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I'm Married But in an Open Relationship. This Is What It's Like

I was adamant that opening up our marriage would put us in jeopardy. But I was wrong.

Early one morning, I received a call from a number I didn't recognize. Thinking it must be some emergency, I answered and found myself on the phone with the wife of a male colleague, named James, accusing me of having an affair with her husband. The ludicrous idea had me laughing out loud—we lived hundreds of miles away from one another, and our friendship had been limited to drinks or dinner once or twice a year.

While I'll admit there was electricity when James and I first laid eyes on each other, I put a mental block on anything more. Sure, there was an occasional flirty email or text, but that's where it ended. We were both married, after all.

My husband, Nick, was awoken by the call too. When I told him what had transpired, he just looked at me and said, "Well, she thinks you are sleeping with her husband. You might as well." We had a chuckle about it and went on with our days. But I couldn't shake the idea.

A couple days later, Nick asked me if the woman had called me again and it led to a discussion about sleeping with other people. "Do you think that's something you would ever want or consider?" he asked me. It was clear that it was something he had thought about. "I don't think I'd want to do that," I responded. "It seems we could put our marriage in jeopardy."

Usually if I said something like that, Nick would know to close the conversation, but he just wouldn't let this go. "What about that James guy? You obviously get along with him," he said. "A romp in the hay with him might be fun." Really? Did my husband just pick out a guy for me?

couple holding hands

At first, I was adamant that no, this was not going to happen under any circumstances. That's just not me, I thought. Firstly, people in open marriages are swingers, right? They go to sex clubs and it's all very Eyes Wide Shut. And secondly, I always pictured people in an open marriage as being much older. But here I was, only in my late 30s, having a conversation with my husband about opening up our marriage.

I agreed to think about it for a week and let Nick know my decision. And after a couple days, the idea started to intrigue me. Nick and I had been together for so long, the sex was good, but predictable. After some time, you develop a rhythm, and nothing is really spontaneous. A new lover is thrilling and there's also a heightened sense of urgency because you don't know if or when you will ever be together again.

As my deadline approached, I told Nick, "I'd be into opening our marriage and would like James to be my first." He was pretty turned on by the idea, but the reality quickly started to set in. "If you leave me for this guy, I'm gonna feel like the biggest idiot in the world for encouraging this." he said.

Neither Nick nor I were jealous people, but obviously, we needed to establish some ground rules. For one, we decided we aren't allowed to tell anyone else, not family or friends, mostly for fear of judgement. (Note: I've used a pen name here to keep that promise.) We also decided that we should not meet one another's partners, our hookups should be limited to no more than once a month, we can't hookup in our home, and friends are off-limits. Finally, we committed to telling our secondary partners from the beginning that this is a friends-with-benefits situation only. We want to be clear there's no chance of either of us leaving our spouses, and neither my husband or I would ever go out "on the prowl" without our wedding rings.

With all that in mind, I decided to bring the idea of no-strings sex up the next time I saw James, which was two months away at a work event out of town. I found myself giddy and nervous. How would I even broach the subject? What if he said no? Could we still be friends and work together? And what if he said yes? How would I feel parading around nude with a new person? Should I get waxed? I have to buy a new bra and panty set, right? Will we cuddle afterwards? Do I snore when I sleep?

But I was getting ahead of myself. I wasn't even sure that James was interested in me that way.

people drinking

When we finally crossed paths again, I summoned the strength to ask James his thoughts on sleeping together after a bottle of wine with dinner and a post-dinner cocktail. It was an easy segue. He brought up his wife's erratic behavior (turns out, she had gotten into his phone and was, one by one, dialing anyone with a female-sounding name) and then he admitted that they almost never have sex. I put my hand on his thigh and said, "Would you like to get laid tonight?" He didn't look surprised, instead had more of a "why-did-you-take-so-long-to-ask" look on his face. He just said, "I'd love that. Are you serious?" I nodded, and he almost jumped on top of me at the bar.

The mix of excitement over doing something so taboo and, let's face it, lowered inhibitions (thank you, red wine) led to a makeout session like I hadn't experienced in years. I felt sexy and desired in a way I didn't after being with the same partner for such a long time.

I thought James and I might fumble our first time together, but it was hot—magical, even. I cannot describe how good sex is when you are confident and know what you want and have a lover who wants to please you. As James and I only had three days together, we made the most of it—going at it about a dozen times.

We were nearly inseparable during the work trip, but we didn't really talk about what this meant for our friendship or future hookups. Though I hoped it would happen again, James is super secretive about his feelings and it definitely seemed like his wife wouldn't agree to an open marriage.

sex everywhere at Disney world

Back at home, in the first few days after my tryst with James, every time my phone pinged with a text or email, I could tell Nick was on edge. Despite my reassurances, he decided to snoop through my phone, which was a huge violation of privacy. He admitted to it and apologized, and while I was annoyed, I understood. Navigating this new arrangement wasn't easy and on top of that,  Nick hadn't found a sex buddy yet.

The first female friend he approached with the idea, while flattered, was not interested. He then turned to apps like Tinder and Bumble, eventually finding someone he hooks up with regularly. Strange as it may sound, there've been times I am sad for my husband, like when someone doesn't swipe right. He's an amazing person and lover, how can they pass him up?

And, frankly, I've had my moments of jealousy too. One time, I found Nick sexting with one of his lovers and felt a bit peeved that this life on the side was starting to bleed over too much into our life in the center. Luckily, we were able to quickly rebound from initial bits of unfounded jealousy.

In the five years since, there's been a random guy here and there I met through work situations, but no one as consistent as James. Though our sexual chemistry is fantastic, it's still not a perfect situation. I told James that I expect to hear from him more often than simply a text or email a couple months before it's time for us to make plans to meet up. And when that doesn't happen, I've lamented to Nick about how I sometimes feel like more of a hooker than friend or colleague.

It may seem weird that Nick and I comfort each other through these mishaps. But overall, as crazy as it may sound, it makes us stronger together.

I never thought I'd be that person in an open marriage, but it's worked for me and Nick, and for me and James, too. James and I don't talk much about Nick, but I still get butterflies in my stomach in anticipation of being with him. And Nick says I seem more confident after being with James and he loves that. Though I rarely want to know any details about his escapades, I'm happy Nick is happy. In the end, isn't that what we should want for our spouse, conventional marriage or not?

And for another side of open marriage, check out I'm Dating a Married Man Who Is in an Open Marriage. This Is What It's Like.

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