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What It’s Like to Be the Other Guy in an Open Marriage

I didn't want to be a homewrecker. But that's how a lot of people see it.

Illustration by Joe Frontel

The room feels dead.

Almost everything's packed up in carefully labeled boxes. The wedding picture that hung on the wall of the living room is conspicuously absent. A tower of empty beer cans increases in height every few minutes.

I'm perched on the couch where it all began.

It's the couch on which, some eight months ago after getting high and watching a hilariously shitty Christian movie, I had sex for the first time with a girl I'd known and crushed on for years who happened—sorry, who happens—to be married.


I was driving the last of her few belongings to my place when I had nearly had an actual panic attack—like the head-fogging-up-on-the-brink-of-puking onset of a panic attack—and performed a highly illegal u-turn and immediately located a liquor store and returned to that couch where I tried to get drunk and suppress the overwhelming guilt of it all as she sat beside me and told me that she loves me and that everything was going to be OK and not to feel guilty as it was her decision to leave her partner of eight years.

It wasn't supposed to happen like this.

She'd told me from the beginning that she couldn't be my primary partner. The open relationship situation negotiated with her husband of a few years meant they could hook up with other people on occasion, letting each other know when and with whom it was happening. One time, she helped him set up a Tinder profile before he embarked on a work trip.

They were the archetype of the highly communicative, sex-positive, fucking adorable couple.

Which was a curious situation for me—whose teenage years were largely defined by attending abstinence-only conferences, reading a vast collection of anti-masturbation books, and obviously never taking a sex-ed class—to land in.

I'd only ever had one serious girlfriend. We made out a lot in my parents' basement but never went much beyond that.

Once, after over two years of dating (I would've been in my early 20s by this point), she touched my dick as we kissed. I said we should stop and then proceeded to tell her that I still looked at porn. She cried for a bit and I prayed for her out loud.