Does Open Marriage Actually Work? Well…

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This article made my eyes bleed.

In it, Michael Sonmore, a married man and a stay-at-home-husband, wrestles publicly with what it’s like to be in an “open marriage.”

His  half-hearted conclusion: he really wants to be cool with it and to claim he’s a  feminist who doesn’t control his wife’s sexuality, but, boy, is he struggling.

Open marriage is like communism. It makes a lot more sense in theory than in practice.

“For  my  wife, the choice between honoring our vows and fulfilling her desires was a false choice, another trap. She knew how deep our love was, and knew that her wanting a variety of sexual experiences as we traveled through life together would not diminish or disrupt that love. It took me about six months – many long, intense conversations, and an ocean of red wine – before I knew it, too.

When  my  wife  told me she wanted to open our marriage and take other lovers, she wasn’t rejecting me, she was embracing herself. When I understood that, I finally became a feminist.”

Hoo boy.

I don’t think I have the patience to unpack all of the convoluted messages in Sonmore’s message, but I will say this:

Open marriage is like communism. It makes a lot more sense in theory than in practice.

I think it’s great that his wife is honest about her desires to be with other men.

I think it’s great that Sonmore didn’t judge her and was willing to discuss something that can be potentially destructive.

I even think it’s great that they decided to give it a chance – to say, “To hell with convention! It’s just sex! Our love runs deeper! This shouldn’t effect anything!”

Because, really, if you can pull off a happy, healthy marriage and STILL scratch that itch that desires other people, you’re the big winner.

Problem is that Sonmore doesn’t sound all that happy with this compromise.

“There are of course moments of jealousy, resentment, and insecurity. Recently,  my  wife  went on a date and fell asleep at his apartment. I hadn’t heard from her since 10 p.m., she still wasn’t home at  6 a.m.  My  texts went unanswered and  my  calls went to voicemail. A tight knot of dread lodged in  my  stomach as I imagined all kinds of dire scenarios and realized that I not only didn’t know where she was, I had no idea whom she was with. I pictured myself going to the police saying, “I think she’s in Red Hook with a guy named Ryan. I don’t know his last name, but I think he’s a graphic designer?”

Or, “I don’t want her to fall in love with anyone else, and every time she goes on a date, I confront the possibility that she might. It happened at the beginning: The first person she dated after we opened up fell hard in love with her, and my wife, overwhelmed by his ardor, tried to love him back. Watching it happen, I was confused, angry, and terrified that she wanted to leave me. She assured me she didn’t, and whatever feelings she had for him didn’t lessen what she felt for me.”

Or, “As I write this,  my  children are asleep in their room, Loretta Lynn is on the stereo, and  my  wife  is out on a date with a man named Paulo. It’s her second date this week; her fourth this month so far. If it goes like the others, she’ll come home in the middle of the night, crawl into bed beside me, and tell me all about how she and Paulo had sex. I won’t explode with anger or seethe with resentment. I’ll tell her it’s a hot story and I’m glad she had fun. It’s hot because she’s excited, and I’m glad because I’m a feminist.”

If your marriage isn’t making you happy, what exactly is the point?

I’m a feminist, too. I believe in full equality and that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. The issue I have with open marriage – specifically this man’s choice to participate in one – is not a moral one. It’s a practical one:

He doesn’t sound happy.

And if your marriage isn’t making you happy, what exactly is the point?

In other words, the author sounds more like a cuckold who is trying to convince himself that his open marriage is working than a guy who has really embraced open marriage.

Do  you know of any successful long-term open marriages? Do you know how they survive emotionally when their partner is out on a “date”? Because, as much as I can rationally separate sex from emotion, I can’t bear the thought of my wife fucking Paulo for the fourth time this month, while I’m at home bathing the kids before bed.

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Comments:

  1. 21
    Katt

    This type of relationship doesn’t work out in the long run. His wife might be having a great time at the moment but the chances are she or he,   as they are both having it away with others, might just find another partner if they are going out all the time and having sex with other people. It’s bound to happen sooner or later! The law of attraction.

