Marriage is freaking hard work. Anyone will tell you that, but what they don’t often tell you is that you could try to do everything the “right” way, and it will still be hard.
My husband and I were DONE. We had tried for over a year to get our relationship back on track, but after nearly ten years and two small time and energy-suckers in the form of our beloved children, we had just reached that point where things were really, really hard.
He was coming home late every night, working himself to exhaustion because it was easier to work than be home dealing with the screaming. Little kids do a lot of that. Ours likely teach a class on how to thoroughly exhaust and irritate one’s parents in their spare time, or they would if they had access to the internet and could speak in more coherent sentences.
I tried to keep things hot. We tried date nights, but we always wound up just seeing the movie, going to dinner, and skipping dessert. We went from awkwardly having me explain to my mother why she found a bottle of lube in the kitchen cabinet (there was an island countertop in our old house) to having a pretty much sexless marriage.
It wasn’t even really the fact that kids are cock blockers. It was just that sex got BORING. It was routine. He knew my hot spots, I knew his, and we didn’t have much time to play anymore so we just went for what was easiest.
Even when we had a whole night to ourselves, Netflix and Chill meant we would binge on Netflix at opposite ends of the room; me on the couch, him on his La-Z-boy. We would decide we would have sex in the morning when we were better rested. We rarely did. We weren’t in the mood.
I tried everything I could to make our marriage better. I became a freaking Stepford Wife and read all the relationship advice and I sent him articles, but we kept fighting. We couldn’t seem to see eye to eye on anything anymore. And then one day it just all exploded.
He said he was done. I told him I would take the kids with me. He got mean and said things, I got spiteful and said things, and we both were on our way to ending it all.
Except that I still wanted him in the kids’ lives and I missed my best friend. He missed his best friend and didn’t want to be away from the kids either. As a family, we were great. We were a good parenting team. But as a couple trying to hold it all together we were so out of sync and part of it had to do with just not feeling it anymore. We were roommates, essentially.
I had boxes packed. I looked into subsidized housing and education and thought a lot about starting my life over as a single mother — a role I never wanted for myself. I had grown up in a single parent home; I hadn’t wanted that life for my kids. I don’t say this as anything against single parents; you guys are awesome, but for me I just didn’t want it. I never got to have the family I wanted as a kid. I was always looking at my dad’s relationships through the lens of finally getting that perfect family that my friends all had.
My own relationship with my mother has always been strained and, honestly, I never got what I needed from her. But even though my kids have two emotionally available parents, I didn’t want them to have to do the two house, two family, two holiday thing. I didn’t want another woman mothering my kids. I didn’t want another man to raise my kids with me. I wanted their father beside me. And he was a good man. He was worth fighting for.
So, even as I worked on Plan B, Plan A was all about getting him to give us another chance. He had said he didn’t feel the same way anymore. He wanted out.
And instead of telling me truthfully that he wanted to date other people, he signed up for Tinder under a fake name. I caught him secretively swiping right and left on his phone while we were watching TV together. I “signed up” that same night. I selected a picture of a hot young thing and I found him. I was pissed. I wanted to key his car, destroy his precious possessions, and just hurt him because how dare he go and do that to me when we were supposed to be working on things.
But then after confronting him, he told me that he wanted us to live as roommates and date other people.
“You want an open marriage?” I asked him.
He said, “No, I want us to be friends and raise our kids. We won’t bring anyone home.”
I told him that I would agree to that, but I was going to date too. He said that was fine.
We worked out the new arrangement over text message that day, and I created my real Tinder account. And while we were working things out, I was getting a ton of messages; and I had only swiped right on a few guys. I was even upfront and honest in my profile: “Not looking for a relationship; husband and I have separated but we live together.”
They were still taking the bait.
My “ex” went on a date that night. I spent the evening chatting through text with two different guys I had no intention of meeting and one who seemed like he would be fun. I talked to that one for 3 hours. My “ex” came home before midnight; I told him that I would probably go out the next day. He was taking the kids overnight to his parents’ house.
In the meantime, my “ex” and I had also been texting during the day. I had sent him an article on how open marriages are more common than people think. He responded saying “yes, but open marriage means we have sex with other people and with each other.” I told him that wasn’t off the table until he had said that wasn’t what he wanted.
Apparently he did want it, very much so. We changed the agreement.
I got stood up by that guy that I had told my “ex” I was going out with, but had two more guys to chat with as a consolation prize. I went out with a guy five years younger than me. I felt like I was in college again. It was exhilarating.
By the time I arrived home again, I was a new woman. I had more confidence than I had ever had in my life. I was going after everything I wanted and I knew just how to get it. I had clarity. Being with that boy who saw me as this sexy older woman, combined with all the messages I was getting in my account, had shown me that even though I could probably find a new man without even trying, I truly wanted my husband. Not needed, wanted.
I told him that. I sent messages to him all day, and he returned them. We called everyone we knew to see if they would take the kids another night, but there was no one available. And miraculously we figured it out anyway. We got those kids to bed (a task that once had felt impossible or at the very least exhausting) and we rekindled that fire three times.
The next day he went on another date, but he came home to me. I’m no longer threatened by another woman because I know who he’s coming home to. We’ve ignited that spark. It’s unconventional and often people don’t understand it, but one thing about my husband is that he likes the chase. I made our marriage too easy. I got lazy and complacent in our relationship. I used to give him a really good chase; that’s how he fell for me in the first place. I was good at being chased and I still am, from the looks of all these messages on Tinder. But when we had kids I became this little housewife who doted on him, and that’s not what he needed. He needed a woman who would keep up to him and challenge him, not someone who would sacrifice her own comfort for his.
And I needed a man who wanted to come home to me. I needed a man who would fight for my attention. And I have his attention.
I don’t know how long he had his account for, but he went on one date with a woman the night that we came up with our arrangement. I had barely been on Tinder for a day and I had more potential dates than I needed. I could take my pick of guys. They are still sending me messages. My husband knows that if he screws up again, he absolutely could lose me to any one of those guys. He knows that I am choosing him, not because I have no other options, but because he is the one man I want to spend my life with.
And every time one of those women messages him, he shows me what they’re saying. Not only that, but I am encouraging him to go out and find us a hot one. He has always wanted a threesome and now we can actually make it happen.
I get that this isn’t for everyone and I’m probably going to get a lot of hate for this. That’s why I’m not sharing my real name, because I don’t need that crap. I get enough criticism from the few people in my family who know what we’re doing and disapprove. I am more open-minded and sexually liberated; I have good friends who are in or were in open relationships or are polyamourous. I have had sex without being in love, simply because it was fun and I wanted to. I have zero hang-ups when it comes to my sexuality. I’ve kissed a girl, and I’ve liked it.
For me, sex and love are not one and the same. Other people can’t differentiate the two, and that’s fine. But for those who are comfortable with their sexuality and want to explore, I just want you to know that it’s okay to want that. Nobody else gets to decide how your relationship works or “should” work. The only one who defines your relationship is you and your partner, and if you’re both open to the idea, who cares what anyone else thinks?
If there’s one thing I learned from almost losing my marriage, it’s that life is meant to be lived, not merely survived. And we decided together that we want to live.