snug as three bugs with two rugs

June 5, 2008

dating & mating

I’d seen it on facebook, before it was facebook, back when people still used friendster:

relationship status: open

Har, har, I would’ve said to myself if I were the type to ever say har har. I guess I kinda smiled when I saw that Natalia, a married girlfriend of mine, claimed to be a 99-year-old agnostic Leo in an open relationship. “Yeah, right,” I thought, “she’s so not a Leo.” It must’ve been a joke; no one I knew was even open to the idea of an open marriage. Natalia wouldn’t even wear open-toe-shoes. 

Or maybe people are just private, preferring not to live their lives in blogs and blabs. Perhaps that saying about never really knowing what goes on between a man and a woman should be tweaked to include a third or fourth player. I bet we’d all be surprised to learn just how many of our own friends are secretly living such "open" lives behind such closed doors. Even more surprising? Our own reaction to the news.

I tend to judge, a lot of the time, out of fear. I judge what I don’t understand, what I haven’t lived, circumstances I’ve never encountered. Mostly, I pass judgment out of fear, insecurity in my own life. And it’s so hard not to feel self righteous when I come across someone who’s breaking some moral code. But the fact is, there’s always a payoff. There’s a need being met for everything we do.

I recently heard of a married couple who’d been together for twelve years of marriage. He worked full-time, while she tended the house and reared their four chitlins. She became overwhelmed sometimes and voiced her frustrations to a girlfriend of hers who was single. The friend was eager to help, and with all the time they spent together, she began to spend the night. And the next night. And the next. Eventually, she moved in and lived with the family. She had her own bedroom but never slept in it. Snug as three bugs with two rugs. The way the wife spoke of their arrangement, you’d think she was speaking of laundry. Despite airing hers, she claimed she was at complete ease speaking about her open marriage, yet when asked if her friends knew, she allowed, "God, no. They’d never understand. People are judgmental. People who’ve never even been married themselves are sure they’d never dare ‘share’ their husband. What they fail to see is that he shares me. This is something I want and that he enjoys. And we don’t just share a bed. We share all the responsibilities of keeping a home, and I’m so much happier now."

I sat in silence for a while thinking. Mostly wondering what I should (and shouldn’t) be thinking. I couldn’t get beyond the patterns and role they are setting for their children. It’s certainly not the norm, but would that environment screw up a kid? If it’s a loving communicative environment with stability, they’re still living their lives secretively. Would it be better for the kids if they were open about their open marriage?

I don’t think I could ever share my husband. I have a hard enough time sharing the covers. And after spending a few soft-porn days in Miami Beach, watching two husbands wear their t-string-clad, topless wives on their shoulders, as the women made out, in a hotel infinity pool, I wondered if their relationships would last forever. They certainly seemed to be having fun, even once the women came down off their husbands and began to make out with each other, and then each with one of the husbands before they both swam to the other husband and had their go with him. I want to move to Florida, to be near the ocean, and open to new possibilities, just not that open.

43 Responses to “snug as three bugs with two rugs”

  1. shawn Says:

    I have been reading your blog for at least a year or more and was thrilled to catch you on the early show this morning talking about Moose. i so want that book. I wish you everything wonderful.

    Reply

  2. Carol Says:

    No thanks. Yuck.

    Reply

  3. claudia Says:

    Hi Stephanie, I've been reading your blog for a while and I really love it!! =) I would like to read your first book but I can't find it anywhere here in Italy (damn!) so I'm going to buy it in New York this summer and I can't wait to read it! =) Ciao!

    Reply

  4. nh Says:

    Ewww to both situations. I agree with you. Maybe I am just a prude or maybe I am just a very lucky woman (who also hogs covers), but I also could never share my husband. And he's hot. Gets regularly hit on and confused with a movie star–he is amused by these scenarios and not interested. I never worry about his straying, but maybe the wife saw this arrangement as a way to keep her man in the house. So to speak. But then again, she seems to enjoy this…truly, I would hope, anyway.

