Bedtime Story

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.


About elroyjones

Married, no children, responsibly self-directed, living happily.
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18 Responses to Bedtime Story

  1. mandala56 says:

    I’ve known a couple of people who had open marriages. One was thriving at the time that I knew about it (a casual acquaintance). The other was divorced after many years of an open marriage but the wife was not interested in sex. However, the communication was there and it was a loving relationship in every other way. I don’t think the marriage broke up because of that aspect of it.
    I think the difference might be in the expectations of the couple going into the marriage. The ones you describe did not anticipate it, they were talked into it. I don’t think you can predict success or failure in a general way. There are too many factors involved.

    • elroyjones says:

      It’s good to recognize one’s own limits. I would be most unhappy in that setting so I would have no difficulty establishing the boundary. There may be people who can have successful relationships in that environment but I wonder how. It seems a relationship that is exclusive survives in part because there is an understanding that reliance is exclusively reciprocal between two people.

      • Old Jules says:

        Hi elroyjones. Interesting post. I’ll confess to being the second of the two Jeanne described above. I was married to the woman 25 years and loved her dearly, Still do, I suppose, though I haven’t communicated with her in a lot of years. All I can tell you is that it was a tough gig, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, and I wouldn’t give up a minute of the years we had together. In my own inimitable way I remained faithful to her through more one-night-stands than I can recall, tried desparately to communicate to her how important the problem was to me and how we needed to fix it, get some help. She never heard me. When I finally decided I couldn’t do it anymore she chastised me saying I should have given her an ultimatum, that I’d never communicated how important it was.

        Last I heard she still didn’t believe that was the ‘real’ reason I left her in the dust of my past. Preferred to believe I left her for another woman.

        A person has to live a life as best he can do it, she can do it, I reckons. I did, and I hope she did. But I could never have lasted a year past the third one [when she first refused to discuss it with a psychologist] if we hadn’t arrived at an agreement to allow me to pursue outside interests.

        Just my take on things.


      • elroyjones says:

        I understand where you’re coming from. It is a different situation than the ones I’d described. From the comments I’ve made on your blog, I think you know how I feel about the physical aspects of a romantic relationship. It’s not always convenient but it makes everybody feel better. Your story makes me a little bit sad. I don’t like to think of love lost but it makes me smile to know that “you loved her dearly, still do, I suppose”. Thank you for taking the time to read and to comment.

  2. gkinnard says:

    I’m sure that 99.999% of the time this doesn’t work and ends badly. Fanaticizing about it is one thing, practicing it is another.

    • elroyjones says:

      When I hear of these situations ending badly I am always disappointed in the Sisterhood. I expect that women should know better.

      Men are particularly susceptible to “good ideas” that have unintended consequences. I substantiate my theory with the invention of the remote control and resultant obesity.

  3. I guess I don’t get the logic behind an “open marriage”.

    • elroyjones says:

      Neither do I. I enjoy the exclusivity and the discrimination implied in being The One, as opposed to one of several. I am special and I want all of the benefits that come with that designation.

  4. nice fantasy but i can only imagine the worms that come out of the can……….

    • elroyjones says:

      I am always surprised that people become embroiled in these situations. What are they thinking? Being a woman, I always expect better judgment from my gender.

  5. judithatwood says:

    Well, in my younger, dumber days — all I can say is that the end doesn’t have to be a catastrophe, but there will always be a sad ending.

    • elroyjones says:

      This is an example of one of the things I like best about your comments and your posts, you tell it like it is. I am inclined to believe that for the majority of people involved in such relationships there is not a happy ending.

      I don’t believe it is bad or good, I only know it wouldn’t be good for me.

  6. Love is a complicated issue. So is sex. I don’t get the whole sharing thing, but then again I don’t get inflatable love dolls, being dressed in diapers and spanked, or the people who like to lie under glass tables while someone squats and takes a dump right above their head. Guess it takes all kinds.

  7. John says:

    I’m not so sure. I think that it’s because we’re conditioned to believe that Monogamy is how it’s all supposed to be. I suspect, if, left to our own devices, without being taught about monogamy, we might be much more open to sharing.

    • elroyjones says:

      I agree that individuals would likely lean toward their inherent preferences. I suspect there are people who are more social in every aspect of their personalities just as there are those who are less so and it makes sense that romantic/sexual relationships would be included in overall personality preferences.

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