Open relationship in marriage

Open Relationship In Marriage Hinweise und Aktionen

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Open relationship in marriage

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Open Relationship In Marriage Video

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Creating intimacy can be harder than it seems, especially if partners are only focused on the sex of it all. Feelings of resentment are bound to boil up and it can only end one way.

If you are doing this to keep your relationship alive, consider letting it die. Being in one relationship is hard work and takes up a lot of your time.

Imagine how much less time you would have if you had to maintain two or more relationships? What if your new open-relationship partner wants more of your time or demands something else of you?

Having an open relationship seems like a good idea, in theory, but in practice the risks of transmitting sexually transmitted diseases is very real. And if you do, take all the necessary precautions.

But that is rarely how it works. You can tell yourself that this is a good idea, but before long, you might find yourself being jealous of the person your partner is sleeping with.

You might even find yourself on the receiving end of that jealousy. Few relationships are strong enough to weather that kind of storm. Jealousy rears its ugly head in all relationships, but if you willingly put yourselves in a position to become jealous, you are asking for trouble.

Your existing relationship runs the risk of being put on the backburner. The risk of losing your relationship to love is very real.

How do you have those conversations when you willingly put yourselves in the position to find new love? There is a chance you might bump into your lover s on a date or with friends.

How do you explain that to people with looking like you need to be committed? If they have started to talk about having an open relationship, they are probably honest with each other.

Often, the person who wants an open relationship no longer wants to be with their partner. But they may not be honest enough with themselves to realize this.

Instead, they want to try something new to recreate the spark they used to feel with their partner. It would be more honest of the person wanting an open relationship to simply tell the other person that they no longer feel this same sense of attraction.

Even when the decision was mutual, the woman was usually the more sexually active outside the marriage. A year-old woman in Seattle said she opened her marriage after she heard about the concept from another young mom at her book club.

Perhaps the women in the couples I encountered were more willing to tell their stories because they did not fit into predictable unflattering stereotypes about the male sex drive.

But it was nonetheless striking to hear so many wives risk so much on behalf of their sexual happiness. One study found that men and women in committed relationships shared equal desire at the onset of their relationships, although for women, that desire dropped precipitously between one and four years into the relationship; for men, the desire remained high throughout that period.

In his book, Bergner cites research suggesting that women desire novelty as much as men. The recent attempts to formulate medication to address waning sexual interest has been predicated on the assumption that one possible response — indulging an interest in newer partners — would never be practical and could be destabilizing.

The women I met who initiated openness seemed to be defying some stereotypes about gender, but their interest was also consistent with more familiar ideas about women and intimacy: They seemed to be doubling down on building relationships in their lives.

At Poly Cocktails, the wife who was watching her Brooklyn husband flirt said that although they had opened their marriage a few months earlier, she was the only one of the two of them who was seeing anyone: a wealthy entrepreneur, and a soccer player.

And if it ever stopped being that, I would get out. Her husband told me he had little interest in putting in the work necessary for even casual flings.

The wife, who asked to go by her middle name, Ann, said she was friendly with couples whose marriages were open and ended badly.

And yet neither she nor her husband, David also a middle name , found those stories prohibitively ominous.

Talking with me over several months, they explained, sometimes overtly, sometimes in more roundabout ways, that the instability they had invited into their lives worked as a counterbalance that allowed Ann to feel more secure within the marriage.

Someone outside her marriage did the work of providing the structure of romance, dates, courtship; that heightened her own sense of sexuality in a way that David — who was consumed with his music, who was a creature of habit, who had thoroughly relaxed into the relationship — could not.

Instead of resenting David for his distractions, demanding more focused attention from him, she seemed content to embrace the marriage for the security it did provide.

The space between them that the open marriage introduced had, in fact, improved their sex life; but she also was more appreciative of the depth of the bond she felt with David, compared with the one she had with her boyfriend.

She said she had to cut our conversation short — she was about to sit on the couch with David and watch a documentary. She laughed at herself a little, at the picture of her and David doing the thing that cozy but bored married couples do.

It was flannel, it was loose and it was very, very comfortable. For most of the late 20th century and early 21st century, therapists tended to champion monogamy with every bit of the consistency that religious institutions did.

Seven years ago, Luce Cousineau, a year-old makeup artist in Seattle, had to admit that her own desire for her husband had dwindled past the point of recovery.

