It’s OK to Push Pause

by Guest

The Joneses, undeniably two of America’s most famous ambassadors for the Lifestyle, are also quick to say that non-monogamy isn’t for everyone. While We Gotta Thing serves as many couples’ introduction to the whats, whys, and hows of navigating entry into the world of ethical non-monogamy, those who are listening know that what the Joneses promote above all else is the inviolability of a couple’s marriage — where the lifestyle should be sought as a bonus-added feature and checked if it becomes a source of tension and conflict.

Here’s a thing a lot of couples contemplating non-monogamy might need to hear: It’s okay to investigate the lifestyle, to dip a toe into the lifestyle without ever doing more than that, to dabble occasionally in the lifestyle, to jump into the lifestyle only to jump right back out if doesn’t feel right to both of you, and especially to self-define your approach to the lifestyle. 

the lifestyle should be sought as a bonus-added feature and checked if it becomes a source of tension and conflict

Going to a sex club or lifestyle event or even taking a big lifestyle vacation doesn’t mean you are beholden to forever keep moving forward and pushing on if you find it’s not working for you as a couple. It’s important to realize that neither the Joneses nor anyone else worth being friends with will judge you for taking a break, scaling back, removing yourselves altogether, or altering how and when you participate.

My husband and I are a good case in point. We talked about non-monogamy (long before we knew that as a term) for literally three years before doing anything more. We looked at some information online. It wasn’t until the Joneses gave us the opportunity to have conversations about it with others that we did anything more. And then…we did. We created online profiles together. We attended a lifestyle event. We went to a couple of meet-and-greets. We went on couple-dates with people we met through dating sites. We went to lifestyle clubs in different states and cities. We participated in a couple of lifestyle getaway weekends.

That sounds like more than dipping a toe in, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. The truth is that in the year and half during which we undertook all of that exploration, we only played with two couples. Not because we didn’t have opportunities, but because we found that we were seldom on the same page when it came to how things were going.

I don’t just mean that we found it difficult to find the “four-way connection,” though that is also true. What I mean is that one of us (me) turned out to be more accepting of the machinations required in the pursuit of meeting others than the other (him). For him, active participation in the pursuit of lifestyle connections didn’t feel authentic. 

While perusing couples’ dating profiles was at first fun, the novelty quickly wore off. Reading and responding to online inquiries demanded a lot of time, almost daily, and couples began to want to chat/flirt with us on phone apps, too. Within a couple of weeks, it felt to him as if our life was becoming out of balance — we were spending more time tending to LS inquiries and nurturing potential LS relationships than felt comfortable. Flirting online and by phone doesn’t come naturally to him or meet his needs. He enjoyed it when we met a couple in person and spent some time getting to know them…but the process to get to that point was not enjoyable for him. And that caused friction between us. I’d argue that it was necessary to chat and flirt and get to know a couple a bit before everyone would feel okay meeting in person. He agreed, knew it was true, but just didn’t like doing it. The result was that I would try to hold up the conversation on my own, which would send “red flag” messages to the other couple that he probably wasn’t interested…which caused more conflict between us as he’d assure me he was interested, so I would nag him to chime in more for the other couple’s benefit. Eventually, we had to admit that this wasn’t working for us and we abandoned online dating sites in favor of focusing on attending some in-person events.

There too, we ran into disparity. While I saw and agreed with his assessment that it felt somewhat artificial to put ourselves in a place where sex permeates the atmosphere, I was more willing to just go with it and enjoy it for what it was. For him, the setting of a lifestyle event, meet & greet, sex club, or getaway weekend feels overly contrived, and he has a hard time ever working past that perception to enjoy himself. He didn’t judge the folks who were there having a great time, he was just not able to do the same. We experienced conflict again, as I argued that either meeting virtually online or meeting in person is pretty necessary if we were going to invite others into our sex life. Sexy couples don’t often just knock on your door and ask to go to bed with you. He agreed, but honestly didn’t enjoy lifestyle events.

And then there is the issue of a four-way connection. There’s a reason it keeps getting called “elusive.” It’s just plain hard to find. In more cases than not as we got to know couples — even couples we liked a lot — one or the other of us would be more into them sexually than the other. We never got terribly good at discussing that openly with each other and it always felt acutely awkward to figure out how to let the other couple know that while we really like them, we don’t both want to have sex with them. On the occasions when we did play with other couples, we had fun…but later admitted that one or the other of us was less interested and had done it in order to be a good sport. That’s not the aim of all of this.

While I keep saying we had tension and conflict, I have to say that we never “fought” about any of this and, in fact, the truth is that we had a lot of really good insightful discussions that helped us learn more about ourselves individually and as a couple. Still, it became evident that we were struggling to be on the same page when it came to participation in the lifestyle.

At some point it dawned on us: We don’t need to do this. Our sex life is good. We are enough, without adding others to our bed. If we don’t enjoy the pursuit of other couples, we simply don’t need to do it…and that’s OK. At some point, we had let ourselves get so wrapped up in trying to “do the lifestyle,” that we temporarily lost sight of the fact that it’s supposed to be a fun and exciting addition to our existing sexual relationship, not an end unto itself. About that time we realized, You know what? This might not be for us.

The fact that our journey has taken us to this point doesn’t feel like a failure.

We are now in a lifestyle pause that may or may not be permanent. We remain sort of “lifestyle adjacent” at the moment. We talk about ways we might engage with non-monogamy still, now with far greater insight into what does and doesn’t work for us and for what we enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about being with others. We’re in no hurry and feel no urgency to “do the lifestyle” in any certain way or at any particular pace just in order to say that we do it. The fact that our journey has taken us to this point doesn’t feel like a failure. In fact, we both agree that we’ve had more intimate talks and explored ourselves individually and as a couple far more for having had these experiences than if we hadn’t. We continue to be more sexually open with one another than we were two years ago.

We still follow WGT and are great friends with the Joneses and several others we met through our lifestyle journey. And you know what? None of them judge or condemn us for stepping back; in fact, they have reached out to applaud us for putting our marriage first and honoring who we are and what we want and need as a couple before all else.

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