(I didn't write this but I could have and I wish I had)
Monogamy. I once read that the chains of monogamy are so heavy it takes two people to bear the burden. I thought it was a rather sarcastic outlook at the time. After 40 years of life and 8 years of marriage I get it. I know what the author meant.
I’m married. Most of us are eventually. It’s almost inevitable. We’re taught that getting married is the goal for every girl. Go to college, graduate, meet Mr. Right, marry him, have his 2.5 kids and live blissfully together happily ever after. I guess that’s possible. I hear it happens. I’ve even seen it on TV. Leave it to Beaver comes to mind.
For the rest of us marriage is something altogether different. It’s more than we think or less than we think depending on your particular circumstances.
My marriage went through the normal phases, from idealistic newlywed delights to the mundane drudgery that sets in after the first five years of doing the same thing with the same person in the same house among the same friends. If I sound disillusioned, I’m not. I’m not now. But I was disillusioned and dissatisfied and a disaster in the making.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I married a wonderful man! He’s everything every woman aspires to marry. He’s successful, attractive, loving, faithful, dependable and he adores my and my child. So where was the problem?
In a word, boredom. As much as I loved my husband, the idea of another 50 years of the same painfully boring routine with the same person in the same house with the same friends wasn’t something I looked forward to. It was driving me crazy, one day at a time. My husband was pretty happy, except for the fact that he sensed I wasn’t happy. We began talking. When I say talking, I don’t mean the kind of talking where a couple sits across the kitchen table and discusses their budget. I mean real, heartfelt communication, bearing our souls and being honest with each other like we had never done before.
That was our salvation. Well, that and sex. You see, sex was part of the problem and I didn’t even know it at the time.
I love sex. For a woman, I’m probably one of the most sexual people you will ever meet. I love sex. I crave sex at times. I mean it’s not the only thing in life, but it is an important thing! The more we talked, the more I realized that I needed more sex. Not just sex, but sex with others. I needed sex outside my marriage. I realized that monogamy wasn’t for me, and that changed my life for the better, forever.
I’ve read everything I can find on the subject. I know that everyone says that “most women” prefer monogamy. But honestly I’m not sure who they’re referring to when they say "most women", as "most" of the women I know neither prefer nor feel particularly benefited by monogamy. In fact, quite the opposite is true in many marriages. Some women feel caged in a relationship where their sexuality is controlled by their husband. Monogamy doesn't always result in that dynamic but it certainly does at times.
That's when I introduced the idea of an open relationship. One that would allow me the freedom I seemed to think about a lot. Agreeing to look into that turned out to be the best decision my husband and I ever made. We learned that controlling the sexuality of a partner is not a healthy cornerstone for any marriage. Instead, love and trust and intimacy are.
Monogamy is a stereotype of the ideal marriage, taught to everyone from birth. Whether or not it is a reality is unclear, and most certainly it is not for everyone, but the fact that monogamy is sexist is unarguable. Monogamy is a concept pushed by men for the benefit of men, at the detriment of women. It’s all about control, and it conflicts with any number of natural, instinctive needs that we have as human beings. That’s why cheating is common.
Cheating is so common that, in some ways, I'd consider it more normal than monogamy. Keeping one's partner from straying—despite the fact that their biology drives them to seek other partners—requires all the assiduousness one can muster. Because of the ways in which we were able to change our marriage, my husband and I no longer have to be conscientious in that way. We no longer fight the petty jealousies and insecurities that hobble or wreck other relationships. We rely on trust and honesty and open communication to hold us together. Ironically, doing so set us free to enjoy the most satisfying sex life we’ve ever enjoyed in our lives.
You see, I have lovers outside my marriage. My husband knows it. Indeed he encourages it and even derives a great deal of pleasure from many aspects of my encounters with other men (or women). Technically I suppose we have an open marriage. If I had to label it I would call it a liberal marriage because, although I see other men, my husband has no desire to see other women. Depending on the your perspective some would say I am a hotwife and my husband is a cuckold.
So, I practice open infidelity, if there is such a thing? But infidelity is harmful. Right? Not so fast, says Psychology Today. For instance on a post on the Enlightened Living" blog, Formica makes the case that thinking about cheating—and even stepping out on your sweetie—can help certain relationships and bring other back to life.
There are four basic types of affairs: object affairs, sexual affairs, emotional affairs and full-blown secondary relationships.
In object affairs the cheating partner neglects the relationship to focus on something else—work, a video game, an intense involvement in a hobby—to the detriment of his or her love life.