She met her husband, Tim Aguero, who is 48 and a photographer, when they were in their early 20s. She never stopped loving him, wanting his opinion, considering him her best friend and the ideal father of their two children.

But when she turned 40, she had a kind of midlife crisis that included a new, intense desire for more variety in their sex life.

She and her husband could not find a way to talk about it — it was a series of endless missed connections. They had sex less and less often.

Her husband thought they could work through it. She finally realized that it was not just that she wanted varied sex; she wanted varied partners.

She finally broke down, sobbing, at the breakfast table one morning. They realized they were facing a serious issue. They were two artists living in a big progressive city, with multiple polyamory meet-up groups, broken down by age.

They agreed they would start dating, and they quickly found potential partners when they put their profiles up online. Forging new relationships was complicated, at first, and bruising: Could they go without a condom, if everyone tested clean and the relationship seemed to have potential?

Tim, after a few false starts, started dating a married woman, a former minister, whose husband also had a serious ongoing partner.

There may be people who are more inclined toward monogamy or polyamory than others, who may even, at least one study shows, have some genetic predisposition toward one or the other.

Tim seems to be a case study in adaptability, someone who never even considered, much less longed for, the option until his wife brought it up; he has since found the arrangement suits him.

For the past three years, Luce has been seeing someone in Portland, a man with whom she says she is highly sexually compatible. The sex in her marriage, in recent years, she said, has improved, although she still sees it as a struggle within the committed, loving relationship she has been building since she was Clinging to that illusion, neither partner really sees the other, or even acknowledges that the other has hidden, private selves.

Some of the couples I followed as they forged their open marriages seemed to be reaching out, systematically but also unpredictably, to make transparent the vulnerability that was there all along.

Implicit in the arrangement was the understanding that each person has an alternative self; and yet it was all in the name of the kind of committed relationship that Mitchell believed would yield the most happiness and personal growth.

As I talked to couples over the last year, I often found myself reflecting back on my own marriage. I started to feel less baffled by the boldness they were showing in opening up their marriages, and more questioning of my own total aversion to the possibility.

In interview transcripts, I saw that I was forever apologizing for my own conventionality. I felt, at times, that I was a rusty caliper, trying to take the measurement of some kind of advanced nanotechnology.

I was a blunt instrument, or a chipped mirror: Where I discerned motives of retaliation or evening of scores, I was told to see generosity and understanding.

Where I read humiliation into a situation, the people I was interviewing saw a kind of expansive love that defied pride, possessiveness, traditional notions of masculinity and ownership.

I kept wanting to define terms — but who is your primary? Whom would you choose in the event of conflicting needs? My instructors were patient but resolute in their overarching easygoingness: It works out, and when it does not, we talk about it and are better for it.

Open marriages, I started to think, are not just for people who were more interested in sex, but also for people who were more interested in people, more willing to tolerate the inevitable unpacking conversations, the gentle making of amends, the late-night breakdowns and emotional work of recommitting to and delighting each other.

Few claimed there was no pain in nonmonogamy; but they were not afraid of that pain, whereas the notion of any extra pain in my life seemed an impossible burden, a commitment along the lines of taking on a second part-time job or caring for an ailing parent.

But more often than not, I felt protective of what we had, more certain of its beauty, its cosseted security. But there was something about that idealized vision of the cocoon that seemed contrived; was it also cloying, or confining, or implicitly fragile?

In February, Daniel planned a weekend away with the woman he saw the previous month — his girlfriend?

His date? Neither word felt exactly right. He still felt concerned, both about how Elizabeth was going to feel about the weekend upon his return and about how he would feel in the midst of it.

Even the thought of being naked in front of someone new gave him pause. They ordered grilled cheese from room service and ate it on the couch as they talked about why they were there.

They smiled at each other quietly as they sensed the attraction building. As I write this, I am taken back to the moments there, and it does evoke a flood of stark imagery, emotion and sexual desire.

There were no expectations or history to draw from. Elizabeth claimed to have no ambivalence about his weekend away. She said she knew from experience that an outside relationship did not have to diminish your love for your spouse.

And yet when Daniel returned, he found her a little bit cold, judgmental not about the premise of the weekend, she said, but about the particulars.

She and Joseph had waited for months before having intercourse, building the relationship first; Daniel did not wait, which bothered Elizabeth.

Also, Daniel had called her to say hello, which she had not expected, then jumped off the phone for a work call and failed to call back.

That she did not like — the feeling that he had engaged her, almost deliberately, and then left her hanging, as if to force her to concentrate on him in his absence.

