Advice – Open marriage problems.

“My partner and I have been together for 15 years and married for 13. We opened up our marriage four years ago. She has been with several men and I have not been with other women other than threesomes that included my wife. I have attempted to date other women but have not had success, partially because it is not something I really need.

Throughout these four years I have really struggled with jealousy. This past year I have broken my jealousy down into my emotions underneath and tried to walk through the door and change. But I have recently realized that the change I was trying to make was for her and not for me. Realizing this I have decided to stay monogamous. Becoming non-monogamous / polyamorous is not something I am capable of. I have tried my hardest and it is just not me.

This week I told my wife that I cannot be non-monogamous and it did not go well. She called me a liar and that she knew all along this was going to be the result. She is not speaking to me at the moment, which I probably deserve. This past four years I thought I could become something I am not and kept trying and trying. She is very upset and I believe she feels like she has to choose between being with me or not being with me.

We have two children, a beautiful house, a dog, lots of toys and we both love our life together.

Please advise.”

– Anonymous

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Dear Anonymous,

You’ve given non-monogamy your best shot. You tried dating (and it is difficult for men to date non-monogamously). And you’ve done your emotional labor by breaking down jealousy into smaller, more digestible chunks. Ultimately, it is just not something you’re all that interested in. So it is obvious that you are not going to have non-monogamous encounters of your own. You tried your best.

Your experience does not mean that your wife has to stop exploring non-monogamous relationships of her own. In your post, you’ve shared how destructive jealousy has been for you. In your post, I sense that you’ve not only ruled out non-monogamy for yourself, but also partaking or even hearing about her non-monogamous relationships as well.

Your wife’s subsequent reaction makes emotional sense. In a way, you’ve consented to non-monogamy for the past four years. And she might feel like she has been lied to for the past four years with your sudden retraction of consent. Her pain is understandable. But maybe we all need to step away from that absolute reading of consent.

You didn’t just consent to having a non-monogamous relationship for perpetuity. Your consent was proactive and continuous. You are perfectly within your own rights to revisit an agreement you’ve made in the past in the face of ongoing changes and new developments, just like your wife is perfectly within her own rights to feel upset.

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Now you and your wife are standing at an impasse.

Especially since the divorce is completely off the table, I would strongly advise some couple’s counseling for you and your wife. There is a lot of flesh out here that I don’t have personal insight to. I would also strongly advise some individual therapy for you as well. In your post I sense some really deep self-critique that cuts a bit too deep. The safe confines of a therapist’s office will help you analyze that wound and learn to heal yourself more effectively.

Separation might be a prudent option considering the circumstances. If you have a separate third or fourth bedroom to stay in, giving some space for not only you but your wife to grieve the reality trajectory she has lived in for the past four years will be necessary for these next steps. Think of this as both you and your wife experiencing a loss. A loss of this version of future together, as you might have experienced in the past four years of your non-mono experience together. And she is distinctly feeling the gap between the reality you are suggesting and the reality she lived in. And that might be what she is feeling when you suggest she might be deciding whether to be with or not with you anymore; with your aligned visions or living separate realities apart.

I strongly advise against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policies for the simple sake of your own sanity. That is not going to help with your sanity or managing your jealousy. You and your wife already nest together. For her to live a life that is completely separate and distinct from the one she shares with you will continue to drive a gap between you two. Even if you both decide that the romantic/sexual aspects of your marriage is no longer viable, continue to mindfully engage with each other for the sake of scheduling. Parenting is already difficult enough with two fully on-board parents.

Photo by Amber Lamoreaux on

As a father, I can also understand how the end of this phase of your marriage could affect your children. You didn’t say how old your children are. But I’m guessing based on how long you and your wife have been together that your children are not quite teenagers yet. And I’m also assuming that you are not fully out to your children as non-monogamous either. It is far too early to fully embrace or understand that their parents’ marriage is not perfect. And while kids are resilient, you and your wife need to set some priorities and regarding the safety and security of your parenthood together even if your romantic future has ended. They’ll quickly sense that things are different when the mood and environment changes are apparent. So while you can’t shield them completely from this new transition of your marriage, you and your wife can start preparing to best frame this new transition in the ways that doesn’t threaten your children’s livelihood. So think about and at least proactively align what you’ll tell your kids about why you’re suddenly sleeping in the spare room.

I am really sorry that you are going through this. I feel for you who have to be the bearer of bad news. I feel for your wife who feels like her rug has been pulled from underneath her. I feel for your kids who are about to experience some major turbulence in their home. I even feel for your pup who will have to adapt to new changes as well.

Someone at some point in time told me that blood bond in family is resilient. Through time and time again, I’ve questioned why that was so. It was in the past couple months that I’ve realized that your family is what you make it out to be, not who you share your blood with. But in your experience, why not have that chosen family also be the one you share blood with? What can you and your wife accept and compromise from your current positions to choose to remain as a family together?

Good luck.

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

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2 thoughts on “Advice – Open marriage problems.

  1. You need to try talking with her again. Essentially, if you do not agree to an open marriage and she continues in an open fashion she is cheating. Marriage comes first. You gave her idea a try which I applaud you for. Wow! What a compromise. There is no way I would have made a compromise like that if my ex brought up that idea. You must really love her to be willing to share her in that way to keep her happy in your marriage. I am surprised by her reaction to your open and honest response. Has she ever brought up divorce? Are you afraid of divorce if you try talking her out of an open marriage? What does she get from an open marriage that she can’t have in a monogamous one? You have at least 13 years experience knowing what she likes, how can other guys compete with that? You need to find out!!!


  2. Pingback: Advice – I want my husband to break up with his girlfriend. – Tea Time with Tomato

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