Just the Tip: When an Open Marriage isn't Benefiting Both Parties

Just the Tip: Open Marriage

Just the TipJust the Tip offers smart and compassionate sex and relationship advice from queer non-monogamous kinkster Jera Brown. If you have a sex or love question you’d like Jera to answer, email  justthequestions@gmail.com or DM Jera on Twitter @rebellioustips. Just the Tip is sponsored by Early To Bed, one of Chicago’s finest feminist adult toy stores.


I’ve had an open marriage with my husband for about a year. He is with other partners, but I’m not interested in having other relationships. The reason we decided to open the marriage is because he has a much higher sex drive than I do, and I wasn’t interested in providing him with the amount of sex that he prefers.

The open marriage has been going very well, but for me, the reason I looked forward to the arrangement is because I thought it would mean that I wouldn’t have to have sex as often as we’d been having. But now, even though he’s having sex with other people once or sometimes twice a week, he still expects me to have sex with him at least once a week. It’s sweet that he still wants me, but the whole reason I agreed to this is because I assumed it would take the pressure off me. I thought the open marriage would mean that I could say no when I didn’t want to have sex, but I end up agreeing to it more often than I want.

I feel a little betrayed that I gave him an outlet for his sexual needs but yet he’s still disappointed (and maybe sometimes annoyed) if I don’t want to have sex with him. How am I supposed to handle this?

When you say the open marriage has been going well, I wonder for whom? What are you getting out of it as it stands? Do you feel that you can prioritize your own needs in this situation? You have every right to feel betrayed. He’s getting what he wants (sex with multiple people) and is still expecting you to have more sex than you’re comfortable with and is disappointed if you don’t. That doesn’t sound loving or understanding of him. It sounds selfish and manipulative.

You have every right to feel betrayed. He’s getting what he wants (sex with multiple people) and is still expecting you to have more sex than you’re comfortable with and is disappointed if you don’t.

I can imagine if I tell you that you are not EVER obligated to have sex that your response might be something like, “But isn’t that what I agreed to when I got married?” You want to continue staying connected to your husband, and sex is often viewed as a necessity in romantic relationships for doing so.

It might be unfair and unloving to expect a person to remain in a sexless (or little sex) marriage, but you’re not … you opened it up. So he has a sexual outlet, and it doesn’t have to be you.

There are other ways to stay connected to each other. If you are more comfortable with other physical displays of affection, there are plenty to choose from. And there are other non-physical ways of being romantic. Any partner who is committed to being with you will be willing to discuss and try out other ways of expressing affection and showing love.

I recommend talking to a therapist about this. If he’s unwilling to go to therapy but is willing to open the marriage, then he’s not prioritizing you or your needs, and you deserve better.

In the meantime, you should NEVER feel obligated to have sex with another person—even someone you are married to. If he makes you feel bad about this, whatever you decide to do about it, just know that it’s on him, not on you.

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Jera Brown writes about being a kinky polyamorous Christian on her blog scarletchurch.com and a sex and relationship advice column, Just the Tip, for Rebellious Magazine. Follow her @thejerabrown.