(As told to Shahnaaz Khan)
What defines a marriage? Love, partnership, sex, romance, monogamy, procreation. We can find plenty of features, but which of these is the most quintessential? The make or break factor. For most people, it would be monogamy or perhaps love. Are those mutually exclusive? I didn’t think so till my over 20-year-old marriage reached a trough – one we could not get out of.
When our marriage hit rock bottom
Once over two decades have passed there is little you don’t know about your spouse. No mystery, surprises or newness left. Most marriages perhaps face it and people find different ways around it. We thought we had fallen into the middle-aged married folks routine now. There wasn’t much chemistry left, the children were gone and the fights had begun.
And there was nothing called a sex life. It seemed we had not just reached a trough, but hit rock bottom.
We finally decided to go see a counselor once the children started complaining about how we only fought these days. After hearing us out she had a simple and straightforward diagnosis. You two need to spice up your sex life.
If you are happy in the bedroom, you will be happy outside too.
So off we went to try and do that. We took some of her suggestions and researched some on our own. But it did not help. We still loved one another, but our bodies didn’t. So we went back to the counsellor.
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Open it up
This time she had a unique proposal. Don’t worry, she said, there are many couples like you facing the same issue. And there is a way to help one another out. There are online communities where married couples can go seeking other couples looking for some excitement in their sex lives. Initially, this idea seemed anathema. Marriage is a sexual monogamy. How can I be with another woman if I love my wife? And how can she be with another man! But the counselor suggested some sites, asked us to just take a look with an open mind.
By now we had reached the breaking point in our marriage, arguing over everything and always irritated. And to be honest, the more I thought about this idea, the less dreadful it seemed. After all, we should be the ones defining our marriage. If finding other sexual partners will ensure the marriage will be happy, then what is wrong with that? So my wife and I decided to look for a like-minded couple and just start with a frank conversation.
Technology helped us stay anonymous in our search till we thought we had found a couple that didn’t live too far and had no connections with us through work or friends. If things didn’t work out, we wanted to be able to end it easily. We decided to meet them. We were nervous and unsure, but the duo put us at ease immediately. They had been using the website for a while and understood our apprehensions.
Both partners need to be comfortable with this. Sit and discuss for as long as needed and the moment even one partner expresses doubt, get out, as the purpose of this is to save your marriage. Be frank and open at all times. There is no judgement passed whether you continue or want to stop. That first meeting itself was very comforting. My wife and I came home and I could see she was relieved and excited at the same time. Finally, we could see a solution to our problems. After so many years, I felt excited at the prospect of sex.
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By our next trip to the counsellor our experiment had been a success and things at home had become great too. Now even my wife and I found new things to try with each other and our sex life without the other couple was on track as well. We still met them, of course, and have even been thinking of talking to some more couples.
Love isn’t sex
But what about my initial hesitation of sleeping with someone, not my spouse? My wife and I realised that it is all about separating the body from the mind. She is my love, but sex can be different from love. It is not something we are taught in our culture, but it is possible. We still tell each other how much we care, even more so now. When I am with my wife, I know my emotions come attached. But with another woman, it is just physical and momentary. And it is the same for her. There is no guilt because we didn’t replace each other. Instead, we have found renewed passion in our romance because it is no longer a chore or the only option. And having another couple around helps drop inhibitions and years of stale sex with the same partner.
This solution is not for everyone, though my counselor says she has seen many couples benefit from it. We don’t know how long we will continue with this. As of now, it seems to be working great. If either or both of us decide later that it should stop, then we will.
It is just that while our hearts can be monogamous, our bodies may not.
My advice to any couple thinking of trying this out is don’t carry guilt or pressure with it. Come with an open mind when both people are ready. Remember your marriage is still your priority.
And those two, as I have now realised, can be mutually exclusive.
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