Life Advice



Ask Amy: Married couple ponders ‘opening’ their union

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My wife and I have been married for five years. Each of us has brought up the topic of having an open marriage at one time or another.

There is nothing wrong or missing in our marriage and our intimate life is incredible.

I am wondering – is this a healthy curiosity on our parts, or are we just asking for trouble?

– Confused

Dear Confused: Discussing having an open marriage isn’t asking for trouble. Committed and intimate partners should discuss their hopes, dreams, fears and fantasies.

Longer married people understand through experience that marriage can be very hard work. Life unfolds in its untidy way, and tests commitments. Work, family, illness, and financial issues will challenge every couple.

Wondering who your spouse is having sex with tonight adds a layer of stress that a lot of people couldn’t handle.

My basic point is that if your marriage ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it by bringing other people into it.

On the other hand, if you don’t have children at home and can mutually agree to parameters that will allow you to explore your sexual and relationship curiosity with other people while still staying emotionally committed to each other, you might take the leap.

If you choose to try this, I think it would be prudent to consider or imagine what your life would be like without your spouse in it, because for many people, “opening” a marriage eventually leads to ending it.

Dear Amy: My brother-in-law of 20 years has always been rude, hateful,

disrespectful and in a perpetual bad mood.

My sister always made excuses for his bad behavior and so my family "turned the other cheek" and treated him with love and kindness, anyway.

One day at a party I overheard my brother-in-law telling his friend how he never liked me or my family. He then proceeded to make fun of us.

A few days later I confronted him and my sister about it.

My brother-in-law confessed to hating me and my family.

He said we had done nothing bad to him personally – he just hated us.

My sister knew how he felt all along and now she's acting like it's not a big deal.

We don't want anything to do with my brother-in-law ever again.


We are all feuding, and I don't know what to do or how to save my relationship with my sister over this betrayal.

– Shocked

Dear Shocked: Your reaction to this insult seems to blame your sister – presumably for tolerating her husband’s long-standing hatred and disrespect of your family.

Your sister is not responsible for her husband’s atrocious behavior. But it seems as if he has pulled the pin on a grenade and tossed it into the middle of your family.

You might look on this weird episode of brutal honesty as a liberation of sorts. You are under no obligation to spend time with him, interact with him, or worry about his estimation of you. Declining to spend time with him will relieve him of any obligation or expectation to be in the presence of people he hates.

In this context, “turning the other cheek” might translate into accepting that your sister has chosen to be with him and seems to be staying with him.

Perhaps you could adopt a loving and understanding attitude toward her. Her situation does not sound easy.

Dear Amy: I hope you'll rethink your answer to “Devastated Husband,” because it's not only wrong – it's dangerous.

Five years ago, I asked my husband to consider an open marriage. We had married young and had had few experiences. I had no specific person in mind. My husband agreed to try it.

We were open for two years before we decided it wasn't for us. When he asked that we return to monogamy, I readily agreed.

A spouse who asks for an open marriage is trying to do the right thing by being open and honest.

A partner is entitled to complicated feelings in response, but I would hope you'd encourage loving curiosity over anger. Love is about assuming positive intent and giving your partner the benefit of the doubt.

When you and others sow the idea that someone who asks for an open marriage has a secret agenda and really just wants to "stray," you encourage unfounded suspicion and hostility. And that's the root of domestic violence.

– Open Minded

Dear Open Minded: Thank you for telling about your own experience exploring an open marriage. I take your criticism to heart.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2024 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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