My Wife Wants An Open Marriage: How To Proceed

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated March 8, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Marriage can come with challenges, and couples react to these challenges in various ways. One challenge that may occur in a marriage is one partner’s desire for an open relationship, whether that involves ethical non-monogamy or the desire for an open sexual life. If you don’t feel the same or don’t understand what an open marriage involves, you might find it challenging to respond to your partner’s requests. 

When your wife suggests having an open marriage, it may feel hurtful, exciting, or confusing. Whether or not an open marriage is right for you can depend on your preferences and desires for your relationship.

Can an open marriage work for your relationship?

What is an open marriage? 

Many American couples adhere to standard monogamous lifestyles where they remain intimate with the same person throughout their marriage. However, monogamy isn’t the only form of relationship around the world. For some couples, an open or polyamorous relationship can feel less restrictive than a monogamous relationship with one partner. Open relationships can appeal to those who want to explore multiple connections and ways of living. 

For many, opening a relationship and leaving monogamy behind comes with new challenges. Boundaries and ground rules must often be clear and set in advance, and you may have to balance multiple schedules without leaving one partner behind. Other partners and other relationships can create open or hidden resentment, and jealousy may occur. Often, open relationships work when both partners consent to the dynamic and learn how to participate ethically in multiple connections. One way couples discuss these changes is through marriage therapy.

How to know if an open relationship would work for me

If you are considering an open marriage, deciding whether it would work for your situation can be beneficial. Although a monogamous and polyamorous person can stay together in a relationship, if you feel you are monogamous and would not be happy in a non-monogamous marriage, you might feel healthier deciding against it. 

Having multiple sexual partners can come with risks, such as STIs, pregnancy, or emotional challenges. These risks may be mitigated by conversations about protection, testing, and birth control, as open marriages require healthy and frequent communication. You and your wife can start this conversation by reading more about how open marriages function and communicating about the boundaries you would need to make it work. 

If your wife is interested in non-monogamy and you decide to open your relationship and seek other relationships with new partners, speaking with a couples’ counselor is one way to ensure that you and your wife are on the same page. Without a healthy foundation, opening a marriage into non-monogamy can lead to pain and misunderstanding. If boundaries are broken by accident or individuals use other relationships for the wrong reasons, it can cause challenges for all parties involved. 

You might benefit from an open marriage if you connect to the following aspects:  

  • You feel multiple romantic or sexual connections would benefit your life
  • You and your wife have a healthy foundation and feel safe in your marriage
  • You are open to working through jealousy or other challenging emotions
  • You don’t see your wife as your property
  • You love the idea of having more than one partner at the same time as your spouse
  • You are monogamous but would feel happy allowing your partner to explore themselves further 
  • You don’t think that marriage limits the ability to form connections throughout life
  • You don’t feel strongly opposed to polyamory 
  • You feel open to your wife having romantic or sexual relationships with anyone of any gender, sexuality, or background 

What to do when an open marriage is not a possibility

For many people, an open marriage with a new partner feels unhealthy or doesn’t fit their desires for their life. Relationships can go through challenging periods, and opening a relationship is not necessarily a solution to these challenges. Partners are often interested in an open sex life when one or both do not feel happy. Finding ways to reconnect as a married couple can help you rebuild your connection before adding other complex individuals to the mix. 

Though it may seem like the perfect solution or lightbulb moment when brought up, open marriages can take trust, self-love, secure attachment, and a willingness to make changes. As the other people involved in an open marriage are also human beings with feelings, lives, desires, and boundaries, using other relationships to “fix” your marriage or “spice up” your sex life can leave others feeling that you consider them objects or less important than your spouse. 

For many, non-monogamous relationships come with a rejection of hierarchy. In addition, if you’re a man telling your wife she can only have relationships with another woman, this behavior can be controlling or invalidating to LGBT relationships. If you’re not looking for an ethical, open relationship, it may mean you’re not open to non-monogamous relationships at all. 

Deciding to be monogamous may be the healthiest choice for you. However, discussing the options with your wife may be challenging if being open is a dealbreaker for her. In some cases, couples decide to divorce or break up to find partners compatible with their needs for monogamy or polyamory. If your wife is unwilling to stay in a marriage that is not open, you might be faced with the decision to end your marriage. In any scenario, talking to a professional can be beneficial. 

