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Orientation, partners & choices

August 7, 2009 1 comment

My sister is doing her doctoral studies. She’s researching women’s stories of adultery from the perspective of feeling justified and why, with particular focus on the lack of guilt, the ending of the relationship & making positive lifestyle choices and moving forward. Interesting enough research.

Then she asked me to contribute an essay. On my life. And choices. Of the past. At first I protested, proclaiming that my story was not a simple one of an adulterous woman. But my sister was intrigued by the choices I had made and the lifestyles I had explored & how they had affected my decisions through the decades.

I’ve had a year to reflect, jotted notes, tried to construct concept maps and had many discussions with my sister.

Most people don’t think deeply about their relationships. There’s an expectation that relationships will happen, they might last, they might not. There may be wedding(s) and a mortgage, kids and a dog. It all happens and there’s not much thinking about it all. It’s all very serial monogamistic, heterosexual, conformist and socially acceptable. All in a suburban setting. I guess, well I hope, that the majority of people are happy with that.

But that’s not the way things worked out for me.

Today I live in a very happy, conservative, monogamous relationship. If pushed to describe & label myself, I’d say I’m a contented bisexual older woman who just happens to find herself in a monogamous relationship with a very conservative man.

At the age of 18 I was pretty certain … but a little unsure … that I was gay. Something wasn’t quite right and once I embraced bisexuality a year later I was fine. Life was good. All sorted.

By 22 I was married with child. And struggling with my own identity. Partly due to being a stay-at-home mum, partly due to sexual identity issues re-emerging. In the end, we ended up having a long term open marriage. A non-monogamous realtionship that lasted 19 years.

Ten years after my divorce, I look back and can say with certainty that the marriage would have been over much sooner had it not been for the fact it was an open relationship.

What intrigues me is how on earth did we decide, as a swinging couple, that going to live in a strict, Islamic community was a good idea?

Oddly enough, apart from the need for absolute discretion, we were able to continue our sexually permissive lifestyle. We were very discrete. Unlike a couple of friends who did get caught and ran afoul of the local law.

We explored various styles of “open marriage”, from swinging (recreational sex with all its rules or lack of) through to polyamory. Both are examples of consensual and ethical non-monogamy. Towards the end of our relationship, I was very inclined to the polyamorous relationships whilst my husband preferred the more free and easy swinging. For a while there we had an intriguing triad happening. Fond memories. Very fond and happy memories.

We weren’t the only Westerners “playing” in the scene. We discovered a number of swingers’ clubs in Dubai. Ultra discrete. Of course. Then there were the “alleged” and “infamous” orgies, private parties that were hosted in secluded villas. There were never any locals partaking. Only foreigners, such as ourselves.

An open marriage allowed me to enjoy relationships with other women (and men) without risking ending my marriage. An open marriage allowed my husband to enjoy extra curricular sexual relationships with no worries about the wife reacting badly. An open marriage allowed the both us to try out a wide array of sexual experiences, from tame to hard core fetish. We would debrief afterwards and determine what or who we’d continue with the next week. All out in the open and honest. Sometimes there was a lot of emotional bonding, sometimes it was just sex with no ties. There was no jealousy. (For those who cannot imagine jealousy intruding, then I suspect you’re not cut out for an open relationship.)

In the final years of my marriage, we began taking separate holidays. We had separate interests, he was a mad keen scuba diver and I was keen on history and landscape. We were also developing separate tastes sexually. By the end, instead of being swingers, we were two married people who simply had sex with other people. We just kept each other informed of our activities as per our agreement.

There were other things happening within our marriage that led me to decide to end the relationship. The openness of the marriage didn’t really factor in to my decision to leave. I fully expected to continue with the lifestyle after my divorce and live happily ever after with a string of assorted lovers.

What happened?

I came home to Australia. Began a relationship with an old and trusted friend. Someone I considered to be quite honourable and honest but oh so conservative. If we were to have a long term relationship, it would have to be monogamous. Could I adapt? Was I willing and happy to conduct a relationship upon such grounds? To my surprise, I was. I still am. It’s been close to 10 years now. And I have been completely faithful to this conservative, heterosexual, monogamous man. A man who has always respected and accepted me as the funny, broadminded bisexual woman with the strange porn collection. I’m pretty sure I’m in love. Him too. It’s nice.

I don’t miss the open relationships or the extra lovers. I can’t help but remember something my first husband once said to me – that when men screw around it’s just sex, when women screw around it’s a sign there’s something wrong with the relationship. Was I simply in the wrong relationship when I was married to my husband? Is that why I enjoyed the swinging years? And does my current monogamous relationship mean that I am finally in the “right” relationship for me?

Who knows?

I don’t regret any of my past. What suited me in my 20s and 30s does not suit me in my 40s. And I’m quite happy with that.