She did not express the pain or anger or self-righteousness of someone who felt betrayed. Their understanding had made it possible for him to have that weekend away, for which he was enormously grateful.

Over the weekend, he told his lover — at that point, there was really no other word for her — that he was committed to his marriage but not afraid to fall in love.

She admitted she was already halfway there. Many couples often start their open marriages with the idea that insomuch as an open marriage could be normal, theirs would be.

For some people that meant that they would each have unattached sex but not do anything crazy, like fall in love with outside partners.

But some couples told me that once they opened their marriages, unexpected things happened. It was as if one major rethinking of convention subtly rewired their brains to allow for others.

Antoinette Patterson, 34, and her husband, Kevin, 38, who live in Philadelphia, have been open practically since they met 15 years ago.

Many people I talked with said they were surprised that opening the marriage changed the nature of their sexuality, that something was unleashed: They developed a new interest in a certain kind of role play, or acted on a long-suppressed desire to sleep with someone of the same sex.

Zaeli met her husband, Joe Spurr, when they were both 21, and they have been nonmonogamous for most of the time they have been together.

When Zaeli and Joe married, they agreed to only one real limit on their openness: That they would not cohabitate with someone else.

Nonmonogamy has been, since then, a defining feature of their life, a source of great pride, if for Zaeli, in some periods, an emotionally trying exercise.

Her own past forays outside the marriage were short, brief affairs, more like adventures while traveling, discreet but romantic excursions; Joe, 36, by contrast had had deep, ongoing relationships, the details of which sometimes merely irritated Zaeli and at other times wounded her more deeply.

Because she made no secret of the nature of her relationship, friends often called her to talk through the possibility of opening up their relationships.

Then those friends started referring friends. Without really trying, she developed a small business, working as a kind of relationship coach to the newly polyamorous, among others.

Both Joe and Zaeli agreed that she was happier in the marriage since she had developed her first meaningful relationship outside it.

Two years ago, she was performing stand-up comedy when she met Blake Wilson, an aspiring comic himself who had relocated from Palo Alto, and they connected immediately: They shared a kind of hyperverbal, slightly dark, comedic sensibility; they were both thoughtful, but neither could ever be described as overly earnest.

Joe often came home to find them snuggling on the couch, at which point Blake would abruptly get up. Joe was comfortable with everything except the jumping up off the couch.

And then, just over a year after Zaeli first met Blake, when Zaeli and Joe were planning to move to a new home in Austin, they discarded the one rule that had governed their nonmonogamy and invited Blake to move in with them and their daughter, who is now 3.

For Zaeli, nonmonogamy was also an antidote to the atomization of families, to the loneliness of how people live.

But this can be a nice family structure. I thought that by the time I met Joe and Zaeli and Blake in February at their home in Austin that I had become used to the idea of openness.

But from the moment I entered their house, I did not know where to look. Joe, warm and outgoing, greeted me at the door, making small talk I could barely engage in, as his wife and Blake were, at that moment, nuzzling by the stove, reunited after having been apart for most of the day.

That night, he made a Thai chicken soup for dinner. As we ate, Zaeli recalled first meeting Blake. I watched Joe take it all in, his daughter on his lap; he was playing with some tiny balls of Play-Doh that she had left on the table and was flattening them out, shaping them into one big heart.

The conversation wore on, but I eventually admitted to them what they already knew, which was that this was all strange, maybe even hard, for me to witness — Blake kissing Zaeli in front of Joe, the two of them recalling how they fell in love.

But there was no need, he said. He and Zaeli still shared a bed most nights of the week; they shared a daughter. She was his beautiful wife, and Blake was someone important to her.

This spring I went to a conference out of state. Afterward, a few attendees lingered to talk and then drifted off, with the exception of one, a man, also in his 40s, who spoke impressively earlier that day.

The conversation was easy between us, and we ended up, as did everyone else, walking back to the hotel across the street, where I invited him to join me for dinner.

I felt the need to justify this — there was no room service at the hotel, I felt awkward eating alone in the lobby — but I was also enjoying his company, and it seemed, especially after all the interviewing I had been doing, that it was absurd to worry about something as safe as a meal with a man, also married, with whom I shared professional interests.

I was curious, even, to know what it would feel like — I realized that outside work interviews, I could not remember the last time I had dined alone with a man who was not my husband, which suddenly struck me as an amazing fact of my adult life.