A sexual affair is exactly what it sounds like: the adulterer rents cheap hotel rooms for sex—but not emotional intimacy. A sexual affair is strictly about nookie, nothing more.
An emotional affair is when there's no smooching or sex, but lots of sentiment. You're spending hours on IM or at work with someone who's not your husband, spilling your secrets and turning to someone else instead of your partner in times of need. Clearly this is not good for your primary relationship.
The last type of affair is the traditional kind of cheating, where you have two parallel partnerships that are both sexual and emotional.
Formica says sexual affairs can actually help certain marriages. First, an affair can add fizz to a flat partnership—what was once stale gets refreshed by a new energy. Second, an affair can fulfill a need that may be missing in your first relationship. According to him an affair is often "a more authentic barometer for what we’re actually missing in our relationships." For me, my affairs tend to be sexually based. My husband provides all of the love and emotional support I need as a person. But I need variety in my sex life, and my affairs fill that need.
At first I had the usual hesitation and concerns. I was afraid if I did step outside my marriage then things could change in our relationship. As it turned out, they did. But definitely for the better! I was worried that if I saw someone else then my husband would want to see another woman, and I don’t think I was prepared to face that possibility. \
In time my husband came to enjoy my encounters as much as I did, and derives his own certain sexual satisfaction from my experiences. He has never raised any desire to see other women. I was also concerned about my family and others knowing my preferences, but discretion was the solution. Last, I was worried that I might feel some guilt if I slept with someone else. My husband’s encouragement and support was all it took to get me over this last objection.
In the end I took charge and made it happen. What I discovered was nothing short of miraculous. It was a sexual empowerment that cannot be adequately described, short of experiencing the beauty of it. Not only has it empowered me with total control over my own sex life, but it’s actually allowed me to give my husband more and better sex, bringing us even closer.
Separating the sex from everything else was easier than I thought. To this day I remain what I will call "emotionally monogamous, physically promiscuous". If you can master this you'll be the envy of every woman you know
This isn’t for everyone though. I know that. I believe there are two kinds of open marriages; those entered into as an extension of a solid marriage and those entered into as an excuse to escape (temporarily or permanently) from a weak or failing marriage. Honesty is the key to understanding the motivation, including honesty with yourself as well as ones spouse. If you have a marriage on the rocks, entering into an open marriage is a one-way ticket out of your present relationship. To be successful and work, an open marriage can only work if the marriage is secure and on a solid foundation.
Affairs for wives in open marriages have very different motivations than the secret affairs women have in the traditional sense. Women have secret lovers primarily because they’re not getting their emotional needs met in their marriages. Try as they may, wives are often unable to reach through to their husbands. Feeling unfulfilled, frustrated, and helpless in their marriages, they choose to step outside of their marriages and have a secret affair.
What I have is much different, since my husband knows everything. There are no secrets and I have no need for any emotional connections outside of those I have with the man I love.
If you think it’s for you, taking the step to discuss it with your husband and explore the idea is in itself empowering. An affair, even one that your husband is aware of, is a daring choice. It screams loudly “Time to try something different!.” That’s only the first step to autonomy and power. It takes a daring wife to have an affair, and if you find the inner strength to do it then you will feel different about yourself from that day on.
I think most wives want equal relationships and recognition from their husbands. Devotion, love, and commitment without passionate sex is the steak without the sizzle. For wives to feel sexy they need the sizzle. That’s what I needed, and it’s why my sanity was slipping away. I NEED the sizzle and, no matter how wonderful my husband may be, I need a variety of lovers over time. For me, that’s the sizzle.
It wasn’t all easy going though. At time it's been interesting and hard and wonderful and confusing. It has led to some sad moments between us, and many incredibly joyful ones. The sad ones always stem from some combination of ego, insecurity, and lack of communication. The wonderful ones result from love and trust and understanding. But really, it's blindingly simple. We give each other what we need. He gives me the freedom and space to seek out what I need. He respects my need. I give him the satisfaction he’s come to enjoy, living vicariously through me, as I tease, arouse and satisfy him using my affairs to fuel his fires. After years of open discussion we are self-aware enough to know that we're interested in, whatever that means for us and despite what it may mean for anyone else. It has brought my husband and me closer than I ever imagined possible.
