HIM: During most of my 20 year sex-starved marriage, I was determined to stick it out for the duration. I never allowed myself to get carried away with fantasies of finding someone new. Why would I want to spend any time living a day dream life that would only heighten my unhappiness with real life? But if the time ever came that I was single and available, I did have a plan for finding the right person. That plan was built around what I think of as possibly the greatest invention of the late 20th century: online dating.
To someone who had married the only girl he had ever seriously dated (and who had no innate ability to detect flirtation), this new world of unlimited possibilities seemed like utopia. I imagined a place where two people who might never otherwise meet could connect through the power of words. A place where – and this is the truly unbelievable part – being able to write well might actually confer a sexual advantage! Everyone would clearly state ‘this is who I am, and this is what I’m looking for’, no guessing or mind reading required. My plan was to wade into this electronic garden of earthly delights and sample a broad range of women until I found the one who was just right for me.
It was a very logical, systematic approach that, when that moment of my singleness finally arrived, proved completely unnecessary. Because there you were, someone I had known superficially for years, and all it took was an incredible series of old-fashioned coincidences to bring us together. I would have considered myself lucky to have spent years online just to find a woman who was half of all the amazing things you are.
HER: Well, that’s a lovely story with a tidy ending, but I know that imaginary lost world of limitless partners haunted you early in our relationship. There was more to your little fantasy than finding the perfect mate. It wasn’t just about the destination for you; it was at least 50% about the journey. Online dating promised the sexual affirmation you had so desperately wanted from your wife for all those years. And with so many voices online, you could get that affirmation from multiple women, so you’d be more likely to believe it. Instead, you found me. As great as you think I am, I’m only one woman. And, as many times as I tell you how attractive you are, I’m only one voice. Anyway, it looked like the opportunity to crowdsource your sexual self-esteem just wasn’t in the cards for you.
In the search for other people to bring into our relationship, the one avenue we hadn’t really explored was online dating, which exists for couples in the same way that it does for singles. So about a month ago we put up a profile on a site called Cafe Desire and all of a sudden we found ourselves doing together what you had always imagined doing alone. It seems like the best of both worlds: you get the emotional stability (and fun) of being married to me and you get to experience the vast online world of sexual validation.
HIM: There you go – yet another way I found myself in circumstances more perfect than I would have dared to ask for. But getting into couples dating wasn’t a totally effortless development. Like everything with us, it was the result of lots of talking. And, now that I think about it, a false step along the way. We actually created a profile on Swing Life Style a year or two ago. It kind of fizzled out, mainly because you were conspicuously unenthusiastic. And now I can’t even remember why. So remind me, baby – why was that?
HER: I had a few concerns. First, we were only in our third year together, and we were already into threesomes, sex clubs, and swingers’ resorts. I was worried that we were moving too quickly — that we’d burn through all these alternative sexual outlets and you’d find yourself bored by year five. I also wasn’t sure I was ready for full-swapping, and I figured online dating would push that boundary before I was ready.
Second, when we did set up an online profile initially, you were handling all the searching and correspondence because you often work from home and have more free time. A small part of me was concerned that if you came across someone who interested you, you’d have the freedom to chat with (and potentially meet) that person without me knowing. And if we did hook up with a couple together, I can imagine it wouldn’t be much of a mental leap for you to think that if it was okay to sleep with this woman when we’re together, it wouldn’t be that bad to sleep with her when I’m out of town.
All these insecurities, along with the enthusiasm gap, made me wary.
HIM: Right – it’s all coming back to me now. I hope I made you feel at the time that those concerns were valid, because they definitely were. Not that I think of myself as untrustworthy, but no smart person wants to court temptation. And you know, even if your concerns weren’t totally logical, the thing that makes all of our experiments so gratifying is that we enter into them with equal commitment. The thought of either of us dragging the other into something risky sounds gross. We both have full veto power in our adventures.
But I have to say that I didn’t give up on the idea because I was driven by a vision that I couldn’t shake. I imagined us meeting the perfect couple, where the attraction was mutual, sharing a connection that moved effortlessly between the social and the sexual. I could picture having them over for dinner, savoring all the pleasures of intelligent conversation and the fellow-feeling of being in the presence of two other individuals who are deeply in love and exploring their sexuality together. As my imaginary evening wound on, boundaries would become blurred: clothes loosened and slipping away, gentle liberties taken, passion mixing with easy laughter and whispered entreaties …
HER: Cheesy wording aside (have you ever thought of writing a bodice ripper?), I actually love that idea too. But it took me some time to get comfortable with the trust issues brought up by this whole online dating thing. I guess I just needed to take a bunch of baby steps — like a couple of soft-swap experiences on vacation — before I felt ready to jump into the deep end.
Last month, when I finally suggested we try putting up a profile again, I still had some concerns. I wondered if it was possible to find our ideal without first having to slog through a lot of awkward pen pal exchanges and frog-kissing. To try to avoid this, we spent a long time writing a detailed profile. We said explicitly that we wanted ‘friends with benefits’, not just casual hook-ups, which would probably mean dinner and relaxed conversation first before anything else happened. Ideally, we wanted something long-term.
When we browsed the other couples online, we searched for people with longer, well-thought-out profiles (just like ours – go figure!). We wanted to have a clear sense of their personalities. We also like people who avoid explicit photos in favour of playful or artful ones (pictures of erect cocks and full on pussies aren’t sexy to me). We avoid smokers, hard partiers, and men who are shorter than me. Maybe that makes us sound arbitrary, and no doubt that eliminates some amazing people, but there are literally hundreds of couples within an hour’s drive of us. We can’t sample all of them, so it makes sense to find some way to narrow the focus. And what do you know? Those broad guidelines have lead us to people who are more likely to turn us on. A month later, we’ve already had two successful dates with fun, easy-going couples.
I now feel like that fantasy evening you described in such cringe-worthy detail is actually a possibility. It’s exciting. At worst, we’ll get some good blog posts out of it.
Liam & Kate are a married couple, very much in love, writing honestly and insightfully about their adventures in the world of non-monogamy.