From Monogamy To Open Marriage: The Decision To Have Sex With Other People

While curled up in his arm one night I said “Let’s do it. Let’s try something.”

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


Right after my divorce almost 11 years ago, I classically rebounded with a man who was my proverbial defibrillator. With a huge jolt of every possible exciting thing that seemed to be missing from my life, I felt like he revived me. It wasn’t just sex. He also helped me throw myself in full force back into socializing, casual (but excessive) drinking, fitness, and creativity. Add these things to a brand new relationship with two very sexually charged people and it’s an inevitable roller coaster ride with a crash landing.

In the beginning, Mr. Rebound seemed to be a perfect match for me. We could not get enough of one another and every day felt like a wild and crazy adventure. Compared to the dreary drone-like state that ruled the marriage I had just ended, he made me feel like we were swinging from tree to tree together, yelling like Tarzan and beating our chests. We played in excess, spent money in excess, drank in excess and of course, had sex in excess.  

While in this relationship, for the first time, I experienced regular, planned sex with strangers and multiple partners. We found couples and single men online. We flirted with people at the gym and at bars and were bold and forward with our propositions. We delighted some and offended many. We didn’t care.

The seeking out and indulgence in instant gratification became a central part of our relationship, until it wasn’t fun anymore. Mr. Rebound was equally impulsive when it came to his emotional reaction to our open casual sex life. Sometimes, he was thrilled and enthusiastic in finding new people and arranging pleasurable experiences. Other times, he was jealous and seething with feelings of betrayal. We’d drive home after what I thought was a fun, consensual evening while he barked out questions that confused the hell out of me:

How can you do those things with that couple?

Did you like fucking that guy more than you like fucking me?

How can you say such dirty things? (in the throws of multiple orgasms while he encouraged me)

Why do you enjoy this so much?

Why can’t I be enough for you?

We weren’t cut out to be a couple in an open relationship. We weren’t cut out to be a couple at all, obviously, but Mr. Rebound had some serious inner dilemmas over what we were doing. We agreed from the beginning that if one of us was uncomfortable, we would refrain or leave or decline any plans or opportunities involving sex with other people. I thought that would eliminate problems. Mr. Rebound alternated between celebrating and judging my sexual desires. We still had a lot of tension and strife. Thankfully, that relationship only lasted 10 months.

Years later, when my husband first approached the subject of opening our marriage, I was hesitant. He knew my experience with Mr. Rebound convinced me that sexual indulgence with others was a surefire way to sabotage a relationship and I might be hesitant for that reason. Thoughts of the fun we could have together excited me, but I was so afraid of the risk. We dropped the subject, promising to discuss it again in the near future.

Months later, he asked me if I’d consider reading a book that he had heard about. Three days later, I opened the mail and there was a package with the book Sex At Dawn inside. This book went into depth about the evolution of monogamy in humans and demonstrated fairly good reasons that proved monogamy might not be natural. Before I finished the 5th chapter, I made my decision. While curled up in his arm one night I said “Let’s do it. Let’s try something.”

We discussed my past reluctance and I told him that I believed that my confusing, terrible experience with Mr. Rebound would not be what would happen to us. We could enter into this carefully and slowly. We could promise to communicate all feelings and apprehensions without letting every twinge of discomfort rule every decision. We were in no hurry; we would be loving and supportive and in favor of mutual pleasure. Could it be that simple?

Spoiler alert: No.

...to be continued

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