A QUESTION:

“Just curious and wanting to understand your perspective, enjoy reading your blog. Has opened my eyes to a completely different viewpoint. Curious though, and no judgment intended, with all your many sexual partners you write about, what’s your relationship (sexual) like with your spouse. I’m just trying to understand an open relationship like you describe. If you are so active with so many guys, what’s left to be considered ‘special’ with your husband?“

This is a good one. I’m surprised it hasn’t been asked since now so thank you. 

My husband and I had a lot more sex when we first met and over a decade of sexual exclusivity, that frequency gradually grew less and less, but we maintained a roughly once a week routine through year 10.

When we decided to open our relationship, it was because we both really wanted to try it and were both really attracted to other guys, even though we were both really scared of losing our “specialness.” To be frank, we do have less sex now, after 26 years together and 16 years open. We probably have orgasmic sex less than once a month now. We have a good deal of cuddle time and naked conversation.

And… there is simply no one else I love anything near as deeply and tell so several times a day, every day. There’s no one else I literally sleep with, no one else I grieve with when a loved one dies, no one else I sleep beside in the stroke clinic after mortality taps one of us on the head, no one else I share every fear and joy with, no other lover with whom I have never fought (not once), no one else who makes me laugh every day, no one else I believe in so unconditionally and am inspired by so endlessly. There’s no one else in the world I would die for and would have by my side when I breathe my last breath. I mean all of these things as much as I could mean anything.

I don’t believe in soul mates, but Eric and I are insanely well-suited to each other. I truly feel like the luckiest man on the planet because of his presence in my life. Our infrequent sex hasn’t had a shred of impact on that, much as I feared it might. Really, I just keep loving him more and he seems to feel the same way!

Many, many long-term couples—I believe the great majority of us—have less sex over time. Some keep going passionately to the end but they are a small and delightful minority. Many cheat to stay together (as Dan Savage has pointed out many times) and many simply try to shrink their desires and expectations to match waning sexual fire. I have spoken to several members of the Jacks who report living in sexless marriages. The Jacks help them stay connected to themselves, something important that we get from sex.

Like many successful open couples, we’ve found that allowing each other to sustain interest in sex by allowing adventure, novelty (a very common turn-on, likely for evolutionary reasons – see Christopher Ryan’s Sex at Dawn) and exploration of our unique individual desires, has somehow only strengthened our bond.

I can’t tell you how it works or why, and I never recommend openness to couples who are happy to work at monogamy, but it totally works for us. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. Life feels sane to me because I don’t have to deny my strong libido or hold one individual hostage to it. We are each responsible for our health and well being and we each support each other in that. Once we got past the fear that is at the base of your question, the belief that sex is what makes a relationship special or can make a relationship special, we got to another level of honesty with each other.

Once one is able to satisfy fundamental sexual needs easily, once the myth of scarcity is broken, one sometimes finds that sex isn’t the One True Ingredient for what makes people life partners. Humans use sex for much more than that and it takes more than sex to make a successful relationship.

At least that’s my experience after 26 years of loving one man above all others.

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