I was married for 30 years when my ex-husband wrote his own hall pass. I didn’t know about it. I didn’t give him permission. If he had asked me for one, I would have said, “Are you crazy? Of course you can’t have a hall pass!” The hall passes he took over the next three years eventually meant the end of our 33 year marriage. So, my personal answer to the question, “Are hall passes healthy for a relationship?” would definitely be “NO!”

Until recently, I didn’t even know that a “hall pass” in marriage meant letting your partner sleep with someone else. 

Below are some reasons people promote hall passes in marriage:

  • To spice up their marriage. 
  • They want another relationship without getting divorced. 
  • One partner thinks a hall pass will get infidelity out of their system. (Good luck with that!)

Even though I have heard of open relationships that work for some couples, for me hall passes and open marriages would have the potential to create more problems than they solve. In fact, hall passes ignore the problems in the marriage and introduce additional trouble into an already troubled relationship. Do you think that Bill and Melinda Gates’ marriage was everything marriage is designed to be?

It’s obvious from that relationship that (1) money doesn’t buy happiness and (2) I guess hall passes worked for them…until they didn’t.

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What Is A Hall Pass?

If someone had asked me the question several months ago, “What is a hall pass in a marriage? or what is a hall pass in a relationship?” I wouldn’t have had a clue. A hall pass harkens back to elementary or high school when we asked the teacher for a hall pass to go someplace we were not ordinarily allowed to be. It’s sort of like a temporary “Get Out of Jail Free Card” for one or another partner in a marriage.

A hall pass is for people who are looking for sex outside of marriage and getting approval, or at least permission, from their spouse. Considering the amount of infidelity that goes on in the world, it’s obvious that more than a few people are married but want to sleep with someone else.

People suddenly developed a new interest in hall pass relationships when the Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce revealed that Bill was granted a hall pass from Melinda to go spend time with an ex-girlfriend every spring. What wife would really be okay with that?

Also, If the tables were turned, I can’t imagine any good, strong man I would want to be with, being okay with this reality: “My wife wants to sleep with someone else.”

Until relatively recently, most marriage partners would feel guilty sleeping with someone besides their spouse. In today’s culture, having sex outside of marriage is too common, and instead of calling it adultery, infidelity or betrayal; now it sometimes happens with mutual agreement. That may be all the rage in marriages today, but I can’t think of any of my close friends who would be okay with that. And if everything was going fine in the marriage, I can’t think of any couple who would benefit in the long run from a hall pass relationship.

Franklin Roosevelt got a hall pass from Eleanor. Lots of powerful men (and women) are unfaithful to their spouses. I guess, now, we’re evolved enough to simply ask permission, like asking our spouse, “Hey do you mind if I go get an ice cream cone? I’m bored with the ice cream I have in the refrigerator?” Instead, some couples ask, “Hey, I’m bored with our marriage, I need someone new for the weekend, do you mind?”

It seems to me, marriage between two people is complicated enough without bringing an extra sexual/emotional commitment into the mix. Even though one article said that during Bill’s hall pass weekend every spring, Bill and his ex-girlfriend “spent their weekends together riding dune buggies, hang gliding and playing putt putt while discussing biotechnology.” Somehow, I can’t imagine there weren’t some other things going on, too.

Marriage for most people means love and an unwavering commitment to our spouse. For either partner, sex is the ultimate vulnerability. We’re naked and completely open to our mate. The hall pass puts all of that at risk. I would be unbelievably hurt if my spouse asked me for a hall pass. After sobbing in my room for a while, hopefully I could say, “Okay, let’s sit down and figure out why you think you need a hall pass, and if we can fix this problem and make our own marriage stronger, more exciting and more fulfilling than ever!” 

Hall Pass vs. Open Marriage

In researching this topic of hall pass arrangements, I came across old versions of a similar idea…the open marriage. One difference between a hall pass marriage and an open marriage is that in an open marriage, both partners can sleep around. A hall pass marriage can be a one time deal, or ongoing. But even open marriages have rules and boundaries.

As the open relationship set has done away with many of the “ordinary” boundaries in marriage, even they seem to want to have some boundaries in hookups.

Regain.us has this to say: “…it is important that if you are in an open relationship or want to have an open relationship, you need to be completely honest and upfront with your spouse. Communication is key when you are going to have a relationship that is not monogamous.

Here are some of the Rules listed for Open Marriages.

  • #1 Set Sexual Boundaries. …
  • #2 Set Emotional Boundaries. …
  • #3 Rules About “Who” …
  • #4 Rules About Time. …
  • #5 How You Talk About Your Partnership. …
  • #6 Have Scheduled Check-Ins. …
  • #7 Be Honest And Communicative. …
  • #8 Talk About Protection.