That way, you'll be happy to have these conversations instead of dreading them. It might seem better to keep in any bad feelings you have about being open, but Bahar says they could potentially snowball and cause major problems.

Be willing to see both the pros and cons of being open. Not all open marriages or relationships stay open forever.

That way, if one of you wants to close the open marriage, you'll already have a game plan in place for how to do it.

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Open Relationship In Marriage - The one mistake monogamous couples make when considering polyamory, according to a sex researcher

This book I found to be very relatable. This book's title sort of makes it feel like the content about an open marriage would be the heaviest part of the book. Alle kostenlosen Kindle-Leseanwendungen anzeigen.

If we've seen numbers of non-monogamous relationships grow over time, it may be for a few possible reasons including that people feel more comfortable being open about the topic, or more people are willing to try it.

Open relationships being less stigmatized in the media can contribute to both. Some people know from their teenage years that they are not interested in monogamy, despite the prevalent expectation that everyone will, one day, be in a monogamous relationship leading to marriage.

Others dip into open relationships because of circumstances, like having a crush on someone new or because a partner presents the possibility.

A common scenario: a couple that has been together for a few years feels a lack of passion. One or both partners get a crush on someone else, or one begins an affair.

To resolve the issue, they decide to open up their relationship. This, sadly, is not often the best way to open up your relationship.

Especially when infidelity is involved, it is better to solve the underlying issue in the relationship first rather than try to mask it by opening up the relationship.

Often, this means breaking up or divorcing. Sometimes, however, the approach does allow both people to go toward an open relationship with a positive outlook based on trust, love, and commitment.

If you answer "yes" to the following questions, there's a good chance that an open relationship may be right for you:. Married couples, committed couples, and casual couples alike can be in open relationships that involve consent to:.

How you approach the topic of open relationships with your partner s depends on the stage of your relationship. If you are currently single or dating casually , it may be easier.

In this case, bring up your ideal of non-monogamy at the dating stage. If you are in a committed relationship already, things are a little more complex.

First, you need to acknowledge how you both entered this relationship and whether there was the expectation of monogamy. Your partner has a right to expect you to be monogamous if that was what you agreed to at the time.

Unfortunately, not everyone makes that expectation explicit. Since monogamy is part of many people's social expectations about romantic relationships, many people just assume this to be a term of their relationship without ever talking it over with their partner.

Ask yourself what has changed. Maybe you were always interested in non-monogamy but attempted to stay monogamous due to social pressure or family expectations.

Your open relationship discussion does not need to come about as a result of a new crush—indeed, it is better if it comes while you have no other attachment.

It can simply be part of personal or therapeutic work. If, however, you approach your partner about an open relationship because you want to pursue a crush, or after having been unfaithful, be prepared to face difficult times in your primary relationship.

Your partner will likely feel betrayed and hurt, and you will need to deal with that before you actually open up your relationship.

You want to open up your relationship with a positive outlook rather than out of spite or boredom. In other words, opening up your relationship to fix it when it appears to be failing is likely a bad idea.

It will likely make things worse in the long term, even if it seems to work at first. When done with respect and the consent of all involved, open relationships have plenty of benefits.

The first obvious one that many people think of is sexual satisfaction. Humans enjoy novelty when it comes to sexuality, and we all crave it at one point or another.

A new partner is a great way to satisfy that craving for new sexual experiences. People who engage in successful open relationships also share strong communication skills, a deepened sense of trust, and thoroughly negotiated roles and expectations.

It's much easier to fulfill a partner's needs if they tell you what they want, rather than making you guess. Open relationships allow partners to put all their cards on the table.

Open relationships also allow non-monogamous people to express their needs and identity without fear. They don't need to hide their crushes or extra-marital relationships, at least to their partner, and this leads to a lot less emotional distress.

No pressure for one person to fulfill all of their partner's emotional and sexual needs and interests. Aside from those already mentioned, open relationships have potential problems all their own.

Jealousy is the first. For people raised in an environment where monogamy is expected, jealousy can arise quickly as they learn to challenge that expectation while exploring non-monogamy.

Remember, though, that jealousy is rooted in feelings of not being enough, which is itself based on the idea that your romantic partner should be everything to you and you to them.

Once you let go of the idea that you alone must fulfill every single one of your partner's needs, it's easier to manage feelings of jealousy—whether you're in a monogamous or non-monogamous relationship.

Negative feelings toward your partner's other partners can also stem from increased vulnerability. As you learn to negotiate your relationship more explicitly, you will need to explore and express feelings you may not have examined before.