    Reply

  5. Shell Says:

    I have friends in an open marriage. Well, rather she is with other men while he isn't with other women. He likes it and so does she. I think he likes it b/c it means he doesn't have to put out so much – she has the higher drive. She likes it b/c she gets to be with a bundle of guys.

    Another set of friends are swingers. Or they used to be till they had kids. Then they opted to stop b/c they felt the children needed to be raised in a *stable* home.

    I don't think I could do it, but I wouldn't ever judge it. Incompatiable sex drives are so common and often the cause of infidelity in a marriage I think. By opening it, it means the lines of communication are open and cheating is less likely. Then again you'd have to be VERY secure about the emotional connection vs. the physical connection. You'd have to be VERY secure about the relationship.

    Reply

  6. Shanna Says:

    I picked up "Moose" yesterday at Barnes and Noble and enjoyed every inky-black word of it! Don't get me wrong, "Straight Up and Dirty" was really good, however, "Moose" is phenomenal. I have only the highest praise for your new book-what a great read!

    Reply

  7. Jessie Says:

    This is going to sound judgemental and maybe it is – but that woman is stupid, not your friend but the other woman. Not becuase what they're doing is "wrong". Right or wrong isn't really for me to decide or say. But becuase eventually she's going to get the shaft, and not in the good way. Soon, they won't be sharing the household responsibilities. They are still *her* children which means the kids will demand attention from her and she'll have to give it to them. So if the kids are having a hard time at school and she's wrapped up with lessons, playdates and PTA meetings, she still won't have that much time on her hands. Or if she gets pregnant again. And so who is the husband going to turn to? Who's going to be able to pay more attention to the husband? Her friend. Or, what if her friend gets pregnant? Perhaps this sounds cynical and no, I don't know all the details so maybe my scenarios won't happen for them. But I've seen it happen to others. I once knew at least 5 couples with open marraiges – one with a similar arrangement. And who was the one to always get screwed, and again, not in the good way? The wife. Each and every time.

    Reply

  8. Jane Says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    I'm a little tired today because I was up late last night reading MOOSE! I'm really enjoying it. It is sad that you had to feel alienated & deprived. I felt bad for you. But now you are on national TV, looking beautiful and speaking so confidently. A real success story!

    Reply

  9. Eleanor's Trousers Says:

    I thought about this option fairly seriously with a guy who just could not stay faithful, but was otherwise great. I couldn't do it. As it was, I was having nervous breakdowns imagining him with other girls (who were obviously thinner, more beautiful, etc. than me in my head).

    Hey, whatever works for other people is great. I'm just not that highly evolved.

    Reply

  10. Megs Says:

    Well, i'm against it and very "open" about that fact. i give myself permission to judge it because Le Douche (my own wasband) destroyed our marriage by first cheating and then proposing – and pushing for – an open marriage. He knew that the woman he married would never, EVER be up for that. And the weirdest part is that i was always the one with the higher sex drive. He's even said so to other people since then . . .
    So for me, open marriage = destroyed marriage
    But then, i guess that's me . . . right?

    Reply

  11. Bee Says:

    I will "Share" my chocolate, my favorite skirt,or a recipe.
    I am "Open" to sharing a plate of 1000 calorie pasta, my exstensive DvD collection and the tub of popcorn at the movies. But no way in Hell am I sharing my sweet Man! Plus, do you know how long it took me to find my cloud soft sheets and bed. Yeah! Not sharing those either.

    Reply

  12. Monica Says:

    I read your blog all the time along with your books and I think you rock and I totally respect your opinions. I feel differently about this subject and that's ok. I want a swingers voice to be heard on this subject before everyone chimes in and says how awful swingers are.

    My husband and I have been married for 20 years and are currently swingers and have been for several years. The idea to get into this was mine for reasons I'll keep private but yes of course they are sexual. I think there is a huge misconception about swingers. We are not just a bunch of sluts trying to score (although I will agree there are those types out there). My husband and I have one other couple we regularly see but we are also the closest of friends with them and 99% of the time spent with them is NOT about sex but about watching sports and cooking dinner and other things. I also have a single guy who I see and consider my boyfriend. He and my husband are also friends (sex is NEVER an option with them, they are both straight guys). Again, 99% of the time we spend together is not about sex.