I’m trying to understand how being “completely honest and upfront with your spouse” conversations would work in a real-life open marriage or hall pass arrangement: 

I’m thinking a “completely honest conversation” might go like this: 

Her: “Hi honey, how is that new girl working out?

Him: “Man, she’s great! She’s a lot thinner than you are and about 20 years younger, so what’s not to like? Ha! Ha! And she has some great new sex toys that sort of push the boundaries if you know what I mean. I brought her some flowers just for fun, and she loved them. I think it made her feel special. I mean, she is a delight all around. The time is flying by here. I really would like another day or two. What do you think? By the way, how is your weekend going?”

Her: “Well, Johnny had a rough day at school yesterday … some bullying going on, and he didn’t do well on his math test. He seems depressed. The car had a flat tire, and it really pisses me off that these things always seem to happen when you’re with your lover and her new sex toys. And as long as we’re being completely honest and upfront, I’m not really cool with the fact that you’re out of shape and never do anything just to let me know you love me, like the flowers. I’m tired of working and taking care of the kids and everything around here. And no! You’re not getting any extra time with your paramour. What did you say? I’m a what?!”

Him: “Also, I know our rule about using ‘protection,’ but in the heat of the moment, I forgot. I guess that means we need to have one of those check-ins with the health clinic about STD’s, doesn’t it? Yeah, this woman has a few other guys on her list of lovers, so I’m not perfectly sure she’s clean if you know what I mean. Sorry about that.” 

Her: “Again?! I’m tired of having to go get re-checked! Get your a$$ home if you know what’s good for you. By the way, the kids are wondering if they could come along with you the next time you’re going on one of these fun hall pass weekend trips you keep talking about. I told them I’m sure you wouldn’t mind taking them with you the next time. Hey! Are you still there? Hello?” 

I personally do not see how a “hall pass marriage like the Gates had, or how an open marriage like many of the sport and Hollywood celebrities seem to favor, would actually work in my world or in the world of any of the people I hang around with. I don’t think any of my friends would find these kinds of arrangements truly helpful to their relationship, no matter how “open and completely honest” you both promised to be.

For me, personally, it would change our marriage at the very deepest level. And not in a good way.

Are Hall Passes Considered Cheating?

I guess getting a hall pass is not officially considered “Cheating,” if your spouse has given you permission to be with someone else. I think we ought to ask ourselves, what does cheating really mean anyway? Below are some simple definitions of cheating in the context of marriage.

Merriam Webster Dictionary: Definition of cheat – 1. To deprive of something valuable by the use of fraud or deceit.

Urban Dictionary: Someone who is in a committed relationship and breaks the trust of his or her partner by getting physically or emotionally involved with another person.

Dictionary.com: Cheating 1. Cheat, deceive, trick, victimize, refer to the use of fraud or artifice deliberately to hoodwink or obtain an unfair advantage over someone. 

Brides.com: The only real way to define cheating and infidelity is if you personally feel your expectations of faithfulness have been violated. 

After we commit in marriage to another person, when we cheat, are we cheating only on our partner, or are we also cheating on God, and on the people before whom we took our marriage vows, and for the good of our community? Are open relationships really good for our culture?

Traditional wedding vows are a promise, before God and before our friends and family, that we are committing completely to each other. To love, honor and protect each other. Many of these old, demanding, sometimes uncomfortable parts of wedding vows have gone by the wayside… like “for better for worse, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, forsaking all others …. ‘til death do us part” etc. The wedding ring is a seal to our binding contract/promise to our spouse. I guess a lot of people don’t really mean that. 

When we leave the spiritual part out of our commitment to our marriage partner, the most important part is missing. We are more than physical beings. There is a spiritual part of our person that transcends the physical part, deepens our most intimate relationships, and takes our commitment to our spouse to a whole new level. 

We each need the security of commitment. We need to know that we are loved completely and we try to love that way, too. That spiritual love gives us the confidence to be the best person and the best partner we can possibly be to each other.

In my opinion, cheating is anything that breaks or diminishes our commitment to our partner.

The Importance Of Communication

In my view, marriage will never endure or be as fun and fulfilling as it can be until we have the guts to talk openly (but kindly) about what we need in our marriage, and what could be better in our relationship. The hall pass and open marriage crowd say open communication and honesty is important in those relationships. It’s even more important in our normal, challenging, day-to-day relationship with our spouse. If you’re in a spiritual, as well as a physical, marriage, striving to be better people and more full and vibrant and loving individuals, helps our marriages, too.

I can understand two married people who don’t always like the same things. If that is true in your case, instead of escaping with someone else, talk about what you and your marriage partner need and want in the relationship and then do your best to try to incorporate those things into your life.

We can’t fulfill every need of our spouse, but we can find ways to be part of their life as much as we can. Find a same-sex friend to do things with. A lot of guys take time off with other guys. A lot of women meet up with girlfriends to have a weekend or a trip of their own. For the good of your marriage, find same sex friends or extended family to enjoy things with.

