What it’s really like to be Ethically Non-Monogamous

by | Sep 14, 2023

It’s my ten-year wedding anniversary and my wife is with her girlfriend out of town.

It’s September 3, 2023 and looking back to my wedding photo of ten years ago, my life is unrecognizable in so many ways. I remember that day so well…gay marriage wasn’t yet nationally recognized, but the State of Missouri had just passed a law that they WOULD recognize gay marriages that were officiated in other states. Once I heard this, I jumped at the chance for my partner of 15 years and I to get wed.

I had heard of a guy that was helping groups of gays & lesbians get hitched by chartering a bus to Iowa, guiding them through the process with the county, and providing a sense of community for folks who might otherwise not have their special day recognized or celebrated by those they love. It was definitely true in our case. (Unfortunately, or fortunately, there was no room on this bus for us, but he told us how we can do it on our own…and in one week, we were set to get married in Iowa City, IA).

My mother was living in the same town, and my wife’s sister was living in our same house, and neither of them even gave us a card to commemorate our day. We had waited 15 years for this, and the only people who celebrated us was another lesbian couple on our street. They met us in the alley with a bottle of wine, hugs and a card as we pulled away from our house for the five-hour journey to another state so that we could become officially, legally…a couple.

Fast forward ten years….

So, it’s ten years later, and that bride in the Marilyn Monroe dress is now fifty years old and is celebrating her wedding anniversary in the arms of her boyfriend…. WAIT, WHAT??

Let me explain.

A year ago my wife and I were finally at a frisky, fun and passionate place in our lives. We had surmounted huge obstacles as my wife went from an Army career, civil service, and now retirement. We had just moved back to the Midwest after spending time in the South (USA) and coming to the realization that the state we were living in wasn’t supportive to our LGBTQ+ life and, quite frankly, we just didn’t feel safe where we were. This photo was taken just blocks from our house. I remember the feeling of dread as soon as I saw it. I was walking our dog, on our usual path, just near the school. (I have used EFT tapping so many times just looking at that photo.) So, we set out once again to make a change and find our “fit”. But there was something else brewing and bubbling to the surface for me…something I had been repressing for over two decades and something that I felt that at age fifty, if I didn’t speak up, I’d regret it for the rest of my life.

I finally had to admit that I am bisexual

It was the most difficult conversation of my life. Actually, it was the evolution of several tough, painful and dreaded conversations that I never ever wanted to have, but something inside me knew that if I wasn’t going to be true to who I am at this age, the resentment I already had building inside me would take me out. The fact that I am bisexual wasn’t exactly a mystery. For me, it was the elephant in the room for many years, that went undiscussed, unmentioned and unnoticed. (And, I’ll say here, no one is at fault for that. No blame to go around here.)

So, my wonderful wife, for whom losing a lover to a man was (is) her biggest fear, loved me enough to let me explore.

I got on a dating site I had heard about via a podcast about sex & sexuality. The way the doctor & podcaster described this app sounded like I could find my tribe….and boy did I ever!

My wife and I met a wonderful guy who had been in the ENM lifestyle for six years, and who shared his wisdom and experiences about alternative ways of looking at relationships and how they can be structured.

Max (name has been changed) opened our eyes to a completely new view of how relationships can evolve & grow and who they can include. It was a Eureka moment for me (us) to realize that life, relationships, and how you choose to live in your skin could be so different from how our parents and grandparents “did” life.

I’m not going to lie…there have been gut wrenching moments of self-doubt, anger, jealousy and fear. (Thank you EFT!!) I’ve lost the friendship of lesbians I’ve known for over 20 years. I’ve felt the shame, guilt and overwhelm of hurting the person I love most in the world. Hurting her in the very way that she feared most. My wife didn’t choose to be in an ethically-non monogamous relationship. But, as she has said, this lifestyle is like “a new branch of a tree.” She doesn’t want to go down the “ugly divorce road.”

Ethical Non-Monogamy

So, here we are, a year later, still discovering who and what want from / with each other…the story isn’t over. We live together, but have separate lives. We are finding our way through this unconventional way of “doing” relationships, navigating as best we can with the support of books, podcasts, and others in this lifestyle. It’s not always easy. And it isn’t a lifestyle we ever thought we’d embark on or choose…but remaining true to ourselves, while supporting and holding space for the one(s) you love is the biggest and most rewarding expression of love, I think, a person can give.

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