From affairs to open marriage

Four posts back, you’ll find one entitled Passion Recalled Isnt Passion. In it, I touched upon some of the sexual affairs I had starting about a decade after Peggy and I were married. Peggy later corrected me on a few points. One is that she never had affairs in the sense of screwing people without my knowledge and consent. This is true, and I didn’t mean to present things otherwise; its just that there are no good words to distinguish the various types of sexual relationships that one might have with other people while married. She also corrected me about not catching any STDs, because she and I both got chlamydia. She then told me something that I didn’t know. She said the chlamydia was what caused her to have endometriosis, and was therefore the root cause of her hysterectomy. 

Peggy also told me where she thinks she got the chlamydia, and I’ll share that with you because the incident is typical of what our lives were like at the time. By now, we were maybe thirteen years into our marriage and had gone from me having affairs to us having an open relationship. Peggy only agreed to this, because I clearly wasnt going to stop having sex with other women.

In the mid-eighties, I spent much of two years visiting communes. I’d take off in my Datsun truck and drive to wherever one was that I wanted to visit, lining up two to four per trip. These trips took me to Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Hampshire. I would be gone for up to two months, and it wasn’t unusual for me to have sex with people I met along the way. I visited two communes in Tennessee. One was the 1,200 member guru-inspired outfit called The Farm ( that was, and still is, I suppose, renowned for its midwifery program. The other was also rural, but only contained about ten or fifteen people who lived in their own houses, either as couples or singly. I stayed with a couple named Lynn and Bob, and the first night I was there, I couldn’t sleep for them having sex. Bob never made a squeak, but Lynn was a screamer, so there wasn’t anything for it but for me to lie awake and listen.

When I got up the next day, Bob was gone to work, and as she made my breakfast, Lynn asked how I slept. I figured she must have known, so I said I lay awake horny listening to her scream. She asked if I would like to make love to her the next night, and I said I would so long as it was just her and me. She said that, no, Bob had to be included, so I said okay, I would do it if I wasn’t expected to have sex with him. Lynn said that he was a heterosexual, so I needn’t worry. So the next night we all climbed into bed, and talked a bit, and then I started making out with Lynn. When I was through, Bob took my place, and then we talked a bit more and went to sleep. In hardly any time at all, I was ready to do it again, and so began another round of lovemaking with me going first and then Bob. This went on all night, and I enjoyed it immensely.

I never felt awkward in such situations because if there was any awkwardness to be felt, it happened when I was trying to decide whether a woman would say yes if I asked her to have sex with me (sometimes, the woman made things easy by beating me to the punch). Once the question of whether to have sex was out of the way, I felt completely comfortable, and the women I had sex with did too, because those who make love to a lot of people are never shy, at least about lovemaking.

A few months later, Peggy and I visited Lynn and Bob. Peggy and Bob spent the night together, and Lynn and I spent the night together. I think we did this for two nights. Once, during the daytime, I leaned over to give Lynn an affectionate hug, but she stiffened and looked displeased, so I didn’t try that again. Later, Bob and I were talking, and he said that their open marriage was Lynn
’s idea. This put him and Peggy in the same boat, so if they had each known how the other felt, they might have lay in bed and read instead of having sex. 

Not long after we got home, Peggy learned that she had chlamydia. I never gave any thought to where it came from because it seemed so minor. Only now, do realize that Peggy blamed it on Lynn and Bob. She also told me something else that I didn’t know. Her doctor said he was required to report her to the health department, but that he wasn’t going to do it out of respect for her privacy, Brookhaven, Mississippi, being too small a town for a person to have any confidence in keeping something like that a secret, especially when that person is a nurse.

I look back on those days with longing, my only regret being that I didn’t make love to a hundred times more women, but when Peggy looks back, all she sees is a lot of pointless sex. For me, sex was the point. It’s not that I didn’t want emotional intimacy because I very much did, but that there was usually too much going against it, things like geographical distance, jealous husbands, a lack of interest on the woman’s part, and an absence of emotional compatibility.

After we moved to Oregon, I had four relationships that were emotionally intimate and that lasted for a period of years. It was the women who ended three of the four, and I was very sad and angry for a long time after two of them ended. What I observed about having serious relationships while married is that most women fall into two categories. Those in one category wanted to have a relationship with me precisely because I was married, and they imagined that this would prevent us from becoming emotionally entangled. Those in the second category, whatever their initial motivation, eventually tried to win me away from Peggy and ended their relationship with me when they failed. In the first instance I felt used, and in the second, I felt abandoned. Clearly, being married doesn’t protect one from heartache, which is why Peggy says she’s done with open relationships, and this reminds me of something else she corrected me about. I wrote that if our friend Walt gets a divorce, I thought that Peggy would probably go back to having a sexual relationship with him, but she says she’s against it because it’s not worth the aggravation.

One of the women I had a long-term relationship with was Vicki, and it was she and Peggy and I who formed the group marriage. We talked of adding a second man, but we only lived together a few months short of two years, and by the time we separated, it was a case of good riddance. The last woman I had a long-term relationship with was Jackie, and that was in the late ‘90s. She was divorced at the time, and she ended her relationship with me when she decided to start looking for a husband. Since I regarded her as a a good friend whom I had sex with rather than someone I was in love with, I was okay with this, and so Peggy, Jackie, Jackie’s husband Kurt, and I are still friends all these many years later. Kurt was initially reluctant to meet me, but when he did, he realized that I had no feelings of jealousy and no remaining interest in having sex with Jackie, so we got along well. I think that with both lovers and friends, it’s often the intense relationships that burn-out fast and end miserably, which means that it’s better not to aim too high.

The painting is by Costantino Cedini, and I chose it because it captures how good sex used to feel. I'm  sorry those days are gone, but I wouldn't want them back either because for every moment of ecstasy, there were a lot more of sadness.