just feel so proud of the way he opened his heart to her. Anyway I love to hear these stories and perspectives of women who are different from me, thanks for sharing!

    • Jana says...

      Amanda, Yours is a marriage that will last !! Women and men who do not allow jealousy to be a part of their relationship will defeat any problems that come along. One lady that I know had a relationship much like yours and her husband did slip once with a lady who happened to be a close friend. She accepted it as only a misstep and they all three became closer in the end.

  135. Lisa says...

    And I can’t even find ONE boyfriend. How do they do it?!

    • Anne says...

      totally my thought too…..

    • Katie says...

      Word up, Lisa! Same here! HA! (:

    • Samantha Zimmerman says...

      HAH! Same here!

    • Sara says...

      LOL LISA!!!

    • Cazmina says...

      Haha I thought the same!

    • Karine says...

      Love this post but i kept wondering the same thing. How do you find ONE person?

    • Amanda says...

      Me either!!!

    • Rachel says...

      Amen, I thought the same thing! Sigh…

    • Lena says...

      Was just wondering the same thing!

    • Wb says...

      Zactly.

    • Maria says...

      Loved this comment :)

  136. Savannah says...

    Why is this topic returning as much as it has? Its not marriage if its “open”?

    • Lacey says...

      I wonder that, myself. Why not just go without the commitment? It’s a very interesting topic and I am trying to keep an open mind. It’ll be interesting to see what any long term research says about these relationships (divorce rates, impact on children, marital satisfaction, etc) in the future.

    • Katie says...

      Lacey – I had the same thought. Why get married in the first place? I’m curious about the motivation to marry – either in a religious or civil ceremony – if you want to be non-monogamous. I wonder if there are religious marital vows that do NOT require/insist on monogamy (surely, yes, right?)? The other thing I wonder about is if we don’t want to consider how much about being married is financial. As one of the one-third of Americans who live solo, I do feel like this country is very much set up on a two-income model.

    • Em says...

      Savannah, have people not also said, “it’s not a marriage if not’s between a man and a woman?” or, “it’s not a marriage if the woman doesn’t stay home and look after the house?” Marriage is a societal institution whose meaning has changed over time (and as a woman, thank god!) I think two consenting adults should be allowed to define their marriage in any way they chose.

    • Marriage has been defined differently since the beginning of human existence, and only recently (and in particular cultures) has it involved a monogamy clause. At the end of the day, it is a social construct, which means the word “marriage” can mean something to you and something else to another person. No one can really say it means this and not that when it is a human invention.

      The point of this post is to show that people approach it in different ways and that everyone should do what feels right to them. For you, monogamy might be the right move, and that’s great. For them, polyamory works and that’s great. There is no right way.

    • I’d also like to point out that “commitment” and “marriage” are in no way synonymous.

      And I’m not sure what role research has in letting people make their own decisions on who and how to love. What impacts children is being in a supportive, loving environment – not the sexual or romantic preferences of their parents. If anything, because openness, communication, and patience are so critical to the success of polyamorous relationships, children in those households have grown up to write about how supportive and healthy their family environments were.

  137. Katie C. says...

    I find this article troubling on many levels. An “open” marriage is going against the core purpose of the act itself. Coming together in the profound partnership of marriage, a man and a woman should live for the other in mutual love, and speak a profound language of total self-gift and unconditional fidelity. As a married woman, to see these couples glorify infidelity is actually quite disturbing.

    • Alexia says...

      Infidelity involves lying and no mutual agreements…whether you agree or disagree with this lifestyle it’s not infidelity.

    • Ashley says...

      I think some people don’t prioritize the “forsaking all others” idea. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a marriage. I think at its core, marriage is about deciding to be the with same person until you die. The rest is (to me) is a matter of personal preference.

    • Anna says...

      But is it truly infidelity if both parties consent? Infidelity implies the breach of the implied marriage contract both parties agreed to.
      I don’t believe there’s a single “one size fits all” when it comes to structuring and navigating relationships. People and their needs are complex and vary greatly.
      Thank you, Jo, for this thoughtful piece.

    • Vanna says...

      Is it actually “infidelity” if the two married people have agreed on the terms of their relationship?

    • Tracy says...

      An open marriage goes against *your* idea of what marriage is supposed to be, which I would guess is the traditional Judeo-Christian marriage. I feel like it shouldn’t have to be pointed out that not everyone follows the same belief system.

