In my life and times I’ve known more than one couple who chose to tempt fate and, with the encouragement of their spouses, have sex with someone outside the marriage. It’s sold as sophistication and freedom, embraced and understood by a certain type of transcendent intellect.
When I was ridiculously young, I knew a couple who were separated light years by age and experience. They were newly married. The husband, being much older, encouraged his young wife to engage in a sexual relationship with a classmate her own age. Eventually jealousy got the better of him and he beat her for living his fantasy. They finally divorced. It took a long time. The drama was unbearable.
When I was 30 I befriended a sweet woman, married to a much older man. I didn’t like her husband at all. He always seemed, to me, to be lecherous and patriarchal, an unsavory combination. He developed terminal cancer. He convinced his wife to enter a sexual relationship with a man who had been maimed in some way. The particulars of his injury are obscured by the fog of time. It may have been a foot calamity of some sort, not a hand. Obviously, the strategic appendage was functioning. Eventually, my friend could not bear the confusion of having sex with someone younger and more virile than her dying husband. She felt bad about herself. Her husband died. She took the kids and moved away.
I knew a couple who were once married. They decided it would be a swell idea to swap partners with their best friends. Both couples divorced. The friendships were all lost.
In looking for a word, other than stupid, to describe these sorts of authorized extra-marital engagements I discovered that participants are embracing polyamory. It has been all over the news this spring and I missed it.
It doesn’t seem like it will be any more successful for the subculture than it was for the people I’ve met.