The awkward moment wasn't the one where I would have to meet his betrayed wife. Charles and Jessica have an open relationship and have always seen other people. His wife, Jessica**, isn’t a friend but we're Twitter buddies and just haven't quite found the right time to meet. He invited me to their wedding because I'm an important person in his life. The awkward part would have been how boring I find weddings.
IT HAPPENED TO ME: I'm Dating a Married Man
When I started dating Charles**, he had a girlfriend. While we were dating, they got married. I could have gone to the wedding I but was out of the country that month, so I avoided that awkward moment.
For Charles and Jessica, bringing other parties into their relationship actively strengthens it. "Jessica is my partner in crime," says Charles. "Counterintuitive as it may seem, it reinforces my trust in her when she keeps choosing me. Our additional relationships take effort but they give back energy and reduce pressure. We're not the sole source of each others' happiness, self esteem or satisfaction."
I found this hard to fathom at first but, after over a year of dating Charles, seeing him at least once a week, I've seen it working and it's been eye-opening. During our time together, he's seen both me and his girlfriend (now wife) of 5 years Jessica, as well as other partners. I've also dated whoever I wanted. I jokingly refer to him as the best non-boyfriend boyfriend ever. He's been a more positive experience than any "proper" boyfriend I've had.
No arguments, no drama, no point scoring, no insecurity, no jealousy, no wondering what was going on because I was being kept in the dark, not a single doubt ever about how important I am to him and no anxiety about whether he's right for me as a life partner. Our relationship has communication, trust, respect, friendship, openness with feelings and honesty without it being exclusive. I don’t have to be unique to be special. And support, emotional and practical, and amazing sex can come from someone who has the same things with other people.
Initially, I had reservations. I didn't want to hear about other girls, seeing them as competition. In time, I became more secure about my position and lost the insidious competitiveness I often felt with other women. I briefly worried how I'd feel when he started wearing a wedding ring. Again, I was fine.
There's one thing missing though. Falling in love. Even if Charles were single, we wouldn't have that love connection. But I'm free to find that somewhere else. And because of my experience with Charles, I've lost the need to crush a budding relationship into some pre-existing mould. I probably waste less time on bad relationship gambles because of him, and I definitely have more confidence and so attract more men. Charles risks more emotionally because, any day, I might leave to be monogamous.
The only difficulty has been other people's attitudes. Charles is a huge champion of mine. He's helped me move, reads all my work, is there for me if I'm upset and has been a 100 percent source of positivity in my life. But friends still view me as a victim who's just an on tap source for sex. This is not a man who has a shortage of sex, at home or elsewhere! We sometimes just go for a drink, or I talk about other guys. The men that chase for sex and don't care about me as a person are cheating or single since, for them, sex is a resource in limited supply.
I've lost count of how many times I've had to explain that Charles and Jessica's marriage isn't missing anything. For Charles, other women offer new discoveries that he can't have with a long-term partner. And the simple fact is that one person is different from another, which is the same reason we have more than one friend. For Jessica, non-monogamy offers that foolish, grinning excitement of falling for someone new. It was actually Jessica who introduced Charles to open relationships. It's insulting to both of us to be seen as the victim of Charles' insatiable libido.
Although I mercifully missed their wedding, if I ever get married, I know who I'll be inviting amongst the special guests.
**All names changed.