The Other Side of the Open Door

Me again. I have been home about 18 hours and life as a fully open couple isn’t much different than life was when we were just halfway open. It’s weird, but we each slept on the same side of the bed we used to, Axel still liked the gray towel and I still liked the white one, and the applewood wood bacon that comes straight from God, via Costco, tasted the same amazing way too. Who’d have thought that, huh?

There are still those feelings that will pop in just a minute or two every couple of hours and they have to be dealt with, but they don’t worry me anymore like they did a few days ago because now, now that “it” happened, I know that it’s not anything that is going to cause any trouble, but it was enough that I thought I should write about it anyway.

However, first, breaking news, I spotted the couple, who I have decided to just call them Kevin and Kevin, a bit ago when Axel and I were at a street fair that has encompassed my neighborhood today. I said “spotted” like I was on a hunt of some sort and in reality, it was via Axel tapping me on the shoulder and saying “there they are, THERE” as he pointed toward a group of gay men in tank tops all with perfect hair despite the fact that there are literally 75,000 people in a two block area and that it’s 90 something degrees today (I looked like a horse that needed to be put down by then). We knew they were going to be there but they were with family from out of town, so Axel and the Kevins had already discussed that if we saw each other, great, but if not, we would not force a meeting in front of strangers (translation: Axel knows I am short tempered and pissy when hot and in crowds, so he didn’t want to risk me being an inadvertent ass to his boyfriends), though we did offer to let them park in our driveway. Anyway, there they were. In living flesh. Luckily for me in my dead looking horse state, they were way across the street holding nephews or borrowed children or something, so we didn’t have that sweaty hot greeting. They did not see us, but I saw them and, though cute, I found some strange satisfaction in realizing I was in better shape than they were. Petty I know, but I own it. But, from just watching them and having heard about them, they seem to be two really good chaps and, for Axel, I hope this works out as well as it has with me and my boyfriend.

All of that out of the way, I wanted to go back to my two posts this week about my side of the open door and discuss discussing the other side of open. When I started writing those posts, they were from my gut and were quite cathartic in many ways, so I am very glad that I wrote them as they helped me deal with things and also helped both Axel and Thumper see more into why I was acting like I was or more about how I saw things (btw, I asked Axel to read each of those as I do when something is there I feel he should see). What I didn’t realize when I started that is that I was essentially writing from a perspective of an open couple that many people don’t get to see. This means that I talked about the negotiations, the hurt feelings, and the actual, real life, somewhat stark realization that you are not all that your partner needs.

Ferns, my Australian girlfriend, left a comment on the first of the two posts that said:

I don’t see that many non-monogamous folks talk all that honestly about these complicated feelings. In fact what I mostly see is that everything is ‘great!’ and ‘fine!’ until suddenly it’s a big mess of jealousy and hurt and serious consequences and there is no insight into how that came about.

As usual, she was spot on, so that made me feel better about having laid it all out there then, and even now and over the next few weeks as this continues to evolve. I will continue to do that because it is what it is, and I refuse to just tell you that all is shiny and wonderful while still not 100 percent sure in my mind that it is.

Having said that, I would say that last week when I wrote the posts, I was at a 65 percent “I really am okay with this” place on post one and an 80 percent or so place when I wrote post number two. Today, as I sit here and type, I am likely at a 97 or even 98 percent place in my head and now find myself looking forward to what is going to evolve and how the Kevins are going to fit into Axel’s life primarily but into mine as well. I say that now through a bit more negotiation and thought in my head and was really moved by Thumper’s post yesterday but especially by this paragraph:

I never thought about openness with Belle because early on my feelings for her were such that I didn’t want anyone else. Saw no point in anyone else. There was no room inside me for anyone else. Now that’s changed. Luckily, we still have a connection and I still want her and need her in my life, but we’re both fundamentally different.

When I read that, I realized one immediate thing and one not so immediate thing. The first is that some of what I was grappling with the last week was a feeling that Axel and I had “let each other down” in a sense by NOT being everything each other needed. Rational Drew realized that one can’t be all to everyone and that this is indeed okay and he’s proud to be married to someone that understands that too, but irrational Drew felt slightly ashamed, slightly embarrassed, and slightly angry that he could not be it all for Axel (though it was perfectly fine that Axel couldn’t be it all for him). These thoughts had nothing to do with the Kevins or with Thumper, but they were the catalysts that fueled them, and I know now that those were the “things” I mentioned last week that I just could not put the right words on the screen to describe the actual sensation, most likely because I was in a place that was too raw for me to have completely silenced irrational Drew. I refuse to say Thumper used magic words, but what he did was cause the “moment” where the realization met reality and I am very happy to have that past me now because, it is, indeed changed from when we first partnered, while in our 20’s, and this open state is really some intense growth that has taken place for both of us as a couple and most likely was and is needed for our long term survival as a duo.

