Finally Embracing Desire

How another couple’s open marriage changed the way I look at sex forever

Until recently, I collapsed sex and love into one intertwined idea. I believed that the way I looked, my ability to perform and my desirability would garner me the love I wanted, which, I hoped, would end in marriage. If anyone had told me when I was seventeen that at forty-five I'd still be confused about sex and relationships, I'd have laughed in their faces.

The older I get and the more my sexual encounters are choice-driven — rather than hormone-driven — the greater my confusion. Add to that religious piety, divorce and attachment syndrome (a belief that I can't live without a particular individual), I often feel like a tangled and twisted knot impossible to unravel.

I felt it begin to loosen the first time I came across Kenya Stevens on Facebook talking about "open-relating" and open marriage. I had recently been divorced. Her idea of "open-relating" really resonated with me — the concept of sharing your whole self and being your most authentic self with your partner felt like magic.

The impact of this idea was obviously appealing because of the conflicts I had never resolved. On the outside, I was conservative in my demeanor. On the inside, I was swinging from the chandelier, sexually assertive and wild. The collision of these two worlds started early in my life. While I felt deeply erotic and uncontrollably sexual, I was also a devout Christian. I felt profoundly spiritual and in love with all things holy, sacred and godly. Would I go to hell? Was I a whore?

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Meeting Kenya and her husband Carl in person was the beginning of my journey to explore those feelings. They were visiting Los Angeles to be guests on "The Ricki Lake Show," and I was a guest in the audience to support them. After the taping, I met them at a nearby Chipotle to say hello. Kenya embraced me with a big juicy hug. It felt fantastic. After she sat down, her husband Carl walked toward me, enveloping me in his embrace and his energy. I felt myself melt into him and he held me for what seemed like an extraordinary amount of time.

I was nervous because his wife was sitting right there, but she was eating her food and never once lifted her head to see what was happening between her husband and me. In that moment, I fully surrendered into his embrace.

In a conversation I had with him later, he acknowledged my strong sexual energy and even though I work hard to conceal it, how he could easily detect it. I knew what he said was true.

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Several weeks ago, Carl and Kenya were visiting Los Angeles again and I met them for sushi. The evening was relaxed and as it wound down, Kenya decided that she wanted to have company in their hotel room that did not include her husband. I impulsively invited Carl to stay with me, and he agreed.

We drove to my house in separate cars. I was excited and nervous at the same time. There were no secrets, no cheating and no sin. There was also no expectation that I needed to "perform" or "give it to him good," with the hope that he'd fall in love and choose me. I could just be myself.

Embracing my desires without believing those desires are somehow an act against God is my journey today. It has been filled with unexpected surprises. The most surprising thing about my evening with Carl was the ease and laughter. For the first time, I felt completely adored and seen. I was clumsy, awkward, silly, sexy and beautiful. I felt free of fear and judgment. I can honestly say that I felt closer to God than I ever had in any other sexual encounter. Most of what was happening in my head was also taking place in real time. It didn't matter what he thought of me, it only mattered what I thought of myself.

The next morning Carl awoke early in order to retrieve his wife and make an early flight, while I slept in. For the next few days, I watched myself as many old beliefs dissolved. The first to go was my need to feel like I'm "special." This need had fogged my desire for love and acceptance, preventing me from offering my true self in relationships. I'd preferred to disguise myself as whatever I thought my partner desired so that he would make me the most special love.

Second, my belief that monogamy is the only and best path has vanished. Today, I'm actually questioning whether I am truly monogamous. This is a big shift for me, and the jury is still out. Finally, I'm feeling freer to accept my erotic nature. My desire and sexual curiosity are becoming something I love and cherish, as opposed to something I hide and am ashamed of.

I never thought I would actually place myself, at forty-five, on a new road to self-discovery that would challenge something so core to my way of being. But I've decided that being myself and honoring the call to be sexually expressed as a sensual woman is not only okay, it's paramount.