Last year, my husband, Jason, found himself in a relationship with one of my girlfriends, Sarah. They had always gotten along well from the moment they were first introduced, and there were times they got along better than she and I did.
It was never an affair because I knew about everything and even encouraged him to pursue this polyamorous relationship beyond just casual friendship.
Sarah and Jason’s attraction for each other was obvious, and as long as everyone was honest and following the rules, I figured it was better to let him try something crazy in full-disclosure rather than later and in secret.
Half the time it was an absolute disaster; the other half of the time was spent waiting for the next disaster. Here’s the thing about setting rules for your husband to date one of your friends: it’s nearly impossible! Yet, every once in a while there would be incredible moments where I would see Jason in a completely different way.
I realized how lucky I was that I wasn’t just his girlfriend, but that I got to be his wife.
Now that time has passed and Sarah has moved on to become the wife of someone else, I’m able to look back at the lessons I learned from the six emotionally-charged months they spent together. I actually find myself grateful she came into our lives and messed everything up, so Jason and I could start over and fix what was failing.
Here’s what my husband having a girlfriend taught me:
1. I had fallen into my role as a wife so far that I forgot how to be a good girlfriend.
One morning two of them were goofing around in the kitchen making breakfast. As I watched them, I realized that somewhere over the last 20 years I had forgotten how to be a girlfriend. I had fallen so diligently into my role as wife, mother, cook, organizer, assistant, and spouse that I had forgotten what it was like to be excited to see him whenever he walked into the room.
Seventeen years of marriage and I still got butterflies when I heard his key turn in the door at the end of the day, but for some reason, I never acted on it. Rather than staying in the rut of routine, I followed Sarah’s example and started treating my husband more like my boyfriend. It’s been fun to fall in love with him all over again.
2. Sex isn’t as fulfilling with someone you don’t love.
After Jason and Sarah’s first time sleeping together, my mind went into overdrive thinking about how much younger she was; how much more fun she must be; how much less her boobs must sag, and how he was never going to want to sleep with me again. Turns out, it was quite the opposite.
My husband and I have always valued sex as an incredibly important part of our relationship, and it’s been frequent and magnificent over the last several years because we finally learned how to talk about it. We know how to kiss, caress, cuddle, and read each other down to something as simple as the brush of a fingertip. His time spent with Sarah, while new and exciting, was unfamiliar and ultimately not as fulfilling as sex with me.
3. There’s eventual comfort in trying new things.
Sarah loved to do things I didn’t particularly enjoy. She loved weird movies, live music, spicy food, and was always willing to push Jason out of his comfort zone. She made him go Salsa dancing, taught him to like wine, and even convinced him to dress a little snazzier. Jason loosened up when he was with Sarah, and it helped him relax and become more comfortable in trying new things with me.
If Salsa dancing didn’t kill him, taking a few dance classes with me certainly won’t either. She was also able and willing to do a few things sexually that I was either unable or unwilling to do. I was relieved of a lot of guilt when Jason was able to experience things he had only seen or heard about in porn with an actual human.
4. Marriage has the potential to be something beautiful.
Sarah was beautiful. She was the type of girl boys write songs for and girls gossip about. Her list of potential suitors was a mile long, but rather than pursue a relationship with one of them, she chose to spend her time with my husband.
Not only did this do incredible things for Jason’s self-esteem, but it broke Sarah’s bad-boy cycle. She loved how safe and comfortable she felt with Jason. As she witnessed our marriage and day-to-day life, it showed her what marriage could be and the qualities in a man that should be considered in a long-term relationship.
5. Trying something new makes you appreciate what you have.
Having Sarah around was really hard at times. I often felt ignored and neglected, even though Jason swore he had never been more in love with me than after time spent with her. She was a wild adventure, but I’m home. He would talk about how being with me was where he belonged and he couldn’t even entertain the idea of leaving me or ending up with someone else.
When I didn’t believe him, he gave me the parable of the pizza. Jason’s favorite food in the entire world is pizza. He could eat it for every meal, every day, and never tire of it. When Jason has Ethiopian food, he doesn’t like pizza any less. Ethiopian food won’t replace his lifelong love of pizza; it simply means trying something new made him appreciate what he loved even more.
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Would I suggest letting your husband go out and get a girlfriend? Probably not. But what I would suggest is being open and honest with each other.
And if you decide to give it a try? Hopefully, you will come out of it with your relationship and commitment to each other stronger than it ever was before.
Alex Alexander is a writer and frequent contributor to YourTango.