This can make people feel anxious, angry, or make them retreat emotionally. If you are having these kinds of problems but still want to explore an open relationship with your partner, couples therapy with someone who understands non-monogamy can help you overcome these feelings.

Having multiple sexual partners also increases the risk of sexually transmitted infections STIs , so it's important for all involved to engage in safer sex activities with proper protection and get tested regularly.

While there are no set rules when it comes to having an open relationship. In fact, it is beneficial to work together to establish expectations and boundaries with your partner.

Open relationships may sound like the more unfettered choice, but the first thing nonmonogamous couples often do is draw up a list of guidelines: rules about protection, about the number of days a week set aside for dates, about how much information to share.

These rules are often designed to manage jealousy. Most monogamous couples labor to avoid that emotion at all costs; but for the philosophically polyamorous, jealousy presents an opportunity to examine the insecurities that opening a relationships lays bare.

Jealousy is not a primal impulse to be trusted because it feels so powerful; it is an emotion worth investigating. Polyamorists would argue, as would others, that humans are capable of overriding that system with rational discourse.

Jealousy may be part of human nature, but social constructs amplify its power, with devastating costs.

But we are a diverse and adaptive species, so what we should predict is a suite of biological mechanisms that would allow diverse approaches to that challenge of raising children.

Flexibility is what is distinctive about us as humans. Susan Wenzel, a therapist in Winnipeg, Canada, whom I met through Tammy Nelson, did not open up her relationship with the man she was living with because she subscribed to any evolutionary theory.

She did so because he had told her, gently, even fearfully, that he was concerned about the future of their relationship. He had been in love before, he explained, but those relationships had always ended with him growing restless, intrigued by another woman.

She felt equipped to manage the arrangement, and she and her boyfriend cautiously agreed that they could see other people, so long as those relationships remained casual.

Susan did not feel it detracted from the strength of their relationship when she started seeing someone who is, like her, an immigrant from Kenya.

But when that faded and her live-in boyfriend started dating someone, she found that jealousy hijacked the relationship. I wanted to understand my emotions.

She sought therapy with Nelson, working by Skype to identify the source of her own jealousy. It was not the sex her boyfriend was having, she realized, that troubled her; it was the sense of scarcity — that she would not have enough of his time.

Once that became evident, she was able to tell her boyfriend she needed to feel like a priority. She also had two young children from a previous marriage who lived with them, and she told him that she wanted him to take more responsibility for them, which he did.

The chief adjustment she and her boyfriend made was the one that seemed the least likely: They married, a year and a half after they first opened their relationship.

Her boyfriend felt, for the first time, happy to commit to a woman he loved, knowing he had the freedom he wanted; and the symbolism of marriage gave Susan enough security that she could grant him that freedom, and exercise it herself.

They saw no incongruity in their decision to wed — they were flexible, adaptable humans, reshaping an institution to their needs, rather than the other way around.

In August, Elizabeth and Daniel made a road trip to a Lower East Side bar in New York to attend Poly Cocktails, a monthly event founded in for people who are interested in nonmonogamy, or practicing it.

At the event, Elizabeth and Daniel felt overwhelmed, a little out of place. Over the course of the evening, about people, a diverse crowd, packed into the rooftop bar, most of them, it seemed to Elizabeth and Daniel, younger than they were.

A year-old man with his hair in a bun sat close to his beautiful girlfriend. Everyone seemed to know one veteran polyamorist: a year-old man with a long, white braid.

For the most part, the socializing was studiously nonsexual, but a young woman with a retro look — red lipstick, baby-doll dress — was flirting with a tall man in a sleeveless T-shirt, a year-old dad from brownstone Brooklyn, a musician with a corporate day job.

His wife looked on, amused, as she waited for a drink at the bar. Elizabeth and Daniel had ostensibly come to be among people who would not judge them.

It had occurred to them that Daniel might meet someone, but he did not end up speaking to anyone to whom he felt a strong attraction.

Instead he spent most of the evening talking to a married woman who complained that she felt underappreciated by the crowd at the bar. If Daniel was going to begin a relationship, he suspected it would be with someone he knew, and in the months following their outing to Poly Cocktails, he thought a lot about a woman from another state whom he met briefly through professional circles about two years before Elizabeth started seeing Joseph.

