Marla Sue: 9 years and I guess it's always been open but I didn't start playing around until we had been married a while.
RW: Does your open marriage cause any problems?
Marla Sue: Not really, it's great, except for times when some guy finds out and he figures he has an automatic right to you because you sleep with other men. Or sometimes I might meet a guy who becomes a pain in the ass.
RW: Whose idea was this open marriage, yours or your husband's?
Marla Sue: Because it started when we were dating I guess we sort of agreed on it. Actually, we talked about it even before we were married, but I didn't feel the need at first. Then a few years went past and I kind of started missing the kind of life I had before.
RW: What kind of life was that?
Marla Sue: You know, dating, going out with new, interesting guys and having sex if I wanted to. Marriage kills all that, but to me the question is why does it have to? My husband agrees that marriage shouldn't mean you suddenly have to live in a cage, or something. It shouldn't be jail.
RW: Sex is important to you?
Marla Sue: Sure, isn't it important to everyone?
RW: Do you think open marriages can create additional problems in the relationship?
Marla Sue: Maybe, but that can happen in any marriage. I think it made ours better.
RW: How so?
Marla Sue: Well hell, I like it because of the way guys take me out and all. I enjoy knowing I'm attractive to other guys and the way they chase me. It feels good. And my husband likes to hear what I do in bed with guys so it helps him out too.
RW: Do you recommend an open marriage to others?
Marla Sue: Not for most people. Most people are really hung up about stuff like sex especially the religious types. It's not for everyone especially jealous people. But Steve and I enjoy it and we both get something out of it -- not to mention the guys I see.
RW: I take it Steve's not jealous.
Marla Sue: We've had little spats over it, mostly in the beginning before we agreed on some ground rules, like always knowing where I was and with who, and that I won't have sex with a guy unless he knows about it first.
RW: So he has to approve of the man?
Marla Sue: Sort of. He doesn't really approve but he can veto someone I guess you could say. Like with my boss, he doesn't like him and he said, "No way" and I didn't sleep with him.
RW: So that was the end of it.
Marla Sue: Sure! Look, other women would kill for the freedom I have. I'm not about to screw it up and I don't want to lose Steve. So I have to respect what he wants too.
RW: Your husband is a good provider and treats you okay?
Marla Sue: Sure, he treats me great. Otherwise I wouldn't have married him or wouldn't stay with him. I had a lot of other options too.
RW: But, he doesn't fill all of your sexual needs.
Marla Sue: That's probably twisting things. He's a good provider, he's a great person, and I love him. The sex is fine but I also need more sometimes and I need a certain amount of freedom.
RW: You like sex and sexual variety, I think I got that part. But what's your husband getting out of this?
Marla Sue: [pauses] Yes, that one's difficult. Most guys don't share like Steve. Really most guys would have served me with divorce papers for even bringing it up. [pauses again.] But not Steve. He seems to get off on it. I never have figured out why but I don't worry over it either. It's enough to know that what he wants fits in with what I sometimes need. We feed off each other like that.
RW: If you have an open marriage, then I suppose he has sex with other women.
Marla Sue: No. He's not interested in that and has never asked about it. I seem to be all he can handle.
RW: If they're really interested, most men can find the energy for someone new.
Marla Sue: Steve wouldn't be interested. At the beginning I had to figure out what he wanted so I could get what I wanted. I guess it was about then that I discovered how he liked to hear about the way guys were drooling over me. He said it made me more of a prize. And he enjoys it when I talk about what happened, sexually I mean.
RW: But most men would want to keep that "prize" to themselves.
Marla Sue: Yes, I know -- God, do I know! -- but Steve is different. I kind of sensed that right off. He has faith in our relationship. But even if he didn't, I knew he would go on without being destroyed by my affairs the way some guys would be. He enjoys it too much. It's part of his sex drive I think.
RW: You don't seem to be too clear on what Steve's getting out of this.
