Me and my husband of almost two years have an open marriage. It’s a little known tidbit about us that attracts plenty of questions if and when it ever does come up in conversation.

The easy answers are: We have a stable relationship. We’re raising our child together. We’re in love. We have sex.

And we’re also okay if we date other people, too. 

One common assumption my husband Nate and I often face is that couples can’t be as happy in open relationships. However, studies and our personal experience says otherwise. More and more, it's coming to light couples that share our situation are just as happy or even more happy than traditional couples or singles. A Psychology Today article also claims couples in open relationships actually report being happier than traditionally monogamous married couples. 

Getting past that, the first question we often get asked is how we got started in an open relationship — often with a lot of self-interest hidden in the question.

What they really mean is: 

“How can I get started in an open relationship?"

I came out as bisexual to my husband when we were dating, a point in my life where I had never had a serious relationship with a woman. One day, my husband told me he read an article about a bisexual couple who had an open relationship, and then asked me if I would ever want to date a woman. 

It lead to us discussing the possibilities of dating other people.

Karen Smith, one-half of another couple I know with the same agreement (real names withheld), tells me that at first she wasn’t willing to try an open relationship with her husband, Austin. He never pushed for it, either, even though he didn’t feel like being monogamous was fulfilling for him. But after taking some time to think about it and talk about what was and wasn’t okay with an open marriage, she came around to the idea. 

“I realized that he wasn’t just trying to cheat on me without hiding it," she says. "That it could actually be a different dynamic for our relationship that worked for both of us and could help both of us be more happy.” 

She and I both agree, communication being "open" is one of the most important aspects to having an "open" relationship. 

In the past, my husband and I have had a lot of discussion about what is and what isn’t on the table. Karen and Austin do the same, taking time to outline what they think is acceptable. However, both partners need to be alright with opening the relationship and with the boundaries of said relationship.

Just like no two monogamous marriages or relationships are the same, no two non-monogamous relationships will be the same either. What is acceptable for some couples doesn’t fly for others. That’s part of the beauty of open relationships, you can explore what works for you and your partner at the time. 

For my husband and I, that means exploring girls we each like, flirting, casual dating or friends with benefits. We aren’t looking for another life partner, just something casual.

Karen and Austin, however, were more open with their marriage, expanding their nonmonogamy into the bounds of emotional attachment. 

"What about jealousy!?"

Then there's jealousy. It's another question my husband and I get asked about a lot. The truth is, we’re both really comfortable with ourselves, each other, and our relationship. I know my husband loves me, he knows I love him, and we both love our child. We’re both fully involved and committed to our family and our relationship. We don’t really get jealous, and we never really have. It just not in our personality to do so, and together we understand nothing is going to jeopardize our commitment to each other and our family. 

But jealousy can be and very much is a part of an open relationship.

“I was pretty jealous at first when [Karen] found her first boyfriend,” Austin admits. "Even though I wanted to explore an open relationship, he seemed to be getting a different side of her personality. She was more playful with him.”

Karen explains that for her and Austin, it was just a matter of communicating about them to get past it. 

“We would talk about it, and either feel better after voicing concerns, or it would make us realize something we had to work on in our relationship,” Karen adds. 

She says she realized more time needed to be spent being present with Austin and less distracted with work and life. 

"How can you commit if you're sleeping with other people?"

Lastly, the ever-pressing question of commitment frequently comes up.

Nate and I know we are on the same page about child rearing, finances, and so on. We both support each other through job drama, school, and all the other major life events. The openness of our relationship doesn’t negate or change any of that. If anything, I personally feel like it adds to it all, because we are able to be honest with each other about people and things that turn us on. 

“But why would you choose to have an open relationship?" people often ask.

Karen explains that it was just about both of them being happy. 

“I don’t like a lot of Austin’s kinks," she admits. "They just aren’t things that I feel comfortable doing or really enjoy. And while sex is fine for me, he wasn’t really feeling like it was satisfying. It hurt at first when he said that, but I realized that it was something that I could do that would make him happy, letting him explore kinks with other women." 

"Is it for us?"

Open relationships can work. They often help couples who feel they aren’t completely compatible sexually. They can also just be the preference for some who are looking for more from life.

“Just go for it," Austin says. "Take the plunge and talk to your partner about it. I was pretty surprised because I didn’t think Karen would get into it.”

“I think it’s just about being open minded," Karen adds. "A lot of people think it’s wrong or unethical or immoral. But in the end, if people are happy and nobody's getting hurt, I don’t see anything wrong with it.” 

As for my husband and I, we both simply feel like sexuality should be enjoyed and explored. Questions and all, we do just fine.

[originally published March 14, 2018]