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Mo’ people, mo’ problems, part 1: more from PM on ENM

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

I promised you a continuation of my conversations with PM about ethical mom-monogamy, or ENM, and to share more about his POV on the matter. So let us journey together into PM's funny-and-slightly-twisted-but-always-practical mind.

PM and I have been discussing the idea of including other people in our sex lives for the last year or so, with the focus of our conversation on swinging (or partner-swapping) as a couple. Well, a more accurate description of the situation would be that I have been bringing up the topic for discussion for the last year or so. But whatever.

I’ve already shared my own epiphany about why my crush-letdown a few months ago hit me so damn hard — turns out that my crushing on another man and my feelings about ENM were all twisted together for my erotic self. But regardless of the specific catalyst for my own interest in ENM, where I have been open to the idea of sexually exploring with other people, PM has maintained a reserved and cautious approach to the subject.

A few weeks ago I revealed PM’s own personal sex mathematics of sorts, which has him questioning the benefits for him of such an arrangement. The answer to that specific formula has to do with the quantity of sex he might expect to get if we were to branch out, so to speak, but I know this argument of his is largely tongue in cheek.

A more serious issue he has with the idea of experimenting with other people or another couple primarily concerns the social aspect. To my Preacher Man, adding another sexual partner, never mind another potential romantic partner, is just too much work.

I shared in a previous essay that when I had revealed to PM that I had been writing about polyamory and said gleefully, “I have lots of love to give!” his response was as follows: “Ah, yes, and lots of people to drain.” Now I could have chosen to take this remark personally -- that he was implying that I am exhausting to deal with. And actually, now that I think about it, I think I was a little miffed at him at the time for saying it. But, really, after I checked my knee-jerk reaction, I recognized that he's expressing how he generally feels about social interactions.

And herein lies the crux of the issue for my introverted Preacher Man. One of the main reasons PM is not onboard with the idea of including other partners into our sex life — for example, swinging with other couples — is because he finds the thought of dealing with other people exhausting.

Don't get me wrong. PM genuinely likes many people, and he's probably one the most socially-adept persons I know. He's laid-back and sets people at ease, he's good at conversation, and he isn't easily thrown-off or intimidated in awkward situations. All in all, he's a great people-person; he just doesn't love being one most of the time. He likes the people in our current social circle, but he really has no desire to add anyone else into our lives.

And yes, yes. We can’t forget that he’s also done the sex math for himself and finds the numbers don’t add up in his favor. But by and large, the social aspect of getting into the lifestyle — and the energy that it would require — makes up the greatest impediment to PM agreeing to try anything radical.

When I initially began to think about PM and me getting into some form of ENM like swinging, I admit that I naively fantasized that we’d discover a couple from our already established group of friends who might want to have some fun with us. As I said in my last essay or two, there’s no doubt that the crush that I had on a male friend of ours earlier this year contributed to my interest in sexually exploring with other people.

PM and I both know that we want to remain married to one another. We are each other's persons, if you will...for life. That's not up for debate. The question is whether some experimentation outside the bounds of conventional monogamy might add something positive into our relationship. And what better way, I thought to myself, to have fun and explore pleasure and experiment together than with a solid couple we already know and trust? It seemed to me and my erotic imagination that all parties could get something good out of an entanglement like that.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I had no evidence to suggest that these fantasies could ever come to pass in real life, with my former-crush or anyone else we already know. What can I say? The heart wants what the heart wants. *shrugs* However, the more PM and I began discussing this topic openly with one another, the more I came to realize just how unrealistic my fantasies were.

For some time, PM has been listening to a podcast by two couples (in their 30s, no children) who swing together. (The name of the podcast is “Friends with a Twist," if you want to check it out for yourself.) And he’s been sharing with me what he’s learned about the lifestyle -- how these two particular couples got involved in swinging, what it looks like, and how it fits into their lives.

I’m endlessly fascinated by what he tells me, although I’ve yet to listen to it myself. So let me be clear from the start that what I tell you about this podcast is heresay, and PM admittedly tends to not remember things that he doesn’t find interesting. *eyeroll*

One of PM's main takeaways from this podcast is that these couples had to cultivate a completely new and separate social life from their regular social circles. They had to find a new group of people to experiment with — people also in the lifestyle. Many of their other friends would not have understood. With some, there would have been judgement; with others, just plain awkwardness.

Yeah, lots of folks might be curious to know how it all works, but when it comes down to it, most folks will only feel comfortable within the compulsive monogamous model of relationships. Even among those who might fantasize about sexually experimenting with other people and have no moral or ethical problem with a non-traditional consensual sexual arrangement between more than two people, most won’t feel comfortable trying it for themselves in real life, for a whole host of reasons.

Not only did these couples from the podcast have to meet and get to know all new people, forming a new social circle, they also had to keep this aspect of their lives private from their "normal," compulsive monogamous friends.

