I think the obvious place to start when you plan on sharing intimate details of your marriage and sex life is with an introduction. I’m Amber, I’m 29 and I’ve been married for seven years to my awesome husband who I adore completely. We have two kids together, I’m a stay at home mother, my husband is an engineer and we pay our taxes. I always kid that on paper, we are as ordinary and white bread as it comes.
But in reality, we are both free spirits, with a thriving sense of adventure and non-conformity. So when my husband presented me with the idea of having an open marriage, specifically to try out a polyamorous lifestyle, I was hesitant but secretly excited. Because let’s be honest, after eight years of being with the same person it’s not surprising that sex becomes a bit….mundane. We weren’t making intimacy a priority and the sex we were having was lackluster. We knew what worked, so we got to the end goal as quickly as possible. Our sex life had been hampered by parenthood and life and it was taking its tole on our relationship. We were both bored, mildly unsatisfied, and looking for something to stimulate us.
We started this thing all in. We had no boundaries, loads of expectations and a good heaping of manic energy. So of course it was a rough start. Navigating the world of “an Open Lifestyle” can be overwhelming. Polyamory, swinging, threesomes, friends with benefits, free passes all fall under the header of an open relationship. Starting out we had some experiences with open play; a sorta foursome when we were in college, a partner swap after we had our first child, drunk kisses with other people. Instead of taking our times and acclimating to the new feelings that having an open relationship brings we dived in head first. Flash forward a couple weeks in and I’m calling him on his way to a date, sobbing and hysterical. He had to cancel his date, end his relationship with the woman and we had to have a complete re-textualization of what we were doing.
Take my advice, start slow. Set boundaries for yourself and your partner that you both agree on. Be prepared to talk, a lot. In fact be prepared to talk more than you and your spouse have ever talked before. Because the reality is you will feel loads of FEELINGS, and the only way to work through them and not implode your relationship is to talk through them. Inform yourself. More and more people are discussing their experiences and what they’ve learned. Read what they’ve written, listen to podcasts and youtube videos. Knowing all the options helps you decide which path is right for you and your partner.
It took loads of false starts, canceled dates and conversations to set up a situation that worked for us. That’s when things finally started to get comfortable. Poly wasn’t working, so we downgraded the relationships we could have to friends with benefits. We agreed on once a week dates, a curfew, a few romantic don’ts (like hand holding and oral sex), and had calmed down enough from the initial manic burst that we could talk through issues without going haywire.
For my part, going on dates was fun. And really good for my self esteem. Going out with different people, getting to know them and hear their stories was interesting. As a couple what we got out of the experience was invaluable. We realized all the ways we had drifted apart, things we were sharing with each other, areas of our relationship that needed healing. Sometimes you don’t realize the cracks until there is pressure. Issues would crop up and it would be like a lightbulb going off. That’s right, we have these issues in all these other areas because we don’t listen clearly to each other, or we don’t take enough time to appreciate each other. My husband told me that he never really appreciated what he had until he met other women. We met and married young and there wasn’t a lot for comparison. But all of a sudden he started to really see me. To notice the little things I did for him, to notice my quirks and the things about me that he had fallen in love with. I felt so wonderful, so loved by him. And not “even though” he was seeing other women but BECAUSE he was.
And our sex life, oh boy. It has done wonders. As a mother it was especially liberating. I had put my sexuality on the back burner for years while I breastfeed, stayed up late rocking little ones, potty trained and dealt with skinned knees and tantrums. Even though we had exited that stage I was still stuck in that mentality, stuck in the idea that sex couldn’t be more than a quickie before bed. I can only assume a certain territorialism overtook me but I wanted him all the time. We made sex a priority, an activity we did after the kids went to bed. We literally exhausted ourselves. And because of all that talking we were doing we discovered and rediscovered sexual fantasies that we hadn’t talked about in years.
In a very anti-climatic way we are not actively engaging in an open relationship right now. But we tried it. With two kids, two side business and a full time job we decided we didn’t have the energy to continue. Balancing other people, time constraints and the emotional weight and time that jealousy takes to process proved to much for our life in its current state. So we put a semicolon on the experience and tabled it for another time. Because the thing about relationships is they need room to grow, to stretch and try things. Holding a rigid mentality that we either are or aren’t doesn’t allow us the space to try new things or to decide those things didn’t work out for us. We’ve already joked about the point when the kids are teenagers and we have more spare time for dating.