Help Us Give You More: Ask Us Anything!

by Husband on October 23, 2013

Hello everyone, it’s Husband here.

As you probably have noticed, we haven’t been updating this blog lately. In fact it’s been abandoned for the past couple of years.

It’s been an incredible two years for me and Wife. We’ve gained so many experiences, and we’ve met some  very interesting people, experts on open relationships, coaches and all sorts of others.

Slowly we’re starting to build a sort of “network” of open people… and it’s what I suggest you do as well.

Now here’s the thing:

There are certain things that make this sort of network-building easier… and some things that can make it tougher.

You may or may not know where and how to start with all this…

So we’re thinking of publishing a small document, a freebie, probably just a few pages long, with some quick advice and ideas about doing all this.

Now before we finalize it we want to make sure we have it all covered, so I’ve put a quick google docs form together that allows you to tell us what you want to know.

Here’s the link to the 2 minute questionnaire. It’ll help us give you some good stuff. Just quick Google Docs thing, nothing fancy, really.

 

Please click the link and answer the questions – it should take you no more than 2 minutes, and it’s going to help us give you the most value!

If you enter your email to the right hand side we’ll also keep you updated about any future blog updates – and of course we’ll let you know when the freebie is ready too!

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Understanding Open Marriage

by Husband on August 22, 2011

It has been two years since our first major fight over hubby’s lover Free Spirit.  Since then, our relationship went steadily downhill.  Everything seemed so topsy turvy and we failed to work it out.  Eventually, talks of separation and divorce made matters worse.

It was the most trying phase of our relationship.  It was also that phase that made us and our bond much stronger than ever in the end.  After abandoning the idea of divorce, we worked our issues out and we let the lessons of our experiences guide us.

In retrospect, I can see clearly now where we went wrong.  Husband and I took the basics of a successful open marriage setup for granted.  We hope that the lessons we learned will help other couples experiencing similar challenges:

Never Underestimate The Importance Of Open And Honest Communication

Just like in any other kind of relationship, communication is very important for it to succeed; but more so in open marriages.  Given the nature of open marriages, open and honest communication is an important cornerstone.

In retrospect, one of the things that made our miscommunication worse is the fact that we have never talked extensively about any issues that arose.  Husband and I were also not able to talk about our issues with each other and each of us harbored mistaken notions of what the other meant about certain words and actions

Husband and I also realized that we need to always assess our wants and needs and to talk about it.  Constant introspection and communication bring about better understanding.  And the deeper your understanding of your partner, the deeper the relationship, emotions, and intimacy you will experience.

According to Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage, couples who talk to each other honestly are the ones who are most fit for the open marriage setup.

Don’t Take The Importance Of Ground Rules For Granted

At first, Hubby and I did not have clear ground rules to follow.  Just like some other couples in an open marriage, we made the mistake of not setting rules on the onset of this kind of relationship.  In short, we took it all for granted.

As Husband wrote in this blog sometime in August 2009, we have never really strictly implemented the rules for our open relationship, other than to use condoms at all times.  It was only after 14 years when we decided that we need to set some ground rules to follow.  And I guess it was too late.

The little misgivings we both have added up without us noticing it.  It was only when it became so big when we chose to do something about it.  We decided, among others, to set a certain limit on how frequent we meet our other partners and to put primacy in our relationship.  But, by then, our conflict has already started to spiral out of control.

It was much later when we realized that aside from honest and open communication, ground rules are also important to guide our activities.  This way, we can coordinate our behavior and we can achieve our shared goals with fewer tension and conflict.  These rules can also help couples like us to manage romantic jealousy and rivalry.

The ground rules adapted by couples with open marriages usually tend to prohibit certain behaviors that can provoke jealousy.  This is one mistake we have committed and we are hoping that other couples can learn from our experience.

How To Deal With The Green-Eyed Monster

Couples with open marriages are exposed in situations that can provoke jealousy.  Just like other people, we have feelings and just like most couples with open marriages, we experienced firsthand how the green-eyed monster can break us.  Unchecked, the simple case of jealousy led to serious conflicts and it almost cost us our marriage.

In retrospect, I think we could have handled this problem effectively if we had clear ground rules to start with.  For 14 years, we just went through our open marriage lifestyle with the que sera sera mantra.  We unwittingly neglected the fact that these rules could have greatly helped us manage jealousy issues.

Meanwhile, ground rules alone are not sufficient in helping couples deal with jealousy.  Couples in open marriage setups can greatly benefit from the general understanding of the nature of jealousy and how to effectively deal with it.  And that brings us back to the importance of having clear ground rules and maintaining open communication lines.

