There are more types of relationships than monogamy.
By Fatherly — Last updated on Aug 07, 2023
Photo: Impact Photography | Shutterstock
By Lizzy Francis
Open relationships are not popular, per se, but they aren’t uncommon, either.
A recent Kinsey Institute research poll, for instance, estimated that roughly 25 percent of Americans have engaged in some form of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) — the proper term for agreed-upon open marriage — at one time or another.
And that number is likely to increase, as evidence shows that men and women under 30 are more open to the idea of an open relationship or marriage.
In fact, a growing number of relationship experts are also lifting the stigma on CNM, offering it as an option for couples to consider before divorce as well as an option for those who want to explore more modern arrangements.
Entertaining dynamics that tradition hasn’t informed us about can make navigating them a bit difficult.
In order to work, open relationships require, above all else, trust and open communication.
But, before couples reach that point, they must present the idea of an open marriage with one another.
How does that initial conversation take place?
We spoke to a few men and found some interesting Reddit threads that explain just that.
Here, 6 men explain how they asked their partners for an open relationship:
1. It just happened
“My best friend, Sandra, wanted to come over one night and spend the night. She had just moved into her own apartment and was unsure about being by herself. Sandra and I were, at the time, writing stories back and forth, because we’re both writers. We were just writing stories and it just basically progressed from there.
She got to imagine what it would be like with me. I obviously did the same. I asked my wife if she minded if I stayed on the couch with her that night. My wife said, ‘No’. I said: ‘You do realize that it may turn into something else tonight’. My wife said: ‘Yeah, I do’. And then I said: ‘That’s okay?’ And she said: ‘Yeah, that’s okay.’” — John*, Arizona
2. We always had an open relationship
“My partner and I have been together for over eight years now. We had an open relationship from the beginning. We both came to our relationship out of what we would call vanilla relationships: a little more standard and a little less open. One of the things that drew us to each other was that we had that desire to keep things more open, knowing that at the core of it all, we were still the same couple, regardless of what we did.
Those conversations really came up very early in our relationship. I think it started more from a swinging perspective. We wanted to experiment with some things. I think that really helped strengthen our relationship early on. It continues to do so to this day. You have to have a hypersensitive level of trust to be able to be comfortable with that type of relationship.” — Jim, Pennsylvania
3. My wife flirted with a coworker
“My wife and I were getting bored with our love life and we both knew it. Through circumstances that are just a part of life, a coworker of hers started flirting. Eventually, she confessed how far it had gone with the flirting; she was kissing him in his car, but nothing beyond that. We talked about it and decided it would be fine if she went with him and came home to tell me the tale. She did. It was great for both of us. That opened up our relationship and from there, our love life became a hundred times better.” — Elliot
4. We brought it up to each other
“My wife and I have been married for 15 years and together for 21. We both know that we want to spend the rest of our lives together. You know, sitting on the front porch together yelling at kids to stay off the grass. We also know that things happen and people will be attracted to others and monogamy is difficult.
So, why throw away 40 years of marriage for 30-60 minutes of fun/lack of better judgment? So instead of being jealous and overbearing, we decided to embrace it. We have visited clubs together and been with other couples. It is an interesting experience and one we are quite enjoying. Her drive is a little higher than mine, so she has joined other couples herself. She did recently fly solo with another guy. Afterwards, she felt a little odd (guilty I assume).
I am fine with it. It’s just a date. Have fun with life. Life should be about experience. On my death bed, I care more about reflecting on how I lived my life and what I experience than the money in my bank account or car in my driveway.” — Corey
5. We wanted it — and waited until we had a kid
“When we started dating, we both wanted to try being open. We each proceeded to be with one other person. I freaked out and couldn’t do it. She said sure, let’s be exclusive! We got some good advice from a friend — revisit the idea when you’ve been together for a while and you’ve had time to build up trust.
So a few years, marriage, and a kid later, we talked about it again and came up with an area-code-dependent model. If she goes away for work (and our kid is having grandparent time) I’m allowed to do online dating or adult-themed parties or whatever (and vice versa). This has happened twice so far.
I agree that fidelity is like sexuality — you can discover more about it, but you can’t change it. It takes extra work and understanding. But it always makes me appreciate my wife more and I am so glad I’m coming home to her. She really is the best. I would give it up in a heartbeat if she asked. It’s just a nice bonus.” — u/Derptron5k
6. It was a mutual decision
“My wife and I were out to dinner for our tenth anniversary. During that dinner, we had a conversation about what we wanted more out of life and our marriage at this point. We’re very open. One thing that we brought up was the idea of possibly bringing someone else into the relationship at some point.
I think it’s really good for couples to be this open and this was one thing we both really were interested in down the road. Eventually, the conversation led to us talking about other desires and we decided to try an open relationship for two months. It wasn’t because we weren’t satisfied with one another or didn’t trust one another.
It was the opposite: we trusted one another enough that we thought it would be a good idea. And it was. We did it for a few months, it was great, and then we went back to normal. We’ll probably do it again. And yes, we will eventually invite a third into our marriage.” — Stephen, New York
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Lizzy Francis is a writer and editor who has had fiction and poetry published in magazines associated with New York University like the West 4th Street Review and the Gallatin Review.
This article was originally published at Fatherly. Reprinted with permission from the author.