I Discovered the One, and We’re in an Open Marriage


By Eric Henley*

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Shortly after my 24th birthday, I met Ken*, the person who would turn into my husband, for the second time. (The primary time was at a home celebration in our freshman yr of school, however that’s a distinct story.) I discovered him immediately charming, clever, and breathtakingly dashing. Six weeks later, I had it set behind my thoughts that I’d most likely marry this man. We moved in collectively later that yr and have been engaged earlier than we reached our second anniversary. We had a shocking marriage ceremony in an city warehouse with all of our closest family and friends, the place we declared that we’d put our love for each other first for the remainder of our lives.

As now we have constructed our lives collectively over the previous decade, nonetheless, sure realities have risen to the floor. Ken had a really restricted variety of sexual companions previous to our getting collectively, and felt a need to discover sides of his sexuality that I’m unable to offer him. In our early conversations, he expressed agitation round his restricted sexual experiences. In the meantime, I’ve slowly, hesitantly realized that I’m predisposed to polyamory: I really feel my most fulfilled when I’ve the flexibility to discover deep emotional connections, as much as and together with love, with others.

There’s nonetheless an enormous quantity of stigma round open relationships and polyamory in America, and to at the present time my non-monogamy is one thing that I select solely to expose strategically to particular shut mates. Ken and I are involved about how others could choose our selections with out realizing their broader context. I’ve needed to discover methods to steadiness my typically big-hearted emotional responses with security and safety, for the well being of our popularity. For sure, these modifications didn’t occur with out severe consideration of the broader repercussions invited by opening our marriage.

A number of years in the past—even earlier than our marriage ceremony—we started exploring the opportunity of an open relationship. I used to be raised believing that everybody has “the One,” so I used to be initially extremely skeptical and did a lot to sabotage our earliest makes an attempt. I struggled, at the least at first, to see any potential lover of Ken’s as something aside from competitors. In my thoughts, Ken was one good date (or sexual expertise) away from coming to his senses and leaving me for somebody much more attention-grabbing—why else would he need to pursue different individuals? My insecurities led to rash habits. As Ken was strolling out the door to satisfy a possible new intercourse companion for the primary time, I had an emotional meltdown that compelled him to cancel. I’d stall with arbitrary guidelines one step shy of, “It have to be a Tuesday in Could and also you have to be sporting inexperienced socks.”

In any case of that, nonetheless, it took only one assertion to alter my viewpoint, just like the flip of a light-weight swap. Ken stated to me, “We now have a home. We now have a canine. I informed everybody we all know that I really like you and commit myself to you initially. I’ve 5, 10, and 20-year plans with you. You’re in each model of my future, and anything is a perk of dwelling in an period the place we’re free to outline our personal relationships.” Finally, it was time to contemplate what I might stand to realize from an open relationship, and concentrate on recognizing my very own worth as a companion. I rapidly went from being hesitant to enthusiastic.

As Ken and I’ve delved into the intricacies of moral non-monogamy collectively, we’ve discovered what works for us, at the least for now. Via our exploration, now we have improved our communication, jump-started our intercourse life (with each other!), and opened channels that we imagine will finally assist our relationship endure. Listed here are 5 guiding rules which have steered our personal ongoing conversations.

We Are Sincere With Every Different, and Ourselves, About What We Need

When Ken and I first started discussing what an open relationship would possibly appear like for us, we determined to share what we every hoped to realize, then discover a center floor within the curiosity of “evenness.” Ken was extra sexually motivated. As he expressed his wishes, it grew to become clear that he needed to broaden his boundaries, which included exploring completely different kinks in an area the place he didn’t must venture an identification onto me. (He’s into older males, and as somebody solely six months his senior I don’t fairly minimize it.) I knew instantly that what I needed was extra advanced than intercourse, and relied extra closely on an emotional connection. Fairly than interrogate that thought course of to find out what I needed or wanted from moral non-monogamy, I rounded right down to current a compromise. “How about we each have mates with advantages? Nothing random; now we have to have met somebody sufficient occasions to belief them and their respect for our marriage?”

The issue with this answer, in fact, was that it didn’t scratch both of our itches. It resulted in each of us feeling pissed off and dissatisfied with the association. As a result of we got here to an settlement that left each of us unfulfilled, we discovered ourselves painted right into a nook whereby, a number of occasions over the primary couple of years, we needed to revisit the dialog once more. Finally, as a result of we tried to discover a center floor and I wasn’t totally, radically trustworthy about what I hoped to realize, we weren’t capable of set our guidelines accordingly. One in every of my mentors as soon as informed me, “A very good staff has no surprises,” and by failing to advocate for my wants and wishes, Ken was confronted with a number of surprises that led to undue rigidity.

