What would it be like if we opened up the marriage?

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Hi Meredith,

I recently fell hard for someone outside of my marriage. I know you've heard this, especially during quarantine, but an old flame reconnected and it was like a chasm opened and I tumbled through it. Within days we were texting during the day and night, and within weeks the texts turned into "I want you."

My husband is one of my best friends. We've been together 20 years. So before this thing got out of hand, as I've been hurtling toward cheating on him, I asked him for permission to have sex outside of our marriage. See, he's really content with our very meager sex life and I'm not. We've been talking about it for years but nothing has increased the frequency or the fun of it, including talk therapy.

After a long and painful talk he said "OK" – if what I wanted was to keep our relationship/finances/parenting/living arrangements all in tact, and add this other relationship to my life, then he wouldn’t be a hypocrite and pretend he hadn't thought about it himself, and couldn't imagine what it feels like to want it this badly.

I imagine there will be consequences still if I do take a lover. I mean, there's permission and then there's reality. We have teenage kids and jobs and friends. I'll still have to sneak around and worry about getting caught.

What do you think could be the fallout from pursuing this kind of arrangement? Do we still have to set rules of engagement for me with this other guy or can I go ahead and meet up now? I have a lot of good feelings for this other guy – my writing has become more free and creative, my mood has been up and happy, I've been eating better and exercising more, all with a smile. It feels so good to be wanted sexually, to be desired, to hear that I'm sexy and beautiful and have a great laugh (we've talked on the phone a couple times).

I really don't want to have massive fallout from having sex outside my marriage. Am I kidding myself that it's possible to have a happy marriage and carry on with a lover?

– I Asked First

It sounds like you haven't done enough talking with your husband about what an open marriage would entail, specifically what boundaries you'd both like to set to make this work. Does he want to know when you see this man? What are the rules about sex and protection? Do either of you plan to tell people in your shared community? Does he plan to pursue new relationships as well? How does this affect parenting?

There are a lot of ways to do this the right way, with consent. He's already said he's open to this. I keep thinking of a wonderful sex writer who told me how to use the language of sexual boundaries for staying safe in a pandemic. She told me to ask someone who invited me to come over, "What would that look like?" Because I never knew right off the bat, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Would I bring my own food? Would there be a safe place to go to the bathroom? Would everyone have masks? I used those simple words to get people to consider every detail. You can ask the same question of each other, about how this new relationship would affect your marriage.

You ask about fallout, and all I can do is guess. It's possible it won't be as fun/easy as it sounds. Someone could get hurt, even if everyone is on the page. Also, you might decide you no longer want to be married to a best friend, if you have someone who offers more of what you want right now. I mean, you've been talking about this for years. You jumped into that chasm. It's possible you'll want everything to change.

But for now, who knows? All you can do is make sure you and your husband understand and agree to the plan.

– Meredith

Readers? How would you work this out? What questions should be asked? Anyone have personal experience with this?