An Open Marriage Saved My Sanity

June 25, 2018

We each have separate bedrooms. 

My husband and I dated, got married, and have lived together for almost 17 years.

I begged for this relationship, and our marriage, since the beginning.

“One more chance, please, please give me just one more chance.”

I remember repetitively pleading these words with tears streaming on cheeks, snot hanging heavy on my nostrils, and my voice hoarse from hours spent crying. He has either broken up with me or threatened divorce every year we’ve been together. Like clockwork, each year I begged for his love.

The truth can’t stay hidden, eventually, there are no more dark corners for it to hide.

His truth came out two and a half years ago. The truth became known that he’d never been faithful to me. I found this out within the time span of six months between affairs. My body went into shock. I lost my will to live. I blamed myself.  My world felt like an everyday waking and walking nightmarish-dream quality. Because he had made my worst fears all too real.

The turning point came when I found a therapist and a psychiatrist. Although they told me not to return to my marriage — to file for divorce — I didn’t listen to their advice. I missed my son and my home. I went back begging those same words, “Please let me come home. Please, one more chance. Please, I’m getting therapy. I’ll get better.”

I’d said whatever I had to so we could patch things up.

The therapist gave me a plan and coping mechanisms. I’d never been taught any before her. She took time over several sessions to make me understand his wrongs weren’t my fault. People cheat because they’re trying to fulfill missing aspects of their life — in their self-esteem and their ego. They cheat to gain power, to feel attractive, needed, wanted, desired — because they are unable to feel these things within their psyche.

I learned coping mechanisms such as breathing techniques, walking away, or playing with shelter dogs; each of these activities provided me with joy and independence. I found myself learning exactly how much power I’d given away in my marriage.

I had allowed my husband the power to decide my self-esteem for our entire relationship. I’d let him put a value on my worth as a wife and a woman. I’d spent countless hours worrying myself into grief, sickness, and living in a state of constant nervousness. Through therapy I learned my most valuable lesson: I could only control my choices.

His actions were his choices.

I finally chose for myself and our marriage. I asked for him to agree to an open marriage. We can’t afford a divorce. Neither of us can afford to break apart the home we’d spent almost two decades building. However, neither of us should be denied happiness and love because we can’t afford to live apart at the moment. Even though a divorce and split finances can’t happen right now, it doesn’t mean we can’t have a new life, new journeys.

The minute I asked for an open marriage, my husband met me with anger. He said he didn’t want an open marriage. But he’d already opened the door; he just refused to let me walk through it while he ran in and out of doorways every few months. Eventually, we both came to the agreement that it would be best for both of us to see other people. I have lost all hope of repairing a union which can’t be fixed. My new hope is derived from wanting my son to see his mother happy sometime in the future.

The ground rules to our agreement came naturally. We would tell the other when we were seeing someone else. We aren’t allowed to bring other people into our home or around our son. We’re free to date whomever we want. He’s not allowed to touch me or sleep with me. We haven’t shared a bed in three years; we each have separate bedrooms. I can’t go back to a person who would purposely put me in a place where I’m forced to question my self-worth because of their choices.

I did my research, and finally found a dating app I’m comfortable using. It took me awhile to pick out pictures and write an online dating profile. It took courage for me to place pictures and type words about myself knowing I’d be judged by whether someone likes the way I look. Doing each step built a renewed hope. The likes and messages are coming in every day.

It had been almost 20 years since I dated, or “talked” or whatever it’s called these days, but I’m out there, and I’m trying. This technological world feels new and frightening, but also exciting. Men send me messages, and sometimes we talk. No, I haven’t slept with anyone yet. But if I want to, I have an agreement I’m allowed to make whatever choice I want, even with a marriage license. I don’t have to feel guilty. I don’t care or question who my husband is talking to or seeing. Life is easier and less stressful in an open marriage, with fewer volatile feelings.

And, most of all, I no longer have to beg to be loved ever again.

When I opened the door to allow us to love and be with other people, I gained inner freedom and independence. I gained what my therapist had been working towards me having, a life outside of control from a man who probably never loved me. I have the resolute knowledge that I am capable of doing things on my own. It has shown me how we each deserve love, even my husband. I hope whatever he is looking for, he will one day find. I also carry that same exact hope for myself. Not all my hope is lost.

What I finally did rid myself of was too many countless nights spent wrapped up in jealousy: Who is he talking to? Why is hiding and talking on the phone? 

I no longer stay up all night wondering why he doesn’t like me. There’s no more believing it’s my fault. Instead, there are late nights filled with smiles and dreams, knowing that one day this marriage won’t exist at all. Eventually, we’ll be able to afford our divorce and move onto new, and in my case, more respectful partners.

An open marriage did more than allow me to date men outside of my marriage.

It released me from the prison sentence of blame and shame because I’d married a serial cheater.

I was able to position myself —  and my needs and wants — out in front of his secret ambitions. I am grabbing and holding onto the reins of my future happiness.

There is a restoration happening inside me. I see a side to myself I haven’t seen or felt since high school. I am pretty. I am desired. I am a wanted woman with curves and funny jokes. I have a beautiful body, and it’s okay to admire it. I don’t have to beg.

I now have these moments to show me I can feel butterflies stirring in my stomach. There’s love still left inside my broken heart. In time, as with all things, a heart will mend. An open marriage saved my soul from madness and despair. Instead, it is filling my mind and spirit with hope and possibility to one day have true love, admiration, and respect.

Image via tumblr.com.


This story originally appeared on Ravishly, a feminist news+culture website.

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