    Unfortunately it will end in tears, mostly their children who will end up the biggest losers in all this if it goes on for years as sooner or later they will find out when they get older, guaranteed. Kids notice everything. They don’t have a choice like their stupid self indulgent parents.

    One big takeaway from this is to make sure you have sowed all the wild oats before you settle down and have children.

    1. 21.1
      It's you

      Katt, do you really think people cheat or swing because they didn’t sow enough wild oats before getting married? No offense but I think that’s kind of naive.

      I’m no expert but it seems it is just not something that works for everyone, and that’s fine. Trouble is you really don’t know if it does or doesn’t until you do it and then it’s too late, and you have to live with whatever the consequences are.

      1. 21.1.1
        Katt

        Naive? Perhaps. I’ve known plenty of girls who went straight from the family home into marriage. They may have had multiple boyfriends before getting married or with the same guy from high school in a lot of cases. The girls (And I am just talking about girls I knew here) in many cases ended up getting divorced after having several children. Mostly they went crazy after the divorce, drinking, partying and sleeping with as many guys as they wanted to. Hey I’m not judging, it was a lot of fun going out on a ‘coyote’ hunt with the girls. Sowing those wild oats they didn’t get a chance to before settling down. The kids suffered though, every one of them. Pulled between two sets of parents & families then other partners who come and go, sleep over … Don’t we know better by now?

        I’m just saying that a more mature mind and getting some life experience under your belt before you get married and have kids in your 20’s probably makes for a better and more stable marriage in your 30’s and beyond. At least you will have a more realistic idea of what you expect in a partner other than superficial qualities that look good at the time.

        It’s a loaded subject but my ten cents worth is to do what you want to do first before you get married and have kids whether that is travel, having sex or whatever. The future is unknown and we never know what is going to happen tomorrow. We do have our free will and we also have CHOICES. Those choices can have effects lasting many years and can affect many people. Choose wisely.

         

        1. It's you

          Katt,

          It’s a dangerous assumption that sowing your wild oats before marriage will make 40-50 years of monogamy easier. It sounds like the assumption of someone who has never been married for any length of time.

          A friend of mine who is going through  a divorce right now slept with over 60 men before she got married. And yeah they’re splitting up because of infidelity.

          MRA types love to trout out the stat that the more sexual partners a woman has the more likely she is to be divorced. (TBF the reasons for divorce are not given in the study   but the manosphere loves to claim it’s because “once a slut, always a slut.”)

          I could give examples of men too who weren’t exactly inexperienced before they got married and ended up cheating and/or divorcing.

          I think it’s all a bit more complicated.

  2. 22
    Kitty

    Way back in 1993 Matt Ridley explained in his book “The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature”  why humanity’s system of “monogamy plagued by infidelity” endures.   In other words why the vast majority of men and women insist on faithful partners even if they personally want to cheat.

    “The mistake that straight people made,” Savage says, “was imposing the monogamous expectation on men. Men were never expected to be monogamous. Men had concubines, mistresses and access to prostitutes, until everybody decided marriage had to be egalitar ­ian and fairsey. And it’s been a disaster for marriage.”

    Is Savage really that dense?   When women can earn enough to support themselves and their kids few will resign themselves to marriage to a chronic cheater.   The notion that men should be sexually faithful in their marriages is necessary to make marriage attractive to women in the modern world.   There’s no one more pathetic than a divorced old sleaze when the good time girls stop taking his calls.   And despite the protests of the MGTOW crowd and similar the notion of being alone in his 60s and beyond only appeals to men who have been married for so long they forget what being single is like.   Or to men in bad marriages or who are just annoyed with their wives.   In real life men don’t want to be old and alone anymore than women do.

    1. 22.1
      Fiona

      That is pretty dense on Savage’s part. Women were historically more faithful because they had less socially acceptable options and faced harsher consequences. There are still stories of women being put to death for committing adultery, whether by the government or by vigilante “justice.”

      The whole idea of marriage being primarily for love is relatively new given the age of the concept. If you are married for political reasons more than love, the faithfulness of your partner matters a whole lot less.

