My husband and I moved to Manhattan from Illinois last year so he could take advantage of a job opportunity as head of a department at a prestigious girls school. We have a new baby, so at the moment I am a stay at home mom. My husband just asked me if we could have an Open Marriage. We are Born Again Christians and I love him very much. What is the etiquette for an Open Marriage?
–Anonymous, New York, New York
An ‘open marriage,’ or polyamorous marriage, can work or it can become tragically dysfunctional. The problem is that you cannot predict the outcome –which makes it so risky.
Especially when you have children. Children thrive on normalcy and if daddy has a girlfriend or boyfriend and/or mommy has another partner, you can imagine how confused a child would be ….
As I am not familiar with the vows of Born Again Christians, my best suggestion is that you seek counseling through your church or explore the option of working with a marriage counselor. The school psychologist can refer your husband to a reputable couple’s therapist.
That said, etiquette-wise there are many happy and healthy open marriages. It is essential to broaden the way we observe marriage vows. Nevertheless, researchers are just beginning to weigh the pros and cons of a consensual non-monogamous marriage.
The big question for you is whether or not you can emotionally sustain an open relationship.
Will it become a competition? If your husband has a steady boyfriend or girlfriend, will you want one too? Will a non-monogamous relationship enhance or destroy your marriage beyond repair? What happens with trust issues? Will you be able to handle an alternative within your marriage? Will a third adult in your marriage share vacations and holidays with you and your family? Will you begrudge your husband for spending money on the person with whom he is having an affair?
Picture this experience. You are sitting alone in your new home at your kitchen table on a Saturday night after a week of laundry, cooking and taking care of your baby while your husband is out wining and dining his lover.
Setting boundaries may be necessary to preserve the intimacy of your marriage. How will you handle his affairs without divorcing? What if another woman has a baby with your husband, will he have to support it? What is the financial impact?
Because your husband is being honest with you in telling you he wants an ‘open marriage,’ you should confront this challenge head on and seek professional couple’s counseling before making a decision. Or is he trying to tell you that there is something wrong about the way your marriage is now?
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