The second realization involves jealousy and the understanding that the jealousy I was, and still slightly am, feeling isn’t the fact that “Kevin is doing my man”, but it’s the excitement that Axel suddenly has in his world. He has that “young and stupid in lust” look and talk and I’m not the one causing that or being involved in that, so I think that is where the fourth wheel comment came from. And, at the same time, while not to the extent that Axel had, Thumper also had/has a renewed “energy” about Frodo and, god dammit, I couldn’t relate to that either. It was a double whammy of bad timing. However, as I realized yesterday again, it wasn’t (and isn’t) about the people at all, just the energy surrounding the activity and I had inadvertently let my ego be pretty wildly deflated by the Kevins and the Frodo and, in retrospect it was silly, but a human reaction so I also own that. I was honest with both Thump and Axel about this last night and simply told them that I was in a deflated place and asked them to keep that in mind and that if there is anything they could do to help me boost it, I would be appreciative. I know that is like saying “I am about to come out in a pretty dress so make sure you tell me how amazing and thin I look in it”, but, as I have told you, these two are alike in how they notice and react to things, so I just decided to put it out there instead of waiting to see if it went away or what. Oh, and before the comments start, yes, I know my ego will come back on its own and yes, I know I have plenty to have a boosted ego about, but this is just one of those inside the relationship and friendship moments that the outside world cannot affect.

Of course, turn about is fair play, and I absolutely see that a year ago I was giddy over meeting the rabbit and he was me too. Axel had his ego bruised during that period too, and while I knew it then, now I really know it, so I am going to be doing some reverse ego mending too. He got through it and I certainly will, but in this case, both sides of the door look the same and they are a nasty color that does not go with anything else in our home. So, like the ugly figurine his mother once gave us for Christmas, it wont be allowed to last long in this house at all.

Now, from the door itself, which I assume would be my home with Axel, all is well in the House of Drew tonight and it’s just going to get better (also because Kershaw pitches tonight too).

A friend’s questions

The following is an unusual post as it’s a transcript of a long conversation I had via text whilst flying across the Eastern US this morning with my friend Happa (not his real name). He and his wife, Cheyenne (also not her real name) follow both my blog and Thumper’s (his now real name – kinda) and they have gotten to know both me and Axel outside of the anonymous confines of this space.

The two of them are looking at their own options, whatever they may be, so how Thumper and Belle and how Axel and I approach our newly fully open relationships is of specific interest to them. I told him a long while back to ask me anything and, as you will see, he actually did, and boy did he. Also, this is the actual transcript of the chat (just with spelling and grammar corrections).

This afternoon I talked with Thumper and mentioned the conversation to him and we decided that he would insert his own responses in here as well, since many of the questions were me assuming about he and Belle or, worse, speaking for them.

So, what follows is a Thumper and Drew first – a dual post of sorts.

Keep in mind that Drew’s replies were happening in real time while mine, when I have one to a particular point, are after the fact. — Thumper

Happa: Cheyenne and I were talking last night about Belle’s choice to not hear about details of Thumper’s relationship with you. We were trying to understand how her being completely okay with the situation coincides with not wanting to know about what goes on between you two. It’s more intuitive to think she’d be more secure in knowing than not.

Drew: Well, keep in mind Axel doesn’t know details either. He is much more aware of Thumper, I assume, and he and I talk about him a lot both as my boyfriend and just as a friend and person who we both admire for various things he has going for him.

Thumper: Open relationships take many forms. Some are swinging in which the two partners go out and play with other couples together while others are “don’t ask, don’t tell” types on the other end of the spectrum that happen totally under the radar. Belle has chosen for herself that this will be one where she knows it’s happening (in fact, has set some rules about how it happens — i.e., I will always be locked) but she doesn’t want to know any of the gory details. She’s also not shown an interest in becoming social with Drew in the same way Axel has with me.

I don’t think there’s a Right Way™ to do this. My and Belle’s particular arrangement could be seen as the analytical part of her brain being OK with the concept of me getting specific sexual needs met outside our relationship while protecting her reactive emotional side by keeping the specifics out of her mind. Bottom line, how a couple opens their relationship can be in whatever way is best for the two of them, both together and individually.

Happa: For Cheyenne, being 100% ok means she knows what’s going on. She couldn’t say she’s okay without knowing what’s happening.

Drew: Well, she (Belle) knows what’s happening, just not how. It’s the same thing with Axel, he always knows when I am with Thumper and even weeks in advance since it has to be scheduled.