  3. 23
    Karl S

    I know quite a lot of people in the poly community now who seem quite happy and in successful long term open relationships with their partners. I also have a friend going 12 years strong in an open marriage.

    I’ve also been reading about different tribes and cultures who have very, very different relationship structures and views about the roles and traits of men and women. It’s made me less certain about a lot of evolutionary psychology that I used to believe in.

    1. 23.1
      Skaramouche

       
      Karl,  I’m genuinely curious about this.   To me, polygamy where one relationship is long term or permanent and the others are transient defies all logic.   However,  I’m open to having my opinion changed.   I  certainly understand sexual freedom and the desire for it.   But what induces these couples you know to form long term bonds with just one person while experimenting with others?   I  guess  I  don’t  see the point of that long term bond and the whole thing just seems unnecessarily dangerous.   If we agree that there are multiple people out  there  that each one of us is compatible with (emotionally and sexually), it stands to reason that at some point, one partner in these polygamous couples will meet a match as compatible as  (or perhaps more compatible than)  the current long term one.   That could happen to monogamous couples as well, of course, but  the  polygamous couples are actively seeking sexual connections, increasing the likelihood.   In the event that one DOES find such a match, why not just jump ship?   It seems like a given.   And if so, why not just stay single and indulge?   Why the stress of a relationship?   Even that  I  can perhaps see…it’s nice to come home to someone however short term the arrangement will be.   But why marriage.   Why lock everything, legal and emotional in one person when the intention from  the get-go is not to be exclusive?   I’m obviously missing something here but  I haven’t a clue what it is.

      1. 23.1.1
        Karl S

        I guess the logic is different for each person, but for some in an open marriage the understanding could be that you’ve both found someone you don’t want to let go of and feel very strongly about but you don’t expect them to fulfill everything for you.

        I don’t necessarily believe a person who feels solid and connected to their primary partner would ever ‘jump ship’ unless they felt the relationship was failing internally in some irrecoverable way. The biggest concept to wrap one’s head around is a distinction between a love economy and a time economy. Yes, you can only divide your time so much, so one partner is going to get more time than others, but the idea of falling in love with new partners doesn’t necessitate falling out of love with old partners.

      2. 23.1.2
        Karl S

        Another thing I just thought of based on my discussions with poly folk is that they’re not so unrealistic as to believe they never have to compromise on anything. They simply have a different set of relationship rules that they have to adhere to get their most important needs met. To that end, when   it comes to negotiating multiple partners, they conform to those rules laid out in prior agreement in terms of who gets priority depending on the context of a situation.

  4. 24
    Kitty

    Karl I don’t think that standard evo-psych applies 100% to everyone who’s ever lived on planet Earth.   OTOH how common are people who are genuinely happy living a poly lifestyle compared to people who don’t want to share their spouses?   I’m not sure what tribes you refer to but the number of isolated rural tribes that have institutionalized non-monogamy are a numerical blip in the screen compared to the overwhelming number of cultures which enforce for women at least.   Evo-psych needn’t be 100% universal to make sense for the vast majority of educated Westerners.

  5. 26
    A.

    sounds like a sado-masochistic type of relationship where two poeple with extreme personalities get what they need (not sure if he actually wants it that way but he seems to need it) and not like an open marriage where both can have sex outside their marriage.

  6. 27
    marymary

    Disaster if she gets pregnant.

  7. 28
    Clare

    I have so many things I want to say about this situation. My head feels like it’s going to explode just thinking about them.

     

    But the main one is this – I really, REALLY wish they wouldn’t drag feminism into this mess. What the hell has it got to do with feminism? I can only assume the flimsy link is “women can do anything men can do”, or “if men can cheat, women can too AND make it legitimate to boot.” Kind of makes me want to throw up. Why do women undermine themselves by calling this kind of thing feminism – I will never know. An open marriage/relationship is a personal choice – one a man can make, or a woman can make, or two people make together. For faithfulness to work, in case anyone hadn’t noticed, it takes two people to be committed to it. Both the man and the woman have to be faithful in order for fidelity to have any meaning in a marriage – so I fail to see how allowing the woman to sleep around in a relationship is liberating her sexuality – she’s just being unfaithful, she’s just having sex with other people. That’s the beginning and end of it. The only way I can possibly see how this has a link to feminism is that she’s seeking to legitimise it. In which case I really think this is more about her conscience and seeking personal absolution from her guilt than anything to do with the rights of women.

