What it's like to open up a 12-year marriage

Soren and Mirabai are polyamorous, and happy

✨ A very exciting new episode is out now!✨

This week on the Cruel Summer Book Club podcast I talk to Soren and Mirabai, a couple who was monogamous for fifteen years before opening up their marriage. And they’re thrilled about it.

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Soren and Mirabai (we use pseudonyms in this episode to protect their identities) have been married for 12 years and live in Seattle with their two young daughters. I went on a date with Soren back in September—I was his fourth date since he and his wife decided to open up their marriage. (Tune into 63:00 in the episode to hear me audibly blush when Mirabai lets it slip that Soren came home from our date and told her he had a crush on me.) Soren and I kept in touch, and he helped open my eyes to the possibilities of polyamory, and a different, more expansive way of thinking about love and relationships.

In our heartwarming conversation, Soren and Mirabai reveal how they met and the romantic letter-writing campaign that began their courtship. They took all the proper steps on the heterosexual “relationship escalator”—date, get engaged, get married, buy a house, have two kids—and they were monogamous the whole time. Until last spring, when after 12 years of marriage and 15 years of monogamy, they decided to open up their marriage.

They used the book The Ethical Slut as a tool, and have some rules around safe sex. But otherwise there are few boundaries they put on their relationships with others, mostly because of the rock-solid trust and foundation of honesty they share with one another. And they were surprised when they both soon began external partnerships, based on both physical and emotional connections.

In the episode we discuss dismantling the heteronormative views on relationships most of us are taught since birth, dealing with the sticky feelings that arise when your partner is into someone new, decoupling possession from commitment, and how you can welcome love and pleasure into your life with abundance.

Below, read part of my introduction to the episode, which shares my big takeaways from The Ethical Slut, and more of how I’m exploring nonmonogamy for myself.

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Jillian Anthony: This week for my homework for this episode, I read the book The Ethical Slut, which my guest recommended I read. The Ethical Slut is a rather academic guide to all sorts of relationships and sexualities and ways of creating community outside of traditional heterosexual monogamy. So it's a really great education.

I've been personally interested in exploring nonmonogamy myself for a long time. I'm really disillusioned by the imbalances present in heterosexual relationships, especially in marriage and what women often sacrifice within those relationships, but men don't. The roots of marriage and monogamy are bound up in all sorts of patriarchal, antifeminist systems that I don't subscribe to, and don't want to be a part of. But I really do want to be in love, I really do want longterm partnership. So I feel I still have a lot of exploring to do to reconcile those desires for love and partnership, alongside the kind of bleak realities that are present in heterosexuality today.

And I'd also really like to explore my own sexuality beyond what society taught me—and all of us pretty much—growing up, which is heterosexual monogamy, and you can either have a one-night stand or marriage and there's no intimacy to be found in between those two things. And I don't believe this at all. I really believe that I can demand and want to demand more for myself and more for my relationships. And I believe that no matter how long or short a connection lasts, whether it's sexual or emotional, or both, it can be positive and even life-changing. And you can have something really important with someone whether you're with them a month, or a year, or a day.

I think the idea that the epitome of a woman's life being to find one perfect partner to be with "forever" has seriously damaged me and my outlook on life. All of those messages that have been drilled into me from when I was a very young age are not realistic. That ideology didn't prepare me for the realities of life, which is that almost all of our relationships, romantic or not, will end, and that loss and the coming together and falling apart of relationships is one of the only things that we can be absolutely sure of.

So I really enjoyed reading The Ethical Slut and I'm going to talk about it more with my guests today. But some of my main takeaways are: Heteronormativity teaches us that love can only be shared with one person and that we all must make ourselves and our sexualities small to have a successful longterm relationship. But The Ethical Slut asks you to imagine sex as a tool for pleasure and deep connection and community-building, rather than a tool for power or ownership, which is what it's usually used as within traditional monogamous relationships. And I want that and I want more love in my life, not less.

Also, most of us simply just accept that monogamy is the only path because it was the only path taught to us. It is not the only path. And like many of the rest of the areas of my life that were socially drilled into me, I think it's my responsibility to critically examine all of the pathways for relationships that are open to me, and then actively choose which one is right for me. I want to choose these things, not have them be handed to me. I'm always working on choosing my own happiness in whatever that means to me. And there are other paths and relationships that might make me more happy and might be more fulfilling to me, especially over a lifetime.

And after reading the book and all their tips and tools to start pushing the limits of your own comfortability with nonmonogamy—and they have all sorts of exercises and things you can do by yourself and things you can do with your partners—I still feel pretty clueless about where to start and how to move myself in that direction. So that's something I'm going to have to work on, but I'm pretty sure radical honesty with any partners I have will be the very first step for me to continue to move myself along that path and see what my limits might actually be.

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