In every mixed-orientation marriage, there’s comes a moment, or many, many moments, when an open marriage is considered, discussed, maybe even tried on for size. It only makes sense. If a gay or bisexual person is going to be married to a straight person, the only other option is stuffing the same-sex desire. Forever. That’s pretty bleak prospect, and one a loving person would never want to impose on another. This, ultimately, became one of the big questions in my marriage: Could I live in an open marriage or in a marriage where my partner had to deny half (or more) of herself?
My wife was very effective at keeping it on lock-down. She is supremely self-disciplined, and even ‘proper.’ She had a deep religious belief in the sanctity of marriage. And yet she was in frequent and obvious torment. The early signs that this would be a very, very difficult life were everywhere: She admitted to being bisexual shortly after we met, her only sexual love affair had been with a woman, and she admired and identified with a couple she knew who had had ‘married’ a second woman. Yet we naively thought it wouldn’t matter, that love would conquer all. For my part I thought bisexuality was like a switch, I suppose, and that monogamy was just as possible for her as for me. (As for the poly wedding, I just didn’t even understand what that was supposed to be about; it never dawned on me that that would have been her ideal situation until after we were married.
Of course the trouble started within six months of being married. I won’t go into the long story, but the short version is that she frequently and consistently fell in love with women she knew, sometimes only with a physical attraction, but more than a few times with a deep, emotional love – a true emotional affair. And as I pulled back from her to protect myself from these wounds, the idea of an open marriage was always there.
Now, there was a long period when our four children were young when this issue seemed to fade, and if our sex life didn’t get much better, things settled into what I can only now describe as a don’t-ask, don’t-tell rut. But inevitably it returned. As it always would.
And this time when it returned I really had to deeply consider whether an open marriage was the right thing. I tried and tried to wrap my mind around the idea of her having a lover, and possibly me having one, too. But that made no sense to me. I’ve always been a one-woman man. I’ve never cheated. (I’ve been cheated on, but that’s a different story.) I want someone who wants me and me alone as a lover and partner. I know we can’t be all things to all people, but in my partner, I need that sense of completeness to go both ways. Always have, always will.
There are people out there who make statements like: “People who can’t embrace polyamory are unevolved.” That makes me angry. I do not judge or dismiss the practice, if everyone is honest and on board. It just isn’t for me. I’m not orientated that way.
Because I do believe this is part of our orientation – whether we’re wired to be monogamous or not, whether we’re able to give and receive everything we need from one love partner. Me? I want and need that. My wife? She wanted me and a woman. She would have been willing to forgo it to stay married, but the stark reality was that she was not and never was satisfied with me. She couldn’t be. We were just oriented differently – both our sexual orientation and our, if you will, numerical orientation. And in the end, that was too big a difference.