Exploring Non Monogamy After a Lifetime of Monogamy
A woman’s journey to sexual authenticity after 20 years of marriage
About two years ago, after almost 20 years of marriage, I wrote my first online dating profile.
Some couples are non monogamous right from the get go but in my case my marriage was monogamous for a very, very, very long time prior to us opening up (yes, it deserved all those very’s).
For more than 20 years my husband and I followed the societally acceptable relationship path of: meet, never have sex with anyone else, move in together, get married, have kids, stay married, ’til death do us part.
Except, one day, we looked at each other and admitted that our relationship was not entirely working for us. Yes, we reassured ourselves frantically, we loved each other, we were committed to each other, happy we had met of course… but…. Something was missing. Something fundamental.
Turns out, we both wanted to have sex with other people.
The transition from monogamy — the default relationship model that we never questioned while we were dating, at our wedding or for years afterwards — to non monogamy was a massive transition for us. It totally destabilized everything in our lives. It made us question the core of our relationship — why were we together? what did it mean that we wanted to sleep with other people? where we still in love? what would this do to our relationship? So many deep questions that we really didn’t know the answers to.
We plunged into a void. And, yup, we nearly drowned. The transition was not easy. We had to re-learn how to communicate with each other, re-develop a brand new love language, redefine the entire terms of our relationship together, re-evaluate what it meant to be together and re-define what love and commitment meant to each of us.
So, you might ask, how’s non monogamy going for us?
After we explicitly gave each other the permission to have sex with other people off we went to meet new people. We soon discovered that deciding to become non monogamous was one of the easiest parts of opening up our relationship.
“Non monogamy, as it turns out, is not for the faint of heart.”
You see, neither one of us truly understood how utterly destabilizing non monogamy would be. I thought that having the green light from my husband to have sex with other men would be super fun. Something that would bring spark to my life without being too disruptive or totally turn my life upside down. Yes, I am a fool.
In some ways it has been fun. It’s been wonderful, yes, to feel the tingle of a first kiss again. The whole having sex with someone new is pretty fun too. But that tingle in the loins has also come with lots of hard stuff. Like jealousy. And hurt.
The thing is, normally I get to talk about hard stuff in my life with my siblings and mother, or my BFF over a glass of wine, or even my friend-colleagues during coffee breaks. You know, the conversation that women are so good at? The sharing (that could also be described as bitching and moaning) about our husbands, our children, our lives. The conversations that make us feel less alone in our experience. More normal.
But I’ve been feeling pretty alone in this whole non monogamy thing. I haven’t been comfortable telling anyone about it. It’s been a secret from everyone I know. Why? Well for starters because no one has ever talked to me about anything like this. Ever. I have never ever — like never — had a single married friend lean over her wine glass and confide in me that her husband’s lover gave him an STD, or that she is exploring S&M with someone she is dating.
I have read the reddit posts and the Chatelaine articles so I know that non monogamy is happening out there. But no one seems to talk about it openly in my circles. And I have begun to think it’s especially hard to talk about this for women like me — the moms, the educated women with professional jobs, the women in stable long-term marriages that fit our society’s expectations about what a marriage should look like, the women who were raised to be “good girls”, “normal”, “responsible”…
I started to write about my experiences with non monogamy through my blog, on Instagram, Twitter and here on Medium because I suspected I was not the only one out there that feels this way. I knew there must be other people who want to explore their sexuality. Other people who want to live a life that is more sexually free and who have needs, desires, wants, cravings that fall outside of the usual boundaries of marriage. Through my writing, I found my people. The other, quiet, non monogamists who are exploring, often tentatively and sometimes fearfully for the first time in their lives what it means to live a more authentic life.
So why did we do it? What was I looking for? Has the experience been a success for me and for us? What does it feel like to sleep with a new man for the first time in more than 20 years? Is it worth it?
I will continue to explore some of those questions with myself and with you.