My boyfriend's wife

'Apart from his wife, I'm the only woman Mick's ever been with.'

'Apart from his wife, I'm the only woman Mick's ever been with.' Photo: George Marks / Getty

I met Mick online, and we made arrangements to meet for dinner. He brought a surprise special guest – his son, Connor, then 2. We hugged goodbye afterwards. He kissed my cheek. A week later, he came to see me. We had Italian food and watched YouTube videos for a couple of hours. I kissed him. His lips felt soft, and I liked the way his leg felt against my own as we sat side by side.

"Want to fool around?" I asked. "We can go in the bedroom." It had been 400 days since I last slept with anyone.

I'd had longer dry spells, especially if you count the first 35 years of my life. I lost 136 kilograms, found a guy online, and there went my chances at an immaculate conception. Other men followed.

Apart from his wife, I'm the only woman Mick's ever been with. They started dating at 18, and have been together nearly 15 years. They arrived at polyamory because she didn't want to have the kind of sex he liked, and vice versa. Despite this difference of opinion, they shared too much – and needed one another too much – to simply divorce. They had a child together and a life that worked. Both read the book The Ethical Slut and decided that including other loves would help their marriage rather than harm it.

Mick and I saw each other almost every weekend after that first date. We talk online almost every day. There are times when I think I'd like more, though not necessarily from him. If I were to have someone in my life I lived with or saw every day, he would almost certainly be another man.

Part of our arrangement requires some suspension of disbelief. While I know that we probably won't stay together forever, I find it hard to imagine my life without him. We navigate this boundary through a heady mix of affection, humour and some denial. Denial comes in handy. It lets me enjoy our time together – a day, a weekend, a few hours – without sadness or worry or doubt. Those feelings come later, when I'm alone, or when I wish I wasn't.

I sometimes envy Mick's wife, though not in ways most people imagine. They share an intimacy that lacks the physical dimension I have with him. Her particular sexual interests lay more in the direction of things kids do in junior high, or in S&M that Mick has no interest in pursuing.

I envy her for waking up with him every day. I envy her for her official status.

Mick worries his employer would frown on this part of his personal life. There's no status on Facebook for "in a relationship … with a married guy … but really, it's okay because his wife is good with it".

I met Mick's wife shortly after we began dating. Weirdly, she has the same first name as I do, though she goes by Bex, and I'm always Rebecca. She dates other people, too, though her luck with outside partners hasn't been very good.

There was "S", an S&M partner who thought he'd get better private abuse from her if he treated her badly outside the bedroom. Next came "Monster", whose nickname came from their shared love of horror films. His wife felt jealous of Bex and that relationship ended.

Next came Don. Bex sent him to the airport to pick me up one day. Her son needed to see a doctor, so she had to scramble for backup. Don bragged about all the cars he'd stolen, and told me that he was a great dad who supported his kids (three, each with a different mother) totally, "except with money". Bex dumped him fairly quickly.

I enjoy Bex. She has a unique energy and vulnerability. She and Mick have Connor, the three-year-old with whom I've spent a lot of time. Connor has wildly curly hair that falls down his back in a loose tumble. When he sees me on Skype, he shouts "Beeka, Beeka" and asks where are my kitties. We swim together in the summer. When we spend time at Mick's house, I have my laptop open to some YouTube video or another. We listen to Paul Simon, and I sing along to Loves me Like a Rock for him.

When I met Mick, I'd applied to graduate schools in other states. I didn't want to sleep with creeps from Craig's List, or lie to decent local guys about the chances of a long-term relationship. I searched OKCupid profiles for married guys, and Mick was the first one I wrote to.

He was nine years younger than I, and his wife sounded amazing. We made a date, and it's worked out so far. I thought the G-spot was made up before Mick. I've also never dated a man so effortlessly cheerful and (mostly) functional. Mick installed my car stereo in under 10 minutes. I watched him do it from the passenger seat of my Saturn Ion. He bought the wrong mounting kit, but made do with a multi-tool and the old wiring.

