it's complicated

My Marriage Was Open, But I Couldn’t Get a Date

Photo: J.V. Aranda

I downloaded a swipe-y dating app on a lark. Loneliness and a glass of wine had me wanting to see what kind of people might be on there; maybe it was the latter element that had me fudging a few details. Lies of omission, mostly. It’s easy to do when the people on it don’t feel real.

And just like that, I had a match. He was new to the app, too, joining after a year of mournful solitude following an ended relationship. In person, he was sweet and shy; he looked toward his toes when I told him he was out of my league. He had an easy laugh, and a kind smile. This was not a guy I wanted to lie to. So I came clean.

“I’m actually older than my profile says,” I said. I wasn’t three years younger than him, but three years older.

“Also,” I said, taking a deep breath, “I’m married.”

My husband and I have been together for 13 years, open for 11, and married for 7. I didn’t include this, or my age, on the dating profile because I knew I’d get fewer matches if I were honest; besides, I knew a lasting connection wasn’t the point of this app. I thought I might meet someone for a fun time, and that’s it.

I told him all of this, and I told him that opening the relationship was my idea. Marriage, I said, didn’t mean owning my husband’s body, or controlling the relationships he needed to have beyond our bond. (That, and the idea of sleeping with the same person for the next 60 years made me want to gouge my eyes out.) I told him what I believe to be true about love, which is that by exploring multiple relationships, you become a better communicator, lover, and even friend to your spouse. Love is infinite.

It was a lot for a first date.

I watched him stare at the ice in his drink. I watched him swirl it around in his glass. I thought about his sweet smile, and how irresistible it made him. Seconds passed. An eternity passed. Finally, he spoke.

“I’ve never dated anyone who was married,” he said.

He wanted to take the chance. We left the bar and walked over to my favorite artisanal ice cream shop,  which I keep solely for people I really like.
If you’re game to try a sample of black olive brittle and goat cheese, maybe you’re game to try an unconventional relationship.

“You make me feel giddy,” I said. “May I kiss you?”

And he could kiss.

After that, we were together as often as our mismatched schedules would allow. Each time, before we even said good-bye, I’d already be looking forward to seeing him again. All of which is why, when we slept together and he asked me to stay the night, I said no. I could feel myself getting too attached. “I think maybe next time,” I whispered. I scooted myself backward into him, and as he held me tighter, I imagined our future together. He would fit so easily into my social circle. My husband in particular would love him; I could already see the two of them nerding out about comic books and Star Wars.

The next night, I went to a party with some friends. The night after that, I got my hair done. At the salon, I saw a missed call from him. Calls are never good. I texted him to ask if everything was okay. He said it was, and to call him back when I could.

“I thought about it,” he said when I got him on the phone, “and I was surprised by how sad I was when I couldn’t see you the other night. Because you were with your husband.”

I was with my girlfriends, but it didn’t matter. I knew where this was going. “Is this something you want to talk about, or have you already made up your mind?” I never should have lied about being married. But then, I also never thought I would meet someone like him.

“I’ve already made up my mind,” he said quietly.

Of course he did.

And just like that, he was gone.

I’ve since updated my profile with the real details about me and my unconventional life. Dating apps can feel so much like a game that they almost don’t seem real. But it was real. He was real. We were, too, for a while.

My Marriage Was Open, But I Couldn’t Get a Date