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What are open marriages?

In 1972, a book titled ‘Open Marriage’ was released, and was considered the first of its kind to mention a marriage set up that is different to a traditional marriage. It became a best seller, that sold over 35 million copies worldwide (Sheri Stritof, 2019). This book discusses the concept of open marriages and how sexual relationships outside of the marriage can be a healthy thing.

So, what exactly is an open marriage?

Well the actual term ‘open marriage’ can be described in several different ways but it is most commonly known as a ‘polyamorous marriage’. A polyamorous marriage is where a married couple consider their marriage as the main relationship, but there is a certain level of non-exclusivity, where either one or both married partners may date or have sexual relationships with other people. It is a mutual agreement on both parts – so this is totally different to having an affair, cheating or committing adultery.


The mutual agreement requires both married partners to openly discuss and agree what their open marriage looks like – some may have requirements that include no emotions to be involved and the outside relationship should be purely sexual – others might be happy with their sexual life and only allow their partner to have emotional dates. The extra marital relationships can include a range or partners or just one particular person – however the married couple will set rules on what their open marriage involves – this way nothing is done maliciously or in secret, and both spouses feel valued. Whatever the case of the extra marital activity, the general consensus is that in an open marriage, both spouses will be the main priority and outside relationships will come secondary to this.

There is some confusion that surrounds open marriages as there are some religions where there is marriage set ups different to what a traditional marriage looks like. For example, a man being allowed to have multiple wives. However, this is not what an open marriage is; a polygamous marriage is where one spouse is married to different people. An open marriage is purely a married couple who have mutually agreed to partake in activities or relationships, whether sexual or emotional, with other partners. There is only one marriage in the entire set up.


It is so important to remember that if you are having problems in your marriage, it is not always easy to assume having an open marriage will solve things. In fact, it could make it more difficult and build barriers between both spouses. If there are things about your husband or wife that you are not happy with, it does not mean you can just seek this in another person outside of your marriage with your husband or wife’s consent. The priority in open marriages is your primary relationship so that means this needs to be a solid and secure marriage before you explore relationships outside of your marriage.


An open marriage requires a lot of trust and communication so if you are not in a marriage where you are able to communicate effectively or trust one another, then an open marriage will be extremely difficult to take part in. An open marriage works when both spouses trust one another and are able to communicate their wants, desires and feelings to one another.


Some couples in open marriages find it easy to write down a list of things they would like, a list of things they are willing to be flexible on, and lastly a list of things they would not tolerate in an open marriage. This way both parties are aware of what is expected of them. (Candace Jalili, 2019). This conversation should include the potential outcomes to extra marital relationships, including how to practice safe sex to avoid any chance of someone falling pregnant, what the action will be IF someone does fall pregnant, how to ensure good sexual health is considered when engaging with multiple partners for sex and so on. If these scenarios are discussed fully before agreeing to take part in an open marriage, both spouses are clear on what is allowed and what is not.


Because an open marriage is such a delicate situation – you are expanding your sexual or emotional connections with others aside from your husband or wife, it requires a lot of time and effort. It is so important to make sure you continue to have conversations with your husband or wife to make sure you are both happy about the extra marital relationships. As with any relationship, an open marriage can evolve and change – you may want to include your husband and wife in your new open relationships, or you might decide you would rather have multiple partners and not just the one to avoid any emotional connection. Whatever the case of change is, it is important to continually communicate these feelings to your husband or wife. It is only fair that both parties are aware of the dynamics of the open marriage and if there are any changes that need to be made, both of you are agreeing to it.


Finally, the last aspect of open marriage I want to touch on is the support of a therapist. A lot of couples who want to take part in, or are already in open marriages, will seek the help of a therapist as it is a difficult and delicate situation for some to deal with. A marriage is an extremely personal and intimate thing, so when either one or both of you want to get involved with others outside of your marriage it can be extremely helpful to get the insight or support of a therapist – someone who is trained to help you both through this transition will help you to reduce the amount of issues that you have to deal with and if any issues do arise, a therapist will be able to support you both through the difficult times.


