You’ve written cogently about the way cheaters employ a double standard rather than asking for open marriage. So I’d like your take on my sitch. After three decades of tacit monogamy, my husband asked for open marriage, pretending to be all honest and transparent and progressive, and was angered by my conventionality and uptightness in saying no. He went on and on about how monogamy was unnatural, he didn’t get it, no one could be everything to someone else, blah blah blah. I said, no thanks, not built for it, don’t think it conduces to true trust and intimacy, and don’t quite trust a request coming at this point in the relay.
I asked whether I was already an unwilling participant in an open marriage, he reassured me NO.
Long story short, it was total bullshit. Discovered a two-plus year clandestine affair and other sexual adventuring (of the Craigslist, crotch-shot variety). Really fun stuff. But what happened then was simply ongoing demand for open marriage, which I refused, then kicked him to the curb, after which he held tight to his new philosophy (which he sees as blasting the terrible ideological fog of conventional monogamy), and played Mr. Oh So Progressive and Tragically Compelled to Leave Wife and Children to Escape the Unnatural Constraints of Monogamy. And of course, on a slightly different channel, to realize Selfhood, escape Controlling Spouse, and all that other crap.
SO…I felt totally gobsmacked and will admit to chumpily waiting several months for the “fog” to lift. But then I filed and have moved to post-hopium attitude.
Here’s my question. Can you fortify my sense that this guy is full of shit? I hate the pretense of “I couldn’t live that way anymore and now have to be upfront about open marriage need.” He’s all “well I guess we just have to agree to disagree.” It makes me so sick and it feels so abusive to have him simply throw this in my face over and over and act as though he’s done nothing wrong, since his PHILOSOPHY explains his prior cheating.
The suffering will be finite, I know. I have filed. But still, I would love to hear what you think about this: whether you think it’s bullshit or laudable if belated honesty.
It’s one thing to begin with an open marriage. It’s quite another to have it thrust upon you after you’ve invested 30 years in what you thought was a monogamous marriage.
This “offer” is not sexual sophistication, it’s an implied threat — let me have my cake, or we’re through. The cheater lays the blame with monogamy — that impossible condition that, oh hey, we all agreed to.
The problem isn’t monogamy. The problem is that your husband unilaterally changed the terms of the marriage agreement.
You were presented with a choice, which at least was out in the open. Agree to let your husband have multiple partners, and you can enjoy the same, or end the relationship.
Let’s say you had accepted the open arrangement. You would then need to negotiate the sort of terms that polyamorists set, such as, am I the primary relationship? Who is an acceptable partner? Can we ask mutual friends? How much time is spent on extracurriculars? How do we manage risk for STDs, etc.?
But the problem there is you’d be negotiating relationship terms with someone who just demonstrated to you that he couldn’t be trusted. He behaves unilaterally and changes the terms of agreed upon arrangements (like monogamous marriage). Open relationships are based on trust too.
I really don’t think your husband believes in polyamory. I think he’s just a run of the mill cake eater. Did he spend two entire years working out his “philosophy” on Craigslist? (What kind of Platonic dialectic is that?) Apparently, he was quite happy to have you living by a set of rules he was not bound by. Do you think compassion led him to invite you into his swinging lifestyle? Or do you think it was cake? The idea that he could enjoy a smorgasbord of pussy without consequences. I’d put my money on cake.
Why did he come out about the wonders of open marriage after two years (that you know) of cheating? A guilty conscience or could it be something got dicey that you don’t know about? The OW threatens to blow the whistle, he caught an STD off a Craigslist friend, he decides his latest kink is watching someone else fuck you. I don’t know — but I sincerely doubt your welfare was at the top of his agenda.
He thinks he is a man of principle. A noble Don Quixote tilting at the cruel windmill of monogamy. A lonely philosopher wandering the moors of convention.
Instead of what he really is — a pathetic man-child who sends crotch shots on Craigslist.
Whatever. You don’t control his philosophical delusions. Just get on with your own improved, cheater-free life. Hopefully he’ll drink a cup of Hemlock soon.
This column ran previously.