universal language

The Couple Considering an Open Relationship After Quarantine

“Everything is intense in a good way, even if I’m uncomfortable.”

Illustration: Simone Noronha
Illustration: Simone Noronha

Molly, 29, and Barbara, 30, Los Angeles

Molly: I think something that I’ve known about myself for a long time, and have only just been able to admit recently, is that I don’t feel like I’m built for a long-term, monogamous partnership. So my relationship with Barbara took me by surprise.

Barbara: In a lot of ways, no one clicks with me better than Molly does. I found this person that I really love. But we haven’t been on the same page sexually for a while, even before I came out as asexual. It’s not that I don’t like sex; it’s just I don’t crave it. I don’t need it. If I never had it again, I wouldn’t miss it, you know? And for Molly to come out as nonmonogamous — well, she needs sex in a different way than I do.

Molly: My relationship with Barbara is really wonderful, and it’s exposed me to experiences and feelings that I’ve never had before. We’ve been together for a little over three years, and I very much love her and would like to stay in this relationship. So, since January, we’d been trying to spend more time together, and have more sex, but it wasn’t really happening. Finally, days before quarantine, I was like, “I’m so sexually frustrated. I don’t know what to do. And I don’t know if we can fix this.” We had this intense conversation.

Barbara: I felt sick, and I felt sad. Just ’cause — and maybe we won’t one day — but, it’s like, how can two people like this be compatible? We felt out of sync, and that sucked. The universe was not our friend. But I wanted us to be able to have more open conversations about sex going forward. This whole thing in general has made me realize that both of us had not been communicating to our fullest extent — and that makes things hard, not just sex.

Molly: I wanted to let her in. I felt like I had discovered this exciting new part of myself. Like I’d unlocked part of myself and found an answer to something that had been bothering me for a while. It felt like I had two options: either stay in this relationship or break up and go do the things I think I want to do. Neither felt right. Then, I was like, What if there’s a third option? Given the shelter in place, I don’t have to contend with that. Anything we’d have to navigate has been removed.

Barbara: Opening the relationship after quarantine does feel like a possibility. I’m trying to figure out what that will look like. Because I don’t know how I’m going to feel about it, honestly. I can’t really picture myself being with somebody who dates multiple people. But I think Molly is the most interesting and amazing person that I’ve ever met, and she actually cares about me in a way that I don’t think anyone has before. She pushes me to open up in ways that no one has before.

Molly: I think we have a lot of work to do, her and I. And I want to invest in that before we blow anything up. We’re now showing up as our full selves, which can be scary.

Barbara: Since quarantine started, the rate of our intimacy has gone up, and we’re both better about talking about sex. She told me the other day that sex has been better, too.

Molly: The first night of quarantine, we had sex for the first time in a really, really long time. It felt way more connected and like I had tapped into a part of intimacy that I didn’t even know I was capable of. It was a taste of like, Whoa, maybe this is what I could keep working toward.

Barbara: Molly is the first person to really ever get me in a lot of ways. I’ve always felt unseen, and she gets me. I want to figure it out with her. I want to be there for her however I need to be.

Molly: Everything is intense in a good way, even if I’m uncomfortable. We’ve had all of these intense conversations, and now I can’t run away from her. We don’t live together, but we’ve been seeing each other. It’s felt like such a pressure cooker but also like such an expansive, free time. It feels like this is exactly what we needed.

Barbara: Quarantine has given us more time and space to explore the relationship in a new way and sex in a new light. Even though the world is crazy, it’s kind of calmed us down.

Molly: I can’t imagine what my intimate, personal one-on-one world will look like at the end of this. And I can’t imagine what the world at large will look like. I’m excited about this time to see who I become and see what we become, and I think I’ll be ready for whatever next step happens when we’re all out of this.

Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Couple Considering an Open Relationship After Quarantine