It’s a statement I have heard a lot recently. Then again, I’ve also heard:
“People in open relationships do so because they cannot make their committed and/or monogamous relationship work.”
So, let me muddy the waters a bit with my own recent realization – I am monogamous – but in an open relationship.
Confused? Me too when I first had this realization.
In thinking about that first statement, I started examining my reaction to it. Why do I, a woman in an open relationship with my husband, still feel monogamous? Is it because I have been with the same man for almost 19 years – so it’s a habit?
Nope – because I am monogamous.
Monogamy by it’s definition can mean a couple different of things. Often it is associated with “the practice or state of having a sexual relationship with only one partner.” But, according to the New Oxford Dictionary, monogamy also is “the practice or state of being married to one person at a time.” That is the less commonly used definition – yet, in this dictionary, it was the first definition.
Despite what others may believe, I am in a committed relationship with my husband despite the fact we have sex with others. He and I have a degree of emotional intimacy that I do not have with my playmates nor he has with his. We are partners in life.
Sex, for me, is exactly what I call it – a time to play. While we may play naked, we don’t have the same emotional connection or emotional intimacy that my husband and I do.
But that is the thing, I am not looking for that outside of my marriage as I have that inside my marriage.
I have found friendship in some of my playmates. I have mentioned several times how TL is one of my best friends. A nice, unexpected consequence of our meeting during swinging. SG and I also have a friendship, but the focus is mainly on playing which is fine with me. The rest of my/our playmates are great people, fun to hang out with, but are playmates. And I’m good with that because I’m not looking for anything more. I want to like the people I play with; I am not looking to get something emotionally from them that I do not have from my husband.
For me and others, sex is a separate thing from intimacy. Don’t get me wrong, when coupled with the emotional connection, it is a great thing but often a different beast in a similar vein to how making love is different from fucking.
But separated, sex is exploration. It’s trying something new and different. It’s about exploring a fantasy that maybe isn’t explorable with your current partner. It’s about adding people to mix that bring with them their own ideas. It’s about fun.
For some people I know like TL, it is their creative outlet – their medium if you will. It’s a way to blow of steam after a long week – a time to have fun. It is simply play. Pushing boundaries – giving someone a safe way to explore their fantasies.
For SG, it is an outlet for his bondage play – for his control play. An outlet his wife fully supports because it’s not the way she likes to play, yet she doesn’t want to deny him that same exploration and outlet.
And that’s how sex is different from the emotional monogamy. It is why when someone makes a comment about monogamy or a comment about people in an open relationship not being committed, I struggle with it. I am committed to my husband. I just know that, for us, intimacy and sex are not mutually reliant meaning one does not have to occur with the other.
But what about cheating, how is being open different from cheating?
Cheating occurs when the relationship has issues – usually communication issues or intimacy issues or both are the root cause. If someone goes out and sleep with someone else, the sex isn’t the the driver of that act – something else is. That something else is the problem – is the reason they are not committed to their current relationship. Sex is merely the symptom. I know people who have cheated because they aren’t communicating in their relationship, so they go outside to try to find what their relationship lacks. It’s easy to say sex is what is lacking when, in reality, it’s something a little less simple than sex. Something the cheater may have responsibility for not providing in the relationship as well. Do not confuse sex as the problem. The relationship has the problems. The people in it have the problems. Take out the sex, and those problems will still exist in the relationship.
And I think it is easy for those in a cheating relationships to confuse sex with intimacy. I mean, you are laying in a bed together, naked, genitals pressing against each other – and it seems like intimacy – but, it is not. It is merely sex confused with intimacy.
And that is where I am not like a cheater. Our communication is solid – it has to be to keep this going. And at the end of the night, nothing is better than coming home, laying in bed with my husband, and sharing with each other the details of our fun night together – followed by some intimacy.
So am I sexually monogamous. No. That’s pretty clearly.
But am I monogamous. Yes. Yes, I am. As I cannot imagine sharing my life with anyone else but him.
And that very important distinction trumps sex every time.
9 Comments Add yours
Seriously (rests forehead on palm) you’ve got to stop. This is getting spooky.
One of the things I’ve had trouble articulating is this very notion; that I am not polyamorous yet neither am I an emotional island. Vincent is my husband, the one I plan to be hanging out in the rocking chair with 40 years from now. However, I do see sex as an enjoyable activity, one that can enhance a friendship and expand a person’s life experience while harming no one.
