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Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Gift Set – Blue

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Do Open Marriages Work? How Dating Other People Brings Me Closer To My Husband

By Gracie X

For some people, perhaps, having an open marriage is a concession. Perhaps cheating comes to mind; you imagine that after infidelity, a couple has made a new vision of their marriage. These are marriages that “make- do” after the scar tissue has healed. But frankly, that isn’t the way it’s done in my polyamorous community, or my open marriage.

My situation is not at all about concessions. For me, sex with someone else is not a deal breaker. Being intentionally cruel, not taking care of our family, disrespecting me, and lying — all constitute deal breakers. But occasionally “stepping out” may just be part of our biology.

Right now, my marriage is mostly closed. Our lives are tremendously time-challenged. We have four kids and busy careers. But having some openness is one of many ingredients that keep the erotic life active in our marriage. Keeping an erotic charge can be challenging, given that almost every force in domestic life works against it. There are bills to be paid, kids demanding attention, and the endless, sexless grind of chores.

It all started a year ago, when my husband and I decided to go on an adventure. I wanted to have sex with a woman, not having done so in many years. The whole idea both titillated my husband and scared him a bit. We discussed what would make him feel safe and comfortable, and when he gave me the green light, I met a lovely woman online.

Bonnie, like me, was married and bisexual. We decided to meet at a local pub. There was an instant attraction. After half an hour of sipping martinis and flirting, we discovered that both of our husbands were parked close-by, nervously awaiting news of what was happening.

Sometimes, sleeping with new people is a measuring stick of how connected you are to your spouse.

Giggling, we texted them to join us. What followed was a new friendship between all of us. This is what I love about open marriage — the unpredictability. I was not expecting to be completely enchanted by her husband. Bill was so sex-positive and supportive about Bonnie exploring her newly confessed attraction to women. Bonnie had unintentionally “come out” at a BBQ the year before when she made out with her best friend — ironically, in a walk-in closet upstairs. While Bonnie’s best friend’s husband was angry and mortified, Bill was loving and supportive, encouraging Bonnie to explore this new part of her sexuality.

open marriges

The four of us had some great dates together. Eventually, time and family commitments slowed down our contact. But it was an adventure I’ll always cherish for many reasons — one of the main ones is that it heightened the love and trust between me and my husband. People assume that you get the excitement from the outside sexual encounters — and you sometimes do. But, as we explore who we are and what we desire, openness keeps the mystery alive between my husband and me.

The morning after our first date with Bonnie and Bill, my husband and I were snuggling and talking about how surprisingly fun and drama-free the evening had been. Our hearts were so open with the realization of how much we loved each other. Sometimes, sleeping with new people is a measuring stick of how connected you are to your spouse.

I am the last person alive who’d try extreme sports — I can barely grasp the need to risk your life in an effort to feel more alive. But there is an allure in the emotional skydiving of allowing your mate to be sexual with someone else. There’s exhilaration in moving through the fear of the potential loss of the relationship that, for us, is often followed by an all-consuming gratitude for each other; a gratitude that can get lost in the shuffle of mundane life.

I believe that the second wave of polyamory has a distinctly feminist bend to it. In most poly-marriages I know of, the woman is not a “victim,” but many times the initiator.

My open marriage improves my connection with my spouse. It is an intentional way to evolve together, a way to create spaciousness in our connection while also maintaining a deep bond.

Yesterday, I was talking to an acquaintance about my open marriage. She stated flatly “No one enters their marriage expecting they’ll open it.” She assumed I opened my marriage because it was flawed. Her concept of open marriage was that it was a patch job post “cheating”–a second best set up, built on the belief that passion fades, all relationships sour, and a series of necessary concessions have to be made, one of them being sex with other people.

Her thinking is fairly pervasive and a complete misread on most open marriages I know of. My open marriage improves my connection with my spouse. It is an intentional way to evolve together, a way to create spaciousness in our connection while also maintaining a deep bond. In my mind, the challenge of sustaining the vitality in long-term relationships lies in fostering the opposite qualities of passion versus stability, and wildness versus predictability. My interest lies in maintaining both ends of the spectrum, and openness in my marriage is one of the many tools I use to achieve this goal.

open marriage

Every open marriage is different, just as monogamous marriages are varied. People have different philosophies and motivations. For me, I want the freedom to create a marriage based on my value system — not someone else’s.