    I think there is a huge misconception about swingers. Yes, some people are in it just to score. For those of us with a brain it is so much more than that. It is about exploring fantasies we couldn't with our partner and for finding like-minded people to be friends with. We aren't bad parents and in fact the people I know who are swingers are the best parents I've ever seen. We aren't porn addicts, we are careful to not let anyone know the truth because we are judged harshly and our children are never compromised and are not in the house if anything else is going on.

    I can tell you I am your neighbor, I am the woman you see at the store with her three kids, I am the lady you see out to dinner lovingly adoring her husband, I am your friend and if you don't share my views about sexuality and I know that, you will never know the complete truth about what happens behind closed doors. There is a large community of swingers out there and I guarantee you would have a hard time picking us out of a crowd.

    If you don't feel you can try it, that's fine I respect your opinion. However don't judge me because I feel differently.

    Reply

  13. beth Says:

    At the very bitter end of a long distance relationship, I cheated on my ex. I tell myself that I'm not that person, that I already knew I was going to break up with him and I was just waiting until I could do it face to face, but maybe that's just me trying to justify my actions (which I do recognize were awful). He never found out, and I never told him. We broke up the next time I saw him. The thing is, I was more devastated that my friend knew what I had done. We never spoke about it, but 5 years later I still feel as if there's this awful thing hanging over us and I wish I could apologize to HER for what I did (which I realize would seem crazy). So what I did forever contaminated an important relationship in my life, just not the one I thought it would.

    BTW Stephanie – I came to your reading last night in Borders. It was great! You looked fantastic!

    Reply

  14. Pattie Says:

    I'm with you — I'm not a sharer, especially when it comes to my husband. I actually worked with someone who had an open marriage, and it ended badly. Very badly. Really, if you want that "openness," why get married in the first place? Just stick with sleeping around — it's free and won't cost you half your possessions in the end.

    Reply

  15. Pattie Says:

    I'm with you — I'm not a sharer, especially when it comes to my husband. I actually worked with someone who had an open marriage, and it ended badly. Very badly, particularly for their kids. Really, if you want that "openness," why get married in the first place? Just stick with sleeping around — it's free, legal, and won't cost you half your possessions in the end.

    Reply

  16. Barbara E. Says:

    Pages 199-200 of Moose: "On nights when I slept over at my friend Hillary's house, her parents had us take showers, insisting we reeked up the house. While I was wrapped securely in a towel, Hillary's father would give my pits a whiff test. "Nah, you better get back in. That one still smells a little."

    The sentence preceding this quote seems to indicate that Stephanie and Hillary were 11 or 12 years old.

    By a show of hands, how many of you agree with me that Hillary's father should have a tracking bracelet on his ankle and a court order containing such words as "forbidden" and "within 500 feet" and "any facility where minors might be located"?

    Reply

  17. cate Says:

    I am the child of parents who included a third "partner". Love and support do not make up for the damage caused by the stress of maintaining a false front for the neighbors and teachers and friends and extended family. Now my own children are separated from their grandparents because I won't tangle them up in the facade. Even with this loss, my parents choose their secret lifestyle over honesty. It's sad.

    Reply

  18. Lara Says:

    Hi! Like a lot of your commenters, I'm reading Moose right now and wanted to pop over to say hello. I completely agree with you – I'm all for openness, but…well, maybe not quite that open.

    Reply

  19. Carole Says:

    I have a friend whose first husband suggested an open marriage. She opened the door for him! I may sound prudish and judgmental, but imo marriage involves two, whether two partners of the same or opposite sex. They pledge to love and honor one another not to share their relationship with a third party.

    Reply

  20. Serial Says:

    "I tend to judge, a lot of the time, out of fear."

    Nice work on the emotional maturity and self awareness, BTW!