I suppose this shouldn't be too surprising. If there's anything that can cause discomfort even among friends, it's the topic of sex. But, of course, this isn't just sex. Most humans have sex. We're talking about sex that flouts cultural (and religious) norms. And some people find this idea not only uncomfortable but also threatening.

Heck! Actual sex aside, many people can't even handle the idea of their partner being attracted to another person. It can be hard to acknowledge the inherent freedom of our partner to desire someone else. Everything around me –– society, culture at large, even my own feelings of romantic love for my partner –– insists that I must take care to keep my partner all to myself, that PM and I should have eyes only for each other lest our relationship come under threat.

And these threats are everywhere, or so compulsive monogamy tells me. My spouse's work colleagues. His old school friends. That attractive single mother next door. PM has eyes and if his eyes aren't always on me, I'm supposed to believe there's a problem.

At the same time as I was crushing on a married male friend this summer, a good friend was under the spell of her own crush — in her case, a lesbian friend who was engaged to another woman. Unlike me, where I had merely hinted at my affection for my crush, my dear friend took a real leap and directly admitted to this woman that she had a crush on her. My friend made it clear to her crush that she did not want to interfere with this woman's relationship, but she wanted to be up front with how much their friendship had come to mean to her.

As I have said in the past, crushes have the amazing ability to make us feel more alive and youthful and excited about life and its possibilities. In her text confession, my friend shared with her friend-turned-crush that things had been difficult in her marriage for some time -–- so much so that they had been talking about having an open marriage --– and that this crush had given her something to feel good about. Something to look forward to and have fun with.

Not only had my friend and this woman become quite good friends, texting daily and seeing one another multiple times a week, but this other woman openly flirted with my friend.

Now, I know that those of us who identify as women can sometimes read into things. But, yes, there was definitely flirting going on. My friend shared with me some of their texts. I was privy to some of the conversations had between them. While I may be shit at the art of flirting myself, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this other woman was flirting hardcore with my friend. And it made my friend feel seen and appreciated in a way that she was not feeling in her own relationship.

What was this woman's response to my friend's confession? All in all, this person was supportive while also being very direct about what the nature of their relationship would be –– they would remain just friends. It was painful for my friend, of course, to be shut down just like that, but my friend also felt like it cleared the air between them.

My friend was glad this person wasn't freaked out by the whole thing, and she was truly moved at how wonderfully her crush handled the situation. Yes, this squashed any fantasies of possible future make-out sessions with her crush and her fiancé, but her crush still wanted to be friends. Maybe, after some time passed and her crush grew more comfortable with the idea, they could return to the flirty playfulness they had before. But whatever the case, the boundaries would be clearer and the path open for better communication about the parameters of their relationship going forward.

And so everything seemed fine and good over the next few days...until my friend got an earful from her crush's fiancé. Well, more like an inbox-ful, but you get the picture. This woman's fiancé communicated in no uncertain terms that my friend was never to contact them ever again. And that was that. This friendship that my friend and her crush had had for years was now over in a blink of an eye.

It seems pretty clear that the fiancé's reaction came from a place of fear. Perhaps it was the flirtatious nature of the relationship (and the fact that my friend's crush clearly felt some reciprocal attraction for my friend). Perhaps it was the fact that my friend and her husband were talking about opening up their marriage, which meant my friend might become available for a relationship in the future. Personally, I think it was probably a combination of the two. But whatever the reasons, this woman's fiancé viewed my friend as someone who threatened their relationship and their future together.

There’s a lot that I could say on this, least of all that I think it's a serious problem when your partner starts dictating who you're allowed to talk to. But the point of my sharing this friend's story and the angry, and yes bitchy, response that she had to face, is that it demonstrates just how uncomfortable many (maybe even most?) people are with erotic desire (even just a playful hint of it) when it doesn't fit the normative rules set by conventional monogamy.

So these podcasting, swinging couples had to go out and find other like-minded couples to make their foray into the swinger lifestyle possible. They created a whole new social network based on the swinging lifestyle. And within this new social framework, they can feel free to be themselves, to sexually explore and experiment with other couples, free of judgment.

And you know how I said that PM sees this whole ENM thing as too much work? It's largely this social piece that PM finds repellant. *shakes head* Despite my own naivety about how ENM might fit into our current life, PM recognized this from the get-go of our conversations about swinging –– there's no integrating the lifestyle into one's normative social group. *whimpers*

I was so caught up with excitement over crushing on someone I already knew that I couldn’t see this obvious fact. Or I refused to see it because it would have messed with my erotic fantasies. *shrugs*

. . .

To be concluded next time.

. . .

I hate to do this to you –– I absolutely have more to say on this topic –– but I'm going to end this essay here today. I've got to keep you coming back for more, after all!

So please check back in next time (in two weeks) to hear about my own experience of how the topic of sex and sexual desire can end a friendship. And why PM finds this whole idea of ENM exhausting.

Until next time, stay kinky 😉

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