Adrian* and Michelle* have been together for over a decade. They celebrated their 10-year anniversary in the most unusual way: by opening their relationship up to new partners in the bedroom. Almost two years on, they don’t regret their decision and if anything, they say it’s made their relationship stronger.
The couple, who have been married for six years, never intended to go down this path. They decided long ago that they didn’t want to have a family, but they had never even discussed the possibility of sharing the love in other ways.
“I’m not even sure how the conversation first started,” Michelle admits. “We had been going through a few things — I think they were probably the normal growing pains that a couple goes through after 10 years together. Although we really love each other, we were both feeling restless.”
Rewind the clock two years and the pair were fighting a lot. Michelle, a nurse, was increasingly stressed at work and Adrian, who works in IT, was also working long hours. They talked about taking a break, even divorcing, but didn’t want to face the future apart.
“I was only 19 when we got together — I’d only had one other boyfriend before Adrian, and I kind of felt like I’d missed out on that wild, crazy time of your youth when you get to experiment,” Michelle says.
“And I could tell Adrian was bored. We had sex about once a fortnight, maybe once a week — between working long hours, friends, family and the rest, we just didn’t prioritize intimacy. He told me, flat out, that he wanted it at least a few times a week, but I was too exhausted.”
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That’s when they discussed the possibility of opening their relationship up to other sexual partners.
One night mid-way through 2012, Adrian told Michelle about a friend who had been hooking up with women every other week via the Tinder app. They had a look at the app as a bit of a laugh, but within a few weeks, they were both regularly checking in and “surveying the market.”
When Adrian went to San Francisco for work one weekend, he “discovered” an attractive woman who was staying at the same hotel. “We’d been building to this point for so long, I kind of knew it would happen while he was away,” Michelle says. “He called me to basically ask my permission and I said, ‘Go for it.’ It kind of felt surreal; I was thinking, ‘Did you really just give permission for your husband to sleep with someone else?’ I didn’t feel bad, though. It was strange, I felt almost excited for him. And I spent the rest of the night on our sofa in Los Angeles, flirting on Tinder.”
The following morning, Michelle called Adrian to see how it went, but quickly realized she didn’t want all the juicy details. Not long afterwards, she connected with a tourist from Australia and had her first encounter.
“We had dinner at a restaurant about half an hour away from where we live, and it was a little awkward to begin with. But after a couple of drinks, we both relaxed and wound up fooling around in his hotel room. We didn’t actually have sex, but it was such a rush to be with someone other than Adrian,” Michelle says.
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Since then, both Adrian and Michelle have had around half a dozen casual hook-ups each. Through trial and error, they have learned to set some ground rules: no hooking up when the other person is at home.
“The only time either of us will do it is if the other person is busy; maybe I’m out on a girls’ night, or one of us is out of town. There’s no way I’m going to leave my husband at home alone on a Tuesday night so I can be with someone else,” Michelle says.
They also never bring anyone to their house — “our home is just for us, it’s sacred ground” — and they can’t hook up with anyone they know or are likely to see again.
Because of these rules, Michelle says, jealousy is not an issue, and they’ve never had to worry about emotions getting in the way. She’s not fearful that either of them will fall in love with someone else, as the connections they make are “purely sexual.”
“I never thought that it would take something like this to improve our marriage. But when I think about it, we never had an issue with our relationship, as such. Adrian is my best friend and my biggest supporter in every way — the truth is, we were just bored in the bedroom,” Michelle says.
“The funny thing is, we haven’t actually dabbled with Tinder in a month or two because we haven’t felt the need, but we know we can if we want to. And right now, our relationship couldn’t be better.”
* Names changed to protect privacy.
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