Anita Sadanand (name changed), 32, a Mumbai-based interior designer, realised that she was attracted to other men and even women. She had noticed that her husband had been checking out other women as well and had felt jealous at times. But she wasn’t sure if open marriage was the answer. Sadanand adds, “I have a colleague of mine who is in an open marriage, and I spoke to her about it. She too felt that maybe open marriage is an option we can consider instead of cheating on each other.” But Sadanand reveals that she wasn’t fully convinced about it as she felt this might reduce the intimacy between her and her husband.
Sadanand’s colleague, Flavia Rodrigues, 33, on the other hand, had no such qualms. She and her husband have been happily married for four years and had decided on an open marriage from the outset. “We strongly believe that monogamy is a myth and believe that an open marriage keeps sexual and emotional intimacy alive. We know everything about each other's partners, have ground rules and have been very transparent with each other,” she shares.
Clearly, what works for one person, doesn't work for the other; people have different experiences and belief systems that shape the success or failure of an open marriage. Pritha Saha Dutta, a mindset transformation coach and psychotherapist based in Mumbai who works with many different couples, says that marriages by themselves are quite complicated, considering the differences in backgrounds, upbringing, value systems, and even undiagnosed mental health issues, dysfunctional and/or toxic family environments etc which all have a huge impact on a marriage. What different people want when they choose to open out their marriage is also very different. For instance, while she has clients who are seeing others to fulfil physical and sexual needs, she even has one couple who are seeing other people to fulfil their emotional needs outside their marriage.
Divisha Singh, a Delhi-based psychotherapist & sex therapist, says that the extent to which people find themselves comfortable with the notions of open marriage and how much of it is working for them differs from person to person“Some people may find it liberating while others may find it restricting and may stop them from loving their partners fully," she says, adding that this largely depends on the couples, their comfort level with themselves and each other.
Saha believes that communication is everything when it comes to an open marriage, something Singh concurs with. “You can discuss if you both are going to involve one more person in the open marriage or two or as many as you like and come to a common ground.” Saha also believes that those who wish to consider an open relationship must do so with the help of a marital therapist. “This can be the bridge that can help the awkward communication gaps and can also delve into the ‘why’ of open marriage," she says, adding that sessions with a therapist could also resolve a lot of underlying issues that the couple might be avoiding or be completely unaware of.
Here are the possible pros and cons of an open marriage, according to Singh and Saha.
Since the level of commitment to your partner is lesser than in a traditional marital relationship, you are free to date and meet more people
You can explore sexual and emotional relationships with people from different sexual orientations and cultures
It can rekindle the lost intimacy-
In some cases, the couple may feel attracted to each other even more strongly
Since communication is so important, it may help partners understand each other and themselves much better
Sexual excitement can fuel up between partners who are married
Can lead to jealousy
It can create a sense of sexual jealousy and competition, especially if one of the partners is seeing somebody who is more attractive or better than the other in some aspects
Can create discord
It can lead to more arguments and fights if there is a communication gap or the couple isn’t spending enough time together anymore. And yes, if one partner was okay when it was agreed upon but changed their priorities, later on, the marriage may get affected.
Decrease in sexual excitement
If one of the partners happens to enjoy someone else’s sexual company more, there is a risk of sexual intimacy with your primary partner suffering