Our starting points were almost as far apart as you can imagine. I wanted an open marriage in which we both could have sex with others, as long as we didn't lie to each other about it. He wanted to go back to what he thought was going on before - he can have sex outside the marriage, but I remain faithful. We each vetoed the other's starting proposal.
At first, the issue was sex. He came around to, "OK, let's start over, and both of us will be faithful and honest." I met him part way with, "Sounds good, but I'll remain faithful only if you can meet my sexual needs."
As we talked, though, it became clear that sex wasn't the only issue. Hubby was also concerned about emotional fidelity (specifically, he doesn't want me becoming emotionally attached to another man - with or without a sexual relationship). I was concerned about being controlled and monitored too much, living a life with no freedom at all. I'm not talking about sexual freedom, but the freedom to go out with friends if I want, the freedom to talk to whoever I want, and befriend whomever I choose.
My insistence on having some emotional space, coupled with my seeming nonchalance about whether he has sex with other women or not, flipped Hubby's insecurity switch, complicating our negotiations. I learned that no matter how much you tell a man that you are not going to leave him, once you have had sex with another man, he apparently will never believe you.
I pointed out to him that he was having sex with a bunch of women over a period of years, and he didn't leave me. He clearly understands the difference between sex and love. Why can't he believe that I know the difference, too? It seems that men are just wired to believe that they can fool around and still remain with the family, but women can't do the same.
To a man, a woman's infidelity is a huge betrayal, but his own infidelity is just a minor indiscretion that doesn't mean he is any less devoted to his wife.
So, how have we resolved this? So far, we have an agreement that has several components:
- We agreed that we will talk more and keep the lines of communication open. We are doing very well with this. I think we have talked more in the last two weeks than we have in any year of our marriage. We are checking in with each other emotionally a lot, and talking a lot more about what we each like sexually. We are also receiving couples counseling.
- We agreed that we will remain faithful to each other - at least for now - but that either of us can bring this up for renegotiation at any time. OK, I'll be honest. I'm not giving up my honey. So, I'm back to a little prowling, but much less than before. In fact, we get together so infrequently that it's almost like I've given up prowling, but not.
- We agreed that we would spend more time together to develop our relationship. This means bringing back our weekly "date night" and doing more things together. It also means that I'll only work late if I have no other choice and that I'll try to avoid weekend work, too. If you own a business, as I do, you know that this is no small commitment.
- We agreed that he would let me have time for myself and that he won't constantly monitor me. This means I can chat with Daunt or any other friend without his reading over my shoulder and constantly asking what we're talking about. It means I can go out with Cara and Daunt without getting the third degree when I return. It means I can choose my own friends, and have a couple of hours a couple of times a week all to myself. This may not seem like a big deal to many of you, but I have had to lie or sneak around to get any of these for the last 23 years.
The most surprising change? Our sex life. We have had sex on 11 of the last 13 nights. And not just sex, but really great sex! It seems that the idea of competition has caused Hubby to shift into high gear in the bedroom. If I had known this would happen, I would have 'fessed up much sooner. I expect it to cool down at some point, but it's really nice right now. I plan to enjoy it as long as I can.
Where do we go from here? Who knows? What matters is that we're still together, we love each other, and we're walking through it together.