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Reaffirmation

by Husband on August 22, 2011

It has been more than a year and it was a roller coaster ride for Husband and me.  It was a phase in our lives that seriously challenged our faith to ourselves, to our love for each other, and to our decision to have an open marriage.

Having an open marriage is a lifestyle choice that does not sit well with a lot of people.  However, to each his own, I always say.  I always knew that an open relationship is for me.

Needless to say, the first years of our open marriage was very exciting.  In fact, euphoric is the best word to describe those years.  Yes, I had lovers but I still had a blissful married life and, eventually, a flourishing career.

Just like other people, we both have our household to tend, bills to pay, menus to plan, parties to attend to.  We are regular people who just happened to choose a less common marriage style and lead a less conventional lifestyle.

For 19 years, Husband and I lived this lifestyle and everything worked just fine.  Yes, there were certain issues that came along but we were able to surmount them.  We continued to have a stable and loving relationship while we each pursued our careers and our passions in life.

I know my husband has some misgivings about some of my priorities and, at hindsight, I recognize my shortcomings.  I also admit that I had some fits of jealousy with Husband’s relationship with Free Spirit. The green-eyed monster got me and I guess I never have dealt with that situation properly.

Husband mistakenly thought that the “whole polyamorous concept of compersion” was lost on me.  He thought that I wanted him to seek sexual relationships with other women without any attachment.  He did not know that I was just plainly and simply jealous.

It was then when we recognized that laying the ground rules is very important and we resolved that above all else, our relationship comes first.  It was only then when we set clear ground rules for our setup.  It was already the 14th year of our open marriage.

However, some things went really wrong and we (Husband and I) found ourselves at the end of the road.  We bickered, we said hurtful things and we talked of divorce.  Eventually, he moved out.

A month after going our separate ways, Husband and I once again found ourselves gravitating towards each other.  After the flaring emotions of previous weeks, I was able to see things from another perspective.  And, apparently, so did he.

When burning emotions subsided, we were able to talk and see each other eye to eye again.  We were able to realize our mistakes.  We recognize that our open marriage is not the problem but our attitude towards it.  We neglected the basic prerequisites for an open marriage.

Yes, we got wounded and got hurt but we emerged stronger than ever.  Wounds healed and there are so many lessons to learn.  The road to healing was long and we decided in the end to give our relationship another chance.  In the meantime, I asked Husband to rest from blogging for a while.

With divorce out of the equation, we threshed out our misunderstandings and set common ground rules to guide us.  Our experience has helped us better understand two of the basic requirements for an open marriage: open and honest communication and having clear ground rules to guide us.

Indeed, the open marriage lifestyle is not for everybody.  Those who are most fit and the most likely to succeed with open marriages are couples who communicate honestly with each other.  Telling the truth and following the rules agreed upon shows that you respect your partner.

One thing I like about having an open marriage is never having to lie.  In this environment, couples can have the opportunity to have extraordinary communication and deeper intimacy.  This way, couples have the opportunity to realize their fullest potentials as individuals.

When we decided to blog about our lifestyle, we originally planned to both write for the blog.  But I never got around finishing the draft I started and I never expected my first post to be a reaffirmation of our open marriage.

I know that there will be times when problems will challenge our open marriage.  But I am confident that our experiences have given us valuable lessons that will guide us along the way.  I am confident the deep love we share will see us through.

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Open Divorce

by Husband on April 14, 2010

Wow. Well, it’s been nearly a year since “we” started this blog. I say “we” in quotes because Wife never did end up posting to it herself, only me. That was probably a sign right there.

