A Surprising Path to Open Marriage
I am writing because I need to share what's happening in my marriage, and can't talk about it with friends.
I've had a good, strong, healthy marriage for over 20 years. My wife is the canonical devoted mother and spouse. She is very involved our children and volunteers for underprivileged kids. Incidentally, she is also beautiful, fit, well-proportioned, fun to be with, and looks a good deal younger than her real age. For most of our quarter century as a couple, she never wanted to cross the boundaries of conventional marital sex. Our sex life has ebbed and flowed, but has been generally been pretty good. As in many marriages, I was always more interested in sex than her.
For years, to help her think outside her unimaginative, constrained box, I encouraged her to open her mind and fantasize about sex with others. I even coaxed her into an experimental lesbian weekend with a friend a few years ago. Understandably, many people can’t understand a husband being OK with his wife fantasizing (or more) about other lovers. I won’t defend here my reasoning, but will merely say that I’ve matured to a more open worldview. With all that, we still had a conventional monogamous marriage.
Over the past couple years, she started feeling claustrophobic about being stuck in our house, a 24/7 mom and wife, always doing for others and never doing for her. She felt life passing her by, feared getting old, and yearned to taste some of the fun she’d sacrificed all these years. It’s called a mid-life crisis.
So about 9 months ago she started going out to bars with a girlfriend. We live near a university, and the places they go are frequented by current and former college athletes. It was all innocent; drinking, dancing, flirting, but nothing more. She enjoyed escaping for a few hours, temporarily relieved of the burden of monotonous responsibilities. The attention lavished by young, good looking guys was flattering. I was glad for her to have some fun, an outlet for her frustrations, and a self-esteem boost.
Fast forward 6 months. Huge shock: I found incriminating messages in her cell phone. She’d slept with one man, and was pursuing others.
The most upsetting part was not her affairs. Heck, I’d told her she was free to venture outside our bedroom, so it wouldn’t be fair to renege. However, I was deeply wounded by her deception, and was angry that she’d lied to me for months. I couldn’t believe how skilled she’d become at lying about her alternate life. I was frightened for what it meant for the future of our marriage. Many hours of arguments and torment ensued. What she did really hurt.
But I must admit it was also a big turn on. Her awakened sexuality and her escapades with other men were for me very arousing, and she got excited telling me about them. So as we were fighting and talking about her outside activities and the feelings that motivated them, we also had a bunch of fantastic sex, better and different than ever before.
Over the next couple weeks, our many conversations were intense, with emotions running the gamut. Eventually we were brought closer together by having all the truth come out and working through everything. People change over the decades, and I learned to appreciate new things – by no means all sexual – about my wife. We came to understand each other more deeply, and for that I am very thankful.
Finally, I granted her what she wanted (though she’d never uttered the words) – an open marriage. Everyone has their own notion of what that loaded term means, so for clarity, our definition is that dating and sex with others are allowed, but we remain 100% committed to our marriage and family. This golden rule has several corollaries. Our spouse’s and family’s needs always come first, we much be completely honest with each other about what we do and with whom, we won’t cross boundaries without prior spousal consent, we will be discreet so as to avoid these adventures negatively impacting our “normal” life, and we won’t engage in behavior that risks health, safety or well-being. There are numerous subtleties to negotiate in this protocol (for example, is she to tell me before every encounter, or may she inform me afterwards?), but these basic rules seem to work. She says the arrangement is two-way, but at least for now she’s the only one sleeping with others.
So now things are mostly resolved. She’s since been with a few different men. She tells me where she’s going and who she’ll be with, and tells me afterward what happened. It’s unconventional, but honest, and no one is cheating (that is, she isn’t breaking the agreed rules of our marriage). We’re both pretty happy with the arrangement, though I, and to a lesser extent she, have struggled with handling it. It certainly beats the suppression of natural human desire and the surreptitious destructive affairs that plague too many marriages. She gets the adventure and variety she craves, and our marriage and sex lives get stronger. It works for us. We’re more deeply in love than ever.
Our sex life has never been more active or intense. Earlier tonight, this formerly straight-laced and sexually naïve girl sent me to the drug store to buy lube, then had me do her in the a**, and not gently. (Not long ago, anal sex would have been out of the question, but now she’s pleading for and loving it. Why? Because one of her lovers asked, and she desires to give him what he wants, but wants to learn to enjoy it with me first.) Soon after, we made love again, in a more conventional but very intense way. It was perhaps our best night of sex ever.
An hour later, as I slept, she slipped out of bed to contact one of her lovers, a young former pro athlete. She begged for, and I granted, permission to go to him at 1 am. As I write, she’s in his bed. A short while ago, she sent a message saying they had just “f**ked” (this from a woman who in the recent past wouldn’t have used such a word), and that she was going back to his bedroom to go down on him. After she’s done with him, she’ll come home and tell me everything I care to know while we make love yet again.
On the one hand, it’s awfully sexy. On the other, it’s a bit nerve wracking and scary. What’s so surprising is how driven she is for the conquest, how much she appears to need it. She offered to stop if I asked, but she seems compelled. It was striking how this once-demure woman responded the first time I spoke the words “open marriage”. Without a split second of hesitation, she looked intensely into my eyes and said “yes, I do”.
For the most part I am OK with her/our new lifestyle. I had a couple flings many years ago, so understand how one can love their spouse but still want someone new and different. I want her to fulfill her needs, to live her life to the fullest in every aspect, to let her wild side run free, to experience the things she missed when she was a younger, dutiful wife. She’s enriched, we’re closer, and our sex life together has never been better. She is fully committed to our marriage and loves me deeply.
But sometimes this new reality of our life has me shaking. Even though I encouraged her desires, and have with love given blessing for what she’s doing, I am sometimes scared. Maybe it’s because she’s not sleeping with just any old guys, but rather young, handsome, athletic studs. For heaven’s sake, a couple weeks ago she had a night of raw sex with a gorgeous starting pla
This lifestyle and the emotions associated with it are complicated, to be sure. Its benefits, risks and trade-offs are plain to see. Before judging us, ponder the less obvious but equally true reality that precisely the same can be said of traditional monogamous marriage. For us, for now, we think the best path is open.
It’s good to get this off my chest. I would be happy to hear anyone’s thoughts or answer questions about what we’ve learned through this process. Thanks for listening.