    Me, I don't judge out of fear. I judge because I'm smarter and better than most people and would never make such stupid decision.

    Hey, it's my delusion, I can tell it any way I want.

    So there.

    Reply

  21. Courtney Says:

    I agree with Carole: I wouldn't judge people who choose to have multiple partners – same sex, opposite sex, a little of both, transgendered, etc. But I fail to see the point of getting married – of commiting your life and love FULLY to ONE other person for the rest of your life – if you just plan on sleeping with other people. Granted, one could argue that commitment is not defined along sexual lines, but I'd have to disagree. For me, sex is such an intimate, powerful part of our humanity and I would find it impossible to be fully emotionally commited to one person while sharing something so sacred and flat-out awesome with others. I won't rule out the possibility of having incredibly strong connections and feelings for more than one person at a time, but I don't see how you can offer FULL emotional commitment to one person when there are others "on the side".

    Maybe society hasn't progressed to the point where accepting adult relationships outside the realm of marriage is possible. Even today, being a woman in my 30's with a long-term (going on 10 years now) monogamous, cohabitating relationship, my relationship with my "boyfriend" is seen as somehow "illegitimate" or "less than" that of a married couple – regardless of the happiness of said married couples' life. We are seen as though something is "wrong" with us, when really we just choose to live our lives a little differently than "the norm". Do we want people to recognize us as married though? Heck no! We're not married for a reason, but our relationship is certainly legitimate and valid. I imagine those in polyamorous marriages or who live the swinger lifestyle feel similarly; they're not monogamous for a reason, but their relationship is still valid. BUT, I almost feel as though they're trying to make a very traditional, clearly defined institution something it isn't. Go on with your bad-ass swingin' selves, but find a new name for it. Don't expect to have others regard your relationship in the same way as they'd regard a monogamous married couple; you're not the same as a monogamous married couple, so why would you want them to?

    My point is – consenting adults should be able to have sex with as many people as often as they want. Do I understand it? No. But I recognize they have the right to do so, and I don't think that decision makes them "perverts" or freaks. But if that's the life you choose, don't get married! You can have your primary boyfriend, and if he's ok with it have a few on the side, too. But to be married, to me, means to willfully "give up" on all that; it means monogamy and fidelity (among other things). To me, being in an open marriage is like saying, "I'm committed to you through and through – except when you alone can no longer satisfy my sexual fantasies or desires!" That's like me saying, "Oh, I enjoy threesomes all the time – except I've never had one".

    Reply

  22. S Says:

    I felt I had to comment. I've been a long time lurker-over a year and I love this blog. I can relate to so much of what you say.

    My husband and I tried "swinging" to spice up our marriage. It was a disaster. Sharing very rarely works. One person always feels left out, humiliated, jealous! And the drama, so much drama going on all the time within the groups. It just wasn't worth it and had severe consequences on our marriage. Luckily, we had a strong enough base and love for each other to work through our problems and are now very happy with JUST each other!

    Congrats on the new book.

    Reply

  23. Lidia Says:

    I was at your New York event last night and it was like a rock concert! You were so warm and it was great to see Phil and the beans. I am loving MOOSE! Thank you for writing what I think but have a hard time expressing.

    Reply

  24. jackie Says:

    I'm in Wyoming but totally relate to your writing. The Today Show interview had me go buy MOOSE. I welcome receiving and reading your blog more.

    Reply

  25. Jenny Says:

    I'm new to this blog and really LOVE what i've read. Any suggestions on old posts to read?

    Reply

  26. Tanya Says:

    I was at the event last night in NYC and what I foind most amazing was the closeness all the readers had. Everyone loved seeing Phil, the twins and even your family. You made everyone feel like a family as well and that chocolate!!!!

    Reply

  27. Jenny NYC Says:

    Just wanted to pop up with a big wave hello and a hug congrats on Moose. So very upset I couldn't make it to the Borders signing last night – I would so have liked to meet you, since I already feel like I know you better than I know half my city friends.

