A new dating website is designed for people who are not cheaters but want open relationships
Mel Robbins: The true definition of an open marriage has nothing to do with sex
Editor’s Note: Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author and keynote speaker. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards. Follow her @melrobbins. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
I remember our wedding like it was yesterday. My father and I started walking down the aisle in the front yard at my childhood home, and Chris shot me the widest smile I’d ever seen. Everyone else disappeared in that moment. That was almost 20 years ago.
Our marriage has been more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. Yet after two decades, who wouldn’t be intrigued by the thought of having sex with someone new?
A new dating website, Open Minded, is creating buzz because it’s designed not for cheaters but for people who want open relationships. According to its founder, women and men are increasingly seeking romantic partners outside their marriage and want to be open about it.
A few years ago, my husband and I thought about having an open marriage.
Chris and I met in 1994, got engaged immediately and married in 1996. Like all relationships, ours has been adventurous for sure; one that’s taken us through multiple career changes, graduate schools, several moves, starting a family, building a community of friends and losing too many loved ones to cancer, suicide and time.
There is nothing more exciting than the first few weeks or months of a relationship. Your neurotransmitters are firing on all cylinders, the mere thought of the person can send a surge of dopamine through your body and even just going to the grocery store together is the hottest date imaginable. It’s the strongest drug on the planet.
But the real question isn’t “would you want” to have sex with people outside your marriage - it’s “could you handle it?”
Two summers ago, that is precisely what Chris and I explored. It started out like any other Sunday – reading the paper and drinking coffee – while our three kids slept in. That morning, the cover story on the Sunday New York Times magazine was, “The Virtues of Infidelity,” which argued that cheating can make your marriage stronger. I devoured it then handed it to Chris. After he finished the article, he looked up at me and said, “What do you think?”
For almost three hours, we sat on the deck and discussed and considered the possibility, implications and tactics of having an open marriage.
Would you want to know who I was sleeping with? How would you protect yourself and protect me? Are people we know off limits? Is this a one off thing, or do you envision having an ongoing relationship with a lover?
Over the years, we’ve had lots of conversations about sexuality but none as serious as this one. This didn’t feel like the many times we’ve discussed the fact that monogamy isn’t natural; it’s work. Or our sexual “hall pass” lists. Or how cheaters cheat because deep down they seek distraction from their lives. This felt more like we were standing on the edge of a cliff and daring one another to jump off. I thought I was socially liberal, until I thought about sharing my husband with someone else.
You may think, like I did, that an open marriage means you are simply open to having sex with other partners. But as we dug deeper into the reality, the desires and the fears that come with the territory – we realized it is not that simple.
When you step outside your marriage and into another person’s bed you may say its “just sex” – but in reality you just invited that person to step into your whole life, and they probably will. You’ll be in your kitchen, with your spouse, when the texts appear on your phone. Are you free Saturday? You’ll be driving in your car with your kids, when the song that reminds you of your lover plays. And suddenly, they are right there in the car with you.
What I discovered about myself was interesting. It wasn’t the idea of Chris having sex with someone else that truly bothered me. I can even admit that if I envision a particular Victoria’s Secret supermodel with him – it’s actually a turn-on.
What crippled me was the realization that while you can compartmentalize the physicality of sex in your mind, you can’t keep real intimacy separated from real life. The idea of an outsider having access into our life, our family, our world and the power that comes with it … that scared the hell out of me, and it scared him, too.
An orgasm with a stranger no longer felt exciting and fulfilling; it felt dangerous.
Yes, we considered an open marriage, and decided that for now ours will remain closed.
If you’ve wondered whether an open marriage works – and really who hasn’t – I dare you to have the conversation with your spouse. If you are honest, open-minded and you listen, you’ll be surprised by what you learn about yourself, your life and your marriage.
At the end of the day, whether you decide to sleep with people outside your marriage or are planning to enjoy one partner for the rest of your days, the true definition of an open marriage has nothing to do with sex.