I had been in a monogamous relationship with my husband for 23 years when I was seduced by a colleague. I had never had a relationship with anyone other than my husband and now it was thrown in my lap. I fell in love.
Butterflies and panic
For me there were 3 options back then:
- Quit the job, break contact and leave everything, the monogamous relationship, as it was.
- Don’t say anything to my husband and cheat on him.
- Tell my husband everything and see if there was room for an open relationship.
Option 1 would be by far the most sensible. But when I was 80 years old, how did I want to look back on my life. Did I want to feel that I had dared to live or that I had let myself be led by fear? Would I be sorry because I hadn’t even had the courage to express my desire?
Option 2 then came very close. I was in love with someone else and shared this honestly. With that other person. I tried to be dishonest: I went out to dinner, kissed him. But I felt bad afterwards. This did not feel lovingly.
It broke something in me. I couldn’t go on like this. Not only because I didn’t want to betray my husband; I realized that if I went on, I betrayed myself as well.
Option 3 remained. I gathered all my courage and went to my husband. “All I’m asking is if we can investigate for a month whether an open relationship is something for us. Just discussing it. If it doesn’t feel right, I quit my job, go away and break all ties.”
I had been the only love to my husband, too. And he, too, was curious. He was open to my proposal. We made good arrangements and a month later we were ready. The evaluation: to proceed or not to proceed. We realized we were doing something dangerous. We knew that this would change our relationship forever. Precisely this made us very much focused on each other. We fell incredibly in love again. We made love to the stars of the sky. We had a lot more to talk about and rediscovered each other.
This was the easy phase. The planning phase.
Actually having an open relationship became a disaster.
Eventhough we came out better and stronger every time, the struggles were too often and took too long. This adventure made us both so vulnerable and so shaky that after six months we wanted to go into relationship therapy. Yet in our search for a suitable therapist, we didn’t find one for couples with an open relationship.
We met an EFT-relationship counselor and the first thing he said was “An open relationship is doomed to fail. You think you’ve got it somewhat under control now. This isn’t anything yet. “But we couldn’t and wouldn’t stop. The psychologist helped us to manage conversations, but his starting point remained that an open relationship was a no go area. Still having someone to talk to, even someone who was against our relationship structure, brought peace between us.
We were like teenagers and we enjoyed it to the fullest. Despite the hassle. We were alive!
We have had an open relationship for a number of years now. Sometimes we still find it a hassle. We’re both jealous sometimes. We’re both sometimes insecure. We’re both scared sometimes.
But also thanks to that difficult first year, we are more deeply connected than ever. We have personally grown very much. We now know that we don’t just lose each other. An open relationship is something you do together.
We know it’s gonna be okay. Even if it goes wrong.
We keep our open relationship a secret from the outside world. We don’t want our children to know, that they are worried when we have an argument or that it affects their sense of security. We do it because it gives us peace of mind.
As a relationship therapist I help people who want to make a success of their open relationship. The method I use is Emotionally Focused Therapy. A fine method that helps to restore the connection. The stronger the emotional bonding the more feelings like anxiety, jealousy and insecurity decrease. My mission is to help couples who choose an open relationship to come out stronger.
7 years later
My husband and I are now33 years together, 10 years in an open relationship and I wrote this column 7 years ago. The world has changed. Some close friends know about our open relationship. My collegues know. So step by step in our own pace we are opening up. Also among relationship counselors the tide is changing. Last year (May 2019) a professor at the University of Amsterdam advised me to do a little study on my couples. The result: 73% were still together. This percentage might decrease a little, when the number of couples increase, but it equals the score for monogamous couples. When I gave a lecture in Utrecht, organised by EFT Netherlands, it was crowded. So many psychologists, psychotherapists, relationship counselors. Consensual Non Monogamy is a part of our society and I sensed therapists were open to discuss ideas and experiences.
Have you ever fallen in love? And how did you deal with it? If you feel more comfortable to use a pseudonym, please do. The subject is vulnerable and sometimes we are ashamed of how we dealt with it or we fear others might worry. So feel free to share your story in the way it fits you.
And if you feel you are getting stuck in your open relationship, send me a mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or send a whatsapp to +31641587202. I give offline and online therapy.
With kind regards,