Marla Sue: Well, it's like my sexual experiences transfer to him and he doesn't need his own with someone else. He lives through me maybe. Frankly, I don't think he's near as interested in sex with anyone else -- actually doing it I mean -- as he is with me having sex with someone else. He gets turned on by my sexual experiences and I don't hold anything back in talking about them -- you know, the details.
RW: So this is not a regular open marriage where the husband has other sexual partners? If it only involves you, it sort of makes you what's commonly called a hot wife or dating wife.
Marla Sue: Yea, I guess.
RW: Does your husband have sexual performance problems?
Marla Sue: No really no. Only occasionally but all men do sometimes.
RW: And you've learned to solve when that happens by talking about your sexual experiences with other men, which seems to put someone else in your marriage bed.
Marla Sue: That's twisting things again. I see what you mean; so maybe. But for Steve it gives him an extra boost in our bedroom no matter what. We talk about it almost every time he and I have sex together.
RW: So you get most of your sexual satisfaction outside of the marriage?
Marla Sue: Yes, I guess you could say that. But not because Steve doesn't satisfy me. He does, but in a different way. When I'm with Steve I'm more satisfied emotionally. Sleeping with other men can be more satisfying physically, sexually. It's also something I want; maybe even need. Even when Steve and I were dating I was sleeping with other men.
RW: Did Steve know this?
Marla Sue: Yes, and he had no problem with it. I guess that's when I decided he was different and that I had to marry him before someone else got him. Like I said, other women would kill to have my freedom.
RW: So it's all about the freedom?
Marla Sue: Hmmm. Some, but not all of it, I love him very much too. He is a good husband. But having the freedom makes the rest of the marriage more enjoyable. I don't feel like I'm restricted and I can enjoy being married and still have much of my old freedom.
RW: If tomorrow Steve said this open marriage thing is a mistake and it has to stop, would you stick with him -- still love him?
Marla Sue: Yes. Damn right! He's more important than these other guys -- even though I would miss the sex and all. I would just get a hobby or something, but I couldn't lose him.
"How do I start getting you horny again?"
My husband used to ask me this, out of desire to figure out what he could do to get me all hot and bothered and in the mood for some passionate sex.
There's no simple answer. Women are complicated. Or as my husband puts it "Women are tricky." What worked the last time won’t necessarily work the next time. There is no simple answer, but there are ways to consistently get a woman horny.
The problem is that married women are different. Being with the same person year after year changes you both, and familiarity kills the romance. It becomes challenging to keep the libido going for the same person. This doesn't reflect badly on either spouse, it's just one of the effects of being together so long. It's natural for this to happen.
To tell you the truth, I don’t even know why there are times when I get turned by my husband, but it happens. Other times I see him as a friend or a father, but not as a lover.
I must admit since I started taking responsibility for my own sexuality and developing my sexual attitude by changing my outlook, my diet, exercising (even my vagina muscles) and expressing my femininity and sexuality with other men (with my husband's approval of course), it's a lot easier to get turned on. And the finish (orgasm) is sooooo much easier and better now, thanks to the way I now see my life.
Exercise, Kegels, diet and attitude changes don’t completely explain why I sometimes get really turned on though. Arousal for me, like most woman, is only partly physical. Granted a woman’s sexual engine must be running smoothly for her to get turned on, but the emotional and psychological triggers can be tough to explain.
It’s kind of like asking a guy why he gets turned on by an attractive woman. Him saying he is attracted to a woman because she is "hot" or "sexy" doesn’t say what it is about her that makes her "sexy". He could say it's her curves or her breasts or her butt. But if you ask him why that makes her attractive he will most likely say something like "it just does" and not be able to really explain why.
A guy just knows when he's attracted to a woman. A "woman’s charms" are pretty well understood by men---and women too for that matter. But a "man’s charms", or in other words what it is about a man that turns a woman on, is harder to define--even for us women. We can say this or that turns us on, but in reality it is often something totally different from what we think. Many times women are not even consciously aware of what turns us on. We just know when we are turned on, but not necessarily how we got that way.
