How this Instagram-famous couple makes their open relationship work
Navigating jealousy issues in the digital age is hard enough when your only Instagram followers are people you know IRL.
But imagine if you and your boo had legions of fans, regularly posted half-naked “fistpo” photos, and your relationship was open? Sounds borderline impossible to stay sane under those circumstances, right? But somehow, that’s exactly what Aubrey Marcus and Whitney Miller do.
At a recent influencer summit for the wellness lifestyle brand Onnit, I caught up with Whitney and Aubrey to learn the ins and outs of influencer success and their tricky-sounding relationship.
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Whitney, a former Miss USA turned trained boxer and Jiu Jitsu fighter, is a perfect contradiction. She’s sexy enough to make you want to hold your boyfriend’s hand extra tight when she walks by, but savage enough to kick your ass (easily) if you cross her. Aubrey, who just so happens to be her fiancé, is no different. His bulging biceps and nutritional supplement company make him a role model for athletes and swole bros around the world, but his passion for spirituality and eastern medicine also attracts a different crowd to his popular podcast and his soon to be released book, Own the Day, Own Your Life (now available for pre-order).
You would probably call Aubrey and Whitney “relationship goals,” but that might be before you hear yet another contradiction that the couple shares: they’re in an open relationship.
In fact, after the Onnit summit’s private party at the W Hotel that weekend, Aubrey went back to the hotel with Dani* (another fitness influencer with a bubble butt, naturally) while Whitney headed home to her and Aubrey’s modern mansion in the Austin, Texas, suburbs.
I know what you’re thinking. “How can Aubrey and Whitney possibly have a happy relationship if he’s leaving her alone at night to go sleep with another woman?” Regardless of their open agreement, she surely can’t be content heading home alone while knowing her fiancé is getting naked with someone else, right?
“Did you see Aubrey leave with Dani?” one guest asked me at the after-party that night. “Whitney did not look happy.”
Other friends of the couple jumped to Aubrey’s defense.
“I’ve seen Whitney leave [with] a professional hockey player or whoever plenty of times,” said one friend. “It goes both ways.”
It was difficult not to imagine myself in Whitney’s shoes, going home alone after a long night and wishing there was someone (whether it be her fiancé or another lover) to cuddle with when she got home.
When I talked to Whitney, she brought me back to reality.
“Last night I went home by myself, and honestly that’s exactly what I wanted to do,” she explained. “I didn’t want anybody else in my bed, I didn’t want anybody to talk to. You know there are those nights when you just want to be alone?”
I did. In fact, generally I prefer to go home with someone, then subsequently pass out and fool around in the morning when we’re refreshed rather than in the late hours of the night. Isn’t the whole beauty of being in a relationship that you can have sex at normal times of the day rather than at 3 a.m. when you’re drunk and tired? I definitely knew the feeling of wanting to sleep alone – maybe there were more perks to an open relationship besides the option to sleep with other people?
But being in an open relationship isn’t all roses and blow jobs. Whitney admitted it took her some time to get to this point.
“[Aubrey] had a lover for a year or so before me, so I was like, ‘What can I do to distract me?’ I would go out with the girls, I would get hammered, flirt with random people, whatever,” said Whitney.
Eventually Whitney realized this wasn’t making her feel good, but self-reflection and seeing “how beautiful” it was when she and Aubrey reunited in the morning helped her get through it.
“There would be moments where I was like, ‘Man, I wish I was going home with him instead of her,’ but that’s another layer of uncovering inside myself,” she explains. “It’s not that I’m actually mad at him or mad at her.”
Although Aubrey was the one to originally initiate the idea of an open relationship nearly three years ago, he still struggles with similar hiccups from time to time.
“There was an instance recently where it was girls’ night and [Whitney] ran into a lover and was hanging with him,” he says. “I got upset because this was supposed to be girls’ night… I felt in the dark. It wasn’t a big deal in actuality, but it felt like a big deal.”
Aubrey went on to explain that because of the honest nature of an open relationship, even the tiniest lie — or something that could be perceived as a lie — can cause a big rift.
“Communication demands are high… everything is permitted, but everything must be communicated,” he says.
But doesn’t that make an open relationship seem not so open after all? Isn’t one of the primary annoyances of being in a relationship that you consistently feel like you have to “report” every plan and action to your significant other?
Whitney says that although planning and openness is important, they generally don’t send more than a good night text when one of them is out with another lover, unless something comes up.