So, to recap: together nearly 19 years now, married nearly 16, “open” pretty much that whole time, with a few years of “don’t ask, don’t tell” at the outset but quickly becoming a full-on open marriage. Until shortly after we started this blog. Then everything came unglued.
I don’t think the blog had much to do with it. But we’re moving into separate homes in the next two weeks and likely getting a divorce later this year. In our characteristically unorthodox approach, we’re determined to do our best to stay friends, but we’ll have to see how that works.
What went wrong? Hard to say. Objectively, anyway. But since she’s never deigned to participated in this would-be joint blog project, I’ll give you my side of the story, in summary.
I don’t mean to condemn open relationships as a lifestyle. We started this blog with every intension to be boosters for the idea. But in 20-20 hindsight, my conclusion, after months of therapy among other reflections, is that the open relationship in our case was a way to bandaid over a gap in our own relationship.
To each his own, for sure — I should be the last to judge — but in my own life going forward, I’ve decided to give monogamy a try for a while.
The whole thing is still surreal. I read back to my original post here, just less than a year ago, on our wedding anniversary, where I claimed “we seem to be one of the happiest, most loving couples we know.” That’s certainly what we believed at the time.
I also said in some subsequent posts that we weren’t in it only for the sex, but that we believe also in open love. Well, that turns out not to have been true for her.
I made some references along the way to a girlfriend I had at the time whom I dubbed “Free Spirit,” and went into a bit of detail about how my becoming increasingly infatuated with Free Spirit had led to some serious strife between me and Wife. As I later learned, after our 19 years together, she had a different view on the open love question; apparently she thought the freedom pretty much ended with the sex.
(For the record, Free Spirit and I are done. We haven’t had contact in more than two months now. It was red hot, but in the end, I’d say she was a bit too emotionally volatile for me. In the unlikely case that she’s reading this, I did feel deeply for her and miss her and wish her all the best, but the last episode of hysterics jolted me out of love.)
From my standpoint today, I’d say if Wife and I were still having sex twice a week, this would all be a non-issue and we’d still be happily married. But from relatively early on in our long relationship, Wife had a different pace of libido. Twice a month worked fine for her. Me, I was sexually frustrated at that pace. She would regularly say, “Well, we have an open marriage, so what are you complaining about? Go get your sex elsewhere.”
But to her mind, she’d be happy for me to have a relationship like something with a call girl.  Sex without attachments. The whole polyamorous concept of “compersion” was one that was lost on her. She was distinctly not happy about my being giddily infatuated with Free Spirit. In the end, she effectively put the kibosh on that relationship.
That was where it all fell apart. Over the years, it had always proven easier for her to strike up outside relationships than it was for me. When we met in our 20s, I lacked self confidence with women.
For years, I was sympathetic to the concept of an open relationship, but where guys were always only too eager to jump in bed with her, women generally did more emotional calculus with me that ended something like “You seem like a cool guy, but I think I’ll get hurt in the end of this, so no thanks.” I repeated found that “I should tell you that I’m married, but it’s okay, because it’s an OPEN marriage!” was a really shitty pickup line. For me anyway.
At a certain point, I made a real study of picking up women, and suddenly in my 40s, I got the hang of it better than ever before. But by then, however, Wife was also in her 40s, and perhaps her self-consciousness about her age or whatever started getting in the way, and suddenly she was much more jealous about my outside romances.
In any event, my outside relationships –beyond one night stands — were still a lot of work and relatively few and far between. When she nixed Free Spirit, the house of cards came tumbling down. It had been something like two or three years between Free Spirit and my previous girlfriend, and I’m not getting any younger. I decided it was too much work to keep trying to line up a mistress willing to put up with the crappy bargain I had to offer her only to have Wife shut it down in the end.
I have been sexually frustrated for years in my marriage. The answer that I should supplement the sex elsewhere, which proved to be a Catch 22 bargain, was just more frustration.
And it wasn’t just the sex. In our brief couples therapy — five meetings was all she could bear — she told the therapist, as she had told me a few times previously: her career was more important than her marriage. That’s pretty tough to recover from. Especially when the relationship is 19 years old and the career is 7 years old.
This is a career taking up about 80-100 hours a week of her time (no exaggeration). So I’m left home alone, lonely, horny, and not allowed to spend as much time with the girlfriend as I’d like to make up the difference, because that would be an insult to Wife.
So I quit. She wasn’t willing to consider compromises to my issues — sex and loneliness — and I was done carrying a heavier burden. I felt like for years I’ve been putting 110% into this relationship and getting at best 90% back. I do still love Wife. We know each other completely and do greatly care for each other. But I feel I owe it to myself not to sacrifice my happiness for the sake of hers.
I crave a relationship that is in balance. I want to be with someone who is horny for me. Honestly, sex matters. If I have one morale to offer from my story, it’s this: Women, fuck your men. I’m sure that goes both ways, gender wise, although the stereotype seems to be of men frustrated that their women are less interested in sex than they are. Wife and I don’t have kids. Maybe that would have made the difference.
But honestly, if you want to keep your relationship healthy, the sex matters probably more than you think it does.
Again, I don’t want to be held up as a poster child for “open marriage doesn’t work.” Our marriage didn’t work in the end, though we had a great run. It’s hard to isolate to what extent the openness was a factor in its demise. And it wasn’t only about sex either. In my telling of our story (she still has access to this blog account, so she can tell her side if she ever wants to), there was an emotional distance, too.
Me? I’m gonna move to Williamsburg and lick my wounds for a while. Then hopefully I’m going to lick all sorts of body parts of several attractive young ladies. And hopefully find one who loves me more completely. And, I suspect, exclusively.
I liked being coupled. I suppose I’m the marrying kind. And next time around, I don’t intend to share. But that’s just me. Good luck to all the rest of you.

