For better or for worse, the modern marriage is being redefined. Consensually non-monogamous relationships are becoming more mainstream. Word is that open marriages are growing in parts of the country where the technology industry is booming. This could be because of the way millennials view marriage. More and more millennials are open to non-monogamy. Marriage rates among millennials are dropping and studies suggest millennials are not as interested in having children.
What is an Open Marriage? An open marriage is a form of non-monogamy where partners agree that they can engage in extramarital sexual relationships without labeling the same as infidelity.
Can people really be happy in an Open Marriage? Sure, research comparing relationship quality between non-monogamous and monogamous couples showed no significant differences in the quality of trust, satisfaction, and passion experienced by the parties. In addition, there are anecdotes across the web from Cosmo to the Gottman blog of happy people, including in Washington state.
Is it for everyone? Probably not. Some of us may consider watching an episode of a favorite Netflix series without independently a major transgression. (Ahem) But, love and marriage require some flexibility, and many people have found open marriages to provide a happy and honorable balance. My understanding is that open marriages are built on a hypersensitive level of trust. For more information, the best place to start is probably a couples therapist who specializes in supporting couples in an open marriage or online magazines offering tips and basics.
Are open marriages legal? Yes. In the event of a divorce, there is no penalty for being in an open marriage.
Are there legal issues to consider in advance of opening my marriage? Yes. Sometimes, monogamous couples who elect to open their marriages decide to no longer stay married. The process of opening the marriage may create turmoil and take a toll on both of you. Even before the divorce process starts, new dynamics of power and control may develop leaving emotions flying high. If you are the spouse who earns more, the other side may feel resentment over the loss of the marriage which can make the divorce process more prolonged, expensive, and acrimonious. Meanwhile, the spouse who is not the breadwinner may feel a great deal of financial fear and a total loss of control. For these reasons, it is a good idea to negotiate a postnuptial agreement in advance of opening your marriage.
There is often room to reinvent yourself in marriage. But, when the rules of romance are changing and you find yourself considering an open marriage, it’s probably a good idea to talk to professionals like a therapist and a lawyer who can explain how your relationship is defined under Washington law. The best way to protect yourself is to enter in a postnuptial agreement setting forth your financial expectations should the marriage end and your relationship move into a new realm.