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jca's avatar

Why do people participate in open marriages when it seems like that defeats one of the purposes of being married?

Asked by jca (28969 points ) November 24th, 2010

I am having trouble understanding why people who are married openly admit to each other they are with other people.

Why be married if you’re going to openly fool around with other people? I am not advocating fooling around secretly, I am not advocating fooling around at all.

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21 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

The rules of marriage are not concrete, or women would still be objects…....It’s hard for some people to understand that you can love a person and still be attracted to another and follow through with that attraction while maintaining trust and love, but it happens.

nikipedia's avatar

Because you can be completely committed to loving, caring for, and being with a specific person forever without swearing off everyone else in the world. Commitment and exclusivity aren’t the same thing.

iamthemob's avatar

Commitment can be as related to raising children, supporting your partner financially, having them support you when needed, caring for each other when sick…etc.

For many, it’s those life commitments that are more important than sexual fidelity.

skfinkel's avatar

@jca As a follow-up to your question, I wonder if anyone has done some checking to see how many of “open marriage” marriages last? Of course, so many marriages end anyway, but maybe there are some statistics on that specifically.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Seems like it, doesn’t it – perhaps people have different views on what marriage is supposed to be like..My partner and I were always in an open relationship, getting married didn’t change that; nothing will change that we belong together and committed to each other. I never understood keeping a partner of mine from being interested in others and I always wanted to be free to become connected to people, entangled in people – these categories of open, closed, friends, non-friends…they’re too limiting for me and my being strives when I am not bound…as to how long it will last…I think no one knows, just like w/monogamous marriages but I think we’re stronger for being in an open marriage, but that’s just us – nobody that knows our family, how we function and our children would ever doubt that we’re definitely making it work. Perhaps it sounds cheesy and cliche, but we’re so detached from each other as people, we put each other in boxes and tell each other how to relate to others – I hate these boundaries, I have no problem w/conceptualizing being physical with friends or romantically involved w/o sex with another – I have no problem w having sex once with someone w/o wondering what it all means…I live my life in a rich way and I will not listen to anyone other than my own self as to how I need to love, to relate.

Seelix's avatar

I don’t really get it either. For me, being in a relationship means being monogamous… But that isn’t the case for everyone, and that’s okay. I have no problem with the fact that some people are cool with open relationships, but it’s not for me.

If you’re wondering why people in open relationships bother to get married at all, for some of them I’m sure it has to do with the benefits of marriage with respect to finances, work benefits, that kind of stuff.

marinelife's avatar

Perhaps they want the tax benefits.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I feel like I need to reiterate that marriage shouldn’t be considered synonymous with long term relationship w/love – because the latter can exist with or without the former (which is a made-up institution that has historically been through too many iterations to get into here and is really quite meaningless when you stand back and see that waht we’re talking about is not about legality or monogamy but should be about soulmates and love and committment).

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

It makes perfect sense to me. I agree with everything @Simone_De_Beauvoir said.
I personally believe that if open marriages were more socially acceptable that more marriages would survive than the ones that do, now. Not that they are for everyone… if monogamy is your thing, rock it.

laureth's avatar

I suppose there might also be some benefit in studying how long people who are naturally “poly” are able to stay in monogamous marriages. A marriage, really, needs only to suit the people that are in it, and no one else.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@laureth – good point – I suppose there was some months in my marriage where my desires weren’t also elsewhere other than my ex-husband…he was very anti looking into these ideas and I ended up emotionally and otherwise cheating on him, more than once…it was the worst.

Aster's avatar

They participate because they don’t wish to limit themselves to only one partner. And they , evidently, are well versed into how to avoid STD’s , pregnancies and jealousies.
Finally, sharing their partner to whom they are “committed” is simply no problem. This doesn’t make them inhuman at all; just generous.

Jeruba's avatar

My polyamorous friend (who has been into polyamory with her husband for about ten years) says that in her circle couples who start practicing open marriage typically last for about a year and a half before the strain on their marriage becomes a problem. At that point many either give up the polyamory or give up the marriage.

She also notes that many couples who take up polyamory find that they are not equally popular with alternate partners. If one spouse is having dates all the time and the other is sitting at home thinking about the fun he/she isn’t having, that can be a huge issue in itself.

iamthemob's avatar

@Jeruba – I feel like that’s why you can’t really commit to an open relationship of any kind unless you also honestly commit to open communication. The relationship can adapt if people know what’s causing the other partner stress or pain.

Aster's avatar

@Jeruba ”...find that they are not equally popular with alternate partners. If one spouse is having dates all the time and the other is sitting at home…”
Why, of course! I never thought of that! slaps forehead with palm of hand.

laureth's avatar

@Jeruba – I think that these are two different mindsets. People “trying polyamory” in order to spice up or save a marriage have a different situation than people who are poly and then marry in an open way to start with.

Jeruba's avatar

Good point, @laureth. I don’t know anyone who falls into the latter category, but I would have to agree that those would be different situations. Like others, though, I guess I’d have trouble understanding why people who are already polyamorous would choose to marry.

But one thing I do know is that no relationship looks the same from the outside as it does to the two people in it. If two adults who are competent and capable of self-determination arrive at an understanding that is satisfactory to both of them and harms no one, then in my opinion it’s no business of anyone else.

laureth's avatar

I bet two openly poly people would marry for the same reason that gay people want to marry (or straight people, for that matter). They love their spouse, they plan on staying with their spouse, and they want the security and benefits that come from having such a publicly recognized and legal commitment to each other.

submariner's avatar

Maybe some people can make it work, but I suspect that in most open relationships, there is a power imbalance. One partner is more into it than the other, but the partner who is less into it is not in a position to resist. That seems to be how it was with the original S. de B. and J-P. S.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Jeruba You know us, :)! and @laureth is right in her last comment – just because we’re in an open marriage doesn’t mean we didn’t want to stand in front of those we love and be united in a commitment ceremony by my best friend – even if it was for health insurance (we always knew we wanted each other forever but didn’t need to be married for that to mean everything), it was a great moment for us – my youngest son gave us our wedding rings and it was an incredible evening – completely different from my ‘official’ first marriage wedding which was all about our parents and their whims and typical cliche wedding bullshit. Both Alex and I were in previous monogamous marriages – clearly, they’re not for everyone.

faye's avatar

I think it is for the security of having someone there, at home. It wouldn’t work at all for me. I don’t even like to see a playboy around. There are a lot of social and economic benefits in being a married person.

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