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Signs of Life

by Husband on September 29, 2009

Hey there. It’s been a few weeks, I know. The thing is, this blog was supposed to be a look back at our 18 years of living this way to impart wisdom to the uninitiated. But the joke’s on us.
Regular readers, whoever you are, know from earlier posts that I, Hubby, have a new-ish relationship that has thrown the open marriage out of balance, starting from about two weeks after we launched this blog at the start of the summer. The backstory is in earlier posts, so I won’t repeat myself.

Basically, since my last post about it almost a month ago, all three parties are trying to keep their shit together to make everything work, but it’s been a delicate time. We never signed up to air all our dirty laundry in public, even if anonymously, hence the limited blogging.

Wish us well, if you’d like, and bear with us, if you’re interested. I’m confident all will work out in the end. And when it does, I’ll share whatever secrets I observe for how we do so.

I’ll try to keep love alive with some more innocuous posts about what amuses me in life. Stay tuned.

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Kinky Candies

by Husband on September 1, 2009

Hmm. Something tells me this candy wrapper wouldn’t be a hit in the US. Needless to say, it’s German.

Amusing article of British dad losing his shit over it when buying the candies in a store for his kids.

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TMI Tuesday

by Husband on August 26, 2009

Spending the evening catching up on some of my favorite poly blogs (shout out to Polygrrl, S1m0n, Grace), I see on Sexy PTA Mom, in addition to a mobile phone picture of her hubby’s hard on (the doorknobs behind it looked like spunk shooting out, at first glance), she has this stupid but irresistible pass-along list, TMI Tuesday:
1. Do you have “your” side of the bed? Which side?

Right side, when facing the foot-end of the bed.

2. How old is your pillow and what condition is it in?

I have a head pillow and a body pillow. Both are about a year old.

3. What is your favorite position to sleep in?

On my side, with a body pillow between my legs and under my arm.

4. How often do you change your sheets?

Rarely! Once every few months. I’m not proud of this.

5. What helps you fall asleep when insomnia strikes?

Booze. Before falling asleep in the first place, anyway. If I wake up at 4am with insomnia, there’s no beating it. I get up early and take a nap later, maybe.

6. Does sex make you sleepy or energized?

Eh, I’m a guy. I pretty much want to snooze after sex, though it’s not a must.

7. What is the minimum amount of sleep that you need to be functional the next day.

I can pull off an early morning meeting with 3 hours if need be, but that’s a rare emergency. Six hours and I’m okay. Happy to sleep 9-10 hours, though, given the chance.

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Do we really represent ‘open marriage’?

by Husband on August 25, 2009

I see that much of the traffic to this blog is from searches of the term “open marriage.” Not surprising, but I take a certain pleasure that, as of this writing, we come up on the second page of Google results of that term.
I’m pleased, but it also feels like responsibility. People clearly are looking for advice, and it’s been weeks since I last posted. We can’t let Google down! People need answers!

When we conceived of this blog, we thought we’d tell the story of how we’ve made 18 years of an open relationship work. It wasn’t intended to be a blog gossiping about our current love lives, but rather a reflection of our history and sharing some observations that may be useful to others interested in this unusual kind of relationship.

However, the last few months since we launched it have been rather tumultuous in our relationship, owing namely to one of my outside relationships. As you can see from some earlier posts, I let a secondary relationship get very intense very quickly, with a woman I’ve dubbed here “The Free Spirit.” A month or so ago, she dumped me, feeling overwhelmed by the emotional complications. It was an ugly breakup, and I didn’t rise above even using this blog as a back-channel of communication with her and her blog. (I did subsequently edit a post to remove some bitchiness directed at her.) Again, not how we’d originally intended this blog to read.

I’m happy to report that Free Spirit and I have reconciled, with Wife’s uneasy blessing. This relationship has been much more of a strain for Wife and me than any earlier ones, for reasons I’d rather not try to articulate on her behalf, but it’s been a real test. I’m confident we’ll pass the test in the long run. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Wife was hurt when I told her a couple of weeks back that her allowing me to be with Free Spirit made me love her (Wife) even more. I guess my point didn’t come across right, so at the risk of rubbing salt in the wound, I’ll try to re-articulate it here. I didn’t mean that I’d love Wife less were Free Spirit not in the picture. But Wife’s capacity to allow me to expand my emotional and sexual happiness by accepting (if not quite embracing) my relationship with Free Spirit makes me value the rareness of the love Wife and I share even more so.