    • Stephanie says...

      Thanks for drawing attention to this. I felt similarly when reading.

      The soft chastisement that seems to flow from Catherine’s retelling of her relationships suggests that disagreeing with her means not having an “open mind.” To that, I must disagree.

    • Jennifer says...

      Well said!

    • Lindsey Huie says...

      Katie- that might be your take on marriage but in modern times people get married for lots of reasons – one even mentioned above marriage was in part, due to immigration status/ citizenship.

      No world view, lifestyle, or religion has a monopoly on marriage :).

    • Lori says...

      I think the thing with infidelity is that it means you’re violating the terms of the relationship. For example, me and my boyfriend have both made it clear that one of the foundations of our relationship is monogamy. HOWEVER, if that isn’t a tenet of your relationship, then you can still be loyal to your relationship/not break its terms while having other partners.

    • Jolene says...

      Hi Katie,
      I personally have cheated and been cheated on in relationships. The statistics of partners who cheat in marriages are staggeringly high, as are divorce rates. I think people in open marriages, (which are not always man and woman!) are capable of being realistic about long term expectations and needs. One single person cannot fulfill another single person’s every needs–whether emotionally, spiritually, sexually, or intellectually. In marriages, it is deemed healthy to seek intellectual, spiritual, and emotional fulfillment from a variety of other people and places (friends! family! colleagues! therapists! religion!), so why not sexually? Every marriage is different. Many people are in sexless, companionate marriages and are perfectly happy. Many people are in sexless marriages built on years or decades of resentment and lack of communication about each others needs or desires. Many people are in marriages where one person is a cheater and betrayer. Clearly there are many types of marriage, happy and otherwise. I commend you and your marriage based on mutual love and unconditional fidelity. I know very few couples who have achieved that and maintained it over the course of a lifetime. Please consider that mutual love, respect, and commitment are all very possible in different types of marriages as well whether open, companionate, immigration, and otherwise. Thank you Cup of Jo, Catherine, Hadley, and Ava for being so brave as to share your experiences with us.

    • I commented this to a dissenter above but I will say it again. There is no static definition of marriage. You are subscribing to a very recent, very particular definition.

      While you might feel more comfortable in a monogamous relationship, others do not, and I don’t see why your narrow view of relationships should dictate how they approach theirs.

      Marriage is a social construct. It’s a made-up thing. As such, one person can’t tell another person how to do it.

    • Ali says...

      Agreed, Katie C. Not going to stop anyone from their decisions in this regard, but it seems odd to call these arrangements marriage.

      To those saying that is just *your* take on marriage – isn’t that is somewhat the point? Marriage has so many qualifiers now – “gay” marriage, “open” marriage, “starter” marriage, “legal” marriage, “Judeo-Christian” marriage, “plural” marriage – that is has rendered the term marriage itself meaningless. I guess it could be argued that marriage merely refers to the legal contract as recognized by the state. But beyond that, if marriage is whatever anyone wants to make of it, it means nothing in our common language.

      In this instance, I’m not saying that as a value judgment on different “marriage arrangements” – just find it a curiosity of our language today.

    • Hannah says...

      Thankyou Katie! I was quite sad to see so many comments here in support of unfaithfulness in marriage!

    • Ali says...

      I’ve been mulling over this idea that there is “no static definition of marriage” and want to throw this out there – because I think we NEED static (or at least agreed-upon) definitions for words.

      Consider this – we acknowledge and agree that there is a color called purple. We also know there are many shades and variations of purple – but underlying all of it is some combination of blue and red. Take out too much red, or add a little green, orange, black, or yellow – and what we end up with can no longer be considered purple. If we insist on calling it purple anyway, purple becomes useless to us as a description of color. It has no meaning if it means whatever each individual wants.

      I want to be clear in saying that this is a commentary on our use of words/language – not a value judgment. For example, saying the term “green purple” destroys the meaning of the word “purple” isn’t the same thing is saying “green purple” is ugly, or inappropriate, or “less than” purple. That’s a different conversation.

      Now – certainly definitions can change and we can debate and reconsider what is fundamental to purple – but I don’t think we as a society have really done that in recent years. We’re calling all these things purple without really taking a step back on considering what purple is. Frankly – I’m not quite sure why. If there’s nothing wrong with green, why must we insist it’s purple?