“We don’t have to be like, ‘What are you doing now? Where are going?’ That’s something I dealt with for a while [in previous relationships] that was very frustrating,” says Whitney.
In the case of Dani, it wasn’t a last minute chemistry thing like your normal Saturday night hook-up, it was all pre-planned.
“Earlier in the week I’ll say something like, ‘Dani is coming to the event that night, how would you feel about me spending the night with her?’ If Whitney has… any potential objections than that’s the time to [say something]. We give each other time to feel it out. If it’s a ‘hell yes,’ then we go for it,” says Aubrey.
Whitney still gets a little nervous and “awkward” when she’s the one doing the “asking,” but she says it’s progressively getting easier. Whether it’s Aubrey or Whitney planning on spending the night with someone else, they try to coordinate so that their “nights out” can be at convenient times — or at the same time.
“Let’s say it’s Monday and he says, ‘I’d like to hang out with so and so, how does Wednesday night work for you?’ If I want to see someone, then I’ll hit someone up and see if they want to see me on Wednesday,” says Whitney. “If not it doesn’t matter, he’s still able to hang with whoever he wants to, but we do pre-plan.”
In the morning after a hook-up, neither Aubrey nor Whitney goes home feeling guilty.
“As long as communication has been at 100, then generally the next morning feels really good,” says Aubrey.
That being said, it’s unlikely that either one of them are going to hash out last night’s events the way you would at brunch with your girlfriends.
“We have boundaries,” says Whitney. “I don’t need to know every single detail, nor do I want to, but if I ask I know I’m going to get the answer and he knows I’m not going to freak out about it.”
Whitney says she usually sticks to the basics: “Did you have a good time? Were you safe? Cool, what do you want to do today?”
While Aubrey and Whitney don’t really do the whole one night stand thing, there are times when one of their lovers might show up unexpectedly, as Aubrey mentioned happened to Whitney on her “girls’ night.”
In that case, they just accommodate the best they can and, of course, communicate.
But even with transparent and thorough communication between partners, open relationships can be emotionally draining — even for those who seem to have it all figured out like Aubrey and Whitney.
“There are stages where it gets really hard, and you have to deal with a lot of shit and it really hurts, but for me I know so deeply that this is the only path that I can be happy in,” says Aubrey.
Similar to monogamous relationships, Aubrey says that it’s easy to blame the other person or the structure of the relationship, and that only goes doubly when you’re engaging in a relationship that’s frowned upon by traditional society.
“You have to really be committed [to being in an open relationship], because otherwise the moment the pain comes it’s very easy to say, ‘you know what, fuck it we were wrong, this is stupid. This doesn’t work, it’s not human nature,'” he says.
And if you’re dabbling with the idea of trying an open relationship yourself, you might be thinking, “Yeah, I’m totally fine with being open as long as I never have to see, think, or hear about the other girls my man is going to be sleeping with.” Unfortunately, that’s probably not realistic.
In fact, Dani, the fitness influencer that Aubrey hooked up with during the summit, met Whitney and the “crew” before she started hooking up with Aubrey.
The next day, after Aubrey and Dani spent the night together, they both were in attendance at the surf-park with the group like nothing had happened.
While you’d think hanging around Whitney and Aubrey in a friendly setting post-hookup would make Dani feel awkward, or even make her want to vie for Aubrey’s attention, Dani says that’s not the case.
“Aubrey was really clear about what all it was and what it wasn’t, so that helped going in,” says Dani. “I just stay in my lane and I don’t expect anything more from Aubrey. It can be hard because you can’t have sex with someone on a continuous basis and not feel something, so it’s challenging at times because you might crave a little bit of attention, but I know exactly what it is. I don’t expect that from him.”
Similarly, one of the men who was part of the “crew” for the weekend was one of Whitney’s past lovers.
“The minute you restrict someone from seeing that they want to see, you’re kind of back in the old paradigm, where someone is preventing you from experiencing love, pleasure, enjoyment because of their own ego,” says Aubrey. “Now, if there’s some person that might be harmful to the person, that’s a different thing. But if it’s like, ‘I don’t like that because I’m not comfortable with it,’ then all of a sudden resentment creeps back in.”
Aubrey admits that he restricted Whitney from seeing a certain guy back in the day, but a few years later when they happened to all be at Burning Man together, Aubrey corrected his mistake and told Whitney to go have fun.
“When you have less rules and you just sit there trusting your partner and having love, it’s easier,” says Whitney.
The only rule Whitney and Aubrey have now? Safe sex, naturally.