‘I feel excited and concerned’ (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
My wife has gently suggested we consider opening our marriage.
She has a higher sex drive than I do but overall we have a happy marriage and family, even if we’ve been slowly shifting into a companionship over the years.
I feel excited and concerned about the prospect – I don’t wish to invite resentment and jealousy into our home but the idea certainly excites me.
The frankness of our recent conversations has also been refreshing. We’re a lot kinder and we’ve even been having sex. What’s your advice?
Any calculation of risk should always consider two questions.
‘First, how likely is it to go wrong? Second, how wrong could it go? Opening a marriage is pretty high risk on both counts but only you know how high,’ says James McConnachie.
So your next step will require a full-on, detailed, written risk assessment.
‘You will also need to factor in confirmation bias, which is when we tend to downplay the downsides of whatever it is we want to do and exaggerate the potential benefits,’ McConnachie continues. ‘This is also known as thinking with your dick.’
The openness and vulnerability that comes with such a life-changing suggestion has naturally created a sense of expansion within your union but, be warned, it’s only a honeymoon period.
‘By saying that she wanted more sexual partners, your wife was letting you know that you are not enough, which in turn allowed you to recognise that she may not be enough for you,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘This freedom and lack of critical judgement have helped you get closer.’
Once your dialogue develops into practicalities, however, you may find things become a little less rosy.
‘The reality of other people being intimately involved in your lives will trigger all sorts of insecurities,’ Rudkin continues. ‘It will not be a journey of equals either. You will find people, happiness and disappointment at different times.’
Humans also have an awkward habit of falling in love with the people they’re having sex with so you have some important considerations to include within your risk assessment.
‘What will happen if one of you feels that a lover is turning into something more significant? How will your relationship adapt?’ asks Rupert Smith. ‘My other concern is your children. How will you balance this new situation with parenting?’
In many ways, this is a very positive way of dealing with the perceived staleness of a long-term relationship as it saves you both from having affairs and living with secrecy and shame.
‘But you will both need clear eyes and an open heart,’ says McConnachie, ‘and they are very rare qualities.’
- Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist and co-author of psychology guide What’s My Teenager Thinking? out now
- James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
- Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor
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