Open marriages aren’t for everyone, and that’s completely OK. But if you’ve ever felt eager to break away from traditional relationship norms with your spouse, just know that you’re not alone. Research published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five Americans has been in an open relationship and open marriages are something that more and more people are opening up about diving into with their partner. So if the idea of hopping into bed with just one person for the rest of your life feels suffocating, but the idea of marriage has always been something you’ve been gung-ho about, perhaps it’s time to sit down and chat with your spouse about keeping things in the bedroom more open. Before you make that joint decision, here are five questions you should ask each other and fully agree on first.
1. What Do I Want This to Look Like?
Just like any major life change, it’s best to map out your plan of action when it comes to how you envision your open marriage working. Jotting down instructions and rules might truly be the best way to make sure that you and your partner are on the same page.
“Each partner should consider the fantasy scenarios they have in their head, as well as the nightmare version of what an open marriage could look like.”
Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in relationships and sexuality, said that people should be really honest with themselves and with their partners about their expectations of the relationship and how it would change if they were to open their marriage.
“Each partner should consider the fantasy scenarios they have in their head, as well as the nightmare version of what an open marriage could look like,” Lurie told POPSUGAR. “Too often, we just think about fantasies, and while it’s a good idea to consider how we can invite some of that into our lives, it is also wise to consider the other side of the coin and to take that into account while we are making this type of decision.”
2. What Are Our Attachment Styles?
While the thrill of an open marriage might get you all riled up inside, Lurie suggested taking a step back and truly thinking about what your attachment style is like.
“Attachment styles influence the ways that we engage in relationships, often subconsciously,” Lurie said. “It could be worthwhile for both partners to consider their own attachment styles, how those attachment styles are activated in the relationship now, and how they would manifest in an open relationship.”
3. Why Is This Appealing?
If you’re going to have a conversation with your spouse about wanting an open marriage, be sure to back up that thought with reasoning. What about it interests you? Why do you want to give it a try?
Stefani Shaffer-Pond, a licensed master social worker and kink-affirming sex therapist, suggests getting down to the root of why an open relationship appeals to you.
“What about the idea of an open relationship appeals to you? Is this coming from a desire to enhance an already-strong relationship or are you trying to ‘fill gaps’ in a relationship that is struggling? The purpose of an open relationship should not be to resolve unmet needs within the primary relationship,” Shaffer-Pond said to POPSUGAR.
4. Is My Relationship Stable?
David F Khalili, LMFT, a private practice mental health therapist, recommended giving the current state of your relationship with your partner a really good look.
“This is a solid place to start so that couples can determine if they feel like they have a strong foundation,” Khalili told POPSUGAR. “Opening a relationship can be incredibly exciting, but it can also offer significant challenges which can harm a relationship if your relationship is not strong to start off with. If you and/or your partner feel like you have one foot out the door, it’s a good time to go to a couples therapist and work on strengthening your relationship before considering opening up.”
5. How Will We Know This Is Working?
If you get to the point where trying an open marriage is what you and your partner agree on, before you head out and give it a try, have a plan in place so that you can check in with each other to make sure your relationship is still strong and both of you are still OK with this decision.
“Ask yourself, how often do we want to check in about what is and isn’t working for us? The transition into an open marriage can be difficult, as most transitions are, and it could help the individuals involved to have conversations around how they are feeling and what is or isn’t working for them, and to be prepared to continue to make changes as they move forward,” Lurie said.