Why do most people assume that nonmonogamous relationships are destined to fail? Because we only hear about the ones that do. If a three-way or an affair was a factor in a divorce or breakup, we hear all about it. But we rarely hear from happy couples who aren't monogamous, because they don't want to be perceived as dangerous sex maniacs who are destined to divorce.
This state of affairs allows smug and insecure monogamists to insist there's no such thing as happy, stable monogamish couples.
A few weeks ago, in an effort to introduce skeptics to some happily monogamish couples, I invited coupled people who'd had successful flings, affairs, three-ways and swinging experiences to share their stories. The response was overwhelming — I may do a book — and I'm turning over this week's column to their stories.
My husband and I have issues like any couple, but I still smile when I see him walk into a room, and he still takes my hand when we're walking down the street. For the past seven years, we have been "monogamish." It started off with a discussion of "If you ever cheat on me and it's a one-time thing, I wouldn't want to know." Then, when he turned 40, we had a threesome with a female friend. When I actually saw him "in the moment," I didn't have the jealous feelings I had always feared. Our relationship is our first priority, but the possibility of a little strange now and then makes him feel like a stud. (And I reap the benefits!) I don't much care for sex without emotion and affection, so my flings have been rather limited. We haven't told our families or more than a couple of friends. I don't want to deal with the judgment of others.
For the first five years of my marriage, everything was great: lots of sex, lots of love. Then my wife's libido failed. Whatever the problem was, she couldn't articulate it. After a year where we'd had sex twice, I reached out to someone else. I used Craigslist and I was honest: I explained that I had no intention of leaving my wife and that I was looking for someone in a situation similar to mine. It took months to find the right person. We struck up a years-long affair. At the same time, I had a wonderful-yet-sexless marriage. Then, after nearly four years, my wife's libido came back strong. To this day, she cannot explain why it left or why it came back. With the reason for my affair gone, I ended things with my fuck buddy. And you know what? Years of honest talk made this easy.
So I had a four-year affair without getting caught. Here's how I pulled it off: I never told anyone, I chose a partner who wanted exactly what I wanted, we didn't film ourselves (as hot as that sounded), we used condoms, I kept my computer clear of any evidence, and we never called or texted each other.
My husband and I are monogamish but also legally married gays. We feel tremendous pressure to be perfect. The thing is, we are perfect. We love each other, we support each other, and we have amazing sex with each other — and the occasional cameo performer, who is always treated with respect. The fact that Ron and Nancy down the street are swingers will raise eyebrows, but it won't impact the perceived legitimacy of mixed-gender marriage. But if Ed and Ted happen to invite a third into their bedroom, that would prove gays are destroying marriage/the country/the fabric of the universe. Even other gays get judgmental. So for now, our monogamishness is on a strictly need-to-know basis. And who needs to know? Just our sex-positive doctor and the occasional hot third.
I agree with you that we rarely hear about successful marriages that are open. How do I know? I just discovered that my parents are swingers — and they have been married for 26 years!
My husband confessed a cuckold fetish shortly before our fifth anniversary. I said no, but whenever I would develop a crush on another man, it would occur to me that I could sleep with him if I wanted to. Five years later, my boyfriend of two years was one of the guests at our 10-year anniversary party. My boyfriend is a good-looking grad student who adores me and values my husband's advice about his education and career plans. He treats my husband with the perfect blend of affection and contempt. I enjoy my boyfriend, but I love my husband more than ever. My husband is not allowed to have sex with other women (he doesn't want to, anyway), and he's not allowed to have sex with me without my boyfriend's permission (which he usually — though not always — gets). Our families would be appalled. We simply don't move in social circles where we could be honest about this.
From the outside, my husband and I look like a boring vanilla married couple. But for nearly as long as we've been together (three-plus years), we've had a semi-open relationship. My husband is bi. When he told me after a few months of dating, years of Savage Love reading helped me to keep an open mind. We worked out rules that were mutually agreeable. Now he can hook up safely with guys and come home to a loving wife with whom he can be completely honest.
I'm a happily married woman ... and so is my girlfriend. But no matter how simple our relationship seems to us, the people we care about would not understand. Yes, we do this with our husbands' blessing. No, there's nothing lacking in our marriages. Our parents, relatives, children, friends and coworkers know we're close. But I don't see the need to tell anyone the entire truth. I was on the fence about sending this email — that's how little fuss we make about it. Then I thought, if enough people send their stories, maybe one day we can go public and it won't be a big deal. That'd be awesome.
Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.