Children, gather 'round. If your parents or grandparents came of age in the '60s, they might not have always been the old fuddy-duddies they are today. They may have indulged in the very behavior they've warned you about ...
Dennis was in college during the '60s. He was sexually active, used a "moderate" amount of drugs and a lot of alcohol, and was involved in far-left politics. He says: "Yes, sex and drugs and rock and roll, but with thought and feelings for others. My friends and acquaintances mostly respected each other, while having a lot of fun."
He lived with different roommates in different apartments at different times. "I had a lot of friends, but friendships and relationships were constantly shifting, with people moving in and out of each other's orbits. Some of these friends had occasional sex with each other and some didn't. At times it was awkward."
Dennis says most of the couples he knew that were either married or living together were monogamous. He met Judy and fell in love with her, and they moved in together.
"Marriage was almost an afterthought, and I did expect the relationship to remain monogamous. Then she wanted an open marriage because she'd slept with someone at a party I didn't go to and was trying to be totally honest. I wasn't sure I could handle it, especially since I was much less sexually experienced than her and hurt by what I considered a betrayal."
Despite his doubts, Dennis agreed because he wanted to stay with Judy "on almost any terms." He says: "Our open marriage was actually quite smooth and mostly seamless after I regained some of my confidence and learned to be attractive sexually to women inside and outside our circle. I don't regret any of the casual and semi-serious sex I had as a result and always tried to choose partners who I could regard as friends later. Usually we were friends, first."
Dennis says he and Judy eventually grew apart. "The open marriage didn't contribute to the breakup as much as the growing realization that we had quite different values and expectations."
While Dennis was separated from Judy and having "mostly noncommittal sex with various women," he met Barbara. They were both driving taxis at night and hanging out at the same all-night coffee shop. "Her mind, political acumen, sensitivity and empathy with people of all types drew me to her, although initially I continued other casual sexual relationships."
On a camping trip to Scotland, Dennis proposed. This time, he wanted a monogamous relationship. "I had had my fun and sowed my wild oats without too serious consequences, and I was older, hopefully wiser, and realized I had found the love of my life.
"We bought a house, then had two wonderful daughters. We've been faithful to each other for over thirty years and have been able to weather all storms so far, partially because we allowed each other to evolve and grow to become more complete people. I think Barbara realizes that my experiences helped me, positively and negatively, to become who I am. I believe people can enjoy each other on many different levels, as long as everyone understands and agrees to the ground rules."
How have you evolved? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to [email protected] And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not."