Coping Without an Open Marriage

Someone asked how I am coping with things right now. I have expressed my desire for an open marriage to Claire, but currently do not have one. Frankly, I’m doing fine. There is a lot of life to live that doesn’t include sex. I think the most stifling thing before was thinking there is no hope for the future. Having a future that could include an open marriage is enough right now. That we are talking about it. Reading about it.

We are talking about it. We just went on a road trip for a wedding and had some time to talk about the scenarios I discussed in my last post. That conversation went well. It was simply a thought experiment, nothing more. However that’s a big deal for Claire. She is not one who I can usually just talk about ideas with. She wants concrete. The fact that we had a positive conversation about possibilities was nice.

Also, it led to some pretty good sex. I’m telling you, Claire is secretly into it even if she can’t admit it. I don’t think she can even admit it to herself, but her body isn’t lying. Everytime we talk about something related to open marriage she gets super horny, and we have really hot, dirty sex.

When nothing else is working there is still porn, too. Not my preferred method, but it keeps me going on days when it feels pointless. I know porn isn’t a long term solution, but it buys time.

Overall I feel like I am becoming very in touch with me. With who I am. It is causing me to question many things I’ve held true about myself. I was always of the opinion that I was a monogamous man. That everyone who had other types of relationships was weak. That they were wrong. Now I’m looking in the mirror and seeing a person who feels comfortable and natural wanting to love more than one woman. Who actually enjoys the idea of my wife finding a spark with another man.

Where I previously used anger and blame to make monogamy seem right to me, now I feel hopeful and positive about the myriad of choices. I can look back and see my own arrogance. I’m not that person anymore. A new world is open to me. It makes me feel calm and hopeful. I know I just need to keep walking that direction. At some point there will need to be an actual change, but it doesn’t need to be today.

Two Thought Experiments

Over the last several weeks I’ve been going through a lot at work. That does not prevent me from continuing on my adventures with Claire. We are in much the same spot except we haven’t had a lot of time to discuss anything. It’s been simmering. Both Claire and I love each other very much. I know she’s thinking about us. I’ve also been doing a lot of reading on polyamory.

But today is about two thought experiments I’ve been pondering. The first had to do with my co worker, Hannah. She’s tall, beautiful, about my age and going through a divorce. She clearly needs to get laid as she has mentioned it to me and another friend several times lately. She’s struggling with how to go about it without her almost ex finding out.

I started thinking ‘what about me?’ We get along exceedingly well. She’s very sexy both in body and mind. There is absolutely no long term prospects for us. We are quite different. It could be exactly what she needs. Not only no stakes, but not even someone who will change their mind later and try to make it into something. Just a man in an open marriage who can satisfy those urges for now.

The likelihood of this happening is almost 0, but I enjoy thinking about it. From my side it would be an ideal start. A woman who just needs some rebound sex, and not trying to marry me. Someone we both know. Someone who cannot, even if she wanted to, keep a secret. And fun. Also sex is a really great way to become closer to someone. To bond with them. I would enjoy having a closer relationship with Hannah.

The next experiment has to do with a conference I recently attended. What if I had a pass while at conference? I could have casually dated any of the other attendees at the conference. Would have been fun and interesting. A conference fling that stays at the conference.

Honestly it’s not my ideal situation as I would prefer something with deeper and more long term prospects, but it still could be fun. Especially if there was a late night at the conference party where one thing led to another. To be free to follow that situation through is what I want.

Anyway just a couple of thoughts around this subject. Nothing in the works.

How I Feel About Claire

I love this woman I’m married to. Is she 100% of everything I need? No. No one is. But she is really good for me in so many ways. It’s up to me to take care of myself and fulfill my needs, not her.

However, I do need to respect her. Fulfilling my own needs may be my responsibility, but that does not mean I get to do whatever I want. It means I need to state clearly what I need. To work through it on my own and with my wife. To ask her for things I want to change, and respect her wishes.

If we get to an impasse then it may lead to a separation. With patience, kindness, honesty, and education I do hope it never comes to that.

Part of this process is also building trust. By bringing things out in the open, and stating my needs and desires it builds trust even as it may highlight our differences.

We have a shared life together. A wonderful shared life. For the first time in our lives together I can openly state what I want. We can discuss those things. We can discuss the things my wife wants. We can learn together about ourselves and each other. It may not go in the same direction everytime yet I hope we can support each other, and stay committed no matter how it turns out.

Claire is a wonderful woman. She’s really trying to learn and be open. It’s very hard for her, but she’s making progress. She is much more sexual than she used to be. It seems to be benefitting her too, which is good. Breaking out of her shell. She is working on her own friendships. She is working on parenting together better. She is working on spending time with me building memories. I want those things too.