The woman had subsequently sent him a succession of flirty texts. It had been a small, contained thrill to think of this woman, whom he had liked, reaching out to him, silently, on his phone, as he watched TV with his wife.

It took him a while to notice that he had probably crossed a line without even realizing it, a series of harmless pixels coalescing into something that could hurt the feelings of people he actually knew and loved.

The marriage was not yet open, and he told Elizabeth about the messages, relieved that it occurred to him to do so, and then — in one of the more intimate instant messages he had ever composed — told this person who had shown up in his life that they could only be friends, as much as he had enjoyed meeting her and was touched by the attention.

Daniel and the woman would text from time to time, and when he heard she was coming to town this past January, he invited her to dinner. Over a meal, he told her that he and his wife had decided to open up their marriage, despite their enduring commitment to each other.

He and the woman were already comfortable with each other, but once the possibility of romance hung in the air, the conversation immediately became deeper, as if they were preparing for one kind of vulnerability with another.

Dating, I started to think, as Daniel told me about talking to his companion, is wasted on the young and the single. A young person in his 20s, unformed, skittish, goes out into the world and tries to fall in love, a project complicated by the bulky defenses that allow him to undertake so risky a venture in the first place.

Now imagine that same person, many years into a stable marriage, anchored. He is no longer a stranger to himself; he is more likely to have forgiveness for human frailty.

He can — theoretically — retreat to the safe harbor of his marriage at any time. What would it be like to be entranced by someone new, without needing, simultaneously to lay claim?

At dinner, the woman told him about her past relationships, her worries about her children; he offered some advice and liked feeling that, although she heard him, she did not seem to need his help.

She asked if he would mind if she moved her chair from across the table to sit beside him; she wanted to be closer.

By doing so she brought the actual idea of sex right there, to the table where they were drinking margaritas: Was he attracted to her?

Did he want to spend more time with her? After dinner they went back to her hotel. Elizabeth had been well aware that something might happen between them.

They were not. But by 11, his new romantic interest was. Later, when he thought back on the evening, he thought less about the sex than about the easiness that there was between them afterward.

She wanted to talk about the first time they met, and how much she, right away, felt that spark. And Daniel found himself reminiscing about the first time he met Elizabeth, early in his career, and how she looked so strangely bathed in a bright light at that moment, as if the universe was trying to make something clear to him.

Conventional wisdom has it that men are more likely than women to crave, even need, variety in their sex lives.

But of the 25 couples I encountered, a majority of the relationships were opened at the initiation of the women; only in six cases had it been the men.

Even when the decision was mutual, the woman was usually the more sexually active outside the marriage. A year-old woman in Seattle said she opened her marriage after she heard about the concept from another young mom at her book club.

Perhaps the women in the couples I encountered were more willing to tell their stories because they did not fit into predictable unflattering stereotypes about the male sex drive.

But it was nonetheless striking to hear so many wives risk so much on behalf of their sexual happiness. One study found that men and women in committed relationships shared equal desire at the onset of their relationships, although for women, that desire dropped precipitously between one and four years into the relationship; for men, the desire remained high throughout that period.

In his book, Bergner cites research suggesting that women desire novelty as much as men. The recent attempts to formulate medication to address waning sexual interest has been predicated on the assumption that one possible response — indulging an interest in newer partners — would never be practical and could be destabilizing.

The women I met who initiated openness seemed to be defying some stereotypes about gender, but their interest was also consistent with more familiar ideas about women and intimacy: They seemed to be doubling down on building relationships in their lives.

At Poly Cocktails, the wife who was watching her Brooklyn husband flirt said that although they had opened their marriage a few months earlier, she was the only one of the two of them who was seeing anyone: a wealthy entrepreneur, and a soccer player.

And if it ever stopped being that, I would get out. Her husband told me he had little interest in putting in the work necessary for even casual flings.

The wife, who asked to go by her middle name, Ann, said she was friendly with couples whose marriages were open and ended badly.

And yet neither she nor her husband, David also a middle name , found those stories prohibitively ominous. Talking with me over several months, they explained, sometimes overtly, sometimes in more roundabout ways, that the instability they had invited into their lives worked as a counterbalance that allowed Ann to feel more secure within the marriage.

Someone outside her marriage did the work of providing the structure of romance, dates, courtship; that heightened her own sense of sexuality in a way that David — who was consumed with his music, who was a creature of habit, who had thoroughly relaxed into the relationship — could not.

Instead of resenting David for his distractions, demanding more focused attention from him, she seemed content to embrace the marriage for the security it did provide.