No wonder men say they don’t know what women want, because I think we often don’t know ourselves--or at least can't explain it. And while we may not know what we want, we DO respond when we get it! We can't help it, it's how we're made. When we respond (as in getting all hot and bothered) it becomes easier for the man to jump our bones. We give in quicker or don't resist at all.
One common mistake is thinking that making a woman feel loved and cherished will make her horny. WRONG! I know this must be confusing because a lot of relationship gurus talk about how important the "relationship" is to a woman. This is true only in one sense. Having a good relationship is important to a woman and makes her open to the idea of having sex. But feeling loved and cherished does not get a woman aroused. Her sexual stimulation comes from different things altogether. But she cannot respond to those stimulations if she doesn't have a good relationship. Confusing aren't we?
So if being a good man, making a woman feel loved, and doing romantic things aren’t the key to getting a married woman horny, then what will?
The easy answer is: Seduction! The real answer is: Seduction by someone else!
That's right. Someone else!! Married women respond much more to being seduced by someone else. Why? Because seduction involves the unknown and teasing and potential pleasures. Seduction tickles the mind and the body with promises of new sensations and new feelings and new experiences. Seduction is all about being teased into something unfamiliar...new...exciting!
After being with her husband for years and sleeping with him many thousands of times there is nothing new for a husband and wife to experience. They've probably done everything possible. They're completely familiar with each other. There's no electricity. Familiarity sets in, and with familiarity comes boredom.
Familiarity and a robust libido do not cohabitate. Long, stable relationships loving and cherishing each other are wonderful for the institution of marriage, but it's a libido killer!
That's why many couples end up cheating on each other, or divorcing. Sex is an important part of the human experience. We NEED good sex in our lives. If we don't have it then many people (men and women) will look elsewhere for it.
That's one of the reasons my husband and I chose to enter this lifestyle together. We understand what happens in the bedroom and rather than ignore it or risk more (of my) cheating we decided to be open. Being honest helped us cure this problem. Today we are both happy and we have an exciting, fulfilling sex life.
Since we began this lifestyle I stay horny much more than I did in the past. Sure it is other men that seduce me, but my husband understands why that is necessary. I have exciting sex outside my marriage, but that's the point. I'M HAVING EXCITING SEX again! My libido is back and I love it. My husband is happy with it for two reasons: he enjoys knowing what I do when I'm with other men (it arouses him) AND I bring home that lust to share with him. So he benefits from our arrangement just as much as I do (almost!). Our bedroom has electricity again.
It works for us. Could it work for you?
So how can a couple live comfortably with the necessary elements of unpredictability and risk that are necessary for healthy eroticism?
There appears to be three key elements: 1) Cultivating periods of separateness (e.g., autonomy) in the relationship, rather than constant closeness (sense of entrapment); 2) Exploring dynamics of power and control and the sharing or shifting of those elements between the partners; and, 3) Learning to surrender to a "sexual ruthlessness" that liberates us from shame and guilt resulting from upbringing, and societal or religious influences.
Two new reports from the National Survey of Families and Households indicate that couples actually become bored and unhappy sooner than was previously thought: more like three years into their togetherness, rather than seven.
Monogamy and domesticity, and even the concept of love, is not an evolutionary legacy but "a new form of mass conscription," a lockstep drill like organized religion, performed under "marching orders" from nefarious overlord forces that don't want us to notice our " individuality. “Thou shalt marry and get a job and have 2.5 children, blah, blah, blah. We blindly adopt the straitjacketed roles that such familiarity predicates, with the boredom and the rigidities which cannot possibly be transcended in this or any other lifetime, and under the guidance of every authority from our parents to the government to the Pope we all inevitably submit to these social institutions that subsume and dominate their unknowing victims.
How to escape that evil grip?
"Adultery ... is at least a reliable way of proving to ourselves that we're not in the ground quite yet," Kipnis writes, "especially when feeling a little dead inside."
In a society that really values monogamy," such as the mainstream West, "promiscuity will always be defined as a problem," Slack says. Yet both of those opposite-direction urges keep species healthy, and are programmed into each and every one of us.