It’s funny, when we were in counseling date nights came up. We both made a concerted effort, and have done them regularly. However she just wanted to go to a restaurant and talk. Not a bad idea as we don’t get to do that much, but I wanted to be fun again. To build memories. She was hesitant at first, but we’ve done a few now and she loves it. The activities do bind us closer together. It brings a different level of energy than just sitting and talking.

Overall Claire is doing alright. I’m hopeful. I’m working to remain hopeful and patient. I just ask of her that we keep moving forward, and continue putting good faith efforts into things. I hope that someday she can understand that I can love another woman, and still love Claire fully. Maybe more than I have before because she will finally be allowing me to be my full self.

How I feel about Polyamory

We are slowly continuing this journey toward polyamory. Or maybe just open marriage. Dust off the old model for marriage, and try something slightly different.

How is Claire dealing with it all? Better than expected. We are an adaptive species after all. Almost all the concepts are new to her, but rather than losing her shit she is trying to engage and learn. The idea of another person physically engaged in sex with either of us still makes her queasy, but lighter aspects of it do not.

For instance, she told me she is interested in going to bars and flirting with other people while we watch each other from across the room. Introducing the element of “the third” as Perell would say. But actual kissing or physical affection would be too much. It’s a step. Actually it is a nice idea, and I would do that with her for her. However I’m much too introverted for that to work for me. Plus I’m a guy who hasn’t dated in 20 years. I wouldn’t have the first idea of how to flirt with a woman at a bar. That isn’t how I operate.

Claire also started reading some racy novels involving polyamorous relationships. I think that’s a big deal. Simply exposure to a new idea can be a good thing. It doesn’t change anything right now, but it might change her on a base level to be more accepting of alternative situations.

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When I think of what would work, I actually think of a few different situations. The first being my relationship with my wife.

Primary

Claire is first and the most important. I do love her very much. We have built a great life together. We support each other well. We parent together well. On a family functioning basis we are an amazing couple.

The primary mission is to strengthen this relationship. Communicate then over communicate. Respect each other and our respective needs and desires. Recognize we cannot be everything to each other. Also reinforce daily our commitment to our marriage. No matter who we are sleeping with we can be committed to our marriage and living our lives successfully and happy together.

Secondary

Yet there are things missing in the primary relationship. Two things mainly. One is the kinky sex. I’ve talked about this before, but the secondary partner I would want to be a play partner. There must be an intense sexual connection with matching kinks.

Two would be an intense mental connection that Meredith and I had. The more I don’t have that, the more I desire it. In fact the kinky sex often flows from this intense mental connection. It is the core piece that I feel is missing in the primary. What that also means is that this person will be a core part of my life. Not just a side piece from time to time, but I need them as a friend first and lover second.

It would be preferable if this person were also married, and we were both secondary. This relationship will clearly be a challenge to handle for all the reasons having a second partner would entail. Communication and expectations will have to be known and accepted by all. A lot of communication.

It is up to me to meet my needs, and I think this is a great way to do that. It entails an enormous amount of risk and trust from Claire. I want this relationship to enhance my primary relationship rather than detract from it. I feel very positive about the idea, and want to approach it cautiously and methodically.

One thing I know for sure is that the emotions will be intense at the beginning. I will need to navigate those carefully to make sure I stay present with Claire and my family. After awhile I understand the intensity of the feelings often wear down to more manageable levels.

Lastly, having one ongoing secondary relationship is important to me. I don’t enjoy the thought of chasing strange every night. I want a long term relationship that we can build from. I know people who open there marriages for a variety of reasons, but mine would be for the friendship first.

Tertiary

Another aspect I’ve considered are tertiary relationships. To me these would be more casual and shorter term. More of an extended friendship with increased bonding, but no real long term prospects.

I often think of one of my co-workers who is going through divorce. She hasn’t been with a man for about a year since her husband left her. We are very close, but not in a way that would risk my marriage. Generally we are not each other’s types. Yet we are more or less attracted to each other, and we are close friends. It would be nice if it were socially acceptable to grab a bottle of wine, have dinner, and share a night with her. To be there with her and for her. It would bond us close together when she could really use it. Yet it would not be a long term commitment. Frankly she’s not in a position for a long term commitment.

That type of sexual bonding I think would be really amazing to be able to share. Clearly no risk to my marriage. Yet also not chasing strange at a bar. Just two people sharing an intimate moment in a string of friendly moments. For my coworker it would bond us closer together, and we would always have that connection even though the sex would end. Just part of a larger network of lovers and close friends.