  8. 29
    Selena

    If   someone doesn’t want to take the “forsaking all others” vow…then why get legally married at all? Status of being married? Some legal perks?

     

    Theoretically I understand monogamy is chafing for many human beings.    Why so many choose the social and religious construct of marriage I don’t get. I sometimes feel that non-monogamous people do this to “work the system” – similar to welfare kings & queens, – rather than they truly feel committed to those they claim to love.

     

    That and   maybe they will be able to get TLC -formerly “The Learning Channel”- interested enough to fund them  for a reality show. Ugh all the way around.

     

     

     

     

  9. 30
    LC

    This guy’s wife is very selfish.   All of that time away dating other men when she could be dating her husband and taking care of his needs?   It’s insanity.   He’s just a glorified babysitter.   I’m sure he’d like to be having sex twice a week with her instead of her spreading her legs for other men.   It’s absolutely disgusting.   When you embark on affairs, you’re stealing time from the person who swore to love and cherish you for life.   How is a few moments of sex with a random stranger worth losing everything?

  10. 31
    CaliforniaGirl

    I know few couples who had an open relationship. All except one are divorced now or were close to divorce and stopped being in the open relationships, in the last couple the wife doesn’t work, so she is dependent financially and I pity her every time because her husband just brags about his sexual escapades in front of their friends all the time and she looks miserable.   Another couple I know, the guy fell in love with another woman and left the marriage after 14 years, it did not work with that woman, so he is single now and financially ruined.

    It is not very hard to feel infatuated by another person, especially after a long marriage but why to endanger something good that you have. My ex-boyfriend pushed me to try swinging. We went to a few parties and I just was not attracted to any men there, I wanted to go home and have sex with my boyfriend and not with some older overweight dude, who’s usually good looking wife was all over my young and handsome boyfriend. I bet my ex felt good with himself but I felt terrible.

    People who cannot be open with their spouses about their sexual fantasies should not be married, otherwise I don’t see why you need to sleep with another person.

  11. 32
    Gabri'el

    I just saw this on youtube today and I think she did a wonderful job of explaining cheating (you can even cheat in a open relationship) and all the pressure and weight we put on love and marriage.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2AUat93a8Q

  12. 33
    lisa

    I never leave comments but this woman is down right disgusting, seriously if you cant be faithful to one person than dont get married!!! the very meaning of marriage mean loved her husband she   staying loyal to one another, if she really loved her husband she wouldnt be sleeping around with other men.  

    I hope she realises how lucky she is to have a man who truly wants to be with her all his life. I really dont think looks matter its the heart that matters, so people like her can just get out the door and leave. Also, maybe her husband should start dating other women, if she loves him this would destryo her, but from what I have read, I am certain she doesnt love hm, shes just using him as a security that she will never be alone. And anyways who would want to be with a woman like her?

  13. 34
    loretta

    I think this article has been labeled fake and that this guy doesn’t exist. I think it was written by a woman. Just my hunch. Whoever he is, a whole slew of Reddit members debunked his existence, and several other online magazines claimed he was either non-existent or gay. I might buy the gay part. Anyway, it was so ridiculous as to be irrelevant.

  14. 35
    jon

    Sorry, this whole trend that women. need sex is just bs. Ask ANY man in a relationship if he is getting all the sex he wants.NORMAL men. Take out power, wealth and fame. The honest answer is: none. And just going online and finding some guy and hooking up for sex like ordering a pizza? That is the very definition of the word slut.

    Real or not, this is just sad, especially with children. What will they say when asked at school what their parents do? Daddy’s a douche and mommy’s a whore?

    They like to say “don’t judge”. Of course they do. But lets do some quick math.

    drug dealers

    thieves

    murderers

    rapists

    child molestors

    We shouldn’t judge their lifestyle choices, right? After all, it works for them and makes them happy.