The space between them that the open marriage introduced had, in fact, improved their sex life; but she also was more appreciative of the depth of the bond she felt with David, compared with the one she had with her boyfriend.

She said she had to cut our conversation short — she was about to sit on the couch with David and watch a documentary.

She laughed at herself a little, at the picture of her and David doing the thing that cozy but bored married couples do.

It was flannel, it was loose and it was very, very comfortable. For most of the late 20th century and early 21st century, therapists tended to champion monogamy with every bit of the consistency that religious institutions did.

Seven years ago, Luce Cousineau, a year-old makeup artist in Seattle, had to admit that her own desire for her husband had dwindled past the point of recovery.

She met her husband, Tim Aguero, who is 48 and a photographer, when they were in their early 20s. She never stopped loving him, wanting his opinion, considering him her best friend and the ideal father of their two children.

But when she turned 40, she had a kind of midlife crisis that included a new, intense desire for more variety in their sex life.

She and her husband could not find a way to talk about it — it was a series of endless missed connections.

They had sex less and less often. Her husband thought they could work through it. She finally realized that it was not just that she wanted varied sex; she wanted varied partners.

She finally broke down, sobbing, at the breakfast table one morning. They realized they were facing a serious issue. They were two artists living in a big progressive city, with multiple polyamory meet-up groups, broken down by age.

They agreed they would start dating, and they quickly found potential partners when they put their profiles up online.

Forging new relationships was complicated, at first, and bruising: Could they go without a condom, if everyone tested clean and the relationship seemed to have potential?

Tim, after a few false starts, started dating a married woman, a former minister, whose husband also had a serious ongoing partner.

There may be people who are more inclined toward monogamy or polyamory than others, who may even, at least one study shows, have some genetic predisposition toward one or the other.

Tim seems to be a case study in adaptability, someone who never even considered, much less longed for, the option until his wife brought it up; he has since found the arrangement suits him.

For the past three years, Luce has been seeing someone in Portland, a man with whom she says she is highly sexually compatible. The sex in her marriage, in recent years, she said, has improved, although she still sees it as a struggle within the committed, loving relationship she has been building since she was Clinging to that illusion, neither partner really sees the other, or even acknowledges that the other has hidden, private selves.

Some of the couples I followed as they forged their open marriages seemed to be reaching out, systematically but also unpredictably, to make transparent the vulnerability that was there all along.

Implicit in the arrangement was the understanding that each person has an alternative self; and yet it was all in the name of the kind of committed relationship that Mitchell believed would yield the most happiness and personal growth.

As I talked to couples over the last year, I often found myself reflecting back on my own marriage. I started to feel less baffled by the boldness they were showing in opening up their marriages, and more questioning of my own total aversion to the possibility.

In interview transcripts, I saw that I was forever apologizing for my own conventionality. I felt, at times, that I was a rusty caliper, trying to take the measurement of some kind of advanced nanotechnology.

I was a blunt instrument, or a chipped mirror: Where I discerned motives of retaliation or evening of scores, I was told to see generosity and understanding.

Where I read humiliation into a situation, the people I was interviewing saw a kind of expansive love that defied pride, possessiveness, traditional notions of masculinity and ownership.

I kept wanting to define terms — but who is your primary? Whom would you choose in the event of conflicting needs?

My instructors were patient but resolute in their overarching easygoingness: It works out, and when it does not, we talk about it and are better for it.

Open marriages, I started to think, are not just for people who were more interested in sex, but also for people who were more interested in people, more willing to tolerate the inevitable unpacking conversations, the gentle making of amends, the late-night breakdowns and emotional work of recommitting to and delighting each other.

Few claimed there was no pain in nonmonogamy; but they were not afraid of that pain, whereas the notion of any extra pain in my life seemed an impossible burden, a commitment along the lines of taking on a second part-time job or caring for an ailing parent.

But more often than not, I felt protective of what we had, more certain of its beauty, its cosseted security.

But there was something about that idealized vision of the cocoon that seemed contrived; was it also cloying, or confining, or implicitly fragile?

In February, Daniel planned a weekend away with the woman he saw the previous month — his girlfriend? His date? Neither word felt exactly right.

He still felt concerned, both about how Elizabeth was going to feel about the weekend upon his return and about how he would feel in the midst of it.

Even the thought of being naked in front of someone new gave him pause. They ordered grilled cheese from room service and ate it on the couch as they talked about why they were there.