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Open marriage continues to be on my radar. It answers the questions that have been plaguing me for decades. It is natural. More natural than monogamy. It will take more generations to be able to ever accept such a thing in society, but I can start small now with my own relationships discreetly.

The keywords being love and respect. We should be more open to loving and respecting those around us. With love often follows sex. And even if it is only lust I don’t think it’s wrong to follow it as long as you are open, honest and respectful.

Are We Monogamous?

I’ve been reading a book that questions the concept that humans are naturally monogamous beings. It puts to word many thoughts I’ve had. Just simply on the surface if monogamy is such a natural state for human beings then why are we so bad at it?

In nature there are monogamous species. Fewer than you think, but many none the less. You know what those species don’t need? A government or church telling them to be monogamous. They are that way naturally. In fact their physical features often reflect it. In purely monogamous primates the males and females are often the same size. Purely polygenous primates tend to have males roughly twice the size of females. There are many other physical features, including genitalia which indicate sexual social structure.

Humans do not tend to follow patterns that support monogamy. We are a very social animal. Sex is a very social act. In gorillas for example they have sex 12 times on average per pregnancy. Humans are over a thousand. It’s a social activity.

Yet we have been attempting to force monogamy for several millennia. Badly. Look at the rate of infidelity. Look at the divorce rates. Look at how hard it is to even define marriage across cultures. Monogamy is not a given for humans. It is not a done deal.

We are very social animals, and we create cultures which we adapt to. Our current culture is supportive of monogamy, but it is not that way in every culture or across time. We are adaptive to our culture, but that does not mean our biology is suited to the culture.

Exploration

Although I am still holding out final judgement Claire has really turned a new leaf. She admits that a lot of these things about sexual desires and open relationships scare her. But she also admits that a lot of it is because she doesn’t know about them. Which to me is a bit of a chicken and egg question, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

We ran through a sex questionnaire together, and she didn’t totally freak out. She admitted that she has a fantasy of being essentially raped. She admits that she likes the idea of giving up control of at least one aspect of her life, but she struggles with execution. She has started masterbating on her own. She has even watched porn, and we watched one together. Something we tried several years ago that she just walked away from saying it wasn’t really something she was into. She started reading a dirty novel about a couple who had another man join them. She also said she might be fine with creating our own at home porn video. Another thing that she’s flatly refused a million times.

In total she is exploring new possibilities in her mind. She asked me questions about what I like about another person. She told me why she was scared. She told me that when she really thinks about it some of these things are not that scary and she’s not sure why she’s resisted so long and so strongly.

And we’ve had some pretty hot sex.

Now I brought up the porn example because it was such a clear discussion point. It was literally the exact same conversation years prior that ended badly and never tried again. To me we have so many examples just like that, but they are often more subtle and hard to describe accurately. This example was very clear.

Honestly I think a lightbulb has gone off with Claire. A realization that we are sexual beings, and she has not been putting effort into it. Into me. Into understanding me or even allowing us to discuss or talk about sex. She admitted that many of her reactions to things would and did lead to me feeling shame. She doesn’t want that. She feels bad that she did it. She wants us to have a good sex life, too. But she doesn’t even know what that is for her.

I do feel this week for the first time she is really trying sexually for herself. Not just blaming me for being different. Some of the fantasies I told her about I’ve only told one other person. I want her to know these are important and difficult for me to discuss. I need to feel that she respects me, and that I can trust her. Due to ways our sexual differences were handled in the past it’s very hard for me to trust her.

Discussing non-monogamy

The last couple of weeks Claire and I have been dealing with what monogamy means. It’s everything to Claire. It seems she defines her life around her sexual relationship. Which is odd considering the sex isn’t that great.

When we discuss it she immediately jumps to the worst case scenario. We are going to get horrible diseases, there will be illegitimate children, and there will be no time for us. Which will lead to complete unhappiness – we may as well just get divorced now.

It’s hard for me to tell her that actually we are a bit odd being a couple that had only ever had sex together until recently. Most people we know, that we consider friends or family have had lots of sexual partners, none of them have horrible diseases, and are generally happy now.

It’s also hard to show her that monogamous marriage isn’t all it’s sold as. The failure rate is high. Even the ones that don’t fail at monogamy usually have some skeletons in the closet. It’s hard to explain to her how strong this sexual desire can be. Why it is such an important force in my life and in human nature generally. There are cultures where infidelity is punishable by death and it still happens!

We went to see the therapist and start talking about it. She got to say what was important to her. She got to say what scared her. I got to say what I think, and she was able to ask questions about it. I think it made an inkling of a difference, but we are still a ways off. I mean the crazy part is that we are talking about it. That’s progress.