You’ll Never Believe What an Open Marriage Is Really Like

Open marriage is a pretty misunderstood concept. Most people might have the general idea of it, and they’re quick to make judgements without knowing what it’s really like. Granted, it is a pretty uncomfortable topic to talk about. That is, unless you’re in an open marriage yourself.

Real-life couples have opened up about their secrets behind their open marriages — and you won’t believe how they feel it’s changed their relationships for the better.

1. ‘Open marriage’ doesn’t have just one meaning

Portrait of a happy young couple enjoying outdoors

It means something different to everyone. | iStock.com/Ridofranz

Every open marriage is different, and it all depends on what works best for the couple. Some couples agree to only sleep outside the marriage if it’s a one-night stand. Others form actual relationship with an additional person. Sometimes, even, they’ll all meet each other and it’s totally fine. The possibilities are endless.

Next: Here’s how to keep everyone on the same page.

2. There tends to be a set of ground rules

Lovely couple in bed

There are things that are and aren’t OK. | Puhhha/iStock/Getty Images

For most couples, the best way to make sure you don’t overstep any boundaries is laying out some ground rules. According to Huffington Post, some of those might include only having protected sex, no sleeping over with the other person, or both spouses have to agree with the arrangement beforehand.

One real couple admitted that as long as they stick to the rules, an open marriage is key to their happiness. “We want each other to be happy, and we know sometimes either one of us might want to have a sexual experience with somebody else that would make us happy,” they admitted.

Next: We’re not sure how you could be in an open marriage without this.

3. Dating apps are the way to go

Designer Sitting At Meeting Table using social media app

This may be the secret to it all. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Nowadays, technology tends to be the best way to meet someone else if you’re in an open marriage. Dating apps, such as Tinder, attract all types of people who are interested in every type of relationship out there. You have a better chance at laying it all out there for someone, rather than meeting someone in real life and them getting turned off by the fact that you’re, well … married.

Next: Be prepared for this if you tell anyone else about your open marriage.

4. They face harsh criticisms from people

Gossip girls criticizing another woman

There will always be people who judge your choices. | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

No matter how comfortable you are with your own open marriage, you’re guaranteed to face some harsh criticisms by outsiders. As Susan Dominus wrote for The New York Times, “Open relationships aren’t exactly celebrated in our culture.”

She interviewed a number of real-life couples in open marriages, but many refused to provide their full names due to “feared judgment and possible job loss.”

Any couple who decides to make their relationship open likely keeps it between themselves and their extramarital partners. They know it works for them, and that’s all that matters.

Next: This could be the secret to making it all work.

5. They try to keep things normal between them

Couple watching a movie

Maintaining a normal relationship is important. | iStock.com/LDProd

Even if a couple in an open marriage has an anything-but-ordinary sex life, they tend to try to keep the rest of their lives functioning as normal. If their extramarital sex is making them happier, that might make their everyday lives even more enjoyable together.

Next: You might become a whole new person in the bedroom.

6. It tends to make you more sexually open

Couple man and woman lay cuddling on the bed

Sex is a big part of any relationship. | iStock.com/Kuzmichstudio

Once you start sleeping with people outside of your marriage, it’s common to generally become more sexually open. According to Dominus, many of the couples she interviewed admitted it “changed the nature of their sexuality.”

Many have found an openness to role playing or experimenting with someone of the same sex, which they never would have been willing to try before. Being more open doesn’t just apply to those extramarital relationships, either. You might find yourself being more open with your spouse, which alone could result in a happier marriage overall.

Next: Some people couldn’t imagine it any other way.

7. It feels like a natural progression for some people

Adding another person to your relationship may feel right. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

To some couples, being in an open marriage feels like a natural progression. Many marriages end in divorce because one or both spouses feel like they’ve lost their individuality or find themselves drawn to other people over time.

An open marriage can give you the best of both worlds, according to Dominus, by making you feel like your own person again. However, you don’t have to sacrifice the comfort and love you receive from your spouse.

Next: Of course, you’re likely to face some hardships.

8. It can definitely be difficult

young man carrying his girlfriend on his back at the beach

There are pros and cons. | Jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

Even if an open marriage works for some couples, that doesn’t mean it comes without difficulties. Daniel, who was interviewed by Dominus, explained how his situation can be hard to deal with. “There is a third person in our relationship who is pervasively there and not there,” he explained. “The theory of non-monogamy is easier than the practice.”

However, it seems like the pros outweigh the cons in their relationship. He admitted, “We are playing in the sexual energy often, and it feels really good. We are having a lot more fun together.”

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