I’ve found that there are almost countless methods to construct ethically non-monogamous relationships: one-time sexual flings, mates with “advantages,” mates with whom intercourse is only one of many shared actions, polyamorous romantic relationships, in addition to queerplatonic/quasiplatonic relationships and asexual relationships. For us, our watershed second was after we admitted to ourselves—and one another—what it’s we every really needed from our open marriage. That allowed us to extra clearly resolve whether or not or not we needed to proceed and, after we determined to take action, set the foundations for find out how to go about it.

We Set the Guidelines, and Revisit Them Usually

After Ken and I have been capable of establish what we hoped to realize from moral non-monogamy, we went in regards to the technique of negotiating the foundations that may dictate our exterior interactions. This was an iterative course of and continues to be to at the present time. The human expertise is fluid, as are our emotions, feelings, and the states of {our relationships}. Accordingly, we determined that these guidelines have to be revisited anytime we really feel that one is not working for us. With time and luxury, a lot of our guidelines have been lessened or lifted. Nonetheless, one thing that has been vital to us is that any change within the guidelines is a deliberate, proactive choice (quite than a reactive bandage).

In terms of the foundations themselves, now we have adopted the teachings we discovered in elementary faculty about good questions—all the time ask who, what, when, the place, why and the way. Beneath are a couple of of the questions we proceed to ask ourselves in every class.

  • Why: For us, the “why” was the novel honesty that we shared with one another beforehand. As a result of we’ve recognized our wishes, we’ve additionally recognized our “why.”
  • Who: Is anybody off limits? Are there disqualifiers for a possible companion? Are there standards a possible companion wants to satisfy?
  • What: Is safer intercourse required, and in that case, what’s our definition of safer intercourse? Are we allowed to discover kinks that we haven’t beforehand explored with one another? Is something off limits and/or reserved just for each other? Since we have been taking a look at polyamory, we additionally explored emotions on how we seek advice from further companions, and limits round how far romantic expressions are allowed to go (items, and so on).
  • When: Can we forego time with each other to spend time with different companions? In that case, how typically and for the way lengthy?
  • The place: Can now we have different companions who dwell in the identical metropolis as us? Do the foundations change after we’re on trip collectively? Do the foundations change when one companion is out of city, and in that case how? Can we spend time with different companions in our residence, or do we have to go elsewhere?
  • How: Do we have to clear interactions with one other companion first? Can we focus on interactions with different companions earlier than or after-the-fact. Is there an abort/veto swap that may be pulled at any time, for any motive, with out dialogue upfront? If now we have a veto, is that common or simply for particular forms of relationships? How will we elevate any future questions or considerations to 1 one other in a secure and respectful approach?

This will likely look like a lot of questions, however this isn’t even an all-inclusive record. We now have selected solutions for every of those questions in our personal relationship, and that record has gone by means of a number of iterations. For instance, we focus on any new companions earlier than assembly up with them for the primary time. What’s extra, now we have an automated veto that we are able to use at any time (though it has but to return up). When now we have questions or considerations in regards to the state of our relationship, we purpose to convey them up instantly.

We’re dedicated to safer intercourse (together with Pre-Publicity Prophylaxis, or PrEP, a drug that drastically reduces the transmission of HIV). We now have elected to all the time prioritize our relationship, which means that cases through which we’re forfeiting time with each other to speak to or meet different companions ought to all the time be the exception. We will spend time collectively in our residence with different companions, however solely after having had a dialog about it upfront.

And, as a result of staff has no surprises, I’ve had related conversations with my present boyfriend, Harvey* and he, in flip, has had them together with his husband.

We By no means Say “No” (or “Sure”) Proper Away

One thing that we’ve discovered as we dwell in our open marriage is that guidelines have exceptions, or generally now we have did not account for a possible scenario. In these cases, we all the time try to handle the difficulty head-on as quickly as we turn into conscious of it. This protects our relationship and the exhausting work we’ve put into crafting the non-monogamous parts of it.

