What Are the Benefits of a Non-Monogamous Marriage, Like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's?

Will Smith has revealed that he and his wife have an open marriage.

Though it was previously believed that Pinkett Smith had been unfaithful after revelations of her "entanglement" with August Alsina emerged, Smith explained in an interview with GQ that they have a non-monogamous marriage.

While their relationship began as a monogamous one, after realizing that their marriage was no longer working they decided to take a different route.

"Jada never believed in conventional marriage....," he said. "Jada had family members that had an unconventional relationship. So she grew up in a way that was very different than how I grew up.

"And for the large part of our relationship, monogamy was what we chose, not thinking of monogamy as the only relational perfection."

The 53-year-old actor said that he wouldn't recommend open marriages to everyone, but that it had given him and his wife "trust and freedom."

"Everybody has to find their own way. And marriage for us can't be a prison... But the experiences that the freedoms that we've given one another and the unconditional support, to me, is the highest definition of love."

What Is an Open Marriage?

For those unfamiliar, non-monogamous or open marriages and relationships usually allow those within the relationship to have other sexual partners.

Julia Kotziamani is a love, sex and relationship coach who is currently in a non-monogamous long-term relationship. She told Newsweek: "Non-monogamy is an umbrella term for all dynamics in which partners have more than one sexual or romantic partner.

"These dynamics can be static and continue long-term or can fluctuate at various points in the marriage or long-term relationship for example, when a partner is pregnant. For some couples this is a continuous conversation, for others, a set of prescribed rules is set out in advance."

Will and Jada Pinkett Smith
Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, pictured at the premiere of 'Focus' in 2015, do not have a monogamous marriage. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The main things that differentiate these and instances of cheating or extra marital affairs are consent and communication, as Tina Wilson, relationship expert and founder of dating app Wingman, said: "Expectations have been set between the couple before entering into the marriage and both have agreed.

"There is no hiding or secrets regarding additional partners, it is out in the open and whilst each couple will likely have their own set of ground rules, it's honest.

"Cheating and affairs are kept hidden, lied about and are dishonest."

Cheating isn't a behavior that is exclusive to monogamous relationships though, as open relationships still often come with rules and boundaries which some may test or break.

What Are the Benefits of Ethical Non-Monogamy?

Some couples find that pursuing ethical non-monogamy can help keep things exciting and bring fresh energy into a relationship.

Gillian Myhill, a relationship expert and co-founder of sex-positive dating app BARE, said this is called "new relationship energy."

She said: "For so many couples, maintaining that sexual appetite can be a tricky thing, particularly if you have been together for many years; the monotony of day-to-day life, work and children takes a toll.

"Injecting different energy into a relationship can also be refreshing as you are able to get alternative views and this in turn potentially leads to deeper understanding, balance and even greater connection and excitement."

These types of relationships also offer the opportunity to have deeper conversations about desire and pleasure which can help couples feel closer.

"It can actually be very bonding for partners who feel that they can be their full and honest selves in relationships, and adds to the intimacy," Kotziamani added.

Couple lie in bed together
A couple lie in bed together. Relationship coach Julia Kotziamani says that exploring ethical non-monogamy can help some couples feel even closer Getty Images

For her, the desire to explore ethical non-monogamy came followed a traditional marriage and other long-term monogamous relationships.

She felt that as a bisexual woman, she couldn't be authentic in her desires.

"I realized that I didn't believe that for myself a future looked like only one sexual partner forever. Though many bisexual people are happily monogamous, I felt I needed more freedom to have the most fulfilling experience possible," she said.

She and her current partner were honest with each other about what they were looking for from the outset of their relationship

How Can I Talk to My Partner About Exploring Ethical Non-Monogamy?

Explaining to your partner that you're interested in opening up your relationship is a difficult conversation to broach.

You don't want to do anything to jeopardize your relationship or make them feel like you don't respect the bond you've already built between the two of you.

"To try and gauge interest with your partner by bringing up fantasies with them," Wilson suggested.

"This could be a way to open the conversation and making the initial suggestion will ease you into chatting about it."

It's important to remember that your partner may not be on the same page so give them time and space.

If you do decide to pursue ethical non-monogamy, it's important to keep communicating and establish clear boundaries.

"In my own relationship, we have some rules that those outside might find totally nonsensical, but which work for us," Kotziamani explained.

"For example, we can have sex with new people, but communicating with exes is a no-go."

Couple sit opposite each other with coffee
A couple sit down to talk over coffee. Communication is key when thinking about exploring non-monogamy with your partner. Getty Images

Keep communication clear and don't be afraid to reassess your rules, as Kotziamani did, closing her relationship for the time being as she is pregnant.

Myhill recommended continually taking the "emotional temperature" of your relationship.

"People and relationships are forever evolving, so it's important to remember that what worked previously may not be what is ideal moving forward," she said.

How Can I Tell My Partner I Want to Stay Monogamous?

Of course, this type of arrangement doesn't work for everyone and it's important to communicate with your partner if it's not right for you.

Try not to take their suggestion of non-monogamy as rejection, as Wilson said: "Try and think of your partner's needs and remember that they are openly discussing their wants and desires with you because they want to stay together.

"They have not gone behind your back and cheated. You still have trust and love and can find a way to move forward so you are both happy and comfortable."

With this in mind, Kotziamani advised: "A 'no' without an explanation may not be the best approach and may cause your partner to feel shamed for attempting the conversation at all."

You may find it helpful to try to understand what made your partner want to consider this type of relationship in the first place.

If your views on non-monogamy don't align, your relationship can still thrive.

"The mark of any healthy relationship is the ability to be able to have a conflict and recover," Myhill said. "Our sexual identities change a lot and being able to experiment to keep our mutual desire alive is a constantly evolving process to be worked through and even enjoyed."

"In all relationships, there will be areas where your values don't align and this is no different," Kotziamani added.

"It's about defining your own map together and it should be one that both parties feel comfortable and seen within."

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith pictured at the 'Aladdin' premiere in 2019. Smith said their open marriage has given them "trust and freedom." VALERIE MACON/Getty Images