Study: America No Longer Creeped Out by Open Marriages

by | May 5, 2014 | Conflict Resolution, Disclosure, Divorce, Relationships

Study: America No Longer Creeped Out by Open Marriages

Recent Research on Open Marriages

Recently consciously uncoupled stars Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, Chris Martin, allegedly had an open marriage.  It might not be the craziest idea that two super-busy artists had such a relationship. However, a study by Amy Moors published in the “Journal of Social and Personal Relationships” detailed that Western couples are now more willing to consider the idea of an open, or non-monogamous, relationship.

The theory behind the cultural shift is that a non-monogamous relationship also opens the door to more direct communication about emotional issues.  This communication purportedly leads to greater emotional intimacy and romantic fulfillment.

I always thought open relationships were a mask for a failing relationship.  However, these findings seem to run counter to my general knowledge of open marriages.

Proponents of this type of relationship detail three required needs that must be met to make any relationship successful.





Over time, the needs in each of these three areas will increase and/or decrease due to physical capabilities or changes in personality.  These shifts can lead to considerable marital conflict.

For example, consider this: Maybe your wife isn’t interested in hearing about how well your fantasy sports team performed.  Maybe THAT fact makes you feel emotionally vulnerable.  I mean you put a lot of time into setting your lineup, right?

Anyway…proponents of open marriages say that those same feelings of mental and emotional frustration can be a problem for a couple sexually.  And where you and your wife might agree that you should talk about your lineup to someone more responsive, proponents say you can do the same for sexual needs by “talking” to someone more sexually responsive.

Proponents say many conflicts, even those leading to a relationship’s end, can be solved through open and direct conversations about a couple’s mental, emotional, and sexual needs.

Wait! Before you go running off to start your open marriage, you should be aware of a few more things.

Social Stigma Associated with Open Marriages

Open relationships are often misunderstood and mocked.  I’ll provide an exceptional example from Arrested Development Season 2, Episode 1:

“Tobias: You know, Lindsay, as a therapist, I have advised… a number of couples to explore an open relationship where the couple remains emotionally committed but free to explore extramarital encounters.

Lindsay: Well, did it work for those people?

Tobias: No, it never does. I mean, these people somehow delude themselves into thinking it might, but… but it might work for us.”

Some people view open relationships as a misguided effort to save a failing relationship. Then, the people outside of a non-monogamous relationship are thrust into an uncomfortable situation, as well.

FYI-It’s not the best idea to begin a relationship with someone outside your marriage and to withhold your marital status.  I can’t imagine it’s a comfortable conversation telling someone you want to date that you’re married.  And… I’m not saying you’ll be forced to date troll people, but people expect different things from their relationships.

Increased Jealousy

Non-monogamous relationships can’t work for everyone.  It can be close to impossible for people to detach themselves from feelings of jealousy and possessiveness. From the research I’ve read, it seems like people who enter into these relationships reluctantly end up being the ones that file for divorce.  If jealousy isn’t something you can manage, an open marriage isn’t the best idea.

Legal Impact

As you can imagine, these sorts of relationships lead to disastrous breakups if they’re not handled correctly.  Arizona doesn’t recognize fault when addressing spousal maintenance.  But, the money spent on another lover could impact other aspects of the proceedings or negotiations.

For those considering a consensual non-monogamous relationship, it might also be wise to consider post-nuptial agreements.  You’re having more open communications, why not formalize the ones that deal with property?  Give yourself some security in your new adventurous life choices.

A post-nuptial agreement is an agreement that, well…comes after a party is married.  Most often they’re used to designate who should be the primary owner of a specific piece of property that would otherwise be characterized as community or joint property.  If the social stigma about open marriages is true and you’re moving towards a divorce anyway, be proactive and get a head start.

Now… the same cultural expectations of relationships do not apply to everyone.  There could be many people with successful and happy non-monogamous relationships.  But even if that’s not something you or I will be comfortable with, we can still learn things from them.

The fact such a relationship is built upon communication and honesty is admirable.

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