Affair leads to question of open marriage

Dear Sex Educator,

I am married to my school-girl sweetheart. She’s the only girl I ever went with, and I am the only guy she went with before we got married six years ago. We have two little ones. As soon as last one was born, she got a sitter and went to work in a large office. She developed many girlfriends there, and started going out for “girls night out” once a week, and it has grown to three nights a week now and sometimes overnight.

For last two years, she has had many rumors spread about her. When I’m with her girlfriends’ husbands, I find them distant and unwilling to develop friendships, go jogging, golf, etc. I recently followed her to larger town north of us with her “friends”. As watched, these girls danced with strange men at parties, drank, and ultimately went up to where the rooms were.

I followed my wife. I waited two hours at door until they came out flushed, adjusting clothes, etc. She did not deny that she has affairs. She told me they were harmless and recreational. She insists she loves me and does not want divorce. She told me about “open marriages” and “swinging marriages”, and told me this was what “modern” marriages were all about and told me I was old-fashioned. She also told me she has had “MANY” such one-night stands. She asked me how it changed our marriage “before I found out”?

She tells me all her friends do this and their husbands “do not get bent out of shape.” She tells me this is not forever – she’s only having clean, healthy, exciting fun and only loves me.

I have been throwing up constantly after seeing and hearing of this. I’ve lost weight, I’m sleepless, I can’t eat, can’t concentrate. I can’t go on this way, and I can’t define her. I know I can’t live this way any more. I don’t even know if I can make love to her again. She insists that marriage is more than sex. God, I don’t know what to do. I honestly love that woman. I can understand men wanting her – she’s beautiful. But can’t be married to someone like that. Help me. Am I wrong?

Sigh. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I don’t think this is what modern marriages are all about at all.

Modern marriages are about communication, respect, trust, and partnership. Yes, there are couples who choose to have lovers other than their spouse, but they negotiate that ahead of time, communicate their expectations clearly, and always respect the boundaries of their partners. These relationships, called polyamorous relationships, do not develop under secrecy, and are not carried on without the full consent of both partners. That clearly is not happening here.

Not only is she violating your trust, and disrespecting your wishes, she is putting you at risk of a wide variety of sexually transmitted infections. This does not communicate to me that she respects you, and your vision of what marriage is for you. So I encourage you to honor your gut feelings. If you don’t want her affairs in your marriage, and she is not willing to give it up, you have a large, potentially insurmountable problem. And you should not feel that you need to change your values.

If you want a monogamous marriage, you have the right to have one. Your feelings aren’t wrong; they’re your feelings, and they are what they are. I am truly sorry that this has happened in your life. I feel sympathy for you, for your marriage, and for your children who will suffer from all of this without understanding what happened.

Thank you for writing. I hope you find your way through this mess relatively whole, and knowing it was not your fault.

The Sex Educator