      As a society we’ve tacked so many qualifiers onto the word marriage that it seems to no longer have common meaning. Surely, we can have some variations on marriage – a little red taken out, a touch of white or black thrown in. But its important to have SOME agreement on what is foundational (the blue and the red) to marriage if we want the word to be useful.

  138. Lexi says...

    I love this piece! Thank you so much for using your platform to introduce your audience to a topic that rarely gets treated with such sensitivity and kindness. I work as a counselor on matters of reproductive health, sex, and sexuality, and forums like this where unknown topics are normalized make such a difference. I’d love to see more pieces like this in the future, maybe a series where people could discuss trans, aromantic, and asexual identities? or how individuals/couples got introduced to kink or maintain a sexual lifestyle in the face of illness or injury? There’s so much to cover and I have faith that you could do it well. Nice job, and thanks so much to the interviewees for their participation and honesty!

  139. Lc says...

    I don’t know how to feel comfortable about STDs in an open relationship – how does everyone do it?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      good question! one of the women i spoke to said that they’re incredibly careful about using protection and get tested often. another woman said that they are incredibly communicative and will immediately tell everyone and their partners if they have any symptoms or illnesses (from an STD to a rash to a cold) and will be “quarantined,” as she said, until it is taken care of.

    • Jenny says...

      Just to be clear though, a signifant portion of STDs are asymptotic so probably don’t go with the second one.

    • Rachel says...

      I think this is fascinating, and I am open to the idea that this works for other people, even if it doesn’t fit my idea of marriage.

      I still, however, cannot be okay with the STD piece, especially when children are involved. I find it incredibly selfish to potentially expose your family to that. Having known a family with a dad who gave HIV to his wife and a child (via the pregnancy), and a friend whose husband gave her Herpes (he was tested but it was right before they got together and the timing was apparently off), it’s just not okay with me, no matter what amount of testing or quarantining or being careful or whatever you do to prevent it.

    • M says...

      I thought the same!

    • lucie says...

      Joanna, I appreciate your reply to this question, I was wondering about that too. I wonder why you chose not to include that part in the article itself? I remember when you were discussing the show Girls in the past, something that bothered you about it was that they didn’t show any of the characters using protection. So for the topic of open relationships, it seems valuable and important to me, to include how these participants handle that aspect of the sexual relationship as well. Just my thoughts. xoxo

  140. jaclyn says...

    I hate the beginning of relationships. This sounds terrible for a person like me.

    • sarah says...

      Me too! If my husband and I were to divorce I can’t see dating because I don’t want to meet new people or figure out sex with them. I super love sex with my husband and I feel like it would be super tedious to get a place with a new person where sex would be as good.

  141. L says...

    This is fascinating, and thanks so much for sharing. My question to all of these women is: how does the practical time-management part of this work for you? How do you successfully find the time to meet people and date outside of your marriage while still investing time in each other? Are there agreed upon times you spend with other partners? Agreed upon times you spend apart from each other, however you wish? Is anyone ever sitting at home alone while the other is out with someone else? Is it ever weird to know (or not know) your spouse’s schedule? I’m intrigued by this idea on an emotional level, but I know that dating can be draining and time-consuming, and I find it challenging to spend enough time with my husband to stay emotionally connected as it is!

    • Gen says...

      My question too! Please weigh in on the time management practicalities! Especially when children are in one or more of the relationships!

    • ANON says...

      hmm, i have found the logistics of my open marriage a lot easier now that my kids are a bit older 4&7. I don’t go out more than once every two/four weeks, after my kids bedtime and try to keep my dating fairly casual. Meaning I pick folks who are busy (also in open marriages or not looking for a long-term relationship) and who understand that i don’t need/want to text/email etc alot. But i love meeting new people and prioritizing time for dating is not hard. I also have started “dating” my friends in that i will make a plan to go out to dinner/movie/drinks etc. too. It seemed funny that i had time to meet new friends if I wasn’t taking the time for my old friends. Also I travel for work and meeting a new friend at a bar in a city is super fun and convenient. I think like most things if you make it part of your routine, and it is important to you, (i have a pretty high libido and that is a mismatch with my husband) then you will find time. There are months that I don’t date and others where i go on more than 1 date. I love it and find that it is one of those things that we will keep doing until it doesn’t work. But it has been a huge benefit for my marriage and some of the stale feelings that can creep in after 17 years together.