Because children take so long to raise, men inherited two needs," Quirk says. "They need to impregnate a fertile woman, and they need a good mother to raise the resulting child. These are separable needs." Male wiring reasons: "Just because I invest my love and labor in one woman to make sure our offspring survive doesn't mean I don't have spare sperm. Can't hurt to toss a couple extra out there and see if they take. Some of my ancestors succeeded at the fathering strategy. Some succeeded at the fornicating strategy. They've passed on their desires to me."
It's much the same for women. "Again, because children take so long to raise, women inherited two needs," Quirk says. "They need a good nest to raise the healthy baby with a stable male to protect and provide that nest. They also need good genes to raise a strong, healthy baby. Those two needs are often best met by two different men. The best nest might come from your husband. The best genes might come from another man. It can be a challenge to find both in the same guy."
If we inherited a falling-in-love gene, Quirk adds, "we also inherited the desire to sneak hot genes on the side. We come into this world tormented."
The solution to that torment can come only at the price of disgarding the modern-day, patriarchal structure and societal mandates that encourage lifelong pair-bonding and monogamy. Human genealogy cannot adapt rapidly and the fact is that our naturally honed reproductive instincts cannot and will not be bridled by such artificial nonsense.
AHHHH... I feel vindicated! I KNEW it wasn't just me! I knew others were fucking around. We aren't built to fuck one person every night no matter how hot you are or they are. You can't get wet (or hard) for the same person forever. So why fight it? Why not accept it and understand it and deal with it? Work with it? Have fun with it.
We do. And it works!
It's funny how we can have two seemingly opposite urges at the same time. A lifetime of love. A quick roll with a total stranger.
It's true though. It's human nature to want what we don't have and lose interest in what we have around us every day.
The diversity of couples is infinite. But one complaint rings true across all cultures: couples who describe themselves as loving, trusting and caring often complain that their sex lives also are dull and devoid of eroticism.
Why is it that great sex so often fades for couples even though they love each other as much as ever? Can we possibly want what we already have? Why does good intimacy not guarantee great sex? Why is the forbidden so erotic? Why does the transition to parenthood deliver such an erotic blow?
When we love, what do we feel? And when we lust how is that different?
These are some of the questions that puzzle me when I look at the nature of sex and long-term relationships. Why does our quest for lasting love always clash with our need for passion? Is it possible to have BOTH?
We’ve had the sexual revolution. Contraception is in our hands. Premarital sex is a given. Yet even those couples who view sexual satisfaction as central to relational happiness often have no desire to have sex, or at least not with each other. Have you noticed that? Or is it only the realization of older couples who’ve shared too many anniversaries to count?
It's thought that sexual problems are the result of relationship problems -- namely, lack of communication. Find out about the state of the union first; see how it manifests in the bedroom second. The premise is that if sexual problems are the consequence of the relationship, fix the relationship and the great sex will follow. That’s not true.
I've seen many couples improve their relationship through therapy and other means – afterward they felt closer, they laughed together more, they communicated more. But this did NOTHING for the bedroom. Emotional fulfillment does NOT automatically translate to sexual excitement. You can truly love your spouse but feel little lust for them, especially after many years together.
Sex is not a metaphor for a relationship. It's a parallel narrative. It speaks its own language. Love and desire are two VERY different languages. We would like to think that they flow from each other. While love and desire relate, they also conflict. Love thrives in an atmosphere of reciprocity, protection, and togetherness.
Desire is more selfish. In fact the very elements that nurture love: comfort, stability, safety, for example, can extinguish lust and desire completely.
Love seeks closeness. Desire needs space to thrive. Here's an example to illustrate my point. In a popular couples study they asked this question:
"Tell me about a moment when you find yourself particularly drawn to your partner." The answers resonated with a remarkable similarity.
When I seem him play sports ... When she's unaware I'm watching her ... When he is talking with friends ... When she's confidently speaking with a colleague ... When she's standing on the other side of a crowded room, and she smiles just for me ... When he's playing with the kids ... When he makes me laugh, when she surprises me ... When I watch him do something he is passionate about.
