We started playing with the idea of seeing people outside of our relationship last year. It followed directly after I came out.
We decided mutually that non-monogamy was something worth exploring, simply because we wanted to explore it. It was my personal desires that fueled this exploration. He really didn’t have any intention to start something; he was busy enough already. But I was on a mission to becoming a sexual liberationist & I craved to actualize my curiosity.
So, we decided to experiment. (And I don’t think I even need to elaborate on how much of a paradox this all was.)
First, boundaries were set.
We agreed to communicate our wishes & concerns without hesitation. We agreed to check in with our own individual emotions surrounding the people I would see (if I saw anyone at all). We agreed to stay open-minded. We agreed to be honest with our feelings.
We agreed that we would not allow any one person (or two, or three) to weaken the foundation & integrity of our values, morals, or partnership; we — he & I — would be each other’s first priorities.
We realized that to a certain & rather large extent, our experimentation with opening up our marriage meant succumbing fully to the unknown.
We understood that all the talking, planning, & guessing in the world would never prepare us for the actual experience of having a secondary relationship; that to talk-the-talk is one thing, but to walk-the-walk is another entirely.
This was incredibly important to be mindful of, as we both came from the mindset that we needed to be fully prepared for what’s to happen, should anything happen.
But how can one prepare for something they have absolutely no perspective of? This was a question we continued to ask ourselves.
So we had no choice but to become intimately familiar with the unknown — that complex grey area — while continuing to trust our intuitions & each other. Like going into a vast cave, darkness surrounding us, without only a candle of innate wisdom lighting our way.
We decided that that was all we needed. Well, that, & The Ethical Slut, which acted as our trusty guide.
From there, I (we) gave myself missions (or small tasks) to prompt & catapult us both into a non-monogamous lifestyle.
Mission #1: Ask someone out.
She was a cashier at my local grocery. She bagged my produce while I ran my plastic card through the machine that asked me Debit or Credit? Through these menial tasks we became well versed in the art of small talk for a few brief moments.
Sometimes she’d ask me what I was making for dinner (how could she not when she had a ringside seat to my refrigerator?). Sometimes she’d ask me what I was doing for the weekend. Mostly, she was just being friendly. That was part of the job description, as she worked at “the friendliest store in town.”
Looking back, I probably mistook her friendliness for something more. Perhaps she had managed to flirt with me in the midst of scanning items & weighing my potatoes. Or perhaps I was just another regular customer she smiled towards. To this day, I don’t really know. My flirtation radar was in dire need of an upgrade.
It was with a lot of moxie that I decided to take a chance & ask her out, not really knowing what one says when doing so. But there I was, standing rather stupidly across her checkout counter, palms sweaty, heart racing, about to do something I’d never done before.
I suddenly felt this weird pang of disorientation: a palpable kind of role reversal was happening to me. I was about to assume the perceived “masculine” role by asking someone to go out with me, & a woman at that.
This entire idea & the discombobulation it provoked within me nearly kept me from completing my mission. But I somehow found my courage.
Her reaction was that of confusion. Confusion, I assume, because she had noticed the wedding band on my left ring finger. But she was polite about it, & agreed to meet up with me.
She said yes.
I proceeded to write down my number on a piece of paper I found on the bottom of my purse. It took me twenty minutes to find a pen. I gave her the piece of paper, trying to disguise my shaking hand, & she, in turn, gave me my receipt.
I remember walking to the car, my groceries in tow, beaming with gratification. And then a feeling of fear jolted my heart: What was I doing?
In the quietness of my car, I contemplated the move I had just made as I drove home. Only three people on the planet knew what I had done: my husband (of course), my sister, & a dear friend. They were incredulous, congratulatory, supportive.
I was scared shitless.
Having completed my first mission brought me to my next:
Go on a date with someone.