Navigating Toward Non-Monogamy

Ruby Ryder 3-16
Ruby Ryder 3-16

For the majority of my life, I have bowed to society's expectations regarding the rules of my relationships. Specifically, I was monogamous. Or rather, I attempted to be monogamous. My success rate was somewhat reflective of the general population's, actually. Which is to say, not successful.

I was 19 and living with my very first boyfriend when a laconic blond-haired blue-eyed man at work caught my eye and the chemistry was undeniable. We would sneak off at lunchtime and fuck at his house. The ancient song "Afternoon Delight" had special meaning for us.

During my first marriage I strayed twice. The first time was with a dark and mysterious Turkish blackjack dealer on a Mexican Riviera cruise. That description, though accurate, makes it sound much more exotic than it really was. The second time was with an irresistible Army Ranger named Evan. We met cavorting around Baja California. I was on a girl's trip. He was on a guy's trip. Shenanigans ensued all around. He embodied all the characteristics that I'd been longing for in my soon-to-be wasband. He was intensely masculine, confident, and fully in charge of his universe. That added up to irresistible in my book. Plus he loved my curvy body. He called me luscious.

My next relationship was with my daughter's father, and I call him that because I never married him. Things were different in that relationship. He was the one who strayed. That's when I discovered what it felt like from the opposite side of the coin. In other words I got a taste of what unethical non-monogamy, commonly called being "cheated on" felt like. I don't recall us ever actually stating monogamous intentions, but it was very much assumed, at least by me. I think he only pretended to agree with me and then fucked whomever he liked.

When I married for the 2nd time, I was determined never to "cheat", because the pain I felt when it was done to me was not a pleasant experience. I succeeded, but not at all happily, because that marriage became pretty nonsexual during the last year of its existence. I slept in another room for the last 6 months before I asked him to leave. My Magic Wand got quite a workout.

After he moved out, I rented an extra room to a 25-year-old Navy boy who had just come back from Iraq. I was ripe for some action, and when that Navy boy propositioned me a few days before he moved across the country, I said yes to some fun with a hot young guy half my age.

The next day after I had sex with him, I helped a girlfriend with her garage sale. When I arrived at her house, and walked up to greet her, she looked me up and down, and said, with meaning, "Wow! What happened to you?" Her tone made it clear that the erotic part of me was now oozing from my very pores. It was that obvious. My sexuality had been reawakened. That night with the Navy boy was nothing extraordinary, but I will always be grateful to him for the role he played. It was a turning point for me, my own personal crossing of the Rubicon.

That was when I paused to consider where my life was going, sexually, and more importantly, where I wanted it to go. I was 50 years old, I had never explored the kinks that I constantly fantasized about, and I wasn't having nearly enough sex. That was when I decided to start this blog. That was when I decided to start exploring pegging and have much more sex. That was 8 years ago.

The last 8 years have been a wild ride, in the best sense of the word. I've explored pegging, thoroughly and deeply (pun intended). I've definitely had more sex. I've also been fortunate enough to experience some rather delicious types of encounters. In fact two of them are such a hook for me, that at some point I realized I didn't want to go the rest of my life without experiencing that type of encounter again. Preferably repeatedly.

So what are my hooks?

One is beautiful young men. I love you guys. I love introducing you to wild kinky things, playing with your strong, gorgeous bodies, and making you swoon. You are not suitable for a long-term relationship with me, mostly because of a lack of life experience and common goals. But I do enjoy taking you to bed and taking advantage of you every way you will allow me to.

The other is the warriors. I love you guys, too. Men who have seen and done things they cannot un-see or undo, with the pain of that buried deep inside them. I've been a massage therapist for 26 years. Basically, I'm a healer. I yearn to take those wounded men, beat them until they cry with release, and fuck them until they find their vulnerability once again. (See why I said yes to the Navy boy? Young, beautiful and wounded.) The few experiences I've had of this type have thrilled me to my core. There is nothing more soul-touching than watching a hard-core masculine man who is pretty emotionally shut down, find his soft parts again because of the safe space I provide, and the things I do to his body. Longtime readers of this blog and listeners of my podcasts will recognize that Zach was one of those men.

Interestingly enough, Zach was the one who caused me to reevaluate the choices I was making in the men I welcomed into my life. I will never forget one of the emails he sent to me. You are a healer, and what you offer is amazing. But when do you get yours? When does Ruby get taken care of? When does the healer get healed? From that point on I made a conscious effort not to choose men who are what I would call 'projects'. They called to the healer in me, those men. But like Zach said, I needed a partner to take care of me, not the other way around. Point taken.

