It’s a strange – yet awesome – thing. At its core, marriage is the idea that you pick one person – however you decide to pick them (be it love or lust or companionship) – and go, “You’re my favorite, I want you!” And then you hope that they want you back and that you can make it work for a lifetime – however you decide to (monogamously, non-monogamously, with distance, with others, whatever).
That said, the culturally accepted idea of what is “allowed” in a marriage often rears its ugly head in really irritating ways. For instance, I don’t believe in monogamy. That’s not a secret. Being married – having found the love of my life – doesn’t change how I feel about monogamy. That’s a view that I came to after loads of personal growth and decision-making and experiences. And yet, in my mind, the two seemingly divergent ideas work just fine together: I can still be married without the created construct of monogamy in my marriage.
It’s not just the “extreme” of monogamy, though: it’s also what things we “can” and “can’t” discuss in relationships. Of course, my husband knew how I felt about monogamy before he decided to marry me. And I knew how he felt about loads of important topics, as well. But he also knows when I find someone attractive – a man or a woman. And he knows when I feel like exploring sexually with others. And I know when he’s checking out some hot brunette at the swinger’s club, wondering what a threesome with her would be like.
These conversations happen because I don’t believe in monogamy, of course. But they also happen because I believe in radical honesty, as I’ve recently mentioned several times on The LITMO Life.
Often, when I hear couples discussing that they are each other’s “best friend,” I wonder what this truly means. Does it mean that they enjoy a level of openness, honesty, and fun with each other comparable to a best friend relationship? Does it mean that they can tell each other everything and stay up late into the night chatting and laughing?
Or does it mean something else – something less open? Does it mean that they have fun with each other and express things to each other – but at a specific level beyond which their openness doesn’t go? Do they tell each other everything? Or do they tell each other *everything (*things that could hurt the other’s feelings not included)?
In my prior relationships, I definitely had the type of veiled honesty that comes with, well, being in a traditional relationship. I told partners as much as I felt I reasonably could, but stopped just short of the things that would hurt their feelings as my boyfriend or romantic interest. And then, when I started being honest about what I truly wanted and/or needed, the relationship would inevitably end. Because while they thought they wanted my honesty, they actually just wanted to hear what they wanted.
My relationship with my husband, however, is completely different than anything I’ve ever experienced. Not only can I tell him I think the guy at the checkout counter is hot, I can also tell him when I have a freak out about BEING MARRIED TO HIM, for fuck’s sake. And I can tell him anything else I could think of. And he can tell me anything, too.
In order to make these discussions even more fun and safe and as open as they can be for the both of us, however, we’ve created something special in our marriage: BUBBLES!
Now, I know what you’re thinking: the fun, soapy bubbles that you can blow with a wand. While we do love those for various adult activities (insert wink and a nod), that’s not what I mean.
What I mean is an emotional “bubble” – an intentionally created, carefully designed safe space where we can talk about anything. When Jonathon and I need to have really difficult conversations, one of us asks if we can exit our “Husband-Wife/Marriage Bubble” and enter our “Best Friend Bubble.” Or one of the many other bubbles we’ve created.
The week before our wedding, when I was having my freak outs about commitment, Jonathon would come over and I’d say, “Baby, I love you and I will happily be marrying you Saturday and becoming Mrs. Nowakowski. But right now, I’m having a fucking meltdown and I need you not to be my fiance, and instead, be my best friend. I need our Best Friend Bubble.”
And he’d go, “I got you, baby.” (This is my favorite thing he says.) And then we’d talk, the understanding being that we were just each other’s best friend, chatting as though about another relationship, outside of our own, and that we wouldn’t take offense to things the other said, because we were in our best friend bubble.
And it’s worked out amazingly. So, I wanted to tell you guys about some of our favorite bubbles!
“The Husband-Wife Bubble” – This bubble is, of course, the most important bubble of them all. This is the bubble in which our deepest, most intimate and revealing conversations happen. This is the bubble that is at the top of all the other bubbles – it’s unbreachable by any third-party and it’s what makes us secure of each other and happy in the knowledge that we’re a team.
“The Best Friend Bubble” – This is this bubble we use, mostly, when we need to talk to each other about difficult things regarding our relationship. Some of these conversations we could have in our marriage bubble, with no problem, but there’s just something about stepping outside of the marriage and asking someone to relate to you as a best friend, instead of as a husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend, that adds a level of safety and security to any hard conversation that needs to be had.
“The Doctor-Patient Bubble” – This might be, in all honesty, my least favorite bubble. 😛 My husband is a chiropractor, and he’s a REALLY good chiropractor, at that. And I’m a runner. And for a long while, was a CrossFitter. And I like to workout. And I like to wear shitty shoes, like high heels, that wreak havoc on my body. And my husband, the doctor, likes to notice when my posture sucks or when my neck is cramped or when I’m not standing properly. And then he slips into doctor mode – perfect, professional, incredible doctor mode, that to me, can sometimes feel like I’m being chided. So we created a “Doctor-Patient Bubble” to avoid the problem of me getting my feelings hurt!
“The Attorney-Client Bubble” – Just like I hate the “Doctor-Patient Bubble,” I’m guessing my sweet husband probably doesn’t love our “Attorney-Client Bubble.” This is a bubble we have to use when I need to tell him something about liability, or how something is dangerous, or how he should alter his behavior in some way to be safer. It’s not fun to feel like your wife is constantly lecturing you about how you should edit some behavior, but if your lawyer does it, it’s par for the course!
“The Fuck Buddy Bubble” – Yes, it’s nice to make sweet, tender love to each other as husband and wife. It’s also immensely pleasurable to have wild, rough sex as though we just picked each other up at a club for a one-night stand. It’s nice to be tied up. It’s nice to play. We can discuss all of this within our husband-wife bubble, but let’s be real: it’s sometimes more fucking fun to pretend like we’re strangers, tearing each other’s clothes off, or that we’re fuck buddies, with a need to leave our marital feelings behind!
Our current bubbles, while fairly established, are subject to change and will likely grow and change as our marriage grows and changes.
At the end of the day, being married is a wonderful adventure – and for me, that biggest adventure is continuing to be who I am, with a partner! Who I am is a novelty-chasing, fun-loving, anti-adulting adult, so adding novelty into our marriage by stepping outside ourselves fits the bill just perfectly.