As I looked around at the four strangers’ faces in the hot tub, I felt a frisson of anticipation and a sense of excitement – something I hadn’t felt for a long time. “Is this your first time?” the man to my left asked. “Yes,” I said, laughing nervously. “Welcome!” his partner said, smiling warmly.
My husband, Jake*, and I were at a festival for couples in England’s north east. He wasn’t that keen to come, but I managed to persuade him. “Come on, it might be fun,” I had said. “What’s the worst that can happen?”
I have always been a bit more adventurous than him, but after 18 years and two children together, we don’t have much adventure in our lives these days.
Spicing things up
I can’t remember where I first heard about this festival for “ethically non-monogamous” [a relationship between two people which isn’t exclusive] and polyamorous [a relationship involving a number of sexual partners] couples. It might have come up on a Facebook ad. But the second I saw it, I knew I wanted to go.
It’s not that I no longer fancy my husband; it is more that everything, including our sex life, has become so routine-driven and predictable, I wanted to do something to spice things up a bit.
I work fulltime at a finance company in the City and Jake, who is self-employed, is currently a stay-at-home dad. We have managed to pay off most of our mortgage and our kids are getting a bit older and don’t take quite as much time and energy as they did when they were little. I suppose we are at that: “Is this it? What’s next?” stage of life.
We really weren’t sure what to expect before we got to the festival. We were both nervous beforehand. I was a bit worried it might be full of weirdos in gimp masks and PVC, or creepy old blokes, but actually, lots of the people there were much like us. Forty-something, 2.4 children, professionals, and so on. We were pleasantly surprised.
We really connected with one couple, let’s call them Ed and Laura. They were a similar age to us and they also live near London and have children around the same age, too. They were the type of people we would probably be friends with anyway.
Ed clearly worked out and looked after himself, much like the neighbour [played by Sam Heughan] in The Couple Next Door, the new Channel 4 drama in which a young couple move into their new home in Leeds and are love-bombed by their next-door neighbours – with predictable results. I also go to the gym several days a week and feel better than ever – and more confident than I ever did in my 20s.
Ed seemed a bit more of an alpha type than Jake, and with his twinkling eyes and toned physique, I was certainly attracted to him. His wife, Laura, seemed really nice and smiley too. She had shoulder-length blonde hair and was tall and slim.
Nothing happened at the festival other than some major flirting (“Jake is one very lucky bloke” and “we would love to show you both a good time”, and so on), but we swapped numbers with Ed and Laura, and a few months ago, we met up with them at a smart hotel in London.
We booked the children in with my parents and told them we were meeting friends in town, which was true. It’s just that after dinner and drinks we went upstairs to our room.
At first, we kept laughing to cover the awkwardness, but as Laura and Jake were talking, Ed and I headed over to sit on the bed. We started kissing slowly and, at first, I felt really self-conscious with the other two in the room, but then I looked over and saw Jake kissing Laura. It felt really weird. It’s hard to explain – I didn’t feel jealous, as such; I sort of felt turned on but also a bit freaked out. Anyway, you can probably guess the rest. Ed and I had sex, but the other two just played around and watched.
It was a bit awkward saying goodbye after that, and Jake was a bit cold with me for the next few days, but he seems to have forgotten all about it since we got home.
Rekindling the spark
Being with another man was such a rush, I was buzzing for days. I haven’t so much as kissed anyone else for 18 years and I kept going over what had happened in my head. I felt more alive than I have done in years.
Ed and I have been messaging and are keen to meet up again, but, strange as it might sound, it would feel wrong to do it without Jake. I’d like to explore this “ethically non-monogamous” community a bit more, but he’s not keen. I think he feels threatened by the whole thing. But I’d rather go along to an event with him, have some fun, and then leave together as a couple, than have an affair. I don’t think I could be deceitful or lie to his face – and I’d like us to explore things together. I think it would actually be good for us as a couple.
When I think back to when Jake and I first got together, I would love to try to rekindle that spark. I am grateful he’s put his business on hold to help look after the children, but the fact that he is a stay-at-home dad is not exactly a turn on, to be perfectly honest.
I remember a time when we could hardly keep our hands off each other. We met the old-fashioned way, in a bar on a night out with friends. Online dating wasn’t really a thing back then. I was temping at an investment bank at the time and had gone for a few drinks after work. We were surrounded by boring suit types and about to leave, when Jake and his friend walked in. He was in a jacket and jeans, very clean-cut, and kept looking over at us, and then he and his friend came over.
The attraction was instant. He had such a great smile and that cheeky sense of humour I love. He’s a few years older than me and told me he ran his own building firm. He seemed to be together and sorted. But he wasn’t arrogant like some of the public-school types I worked with. I found it really attractive. I gave him my number and I was so pleased when he called a few days later.
That was it for us – we moved in together six months later and have been together ever since. Is it really so wrong that, 18 years on, I want to explore a few other options?
I still love Jake and he is a brilliant dad, but there has got to be a bit more to life, hasn’t there? I think being with another couple would actually bring us closer together and might even help remind us why we got together in the first place. I think it’s fair to say that spark we once had is now something of a dying ember, and I want to find a way to get it going again.
*Names have been changed
As told to Georgina Fuller