Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
If two mature consenting adults choose to have an open marriage can it last and work out long term?
In general, the answer is NO. Human relationships are complicated enough. What makes a relationship strong is commitment and structure. Personal indulgence of any type tends to erode the overall structure. An additional problem is that even if both individuals are open and mature, that doesn’t mean the extra-marital partners will be.
In addition, there is a chemical factor to consider. Oxytocin, released after orgasm, causes territorial type bonding. This dissuades toward any friends with benefits type arrangements. Being territorial and being open are not compatible states, no matter what the intention. Plus, relationships are not just about sex; in many instances sex can be used as both a form of denial and distraction away from other more important issues. And if kids come into the picture, the boundaries can get very confusing.
Of course, there are exceptions. For instance if the both partners in a couple are practicing pagans there is the idea of ritualized extramarital relations, known as Beltane, that could work without conflict because it is a profane rite, infrequent and separated from everyday life. There are clear boundaries, expectations and rules, making it no different than rites that other religions maintain. When ritualized to a sacred separate space, sex isn’t really indulgence as it isn’t being done for self gratification. However, this is hardly your average swingers relationship.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: Inviting unknown persons into a home based partnership is a very dodgy idea. I am remembering the movie Fatal Attraction in which the initially sophisticated and mature Glen Close becomes a bunny boiling psychopath when she is rejected after an affair with a married man. Sex and intimacy bring up issues in many people that are buried and removed from social personality. You really take a chance when you open that door.
If two people don’t want to commit sexually to each other, I have no understanding of why they would want to get married. Why not just keep dating? Children should NEVER be brought into an open marriage. Mommy and Daddy should not be a carousel of revolving partners and shifting emotional interactions. It’s not a nurturing environment for anyone, Mommy and Daddy included.