My Spouse Asked Me For A Hall Pass

I am happily married after my divorce. I asked my husband what he thought about hall passes, and if he would he would be okay with me asking for a hall pass. He said without a moment’s hesitation, “I think that would be an invitation to divorce.” 

“What if I asked you for a hall pass?” he asked. I told him flat out, “I would NEVER give you a hall pass, so don’t even think about it!” Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but that’s just me.

If my husband had a hall pass and went away for the weekend or the night or whatever, I would constantly be wondering if she was better in bed than I am; or if he did things with her he didn’t do with me, or he pampered her in ways he didn’t pamper me? I tend to overthink everything. I obsess. Obsessing about my first husband with another woman made me crazy during our separation and divorce. As long as a spouse continued that, it would ruin sex and everything else for me with him in the future. I’d always be worrying that I didn’t measure up, and that he couldn’t wait to get to his next hall pass date and away from me. That is not confidence-building for women or probably for men either. It’s definitely hard on a marriage.

Does This Mean They Are Already Cheating?

I don’t know all the dating/mating habits of people who ask for hall passes, but obviously for someone to ask for a hall pass would mean he/she is not really happy with how things are going in his/her primary relationship. And some ask, “would it be better for my spouse to cheat and keep me in the blissful dark rather than know he really wanted someone else instead of me in some important part of our marriage?” Honesty is always best no matter how hurtful it is! 

And I can’t imagine someone asking for a hall pass to go take a break so he would have extra energy and enthusiasm for me when he came back to me and the kids. Do you think a guy would ever say, “Man it felt good to just chill out with my lover for the weekend, so I’d be at my best for you!” Do you really think that would happen? No! They would probably get back to us and need a few days to rest up! 

Are You Okay Giving/Receiving A Hall Pass?

I’ve already mentioned that I definitely would not be comfortable giving my husband a hall pass. If he asked me for one, what would my options be? If I said “No,” would he pout and make me feel guilty because he was looking for some of the choice stuff, the fun stuff, the more beautiful, younger, smarter stuff that was waiting for him when he left for his hall pass weekend. 

Nope! If he’s not happy with ALL of me, or at least willing to accept ALL of me … and instead wants to spice things up with someone else, where does that leave me? And if he’s okay with me having sex or having fun or exploring new things with some other guy, am I okay with that? No I would not be! I want him to be 100% committed to me and to us! I would want him to answer that question not only with “No!” but with “Hell, no!” I don’t want my spouse to be okay with me sharing my most intimate self with someone else!

Is A Hall Pass Healthy For A Relationship?

Some people say humans have a tendency to infidelity anyway, so why not be upfront about it and be honest with your spouse, and just make arrangements for cheating to happen in a controlled, consensual way? Is it good for marriage partners to find someone else to meet different needs instead of working on that issue with your spouse? It seems you would always be fleeing the scene instead of actually communicating and fixing things with your wife or husband. Things would never improve in your relationship, and your partner would never be everything he/she could be for you. And instead of calming the infidelity desire bug, I think it would get worse over time!

How Many Marriages End After A Hall Pass?

I just learned there is a dating app called OpenMinded for open marriages. I personally am sad and disappointed about where our culture is going when I see things like this. According to a survey of 64,000 users, they found that women were more than twice as likely as men to introduce the idea of opening up a relationship. I have a hard time believing that would be true with my own friends.

Here are a few snippets from a post in our MDRcommunity from a woman who had been married a long time, and whose husband now wanted an open relationship. She didn’t really want it but …

“… I indulged the conversation because I thought it might save the marriage.” Her husband said he had “outgrown marriage … and he had a fantasy that he would spend some nights with me and some sowing his wild oats.” The truth is he already has a new girlfriend and started talking about an open relationship. He wanted financial and liability freedom from me. He wants me to meet the girlfriend and set some boundaries on the new relationship. In the name of ‘honesty,’ he told me everything that happened between them. I am grieving! I can’t breathe! I can’t do it anymore!”

I couldn’t find any actual statistics about hall passes and a resulting divorce. For people who don’t have a joyful, vibrant and strong spiritual and moral base, open marriages may seem like a good idea, in theory. I personally think all kinds of open relationships would ultimately lead to more heartache and tears and probably the end of the marriage along with all of the devastation that can mean for the whole family.

If you are going through a divorce either because of a hall pass taken without permission or if a hall pass or open relationship ruined your marriage, sign up for our crash course series of emails. We can help you do the grief and healing work you need to do, and then give you the steps to rediscover yourself and create a life that is everything you have deserved all along.

5-Day Divorce Recovery Crash Course. Take the first steps in your recovery and start healing today! Send me the free emails
5-Day Divorce Recovery Crash Course. Take the first steps in your recovery and start healing today! Send me the free emails