From Monogamy To Open Marriage: Maybe Poly Isn't Right For Us

We didn’t plan for the times when we lost the work-life-play balance, and we weren’t ready for the frustration and guilt that can cause.

From Monogamy To Open Marriage is a weekly column devoted to the discussion of pursuing sex and love outside marriage. 


Our first experiences with other partners didn’t go as smoothly as we planned. After being monogamous for so many years, we foolishly forgot how easily first-time sex can go from “this is great!” to “wait, this isn’t how I thought it was going to go.”

There were significant things we failed to realize.

After painting elaborate pictures of what this fantasy would look like, we should have known that the hardest part about making fantasies happen in real life is the fact that real life involves real people. When actual people are involved, there are greater chances that things can go wrong or get awkward or become downright strange.

We prepared in the most obvious ways: date, time, location, clothing, underwear, toys, condoms, hair, makeup, waxing, shaving, and even snacks and drinks (for before and after). We mulled over hotels: cheap dive or lavish or something in between? (If we dine out a few times a week, we can certainly curb that to justify the cost of a nice hotel room.) We debated how to get comfortable: do we sit and have a drink first and chat or do we get right to it? We discussed how to initiate sex: Do I start with my husband? Do I start with the other person? Does he? Do we ask the other person what they’d like to do?
 
We feel that there’s barely enough time in a day to meet each other’s needs and we can’t imagine what it would be like to further divide our time and emotional energy to care for and be present for multiple partners.
Because we decided to start with no-strings casual experiences, we decided not to indulge in our fantasies with anyone we considered a friend. This sounds like it might simplify things. In many ways it does. However, in many other ways, it makes things more complicated.

We didn’t prepare for our first no-show. Nor did we prepare for the guy who decided that his first “move” would be to stick his finger in my belly button. We didn’t prepare for the guy with performance anxiety or the guy who went irreversibly limp once he put a condom on. We didn’t prepare for the woman who wanted to be best friends, who kept asking really personal questions. And we didn’t plan for the woman who repeatedly boasted about the color and texture of her vaginal discharge. (Note: some people are into that, but not everyone wants all that detail.) We didn’t prepare a good, graceful, respectful exit strategy for the times when we thought that it was just time to throw in the towel for no particular reason at all.

We didn’t prepare for the moments where we knew we’d burst out laughing (at someone) if we made eye contact. We didn’t prepare for how to get someone to leave when we wanted to go to sleep. We didn’t prepare for how to respectfully stop what was happening if one of us wasn’t comfortable. We didn’t prepare for the awkwardness that always comes with the first time. Some people are vocal. Some are quiet. Some finish quickly and some take forever. Some need constant approval and adoration. Some are cold and aloof.

We didn’t realize that overindulgence and too much sex can cause pain that lingers for a couple of days. We didn’t know that we could easily slip into a cycle of wanting more and more. We didn’t plan for the times when we lost the work-life-play balance, and we weren’t ready for the frustration and guilt that it can cause. And even though we were playing as safe as possible, we weren’t prepared for the frequency with which we would want to get tested for STDs, STIs, and pregnancy. We didn’t realize that we’d have to get good at lying to our kids about where had been or where we were going.

Even with a lot of trial and error behind us, we are still learning.

We aren't sure mixing casual sex and friendship is right for us. The new polyamorous friends we are getting to know make us wonder if actual polyamory would work for us. We feel that there’s barely enough time in a day to meet each other’s needs and we can’t imagine what it would be like to further divide our time and emotional energy to care for and be present for multiple partners. Maybe that will change for us in the future.

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