By prioritizing each other’s needs, making time for one another, and seeking couples counseling, spouses can better understand what is causing marriage challenges and start exploring solutions. Many people know that monogamy works best for them, and they are looking for solutions to marital problems through an open marriage. The healthiest option may be working on their connection to rekindle desire. Others may identify as polyamorous and feel unfulfilled either way. No matter the situation, support is available. 


How to healthily communicate with your partner

Studies have found that commitment does not cause marital satisfaction on the same level as communication. Without communication, feeling safe, trusting, or loving toward your partner can be challenging. You aren’t alone in experiencing problems like this, and it can be tough to put your frustrations with someone aside when you’re trying to talk. If spouses don’t feel heard in their relationship, they may consider an open relationship as an indirect way of avoiding their dissatisfaction with the level of communication or connection between them and their partner. 

By communicating healthily, you may find your relationship with your partner changing in beneficial ways. If your wife has previously felt unheard, unloved, or disrespected, these topics can be brought to light and discussed openly. Try to actively listen while having difficult conversations. Doing so can involve listening to understand your partner’s point of view instead of listening to respond or argue. Once your wife has stated how she feels and you have validated and heard her concerns, you can bring up your own ideas and opinions about the topic. 

Conflict and disagreements can be part of many romantic relationships, but how they are handled may affect the outcome. Seeing a couples counselor may be valuable if your discussions end in complicated arguments, uncomfortable silences, or a lack of compromise. Everyone communicates their needs differently, and learning new tools to help you understand each other more profoundly can help you and your partner grow together. 

Is my wife’s desire for an open relationship related to sexual dissatisfaction?

In some cases, an individual may desire an open relationship if sexual dissatisfaction is present. Although not necessarily anyone’s fault, sexual dissatisfaction can involve mismatched desires, differing fetishes, different libidos, or a desire to explore one’s sexuality. If these areas are present in your relationship, opening a dialogue about them can be beneficial. You might find ways to improve your sexual connection with your wife by discussing what she wants to change in the relationship. 

If your wife believes that she is polyamorous and nothing is missing from her sexual life with you, there may not be any dissatisfaction or concern prompting her request. In these cases, it may be up to you whether you’re comfortable opening the relationship or prefer to seek a divorce. Although both options can be challenging, leaving the relationship as it is and causing a rift on both sides may be unhealthy. 

Often, couples find ways to rekindle the sexual flame and find new ways to connect sexually by talking to a sex therapist. For many, sexual satisfaction is connected to emotional vulnerability and intimacy. Focusing on these areas with the support of a professional can be one way to communicate on a more profound level. 

What to do if you decide to open your relationship

If, after doing research and talking about boundaries, you establish that non-monogamy is right for you, the time may come when you both want to begin meeting potential partners. At first, try to ease into any new relationship, as there may be an adjustment period as you learn more about non-monogamy and how to partake in it ethically. Reading books together, talking to a professional, and learning from established non-monogamous couples can be beneficial. In addition, continue to keep communication open. You might benefit from weekly or monthly check-ins about how the dynamic feels to each of you. 

In ethical non-monogamy, respecting your partner and the other people you engage with can be essential. If you and your wife decide that an open marriage is right for you, be transparent about your situation to anyone you hope to connect with. If you’re hoping to date one person together or engage in group sexual activities, consent must be given from all parties. Open up about your marriage before you meet up with someone. If someone believes they’re meeting one person and ends up going on a date with two, they might feel lied to, manipulated, and harmed. 

Can an open marriage work for your relationship?

Counseling options 

There are various counseling options available to couples. You can start with an online search for therapists educated in non-monogamy. Many therapists may be non-monogamous themselves and understand the dynamics of opening a relationship and how to keep it healthy for both individuals. If you struggle to find a specialist like this in your area, you can also consider online couples therapy through a platform like Regain.

With online therapy, couples can meet from home or anywhere with an internet connection. In addition, you can choose to meet in two separate locations if your schedules don’t align during the time a therapist is available. However, many therapists on online platforms offer hours outside of standard business availability. 

Studies have also proven the effectiveness of online therapy. One study found that individuals could experience decreased stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms through online couples therapy and that couples felt it was as effective as in-person counseling. 


There are many reasons couples may want to open their marriage. If your wife has asked you for an open marriage, use the opportunity to learn more about the type of dynamic she’s seeking. In some cases, couples find that non-monogamy is beneficial to their connection. In other cases, couples may decide that opening the relationship is not a practical solution to challenges. Either way, reaching out to a marriage therapist can help you make healthy decisions for yourself and your partner as you navigate this topic.

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