“My husband – we’ll call him B (33M) and I (32F) have been together for 13 years, and non monogamous for 5.
We publicly presented as mono, but would meet couples for sex. I was permitted to have ongoing relationships with women, but not with men. B has a total free pass to do whatever he wants, as jealousy is simply not something I experience very much. B doesn’t like the label poly, and prefers to call us ‘swingers’.
… We began a sexual friendship with another married couple. It was clear from the start that the other guy – let’s call him J – and I shared a very deep connection. The other wife freaked out and put the brakes on after 2 sexual encounters (all 4 people were present). She was upset because we cuddled after sex, and he kissed me on the forehead. According to her this was evidence of affection, not sex, which she was not ok with. To me and B this was normal behaviour, as we are very comfortable with sharing affection with others.
We all continued to see each other socially, and the other wife said she just needed some time to become comfortable again with sexual activity. J kept pushing the issue, telling her he wanted to have sex with me and also be friends. She freaked out more, and things between them exploded into fights and talks of divorce after a drunken night out, leaked messages, and drama upon drama.
… Well, J and I fell in love. It hit me like a thunderbolt. Complete infatuation I had never before experienced. As far as B knows, J and I are friends and hang out regularly. When we were on MDMA, we told B we love each other, but he seemed to dismiss it as drug talk.
I asked B if we can have a completely open relationship, and he refused, saying he’d rather break up. He said ‘you can go have a free-for-all if you want, but I’d be very hurt you would choose that over me’. I told him it’s not about sex, it’s about love. My heart is open, and I can’t close it again. I’m just not sure monogamy is for me, given how this year has gone. I told him it’s not about choosing anything over him, it’s about recognising we want different things, recognising red flags, and not wanting to waste his time. He said ‘just make up your mind by the time I finish uni, before our lives get more complicated’.
So now I feel so confused. Should I just wait for this infatuation to fade? J doesn’t seem like he’s going to leave his marriage anytime soon. Obviously I have the capacity to love other people – will this just happen again with someone else? I feel like my heart is breaking all the time. Things between me and B are fine. It just feels suffocatingly … boring. Am I fucked up for considering ending my marriage over this?
At the same time, I’ve been dreaming about what it might be like to be single. I haven’t been on my own for my whole adult life. I’m craving independence and autonomy. For example, B gets annoyed if I visit my best friend and stay until midnight, or go out drinking without him (although he never wants to come). We’ve struggled to live together for our whole relationship. I don’t feel I can talk to family or friends about this, married women aren’t supposed to fall in love.”
There is a lot to unpack here. So let’s quickly recap, point-by-point.
You and your husband B started out as swingers who only play together. You and your husband had a one penis policy that forbade you from forming your own relationships. You kissed a friend at a festival. Your husband subsequently freaked out. Then decided to actively look for swinging partners. You and your husband started swinging with a couple (J and his wife). You eventually developed feelings for and fell in love with J. Both you and J started having more fights in your respective marriages. When you expressed your feelings towards exploring different styles of non-monogamy, your husband read it as an ultimatum and left the onus of decision up to you: non-monogamy by yourself or a monogamous marriage with your husband.
I do not think you should end things with your husband just because he disapproves of non-monogamy.
I do think that you should at least separate from your husband to claim and lead a more autonomous life of your own, to explore different styles of non-monogamy on your own, to distance yourself from your husband who has been quite incompatible with your style of love for some time now.
Let’s talk about swinging for a bit here.
Recognizing infatuation/crush for what it is and establishing firm boundaries to keep those feelings in check is a major sign of success for healthy swinging lifestyle. Some swingers do recognize that innocent crushes on your swinging partners are natural. What’s more important is to identify those feelings as fleeting and to distance yourself so that you don’t fall in love with your swinging partner(s).
I think it will be very easy to blame your husband for his crippling insecurity regarding male-bodied partners & emotional connections, or his inability to keep pace with how your ability to love might be changing over time, or even his perspective on what his marriage to you is worth. Your husband struggles with intense jealousy and control issues even when you are out with your friend past midnight. Those are all bad signs. But I also think that you too can take this experience to revisit how you approach different relationships as well.
Married people develop feelings for other people all the time. Monogamy isn’t about absence of those feelings. The agreement in a traditional monogamous marriage is that you will refuse to indulge yourself in those feelings and set better personal boundaries to not explore other romantic relationships. The implicit agreement is much more of the same in swinging with the added caveat that casual sexual encounters are okay to explore. The challenge is in ethically pursuing your relationships in a way that is compassionate and respectful for each of your relationships. So please consider those points when you next explore non-monogamy, either by yourself or with any of your current/future partner(s).
I want to leave off with a note here that you are probably right. You and your husband want and expect different things. In thirteen years of your lives together, you’ve both become different people. Maybe it’s time to recognize those differences and see if your husband wants to come along for the ride that is your life.