Whatever the answer, it is never without a common element: distance. The separateness is accentuated and their differences are magnified. We look across this distance and what we see is very different than we see up close. We create a bridge of things unknown by making a perceptual shift, and it is only on this bridge, in the space between each other, that we can meet and play with erotic abandon. Distance creates mystery and another perspective in which we see our spouse.
How do we begin to better ourselves in the language of sex? First of all, stop thinking you're trying to improve "sex" -- it's a limiting definition, too enmeshed in mechanics, necessity and numbers. Think about improving your eroticism that results from giving each other that space and distance and mystery that results from the unknown. Grow together by taking a step apart. Give each other space to explore, grow and expand separately.
From what I have seen, successful couples strive to illicit longing and novelty -- to take that which is abundantly available (each other) and contrive situations and settings which awaken the previously unseen. Their goal is to stir their slumbering lust for each other.
What this entails is different for every couple. For us it came in the form of non-monogamous exploration. Taking lovers. Swinging. Polyamory.
On Alternet this morning, I read an article, Why Relationship Sex is Boring, by Esther Perel. In this article, she makes the point:
Monogamy is Monotony. I think the author hit the nail on the head.
I've found that once I get to know a partner completely and that there are no more surprises left, nothing new to learn about this person, then boredom sets in and desire flies out the window. The sex becomes routine, and all the books and new positions and new settings in the world don't change the fact that I'm having sex with the same person.
It's quite similar to what would happen if you decided to eat your favorite meal 3 meals a day, 365 days a year. What was once your favorite meal, quickly becomes "the same ole thing", no longer anything special.
After a failed marriage to a controlling husband, and then a second marriage to a more permissive husband, I decided that monogamy is not for me, at least not at this point in my life. (Maybe later – I’m not ruling it out). Since I reached that decision, my sex life has included multiple men who were more of the "friends with benefits" relationships, with the occasional one night stand thrown in for added variety. My husband knows of my preference and, luckily for me, he finds a certain pleasure in it himself.
I have found a way to segregate the roles of the different men in my life. I definitely love and cherish my husband and he fulfills many needs I have as a person and a woman. We still have sex, and now it is far from lacking. But there is nonetheless a routine about it that could quickly digress to monotony, were it not for the influences of the other men in my life and the sexual energy that they have brought about within me. I am able to bring this same energy into my own bedroom where it enhances the sexual connection between my husband and I.
With my lovers there is no domestic dailiness to kill the desire. Since I don't live with them there is no way to become annoyed or distracted with every small detail about one another. Having several relationships at once keeps excessive familiarity at bay. When any of those relationships runs its natural course (they typically run 6 months to a year), I tend to remain friends with them and then find someone else.
I can't advise anyone else how to conduct their lives, but I can say that this arrangement has worked well for me and my husband.
If you're a woman then you know 40 sucks. It's not the number. It's what the age means and what it does and what it's changed. I thought 40 really sucked. I thought that birthday would be the end of the dread. Then I hit 41. The shit didn’t stop and the clock didn’t slow. There are more birthdays to come. I don't look forward to 42 but something tells me it will get here just like my PMS and the mortgage deadline and the next parent teacher conference.
I've learned that I can't stop time, but after 40 years I've learned that I can change the way the years pass by. I realized I was getting older and acting older, even though I really didn't feel older. I was being swept along by everything around me, doing what was expected. I was crossing off the days of my life just as I was told to do.
Truthfully, I was unhappy. So what did I do about it? Did I consider a new career? Did I buy a new wardrobe? Did I ask my husband to consider buying a new house? No. I cheated on my husband.
It wasn’t anything my husband did. I wasn’t angry about our relationship or anything at home. I was just ready to change my life in some way I could control. So I did, and it was almost the biggest mistake of my life.
I had sex with another man, and I quite enjoyed it. It was with a coworker, a friend. There was nothing unique or magical about any of it. The whole arrangement was so stereotypical that it was almost comical. The water cooler chat turned flirting turned motel rendezvous. He was nothing special either. Just a friend who happened to throw out the right suggestion at the right time. It would have all been so mundane, had it not been the most thrilling sex in my life in years.
