A reader writes:
I am someone in an 11-year marriage that has been non-monogamous (though, unfortunately, not yet in the open about it) for about seven years. It's certainly not how I intended it to be. I had my fair share of short-term, recreational relationships prior to meeting my wife, and I reasoned that I had to give up my short-term term sexual behavior in order to have a successful, long-term marriage. What I hadn't counted on, however, was that the quality of my long-term sex life would take such a dramatic turn for the worse.
During our dating period, our sex life was exciting, though it was exclusively one-on-one and short on experimentation. Because we were a bit older, once we got married sex became almost exclusively for making babies, which we both wanted right away.
The first thing to go in my marriage was blow jobs. She didn't much like giving them in the first place and they pretty much disappeared after we got married. Our first child came after two years, at which time my wife's breasts became "food, not for sexual pleasure." Not only was I not allowed to fondle, kiss, or otherwise enjoy her beautiful breasts, I could barely comment on them anymore without a "tut tut" from my wife.
After our second child was born, however, things dramatically deteriorated. Sex became almost nonexistent; I think we had sex less than 10 times in that first year. By the time our younger child had reached the age of three, I'd already had sex with two different prostitutes while out of town on business and found another one locally. At home, sex was excruciatingly bland and too infrequent. The boundaries around what we could and could not do had grown so narrow that I was not enjoying it anymore.
On top of that, I'd been laid off, money was tight, and our younger child was showing serious signs of ADHD and was a complete handful. There was so much stress in our house that sex seemed completely out of the question.
And then, one night, my wife announced that she didn't care if she ever had sex again. Like a good husband, I didn't fly off the handle, but asked her what she'd like me to do with that information. After a brief discussion, SHE suggested I get a "girlfriend" for sex. But, like everything else sexual, there were some pretty ridiculous rules of engagement, and I wasn't in favor of her arrangement, so she withdrew her suggestion.
But, in secret, after I found a new job and had an income, I was able to hook up with several women before I found one with whom I'd had a relationship for nearly two years. I can get blow jobs, enjoy their breasts, and experiment in every way. I'm so happy to be able to do this, and I find that my extra-marital activity enhances the way I show up in my marriage. Chiefly, it's because I no longer have to resent the fact that my wife is just not that sexual. I didn't marry her because she was great in bed, but at the same time, I didn't expect to be in a virtually sexless marriage either. So, while it's OK for me if she wants these tight little boundaries around our sex life, I'm not going to live like that and be happy. So I get what I need elsewhere, and then go home happy, attentive, and loving.