Opening Up My Marriage Led To A Shocking Emotional Awakening

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man flirting with woman

My wife and I recently opened up our marriage, and I hooked up with several women I picked up at a lesbian bar over the course of a few months.

It was all fun and thrills, and a welcome change in pace from our sex life, which was in the doldrums from raising three little kids. All of these women were one-night stands except for one, whom I had a second date with. 

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On the second date, we had such intense chemistry and spent all night with each other.

"I want a kiss," she said, while I was rushing out the door in the morning.

We shared this kiss and I was head over heels for her.

Over the next week, we started texting a lot and she was clearly very into me, sending me the hottest texts I had ever received and telling her friend how sexy I was. We made explicit plans for what we would do next time. But we couldn’t see each other for a month because she had copious travel coming up. 

We ran into some awkward texting after a while, due to time zone differences or scheduling, or just different texting styles, which felt like "ships passing in the night," she said.

We agreed to wait until we could meet up in person at the end of the month and had two weeks of radio silence. 

During those two weeks, I was thinking about what an amazing person she was — stunningly gorgeous, wicked smart, super successful, and kind — just perfect. And totally out of my league. I felt insecure, something I had never felt before.

After those two weeks of radio silence, I reached out and after some back and forth, I was unexpectedly dumped.

Her messages were, to me, cryptic ("due to prioritizing me") and dismissive ("I’m sure our paths will cross again"). No acknowledgment of the explicit plans or the tentative date we had, and she refused to take a phone call instead of doing it all over the text. We argued and she ghosted me, leaving me hurt and confused.

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At first, I blamed it on her, because after all, she was cryptic and dismissive.

But days went by and I couldn’t help but replay it in my head over and over again. Seeing me sad and down, my wife stepped in to help me understand what happened.

Reviewing the texts, I realized I was very insecure and clingy, and became pushy and argumentative in the conversation. Those texts would show that I was emotionally immature — not expressing my feelings but letting them say demanding and roundabout things, and possibly gaslighting my partner. 

There I was, in my mid-30s, having the emotional conflicts and dating drama of a high schooler.

Perhaps it’s because I had never dated much — having been in two back-to-back long-term relationships since I started dating in college.

Both relationships had "U-haul lesbian" starts—each time; we had literally moved in after two dates. Since I could not “U-haul” this time, the relationship blew up after two dates. 

For the next month, I had limerence and could not stop thinking of her day and night, despite having a full-time job, 3 kids, and a wife.

I went out and hooked up with more women to try to move on. Still, I desperately wanted to reconnect and hear from her but I had no understanding of how to reach out in that situation or what to say. I tried anyway and the message was delivered but I was ignored or blocked after.

My wife brought up the ghosting in a fight later and I was very hurt and I shut down.

I couldn’t sleep and ruminated all night and all morning, reading articles, Reddits, and Quoras.

It worked — I had an "aha moment", and went to my wife with it—she was floored, she called it my "emotional awakening."

I realized both the ghosting and fight could have been prevented if I expressed my feelings and needs instead of arguing and becoming pushy.

I also recalled another polyamory interest of mine, a psychotherapist no less, telling me "I have so much respect for when someone states their need." It all made sense.

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An “I was really looking forward to seeing you” without arguing surely would not have led to ghosting, even if the dumping stood.

And would have left the door open for future reconnection—something she expressed interest in and I ignored.

In fact, I completely missed the emotional state and motivations of my partners in both the ghosting and fight with my wife.

I’ve always leveraged my analytical and rational abilities to have a successful career and a dream family. But my dating experience highlighted how glaringly deficient and immature I was in handling my emotions and reacting to the emotions of others.

I also realized that I was always proud of how much work and communication I put into my marriage and family, but discounted how much my wife is the warmth and empathy in our family and the true source of resilience for the relationship.

I started opening up to my friends about all of this, reconnecting with some old friends, and reading numerous articles and books including That’s Not What I Meant and Nonviolent Communication.

Turns out these skills were also important in my job and I started seeing work interactions with deeper insight. My new emotional communication and empathy skills have also eliminated fights with my wife — we still have heated discussions and disagreements, but no more fights.

After trying out polyamory for half a year, my wife and I are evaluating whether we should continue.

But I am forever changed and immensely more mature because of the dating experiences that came from opening our marriage.

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Nia Winn is a freelance writer who uses her own experiences with love and marriage to help others find their own.