I Asked My Fiancé To Break This Relationship Rule — & It Ignited Our Sex Life

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
I didn’t arrive home from my bus trip until after 9 p.m., and I was exhausted. Luckily, my fiancé, Ryan, had dinner waiting for me: seared tuna and couscous. He poured us each a glass of white wine from an open bottle, and I gratefully took it, not stopping to wonder why he had a half-drunk bottle of wine when he always prefers a beer. After dinner, I immediately opened my laptop to catch up on work, but Ryan called me into the bedroom. He wanted to talk. I finished my email, and then went in to join him on the bed. He took a deep breath. “I had an affair while you were traveling,” he said. For a microsecond, my heart plummeted. Two decades of movies, literature, and lyrics have ingrained those words in my mind as a deal breaker. It’s the end of a relationship. It’s the signal that he doesn’t love you, that he’s actually a schmuck. That your life with him is shattered. “I whipped the shit out of a girl here in this bed,” he continued. I remembered myself, leaned forward, and — smiling seductively — said, “Tell me everything.” I wasn’t upset. I was elated. Because he had gamely fulfilled a request I had put to him a month before: I had asked him to have a secret affair. Now would be a good time to tell you that Ryan and I are in an open relationship. But, as I am quick to point out to anyone concerned about my welfare, it is a healthy one. I was the first one to bring up the idea of opening up at the beginning of our relationship, but he had been considering it since before the demise of his former marriage. So we’ve approached it as partners and equals. We also communicate — a lot. We follow rules, we keep each other apprised of any development in our dating lives, and we have veto power if, for whatever reason, we are uncomfortable with what each other is doing…or who. In fact, there might be too much communication. A couple of months ago, we started going through a hard time, sexually. My libido just couldn’t keep up with his, and we were caught in an (I suspect) all too typical circle. He’d tentatively put it out there. I’d feel pressured to have sex to reward his gentlemanly behavior and fulfill that commonly accepted quota floating around of having sex once a week, in order to have a healthy relationship. Then I’d feel completely unsexy because of the pressure I was putting on myself. He was doing all the right things — touching the right places, saying the right dirty talk, taking his time with foreplay — and yet, I found myself getting so wrapped up in my thoughts that I was unmoved by his ministrations. What happened to wanting it so badly that just a soft touch could make me orgasm? Could I ever have that feeling back? After thinking back through my sex life and all the times in which I have been electrified with sexual longing, I realized that it always had to do with doing something new and exciting that was formerly taboo. Think watching porn; attending life drawing classes and sketching a muscled nude model; hooking up with a coworker; getting nude photos taken of me and then hooking up with the photographer; anal play; anal porn; making out with women; dating a tall, dark, divorced, South American musician who’s nine years my senior; opening up our relationship; threesomes; sex parties; foursomes… Each time, I dove into the foreign and forbidden activity with the need and delight of a child from an organic hippie commune tasting her first Hershey's Bar. I wanted as much as possible, and I wanted it all the time. Then, eventually, I would abandon it when it became too familiar or normalized. So it was, I decided, with my fiancé. My wonderful, trustworthy, grocery-shopping, dishes-doing, cat food-buying, permission-seeking fiancé. Up until the end of last year, I thought it was perfect and necessary that he so diligently told me when he got a woman’s number, when he scheduled a date, where they were going on the date, how the date was going, and when the date ended and he was on his way home. He always made absolutely sure I was comfortable with everything that was going on, even though my answer was always, without fail, “That’s great! Have fun!” He even spent significant portions of dates with other women talking about me and our relationship, so there could never be any doubt about the fact that I was his primary partner and one true love, and that these other dates were just for fun and nothing more. This made me comfortable and built up my trust in him to stratospheric levels. But it wasn’t actually sexy. It was safe. On my end, when I went on dates, I didn’t talk about us. Not that I don’t think our relationship is amazing — when I’m with my girlfriends I can’t shut up about it. But on dates, I wanted to feel the crackle of sexual tension that comes with being secretive. I wanted to feel like I was doing something wrong. And I realized that I wanted Ryan to feel that too, without the ghost of his girlfriend tagging along as a third wheel, looking over his shoulder at every interaction. So no, I didn’t really want to hear about the mundanities of his back and forth on OKCupid, about when he’s turned down for a date, his long conversations spent convincing them that I know about the open relationship and I’m perfectly fine with it, or when he takes a women on several dates and she decides getting involved in an open relationship isn’t for her.

I wanted to feel like I didn’t have control over him.

But what I did love hearing about afterward were the details of a hookup. It turns me on to see him through another woman’s eyes. I love hearing that he made her moan, that she was pleading for more, that she had several orgasms while in his capable hands. It makes me jealous, in an exciting way. I want what she is having, and when she is having my fiancé and loving it, it’s a potent reminder of his sexual prowess. So I told him one night that I didn’t need all the updates, and he didn’t need to ask for permission anymore. In fact, I told him, “I want you to have an affair. I want you to go on a date and go home with her without ever telling me what is happening until after. I want it to be a secret.” Above all, I wanted to feel like I didn’t have control over him, so that it could reignite that delicious feeling of uncertainty that so tempts us at the beginning of a relationship. I wanted to recapture that feeling of having a lover, instead of a live-in laundry-doer. Stay with me here: Like a rape fantasy, which isn’t actually about sexual violence but about ceding control, my longing for him to have an affair wasn’t about hurt and betrayal, but about seeing him as an autonomous sexual figure over which I didn’t have complete power. Also like a rape fantasy, I still ultimately had control over the situation and could stop it at any time — it was just role play. So, I snuggled up to him and he told me about his affair. He told me about how he set it up on WhatsApp during our romantic vacation, in between our dinners on the beach, and before he lit a dozen tea lights and presented me with my Valentine’s Day gift. He told me how when he explained his plan to the woman (who is also in an open relationship with a woman and who had met us both and therefore was certain he wasn’t just cheating on me), she became excited to be involved in this illicit affair in service of my sexual excitement. The best part was when he described in exquisite detail how he tied her up on our bed, how he whipped her with a suede tassel whip, where he licked her, how she screamed, and the precise nature of her two orgasms. He’s not even into BDSM (and neither am I), but he rightly guessed that telling me about his foray into a whole new territory without my even being involved would titillate me. I want what she had. By the end of his story, my blood was rushing down south and I was crawling on top of him, eager for him to reenact the whole scene again. We had our own little illicit affair on our bed, the bed whose sheets he had to wash and change before I got home from my business trip. Who knew that my gentle, feminist, rule-following fiancé was so capable of plotting such devious delights behind my back? You might find that horrifying, but because I had requested it, and it was preceded by two years of him carefully following my rules and deferring to my every sexual request, I found it to be just what I had been craving. It made it impossible to ignore his capacity for seduction. Just writing this story makes me crave his company. This might not be a long-term solution for our sex life. It just transpired this past weekend, and who knows? Perhaps I will get bored with it, as well. But it certainly served as a solution for one persistent and universally perplexing relationship problem: As long as I know Ryan is capable of orchestrating a delicious affair, I won’t ever take him for granted. Alicia Morgan is the pseudonym of a writer living in the United States.

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