Ask me anything is a relationship advice column run by Gina Senarighi, a former therapist turned sex educator and sexuality counselor who offers online support for non-traditional couples.
This Week's Open Marriage Question:
In your professional opinion, is it even fathomable to think a marriage after 15 years could ever be an open one?
First, yes I think it's fathomable and possible to have a healthy open marriage after monogamy. I help a lot of people do exactly that in my work every single day.
But my experience has shown there's a bit of work to do before opening up after so many years of monogamy. Usually, one partner feels some surprise when it's brought up. Often they thought they'd be monogamous their whole life and even talking about nonmonogamy feels like a huge foundational shift.
So before we can get to practicing nonmonogamy we've got to work on even talking about opening your marriage without real emotional reactivity (jealousy, insecurity, shock, or anger) on one side and growing tension (resentment, frustration, and impatience) on the other.
I've seen many couples choose to open their marriage and some who do not. Either way, navigating this initial conversation often leads to greater connection and understanding.
Instead of getting caught up in thinking through details of polyamory I invite you and your partner to use this as an opportunity to reconnect. See if there's a way this can bring you closer together. Many times the conversation has led away from practical non-monogamy and instead toward the need to create a new vision for your next chapter together.
If your partner tells you they want an open marriage after many years of monogamy it can feel like you're no longer on the same page. Starting from some shared visioning can help ease the pressure to nail down details of polyamory and instead will help you two get back on the same page.
Think about it this way, if you founded a business with someone fifteen years ago you would likely bring in an advisor or coach, maybe an accountant or bookkeeper, and likely a lawyer to create contracts and agreements you can uphold in your business partnerships. Then (in a healthy business) you might meet with them and your partner annually to revisit your strategic plan, create new goals, and renegotiate your contracts with one another.
Your business would grow and change a lot in fifteen years. You would revisit your mission and vision for the work you do together on a somewhat regular basis- no big deal, just good business.
Lots of healthy businesses thrive this way- but we rarely apply this kind of intentionality in our personal relationships. If you're like most relationships you may have assumed some baseline you set fifteen years ago would hold you together for life- without ever discussing it.
But the truth is, neither of you is the same people you were fifteen years ago. I'm asking you to consider this an opportunity to reinvest in your marriage and get closer to your wife by reestablishing your relationship vision and goals together (aside from the non-monogamy discussion).
Get on the same page again, and then talk more about opening up. Maybe it fits in your vision, and maybe it doesn't. But most couples I see being up open marriages after many years need a little foundational repair before we can start a healthy conversation about openness.
I hope that helps. If you want to talk more please set up a free consultation, I'm happy to help.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.
She can help you:
- rediscover passion in long-term relationships
- repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
- open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
- resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
- break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship
Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.