The traditional conception of marriage is that it is a sacred bond between two individuals. Most marriages stick to this conception of marriage. However, it is the case that divorce rates amongst monogamous marriages are quite high. Roughly half of monogamous marriages end in divorce and many that do not end in a divorce, do not have high rates of marital satisfaction. It is no wonder that many millennials and Gen X individuals are either not getting married at all, or they are getting married at later and later ages. When an endeavor doesn’t have a very high success rate, the less likely people are to participate in that endeavor.
This brings about the reasonable question: can an open marriage work? If ordinary marriages have a low success rate, is it the case that open marriage will also have a low success rate?
There is data to suggest that the way that open relationships unfold is very different from the way that traditional marriages. And the way in which they are different is that the results of open marriages seem to be more positive than those of traditional marriages.
For instance, a study done on open marriages shows about an 80 to 90% rate in marital satisfaction due to the ability to see other people. This can be contrasted with the reported rate of about 40% of married spouses in traditional marriages who report marital satisfaction. Another study shows that 76% report that they have a better than average or outstanding marriage.
This is quite counter-intuitive. But in reality, it isn’t. When we take a look at the number one cause of divorce --which is infidelity-- it makes sense why open marriages have a lower divorce rate than traditionally arranged marriages. Infidelity isn’t very easy in an open relationship, as, the existence of other partners has been negotiated within the relationship from the get-go.
Another factor even aside from the pre-negotiated existence of other partners is the fact that a fair bit of infidelity occurs due to sexual dissatisfaction. Monogamous marriages are notorious when it comes to reporting sexual dissatisfaction and boredom, whereas, polyamorous relationships exist precisely to remedy this issue. Many people require sexual variety, and without it, they will find their sexual needs to be unmet. This explains a fair bit of the reason why open marriages seem to go so well and why monogamous marriages seem to not go so well.
Further, many individuals in open relationships decide not to live together, whereas an ingrained part of the idea of traditional marriage is to live with one another. The data shows a couple that lives together has a higher rate of leaving one another than those that do not. Given that many polyamorous couples do not live together and many monogamous couples do, the data regarding marital satisfaction between these two sorts of relationships, the results of open relationships flourishing follows quite readily.
It seems then that the answer to the question of “can open marriages work?” is quite unequivocal: the answer is yes! Not only is the answer “yes,” however. There’s more to it than that. Open marriages don’t just work, they work well --they work even better than monogamous marriages. To most, this is probably quite shocking, but if you follow the logic it only makes sense. If you are interested in an open marriage, you should not worry about it failing. Indeed, the evidence suggests that you should be very excited because the odds are that it will succeed and produce a lot of happiness. The idea that open marriages cannot work is simply a product of folklore and rumor, not actual scientific evidence.