Infidelity is a touchy subject for escort clients. As any sex worker knows, cheating is incredibly common. And it’s not a black-and-white issue.
A little while back, I wrote an article for the Tryst blog that explored cheating - why it happens and whether it’s justified in relationships where physical intimacy has faded away. There are so many reasons - illness, trauma, and desires that can’t be satisfied. Sometimes, going outside the relationship for sex is the only thing that allows our clients to keep their marriages functioning.
But infidelity causes problems too. For starters, there’s the guilt and shame of lying to your significant other. And consider the stress - what if you’re found out? It’s hard to enjoy yourself when you’re constantly worrying about being caught cheating!
Did you know that there’s another option? Instead of cheating or separating, some couples choose consensual non monogamy...and although it’s not straightforward, it could be worth considering.
What is consensual non monogamy?
In case you’re new to the idea, here’s a quick definition of consensual non monogamy (CNM). Basically, it’s a type of relationship in which people can have more than one romantic or sexual partner at a time. Everybody involved knows what’s going on, and everybody is comfortable with the arrangement. We use the word ‘consensual’ because everyone agrees. If you’re not in agreement, it’s cheating - and that’s not what CNM is about!
Consensual non monogamy (I’m just going to say ‘non monogamy’ from here on) can include many different agreements. It can mean picking up together and having threesomes, such as often happens in the swinger’s scene. It could involve shagging other people, or dating romantically. It might mean an occasional fling or be a full-time lifestyle.
There’s no one way to do this. But here some common scenarios:
- Swinging - Going to sex events together, or meeting other couples for sex.
- Open relationship / open marriage - This simply means yourself and your partner have agreed that sleeping with other people is okay. The details may vary.
- Polyamory - Dating (and forming romantic relationships) with more than one person.
- Don’t ask, don’t tell - An arrangement where sex with other people is allowed, but never spoken about. It’s not my recommended method, because it doesn’t involve clear communication.
Is consensual non monogamy right for you?
Does non monogamy seem appealing to you? Perhaps you’re thinking ‘This sounds impossible’. If so, you’re definitely not alone.
Even though non monogamy is slowly becoming more socially acceptable, it still seems weird and scary to a lot of folks, especially older clients who were raised in sexually repressive environments. I remember discussing my own open relationship with a certain gentleman, only to have him say, “I couldn’t even mention this to my wife - she’d divorce me on the spot!”
But I’ve also met a number of clients who enjoy the benefits of an open relationship. Sometimes they book me as a couple. Or sometimes I spend time with a guy or girl who’s been given a ‘hall pass’ to see me, have some fun, then go home to their family.
Sex workers are an excellent way to practice at non monogamy. There’s less drama; unlike hooking up on Tinder or sleeping with a work colleague, we’re unlikely to get attached to you! Sex workers also tend to be more aware of safer sex practices, so there’s less risk of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).
Regardless, before you take the plunge, here are a few things to consider:
- It’s not all about you. An open relationship is about two people working out what they both want. You might want permission to see escorts, but your wife may prefer to bang the hot tradie that lives over the road. There’s a lot of negotiation involved, as you each decide what you’re comfortable with.
- It takes a lot of work. Consensual non monogamy isn’t easy. You’ll need self-knowledge, good communication skills, and emotional maturity...and since none of us really have this stuff to start, it means doing a lot of work on yourself. The key to an open relationship is communication - having long, honest conversations with your partner to set boundaries and work through the difficult feelings that arise. Of course, I’d also argue that the effort is worth it - but that’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself.
- It could end your relationship. Not everyone is cut out for non monogamy! If you’ve decided that this is the way forward for you but your spouse doesn’t agree, you’ll have to make a choice - to give up on your hopes, or to leave the relationship and find someone else who shares your values.
If you haven’t been discouraged by any of the above, then perhaps you’re one of the lucky people who can get non monogamy working for you. But how to get started? Read on...
How to open up your relationship
If you’d like to start moving in the direction of ‘open’, here are some steps to consider. Please note, everyone is different - this route might not work for you. It’s okay to find your own approach too!
- Educate yourself - make sure you know the basics of CNM first. There are lots of great books available - I particularly recommend ‘Opening Up’ by Tristan Taormino, and ‘Rewriting the Rules’ by Meg-John Barker. You’ll find plenty of forums and websites online, although it’s worth checking a variety of sources as everyone has a different experience (and gives different advice.)
- Have a low-key conversation with your partner. It might seem tempting to present non monogamy as a life-changing ultimatum, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Why not drop the idea into a conversation gently and observe your partner’s response? You could watch a TV show together or share a news article you’ve read. If they show interest, you can start a serious conversation. If they react negatively, then you know that a bigger talk might not go well.
- Have the talk, but give them time to process. Hearing, ‘I want an open relationship’ is a huge shock for many. Your significant other might assume you’ve already been cheating, worry you’re about to leave, or feel as though they don’t know you any more. Be kind - make it clear you’re not about to up-end your life together. And give them time to think things over, without expecting a ‘yes/no’ response: My recommended line is: “I just want to put the idea out there. Think it over, and let’s talk again in a few weeks."
- Talk about what you both need. If your partner is open to a conversation about CNM, then the real work begins. What are you each hoping to get out of this? What do you need in order to feel safe? Often, we don’t know all the answers, so we need to spend time working it out. From there, couples might set some ‘ground rules’ or agree on next steps.
- Experiment slowly. Opening your relationship can feel scary and overwhelming...it’s best to be patient. You don’t need to start going to swingers’ parties or booking sex workers right away. The safest way to do this stuff is to experiment slowly; try one thing at a time and then talk it over. For example, you might help your partner set up an online dating profile. Or you might lie in bed together and fantasise about having a threesome. Once you’ve done the experiment, check in and see how you both feel. Fear, jealousy, and discomfort are totally normal, but you want to keep it at a manageable level!
Have you considered couples’ therapy?
Consensual non monogamy is tricky to work on alone. Have you considered seeing a therapist for some couples counselling? A good, sex-positive therapist (one who won’t judge you or your partner for the sex you plan on having) can provide a sympathetic ear, help you deal with difficult emotions such as jealousy, and offer creative solutions when you and your spouse feel stuck. After all, CNM is advanced-level relationship stuff! It pays to have expert support.
If therapy isn’t your thing, there’s also this excellent online course, run by Curious Creatures in Melbourne.
For some folks, non monogamy is an excellent lifestyle choice.
It’s a way to have your cake and eat it too - enjoying sex with a variety of people, without the risks associated with cheating. But, of course, it’s not for everyone. If you’re willing to work on yourself, aren’t afraid to tackle difficult conversations, and consider your partner’s needs as important as your own, consensual non monogamy could be the solution.