What percent of open marriages end in divorce?

Last updated on September 25th, 2022 at 03:39 pm

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An “open” marriage is defined as a married relationship where either spouse or both are allowed to keep physical relationships with other people.

Usually, spouses make such an arrangement after discussing among themselves. For some couples, an open marriage is a last ditch attempt before succumbing to divorce.

According to some research, open marriages have an overwhelming 92 per cent failure rate. Also, a very small margin of couples enter an open marriage.

If you are one of them or know somebody who is, this article will clear your concerns regarding the topic.


Why Open Marriages Fail

Open marriages can become very complicated. It all boils down to the old adage “have your cake and eat it too”. Eventually, jealousy and insecurity creep into the marriage.

From a health perspective, open marriages can increase the risk of contracting STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections).

There are many reasons why open marriages fail. Some of them are discussed below –

  • Envy – Even though spouses in an open marriage agree to be intimate with others, there is a chance of either or both spouses becoming jealous.
  • Jealousy comes naturally to humans. A complicated arrangement like an open marriage can make the situation even worse.
  • Low Self-Esteem – Most spouses inevitably start comparing their worth to their partner’s lovers. This leads to an unhealthy opinion of oneself, causing issues of low self-esteem.
  • Slowly, thoughts of uncertainty and envy begin to bother the spouse. They fear that their spouse would leave them for the ones they are seeing outside marriage.
  • Imbalance in Power – Open marriages cease to be about equality. Depending on how many sexual partners one spouse has, it arouses suspicion in the other spouse.
  • Spouses even begin to compare each other, leading to resentment and heated arguments.
  • Health Risks – As mentioned earlier, having multiple sexual partners can increase the risk of getting sexually transmitted infections. Even condoms are not a 100 per cent safe.
  • In extreme cases, a spouse could impregnate or get pregnant by someone outside the marriage. This would lead to unnecessary complications in the marriage.
  • One-sided Motivations – Usually, one spouse comes up with the idea of an open marriage. The other simply acquiesces. This means, the other is not fully on board.
  • Gradually, the other spouse will grow jealous and spiteful, leading to disappointments and countless arguments.
  • Stifled Honesty – You would assume that couples in an open marriage are more honest with each other. But the opposite is true.
  • Once spouses start getting jealous of each other, they become less frank. This means they go about maintaining sexual relations with others without telling each other.

Open Marriage Ruined My Life

It is not easy to maintain an open marriage. There are countless examples when marriages have fallen apart due to their open status.

Before entering into an open marriage, weigh the advantages and disadvantages properly.

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Open Marriages Pros and Cons

There are some advantages of an open marriage. But that entirely depends on the understanding between the spouses.

Here are some of the pros of an open marriage –

  • Emotional Freedom – Some people are not okay with a monogamous relationship. They need to express their sexuality. But the society has no label for such arrangements.
  • If you and your spouse fall into this category, then an open marriage might help you to be true to yourself.
  • Everyone has a different libido drive. Some seek commitment and loyalty, while others may want multiple sexual relationships.
  • People who fall in the latter category may find an open marriage beneficial. Also, such people can separate sex from emotion.
  • Increased Intimacy – It is possible to connect with your spouse on an emotional level but not on a physical level. If that is true for you, an open relationship can bring you closer to your spouse.
  • Sexual incompatibility could ruin your otherwise happy relationship. The opportunity to meet your carnal needs through someone else can unburden you and bring you closer.
  • More Openness – There are countless sob stories surrounding infidelity and cheating. In an open marriage, spouses are honest with each other about their sexual escapades.
  • When you have nothing to hide you have nothing to become suspicious of. This can also increase communication between spouses.
  • Discover Yourself – When you are allowed to experiment without shame or judgement, you can try new things to see what works best for you.
  • In essence, by meeting new people you learn more about your likes, dislikes and priorities.

Here are some cons regarding open marriages –

  • Jealousy – In open marriages, spending time away from a spouse can incite jealousy in the other partner.
  • Human beings are capable of being jealous, especially when their partner is having “fun” with someone else.
  • Health Risks – The risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections is much higher in an open relationship due to multiple partners.
  • Also, a spouse could get pregnant or impregnate someone else in an open marriage. This will lead to more complications.

Open Marriage Rules

If you and your spouse are planning to try an open marriage, you must lay down some rules.

These rules will ground you and try to save you from harm.

As long as you abide by the terms and conditions your marriage should remain safe.

Without wasting any more time, here are the rules of an open marriage –

  • First, you met set boundaries. These boundaries apply to both emotions and sex.
  • Be frank in your discussions when it comes to sex. Decide what type of sex is fine by you. For instance, some couples may be alright with oral sex, but not penetrative.
  • When it comes to emotions, discuss if it is cool to go on dates. Most open marriages purely seek physical pleasure outside marriage.
  • That means, spouses do not date strangers or chat with them on the phone.
  • Second, put a tab on who and how many you can have affairs with. Some spouses are not comfortable with a certain “type” of people because it makes them jealous.
  • Also, how much time should your spouse spend with someone else, you must discuss that as well.

Can You Cheat In an Open Marriage?

Yes, even in an open marriage you can cheat on your spouse and hurt them. To identify what qualifies as cheating you must look at the ground rules of an open marriage.

Before deciding to see other people, you and your spouse must have agreed upon certain ground rules. If you do not stick to those rules you can end up harming your partner.

Wife Wants Half Open Marriage

A half open marriage means only one spouse engages in sexual activity outside the marriage.

If your wife wants to be in such an arrangement but you don’t, it means she is not satisfied with you alone.

While on the other hand, you are content with the relationship, which is why you do not want an open relationship.

This is a tricky setup. Laying some rules is beneficial, but you must ask yourself “Can you be happy with your partner sleeping with others?”

If the answer is no, then talk to your wife. This marriage may not work.

How Common Are Open Relationships?

There are very few couples in open marriages. According to a survey, roughly 5 per cent of heterosexual couples are in such an arrangement.

The reason behind this stems from a mix of social stigma, health concerns and the risk of ending the marriage.

Interestingly, a survey from the National Opinion Research Center reveals that 15 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men admitted cheating on their spouse.

These statistics come from only those who admitted infidelity. But according to researchers, the actual numbers could be between 30 and 60 per cent.

If such statistics are true, then an open marriage does not seem like a bad option, since people are already engaged in extra-marital affairs behind their spouse’s back.

FAQ Related to What Percent of Open Marriages End in Divorce:

Are Open Marriages More Successful?

No, they are not. According to a survey, 92 per cent of open marriages end in divorce.

Jealousy, envy, resentment and frustration eventually take over making open marriages very hard to maintain.

Falling in love with someone else during an affair is also common, leading to more divorces.

What Is the #1 Cause of Divorce?

Researchers at the University of Denver found that the most common cause of divorce is the absence of commitment.

Around 75 per cent of the spouses surveyed confessed that they simply fell out of love with their partner.

They no longer felt emotionally or physically attracted to their other half. Instead, they saw their spouse as a friend and nothing more.

Other popular reasons for divorce include –

  • Infidelity and extra-marital affairs
  • Lack of compatibility resulting in constant fights and conflicts
  • Marrying as young adults, not knowing any better
  • Monetary problems
  • Alcoholism and other substance-related abuse
  • Domestic abuse and violence
  • Lack of family support, especially from the in-laws

Do Open Marriages Work Long Term?

In the majority of cases, they do not.

What Marriages Are Most Likely to End In Divorce?

Marriages with a lack of commitment and fidelity usually end in divorce.

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