I am in an open marriage. I know what you are probably thinking because, the first time a friend said this to me, I quickly felt myself growing judge-y. My knee-jerk thought was, She’s just doing this to please her husband. How sad. And then, Oh, they must want raise their kids commune-style. Can’t relate. But now, years later, I’ve realized that every relationship is unique, and it’s about finding what works for you.
So far, I’ve found a way to make my relationship with my husband, Edmund, keep its charm, passion, intimacy and commitment. And it has happened by opening the gates.
I met Edmund while I was cocktail waitressing, and found myself rapt in conversation with him after my shift. It was the kind of conversation where you skip talking about the music and movies you like and go straight into life philosophy, feeling comfortable enough to not finish your sentences. Edmund, unlike most guys my age, asked me on our first date.
The night of our date, there was a storm. The lights were out and we found an Ecuadorian restaurant lit by candles, where we drank tequila with mango and hot sauce. When we got back to his apartment, a tree cracked with lightning and fell in the street. I felt equally intense. When Edmund asked me to marry him a year later. It just made sense. Like our first date, our relationship was emotional and passionate but more than anything, it was a meeting of minds.
We had talked about non-monogamy once, when we first started dating. It was during the “getting you know you sexually” phase, where weekends are spent entirely in bed, save for meals out. We learned that we were both bisexual and enjoyed porn. “Who knows what the future holds for us. Polyamory?” he half-joked. The thing we agreed on about monogamy and marriage is that it should be open to change, fluidity. How can you make such a serious a decision once in your life, and never go back and evaluate it? Monogamy or divorce was just so black and white.
But we had gone into marriage monogamous. Edmund said he loved me so much, why would he want to share me? I was writing about sex, and discovered that I was interested in the world of non-monogamy. At some point, I brought the idea up with Edmund and started pushing it. These conversations weren’t easy, mostly because we weren’t trying to fix something that was broken. While marriage had taken its toll, making us feel at times a little like brother and sister, we feared non-monogamy might break the beautiful relationship we had. But soon, Edmund stopped seeing it as sharing me, and started to view it as us exploring together.
We started talking to our polyamorous friends and reading about non-monogamy. A friend explained a starting point is to hear about your partner’s positive past sexual experiences and work on feeling happy for them in the arms of an ex, happy for their pleasure. This is known as compersion—the opposite of jealousy—feeling happy and excited about your partner’s sexual or romantic conquests.
I couldn’t guess how I would feel about my partner’s sexual conquests—until it happened. It was my birthday and a female friend came home with us. I poured some white wine, but it wasn’t long until her honey-blonde hair whipped to the side, and she writhed her body onto my lap, as our mouths touched. Soon, the three of us fell into bed together. As I pulled back watching the two of them, I could feel myself beaming. I felt excited for him, happy with a surge of “Yeah my husband is hot!” I also learned that having sex with people outside your marriage makes you want more sex with your husband. For weeks, Edmund and I couldn’t keep our hands off each other.
You could challenge intimacy by spending time apart, challenge passion by removing sex, or challenge commitment by sleeping with other people. For us, challenging one made all three intensify.
We started setting up play-dates but it wasn’t all as smooth as falling into pillows with the honey-blonde. We had a lot of false starts—a few bad dates and no luck with “swinger” or “poly” organizations, which were filled with older couples. We’ve been taking it slow, and after each hot tryst—which seem to happen every few months—we spend time together, renewing emotions and commitment.
When we got married, it was with such confidence. Yet, we knew marriage was this institution that often failed. It wasn’t until our honeymoon that it hit me, between bouts of tropical rainfall. We were in a hammock beside sticky-sweet drinks and flowers that looked like seashells. I started to panic. “What are we doing?” I asked. We didn’t know what the future looked like. ”It’s just you and me,” Edmund said, squeezing my hand.
I still don’t know where we are headed or what our future will look like. But I trust the flow of it. I get it now, it is just me and him. You make the rules in your own relationship.