So I went to a motel and I had sex with him. The fuck itself wasn’t that great either, but the sad thing was that it was the most stimulating sexual encounter I’d had in years. Sex with my husband wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything like that day in that motel either.
Afterward it became complicated. My husband had no suspicions. He knew nothing. I knew everything. The next week I cried with guilt and self-doubt. I also masturbated furiously thinking about the sex itself. I made my husband his favorite meals. I also had to change my panties more than once, thinking back to that afternoon in the motel. I was torn between guilty and horny. I was a mess.
I decided not to do anything about it for at least a month and give myself time to think. I didn’t see the man again, although he did make offers. I needed time to get it together. Eventually I had one of those epiphanies many of us get around mid-life. I realized I loved the sex. I also realized I didn’t like the cheating. I liked the experience of being with another man, but I loved my husband and being married even more. I decided to put it all behind me. It would never happen again.
Then my husband found out, and everything changed. Secrets are slippery. You can try to keep them hidden deep in your back pocket but they always find a way out. Especially when a certain coworker feels the need to brag about getting into your pants at the Christmas office party and two people who overhear him are friends with you and your husband. So yes, my husband found. It all hit the fan.
We fought viciously. I confessed everything. We cried and fought some more. The fighting went on for days before he moved out. We didn’t talk for almost a week until he came by to pick up some things he needed. We talked a little more, then fought a little more, and then he left again. But the fighting wasn’t as bad. I called him four days later to see if we could have lunch. I thought if we met at a restaurant we could keep everything civil. It worked. We met and talked for a long time. It went good that day, and that was the first time we said we loved each other since he first found out.
He still loves me! There was hope! Truth be known I still loved him and this whole thing scared me so. I truly regretted what I had done. He was hurt and he didn’t deserve that. I wanted him back more than ever. I only hoped he wanted the same thing.
Eventually we did patch things up enough that he moved back in. But we weren’t what I would call close for months. It took him time to accept and forgive me for what I did. Thank God he did.
That’s when we started talking. We talked like we never had before. It was different for us, as we had been honest before but not very open. Over time we confided in each other more. By the time summer had arrived we had become close again, and I felt that most of my damage had been undone.
Part of what we talked about was sex. We talked about our sex life, what we had and what we wanted. One night in bed he told me something that I never predicted. He told me that he sometimes fantasized about my being in that motel and having sex that day. I was speechless! I couldn’t make the connection between my act of betrayal and his fantasy. It was just beyond my grasp at that time. As we discussed it more that night (and more since then) I realized that he fantasized of me having sex with another man. Since this was the closest that his fantasy had ever come to happening, we think that he portrayed his fantasy into my affair. What had once angered him had now become part of his fantasy.
The more we talked the clearer it became. Just like me, he had masturbated to the thoughts of that day. Even though he still felt the twinge of my betrayal, he said that the thought of the sex physically aroused him. He didn’t understand it. I didn’t either. But it was there, and something inside me liked it. I saw something in him I didn’t know. I also felt something in me coming back to life.
We had more talking to do, and over the next month his desires became apparent. He wanted me to have sex with someone again. He said he would even agree to my having sex with the same guy I met before if I wanted. I didn’t want to do that though, since I felt like he was too indiscreet. After all, he couldn’t keep a secret before, how could I trust him to keep it again? No, he wouldn’t do. But I knew there could be others.
Maybe because of the circumstances we went through, unlike a lot of other couples we never went through either of us having to ‘talk the other’ into doing this. Even though I had decided not to repeat it, my affair made me realize that I enjoyed extramarital sex. I knew I could see someone else. Once my husband admitted his fantasy to me I had no problem with it, so it was almost understood between us that I would begin finding someone else.
That’s when we first realized (and admitted to each other) that monogamy wasn’t for us. We didn’t want that rut any more. It was part of the problem that drove me to do what I did. This is a blog of our thoughts on why the monotony of monogamy isn’t for us any longer.