He also knows we talk and/or text often, but I rarely say “guess what, I talked to Thumper for 37 minutes this morning”, I think he just rightly assumes we talk because I tell him things. I also tell him when it’s been awhile since we have connected and if it bothers me and/or I don’t hide when I am talking to or texting with him either if Axel is around, but I try not to ever put Thumper over Axel if he needs attention.

Thumper: Belle and I are pretty much the same. She’s told me not to try and hide when I communicate to Drew when we’re together. For her, I think, if I did those things it would be too much like slinking around behind her back. Drew’s right in that she does know conceptually the kinds of things Drew and I are doing (and not doing) and, for her, that’s enough.

Happa: You and Thumper have a pretty close relationship given you’re both married. Does Belle have a sense of the closeness of your relationship, or does she see the situation as “contained” within the circumstances therefore details are unimportant?

Drew: That would be a question for him I think. Actually, that would be a great question to email to his blog. But, I assume, no, pretty much think, she knows we are tight, she knows we talk, are planning travel together, and that he is likely doing business with Axel, so I assume it’s unimportant to her, but I will ask him.

But again, Axel doesn’t know the details of what we do either – when naked.

Thumper: Belle knows we’ve developed a friendship and talk and, of course, are going to LA together and see one another about once a month. I don’t tell her everything about Drew, but then again, I don’t tell her everything about any of my friends (that aren’t also her friends). She also knows me well enough to know that I am constitutionally incapable of having a non-“contained” relationship with any man, let alone Drew. My feelings for him will never evolve into those traditionally thought of as romantic. It’s not in my nature to be able to feel that way for another man.

Happa: So from your side with Axel, how would you answer the same question? …and thank you for fielding my questions!

Drew: I think I would answer the same way as I have above on behalf of Thumper. Axel knows everything about him and has seen his penis on the internet, BUT, he does not know what we physically do together when we are with each other (unless he’s reading here and not telling me). When I am with him in (his city), I check in with Axel just like I would any other day with things like: “going to dinner”, “going to x place – need anything?”, or “back at hotel – will call later”.

No, I don’t say “just wanted you to know we are both naked.” I think he can assume that for himself. Now, where I think we are different than T and B is that he has asked before along the lines of “did you fuck him?” or something similar and, when he has asked, I have answered with 100% accuracy which generally just makes him say something like “okay” or “just wondered”, there is no detailed account and those particular times are rare, in fact, I think it’s only been once or twice and that was the first time I was with him.

Thumper: I think this is one of the ways MM relationships are different than FM relationships. When they’re open (and they more often are than straight-appearing relationships), there seems to be a greater degree of this kind of conversation. Belle has never asked what Drew and I have done specifically and I doubt she ever will (though she’s alluded to certain things at times in a general way).

Happa: We were unable to see how your spouses can be 100% okay yet not need to know about the goings on of the relationships.

Drew: Axel absolutely gets the depth of our relationship, but he likes that and finds comfort in that because he knows what we are doing is safe and protects our union because it’s inside our agreement. I am not sure he needs to know more because he feels safe and happy with how it is.

Thumper: I think this boils down to trust and confidence. Belle trusts me and is confident in her position within my heart. There’s no need for details because they’re essentially inconsequential.

Drew: Wait, are you meaning who puts what in where? Or that we talked today about baseball? He had chicken at lunch and I had beef?

Happa: Not so much those things. I’d say the strongest indication of the intimacy in your relationship with Thumper is how much you think about him, admire him, or just like him. At least from what I can gain through your blog, texts and when we met.

Drew: So you are saying you think it would be easier on the spouses if we didn’t like each other but just fucked? And I do like him, admire him, and think about him. He’s in my inner circle and I care a lot about him, but that does not mean bad things that some people think it should or will.

Happa: Not saying that. We are just trying to understand how not knowing works or if not needing to know just begins to feel natural.

Drew: I get that, but what’s the missing link? I get the impression I am not at the same spot in the conversation that you are?

Or, are you confused because I think of him as an inner circle friend, but I can honestly say I don’t even have a crush on him. I might have had a man crush at the beginning, and I think maybe we both did, but that’s also infatuation that is natural and comes with finding a new someone out there who compliments you, attracts you, and has the same interests as you – even outside of the sexual attraction.

Happa: My questions are completely without judgement. I’m actually very impressed with how you all manage the situation. It’s only when Cheyenne and I tried to reason out how your spouses could not need to know about such a big part of the secondary relationship that we were at a loss to see from our experience how not knowing is consistent with being completely settled.

Drew: I have taken no judgement tone from this. In fact, I wish you’d email me paragraph or two with these questions and Thumper and I will both answer them and then maybe blog it. These are actually really good topics for something like a blog.

