Even before my partner and I met in person, we talked about the possibility of having other partners. For me, it was an important part of my bisexuality that I wanted to explore. If I was with him, I wanted the open door to enjoy women as well. He wanted the same open door for men. It seemed like the ideal agreement.
Six months into our relationship, he started talking about watching other men fuck me. The first time it was shocking, almost in an alarming way. I’d never considered this type of openness… other men? The idea excited him so much. My presence on twitter gave me an idea of how many men would be up for this.
But I couldn’t reciprocate the idea at first. If I could fuck other men, could I be ok with him fucking other women? No, not really. We talked about it and I contemplated why it brought up feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. I knew I wasn’t going to lose him to another woman (it never concerned me), so why was I so worried? I thought about it for a while and as our relationship grew, I became more comfortable with the idea.
Soon, it didn’t seem like such a strange idea. I even relished the thought of seeing another woman orgasm from the pleasure of his tongue or dick. I wanted to watch her mouth open in pleasure as his cock slid into her for the first time. I wanted him to jerk off as he watched another man fuck me and pleasure me. Watch me suck another man’s dick and my partner would get off to it. We wanted to share.
Sometime last spring or summer, we talked about it casually. I was starting to travel for work quite a bit, so I told him that if he wanted to hook up, I was fine with it… as long as I knew about the partner and was OK with screening. He really wasn’t interested (to my surprise) and we never really brought it up again. Life went on… until this past Sunday.
While he was at work, I went to his computer to play a prank. I was going to change his desktop background from his current CM Punk image to a photoshopped image of a walrus that looked like Jamie from Mythbusters that I had found somewhere on the interwebz. I knew he would laugh so hard when he saw it. To make the switch easy, I emailed him the image. To retrieve it, I went to his gmail account.
Or, what I thought was his gmail account. Instead, he was logged into an account I did not recognize or know about. There were tons of craigslist emails, spam, and sign-ups for sites like “BBW Finder” or whatever. I was confused… and started to read. And read.
I started to find emails that were looking for hookups on dates when I was out of town… or invites that had to be done by 4:00pm so they could be done before I got home from work. He posted to craigslist and responded to posts…. for men, women, and even a foot fetish. They started in August and there was one as recent as last week.
What sank me was the one that said, “I would love to give you good sex… I’d be cheating so I can be discreet.”
I went from full on panic to complete meltdown. I fell on the floor, crying. And then I cried for nearly three hours straight. For the first time, I talked about a major problem in my relationship on twitter. I couldn’t process what was happening. It didn’t make sense. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it.
I called a good friend, the one I can always talk to about this kind of stuff, and she remained very calm and steady for me while I cried. She suggested I get screenshots and print them out. Make copies and document it. Follow what my heart was telling me to do.
I took all of his stuff and tossed it into the empty bedroom. All of his clothes and belongings, even his pillow. The room is completely empty with no furniture and I threw it in there in the fastest move I’ve ever managed. I put all of his toiletries into the spare bathroom, even his towel. He wouldn’t be allowed in my room.
For three and a half hours I waited for him to come home from work. I printed out the screenshots, tried to drink water, and waited. I don’t know if time has ever moved so slowly for me. I flipped on the TV and found an episode of the Brady Bunch.
It was a good distraction. When I heard the front door open I think my heart stopped. He walked in and said hi and took off his coat. He saw my face and knew something was wrong. I motioned for him to come over to me on the couch. I was afraid that words would make me lose what little composure I had.
I handed him the emails and said, “I need you to explain this.” And then I waited. I watched his eyes, first confused at what he was looking at, then non-reactive. I could have handed him the classifieds for all the interest he showed in them.
“Ok… what about them?” He seemed oddly unalarmed about this discovery.
“How do you explain them? You’ve been cheating on me!” And I burst into tears.
He took a half second to wrap his mind around what was happening and said he had not been cheating on me. I went through the emails and found that one where he said it… it was a poor choice of words, but isn’t using the word cheating more exciting than “I have permission to do this“? I could understand that.
But why have the separate email? Because he didn’t want those emails to get mixed into his real life email which is tied to his name. Makes sense.
Why is he trying to hook up while I’m out of town? I told him he could hook up… several times. He never thought that changed from when we last talked about it.
But he said he was never interested in that! He usually wasn’t… when the idea did seem interesting, he looked online in the easiest, most direct way. He only ever sent 1 email to each post, never more. After the email was sent, the fantasy faded and he lost interest.
Why didn’t he tell me about any of this? He didn’t feel he needed to since there weren’t any plans. If the idea ever progressed beyond an initial email, he would have called or texted to let me know and talk through details.
I remember he knelt down in front of me and looked into my eyes and said, “Elizabeth, I love you too much to ruin this. After everything I’ve given up for you and done, you are too important… I would never risk what we have for anyone. We are too important.”
Then he started to cry. And we cried into each other’s shoulders. He comforted me and was never, ever upset over what I had thought or what I had done. He acknowledged exactly what I was feeling.
How would he feel if he had found emails like this in a secret email account (or any email account) of mine? He would have the same reaction, if not worse. He would have been much angrier about it.
I think we talked and cried and hugged for nearly two hours before we decided to take a break from the heavy emotions. Finally I admitted, “So I may have freaked out on twitter about this…” I was afraid of what he might say – we’ve always agreed to keep our arguments and relationship ‘drama’ private. And this situation was about as bad as it could get. He wasn’t angry. Instead he hugged me and said, “Yeah, I bet you did!”
Mentally, everything felt OK to me. He answered every question completely honestly and everything he said made complete sense from his point of view. Emotionally I was so raw and hurt I needed a lot of comforting the rest of the day. We watched hours of TV, mostly with me laying on his lap or him massaging my neck and shoulders.
I called in sick to the work the next day and waiting for him to come home from work. In a way I was sick. I could barely manage to feed myself and get out of bed when he got home at noon.
Later that day, he held me as I napped and he watched me sleep. When I woke up, he brushed the hair from my face and started listing all the ways I’ve made his life better. It was an incredibly sweet and tender moment.
A month or so ago we had started seeing a relationship counselor to help us through some unrelated issues (like my depression and workaholic tendencies and how those things affect us). Fortunately, we were scheduled for a session that evening and I was able to book us for two hours instead of the normal one.
We talked through everything that happened and our open-minded, accepting counselor helped us identify why this had happened and what we needed to do to prevent this from happening again. It’s actually very simple:
My partner is very literal. He takes exactly what I say at face value and no more. He doesn’t guess or assume anything from what I say. I am very intuitive and I assume that nuances of meaning are understood.
For example, if I say “You can hook up with someone while I’m gone.”
He thinks: I can look for a casual hookup for when when she’s not home. If its going to happen, I’ll check in with her first.
I think: If you’re interested in hooking up with someone while I’m not home, that’s OK, but I want to know if you’re going to do it and how you’ll be looking and screening and what you’re looking for.
A huge difference… and one that we never realized existed. And we never talked about the details of all levels of expectations and comfort levels. How often? When? How long? With who? Where? How much? How many? How do you alert me? How soon do you alert me? How much notice do you give me? Do I want to meet the other person? etc etc.
In the end, we both expressed that our relationship is something we are both strongly committed to making work. We were asked if this had brought us closer. We both said yes. And holding hands on the couch, I turned to look at him and, tears filling in my eyes, told him how much it meant to me that he had acknowledged my pain for the full 36 hours I felt it and how wonderful it had been to hear him tell me all the ways I make his life better.
Oh, and that picture I wanted to put on his desktop? When I showed him, he fell to his knees and laughed so hard he couldn’t stay upright. Just like I thought he would.