Why do most people assume that all 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 for divorce.
This state of affairs—couples who experimented with nonmonogamy and wound up divorced won’t shut up; couples who experimented with nonmonogamy and are still together won’t speak up—allows smug and insecure monogamists to run around insisting that there’s no such thing as happy, stable monogamish couples.
“You know lots of couples who have had three-ways and flings who aren’t divorced,” I told the skeptics a few weeks ago, “you just don’t know you know them.” In an effort to introduce the skeptics to some happily monogamish couples, I invited coupled people who’ve had successful flings, affairs, three-ways and swinging experiences to write in and share their stories. The response was overwhelming—I may do a book—and I’m turning over the rest of 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. There is no question that our relationship is our first priority, but just 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, both GGG, 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, a strange thing happened: 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. She understood; we went our separate ways. So I had a four-year affair without getting caught. Here’s how I pulled it off: I never told anyone about it; 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 LMGs—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. (We have a rule about not inviting someone into our bedroom who we wouldn’t be friends with outside the bedroom.) That said, 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 the gays are destroying marriage/the country/the fabric of the universe. Even other gays get judgmental. So, at least 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 who gets a golden ticket into our bedroom.
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, almost exactly 10 years older than me, confessed a cuckold fetish to me shortly before our fifth anniversary. I said no, but a seed was planted: 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, who happens to be exactly 10 years younger than me, 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. (“Gratitude and attitude,” my boyfriend calls it.) 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 live in a part of the country, or move in social circles, where we could be honest about any of this with anyone.
From the outside, my husband and I look like a boring vanilla married couple. In fact, people have included me in judgmental conversations about open relationships. But the truth is, 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. Long story short: 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. Maybe it’s cowardly of us, 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. (We even double-date from time to time!) No, there’s nothing lacking in our marriages. Our parents, relatives, children, friends and co-workers 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 I do send it, and if enough people send their stories, maybe one day we can go public and it won’t be a big fucking deal. That’d be awesome.
Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.