Happa: Will do!😊

Drew: What is the not knowing though? I mean, if Cheyenne had her own “Thumper”, would you want to know explicit details of the hour they had sex or just that during that day they went to lunch, saw a movie, and then spent time together?

Happa: No, but I’d want to know the temperature of the relationship. I’d want to know enough to feel if it was growing beyond the scope of our agreement. I’d want to know how much energy she was putting into the relationship most of all.

Drew: That sounds a bit like you are worried about being jealous? THAT, I don’t think any of the four of us have that, at all.

As for temperature, I think Axel and Belle both know the temperature 100%.

The fact is, Thumper and I won’t grow deeper except through experiences and time, like any friendship. I can see or think back and know that, at least Axel, probably wondered the first few weeks of my new relationship with Thumper and possibly worried that it would grow out of control on my end (I say my end because T never ever gave any glimmer of chance he’d feel emotionally more or was capable of that, but, obviously I do have that in me), but he gave me that freedom to prove him wrong if that is what he was thinking because, 7 months later, it’s working beautifully and I know he is 110% happy that I have a Thumper who is, in fact, Thumper.

Thumper: Like I said, trust and confidence. Jealousy is natural and, I think, not unhealthy at manageable levels. A little competitive friction does a relationship good.

Happa: Ah, that’s interesting.

Drew: Translate?

Happa: I think knowing the emotional investment or lack of, would be important to me.

Drew: That just comes from experience and time.

Well, let’s put it like this, my best friend is _____, who you know from FB. We don’t have sex, never did, never will, never even seen him naked nor do I want to’

I feel genuine emotion for both, but no more for Thumper than I do _____.

Happa: Translates to seeing the risk of infatuation not materialize was part of the process.

Drew: Yes, I think it had to be. I suspect all four of us breathed a bit a few weeks in when we all really deep down realized that this can and IS working and working well as Thumper and I both report to being happier and better husbands.

Happa: Could be our assumptions about sexual relationships being contingent on emotional relationships that makes seeing your arrangement obvious.

Not familiar territory for most couples.

You two seem to have an intimate friendship, which I don’t understand.

Drew: But, from day one, our sexual relationship was contingent on that emotional relationship. He and I both wanted strings. We stated that from the beginning

But we specified the strings be very thin and elastic and neither ever had inclinations that would be thick as what we have at home.

And, yes, we do have an intimate friendship, but there are many forms of intimacy and I believe we, as in people, have capacity for more than one type. I know, at least, I can have multiple intimate relationships with people in different ways.

Thumper: I don’t know when to add this bit, so I’ll do it here. It’s never assumed that we can only have one close friend or only love one child or whatever. The only interpersonal relationship in which we assume permanent exclusivity is romantic and/or sexual.

There is no finite pool from which we draw energy to conduct these relationships. Yes, they are a lot more complicated than having two or more friends or children, but it’s not like if I spend too much time thinking about Drew that I’ll run out of feels for Belle.

What keeps us from being open and having multiple partners (which I firmly believe we are wired to do by default) is the two things I’ve already pointed out: Mistrust and lack of confidence. They lead to fear of rejection. Fear of loss.

Happa: I see that, but all the more reason for spouses to be interested no?

Drew: I think we are running in a circle (Argee! — Thumper), both ARE interested, but about the relationship, not the sex. He wrote a blog about Belle seeing a text from me. I need to find that. If you can search it was dated around Christmas. She was fine with that and told him not to hide it.

Happa: OH, That’s more clear. From the reading, I was under the understanding that Belle does not want to know anything about it.

Drew: No no, about the sex. She knows about me the person. He says she will from time to time ask about me or talk to him about me. In fact, she can see he and I banter on Facebook and that he is also friends with Axel (I assume she made that connection since we have the last name). At this point, I think she just sees me as “Thumper’s whatever” and likes that I have many of the attributes she’d most likely want for him (you know, good job, big dick (ha), nice life) but she just has no interest in meeting me. At least right now and that’s completely her choice.

Thumper: Yes.

Drew: Axel is the same as all of the above, but he’d meet Thumper if the chance allowed and would likely be very drawn to him, but I know that would not draw him into wanting to know more details or be a part of our relationship. It just doesn’t work that way in our minds.

Happa: The difference in the relationship and sex is much, much more clear! Thanks. I am not sure how I have missed those things.

Drew: Ok. About to land. Search by the tag drew on his site. Those posts might pull up.
TTYL.

(much later)

Drew: I talked to Thumper and I want to send him this transcript, you have the answers from my POV, but I am going to give him a chance to respond from his.

Thumper: Done!