My Open Marriage Ended — But It Also Helped Me Accept My Sexuality

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I never told my ex-husband I was interested in women. I never had the courage. We didn’t speak about my desire for an intimate connection with a woman or the attraction that I buried deep under the surface. He just knew — a fact that’s even more surprising considering that, in retrospect, I barely knew.

At the time, I wasn’t sure if I was queer, bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, or plainly bicurious. I did know, and had known for most of my life, that I wasn’t straight. But I had spent my childhood in a place that lacked LGBTQ+ representation, and then I attended a private Baptist university. As a result, I had grappled for years with the idea of being categorised as other, and I pushed away my desire to experience a connection with a woman, clinging to the hope that I’d be content never exploring it. 

So when my husband came home one day and said, “I know you’re not straight. I’ve known for years,” I was surprised. As I heard this come out of his mouth, I felt the hot shame travel up my body, making me red in the face. I fought that lump in my throat, the one you get when you’re holding back tears. The wall I had always put up within myself had been forced down. I now had to face that, whether I identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer, I was other. And although I didn’t see it then, other could feel okay.

“I think it’s really important for you to be able to explore,” my then-husband finally said, “so if you’re up for it, I think that we should have an open marriage.”

At first, I was averse to the idea. I thought the usual: I couldn’t do it; I’d get jealous. But beneath those objections was the fear that perhaps I’d discover something about myself that I would no longer be able to look away from. I grappled with the idea, but I was comforted by the reassurance that it wasn’t permanent; if I didn’t enjoy it, I could stop. Slowly I began telling myself that I deserved to at least try it out, to see how it felt, that maybe I didn’t have to give up anything in order to explore this part of myself. So after considering it for months, my then-husband and I decided to give ethical non-monogamy — a catch-all term for relationships outside of monogamy — a try.