There’s a little “open relationship mini-quiz” that’s been making the internet rounds lately. It showed up here, and here. I thought I’d tackle it as well for your reading pleasure.
1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?
2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?
3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship? (I’m going to answer a slightly different question: what has been the best thing about opening your relationship? It seems more to the point here. Otherwise, it’s much more about the relationship in its entirety.)
4. Anything else you’d like to add?
Before I say a single thing, I suppose the context in which our “open relationship” evolved is important to understand. You can read all about it here. But the key point to realize is that we (and mostly, by we, I mean “I”) were not very good at monogamy. Or maybe, I never really gave it a fair shot. I don’t think it’s exactly accurate to say that I pressured T into our openness, but it is accurate to say that, when we started opening things up, it was increasingly clear that, for a variety of reasons, some having to do with my shortcomings as a man and husband, some having to do with my being an addict, and/or hypersexual, and others having to do with my being, as a friend says, a “mammal,” conventional monogamy simply didn’t feel an option, to me.
I don’t do lists of questions well. I can’t answer them individually, because the answers interweave with one another. So I’ll answer them all together:
When we started out, almost two years ago, I had unrealistic expectations. I imagined that things would be relatively simple, and symmetrical: we’d open up a bit, we’d each find fun and stimulating new sex partners, together and, possibly, apart. I didn’t imagine jealousy would be much of an issue because, I told myself, T and I were very secure in one another’s love for one another. I imagined that what we’d do would be “swinging” – simply finding some new body parts with which our body parts might interact sexually. I thought partners would be plentiful, and a sort of sexual bliss awaited us. And, I imagined that some of the… pressure… I felt as a failing partner in a nominally monogamous marriage might ease.
In the event, readers here know, it all ended up a bit different. Last things first: though I have, though we have, a lot of fun, I don’t know that we’ve found sexual bliss. We still struggle with the things couples struggle with – ebbing and flowing sex drives, mismatches in the ebbs and flows, imperfect sexual alignment both between us and with others, the challenge of finding suitable partners (other than one another), etc. Turns out, you don’t just hang a flag and meet a gazillion great people. Though there are lots of parties and clubs in our city, we haven’t found any one that simply answers our sexual prayers. Maybe this is because we’re picky, maybe it’s because life is complicated. (Incidentally, T has little patience for these places – to the extent that I go, I generally have to find a date of my own, itself not a little challenge.)
And, turns out, as much as I enjoy a little penis/mouth/vagina/ass play, what I really enjoy is the power exchange and anticipation in a fun dalliance. Turns out, going to a sex club and fucking that hot chick next to me is fun, but it’s not nearly as fun as having an ongoing relationship with her, in which she dresses as I request, undresses when I request, plays with herself as I request, and receives pleasure by giving me pleasure. It’s so much more fun if I can script an elaborate evening in advance, talk about it with her, negotiate it, and gradually feel the arrival of the actual sex as a wave approaching – one whose dimensions I can see (fuck, whose dimensions I designed). And it’s fun to watch T do the same, feel the same – more, it turns out, because it gets her hot and provides a hotness I can collect, can participate in, than because it actually gets her off in the moment. Though that too….
The whole NRE thing – “new relationship energy” – also is unimaginably hot. Getting to know another person, another couple, is insanely fun. Learning what turns them on, what turns them off, how they tick – that all gets my dopamine flowing, and my dick hard. I never guessed that. And even more than that, it turns out that sharing that NRE experience with T is insanely hot, and brings us together, intimately, in ways we never anticipated. In the presence of good communication, it turns out that all the vicissitudes of relationships – beginning with NRE and ending with either the joy of coupling, or the pain of rejection – are more… interesting… done with one’s partner. Or at least, with my wife. It’s more interesting, and it’s enriching, for our relationship, giving us a whole new field of intimacy.
As for jealousy, for a while, I thought it was an issue. There was a relationship T had that made me absolutely crazy with jealousy. But then, I read up on jealousy, and did a lot of thinking. And what I discovered? Was that I wasn’t jealous, I was envious. I had spent twenty years or more looking for sexual bliss on a journey of self-torture and misery, and T, in a matter of weeks, found someone, something, that totally clicked for her. Whereas my journey continued…. And then, I discovered L. For a period of three or four months, we had a torrid affair that changed everything. Suddenly, I was getting what I wanted, too. And the impact was remarkable. My “jealousy” abated, and I realized I was just upset that T was so content, while my quest continued. And my quest had as an essential characteristic the quest-ing, the not finding.
Alas, as with all things, my bliss with L was impermanent, and we returned to the status quo ante. But I was a little more chill, a little more at peace with my envy. It’s been about a year since then, and T and I have had a bunch of adventures – some together, some apart. Throughout, it’s been great for us. And honestly, I think much easier than conventional monogamy ever was for me. (I won’t claim to speak for us.) But it did let off a considerable amount of steam….