My Husband Wants To Have An Open Marriage After He Had An Affair. What Now?

By: Katie Lersch: Occasionally, I hear from wives whose husband want to redefine the terms of their marriage after an affair.  Many will suggest concessions or changes as an alternative to them leaving the marriage.  One such is example is husbands trying to convince their wife to have an “open” or “unconventional” marriage instead of breaking up or ending the marriage.

I heard from a wife who said: “my husband had an affair with a coworker.  He came and told me not only about the affair but also about his intense feelings for this other woman.   I expected him to ask me for a separation or a divorce, but he didn’t.  Instead, he has told me that he is in love with us both.  He says that he doesn’t want to leave his family but, at the same time, he can’t come to a decision when he has these strong feelings for both of us.   So he is proposing that we have an ‘open’ marriage while he continues to see her and be married to me.  This is obviously not what I want.  But I feel like if I refuse, he will divorce me and go and be with her anyway.  How am I supposed to respond to this?”

This is an extremely difficult situation.  There were children involved and this was a long term marriage.   But, what the husband was asking of this wife just wasn’t fair.  I will discuss my take on this situation more in the following article.

Sometimes, A Husband Suggests An Open Marriage When He Can’t Decide Between The Other Woman And His Wife:  Many husbands will suggest this sort of compromise when they don’t know exactly what they want.  They figure that if they can continue on in the way that they are, an answer will eventually come to them.  And since you know about the other woman at this point, the marriage will have to be an ‘open’ one or else they will still be cheating.   In their minds, this situation can make a lot of sense, especially since they aren’t thinking very clearly at the time.

The thing is, this situation is horribly unfair to a wife.  She can’t attempt to save her marriage in any meaningful way when she’s having to worry about her husband constantly being with the other woman.    I know of very few wives who are fine with their husband having a relationship with someone else.  And while it’s true that there are some couples who chose to participate in open marriages, most do so openly and from early on, not after an affair comes out into the open.

How To Respond When Your Husband Asks For An Open Marriage After The Affair:  Unless this is fine with you, I’d suggest speaking up quickly.  This is typically not a situation that is healthy for you or for your marriage.  Your husband might think he’s getting a great deal out of it, but frankly, allowing him to have relationships with both women doesn’t help him come to a decision. If anything, he doesn’t have an incentive to make any sort of decision because he’s having both relationships at once.  If this is a situation you don’t want to live with, I’d suggest a script of something like: “no, that isn’t going to work for me.  A marriage involves two people, not three.  And we are still married.  If you’re unsure about what you want to do, then that is another situation all together.  You can let me know when you have come to a decision, but I won’t take part in a relationship of three.  Maybe while you are taking time to think about what you want, I will work on myself and on determining what I want.  But I’m pretty clear that I don’t want a marriage in which my spouse is being intimate with others.”

Believe it or not, some husbands will come around after having this conversation because he figured what was the harm in throwing the idea out there to see if you would agree.  Once he sees that you’re not having it, he may decide to drop it.   With that said, some husbands will claim that they are ending the relationship and then they will continue to carry on behind your back.  So you have to be very careful about accountability.  Counseling can be very helpful in this situation also.

Many wives share that they are so torn and heartbroken in this situation.  They are scared to give their husband ultimatums but they can’t live with sharing him with someone else.  I would argue that sharing him with someone else isn’t really holding onto him at all.    Frankly, men in this situation aren’t being encouraged to respect their wives because they are pretty much calling all of the shots.  And they aren’t showing a great deal of commitment to the marriage when they are so willing to devalue it by making it “open.”

In my own situation, allowing my husband to continue the relationship was not something that I ever could have tolerated, but every one is different.  If you find yourself in this situation, I would suggest considering what you truly want out of your marriage.  Because you deserve to have your wishes met just as much as he does.  And frankly, it’s my opinion that your husband would perhaps show you more respect if you asserted those wishes.   You have just as much right to create your own path as he does.

As I said, I could not have lived with an open marriage after the infidelity.  Saving my marriage after the affair was hard enough without the other person being present.  And, the reconciliation process is so important to the future of your marriage.  I took this process very seriously and my marriage is actually quite strong today. If it helps, you can read about our recovery process on my blog at

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