When my wife and I first began hooking up with others I have to admit that it was purely a sexual pursuit. It was about the adventure of discovering and entering new erotic realms, it was about the excitement of getting naked with strangers, it was about that feel-good feeling that you get when you add on a new partner.
What I didn’t know at that time was how far non-monogamy would extend beyond sex; how deep this type of exploration with another person can really go. Windows were opened that I didn’t previously know existed and marriage has progressed to places that I didn’t know it could. At this point, sex has become the force that drives us to cultivate new experiences which enhance our connection, partnership, and love. Let me explain.
Swinging improves connection
If you feel fully comfortable revealing to your partner your inner sexual desires you probably feel comfortable telling them anything. Conventionally, our sexual desires — especially the ones often labeled divergent — are something personal, private; it is something that is closed up within the walls of the self that usually doesn’t get shared with the outside world — especially with your significant other, who happens to have stakes in your sexual ambitions. These divergent desires are normal, but tend to stay locked down beneath the clamps of monogamy. My feeling is that this is sad — both for you and your partner, who more than likely has similar hidden desires themself.
I can’t say that my wife and I had poor communication before we became non-monogamous, but I will say that we only had a conventional toolkit. Communication was something that we just took for granted that we knew how to do, and we had no idea how poor at it we really were. We would keep things from each other, treated our minds like separate safety deposit boxes, and often weren’t connecting nearly as much as we otherwise could have. However, this was something that we didn’t even acknowledge — we simply didn’t know what was possible.
But it wasn’t until we had a complete break down of communication and trust and entered marriage counseling that we realized that communication was something that we should — and could — work on. During our first session, the counselor taught us a new way of communicating. It was extremely elementary. It was dumb. It felt awkward. But it was something that hit me like a well swung bat … because it worked.
Whenever she said something I would listen and then I would repeat back to her what I heard her say and then she would affirm that we had connected. Then when I would speak she would repeat back to me what I said and then I would affirm that we had connected. If we missed the mark we would circle back and try again.
The counselor made us practice this, week in, week out. He made us practice it so often that even years later we just talk this way to each other without even thinking about it. It has also allowed us to communicate uncomfortable things without impediment. There was just something about the formalization of communication that limited adverse emotional response an increased our ability to connect.
We then took this strategy further when I borrowed an idea from an older poly couple who told me that they have a weekly couples meeting. So we started sitting down together each Monday, where we would write up an agenda, take roll call, and have a meeting about how we felt about the previous week and what we were planning for the week ahead. We’d essentially read each other’s status reports and discuss how we would proceed moving forward.
Having a formalized space for discussion emboldened us to talk about things that we felt could potentially provoke anger or argument — the kind of things that you often don’t bring up out of fear of the outcome — and it was through the discussing of these difficult topics that drove our connection even closer. They also removed the need to talk about certain issues all the time — we had a time and a space for discussing such things, and this allowed us to focus on other aspects of our relationship the rest of the time.
Today, we use the methodologies that we first devised to communicate our feelings about sex to communicate just about everything — our meetings are no longer just about fucking other people, our conversation method is no longer enacted just to talk about the erotic. But ultimately, if it wasn’t for our external sexual forays we probably would not have developed the communication platforms that we did, and we probably wouldn’t be as close as we are today. The reason for this is simple:
Non-monogamy is fundamentally based on connection and this only begins with sex.
Removes the need to be someone’s everything
I feel that one of the biggest pressures in modern relationships is the expectation that you can be another person’s everything … and that they will, in turn, be your everything. It’s an expectation that few relationships can manifest over the long-term, and it’s my suspicion that this is why most break down over time …
There has perhaps never been another time in human history where partnered men and women operated so closely with one another. In most traditional / tribal societies there is a clear line between men and women — they work separately, play separately, and in some cultures even sleep separately. We’re an animal that once spent a lot of time cultivating our identities / roles / relationships apart from the person that we’re partnered with. These other social structures have largely broken down in our society — in many ways this is better, in some ways it’s not — and we’ve grown to expect more and more from our partners.
While being someone’s everything is part of the appeal of the conventional relationship, it is often extremely challenging to be someone’s emotional partner, financial partner, child raising partner (if you go that route), domestic partner, recreational partner, drinking buddy, and their one and only sexual partner. Dating apps and divorce courts are full of people who think there is either something wrong with them or something wrong with everyone else, when the reality is that neither may be the case — I believe what is needed is a little reconfiguring of expectations.
It takes some reverse conditioning, but when you concede to the fact that you are no longer required to be “the one and only” the weight dissipates from your shoulders as you realize that you are free to be what you truly are and provide what you actually can. And, likewise, you can stop trying to mold your person into being something they’re not. It allows you to better accept your person and yourself, rather than running to an app to see if maybe there’s someone better to replace them with.
I should state here that my wife and I are not polyamorous — we do not have other boyfriends and girlfriends. Our non-monogamy is purely sexual, but built into these forays is time exploring, making friends, and building our identities apart from each other. My wife’s solo dates are valuable to her not only because she’s getting laid but because the give her a momentary respite from her roles of wife / mom / teacher — she can establish herself independently as the sexy woman that she is. As for me, I really enjoy meeting new people and cultivating friendships. I sometimes joke that that the sex is just a way to lure in new friends.
The wells of sexual desire are also deep. Throughout a life most people are going to want to try many different things … but most are going to keep this to themselves, bound by the strictures of a relationship, hidden by the fear of how their partner may respond. We romanticize the baring of our souls to another … until we actually do it. We want our partners to be how we perceive them to be, not how they actually are … and make little concession to their personal evolutions, especially when it comes to sex. What a person is going to sexually want at 25 probably isn’t going to be what they want at 35 or 45. We tend to freeze our partners in sexual amber rather than allowing them their sexualities to grow and evolve … until one day the casing cracks and it all blows up.
There is nothing wrong with wanting sexual experiences beyond that of your partner or that your partner doesn’t want to or can’t fulfill. This doesn’t make you a whore, a cheater, or a pervert. Honesty, it makes you normal. Everybody out there is thinking about fucking other people.
A big part of being in a successful relationship is being realistic.
It becomes a hobby
I have to admit when my wife and I first became non-monogamous it was all about the sex. But then something began happening. We would look at dating apps together — laughing at the ridiculous profiles and the funny things that prospective suitors would write to us — we would talk about the people we were interested in, we’d go all out planning and costume shopping before events, we’d work together at eating well and keeping our bodies fit, we’d go on vacation to sexy destinations and swinger’s resorts.
Before long our pursuit for sex with other people became a full fledged hobby that we shared together. It became something that we’d talk about together, get excited for together, and do together.
Go through just about any course of marriage counseling and at some point you’re going to be given the task of finding recreational activities that you enjoy doing together. Dance class? Painting course? Go out to a sex club and fuck five different people in a massive orgy pile?
We went with option #3.
Relationships are ultimately about sharing. Sharing your time, your mind, and your body. Non-monogamy presented us with a mechanism to driving this sharing to another level, cut out the secrets and hidden desires and infidelity problems, and have a massive amount of fun while we’re at it.
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