Using that logic, neither of my hooks were good choices for a partner. But they still had the call of the siren. It was at that point I began to consider some type of open relationship, one in which I could have it all; young men, warriors, and an awesome partner who took care of me. Why not dream big? One of my girlfriends had suggested non-monogamy a couple of years earlier, and I told her, "I'm just not built that way." My, my, how things change.

The encounters that I've enjoyed since then have lacked longevity, so I've never put non-monogamy into practice, at least the type of non-monogamous relationship I was envisioning. Whenever I dated someone new I would share my vision with them. This is how I would describe it. I was interested in having an open relationship, where we could eventually see other people. I wasn't sure whether that would take the form of playing together with other people, or separately. I was leaning towards together, at least initially, because that felt safer to me. And the way that I pictured that this would all go down, was that in the beginning, we would enjoy a lengthy period of effortless monogamy, the kind that is relatively automatic with new relationship energy. This would allow us to build a strong foundation. Then, when things started to cool down a bit, we would open up the relationship, after hours and hours of talking about and agreeing upon boundaries and rules. When I talked to prospective partners about this, I made sure to tell them that what I was describing was all conjecture and hypothetical, since I'd yet to have an opportunity to try it out.

I continued searching for a primary partner, and enjoying my hooks. I was stuck on the non-monogamous relationship model that I had created in my mind of building that strong foundation first. My search was not fruitful. I was all too aware of the possibility that I might never find a partner, and decided that if that happened, I would enjoy the beautiful young men for as long as I could. And honestly, being Ruby Ryder would give me a significant amount of mileage in that department.

Looking back, I realize that although I wanted to try non-monogamy, I still considered it sort of...dangerous. Well, of course I did. Society fed me that message over and over again, for decades. In books, on TV, and in the story of just about every divorce that happened around me. You can never ever let your partner be with someone else because they might fall in love with them and leave you! If you are both faithful, your relationship will be magically happy. Forever! That was the story. Reality was quite different.

When I was younger, if some of the people surrounding me were enjoying a healthy and ethical alternative relationship structure like non-monogamy or polyamory, it's likely they wouldn't have spoken of it to anyone, because of society's automatic judgments. I mean, I judged. I labeled couples who were fucking other people as bad, assumed their relationships were doomed, and tried to stay away from them. What those couples were doing was far from ethical, though. It was all about breaking promises and hiding things. I knew that was not what I wanted. But I never considered the ethical version of fucking other people. So I didn't give non-monogamy any serious thought.

I am certainly thinking about it now, 35 years later. I decided to give OKCupid another try and to pay attention to the questions related to non-monogamy and open relationships (along with all my kinky stuff). If a man answered yes to the question, do you think jealousy is healthy in a relationship? I blew him off.

It was on OKCupid that I connected with a man in Chicago. We are a 99% match. I ignored my usual rule of no long distance because his introductory message was mannered, confident and articulate. Our kinks match incredibly well, and he told me he could live anywhere he wanted to because he travels for business. He completely charmed me with his intelligence, optimism, playfulness and depravity.

We are both looking for a primary partner, and desire a non-monogamous or poly relationship. We communicated that clearly from the very start. In fact OKCupid now has relationship type choices of monogamous or non-monogamous. My, my, how things change.

Before Chicago man came out to meet me, during the time when we were talking and getting to know each other, I remember sharing with him that I had a date. He asked the next morning how it went. That surprised me. I suppose I was still operating on assumptions and stereotypes. I was sure that somewhere inside of him he must be jealous. Not so, he said. He just wanted me to be happy. And when I shared information about other dates that I had as time went on, he received the information just like a friend would, happy for me when I had a good time and things looked promising, and consoling when the dates were shitty. This was nothing short of remarkable, in my world. I was used to being with men who weren't particularly jealous for no reason, like another man admiring me, but this seemed to be, well....a reason.

Somewhere around that time I ran across Ferrett's article, "Be Brutally Polyamorous." (If you don't know about the writings of Ferrett, I highly recommend them.)

Ferrett suggested that if you are practicing polyamory, when you first get in a relationship with someone who has never been poly, it's not a good idea to ease them into it gently, with a period of monogamy in the beginning. For people who are not built for polyamory, that will just lull them into a false sense of security, and then destroy them when everything changes. Well. This was a new way of looking at things, counter to the vision I had previously established.