I’ve also discovered on this little journey that exploring a sexual fantasy with someone who doesn’t share that same desire is, well, less than fulfilling. It’s not fair to ask one person to be all things at all time to their partner; nor is it fair to limit one person’s life expereiences to suit the other partner’s lack of interest.
I don’t want to be married to anyone but Vince. Fulling these other desires with people I like and enjoy doesn’t change that in the least.
You and Ivey, you’re a pair of smart chicks ;-p
Don’t get me started on the whole “we’re compromising our commitment to each other by swinging” BS we’ve both seen elsewhere. Those who say that don’t have a freakin’ clue what they’re talking about.
You have a strong grasp on what it is you have in your marriage and what that commitment is – I just want to say I’m happy you’ve articulated it well, because most detractors of open marriages can’t understand the separation you’ve discussed here. I hope they read it.
Where you and I are similar in many respects, here is where we are different.
I am the cheater, while you are the monogomist. I ‘feel’ like my communication with H is strong in all respects – except for my relationship with DL. But my cheating isn’t the garden variety kind, and our intimacy stems much further back than the sex (though I agree, most cheaters do mistake sex for intimacy).
I guess I’m just happy you both have found what works for your marriage and are happy to explore the sexual side with each others blessings. It’s a rare and very loving gesture.
Ivey – I think you make a great point about not being an emotional island. I love my friends, for example, but I’m not IN LOVE with my friends. It’s okay to have emotions which I think is another misconception people have about swingers – we do have emotions. They just aren’t the same as with our primary partner.
Hubman – Your comment about the commitment piece is what has had this post percolating in the back of my head. This arrangement isn’t for everyone. I won’t disagree with it. For some people, intimacy and sex are intertwined to the point where they cannot be separated. I respect that totally. For me (and you and others), it is. It doesn’t change my commitment level to my partner. If it started to, that would be a different problem – and one that would have appeared swinging or not, IMO. 🙂
Topaz – I struggled with the cheating issue in this post as I don’t think it is black and white. So for simplicity sake, I made it black and white. I know many people who have found grey in it. I think polyamory creates some grey area in this one – which sounds like you have a bit of going on (with the exception of H knowing).
I am monogamous like you are and I am not sexually monogamous…just like you. What I liked about your post is the fact that you made an argument for a clear separation between monogamy and open relationship.
My wife and I are NOT in an open marriage. To me, “open marriage” means my wife and I play with others…without each other. That is not the case with us. We grant each other permission to play with others only if we want to. Otherwise, we would play with others together.
You nailed it with the intimacy argument – being naked and/or having sex does not equate to intimacy. Intimacy is, as you said, sharing feelings with your loved one…not the “Fuck me harder! Oh yes! I like that!” type. 😉
I have often asked myself why my wife and I would play with others or why I would want a playmate and the answer is “Because my wife loves the idea of me with another woman and I love coming back to my wife afterward”. Sometimes I do wish I have a playmate on a consistent basis, but what can I do when everyone wants my wife instead? LOL
I agree – it’s sometimes a big decision what to include/exclude from a post, but all in all, you did a great job of choosing what proved the point. That’s what matters 🙂
Absolutely love this post. I have had some of those opposing thoughts in my head. And due to some circumstances I am beginning to think about what is best for me.
Today so many people are not trying to make their marriages work they just want to be with someone else because the grass is greener on the other side. If you don’t have stability in your marriage how can you share any part of you. But I have to admit I do NOT like being 2nd or 3rd in certain areas.
I also say if these are things both agree on then baby have a great time. (That has benefited me as well) wink wink
Interesting take on monogamy. I honestly think there isn’t a ‘clear’ cut and dry take on it. Everyone has their own. While I don’t have the same view point….
(bc I *do* get emotionally involved…but what I always tell people who don’t understand is that while I’m emotionally involved with someone else…I’m not ‘shopping’..I have a husband and am very happy with him w/ no intent of replacing him- EVER)
I enjoy reading someone else’s though- esp someone as bright and articulate as yourself.
Great post! xo
You have captured the sentiment perfectly. Do I care about the people I have sex with? Absolutely, while I can compartmentalize a little, I’m not a rock. Do I even love some of these people? Absolutely. Some of the people I play with are dear, dear friends.
Do I love them the way I love Hubman? Nope. Lovers will come and go, but I only have one Hubman.