At least within the context of the United States, it is well known that the divorce rate is high. Roughly half of marriages end in divorce. There are, of course, a multitude of reasons why this is the case. But they all boil down to one important factor: namely, marital happiness.
If you are in a relationship or marriage and this relationship is making you less happy, it is highly likely that the relationship will dissipate. Or --which is potentially even worse-- the relationship will not end, but it will suffer greatly. By contrast, if you are in a relationship or marriage and this relationship is making you happy, it is very unlikely that the relationship will dissipate.
This might make one wonder: what about non-monogamous marriages? Do these have a high rate of divorce? Is this form of marriage also doomed to fail?
The general answer to this question is no. This is due to the fact that all of the research done on non-monogamous marriages display a much lower divorce rate than that of monogamous marriages.
Why is this the case? Wouldn’t we expect the existence of extramarital affairs to increase the likelihood of divorce? After all, your partner now sees other people.
Well, conventional wisdom isn’t always correct. The idea might be that due to extramarital affairs which are intrinsic to open marriages, this might cause greater mistrust and jealousy, and in turn, will lead to greater divorce.
However, the opposite is actually true. And when we look at one of the primary reasons for divorce amongst monogamous couples, this will be made much more clear. Namely, sexual dissatisfaction, which leads to infidelity. Monogamous relationships report a higher rate of sexual dissatisfaction mainly due to a lack of variety. In some sense, some people get sick of having sex with the same person and only the same person after too long.
You see, an open marriage is an active antidote to this problem. The purpose of sexual inclusivity is, at least in part, to remedy sexual dissatisfaction. In doing so, infidelity becomes quite impossible. Hence, we can readily see why so much of the data on open marriages suggests a much greater level of marital satisfaction than that of monogamous marriages.
For instance, a study conducted by Bergham and Strand showed that 80-90% of couples in open marriages participating in swinging reported a higher level of marital satisfaction than prior to opening up their marriage.
Another study conducted by Timothy J. Wolf showed that 76% of open marriages are reported to be better than average or outstanding.
This is all well and good. However, does this mean that open marriages can serve to decrease divorce rates?
The answer is that it truly depends. If open relationships are for you then absolutely. But, if you are monogamous by nature it might be the case that forcing yourself into an open relationship might actually increase your likelihood of getting a divorce.
Hence, what is most important when considering this, is to understand whether or not an open marriage is something for you. At bottom, this will amount to a serious conversation first and foremost with yourself. In this conversation, you need to truly consider whether or not an open relationship is something that you both desire and are well-suited for. Following that, a serious conversation with your significant other. Insofar as these sorts of serious conversations are had, it is plausible to suggest that the total divorce rate will drop. If monogamously-inclined people are in monogamous marriages and non-monogamously-inclined people are in open marriages, the likelihood of sexual dissatisfaction --and in turn, infidelity-- will drop rapidly. Insofar as this drop occurs, it is very likely that there will also be a drop in the divorce rate.
A big part of the solution here, then, will be lifting the stigma surrounding open relationships. Part of why so many have such a difficult time having honest and serious conversations with themselves and their significant others about open relationships is due to the stigma surrounding them. With this stigma comes shame overexpressing one’s own desires for such relationships. Thus, given what has already been stated, one major path to decreasing the divorce rate will be to eliminate the stigma surrounding open relationships and open marriages.