"I've never dated anyone useful before," I told him. He smiled and kissed me, made sure the stereo worked, and drove home to his wife.

28 comments

  • Sounds like a very interesting sort of relationship, similar to F buddies but with one of the parties actually married and the consent of the partner. I would have thought though that the idea of it from the married couples point of view was that the extra person was just involved for sex and not for what sounds very much like another relationship? There seems to be a very real risk that the girlfriend is going to end up falling for the husband (presumably for the boyfriend and the wife as well) in which case what happens?

    Commenter
    Hurrow
    Date and time
    May 01, 2013, 9:30AM
    • After I lost 70 kilos I had relationships with "unavailable" men too. It took a lot of counseling to realize I was doing this because I didn't feel worthy of a "real" relationship.

      Commenter
      missminute
      Date and time
      May 01, 2013, 10:24AM
      • I'm sorry to hear of your experience, but glad you had the strength & insight to seek help and heal. Every woman deserves and should expect to have a man all to herself, and vice-versa.

        Those that want to have their cake and eat it too (extra-marital affairs and polys) exploit and take advantage of the vulnerability of people such as yourself. The partner of such individuals is given the choice of giving them free reign or losing them and the life they built together. The selfishness and blackmail is sickening.

        Commenter
        truly
        Date and time
        May 01, 2013, 12:05PM
      • Agree completely . The only loser in this arrangement is Rebecca. Sometimes no relationship is better than one where the only outcome will be her sadness.

        Commenter
        Seriously
        Date and time
        May 01, 2013, 1:18PM
    • It's interesting that in this piece about a "happy" polyamorous relationship the author expresses envy for her lover's wife as well as requiring denial on her part for the whole thing to work. More power to anyone who wants to try to live their life this way, but sexual and emotional jealousy are pretty universal human traits. It's perfectly healthy and natural to desire exclusivity from your partner, and any polyamorous relationship will have to overcome a range of emotions almost as powerful as the instinct for survival itself.

      Commenter
      James Hill
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 01, 2013, 10:25AM
      • But even in a happy monogamous marriage, can you honestly tell me that sacrifice and negative emotions aren't an expected part of the whole experience, along with whatever happiness and benefits it brings?

        The two aren't fundamentally different, so much as each just has different costs and different rewards. Everyone can decide which set of rewards they want from a relationship and what cost they're prepared to pay.

        Commenter
        Christian
        Date and time
        May 01, 2013, 11:11AM
      • No one is suggesting that monogamous relationships are perfect, or without trade offs. But there's a reason why the vast majority of advanced, thriving societies chose to enshrine monogamous relationships as sacred and polyamoury is either banned, or practiced by people on the fringes of society.
        It's also interesting to note that the societies that DO practice polygamy also primarily patriarchal: the polygamous household is ruled by a man with many subordinate wives. That's because sexual and emotional jealousy are poisonous to long term relationships, and the practical way these groups get around it is to prevent the man feeling any kind of jealously, and merely force the women to accept it.

        Commenter
        James Hill
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        May 01, 2013, 11:30AM
      • @James

        They seem pretty happy from the article. I mean, all relationships have spats and argue from time to time.

        That said, there's way I could do it, because I know I'm too possessive. I don't want other men (or women) touching him!

        Commenter
        Jim Moriarty
        Date and time
        May 01, 2013, 12:49PM
      • @ James

        Which is why infidelity occurs in what is thought to be over 50% of all marriages right? Monogamy may be enshrined (something that had a lot more to do with ensuring a child's paternity and controlling women than it being better for other reasons), but it isn't actually practiced particularly well, and never has been.

        Are you really saying doing something dishonestly and in secret is better than an open, honest and consensual arrangement between all parties?

        Commenter
        K
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        May 01, 2013, 1:22PM
      • @ K,

        But there are different sorts of infidelity, in a sense - and are they all equal? I might (MIGHT) feel different about a one-off, guilty shag that is regretted, than an ongoing situation in which my spouse had several girlfriends and expected me to be just fine with that...

        Commenter
        Red Pony
        Date and time
        May 01, 2013, 1:50PM

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