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‘My husband is fine with me having a relationship with a woman outside of our marriage’

Annemarie: “He was the prettiest boy in the smoking cellar at school. A loner. Always busy with music, quirky. I wasn’t the only girl who was intrigued by Rutger, although I think I was the only one who didn’t give in to his looks, but to his character. That is exactly why he chose me – also the alto. From the first day we met, there was a special bond between us. Rutger looked at the world differently than other boys. More open-minded. We discussed politics, the environment. We were sixteen, we thought we would make the world a better place.

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The fact that I also liked women has been an established fact for me since I was twelve. I never wondered if that was special. It was just who I was. Rutger accepted that; he liked that I was so close to myself, he said. We were in love the way teenagers are and I loved him. Of his mind, of his company, of the sex.

Missing

We went to study in the same city. We got the same friends and soon shared a room, because that was practical. We were always together and had nothing to do. It seemed like a natural choice. Still, something started to gnaw. As happy as I was with my life, with Rutger – something was missing. As if a part of me was not seen. At a party of the student association for LGBTI people – back then, it was the nineties, still simply described as homosexuality – I kissed a girl all over the place. Completely drunk, I didn’t even know her. But suddenly everything fell into place. The next morning I told Rutger about my experience. He responded laconically, was glad that I had a good evening. “I want this more often,” I said. “Fine,” he said, shrugging. As if something or someone could ever come between us.

I kissed a girl a few more times, sometimes felt a deep admiration for a woman, but a relationship never came about. Rutger and I got married and our oldest son – now 15 – was born. And as life went on, the loss felt slowly but surely increasing. I enjoyed family life, but it consumed me completely; there was no room for the female piece.

Lake

One day, during our son’s afternoon nap, I responded on a whim to a personals advertisement on a women’s site. She was looking for friendship ‘and maybe more’. Two weeks later we met in an Amsterdam women’s café. I felt like I was cheating, but also like something stronger than me; I had to do this. I had a pleasant afternoon, enjoyed chatting with someone who recognized my feelings, but there was no amorous connection. I then decided to let the subject rest again.

After our son we had two more children, now 11 and 10. It was after the birth of the youngest, of all Rutger, who started talking about it again. “Aren’t you denying yourself things for the sake of me and our family?” He asked on our first night out after the maternity period. He did not doubt my love, he said, but also knew that my position in 4vwo had not been an empty slogan. “I don’t want to run the risk that in a year’s time you will suddenly find out that you have effaced yourself for too long and want to catch up on everything in one fell swoop – who knows what consequences this will have.”

All this time I had been so busy with work and our family; of course the feeling was still there. But where on earth did I get the time and energy to date? Besides, I was not unhappy. Rutger and I had a good time together, our connection was just as strong as in the almost twenty years before. A woman in my life would only increase my happiness in life. I didn’t know any better, I now know, but at least it meant that I still didn’t feel the need to actively seek out.

Flame in the pan

And then a year or two later – I had just joined Facebook – an ad came along for a women’s party. This was a sign, I thought. On a whim, I posted a message on a forum for lesbian and bisexual women: “Who’s coming to dance with me?” Reactions were raining. Ella (42) was one of them, and the only one I responded to. After a few weeks of texting back and forth, we booked a hotel in Amsterdam on the night of the party, agreed to eat together in advance and took the train. We never made it to the party.

With our trolleys between us at Amsterdam Central, our first live meeting, the fire broke out. We walked to the hotel to drop the luggage – and never left the room for the rest of the evening and night.

That was the beginning of a relationship that has become just as important to me as my marriage. Rutger didn’t ask for details when I got home the next day, just whether it was fun. I decided it didn’t add much to telling me we skipped the party, after all, the result was the same: I was terribly in love.

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Luck

In the first few months, Rutger gave me the space to meet up with Ella as much as I wanted. In practice this was less than once a week, because she too was married to a man and had children. We wandered like this for a few years. Sometimes we booked a weekend away, otherwise we saw each other on our days off when the children were at school. It worked, because nobody had to hand in. Rutger and I were happy with our family, Ella and her husband were happy with their daughters, and in between Ella and I found something big and very special, but didn’t detract from what we shared with our husbands.

When Ella and I were still crazy about each other after two years of haggling, Rutger said, “I want to meet her husband.” Not out of some kind of fellow sufferer need, he just wanted to ’round out’ the picture, he said. So it happened. Ella and I organized a barbecue in her garden, including all the children. It became very cozy. Rutger and Richard – Ella’s husband – are not best friends, but they get along very well.

Extra space

Since then we have been celebrating Christmas and birthdays together. We even went on holiday together a few times. The men swear never to mention the relationship between Ella and me. I don’t care, but I really think they just give us the space.

A year ago we moved to the hometown of Ella and Richard. That meant new schools for the children, but it was better for Rutger’s work. It is closer, and in this – much larger – house he has his own office. I spend less time away from home because my girlfriend is so close, and the sports facilities – all children play sports at a high level – are even better. We all benefit. Our children don’t know the true nature of our move. It doesn’t matter, we think. Their stable base does not change because Ella and I happen to spend a lot of time together. Our mutual children see us as a kind of aunts.

Own attic room

Recently my oldest did ask, “Mom, the bond you have with Ella is really close, isn’t it?” He feels it is not a standard friendship. The fact that I sleep with her two nights a week while she lives practically around the corner is of course not standard either. With her we have our own attic room – our house has no room to retreat to together – and Richard is one floor below. Yes, of course that felt uncomfortable the first times. But he says: “Women are simply more intimate with each other than men.” It does not matter to him that sex is involved as well.

As long as Ella doesn’t do it with a man, because he feels that like competition. Rutger is more or less the same in that. I get it: they have been experiencing for years that the relationship between Ella and me is really next to our marriages. It doesn’t detract from it, it’s just an indispensable part of Ella and me that has nothing to do with our families. Rutger and I even have sex just as often as in the time before Ella was there. That feels good for both of us, I would never miss sex with a dick again.

Rutger freely admits that he also likes it, some time for himself two nights a week. He has no need for another, he says. I believe that, just like when Richard says that Ella is more than enough for him. I realize that I would have to accept an extra partner from Rutger, should the situation ever arise. Equal monks, equal hoods. I don’t want to think about it, but hate myself for feeling that way.

Open

I am extremely grateful to both men for their generosity. We have agreed to give the children an honest answer about our construction if they ever ask about it. While it’s not something we are ashamed of, or think is harmful to them, we do think they don’t need information until they state that need themselves. Then hopefully it molds them into open, free people.

I would never want to lose Rutger, and Ella is not thinking of leaving Richard. You call that polyamory? We prefer not to put a label on it. I count myself rich with the great amount of love in my life and know that Rutger is satisfied with the amount of love in his. I cannot see into the future. Perhaps the situation will feel different when the children are out later. Does Rutger want me full time for himself, or does it feel better for me to be with Ella full time. Either way, our children will look back on a loving childhood. That love is ultimately the most important thing for me. ”

This article is in Kek Mama 15-2020.

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