By Hara Estroff Marano, published on March 1, 2009 - last reviewed on November 5, 2013
My partner and I have been together for 10 years. We have both had affairs, but remain committed to each other. Recently we have started discussing the possibility of having an open relationship, one in which we are free to explore connections with other people while remaining open and honest about what's going on in our respective lives. Friends are shocked and say we will become jealous and paranoid, but we are eager to give it a try. We are both open-minded individuals in creative professions and don't believe in putting restrictions on each other. Do you think this can work?
The short answer is no. At least not for the long haul. Sooner or later someone will start forming an outside attachment that will threaten the marriage, or one partner will tire of hearing of the other's experiences. There's no question that monogamy is honored as much in the breach as in the observance. But that's no reason to toss it out the window. We do form and need that primary emotional attachment, and it is the crucible of much of our growth as adults. I'm not shocked at your inquiry but I'm wondering what you expect to get out of your escapades, whether you two are secretly hoping to find some Peter Pan escape or whether you are both being equally honest in wanting such an arrangement. Often, one partner wants an open relationship more than the other but presents it as something for the benefit of both. Besides, the idea of not putting restrictions on another person sounds extremely naive, not to mention misguided and potentially dangerous. At the very least, as with any relationship, you would need to set up some ground rules that protect both of you, your health, your home life, and the great relationship you profess to have. If you are so creative, why don't you put that energy into the existing relationship and use the trust between you as a springboard for endless inner and outer exploration and excitement? Of course, it takes guts; it's much easier to look outside for excitement than to find the source within.