Couples who are in an open relationship may need more support than a normal couple as there are many different dimensions to an open marriage. Just like in a traditional marriage, open marriages can change over time and people may begin to find more happiness outside of their marriage than with their husband or wife – this is always a possible outcome of open marriages and something that both husband and wife need to consider before agreeing to take part. We as humans are made with emotion, so falling for someone you are having sex with aside from your husband or wife is a possibility and could potentially lead to problems in your marriage.


With constant communication and the help of a marriage counsellor, if dynamics of the marriage change and the extra marital relationships become more significant, a couple is able to decide together what the next steps should be.



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Mila TutorMila Tutor
07:10 25 Mar 23
I have worked with Nicola for some time now and have found her to be compassionate, kind, and extremely helpful. She has helped me a lot.
Riti SajitRiti Sajit
06:58 25 Mar 23
Nicola is a wonderful human 🤍 Thank you for helping me through my difficult time.Still living by your words and advice. I would definitely recommend anyone needing relationship counseling to try Nicola :)
Mihaela BotnariMihaela Botnari
12:54 17 Mar 23
Thank you for destroying my relationship. My partner reached out for support and you advised him that there is nothing for him to heal and that he should send his girlfriend for therapy, like this is your place to tell him. I’ve been through therapy myself and I know how to make the difference between a good therapist and someone who just wants to get more money, and the second seems to definitely be your purpose!
Helen HHelen H
19:13 10 Nov 22
Nicola’s support and advice proved invaluable when my marriage was struggling. Over a series of meetings (online and fact to face, to suit our needs), Nicola helped steer us through a very difficult time. She was always calm, neutral and never made us feel like we had failed or had ‘messed up’. Nicola has a wealth of experience and keeps up with current research, but has a very unique approach to getting you back on track. With regular support materials and just being there, she helped us realise that our relationship could go on; by making us look at ourselves and helping us consider the tools we needed to move forwards. I can honestly say that I don’t think our marriage would have survived such a difficult time without Nicola’s expertise. I often listen to Nicola’s podcasts on Spotify when I’m needing a bit of extra support. Thank you, Nicola
Justin LossJustin Loss
13:23 30 Jun 22
Nicola has been a massive help. I had tried traditional counseling and it had seemed to be moving me further away from what I wanted. After listening to several of Nicola's podcasts I decided to reach out to her. The discovery call was enlightening and she described a process that was more focused on creating a better future vs reliving the pass. From there I went through her Breakthrough Program...All I can say is Wow! Her program and guidance has quickly changed my mindset which has in turn improved all my relationships and overall stress level. I highly recommend working with Nicola and can't thank her enough for her help and care.
Ciaran CarlisleCiaran Carlisle
22:16 23 Jan 22
My partner and I spent a number of sessions with Nicola discussing our relationship difficulties, both together and one on one sessions. She has been so good to talk to - incredibly helpful and understanding with our problems.My partner and I have come out of this with a better understanding and move love for each other. Nicola has taught us many techniques to use in situations were we feel at odds which has been fantastic. We would recommend Nicola 100% for relationship advice.Thank you so much again.
Loida Delgado-PerezLoida Delgado-Perez
03:09 22 Jan 22
Nicola's marriage counselling have been life changing for both my partner and I. The learnings have been exponential and have transform us individually and as a couple. We reached out to Nicola at the lowest point of our relationship and about to break apart. Her compassionate and smart yet practical advice and exercises transform us in such a way that we are now at the best we've ever been personally and as a couple.As a result we've decided to get married and book Nicola every year for a couple's check in! I couldn't recommend her sessions more to anyone feeling stuck and wanting to be in a better place. Best investment of time, money and effort EVER. Thank you Nicola, you are an inspiration to me and many others :)
Christianne KaddoumChristianne Kaddoum
17:19 20 Oct 21
The hours I’ve spent working with Nicola have been the most valuable of my life.I now feel equipped to do things differently. It’s been the most liberating and empowering experience and I’ve learnt things that will stay with me forever.Through the excellent help from Nicola, it is now possible for me to have a different and healthier approach to various situations.She has professionally helped me to consider my perspectives in a way I hadn’t before.I can finally begin to reframe my life experience and see them in a whole new light.Thanks Nicola!