My wife and I are ethically non-monogamous. (There, I said it.) This means that we both occasionally see other people when we are unable to fulfill all of each other’s needs.
We opened our marriage years ago after having lots and lots of couple’s therapy. My wife came out as asexual to me, and we almost got divorced over it. Almost all of our fights back then were about sex. But the couple’s therapy really helped us understand each other and this conflict in much clearer terms.
Even if my wife were not asexual, she is under no obligation to share her body with anyone, not even her husband. No matter how much the lack of physical intimacy might bother me, I am not entitled to anyone else’s body but my own.
At the same time, I am under no obligation to remain celibate for the rest of my life. I am a sexual being, and I deserve to be able to fulfill that part of my personality. My wife is not entitled to my body either; and as long as I am transparent with her about everything, I can share my body with others if I want to.
When we reached this understanding, we stopped fighting all the time. Now we could talk rationally with each other about our needs, and we could problem-solve together and find ways to meet both of our needs without putting all the responsibility for this on each other. I no longer felt guilty about wanting sex, and my wife no longer felt guilty about not wanting it.
I dated another woman for a little while after that, back before Covid brought the world to its knees. We were friends with benefits, and with no strings attached. It was exactly what we both needed. No drama, no involvement in each other’s lives; just meet for coffee every once in a while, catch up for an hour or two, then go take care of business. Once we were done, we’d go back to our separate lives and not really talk again until we needed to. And life at home steadily improved, because I was no longer pressuring my wife and she was no longer rejecting me.
It was surreal, but I learned that having sex with someone else does not negate my devotion to my wife at all, and that her not wanting to have sex is not the end of the world. Everything else about our relationship is truly fulfilling; why then should we separate just over sex? There are other couples who have great sex, but who throw furniture at each other. So I learned to compartmentalize my love life I guess you might say.
I believe the concept of monogamy is extremely toxic. We are conditioned from birth to believe there is only ONE person for each of us out there, and that it is this one person’s “responsibility” to fulfill ALL of our various needs in life. But this expectation is not at all realistic, or even humane. No one on earth can fulfill all of anyone else’s needs all the time; and imposing this expectation on people sets them up for failure. How many relationships would still exist and be healthy right now if the people involved in them DIDN’T have this expectation?
Of course, being non-monogamous isn’t easy either. Everything in society seems designed to chastise me for being the way I am. Most dating sites are for “singles only” and will actually give you the boot if they find out you’re married. Others will allow people to seek extramarital partners; but most of the membership in these sites are either swingers or people who are actually cheating on their spouses, and I am not into either of those things.
And then there’s the fact that there are people in my family who would not understand any of this. There are people who call me a cheater and a faithless husband. I do not believe it counts as “cheating” if your spouse is the one who’s BEGGING you to sleep with someone else just so she can get some goddamn peace. But some people can’t handle this idea because of their fragile Christian values.
I have expressed guilt in the past for being the way I am, and for needing to compartmentalize my love life in this way. But that is not really the problem. The real problem here is that SOCIETY tells me I am “wrong” for still needing sex when my wife no longer does. SOCIETY tells my wife she is “bad” for not having sex with me, even if she really doesn’t want to. To be honest, this isn’t really about sex at all; it’s about power. People are much easier to control when they believe a thing like love can be legislated.