How Having an Open Marriage Made Me Think Differently About Monogamy

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When I first started sleeping with people other than my husband, I felt a thrill that doesn’t often feature in monogamous relationships: the delight of a new body, the febrile loss of a particular kind of security, the rush of fear. I also felt a newfangled interest in our relationship from those close to us. This interest sometimes looked like support, and other times judgment. Questions from those in monogamous relationships came thick and fast: “What if he finds someone better?” “Aren’t you worried that you’ll have better sex with someone else?” “What if you ruin what you have?”

Whenever someone close to you makes a seemingly out there life choice, it holds a mirror up to your own life. And the number of curious inquiries  that came my way after we decided to open our marriage left me certain that I had done what I thought everyone, at least secretly, wants to do: fuck other people.

Monogamy was out in the swinging ’60s and ’70s, then it came back in the ’90s, then it was out again. Apparently—at least from what I’ve heard from my chic friends—monogamy is back, again. But ask others—myself included—and non-monogamy is the only way to be. After a while in this camp, I feel like monogamy is too much to expect. Sure, all the terminology around open and poly relationships is aesthetically ugly, but the act of fucking, or falling in love with, multiple people remains a deeply rich experience. 

My partner and I carried on this way—a little smug—for a while after we broke the sacred tie of monogamous commitment. We would tell stories of our sexcapades over dinners and watch as our friends guffawed with what we assumed to be total jealousy. This is another dance we all do too: One where we try to work out, through the relative failings, successes, judgements, of our loved ones, our friends, if our lives are interesting, if they are enviable. We were living an enviable life, we thought.

Eventually our non-monogamous routine brought with it some complications. A year and a half after we’d made the decision to go non-monogamous, I was crying at a friend’s baby’s first birthday party while the sweet baby blew out their birthday candle because I had been ghosted by another lover. And there have been many days where the concerns of my friends have been justified. There have been days when all the romantic relationships in my life, and my one with myself, require sometimes torturous, and at the very least tiring, triage. There have been days when I’ve felt like I’ve raised a new consciousness, torn down a structure, and have absolutely no security at all. To exist in the truth of your non-monogamy, you must get comfortable with concealing certain parts of your emotional life from the person with whom you once shared it all. When it works, monogamy doesn’t require this from you. 

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