When My Wife Told Me She Wanted An Open Marriage: Navigating Non-Monogamy

Jul 6, 2023 | Communication, dating, marriage

Most Americans couple up in monogamous relationships (i.e., two people exclusively together in a relationship). For many, the concept of monogamy is natural for them and the thought of “opening up a relationship” to include other people may sound extremely scary and foreign. But what happens when your partner tells you they want to explore this option? Do you immediately leave them or try it out? We spoke with an anonymous user who wanted to share his story about his recent run-in with non-monogamous relationships at his wife’s request. But first, let’s talk a little bit about what non-monogamy is (and isn’t). 

Understanding Non-Monogamy

First off, there are different types of monogamy. Let’s explore these below:


Swinging is a type of non-monogamy where couples engage in physical relations with other couples or individuals. Swinging typically involves casual encounters and is often done together as a couple. Usually, it does not result in an emotional relationship, but sometimes this does lead to emotions naturally. 


Polyamory is having more than two people in a relationship (with everyone’s consent). Unlike swinging, polyamory typically involves emotional connections and can be more complex to navigate. However, there are also some polyamorous relationships that are platonic, which may be for companionship or financial reasons.

Open Relationships

An open relationship is a broad term that can encompass both swinging and polyamory or something else completely. Essentially, an open relationship involves either one or both of the partners seeking out relationships outside of their “main” relationship. For example, John and Jennie are married, but John goes on dates and engages in physical relations with other women and Jennie does the same, but with different men.

A Story Of One Wife’s Request to Open Their Marriage

When my wife approached me about opening our marriage, I thought it was a joke, and I laughed, “ha, good one.” When she insisted it wasn’t a joke, the conversation escalated and I reacted with some emotion. Where was this coming from? Does she not love me anymore? Has she cheated or does she want to cheat? Am I not good enough?

She explained that she was interested in pursuing other relationships, but also did not want to lose me. She explained that she still loved me but felt that monogamy was not for her and she felt trapped. She reassured me that there wasn’t one person in particular or anything like that. It was actually more of an epiphany from a reddit post she saw. She realized she hadn’t been able to fulfill her true romantic potential and was looking to do just that.

I will never forget this day. We had been married for six years at the time and I thought everything was peachy. After lots of discussion, I agreed to give it a try. That was over two years ago now. And since then, we’ve dabbled our fair share in non-monogamy: swinging mostly. We’ve attended swingers parties where we meet other couples in our situation and potentially “match” with them. My experience? Well, it’s been eye-opening, that’s for sure. Everyone’s situation is different, but what we realized is that it wasn’t for us. But we sure learned a lot about ourselves and our relationship from going through this. We are stronger than ever now and look back on our time trying out non-monogamy as another way of getting to know our true identities and strengthening our marriage.

Exploring Non-Monogamy

What to do if your partner wants to dabble in a non-monogamous relationship? Well, if you’re like our anonymous user above, you may consider trying it out. But that’s not the only choice. You can also decline if you feel uncomfortable with the idea. 

Before you make any decisions, you should make sure to have an in-depth talk with your significant other about this topic. If you do decide to explore non-monogamy, make sure you are wary of the potential for jealousy and don’t forget to set boundaries! 


Tip #1: Communication, communication, communication

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: one of the most important aspects of exploring non-monogamy is communication. In fact, communication is crucial for ANY type of relationship, but when you’re dipping your toes into the non-monogamy pond it’s especially critical. Make sure to be honest and open with your questions, feelings, thoughts, concerns, etc. For all parties! 


Tip #2: Be Wary of Jealousy

Jealousy is a natural emotion and can definitely be triggered in unstable, non-monogamous relationships. Jealousy can also be useful information about insecurities of yours that deserve attention and understanding. If you start feeling feelings of jealousy, revert back to Tip #1. 


Tip #3: Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is arguably the most important thing you can do to set your non-monogamous relationship up for success. These boundaries can include rules around physical touch, communication, emotional affairs, and more.


Tip #4: Take it Slow

Entering into a non-monogamous relationship is a big change, so it’s advised to take things slow. Don’t swallow more than you can chew, and communicate regularly with your partner about how you’re feeling. This is a process!


Tip #5: Respect Each Other

This should go without saying, but it’s a good reminder. Respect is a key component in any good relationship, but it’s even more dire in a non-monogamous relationship. This means respect your partner’s boundaries, desires, concerns, questions, and emotions. Kindness and understanding should flow from every interaction.


Tip #6: Find a Support System

Non-monogamy is not without its faults and can be challenging, which is why a good support system is a good idea. Join online communities, attend events, or seek out a therapist who specializes in non-monogamy to help you navigate any challenges that may arise. Since this is both challenging and new, this will be a vulnerable experience that deserves proper support and compassion.


Tip #7: Be Honest

Last but not least: be honest. Honesty is so important to a successful non-monogamous relationship. If you ever start feeling uncomfortable, speak up, and let your partner know exactly how you’re feeling. Maybe you need to take a pause, and that’s okay! Your partner should respect that and if they don’t revert back to tips #1, #3, and #5. 

Navigating Non-Monogamy two guys and one girl in bed

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about non-monogamy

Q: Is non-monogamy for everyone?

A: Non-monogamy may not be for everyone. Take some time to think about what you want and then carve out some time to discuss those feelings (in-depth) with your partner.


Q: Can non-monogamy lead to jealousy?

A: Jealousy is a natural emotion and definitely can be triggered in a non-monogamous relationship. However, open, honest, and clear communication, plus setting boundaries can help reduce those feelings of jealousy. 


Q: How do I know if I’m ready for non-monogamy?

A: If you feel secure and stable in your current relationship, and you’re not looking to non-monogamy as an escape. If you’re looking for an escape from the relationship, you may need couple’s therapy or to consider breaking off the relationship. You may also want to check in with yourself regarding your insecurities because non-monogamy can be tough on someone who is insecure. 


Q: Does my spouse not love me anymore if they want to pursue non-monogamy?

A: Not necessarily. Sometimes, people go through life suppressing certain feelings and desires and those desires come to a head at some point in their lives, whether it’s one year or twenty years down the line. Your partner can still love you deeply while wanting to explore their identity and personal emotions via non-monogamy.


Q: Can non-monogamous relationships be emotionally fulfilling?

A: Yes, non-monogamous relationships can be emotionally fulfilling, as long as all parties involved are aware of and are consenting. Emotional connections may or may not be involved in non-monogamous relationships, depending on the type of non-monogamy. 


Q: What are some common challenges in non-monogamous relationships?

A: While calendaring is often joked about as the biggest issue in non-monogamy, there is some truth behind this joke. Making time for all partners, on top of existing responsibilities, can be challenging and elicit difficult feelings. Additionally, jealousy, insecurity, and communication issues are frequently cited issues in non-monogamous relationships. It’s important to work together with your partner(s) to overcome these challenges and build a strong and healthy relationship. You may seek out therapy to help if it starts interfering with daily life.

Final Thoughts

While monogamy may not be for everyone, it’s certainly a great solution for many! So many people feel that monogamy is simply not a natural way of life, and that’s perfectly fine! There is a large community around others that feel this way and you should be free to explore your curiosities, as long as you feel safe and secure in doing so. 

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