They smiled at each other quietly as they sensed the attraction building. As I write this, I am taken back to the moments there, and it does evoke a flood of stark imagery, emotion and sexual desire.

There were no expectations or history to draw from. Elizabeth claimed to have no ambivalence about his weekend away. She said she knew from experience that an outside relationship did not have to diminish your love for your spouse.

And yet when Daniel returned, he found her a little bit cold, judgmental not about the premise of the weekend, she said, but about the particulars.

She and Joseph had waited for months before having intercourse, building the relationship first; Daniel did not wait, which bothered Elizabeth. Also, Daniel had called her to say hello, which she had not expected, then jumped off the phone for a work call and failed to call back.

That she did not like — the feeling that he had engaged her, almost deliberately, and then left her hanging, as if to force her to concentrate on him in his absence.

She did not express the pain or anger or self-righteousness of someone who felt betrayed. Their understanding had made it possible for him to have that weekend away, for which he was enormously grateful.

Over the weekend, he told his lover — at that point, there was really no other word for her — that he was committed to his marriage but not afraid to fall in love.

She admitted she was already halfway there. Many couples often start their open marriages with the idea that insomuch as an open marriage could be normal, theirs would be.

For some people that meant that they would each have unattached sex but not do anything crazy, like fall in love with outside partners.

But some couples told me that once they opened their marriages, unexpected things happened. It was as if one major rethinking of convention subtly rewired their brains to allow for others.

Antoinette Patterson, 34, and her husband, Kevin, 38, who live in Philadelphia, have been open practically since they met 15 years ago. Many people I talked with said they were surprised that opening the marriage changed the nature of their sexuality, that something was unleashed: They developed a new interest in a certain kind of role play, or acted on a long-suppressed desire to sleep with someone of the same sex.

Zaeli met her husband, Joe Spurr, when they were both 21, and they have been nonmonogamous for most of the time they have been together. When Zaeli and Joe married, they agreed to only one real limit on their openness: That they would not cohabitate with someone else.

Nonmonogamy has been, since then, a defining feature of their life, a source of great pride, if for Zaeli, in some periods, an emotionally trying exercise.

Her own past forays outside the marriage were short, brief affairs, more like adventures while traveling, discreet but romantic excursions; Joe, 36, by contrast had had deep, ongoing relationships, the details of which sometimes merely irritated Zaeli and at other times wounded her more deeply.

Because she made no secret of the nature of her relationship, friends often called her to talk through the possibility of opening up their relationships.

Then those friends started referring friends. Without really trying, she developed a small business, working as a kind of relationship coach to the newly polyamorous, among others.

Both Joe and Zaeli agreed that she was happier in the marriage since she had developed her first meaningful relationship outside it. Two years ago, she was performing stand-up comedy when she met Blake Wilson, an aspiring comic himself who had relocated from Palo Alto, and they connected immediately: They shared a kind of hyperverbal, slightly dark, comedic sensibility; they were both thoughtful, but neither could ever be described as overly earnest.

Joe often came home to find them snuggling on the couch, at which point Blake would abruptly get up. Joe was comfortable with everything except the jumping up off the couch.

And then, just over a year after Zaeli first met Blake, when Zaeli and Joe were planning to move to a new home in Austin, they discarded the one rule that had governed their nonmonogamy and invited Blake to move in with them and their daughter, who is now 3.

For Zaeli, nonmonogamy was also an antidote to the atomization of families, to the loneliness of how people live.

But this can be a nice family structure. I thought that by the time I met Joe and Zaeli and Blake in February at their home in Austin that I had become used to the idea of openness.

But from the moment I entered their house, I did not know where to look. Joe, warm and outgoing, greeted me at the door, making small talk I could barely engage in, as his wife and Blake were, at that moment, nuzzling by the stove, reunited after having been apart for most of the day.

That night, he made a Thai chicken soup for dinner. As we ate, Zaeli recalled first meeting Blake. I watched Joe take it all in, his daughter on his lap; he was playing with some tiny balls of Play-Doh that she had left on the table and was flattening them out, shaping them into one big heart.

The conversation wore on, but I eventually admitted to them what they already knew, which was that this was all strange, maybe even hard, for me to witness — Blake kissing Zaeli in front of Joe, the two of them recalling how they fell in love.

But there was no need, he said. He and Zaeli still shared a bed most nights of the week; they shared a daughter.

She was his beautiful wife, and Blake was someone important to her.

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