I read the Huffington Post online. I read the Huffington Post because it links to other publications and because I never know what kind of story or blog I’ll find there. So a few days ago I was surfing the site and this headline snatched my attention. A Glimpse Into The Lives Of Couples With Open Marriages. And then I watched Open Relationships Are Good For Married Couples, Sociologist Argues.
“Oh…”, I thought. Is there really anything more to say about casual sex? Back in the day, the seventies to be exact, we called it free love. “Free” had nothing to do with money. Free was about the freedom to enjoy sex without fear and the disapproval of others. Free meant the uninhibited expression of our God given wants and needs. Free meant the ability for a woman to choose her sex partners on her terms. Free love established the first sexual liberation of women, and it had a name. My generation called it, The Sexual Revolution. And it was.
As we know, before the sixties and feminine birth control, having sex was a huge risk for young women but also for young men. And yeah, we guys knew about condoms. You could buy them from vending machines in truck stop men’s rooms. Still, I don’t remember any of us using them. It was irresponsible but in 1967, nobody worried about AIDS, just babies, and we boys left it up to the girls to watch their menstrual clocks. So if a girl got pregnant, it was HER fault, right?
I never bought into that cruel hypocrisy. I think I was born feeling responsible for everything, including a girl’s broken heart. So as a teenager, I didn’t dive deeper than hot make-outs. Then everything changed. While in college, the “pill” and IUD’s hit the scene. They were available in big city free clinics and for the first time, ever, females could be in charge. Just like boys and men, if they wanted to make love, they could do it, safe from pregnancies. Or they jumped for playful sex, fear-free! This was new.
Back to “open marriages.” My wife and I have been living in one of those from the get-go, but it has nothing to do with sex. It’s about having separate creative pursuits, hobbies, friends and time by ourselves. It’s about growing individually so we can come together with new ideas and enthusiasm and share that. Having sexual discovery with others is a dumb idea. Why? Because even now, neither of us want to take on the doubts, suspicion and insecurities that come with that.
- Is she talking about things with him she’s too afraid to share with me?
- Will he want a younger woman forever, now that he had one last night?
- Is she getting emotionally attached to that guy even though we agreed it would only be about sex?
- Will he ever think I’m attractive again?
- Is she getting jealous, even though I explain it’s just arousal from the waist, down?
- If it’s just new sex he wants, what does that make me? His maid?
- Why is he so hot for her? Is she doing something special for him she never did to me?
- I wonder if he’s dreaming about her…or the other one.
- Now that we’re sleeping with others, is there anything private and exclusive about our marriage that makes it special and just for us?
- Does he still love me? Does she still love me?
Now maybe my wife and I are just overly insecure. Maybe we don’t trust each other enough to push the boundaries, ‘cause sure, we’re attracted to other people from time to time. Isn’t everybody? In the past, we talked about the temptations when they came. Now, as oldies, we’re happy when it happens again. It reminds us we were young once.
But as you know, not many couples talk about the temptation of affairs. They just have them, sometimes in secret, sometimes not. When they’re not hidden, we’re back to open marriages. Maybe yours is one of them and nobody’s getting hurt. Maybe you and your spouse are more emotionally evolved than me and my wife and don’t question your love, even with other lovers.
Or maybe you can do something I could never do: compartmentalize. Maybe you can mentally wall-off experiences with multiple partners and never get anything mixed up, like accidently mentioning that great massage when it wasn’t about your own marriage.
Maybe you don’t “process” your escapades by talking about them, so there’s no need to censor your thoughts and words.
Or maybe your spouse is so secure that you can detail some other-partner turn-on and try it at home. Maybe that replayed touchy-feely thing is just as rich in Marriage Land and you two will live happily ever after.
But maybe that added outside sex will never re-spark your at-home sex, no matter how many new crotches you both bring into the game.
If the thrill is gone, along with the intimacy, what’s left to make your marriage exclusive and special? What promises remain unbroken that undeniably prove you are both the most important person in each other’s lives?
What is your love about?
Years ago, in the midst of that Sexual Revolution and Free Love I talked about, I had the chance to test most of the questions in this post. Although I wasn’t married, I had multiple partners and with each date, I did my best to compartmentalize and make the individual interludes special and unique.
I remember so clearly the girls insisting they didn’t want commitments. “No strings attached,” they said. No, we weren’t dating. We were hanging out and having fun, getting stoned, listening to music, talking about deep shit, going to movies and fucking our brains out. And being the trusting dude I was at the time, I believed the definition… until that time when two girlfriend “appointments” overlapped.
I had to push back my restaurant promise with Trish an hour and half so that Wendy could leave town. She missed her bus ‘cause we couldn’t get out of my bed in time to catch the 7:30 to Gainesville. And so, having dropped off Wendy at the bus station, I speeded across Atlanta to pick up Trish ninety minutes late. I then sat across from her at the Pleasant Peasant, shelling out mucho bucks for $$$ food I could barely afford AND eat ‘cause I was stuffed from my $$ meal with Wendy an hour before.
You know where this is going. No-Strings-Attached Trish had all kinds of hurt going down. She was pissed and I learned my first truths about the female persuasion.
- Women want commitments, no matter what they say.
- They want to be the shiniest star their man’s life, no matter what they say.
- With the right guy, if they’re not married, they want to at least live like they’re married…no matter what they say.
So yeah, I confessed to Trish and that pretty much ended all the deep talking and sport sex. In a way I was relieved. I didn’t like having to keep track of what I did with Wendy and what I did with Trish and what happened with Carol or Dana. I found that censoring thoughts cut off my spontaneity in each relationship. Holding back information was not exactly lying, but it wasn’t being honest either. And connecting the dots, I realized I couldn’t love and lie at the same time, no matter how much rationalization I threw into the mix.
Finally, and this was the biggest lesson of all – I found that lots and lots of sex with lots of women still left me lonely. The bed romps were fun but my soul wanted more. It wanted to be heard and it wanted to be understood. It wanted a loyal friend it could trust, and it couldn’t have that with No-Strings-Attached.
But ya know, I wouldn’t have known what I really wanted had I not played the field as a single man. Going into that “only you” promise, I had already committed to forever monogamy. And my beloved bride had done the same. We both knew that being open and free was all about protecting the trust and making it special.
Never stop making it special.