Chicago man did indeed come out to California and visit me in January. He made me promise to untie him so that he could catch a painfully early flight back home. We had an extraordinary time together. The night before he left he stated his intention and desire to see me again. I was happy to hear it, and in full agreement. He went back to Chicago.

Not much information was exchanged with him about my dates for a while, simply because I didn't have any. He shared that there was a woman he would see when he traveled to another state. He told me that he was not her primary partner. The information didn't seem to bother me. Whether that was because she already had a primary or not, I'm honestly not sure.

Then all of a sudden I was inundated with interested men, and interesting men.

I had a BDSM party at my house, and I invited a past lover that some months ago I had gently kicked to the curb (because he couldn't practice good communication with me). I invited him to share my bed for the night, re-establishing his status in my world to occasional friends with benefits. Yes, the communication was poor, but the fun I had in bed with this young man was memorable. That would be Gorgeous Guy.

In addition, I planned a scene at the party with a friend who I share a lot of erotic energy with. In the BDSM world, he bottoms for very few, and I am his favorite top. We have a kind of mutual admiration thing going on. The scene was quite fun, I tied him to my massage table and made him squirm, laugh, and whimper. Very erotic.

To add even more fun to the mix, I invited a lovely man who I am quite interested in, but thus far we'd only had dinner and rather chaste kisses afterwards. It was his first kink party. I made it clear that Gorgeous Guy was going to attend and I would probably end up spending the night with him. He was totally fine with that. He's looking for a poly relationship, too. When Gorgeous Guy arrived, the lovely man gave me plenty of space, and I was grateful for the maturity with which he handled the situation. When he left the party, I walked him outside and we shared long, soft, exquisite kisses while standing under the eaves as it was raining. Yum. He stated his desire to see me again. I was in full agreement.

The last guests left at 3 AM. Gorgeous Guy and I played until 5 AM. I thanked him for allowing me to have my way with him. He thanked me for having my way with him!

When Chicago man asked how the party went, I demurred regarding the details. All I said was that a good time was had by all, especially me, and that a young man spent the night with me. Then I sent another text and said that I was still walking the line carefully about sharing information regarding other guys. I told him he was always welcome to ask for details if he wanted them.

His response was, "Babe, I genuinely want you to be pleased, by me or others…or both! And I always love and enjoy details."

So I described to him all the details that I had been reluctant to share, what was essentially a night of juggling men. I told him who I was interested in, and in what capacity. It was too much information for a text, so I sent it as an email. He received it as easily and gracefully as he did before.

We talked on the phone one afternoon several days later, and planned dates for him to come out for another visit. He mentioned that he had a date that night. I told him to have fun. The next morning I texted him and asked him how his date went. He responded that it was nice, but vanilla sex lacked the intensity of kinky sex.

I knew exactly what he meant. Because the day before I'd enjoyed a romp in bed with an impossibly big and tall dominant man who caught my eye several months ago. We'd crossed paths a few times and the chemistry was absolutely there. So we had dinner. I was unsure what his intentions were, since we are both quite dominant. We exchanged some very nice kisses, after which he said that the prospect of vanilla sex with me sounded pretty exciting. I had to agree with him. So we got together and had a delightful time.

I agreed with my man from Chicago, that it lacked the intensity of kinky sex. But vanilla sex offers coziness, intimacy, and connection. Those things, without the kinky sex I so love, are still wonderful and very welcome in my bed. Plus, this man's size made me feel just a little petite. At 5'11", that is a rare experience in my world.

Chicago man and I chatted a bit about our experiences of vanilla versus kinky sex. And it all felt okay. I was okay that he enjoyed sex with another woman. He was okay that I enjoyed sex with other men.

It was then that I realized that I am already practicing non-monogamy. Simply because I do not have, as yet, a firmly established primary relationship, I'm still practicing ethical non-monogamy with every man I become intimate with.

There seems to be varying opinions as to the differentiation between non-monogamy and polyamory. Some people say that polyamory involves love relationships, whereas non-monogamy is more just fucking. I don't ever fuck someone without a certain degree of intimacy. Whether that can be called love is again a matter of opinion. So I'm not sure what to call what I'm doing, and have chosen to call it non-monogamy for the time being.

What I do know, is that I like this freedom. I like feeling connected, desired, erotically charged and alive. It's such a contrast from the completely nonsexual ending of my last marriage. I like being able to enjoy all of the flavors of sexual encounters that I really love.

Enter the self-inflicted slut shaming. Just when those small slivers of doubt and shame began to creep into my head regarding my recent level of sexual activity, however, I came across a gem of a sentence in David Ley's article, "5 Sex/Relationship Myths Therapists Should Stop Believing."