I’m also convinced Wife will still someday post here. I suspect her reluctance has had something to do with the recent emotional tumult, that she doesn’t want to write from anger or pain. She did tell me that she’d written a draft of a post called “Boundaries.” That is a hint at how we’ve come to new compromise on my relationship with Free Spirit.

In the last 14 years (since we transitioned things from a “don’t ask/don’t tell” relationship to a fully open one), we’ve never really implemented strict rules for our open relationship, other than to always use condoms. We’ve observed the rules that other people in open relationships have instituted with a kind of bemusement. (The most striking examples of this were in an article a few years back in NY Magazine titled “The New Monogamy,” which described rules that seemed ridiculous to us, such as it’s okay to fool around with others, as long as it’s only above the waist. WTF?!? That sounds like a recipe for blue balls, worse than monogamy itself.)

Yet after all this time, we’re coming to decide that some rules may be necessary, e.g., a certain limit on the frequency of meeting other partners, to keep our trust in the primacy of our relationship sound.

Stay tuned. I didn’t want readers to think we’d dropped out on this blog. We’re just working through some technical difficulties.

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Whatever Works

by Husband on August 8, 2009

Just saw the new Woody Allen film “Whatever Works.” It wasn’t his best film, but it was pretty good. Lots of laughs, and it deconstructs relationship, as usual.
Allen wrote the script in the 70s for Zero Mostel, but the legend died too soon. Woody dusted it off again recently, recast Larry David in his first feature lead, and it works. I recommend it.

I mention it here because there is all sorts of relationship convention bending, including (SPOILER ALERT) a poly relationship, which is pretty amusing. “Whichever way she turns in bed, there’s a penis waiting for her.” (Or something to that effect.)

Rent it on DVD, if it’s not still playing in your town.

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Honey, This Is Jack…

by Husband on July 31, 2009

We have this classic New Yorker cartoon on our fridge. I thought you’d enjoy.

“Honey, this is Jack. He’s the one who taught me how to do that thing you like.”
by Harry Bliss

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I Forgive Myself

by Husband on July 30, 2009

In my post yesterday “Addicted to Love,” I got into details about a recent failed romance with “The Free Spirit.” And I ended the long post saying I didn’t know what motivated me to draw her into a loving relationship when I should have anticipated that she wouldn’t be able to handle the raw bargain of being a “secondary” (as I observe is the term of art in the “poly” community).
This morning I woke up and came to the conclusion that Spirit bore at least some of the blame herself. She went into this with her eyes wide open, and more than that, she espoused that an open relationship was the only kind of relationship she could ever see herself in.

So it’s not as simple as my leading her down any garden path out of my own selfish designs. I thought she was the rarest of birds that I’d been looking for, the single woman who was self-possessed enough to know what she wanted and could handle love without possession. I’d be her mentor into the world of responsible, mature, loving open relationships.

But when the going got emotionally rocky, when we started expressing our love in words, she couldn’t handle it. In the end, she bemoaned on her blog that she couldn’t stand that I’d “never get down on one knee” for her.

I don’t begrudge her that she has traditionalist, possessive view of love after all. But it does reinforce my point of view that dating single people is fraught with danger for the polyamorous.

My relationship with The European is wonderful, but there is an edge to the fact that she’s not in an open marriage. I understand her situation well: she loves her husband, but it’s a troubled marriage and she’s tired of compromising on her own fulfillment, so she’s taking the tried-and-true route of discrete infidelity. I love her and understand her, so I accept the bargain, but it certainly has its complications and moral ambiguity. (In fact, were it not for how it might compromise her, I’d probably be ready to be open in my identity about the open marriage, but it could come back and bite her if I did, so I can’t.)

So that just leaves the field of women who are themselves in open relationships. Swell, except that they’re few and far between and discoverable mostly through awkward online clubs. Also not a simple option.

I’m still licking my wounds after a short, intense and ultimately very painful romance. But after all of it, the one thing clearest to me is this: I love you, Wifey! Can’t ever stop reminding you how lucky I am to be loved by you!

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Newsweek on Polyamory

by Husband on July 29, 2009

Wow. We’re a bona fide trend, according to Newsweek.