    Remember a few months back when you were overcome with nerves about the book release, the tour, and gotten to the point of completely doubting yourself and your abilities? Well, here you are! I hope you are soaking up the moments on this tour and putting them away for a rainy day, if those awful little doubts ever dare show their heads again.

    Reply

  28. Yolanda Says:

    Swinging…not for me. MOOSE…for me. Thank you for writing this.

    Reply

  29. uber Says:

    jenny, check out the featured posts at the left, on the main page. those are a good start!

    Reply

  30. MJ Says:

    "Me, I don't judge out of fear. I judge because I'm smarter and better than most people and would never make such stupid decision.

    Hey, it's my delusion, I can tell it any way I want.

    So there.'"

    ME TOO! It feels good to be right when everyone else is such a mess.

    My Mom has hit some kind of 68 year old insanity recentl and is now telling me "everyone is great, everything is beautiful, there is no right and no wrong, everyone is OK, we should all love everyone…."

    BOLLOCKS, everyone and everything is not OK. The ability to judge keeps us all on our feet.

    Reply

  31. Deb Says:

    Hey Steph!

    You know, I was just talking about this with a friend this afternoon over lunch. She's heterosexual, and I'm a lesbian in a long term relationship, however, people (men mostly) always ask me if I were to fool around with them, if that would be considered "cheating". If I had an opened relationship, then no. But, I'm not sure why men and some women view me being with a man "not cheating", if my spouse doesn't know about it. I've always found this puzzling, as well as some bi-sexual women finding fooling around with a woman behind her boyfriend or husband's back not cheating.

    I guess it applies. If all parties know, then it's not…I guess.

    ?

    I'd be totally jealous if it were to be an opened relationship… Must be my Italian side!

    Reply

  32. Deb Says:

    Hey Steph!

    You know, I was just talking about this with a friend this afternoon over lunch. She's heterosexual, and I'm a lesbian in a long term relationship, however, people (men mostly) always ask me if I were to fool around with them, if that would be considered "cheating". If I had an opened relationship, then no. But, I'm not sure why men and some women view me being with a man "not cheating", if my spouse doesn't know about it. I've always found this puzzling, as well as some bi-sexual women finding fooling around with a woman behind her boyfriend or husband's back not cheating.

    I guess it applies. If all parties know, then it's not…I guess.

    ?

    I'd be totally jealous if it were to be an opened relationship… Must be my Italian side!

    Reply

  33. Andrea Says:

    I've heard of two couples who had another woman enter their marriage to become a threesome, and in both cases, guess who was kicked out? The husband! So, you never know what will happen. To each his/her own!

    Reply

  34. MK Says:

    I guess what their living arrangement is the original use of the word, "menage a trois." I've never understood this polyamory stuff, because I get jealous enough without a third person in a relationship… but I guess if it works for you, why not just go with it?

    Reply

  35. Jodie Kash Says:

    The concept of polyamory is shared and known physical and emotional connection with others outside a primary relationship. Doable and sounding suspiciously like the definition of “Dating after 30”. Or 40. But I’m single and polyamorous; I’m not 100% certain I’d engage if-and-when I committed to one someone seriously.

    Reply

  36. 3rdtimesacharm( 3T ) Says:

    I've learned one lesson in my adult life, that I try my best to NEVER forget. Whenever I have stood in harsh judgement of someone's actions, stood on my pedastool, and said, "I would NEVER!" I did. In all honesty, I just DON'T want to judge anyone's lifestyle harshly, for fear what may come down myown path. (I'm with you Stephanie, mine is fear based)

    When my husband and I were first married (the present one) I was curious what went on in those darkened swingers clubs with the blacked out windows. SOOOOO, yep, he took me to one. We had to become "members" to get in the doors. Which made me feel like I just got a bad mark on my spiritual report card.(Like going in incognito didn't count)

    There's one word that comes to mind from the experience. SLEAZY. (My personal experience, not judgement) I didn't want to sit in a booth as they looked dirty. I didn't want a coke from the refreshment area, as everyone was sitting around in lingerie, or worse. And everywhere we wandered, were beds that looked more than a little used. And then all I wanted was to get out of there, when they started being used. The experience was one hour I'll never get back.(Curiosity abated)

    I had a couple that were friends when I was married to the 2nd X, who played wife swap with friends of theirs. They are now divorced, because the wife didn't stick to the "rules."