    Quantification and Qualification make us more than animals. Eschewing those preceps make us less.

    1. 35.1
      Emily, the original

      Jon,

      Sorry, this whole trend that women. need sex is just bs. Ask ANY man in a relationship if he is getting all the sex he wants.NORMAL men.   … The honest answer is: none.

      Here’s an interesting quote from an article on Psychology Today’s website about what women want:

      “Monogamous marriage does work for women on a certain level: it provides security, intimacy, and help with the children. But it also suffocates female sexual desire. As the mischievous author Toni Bentley wrote recently: ‘There is virtually no female sexual problem–hormonal, menopausal, orgasmic, or just plain old lack of interest–that will not be solved by–ta-da!–a new lover.'”

      1. 35.1.1
        jon

        So, why have roving  men been castigated for their behavior?

        Why are there no women bent over the counter at the local fast food place with a sign that says open for business. Lets be honest, every day can be the greatest day of their lives.

        No, huh? Psychology today? Let me guess, they took a survey and a bunch of women lied to them.

        Men aren’t suffocated by sex so…

        The issue here is that women cant believe what they do is wrong. Even a man who is a dirtbag KNOWs he’s wrong when he cheats and he certainly would never consider bringing an affair home to the wife and children.

        I don’t know ANY woman so hard up for SEX that she needs to advertise herself free of charge to people shes never even met.

        1. Emily, the original

          Jon,

          this whole trend that women. need sex is just bs. Ask ANY man in a relationship if he is getting all the sex he wants.NORMAL men. Take out power, wealth and fame. The honest answer is: none.

          This was part of your first post. I was responding to what you wrote — that women don’t need sex and that men are not having sex within their relationships (thus implying their women aren’t interested and not giving them sex). My thought: a woman’s interest in sex is contingent upon the man she’s with. If she’s not interested in her current man and she’s given a new lover, her interest could be reawakened.

  15. 36
    Laura

    From what I’ve read and heard from the few people I know in them, being in an open relationship is   the same as being single but living with a ‘significant other’. Many of us did that at college, sharing an apartment with gf/bf    but still being able to hook up if someone truly magnificent caught your eye, while still going home to your gf/bf at the end of the night.

    We were supposed to have   had enough ‘variety’ and ‘experiences’ that we could say “been there, done that”   when we finally decided to get married and settle down to monogamy, family, etc.

    It seems to me that an open relationship immediately makes the relationship much more vulnerable.   It is inevitable that emotional feelings will develop with *some* dates meant to be purely sexual.   I’ve heard all the arguments about trust, communication etc. But we’re only human and no amount of trust or talking to your partner at home can change how you’re going to feel when you’re making love to someone else.

    The argument that the relationship might have had problems that lead to one partner falling in love with a ‘date’ is true.   But why not stay home and work on that relationship.   Going out to have sex with other partners is like gift-wrapping an “Other Woman/Other Man” and delivering to the doorstep.

    I’m actually very glad that I got to have all my fun during the 70’s when the biggest dangers from casual sex were pregnancy or VD.   I would be much more careful now with many more serious sexually transmitted diseases.

     

  16. 37
    I. R. Gibbs

    I have only recently become interested in the life style of open marriage since watching the tv series “Easy”.

    This may sound a bit bewildering, but I have to admit to having been a serial filander. However, I have now become a christian and recognize the true error of my past behavior. I do not beleive that an open marriage is that much different from what I did because my wife often suspected what I was doing but chose to stay silent for sake of our family. In examining all that I have currently been exposed to, the one central thread that is present in all cases is “sex”; either the lack thereof or the lack of mutual satisfaction. Both of these can be solved in other more christian ways. Even though there is a ton of   “expert psychological” advise that supports this life style, the one thing absent is Gods rule on “adultry”. Does this mean that God no longer is the creator of all things and his commanments for humans to live by is now null and void. Open marriage is ultimately doomed to failure one way or another in the end because we all will be called to answer for our deeds in this life, and without repentenance, try explaining that open marriage is not an act of adultry.

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