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Addicted to Love

by Husband on July 29, 2009

I imagine most people would think open relationships are principally about sex.

Sex is certainly a factor, yes. But it’s hardly what the whole thing is about, at least not for me.

I’ve never been a big fan of the phrase “polyamory” because to my ears it seems like a misfits society you join and go to dippy meetings full of overweight people in purple muumuus. (Yes, we went to a meeting like that in San Francisco, once.) But the concept of “multiple love” does speak to my aspirations in this approach to love and marriage.

I suppose it’s easier for monotonous people (I’m sorry, I mean monogamous) to get their heads around the concept of multiple sex partners rather than multiple love partners. If it’s “just about sex,” maybe that’s something “normal” people can at least conceive of, if not actually consider for themselves. But falling in love with and expressing ongoing love for other people? Now that’s scary. Even for us.

I’ve been skimming a few other blogs and writings out there on the subject of open love since starting this blog. I see from my traffic logs from a lot of the search-generated traffic to this site appears to be people trying to evaluate if this lifestyle is for them. Maybe one thing that may set this blog apart is I don’t want to be an uncritical booster for open relationships. Over the last 18 years of living this way with Wife, sometimes it has come easily for us. Sometimes, it’s fucking hard. Lately, more so the latter.

Aside from always using condoms, we don’t really have any fixed rules about our outside relationships. We’ve always made it up as we went. We have a few other guidelines, but I wouldn’t call them rules. Don’t ever have sex with other partners in our home is one; one that’s been violated by each of us at least once or twice. Don’t fall in love with someone else so much that you leave me is obviously the big one, which thankfully has never been violated yet. As I noted in my Jealousy post, that’s the one everyone assumes will be our downfall, but I honestly don’t think we’re at much higher risk for that than all the frustrated and cheating “monogamous” folks out there.

Other than those, I can’t think of any others we’ve agreed on. But we’re constantly evolving the relationship as we go. For sure, the secret to success, ours anyway, is open communication. That doesn’t feel good? Why not? Can we find a compromise? We’ve been in that situation lately with respect to the love of others.

For most of our many years of doing this, I didn’t have many trysts, much less “relationships” with other women, still trapped by my high school insecurities around “seducing” the fairer sex. Then a few years ago, around the time I turned 40, that changed. I finally began to understand what of my qualities were attractive to women and how to bring them to the fore. For a little while, I was like a mutant teenager discovering my secret superpower, and I went on a tear and tried to bed as many women as I could. Wife wasn’t overly enthused about that, so I backed it off, and for the last year and a half or so, I’ve been satisfied with my loving relationship with Wife, a casual sexual relationship with a woman here in NYC (which we broke off amicably a few months ago), a loving relationship with a married (“cheating”) woman abroad (“The European”), whom I see a few times a year, and, another woman let’s call “The Free Spirit.”

Wife did have some trouble adjusting to my relationship with The European initially, because our passion and emotional connection was intense from the beginning. In earlier years, Wife had a couple of strong emotionally bonded relationship with other men outside of our marriage, but not for a while. She’s had a number of lovers since, but all of them quite casual. The European was really the first woman since Wife that I fell in love with (requited, anyway), and that wasn’t easy for Wife to witness. But recently, she’s come to more than just accept it, but to embrace it, as she’s come to adore The European herself. (Wife and I are both straight, so I’m just talking about friendship and respect, not threesomes, alas.)

But The Free Spirit is a different story. She and I have dated for more than a year, but for most of that time she was living on the opposite coast and we saw each other just a few times. Two months ago, however, she moved back to NYC. Wife was wary at the time, but I assured her I wasn’t going to fall in love with The Free Spirit. I was wrong.

If Wife ever does start blogging here, too (as I still fervently hope she will), I’ll let her get into her perspective on all this herself, if she wants (please don’t be cruel, Darling!). Let’s just say she wasn’t Spirit’s biggest fan. Among her other characteristics, The Free Spirit is considerably younger than us, rather bohemian in nature and forthright about her enthusiasm for sex (which she blogs about regularly, though I prefer not to make this so personal as to link to her identity). But vetting one another’s lovers has never been part of the equation, and I for one don’t want to open the door to that, so Wife’s perspective was duly noted but didn’t much alter our course.

Long story somewhat shorter, our passion built fast, Wife was unhappy about it, and The Free Spirit recently concluded the limitations on our love — her destiny to second-class status, never for her and me to fully share our lives — was too much to bear. Yesterday, she broke us up.

