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Community Blog: Open Marriage Isn't Easy

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Love, Sex

My wife and I opened our marriage a few years ago.  Monogamy never really made sense to either of us; we'd both been taught that you had to make "that level of commitment" to show show how much you respect and value someone, but this had never felt right -- it really seemed like control, ownership or perhaps mutually assured destruction disconnected from our deep respect, esteem and commitment.

We could hardly have picked a worse time to work through this transition, even though we were both on the same page it was incredibly stressful to re-frame our marriage. (This also happened to coincide with a number of other major stressors, some of the details are amusing but may be another story for another time).  

I've read a great deal about open relationships, but I haven't seen any discussion quite like what I'm trying to write now.  Two things I read here on this site precipitated this writing: one is the following bit from Portrait of an Open Marriage. Take Two"

Turns out there are plenty of couples out there in the same boat where one partner chooses to exercise his or her freedom to have outside partners and the other does not. The truth is, equity in a relationship stems from having freedom, not necessarily from acting upon it...

This is how it is with us: my wife is happy just to know that she has the freedom to follow her feelings without losing my support.  For me that's simply not enough, it's not "real" until it's tangible.  

The other thing I connected with was the response to that same story which said it sounded like Letters to Penthouse (which, to be honest, yeah, it does in places, as do quite a few of the poly / open essays I've read).  While I think that and others, unlike the so-called Letters, are for the most part true, I don't know if they are typical and they are certainly unlike my story (thus far).

Dating has never come very naturally to me, if you read about how pick-up artists work (and I really recommend looking into it with an open mind, there is actually a lot of wisdom hidden among the machismo, watch for it), my instincts are generally exactly the opposite.  Compounding this, I have a fast-paced job, an amazing (and challenging) child, and a wife who is my best friend and all of these require a lot of my time, leaving very little to explore my theoretical options.

I find this unbelievably frustrating: I have the freedom to explore other people, I very much want to, but I haven't been able to make it happen.  I cannot express how frustrated I feel about this, but worse than that, I feel like an a??hole[1] for it:  I have an incredible family and a job I love that allows me to provide support and stability ... but I'm frustrated about not having Penthouse Letters too?!  Well, yes, that's how it is, at least for me.

And yet, for all my -- let's be honest -- angst, and our combined lack of Penthouse-esque encounters, I still don't think exclusive relationships make sense and I still believe we are on the right track; our marriage is stronger than ever, although we can't be as open about it as we'd like with others, at least we are more honest with each other about our feelings and needs.  I don't expect our sex lives to suddenly turn into a porn video, but I'm glad that we may yet have some some amazing encounters with some wonderful people and we have at least laid the groundwork for that to happen.

[1] Brief aside: when writing about adult topics for an adult audience, think about your words and say what you really want to say, don't apologize for it, and never "bleep" the words you chose.  Above all, do not try to "bleep" the words I chose.  Really.  It's demeaning to both your authors and your readers.

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