  142. Christie says...

    Oh my god. How do these people have time? I feel like I have barely enough time for my one husband, what with managing children and a career and extracurriculars. I hardly see my friends, let alone date. More power to them, though.
    I have had several friends try non-monogamy, but all of their relationships ended in divorce. I’m skeptical it can work in the long-run, but I hope for all of them that it does.

    • Lori says...

      Yeah, I’ve never known anyone for whom it’s worked either. I almost wonder if it tends to work better when it’s the woman who suggests it. In the couples I know, it seemed like basically an excuse for the guy to ‘cheat,’ and it didn’t end well. You have to really, really both be up for it and be honest if you’re not into it. And the person who suggests it also has to be unconditionally willing to close it.

    • Amanda says...

      I, unfortunately, have witnessed divorce among my open marriage friends too.
      It’s nice to hear about the couples above instead growing stronger because of their openness.
      I wonder if an older couple could weigh in on their 20+ years of open marriage. I’m sure they’d have some stories to tell!

    • Jessica says...

      Yes!!! Such a great point on time! After time with my children, time with my husband, time with my aging parents and time for my work – the little that is left (if there is any!) I prefer to spend by myself :-)

  143. Dee says...

    I enjoyed reading this but I’d be really interested to know, where the couples are formally married (as supposed to unmarried life partners) what did they do about vows? Did they write their own leaving out anything about ‘forsaking all others’? What about for those whose non-monogamy developed later in their relationship and maybe wasn’t on the table at the point of marriage?

    • Ashley says...

      To me, marriage vows are more like the Constituion than a contract. Subject to amendment!

    • Julie says...

      Agree with Ashley. Do people really feel like their marriage vows are an all-time promise to love their spouse? I love my husband, but there are some days we certainly don’t feel a lot of active love for each other. ;)

    • Paige says...

      I actually just am leaving out the “forsaking all others” bit for my wedding in September. My pastor sent the outline to me, and when I read that, it just didn’t feel right. I never want my girlfriend to feel like I’m discarding her, so I’ve asked the pastor to leave that line out. My relationship with my fiancée was monogamous for the first four years, it was actually only after we got engaged that I started seeing another woman. It was s tough transition for my partner, but we were committed and got through it.
      I like to say that every relationship has troubles or complications, mine just happens to be a little extra abnormal.

  144. Trish says...

    I learned a lot about this topic listening to The Savage Lovecast, hosted by Dan Savage. He even coined a term for it “monogamish”. Highly recommend this podcast for his smart, thoughtful and research backed thoughts on all types of sex and relationships.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’d love to check the podcast out, thank you!

    • Julie says...

      Sorry this is my third comment on a comment, but I’d also highly recommend the Savage Lovecast! It’s incredibly inclusive about open relationships and just about everything else having to do with sex. Very cool.

  145. Jess says...

    This is interesting, but NYT just did the same piece…

    • yes! and it was fascinating!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes! We linked to that piece in a Friday link list a couple weeks ago (and within this post as well). We then got smart and fascinating comments and emails from Cup of Jo readers who are in open marriages but didn’t feel represented by the NYTimes piece for various reasons. We reached out to a few people and asked if we could share their personal stories. I am in huge favor of continually sharing stories, on as many outlets as possible, of different relationships/lifestyles/orientations/choices, etc., to help show the different and equally valid ways people find love and happiness. Thank you, Jess!

    • Leah says...

      You mean NYT did a piece on the same topic?

    • Annie says...

      So Joanna can’t cover the same topic??

    • Meg says...

      I love how you followed up and produced a really nice, thoughtful piece.

    • sarah says...

      I appreciate this piece though because it delves into the subject from a different perspective. I love it when the Cup of Jo ladies interview people because they make it seem like you’re chatting with girlfriends. It’s light and intimate at the same time.

  146. SN says...

    Fascinating. As with all things in life…. there’s no right or wrong — as long as you’re happy and not hurting anyone else — I say do what feels right.

  147. Jillian says...

    All of these perspectives are so interesting. Thank you so much for sharing. Cup of Jo continues to push the boundaries and it’s so refreshing!

  148. PJ says...

    I’ve been hearing about this concept everywhere recently and it freaks me right on out.

  149. Really interesting read! This topic is something I seldom see in your blog but I most welcome to have more of. You have handled the sensitive topic well.