Emotional Roleplay

aud+rom collage

I did not seek him out specifically to fill the gap left by the man I have feelings for, and I’m confident he would say the same about his wife and me.

We were friends for years before we ever became intimate. I knew him before he was married, which was ironically around the time I had the craziest crush on his co-worker. Although sexual tension always seemed to linger between the two of us, the lack of communication and moral guilt kept us at an uncomfortable distance.

Still, four months ago we mutually decided to introduce sex into our friendship.

He was in town for work and had asked me out to dinner. I vividly remember being excited to meet up with him as it had been so long since I had last seen him. But, I was also nervous. He had just gotten married, and his co-worker and I were not on speaking terms. I trusted my self control, but I did not want to face any temptations whatsoever. As the night went on, I caught myself flirting a bit, and I noticed that he reciprocated. Sure, I was flattered, but I’d also grow angry every time I caught a glimpse of his wedding ring.

Eventually, I gave in.

Opening up about sleeping with a married man has gifted me an array of feedback. While many perceive it as an intriguing and somewhat erotic scenario, I still have not discovered, let alone understood, the “thrill” behind it. However, my situation is a bit unique.

The married man I occasionally sleep with — who we will call “X” — is in an open marriage. Consensual non-monogamy is encouraged within their relationship under an agreement they constructed. X and his wife are not from the United States, but his work requires him to stay within the country for extensive periods of time. This means that they are not together for the majority of the year.

This coupling system has proven to be successful for them, and from what he has told me, it has kept them sane and happy.

According to their agreement, their marriage is open but not polyamorous. Even though they are allowed to take in new partners, the connections they have with them should not be romantic under any circumstances. At the end of the day, they are each other’s “home base” — and their secondary relationships are only there for temporary companionship and sexual relations.

I truly enjoy spending time with X. Some might say that the nature of whatever we have is not authentic, but I have learned to label it as “untraditional.” Like I mentioned earlier, we were friends before we ever decided to move past that. So, hanging out with him is never awkward. In fact, I feel like it has allowed us to be more comfortable as we open up about our concerns and our relationships outside of the one we share. Currently, I am not in any type of committed relationship.

However, I do have feelings for someone who, unfortunately, lives in a different state. This guy and I have discussed the idea of embarking on a long-distance relationship, but we have both agreed that it would not work due to our tender and emotional natures. This is why we see other people. In my case, I see X here and there.

One of the bittersweet things that I have experienced throughout my relationship with X is the phenomenon that occurs after we are finished having sex. We tend to get overly affectionate — sometimes to the point where it is almost peevish. I won’t lie and say I am irritated by this because, to be completely honest, I look forward to it.

However, sometimes our post-coital dynamic would leave me feeling off. I could tell what he really wants is to be giving and receiving affection from the person he loves, but she is not here. I am only a medium… although, I suppose he is as well.

Though I have an incredible amount of platonic love and respect for X, he provides both physical and emotional support when I cannot get it from the person I truly want it from. X and I have not really ever talked about this, but sometimes body language is enough.

We don’t live in the same city, and when he is in the United States, he is always a plane ride away. As sappy as it may sound, not seeing each other regularly is what keeps our relationship free of any romantic feelings. Either way, I always tend to see him more than I see the guy I truly like. What I’m trying to say is that, ultimately, this arrangement works out for us. Even though X has been a friend of mine for a couple of years now, he has served as a bit of a therapist for the past couple of months. Despite having access to all kinds of therapy, formal and alternative, I have found his sessions to be the most comforting.

Believe it or not, when I am with X, I don’t pretend that he is the man I like. I also don’t picture someone else when I am being intimate with him because I genuinely enjoy his presence. What I have received from this relationship is something I call “emotional roleplay.” We give each other what we wish we were getting from someone else because that person is not with us.

No matter how intimate or cuddly X and I get in bed, I know I will never replace his wife, and I know he will never have any sort of romantic feelings for me. Reversely, I am aware that he will never take the spot of the guy who has my heart, and I am content with that.

When my friends have asked me if I’m happy with X, I always say “yes.” Am I happy with my romantic life? Not really. I wish I could come home to the man I have feelings for every day. I wish I had the ability to drive to my partner whenever I felt like it. I wish I did not have to rely on my phone for intimacy and half-assed romance. Lastly, I genuinely wish he was the only person I was currently involved with. But, it’s simply not realistic… and I’m sure X feels the same way about his marriage.

In the meantime, we help each other.



Photos (in order of appearance) by Lucia Rosenast, Kate Phillips, and Adyana Covelli.