My writing style may come off as rather clinical, I realize, as my intention in this blog project is not to brag about my personal life but to share a perspective for those who are considering this way of life for themselves. But believe me, I’m brokenhearted. I remain hopeful we can find some new approach, tempering down the obsessiveness of our passion and remain in each other’s lives, and preferably also in each other’s beds. But it’s hard to know at the moment whether that’s likely.

The Free Spirit blames herself, but to me it’s clear that I’m to blame. I know how this story goes. A few years earlier, I had another single girlfriend, and the outcome was similar: the game ended in stalemate and we called it quits. (We’re still good friends, I’m happy to report.) It’s obviously to me by now that the singletons in the unholy triangles of love we have to offer get a raw deal. From the outset, I explain to all lovers that I have no intention to ever leave Wife. I love her deeply. We have our own satisfying sex life. We are planning our lives around the vision of growing old together. I’d certainly be happy to still be loving other partners in my dotage, as well, but it’s unlikely we’ll go the route of some communal cohabitation. Wife is my primary partner, and that’s that. That deal may seem fine when it’s all fun and games, but when emotions start getting intense, it’s not such a fair bargain for the outside party.

So if I know that already, why would I invite that fate for someone I care for? It’s a conundrum, like the Mobius strip: maybe I don’t care for her enough to defend her against it until I do care for her that much, and by then it’s too late. That sounds like lighthearted wordplay. But really it’s like an addiction. You always hurt the ones you love, right?

My addiction, I’m concluding in the wake of this, is perhaps love itself. More specifically, falling in love. What greater high is there in life than that? Yet like any powerful high, it can be a dangerous one. Falling in love is certainly one thrill polyamory affords couples that monogamy never can. Sure, traditional-minded couples may delude themselves into thinking they’re falling in love over and over every day. But really? After 18 years together? No. That’s “being in love,” if you’re lucky. But not falling in love. Maybe if you have a long shitty spell in your relationship and you play past it, it might somehow feel like falling in love again. But not really. The electricity of discovering a new personality, a new body, new emotions, it’s ineffable. And no amount of role-playing in the bedroom can come close to the real thing. You can’t bottle it. You can only experience it, should you be so blessed.

But there’s always too much of a good thing. I know Wife loves me deeply, and she knows I love her. We tell each other that several times a day. We are one of the most loving couples we know. How can we believe we’re so much in love and yet still want to love other people? It’s hard question to answer succinctly, and maybe a subject for a future post. But it’s true. And I know The European loves me, and I love her. So why isn’t that enough? Why should I be so greedy that I want to draw yet another woman close to me, beyond the point where I know it’s safe for both of us, for all three of us?

I don’t know the answer to that question. It disturbs me. I’m still thinking about it.

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Jealousy and Open Relationships

by Husband on June 9, 2009

In our years of living openly, I’ve heard some speculate that non-monogamy seems more consistent with the hardwiring of human beings than monogamy. I don’t believe it’s that straight forward. I feel like we struggle against two competing instincts: on the one hand, the desire for variety in our sexual and romantic lives, and on the other hand, jealousy.
This is a longish blog post, because the subject is complex. But to summarize: open relationships are not for the emotionally weak.

Another misconception people have is that Wife and I don’t experience jealousy. We’re human. Of course we do. True, we’re not inclined, as some are, to fits of blinding jealous rage. But we are familiar with the general concept. We just choose to manage those emotions instead of being consumed by them.

To summarize the definition of “jealousy” (Merriam-Webster and Wikipedia), it seems to be the fear of losing something or someone that you desire to possess. Perhaps that’s the secret to the open relationship, at least with respect to jealousy. We don’t greatly fear that we will lose each other. We trust in the strength of our commitment to each other.

People often ask us whether we’re not tempting fate by romancing others. It seems a naive question to me. What percentage of marriages fail? What percentage of “monogamous” couples stray? You hardly have to adopt an open marriage to be tempted. Rather the opposite, I find much greater confidence in knowing whom she’s with and the quality of her feelings about him than were I blindly trusting she had romantic notions for no one but me.

As I’ve noted before, our open marriage doesn’t simply mean the occasional hookup. We form emotional bonds and ongoing relationships outside of our marriage. We both have had relationship with others that have lasted a year or longer. This gives rise to jealousy in several dimensions.