We now have discovered the exhausting approach that questions, particularly these pertaining to altering or bending the foundations, are nearly by no means as simple as they appear. First off, there may be all the time a level of nuance and timing, and our first reactions are very hardly ever how we actually really feel. Only in the near past, I made the error of asking Ken if Harvey might stick with us throughout an upcoming five-day interval simply minutes after he had informed me he was actually hungry. This was a dialog I had been barely nervous about, because it didn’t fall neatly into any of our earlier discussions, however my timing left a lot to be desired. The reply was a curt bark: “I don’t know! Why are we speaking about this proper now?!” After lunch, he was far more open to our dialog.

There are different elements that we’ve discovered can affect how we really feel in a given second. Over time, now we have recognized further issues to concentrate to love how issues are getting into our relationship, how issues are going with our exterior companions, the time of day, how work went that day, and whether or not or not we’ve been actively discussing different components of our relationship.

The opposite consideration we should weigh is whether or not or not the change will result in a slippery slope. Maybe a rule change is smart for a selected particular person, or interplay, however wouldn’t make sense as a long-term change for the well being of our relationship. There can be unintended penalties. Within the case of Harvey staying with us, questions equivalent to “How will Ken really feel? What’s going to Ken do if we need to be alone? Are there guidelines we have to set for that go to?” needed to be thought-about earlier than we might totally come to an settlement.

As rule of thumb, now we have determined to return again to main conversations after at the least a few hours (if not a day or two) to make sure our ideas and reactions are balanced and clear.

We’ve Determined What’s “Must Know”

One in every of our largest ongoing conversations has pertained to how concerned we every need to be with our different relationships. As a result of our “whys” are completely different, we’re engaged in various kinds of relationships, and due to this fact the questions we’ve needed to ask ourselves differ.

The primary main query we needed to ask ourselves is how concerned we’ve needed to be with every others’ companions. For Ken, that has meant asking himself questions round his relationship with my boyfriend(s) or companion(s).

  • Does he need to be mates with them?
  • Does he need to be mates with my metamour (my different companion’s companion(s))?
  • Is he okay if I turn into mates with my metamour?
  • How will he really feel and what is going to it appear like when Harvey visits? Will he steer clear or spend time with us collectively?

The opposite main pre-emptive communicative merchandise we’ve each needed to ask ourselves is whether or not or not we need to have particulars on the connection(s) now we have with others, sexual or romantic. Examples would possibly embrace:

  • Can we need to learn when a sexual interplay occurs, and in that case, in how nice of element?
  • Can we need to be in-the-know on huge occasions in our companion(s) lives which will trickle into Ken and me’s relationship?
  • Can we need to be made conscious of milestones, equivalent to anniversaries, saying “I really like you,” and different occasions that may be celebrated or acknowledged if the identical occasion have been between Ken and me?

We’ve elected to be hyper-communicative in {our relationships}, however many {couples} elect to behave on a “must know” foundation, which is a legitimate alternative that now we have mentioned at size. Finally, we struggled to establish what sort of data would fall below the “must know” class, and foresaw that it might result in having much more reactive conversations, so determined in opposition to it.

We Are Having Enjoyable

After studying all the above, you may be pondering to your self, “Eric, that looks as if an terrible lot of labor.” Properly, you’re right. It’s ongoing, generally uncomfortable work that at occasions we interact in day by day, and different occasions weeks will move with out dialog. However, extra importantly than that, we’re having lots of enjoyable.

Not in contrast to touring, we’ve had the chance to see and expertise so many new and international issues by constructing a basis of belief after which crafting our open marriage on prime of it. We now have gotten to expertise the push of latest relationship power, new issues that flip us on (that we are able to then convey again to one another), and collectively, we’ve pushed our boundaries additional than I ever would have alone.


As somebody who all the time believed within the One, there have been years the place I struggled to reconcile my burgeoning emotions and Ken’s wishes. A part of our exploration, as a pair, has been (and continues to be) how we present up as loving and dedicated companions on daily basis when a few of our actions could also be seen as the alternative. We now have needed to particularly outline what it means for us to have a wealthy, fulfilling and communicative marriage. We’ve thrown out guidelines and norms that we grew up with—and see our mates, household, and society dwelling with on daily basis—to mould what our relationship will appear like.

It has typically been tough and as we navigate the complexities of day after day life, we proceed to have disagreements that pressure us to guage the foundations and additional outline our path ahead. However as now we have constructed this life collectively, one factor is definite: Ken is my One, initially, and it simply so occurs we’re in an open marriage.

*Some names and figuring out particulars have been modified to guard the privateness of people.

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