Being in an open marriage may be deemed as taboo by society, but when their union became troubled, 36-year-old Cindy Adams* and her 38-year-old husband, Thomas Adams*, found an alternative way to overcome the challenges.
The couple from Pretoria has been married for 12 years, and their relationship started as a monogamous one, until 3 years ago.
“Thomas and I met when we were both young and quite frankly, naïve. We dated for a year and decided to tie the knot. We didn’t know much about each other, except that we were crazy in love and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Our ‘honeymoon phase’ lasted for a couple of years until Thomas started acting strange,” Cindy shares.
Thomas would come home late, was very sexually distant, and the couple started fighting about little things that never used to bother them. Things escalated, and Cindy also started becoming distant and even became attracted to other men.
“I noticed a pattern in my husband's behaviour and actions. He didn’t allow me to touch his phone anymore, and he stopped spending weekends with me. I then found out through a mutual friend that he was cheating on me,” she shares.
At this point, Cindy confronted Thomas, and he denied it. “I was furious and heartbroken by this discovery. I had vowed I would never entertain a man who cheated. Growing up, I was always told a man who cheats on you does not love nor respect you, and that’s what I always believed,” Cindy shares.
“In efforts to numb the pain and seek revenge, I started going out on dates with several men. Some dates were horrible, but others were organic and fun. There was a specific one that stood out for me. I connected with this one man on almost all levels. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not, he knew I was married, and he made me feel special and satisfied me sexually,” Cindy says about the affair that made things clearer for her.
After a few months of going out with him and spending weekends with him, Cindy decided to sit Thomas down and tell him about the other man in her life. “One of the reasons I decided to tell him was to make it easier for him to be honest with me about his infidelity. I explained to Thomas that I don’t want us to get divorced but rather have an open relationship to save our marriage,” Cindy says.
After an awkward silence, Thomas finally admitted that he had been seeing someone else too.
He also wanted to stay married, and after intense discussions, the couple decided on having an open marriage. “We laid down the ground rules: We would never meet the other parties in each of our lives, they don’t come first in our lives, we will always practice safe sex, and we would always be honest with one another about our whereabouts,” Cindy shares.
In the beginning, Cindy would be jealous, but she soon realised how their marriage became stronger, transparent, and they became happier. In hindsight, Cindy believes that because they got married at an early age and did not explore dating before marriage, they both started yearning to explore outside their marriage.
“We have had to specifically define what it means to be in a communicative marriage that is fulfilling. We’ve thrown out the rules and norms that we grew up with. It has often been difficult, and as we navigate the complexities of day-to-day life, we continue to have disagreements that force us to evaluate the rules and further define our path forward. But as we have built this life together, one thing is certain: Thomas is my one, first and foremost, and it just so happens that we’re in an open marriage,” Cindy says confidently.
Phumzile Ndlovu, a registered counselor says in a relationship when there is infidelity, the aggrieved partner may be affected in various ways.
“The individual can experience various emotional responses such as betrayal, anger, grief, sadness, disappointment, resentment, rejection, depression, humiliation, rage, jealousy, insecurity, and devastation,” she says.
Relationships with other parties outside the marriage may also be affected. “The individual can withdraw or isolate themselves socially due to feelings of shame, embarrassment, and the fear of being judged. If there are children involved, they could feel a sense of self-blame.”
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*Names have been changed