The obvious interpretation is that I would feel jealous over her relationship with another man, or she over mine with another woman. We’ve experienced that, for sure. Honestly, it hasn’t troubled me much in recent years. I’m usually mostly pleased for her that she’s enjoying herself. I’m very secure in her love for me, so there hasn’t been another man in her life in a while who threatened my confidence that she’d stay with me. I’d like to say the same is true from her side, but I’d rather she speak for herself, if she ever gets around to joining this blog. Her feelings towards my girlfriends over the years have spanned cattiness, indifference and friendship.

It’s also important to distinguish between jealousy and envy. Early in the open relationship, when she was much more successful at finding willing partners than I was, I’d sit at home stewing in an emotion I realized was more envy than jealousy. It wasn’t that I wanted her to be back home with me and the guy she was out with to be dead and buried, it’s that I wanted to be experiencing the same thrill she was having. I was resentful because she had something I couldn’t so easily attain. (Thankfully, I’ve since found my inner-stud and have more luck with the ladies.)

Similarly, a girlfriend told me she was jealous of me, meaning she envied the fact that I could have my cake and eat it too: a stable relationship and the freedom to date.

Which brings us to the emotions not between me and Wife, but between me and my girlfriends. That’s where things get really complicated. Women I’ve dated over the years have been in a variety of romantic states themselves. A few have been married, including quasi-open relationships, or alternatively married and cheating. (A complicated question perhaps for another time.) Others have been single but taking me very casually. Another couple have been single and in the market for love, passing time with me in the meantime.

The last category is most complicated. It takes a very free spirit on her part to be able to engage with me emotionally yet not grow frustrated that my primary relationship is elsewhere. Definitely fertile subject for a later blog post in itself.

What set me to want to write this post however (ah, the point at last!) is the uncomfortable situation of my jealous feelings towards her other love interests. I mean, where do I get off feeling defensive about whom else she pursues? And yet I do! One lover in particular puts this in mind. During our relationship, she’s indulged in promiscuity and sexual adventurism, which itself provokes in me conflicting feelings of excitement on the one hand and what is really probably knee-jerk judgmentalism on the other (I blame society!), masquerading maybe as concern for her well-being. Like I am one to judge.

Moreover, to my mind, she’s made some regrettable choices in boyfriends. As I watched a new romance bloom, and her suffer his petty cruelties, I felt compelled to warn her off the guy. Part of this feeling I believe is objective, the good friend who you wish would say, “Honey, the guy’s just not right for you, and you’re too caught up in the passion to see that clearly.” But, I can’t be objective. I adore her.

I only know him through tidbits she shares (including references to their great sex, which doesn’t exactly help me keep a neutral opinion). Am I condemning him only out of my self interest, my desire to keep her single longer to be my part-time lover? Maybe what seem to me to be warning signs are only silly bumps in the road on their way to lasting love. I really do want her to be happy and in my rational mind think that should extend to my supporting her in her own pursuit of love. But maybe I, open marriage guy, am really not much more than a meddling, possessive, jealous jerk?

I told you it was complicated.

Corny, but a guiding principal in all this: “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be.”

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What do you want to hear from Wife?

by Husband on June 8, 2009

As I noted earlier, Wife and I recently celebrated 15 years of marriage. We have been living together for 18 years. For basically that whole time we have had an open relationship.

In the first few years, it was “don’t ask, don’t tell.” That is, we agreed we didn’t mind if the other fooled around outside of our relationship, we just didn’t want to know the details. Then, a few years along, we change the rules, and now we are completely forthcoming to one another concerning outside romances.
And romance is allowed. It’s not just about one-night-stands. Both of us have had emotionally invested relationships with others. What makes it work, I guess, is clear communication, honesty and trust. In the end, we are committed to one another.
I’m often amused when people ask, “Well, if that’s the case, what’s the point of getting married?” True, we don’t have kids and don’t want them, which doesn’t have anything to do with the open relationship. And we don’t truck with the monogamy thing. But beyond those two divergences from the norm, what defines a marriage exactly? We make our lives together. We keep our finances together. We have a good sex life with each other. We plan to grow old together. We make sacrifices for each other. And so on.
We realize people are fascinated by the unconventionality of it, and in truth we often enjoy tweaking their fixed assumptions about the world by revealing details of our lives. We thought a while ago we should write a book about it. But then we decided that we’d first try a blog and see how that went, and maybe transform it into a book later, if it merits it.
Problem is, I’m doing all the writing. Wife is a good writer, she’s just feeling shy. She claims to not know how to get started, what topic to write about.
So I invite you, our few readers thus far, to propose a topic. What would you like to hear Wife comment on in the context of the open marriage?

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On Marriage

by Husband on May 27, 2009

From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
You were born together, and together you shall be for evermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

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