We communicate in ways I never dreamed of, from the most candid pillow talk imaginable to staying up late at night talking about everything in life in general. I suppose our liberal marriage works for us for precisely that reason: because we talk about it, because it has opened us to one another. The learning curve certainly has been steep. We have no models for what we’re doing. We’re just the average couple next door. Really. We’ve just found that "owning" each other sexually doesn’t help our marriage, so we found a solution that worked for us (and oh how it works!).
The truth is I'm just like everyone else. I'm just trying to figure out all of this life stuff now that I’m over 40. It's hard. There's this one plan we're all supposed to follow, this heterosexual, monogamous, child-rearing, one-size-fits-all model of monogamy that we're all supposed to goose-step into line with. But I can't. I tried, but I couldn’t. In fact, I have a responsibility not to. I’m responsible for my own happiness. And I don't need other people to approve, and I don’t need others to live in the same way I do. I just need to do what I need to do, without hurting others or myself. For now that means having sexual relationships outside of my marriage.
I’m always sensitive to my husband. He can hit an emotional bump at times. When that happens, he usually tells me, although at times I can often sense it before he says anything. On more than one occasion I’ve asked him if he needed me to stop, and he has asked me to a few times. I always do so immediately, and will not resume until he has become comfortable again. Sometimes this will happen if I see someone new, or if something happens in his life that affects his self-esteem. There is no way to tell when it might happen.
Neither of us really knows how we will feel about something or someone, or what will or won't work until we try it out. But he likes to know everything, right down to the gory details, and he can feel offended if I omit anything deliberately. Like when I don't tell him something and it comes up later, making him feel out of the loop, something I try desperately to avoid. It all boils down to effective communication—without it, no marriage, open or otherwise, stands a chance. A marriage like ours is based on total honesty. As wonderful as it is the easiest way I know to destroy it is to be secretive, lie, or sneak around—those would be surefire ways to destroy not just an open marriage but any marriage.
The sex itself is not a threat to our marriage. I think of it as the "playpen effect:" If you keep a kid locked up in one of those things all she will think about is how to get out, and how much she'll love what’s in the other room. But let her roam free and check it all out, and she'll end up right back at your feet, playing with a puzzle. Is there a chance she'll like another room and stay in there for some time? Sure, but it’s usually temporary.
Then again there is a chance she may stay there permanently, just like there’s always a chance any person could fall in love with someone else and decide to end their marriage. But I don't believe that having sex outside our marriage increases that risk for me. In fact, I believe it decreases it, because it removes all the fantasy. I don't have to wonder and fantasize about someone else. If I want someone (and he wants me), then I can be with him. There’s no mystery and no dreamy fantasies of what it would be like to get naked with him. I have found that reality is the best dissuader. Nobody has come even close to making me think about leaving my husband. But I’ll tell you the truth: Before we tried an open marriage, I definitely wondered about the quality of the grass in other lawns and had thoughts about moving on.
In all, making this work has been much less dramatic than one might imagine. Sex is a happy thing, a good thing to me. If I can find happiness in something so simple, without hurting anyone, why wouldn't I? There's no obvious signs of what I do. We don't flaunt it in public or announce it to anyone else. I am discreet about all of my encounters, and shield our child from anything related to my affairs. My child never sees anything out of the ordinary. On rare occasions when I’ve had a lover stay over, he was always back in the guest room before our child woke up in the morning.
My pattern of lovers fluctuates, but they are all different which is part of the appeal. I usually have one steady lover at any time, although I do have men that I just keep in touch with after our initial meeting. There have been a few anonymous trysts and a few one-nights stands, some planned that way and some that turned out that way. I have met men while I was out of town, and have spent a night or two with other men on occasion. But, outside of my marriage I prefer what you might call serial monogamy, or a series of one-on-one relationships with one guy at a time. My relationships can last anywhere from a month or two up to a year or more.
I hope nobody reads this and thinks this is my prescription for someone else. It isn’t. It’s just my experience. All I know is how I feel, which is loved and cherished and secure—thanks to my husband. I want that. But I don't see anything wrong with wanting more. And, for me, that "more" is longing for excitement and change. Mystery. Sexual tension. Craving—and getting tastes of things I never wholly possess.
Why am I married, then? Many people have asked me that question. So I'll tell you exactly what I tell them. As hot as it makes me when a new conquest whispers something scandalous in my ear, nothing thrills me like the sound of my husband’s voice when I hear him say, "Hey, baby, I'm home." The passion I feel for other men in bed pales when compared to the soul-warming passion I feel for the one who loves me and cares for me and puts my needs ahead of his own. Nothing can ever challenge the true love I’ve experienced rebuilding my marriage into the form we enjoy today.