It’s a delicate balance to create stability and excitement in a marriage. There is a tipping point for me; to make it work I need trust, clear agreements, and lots of communication. I’ve often imagined if my house or phone were tapped by surveillance cops, they’d sit in a bored stupor listening to hours of my husband and I conversing about the nuance of our feelings, needs, fantasies, thoughts — they’d surely beg for the “good old days” of surveilling the mafia.

But it is this nuanced conversation that keeps my marriage fresh. Recently, my husband and I discussed what we would “allow” each other on separate upcoming business trips. After nearly an hour of checking in on how we both felt, the general state of our marriage, if the majority of our needs were being met sexually, emotionally, astrologically (kidding), we both agreed that we weren’t connected enough currently. What we really needed was a vacation together. The timing of our trips wasn’t good for us — and if we “hooked up” with other people, it could potentially cause hurt feelings. I only take calculated risks in my marriage. I am all about checking if there’s water in the pool before doing a spectacular high dive.

People have said to me, “Open marriage seems like so much work! I couldn’t be bothered to put so much time into an open marriage.” But the art of the relationship is something I feel devoted to. When you love something, you spend time caring for it.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I want to be in the habit of investing energy into the art of love, passion, and a continued sustaining bond with my husband. And for me, that means putting sleeping with other people on the table.

Gracie X is the author of “Wide Open: My Adventures in Polyamory, Open Marriage, and Loving on My Own Terms “, available wherever books are sold in September 2015.

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How Living Apart Has Made My Spouse And Me Closer Than Ever

Nearly five miles into a Smoky Mountain hike, with family vacation nearing a close, we discussed the next time we would see each other. As we did, a rain-fed stream cascaded beneath the short, wooden footbridge on which we paused to admire butterflies swirling, dancing and darting in a half-dozen hues.

One year after my wife moved 800 miles east for a great opportunity with her long-time employer, we planned our next moments together. The butterflies’ delightful interaction drew some of our attention amidst the majestic mountain terrain and our discussion. Still, even with this distraction, we maintained focus on what really matters.

“I think we’ve spent more real time together in the past year than we had in many years,” Cathy proffered as we walked and planned. “Before, there was always tomorrow.”

During 27 years of marriage, we had long passed the point of taking each other for granted. It didn’t help that we worked opposite schedules for so many years — becoming almost alternating parents. Her nights and weekends in retail often came during the limited hours I wasn’t working or traveling for work. In the unusual hours when we were both together and electronically disconnected from any real or perceived work crisis, we focused on quality time with our children rather than with each other.

In the past year, we’ve made a conscious effort to change that focus. Every three to four weeks, we find somewhere to enjoy time together. Even when those gatherings include our adult children or others, we focus on each other in a way we seem to have missed for many years.

A hand to hold is more important when you know it won’t be there tomorrow. A hug is easier to treasure when the next one is three weeks away.

Looking back, it’s easy to see we didn’t put enough effort into our relationship. It’s also easy to find excuses. Workaholic behavior. Exhaustion from my untreated sleep apnea. Disagreements allowed to remain in roiling boil rather than confronted and settled directly. Treating compromise as lose-lose rather than win-win.

Those excuses don’t matter now.

Time matters. Connection matters. Love matters.

During our first year of living apart, we’ve managed to strengthen our marriage; an outcome I wasn’t sure would happen when the year started. Increased flexibility and adaptability aided our strengthening.

A year ago, I would have laughed if you had predicted my wife would join me on a strenuous five-mile mountain hike, but she did just that in the Smokies. She would have also bet that at least one piece of the Ikea furniture I voluntarily spent three days assembling for her New York apartment would have collapsed by now. I’m no longer annoyed at losing time to her passion for judging figure skating, in part because she only does it on weekends I’m not around. She’s no longer annoyed to come home after a long day at work to find the house in greater disorder than when she left. When she comes home from work, her apartment is exactly as she left it.

It doesn’t mean it’s always easy to be apart. When three weeks stretches into four or more, I sometimes struggle to remain upbeat. On these occasions, I remind myself that at least some studies show “absence makes the heart grow fonder” to be more than a platitude. As our next time together approaches, marking one year apart, I can feel the validity in that phrase.

Butterflies kick in — swirling, dancing and darting in the range of hues I felt when we first met. One year apart but, perhaps, closer than ever.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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Hangout Snapshot: Get a Closer Look at Zella Day

This spot the next several days will feature upcoming artists who were performing at the 2015 Hangout festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama, from May 15-17. 

