"What would you think about opening our marriage?"
Even though I had always suspected Allison was polyamorous, I was surprised she asked me this question. It had come up before in our relationship, but short of one disastrously failed attempt to explore that the summer before we were married, we'd never experimented with it.
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The first thing you need to understand about Allison is that she doesn't like burdening people. If she thought that asking you for something or telling you a secret was going to hurt you or even inconvenience you, she'd bottle it up. Throughout our relationship, I begged her not to hold things back. So when she finally admitted to me that she wanted to be polyamorous, I was actually thrilled. It wasn't that I particularly wanted an open marriage myself, I was just happy she was being honest with herself about something she wanted.
So I started thinking. We had ultimate trust between us, complete honesty. We were mature enough to overcome jealousy. Allison was only the second woman I had ever slept with, and the only woman in the 15 years we'd been together. I'd always been curious for more sexual encounters. At our ages, me at 31 and she at 33, we weren’t getting any younger. Supremely confident in our marriage, we agreed to give it a try.
Starting with some online friendships Allison and I already had in a video game community we both frequented, she and I both began to cultivate new relationships. Allison hit it off with a friend of mine, Rafael, while I cultivated a relationship with a mutual friend, Natalie.
I should point out that while these were online, long-distance relationships, Allison and I had much experience with this. After all, this is how we met our freshman year in college, back in 1995. For some people, the connection you feel with someone online can be just as real and intense as anything in the “real” world. You have to be careful what you're feeling is real and not so-called new relationship energy, but it's still a real possibility.
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As our secondary relationships grew, Allison and I noted differences in our new romances. Rafael, a 38-year-old widower, had no intentions of ever getting married again, and he and Allison both had a certain level of detachment. Refusing to give themselves over completely to love, they instead called what they had “mutual adoration.” To Allison, this was the epitome of the polyamorous relationships she sought, a more-than-friend with benefits, a supplement to her best friend, me.
Natalie, on the other hand, was a different story. A 24-year-old idealistic grad student, she was reared as a missionary and was attending a seminary getting her masters in Christian Thought and Biblical Studies. Her long-term goal was to obtain a PhD in philosophy, write papers, and teach. While quite socially progressive, her personal belief system had issues with dating a married man. Nevertheless, there was a strong chemistry and instant attraction between me and Natalie. She represented so many things that I admired and wished were true about myself. I actually looked up to her, even though she was younger than me, and talking to her was intoxicating. She gave me some level of fulfillment that I didn’t even know I needed in my relationships, and I was addicted.