Should You Open a Relationship After An Affair

An open relationship after an affair? Why it’s not necessarily the answer.

Dear Holly,

My wife cheated on me almost a year ago, and I was devastated. We have a three-year-old and I really didn’t see it coming. I thought we were happy.

We didn’t have sex a lot of the time, and most times I did try, she turned me down. I just figured it was that she was so tired because we are both full-time working parents. The affair was a bombshell. I didn’t want to end the relationship, and she suggested trying an open relationship which I reluctantly agreed to. Now she has a lover who I can’t stand (she only divulges things if I ask), and I have no interest in seeking a “secondary partner.”

We have polyamorous friends who are happy with outside partners and who even explore group sex and BDSM activities. I don’t think that’s us, but I’m not sure this open relationship thing is either. Am I being a fool? I want my family, but I’m wondering if this is sustainable. – Fish out of Water


Unless you grow up knowing that you are polyamorous or nonmonogamous by nature, it isn’t going to be an easy transition from a committed mono relationship into an open relationship, especially when a child is part of the equation.

This doesn’t mean it can’t work, it just means it has less chance of working because it is new to the individuals and is a choice, rather than an innate way of being.

Couples open their relationships for all kinds of reasons, and it can be something that is agreed upon before any kind of commitment takes place or further down the line in a long-term relationship. Our reader chose this route after his wife/partner had an affair, likely out of desperation that if he didn’t, the bond would be broken.

If you are opening your relationship because there is a problem between you and your partner or one of you has cheated, it’s likely you’ll need some kind of miracle for success because what precipitated the open-door choice doesn’t just disappear.

Read: Can Polyamory Save a Marriage?

4 Signs an Open Relationship Isn’t the Answer

Let’s look at post-affair open relationship situations and others where open relationships aren’t the best answer.

1. One-Sided Interest

An open relationship after an affair isn’t going to work or last long if one half of the couple isn’t on board. We often do things for a partner to keep them happy, but this goes way beyond a kind gesture.

Don’t risk what you have unless it’s something you are both sure about. Do you really want to be home alone when your spouse or lover is on a date with someone else, letting your imagination run wild?

Read: Is Polyamory Right for You?

2. Desperate Salvation

As in the letter from our reader, in an attempt at not losing his lover who has already cheated, he agrees to open the relationship in an effort to save the family. I do hope things work out, but that might be asking too much.

Opening things up immediately after trust has been broken is bad timing at its best. I would have suggested counseling to get things back on track before pushing boundaries that have already been crossed. Trust is one part of the strong foundation needed for open relationships

Read: Why People Choose Polyamory

3. Emergency Band-Aid

Everyone who has made a long-term relationship work knows that there are peaks and valleys within the union. When things are challenging you sometimes want to throw in the towel—that’s understandable.

It can take patience and persistence to make your way through without acting impulsively on your frustrations. An open relationship is not, nor should be, a quick fix for relationship woes.

Opening a relationship should happen when things are good and you are both interested in exploring new possibilities that will strengthen the bond, not break it.

4. Imbalance in Nonmonogamy Experience

While there are many mono-poly couples out there rocking their relationships, it can be murky waters when one person has extensive experience in non-monogamy and the other has never even thought about it.

That said, we don’t all grow up knowing we are polyamorous or that nonmonogamous practices are even a choice. The more experienced individual can provide guidance and slowly introduce their partner to the kind of open relationship that will be best for them.

There are some individuals who are both monogamous and polyamorous, free flowing between the two. Things would be easier all around if we could all be so open!

Read: Tips for Dating Women in Open Relationships

Any kind of open relationship requires great communication, not only to discuss things like expectations and boundaries, but also to check-in and express feelings as they arise.

Would you consider an open relationship after an affair?

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