It kicks off with Zella Day, a 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Pinetop, Arizona, who now resides in Los Angeles. Her debut album, Kicker, will be released June 2 on Pinetop Records/ Hollywood Records. 

Zella Day selfieJust a short walk from the beach, Day stopped by to chat and provide some up close-and-personal information (and even took a selfie, left) in this quick-hitting Q&A before her set on the Palladia Stage on May 15:

Claim to fame: What got you here?
ZD: My record that I’m releasing June 2. I released an EP last year in October. And it’s just been a slow build. So my music got’s me here. 

Beach essential: Shades, swimsuit or volleyball?
ZD: Swimsuit, because I need a tan more than anybody here probably. (laughs) My whole body’s covered up for a reason. 

Secret you’re finally well-adjusted enough to share?
ZD: I have a whole record full of them. They’re going to be coming out on June 2. All of the dirty laundry aired. 

Where do you go from here (literally or figuratively)?
ZD: Well, I go home tomorrow. And I’m a week at home. I just got done with a month and a half of touring. And I’ve got more festivals and then some headlining shows. I’m just kind of adjusting myself to the new pace of life for me. 

Shore thing in Gulf Shores (what’s on top of your to-do list)?
ZD: Well, I’m going to spending my time at the festival, obviously, so I’m going to be seeing Foo Fighters later. Probably get me a swimsuit and go see the Foo Fighters. 

Zella Day 1

You’re on the clock to make an Unabashedly Shameless Plug for 10 seconds: Go!
ZD: So I’ve got my new record coming out June 2. It’s called Kicker. I’m playing a headlining show at the Troubadour in L.A. for the record release on June 3. So if you can make it, make it out there. And besides that, just listen to my music. I’m releasing a lot of it, and music videos. I’m working really hard right now. So, hopefully, it’s gonna connect. 

What’s the inside story behind your name?
ZD: Zella is from the 1840s. My parents got married in Jerome, Arizona. And when they were getting married, they were looking for baby names. And there was a book of the town’s history in Jerome, and they were scouting locations for the wedding. And they just walked into a museum and they were looking through this book. And one of the main coal miner’s wives was named Zella — 1842. There’s actually a song on the record called “Jerome.” That’s about the ghostly woman behind my name. 

What’s your biggest fear about the water?
ZD: Being held under. I don’t like feeling like I can’t make it to the top. 

Flip-flops, sneakers or Crocs?
ZD: (laughs) Well, Crocs are best of both worlds. So Crocs for sure. 

Surf, paddleboard, para-sail, deep-sea fishing or snorkeling?
ZD: It would have to be between snorkeling and surfing. Because I really like both. I live in L.A. and I lived in Long Beach before. I’m from Arizona but I grew up snowboarding. So when I moved to California, surfing was just kind of a natural transition. So I’ve been out in the water a bit. But then I also love snorkeling. I’ve been to Indonesia, snorkeled in Indo. They’re both really fun. 

Your greatest athletic feat?
ZD: I went to Spain and played in the Donosti Cup for soccer. I was 14 and I was really serious about soccer. And we actually won second place. So I went to Europe, played soccer on the Arizona state team. And I broke my ankle shortly after that, so that kind of ended my soccer career. 

What do you have that Skrillex and Diplo don’t?
ZD: (laughs) A guitar? 

If you could do to dinner and a movie with another Hangout performer this weekend, who would it be, what would you see and why?
ZD: Well, I’m sharing a trailer with Jenny Lewis. And so I feel like she’d be kind of fun to eat shrimp cocktail with and maybe go see a film. I don’t know what film we would go see. I don’t even know what’s out in theaters right now. I’ve been on the road too much. I’ve been really into Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers. So maybe we would eat shrimp cocktail and watch Natural Born Killers on the beach. Me and Jenny Lewis. 

Along with Zella Day, Day 1 of Hangout featured a number of terrific performances dominated by women with a fashion flair. Here’s a look at some of the best: 

Halsey glasses

Halsey

Five Knives Nathan Barlowe, Anna M'Queen

Five Knives

Houndmouth Matt Myers plays

Houndmouth frontman Matt Myers

Jenny Lewis smile

Jenny Lewis

Macy Gray look

Macy Gray (with Galactic)

Concert photos my Michael Bialas. See more from the Hangout Festival.

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