    I have no problem with same sex marriages, hetero-marriages or co-habitation. But sharing my man? Just the thought can turn my stomach to acid.

    My definition of marriage starts with being the closest friend to my spouse. Sexual INTIMACY is between two people.(IMO) And yes, sometimes that takes some work. After so many years together, you know each other's bodies so well, it can shorten lovemaking to an item on your "to-do" list.

    That's when as a couple you take a step back, and together shake things up a little. To me, bringing in a third is setting yourself up to be replaced, or have the whole thing blow up in your face. Why would someone want to take that risk, if they loved their spouse?

    I do see how swingers can (I didn't say do) get caught up in trying to generate the excitement they shared at the beginning of their relationship. Everything is new, the adrenaline naturally is pumping, the chemistry is flowing. And if you're someone who has had their fair share of partners, settling into married life, even with someone you love with everything in you, loses some of that new relationship adrenaline. And that adrenaline can be addictive.

    My husband and I had to come to terms with the fact that we were both new relationship junkies. And choose to turn from it in order to commit to marriage. There are times I miss the excitement of new passion. And we discuss it. (He isn't as brave as to admit to it though. Which is probably smart on his part.) I'm not saying this is the best solution, but for us, changing our scenery, getting out of town, staying in a hotel room just the two of us, helps to recapture some of that passion.

    Now having a woman around to help with household chores? Sounds wonderful in theory. But for me, hardly worth the risk.

    Having said all that, I'm completely fascinated with that HBO series, Big Love. Watching the way the wives interact with each other, and with their one and same husband, is just mind challenging. Having an open mind, doesn't have to mean an open relationship.

    Live and let live.

    3T

    Reply

  37. 3rdtimesacharm( 3T ) Says:

    PS. I love the way you make me think about things! :-)

    Reply

  38. Jo Jo Says:

    I could never be in such a relationship. I'm too jealous and needy. Yeah, I said it.

    Loving MOOSE

    Reply

  39. areacode Says:

    i can see how this is done. polyamory, i mean. i would never mention it to my darling husband, but i would take a second husband if it was acceptable. but he'd never do that. sigh

    Reply

  40. Maria Says:

    Eh, more power to them. So long as they aren't hurting any one, the way they live their lives is perfectly fine.

    Reply

  41. Christine Says:

    I live in Miami, and have never seen that kind of craziness go on in a pool. I'm sure it happens though… because I saw it in Vegas. What hotel were you staying in??

    Glad you got some good stories out of your stay down here! :)

    Reply

  42. Stephanie Says:

    RIGHT ON BEE!!! i can totally appreciate a woman/couple who can be forthright about being swingers and know when to be discreet about it when it is necessary. my husband and i are the same way… it makes it hard though, being military. but there's a LOT going on on this base that makes the show 'Army Wives' look like child's play… but, i should have known that this crowd would be somewhat judgemental about who we are and our chosen lifestyles… coming up will all kinds of crazy scenarios of what could go wrong instead of focusing on what can go right! if everyone involved is an adult and somewhat level-headed, it can be the BEST experience in the world. don't knock it til you try it. and if you don't try it, DON'T HATE!!! DON'T JUDGE!!!

    Reply

  43. Schnozz Says:

    I don't think the need for discretion would be so high if people could just mind their own business, but it's pretty obvious that they can't. I'm not going to blame someone for keeping quiet, because really, they just know that most people can't handle anything THEY wouldn't do themselves … not that anyone is even asking them to.

    I'm about as boring as they come, but I truly pity the ones who are different and get henpecked to death because they aren't doing it the way someone else thinks they should.

    Rock on, swingers. You should have a Worldwide Coming Out Day all at once just to shut people up. Shock and awe, baby.

    Reply

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