Three hours and two bottles of wine later....
When there's trouble in paradise, people come out of the woodwork with "helpful" suggestions. "See a marriage counselor" they'll say. Or perhaps, "Try a weekend away to talk it out."
Typically, friends and family have the best of intentions when giving advice but truthfully, there's no magic bullet for saving a marriage. Most of these quick fixes are band-aids that work for a time but eventually wear off. Years of built-up resentment can't be undone with a weekend away or a few sessions on a therapist's couch. Sometimes, you've got to get creative.
When my marriage was on the fritz, I was sure we needed something unconventional. Perhaps even taboo. Be careful what you wish for, because it just might come true.
Three years engaged and eight years married makes (let me get my calculator)... eleven years with one woman. I'd say that makes me a monogamy expert. Engaged at 19 and 21, my then fiancée and I chose to not play the field as the majority of 20-somethings would.
So, from a safe distance, we watched as our peers explored their sexuality with partner after partner. Were we jealous at times? Sure, I occasionally yearned for sexual freedom but honestly, when seeing the delirium caused by a breakup or the insecurity caused by a text not returned quick enough, I considered myself lucky to not have to deal with all the dating mayhem. Searching for someone to love seemed like an awful distraction from my non-relationship goals.
Generally speaking, the ability to make our own life choices, like choosing to get married young, can make us feel like we're in control of our destiny. But the truth is a decision like staying monogamous through your twenties has emotional repercussions that are very much out of our control.
People are complex, and our subconscious often subdues wants and desires that should be addressed. For me, lying buried beneath the surface was a need for emotional and physical exploration that would prove too great a burden to bare.
What went wrong? As the years went by, my wife and I inevitably evolved into our adult selves. The result was a relationship landscape that felt strikingly unfamiliar. The most profound aspect of our separate evolutions was that my sex drive had not only increased but become more exploratory, while hers seemed to drop off altogether.
I'd love to say that sexual compatibility doesn't make the marriage, but I'd be lying. Sex may not be the only factor in a healthy marriage but the lack of it can sure throw a wrench in the works. For us, the misalignment led to brutal bedroom battles and a feeling of being stifled.
Weren't my needs important? I was willing to explore anything my wife wanted but she had developed an infuriating take-it-or-leave it attitude. In my book, that's a recipe for disaster. So, resentments piled up and the pressure steadily built. This kind of pressure does not make diamonds. Something had to give, or I was going to burst.
I reached out to a few friends for some advice but realized quickly that their insights could only go so far without seeing the bedroom themselves. Wait... that was it! What if we invited a friend to join us in the bedroom? Inject our sex lives with the wants and desires of a third party?
This sexual unfamiliarity might conjure a need to perform in bed. Eleven years of just the two of us had made us lazy with each other. Maybe, just maybe, the pride of performing well in bed would come back with the addition of a third party?
But never underestimate the power of ego. The jump from monogamy to threesomes is not something one just dives right into. The ice has to be broken with action. One night at our favorite bar, and in plain sight of my wife, I let myself get into some heavy flirtation with a friend I knew had a thing for me.
As expected, this led to an uncomfortable conversation upon arriving home. Time to drop the hammer.
With insults whizzing by my head like machine gun fire and passive-aggressive land mines littering the rug, I ducked and weaved straight into saying, "Well then, why don't we just have a threesome?"
After a few tense moments, we sat calmly on the couch. I topped off her glass of Malbec and we began discussing the third party option. With maturity and a sense of tranquility that was not often felt in those days, I listened thoughtfully as she made her points, and she listened in the same way as I made mine.
I don't know if we had ever truly understood each other the way we did that night. Three hours and two bottles of wine later we decided to give it a try.
Once we hurdled over the monogamy barrier, what was previously against the rules became par for the course. Threesomes led to separate rendezvous, which led to nights at other people's apartments, which led to emotional connections with extramarital partners.
I'd come home and she wouldn't be there. Instead of calling the cops to make a missing persons report, I'd brush my teeth, watch some Netflix and go to bed knowing she was with another man. There was no space in my head for jealousy when I myself was thinking about other women.
The idea that a healthy marriage can be maintained while simultaneously taking lovers is a delusion. It's never just sex, no matter how much you try and convince yourself.
The idea that getting my sexual needs met by others while maintaining a marriage only served to cheapen all parties involved. Can f*cking other people save your marriage? Coming from someone who tried it, no it can not. Emotions will inevitably get involved.
Be careful what you wish for.