"Further research on casual sex suggests that it is people’s attitudes towards the activity which predict their experiences. If you think casual sex is cheap and unhealthy, you’ll probably feel bad afterwards, if you have sex with someone you’re not in a relationship with."

My shoulders dropped, and I relaxed. No need to slut shame myself. The doubt and shame I was feeling was one more product of decades of indoctrination to one narrow viewpoint about what sex and relationships were supposed to look like. I don't need that any more. It's just me letting go of all of the beliefs I was taught. And right now? It feels like a glorious unwinding of a tight spring.

I don't know what the future holds. I don't know whether feelings of jealousy or possessiveness will arise, whether my man in Chicago and I will continue to deepen our connection, or if that will happen with someone else. What I do know is that I am feeling more at ease about it. You know what it feels like? Like I'm letting go of society's rules. My goal is to practice impeccable integrity, honesty, communication, and to have consideration for all of my partners. But beyond that? If a hot man wants to jump in bed with me and the chemistry is there, I'm there.

I no longer believe that I have to have that temporary monogamous foundation in order to enjoy non-monogamy, to protect my relationship against the dangers of opening it up. There is such a feeling of openness and ease, the way things are right now. Check with me a year from now, and things may be different. I hear people talk about what Ferrett calls, 'the usual jealousies and insecurities'. Time will tell.

But for now? No judgment. No jealousy. No one trying to stuff me in a box. No one telling me what I can and can't do. Just acceptance, understanding, and ever so much enjoyment. Remarkable. My conclusion: non-monogamy is not dangerous, it's extraordinary. For me.

©Ruby Ryder


4 Responses

  1. Wow was very moved by the article Ruby. I long since abandoned the hollywood myth of boy meets girl they fall in love and walk off hand in hand into the sunset.

    I really do not know of this happy ever after married love they like to promote.

    Monogomy is this…if I said to you that you had to eat your favorite food every day for the rest of your life, it doesnt take a genius to figure out that it would rapidly stop being your favorite food and quickly become most hated.

    What is wrong with having a collection of favorite people around you? People who give you strength in a variety of ways? One for sex, one for pegging, another for companionship, another for wise advice.

    Your friend was so right in asking the question who heals Ruby? You are a beautiful soul and I hope you venture across the pond one day to teach some of your classes.

    Much love

    Peter x

    1. Awww. Thank you! This article seems to have touched a lot of people. I posted it on FetLife as well and so many people can relate. I love your concept of having a collection of favorite people around you. Yes! Except for me it will be more than just one for both sex and pegging!

  2. I think that as the years go by we will see a lot of couples re-defining what marriage means. A good starting point is looking at your marriage vows. Most marriage vows are fairly vague sets of words, capable of different interpretations:

    A common theme is love, as is caring for each other and a lifelong commitment. But, I just don’t see sexual exclusivity clearly expressed.

    Certainly, within Christianity, monogamy is normally considered a must, yet the vows themselves do not clearly express it.

    Sex is an important part of marriage, but there is a lot more to marriage than just sex. Companionship, friendship, parenting – you name it. A good lover might make a horrible marriage partner, a great marriage partner might be an impossibly boring lover.

    If the relationship is essentially good, but the sex is drab and dull or non-existent, why divorce?

    To expect sexual exclusivity within marriage, there needs to be a corresponding willingness on the marriage partners to meet reasonable sexual needs of this other.

    We know a couple who are in a sexless marriage. The spark faded fast, but the love and commitment endured. They chose to re-define their marriage, to include all the normal marriage “things” except sex. They do have sex, just never anymore with each other. Sex was the one thing they used to fight about, the one flaw in their marriage. Now their marriage has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do about love.

    1. Fascinating. Relationship structures are changing! I say whatever works is fine, as long as it is consensual and not causing damage or pain (the bad kind of pain). Dan Savage calls those companionate marriages. A loving friendship is such a gift.

      To expect sexual exclusivity within marriage, there needs to be a corresponding willingness on the marriage partners to meet reasonable sexual needs of this other.

      See – I decided that there were just too many flavors to settle for one for the rest of my life, no matter how willing he might be to meet my needs.

      I just went and got my hair cut and was trying to explain this to my stylist. She immediately asserted that if I was having sexual relations with more than one man then it was clearly only about the sex….with all of them. I think she thought that if I had deep feelings for any of them, that I wouldn’t be having sex with any other men, so it must just be for sex.

      Interesting assumption, and certainly not true for me.

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