Would you share your partner?

Has lockdown made your relationship stronger, or has it got you wondering as to whether you have been missing out on something? It can feel that way if you have been with your partner for a long time. Perhaps he is the only guy you have been with, your childhood sweetheart so, you don’t even know what sex with anyone else is like.

Lockdown has brought up lots of different emotions around relationships. I have friends telling me their partner is like a bear with a sore head, and they can’t wait for them to go back to work. Others are enjoying each other’s company, and they finally realise the importance of making time for their relationship and each other.

Recently I got together with a group of my girlfriends for a Gin and Zoom call, which I think many others are doing on a Friday evening. We chatted, but there isn’t much news to share, apart from the usual conversations around lockdown, simply because none of us have done anything much. Talking about lockdown and the virus is pretty depressing, and we try to steer away from that subject. The conversation turned to the usual grumbles about each other’s partners. The usual ones about how messy they are, and having to clear up behind a grown man is worse than having another child around. The fact that they criticise everything – the tidiness of the house, the noise the children make…… blah blah blah…….

After about the third or fourth G & T the conversation turned to sex

Lack of it, apart from Suzie who seems to have been having an amazing time. Even I hadn’t heard of some of those positions! It certainly brightened up the evening.

I noticed Julie had been rather quiet through all of this. I asked her whether she was ok, she took a deep breath and then asked us if we can keep a secret. There was a long pause after we all agreed, and then she told us that she has been having an affair – which started during lockdown. Of course, we were all shocked and wanted to know all the details. Seems he was one of the instructors at her gym, and they have been meeting when she ‘goes for a bike ride’. Hubby has no idea, well let’s say she hasn’t been found out yet! We each showed our concerns, but she has to do what is right for her and take the consequences.

By now we had all topped up our glasses a few times, and we were all relaxed

Imagine my surprise when Claire chirped up and announced that she and Dave, her partner, have decided to give each other permission to go and have a fling or flings with others outside the marriage!

Our jaws dropped and there was stunned silence

None of us had any idea there was an issue with Claire and Dave, they seemed so happy. Eventually, Alex asked why – well, we all wanted to hear more about it. Claire told us that whilst she and Dave really loved each other and were good friends, but that’s all, the spark had gone out of their relationship. The romance had gone and that certainly wasn’t what each of them signed up for. We all agreed that after a while, and with the advent of kids arriving on the scene, things change and the sparkle can become a bit tarnished.

We wanted to know how it was going to work. Do they keep the details of their ‘fling’ secret or are they going to be open and honest with each other? I asked Claire how she would feel if Dave told her that he had the best sex ever with someone else? Would she feel threatened? Upset? Jealous? What if it got deeper than sex and Dave fell in love with this other woman and left her? I think it made her stop and think.
The conversation turned to dating sites, and Julie said she had ventured onto them in the past. She said there were some real odd balls on there, but amongst them all, she had found some really fit guys. She hadn’t actually met up with any of them, but it certainly boosted her ego.

I brought up the subject of polyamory

Several of the others had heard of this, but others hadn’t and wanted to learn more, and what was different from that and an open relationship.

I explained my understanding of it. Polyamory involves having more than one romantic relationship at a time. So, what’s different between that and an open relationship, they asked.

In polyamorous relationships, there is no hierarchy or main partner. Instead of having a main partner and your fling on the side, like in an open relationship, there are no favourites in polyamory so everyone loves each other equally.

Once the girls digested this, and some gasps of amazement, it started a whole debate as you can imagine, with so many questions unanswered. They asked me what I knew about it, being a relationship specialist.

So, I shared my understanding. Partners aren’t necessarily sexual partners; they can be just friendships or romantic partners. The main thing is that everyone involved has to be open and honest. This arrangement may satisfy the needs of those who don’t want to commit to one partner and feel they want to experience sex with different partners.

That sparked a lot of discussion between us all. What happens if one person gets jealous? Or they feel that they are being left out? Could that lead to arguments between different members in the group? What if you were to get pregnant and didn’t know who the father was? I think there were more questions than answers.

Then Alex asked, ‘Has anyone tried a threesome to spark up their relationship?’

There were one or two that thought it might be fun, but they would have to choose the guy that joined them. But then what if their partner objected to their choice? How would they feel if their partner suggested another woman joined them? Claire who started the whole topic said she wouldn’t feel comfortable with that as she would be comparing the other woman with herself. Lumps, bumps and cellulite – as well as performance!

Claire went on to share her real worries – that she didn’t feel good enough. That secretly she thought maybe Dave was bored with her. Her mood had really taken a downward turn, and she got really upset. She said it had been Dave’s idea, and the more she thought about it and after she had shared it with us she had lots of worries. What if Dave really did want to end their marriage? Was he already cheating, and felt this would make it more acceptable if they both had permission, and this way he couldn’t be accused of cheating?

Alex asked if they had thought of seeing a psychosexual counsellor, who could help them. I agreed that might be a way forward, but they would both need to agree, and find the right person they were comfortable with. Surely it would be better to try and find ways to spice up their relationship?

We will have to wait and see the outcome. Only Claire and Dave can make the decision.

I wonder what your thoughts are.

(Names have been changed to protect confidentiality)

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Wendy Capewell is a Psychotherapist, Relationship Specialist, author and podcaster. www.wendycapewell.co.uk info@wendycapewell.co.uk

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