My husband and I met as 17-year-old kids working at a local chain restaurant. Our playful flirtation around the soda machine led to the first date that would set the rest of our lives into motion.
We went to prom together, graduated high school together, and went off together to attend the same university. We were married at age 20, rented our first cheap apartment, and worked our way through part-time jobs to keep us stocked on ramen noodles and frozen pizzas. We graduated college, got our first “big kid” careers, bought a house, and had two beautiful children.
We were not any different than you.
Our marriage was the epitome of the relationship escalator, and we had seemingly reached the very top. We had done everything right, and in the order everyone had expected of us… until one day, it all came crashing down.
My husband had an affair. And it broke me.
His affair was slow and primarily emotional at first. It was almost as if I was watching a horror movie as his relationship with “her” began to unfold and blossom with sickening new-relationship energy in front of my eyes. As much as I tried, and as much as we tried, there was no stopping the way he felt for another woman. He could not stay away from this barely-legal blonde, which he had deemed “his person.” The most devastating part of it all? It wasn’t that he didn’t love me, but that he loved “her” equally.
I write this so simply, as if hearing my husband of 12 years profess his heart for another human didn’t tear apart my soul. As if his words didn’t send me straight to rock bottom. As if the mental toll of the lies and deceit and betrayal from the one person I had trusted most didn’t affect every facet of my life.
For six months, I did everything in my power to fix our marriage while his affair continued to gain speed until one night, the trauma became too much. I moved all of his belongings to the front yard, filed for divorce, and served the papers to my husband myself. I was done… or so I thought.
What happened next in our story is beyond what I ever imagined for my life.
My husband had mentioned words like “non-monogamy” and “open relationship” during that time, and I had been quick to shut him down in rage. The concept alone physically hurt me, but the fact that my very own husband was entertaining the idea was something I could not bear. However, here we were, beginning on divorce proceedings and ending a marriage we both very much still wanted to be in. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” he said tearfully.
It was only then I realized that maybe he was right.
My husband “came out” as polyamorous to me. He was vulnerable, honest, and real for the first time in a long while. With his admission, he asked me to explore this type of lifestyle alongside him. When I began reading my first book on the topic, I could only take in a paragraph or two at a time because the idea of an open marriage went against everything I had ever known or believed. But, slowly, I started to understand. Was this way of life for me as an individual? Not necessarily. Could I allow him to live his life and share his heart in this way? Maybe.
I will not defend my husband’s choice to betray our family and me. That itself is inexcusable and guilt he lives with. However, my husband is a good man. Our marriage imploded, and we were left to rebuild it (or not) however we chose. I’m not going to tell you it has been easy because deciding to change everything about your relationship, even if for the better, comes with growing pains that you cannot predict.
But, despite it all, we have blossomed. This kind of life requires a new level of honesty, transparency, and communication that didn’t exist in our relationship previously. We are finally doing the work for our marriage that we had just taken for granted for our first 15 years together. My husband continues to have a relationship with “her,” and I have come to support him in that exploration. I have even experienced compersion, which I couldn’t have fathomed a year ago. His world with “her” remains separate from our life together, and it works for us right now.
This isn’t the end of our non-monogamous marriage journey. We have not reached the ideal in our situation, and we both recognize we may never get there. But, even if experienced only for a short time, this alternative life has redefined our relationship and solidified our commitment to each other. This “taboo” way of marriage… might just save us in the end.