Gabby and Simon have been together for 10 years. While an open relationship had always been on the table for them, it became a reality 12 months ago.
The couple were on holiday in South Africa when Gabby spotted Nadine, who was their private chef in an up-market resort.
“The minute I saw her, I just knew it. The attraction was so incredible and so strong; all of our friends could see it,” remembers Gabby.
“I never considered myself to be into women, but I absolutely needed to be with her.”
And she was. They spent a passionate night together and their lives have been intertwined ever since. So how did Simon feel about his wife not only sleeping with someone else but that fact that she was a woman?
When your wife falls for someone else
“I actually encouraged it,” he says.
“I could see the connection between them and told Gabby she needed to explore that. My faith in our bond is concrete and I trust her implicitly. This was about Gabby exploring a side of her sexuality that I can’t provide.”
After a year of long-distance romance, Nadine moved to Australia and has been living with the couple for a few months. And while Gabby and Simon’s marriage is still rock-solid, Gabby has fallen in love with Nadine.
Hearing your partner say they feel that strongly about someone else would be like a punch to the gut for most of us. But Simon stresses that it doesn’t detract from his relationship with his wife.
“In fact, it enhances us because I feel from Gabby a very real sense of gratitude that I can embrace this,” he explains.
“Restricting a relationship is easy. But allowing for this kind of expansion is very difficult. There’s the fear of change and the unknown.”
When friends turn into lovers
It’s a sentiment echoed by Sophia, who also found herself in a lesbian relationship, while engaged to her long-time partner, Brett.
“I’d been building a friendship with this woman for a while, so we were very close. I actually asked Brett point-blank: ‘How would you feel if I ended up falling in love with her?’” explains Sophia.
“At first I didn’t understand how he could be so OK with that. But he explained that the energy a woman could give me — emotionally, physically and sexually — is different than with him. It made me realize that my connection with this man goes beyond sleeping with other people.”
The pair, who opened their relationship last year, say they’re still exploring and setting boundaries. However, they’re “definitely starting to understand that monogamy isn’t the only way.”
She might be playing away, but I don’t want to
You’d understandably assume that if Gabby and Sophia are bringing other people into their relationships, Simon and Brett would be doing the same. But Simon explains that it’s not something he’s even interested in at this point.
“I’ve never been faithful in a relationship, but the whole time I’ve been with Gabby and being with other people has always been on the table, there’s no part of me that has actually wanted to explore that,” he says.
“When the three of us have been together sexually, it’s because Gabby is a significant part of that. I don’t want to have an affair with Nadine — or anyone for that matter. What the three of us have is very thrilling, but no part of me right now wants a one-on-one relationship with anyone else.”
But what about the logistics?
While the idea of boundless love and exploring sexuality sounds great in theory, these guys admit they go through the same age-old relationship dramas the most vanilla of couples do.
“My jealousy is our biggest issue,” says Gabby. “In an ideal polyamorous relationship, Nadine would have her own separate sexual encounters and relationships. But we can’t; it just doesn’t work right now, although I desperately want it to.”
Gabby freely admits how hypocritical she sounds. In fact, her relationship jealousy is one of the reasons she explored opening her marriage up in the first place.
“We know that Nadine meeting someone else is inevitable, but we haven’t really discussed what it looks like. I’m so protective of anyone who comes into my life, so I’ll be very judgemental of who she chooses.”
Simon, who could arguably have the biggest cause for jealousy, simply says, “if you get precious about it, it just won’t work.”
“Gabby can come to me and say, ‘I just had the best sex of my life.’ In that moment it could very well be the case,” he says.
“But I also know that we have the most amazing sex we’ve ever had. It’s not a competition because the sex is so different.”
Being the “other woman”
This is Nadine’s first polyamorous relationship and falling in love with a woman who’s already married has been tough at times.
“If I wanted Gabby, I had to understand that she already has her life,” she says.
“I needed to accept that the more I confronted myself with this, the more challenging it was going to be to love her. I was asking myself, ‘How close can we really be? How can we make it work in such a way where I still feel like I’m involved in her life and have a relationship with her, without ruining a marriage?’
“Initially, it was exceptionally challenging, especially the nights she was spending with Simon. But it gets easier.”
“The thought that something happening between Gabby and Simon can threaten my relationship with Gabby is unsettling at times. But that’s more fear than reality because the communication lines between us are so open.”
Simon is very aware of the power he holds since his marriage to Gabby is the primary relationship. It’s a role he takes seriously.
“I’m very aware for Nadine that at any point I could say to Gabby, ‘We aren’t working, so your relationship with her needs to end,’” he says.
“That would be through no fault of Nadine’s own, so I need to have as much integrity around us as a three, as I do as a two. There needs to be a lot of trust and integrity between Nadine and I.”
It can be hard enough in a two-person relationship trying to fit in quality time, plus negotiate each other’s emotions, mismatched sex drives and personality differences. Unsurprisingly, adding someone else into the mix makes that even harder.
“Nadine and I struggle because her sex drive is a lot higher than mine,” explains Gabby.
Sophia tried to keep her relationship with her girlfriend, which ended when she moved overseas, separate to the one with her fiancé. They were different and special in their own ways and Sophia wanted both her partners to feel equally loved.
“It was hard. I had to readjust certain behaviors to suit her and it did cross over to my relationship with Brett,” she laments.
“My girlfriend wasn’t as emotionally mature, affectionate or sexually charged as Brett and I. Consequently, I started to change, which affected Brett when I was with him.”
Gabby and Sophia deeply feel their responsibilities around managing everyone’s emotions, deciding whose night is whose and the guilt the comes with feeling that someone they love is hurt or sad by their decision.
“I feel a lot of responsibility because it’s my choice as to who I’m with and what I’m doing,” Gabby explains.
“It can be overwhelming because now I have two people to consider, plus look after myself when I make decisions.
“When we’re on holiday and I have all the time in the world for them both, it’s easy. But we struggle with the practicalities of it back in the real world when I want to find time for them both and myself.”
You might be reading this and thinking that all this effort isn’t worth it. But, just like “regular” relationships, when you love someone, you’re willing to make sacrifices and work through issues.
Sophia explains that although there are more challenges, there are also more benefits.
“You receive a lot of love from your partners and you also get to give that love,” she says.
“That alone is worth all the struggle and trouble. When I had both my partners cuddling me I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have that much love — it’s unbelievable.”
Society teaches us that love is possessive, Sophia says, but you learn to love your partners in a different way.
“You realize that you don’t own them, which is so freeing for everyone,” she says.