My lover is a passionate and skilled lover who enjoys the sexual opportunities I offer without expecting any kind of serious commitment. He brings toe-curling excitement to my life and I get to turn around and bring that high-octane sexual energy back home to my husband. Everyone wins.
Polyamory and non-monogamy seem to be all the rage these days. Everyone is talking about the fun new forms relationships can take and the excitement that comes from doing something non-traditional and edgy. But very few articles I’ve read explain exactly why having a relationship with someone other than your husband or wife may actually help you be a better wife or husband.
I’ve been with my husband Austin for almost four years. For two of those years I’ve also had an ongoing occasional relationship with my lover Jay, with my husband’s full knowledge and consent. There’s no sneaking, no cheating, and no funny business here. Just good old-fashioned dates, conversations, and sheet-tangling sex. I see my lover as often as a few times a month or as rarely as every six months, depending on our schedules and desires. I do my best to balance my marriage to Austin, my relationship with Jay, graduate school, a job, and parenting or step-parenting three teenagers, so sometimes I don’t get to spend as much time with Jay as I’d like.
So why do I gleefully indulge in these occasional overnight romps with Jay instead of sticking to the model of monogamy most of my 40-something friends desperately embrace while quietly withering inside?
Well, that last sentence should be something of a clue. Having a lover makes me a better wife because it makes me feel good and that’s good for my marriage. I break the benefits down into three separate but related categories, each of which positively contributes to my life as a wife, parent, student, and employee: communication, passion, and rejuvenation.
A serious relationship takes a lot of work, as anyone who has ever been in one knows. A great deal of that work is simply communicating in ways that make sure both parties get heard, acknowledged, and respected. When Austin and I first started exploring the idea of opening up our relationship to include additional lovers, we had to do an extraordinary amount of additional communicating. We had to try extra hard to make sure we were actively listening, holding each other in compassion, and seeking what was best for our relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of arguments, hurt feelings, and serious missteps along the way. We had to fight our way through a lot of crappy conversations to get to the point where now we feel at least slightly more confident in our ability to share our wants, needs, and desires without fear of getting automatically shut down based on jealousy or insecurity. Like so many things, it was worth the effort and has taught us that there isn’t much we can’t work through. I feel more confident in my ability to communicate with Austin as well as everyone else in my life, something that only serves to enhance my skills as a parent and contributes positively to my career.
At this point you may be asking yourself, “But doesn’t the extra work of communicating just add more stress to your life and marriage? Wouldn’t it be easier to keep things simple and avoid the risk of jealousy/anger/drama?”
Of course it would be. But it would also mean that I wouldn’t get to spend quality time with a dear friend who partakes in deliciously fun sexual escapades with me and reminds me that I am an innately sexual being. Jay and I haven’t yet fallen into a sexual rut and hopefully we never will. We haven’t become annoyed with each other’s bad habits. We don’t have to deal with each other’s dirty laundry or decide who is going to stop on the way home to pick up the tomatoes for tonight’s salad. We get to focus on making each other feel good in as many ways as possible, something that is made infinitely easier precisely because that is all we have to do. Jay is a passionate and skilled lover who enjoys the sexual opportunities I offer without expecting any kind of serious commitment. He brings toe-curling excitement to my life and I get to turn around and bring that high-octane sexual energy back home to Austin. Everyone wins.
And by everyone, I mean everyone. For years, my therapist has urged me to take mini-vacations to get away from the stress of trying to keep up with managing a household, getting a PhD, and working. Unfortunately, I always felt obligated to take care of my husband, our kids, our dogs, our house, my classes, and projects…the list could go on and on. It was impossible for me to let go, almost entirely because I felt like I didn’t have a real reason to get away. I had everything keeping me at home and nothing pulling me away. So even though I knew a break every now and then would help me recharge my batteries, it almost never happened.
But now, when I feel like the stress is becoming unbearable and my nerves are close to being shot, I plan a night or two with Jay to counterbalance everything else going on in my life. Just getting away from the usual routine helps me regain my equilibrium and return to my place as a productive and pleasant member of my family and society. Jay and I are old friends and the comfort that comes from being at his house with no responsibilities and a glass of wine does something miraculous to my anxiety level. I remember how to breathe, how to laugh, and how to see the sparkle in someone’s eye. Jay reminds me, through our conversations and caresses, to be gentle, compassionate, and vulnerable. He helps restore my sense of calm and sends me back to Austin with a soft heart that is better able to deal with the stress of real life.
As the saying goes, I was poly when poly wasn’t cool. Jay is my current lover but I’ve been enjoying the benefits of this type of arrangement for 10 years, long before Austin and I met. I’ve occasionally tried to fit myself back into the box of monogamy but now I’m thoroughly convinced that having a lover makes me a better wife, so I’m not inclined to give it up any time soon.
Savannah Whitman is the pseudonym of a doctoral student in Psychology who lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, three teenagers, and two dogs. She spends her days researching early childhood education programs and daydreaming about moving to New Zealand once she’s finally done with school.