Sadie Smythe began blogging about her open marriage in 2007 when she lived in Alameda.
Her blog posts evolved into a book, much of it set on the Island, called Open All the Way: Confessions from My Open Marriage. The 42-year-old Smythe, originally from Dallas, documents an ongoing exploration of the boundaries of her own marriage, of her self and human intimacy and sexuality.
Since moving to Austin in 2008, Smythe has continued writing about open marriage and, with a group of other sex writers (Julie Gillis, Mia Martina and Rosie Q), co-produces a popular monthly show called BedPost Confessions.
In each performance, five writers tell intimate stories from their own sex lives. The audience participates as well, filling out index cards that start with the phrase, "I confess..." Their revelations are read during the show.
I sat with Smythe yesterday for a brief interview at Alameda's very own Peet's on Park Street.
So, an open marriage since 2006. I find myself wondering how many partners you've had? Hah! A lot. You can read my book and count. For me, as a woman, I can put myself out there and I can get dates easily. It's harder for my husband; he's a married man. He tends to date younger women, because they tend to be more open to it. [Smythe and her husband established guidelines when they first opened their marriage. They made a commitment to practice safe sex and to be honest at all times — with each other and other partners, which included, for Smythe, women as well as men.]
Also, I hear the tsk-tsking in my head. Open marriage! No way. What did your Alameda neighbors say? I opened my marriage here and I did a lot of exploring of my sexuality here in this town. The reactions were varied. Most people I told were kind of like, "Oh, OK." Maybe they were more nonchalant about it to my face and had things to say about it behind my back. That's probably true. But I was never shunned by my friends.
Did they pull their husbands a little closer Of course, absolutely! And I understand that reaction. But I would never do that.
I read on your blog that you and your husband are breaking up? Our marriage is not breaking up. I can’t predict the future. I just know that separating right now is the best thing. What that looks like in six months or a year I don't know.
Would you open your marriage again? Yes. You know how some people know they’re gay? I think I’ve always known I’ve had a non-monogmos spirit. It’s not because I don’t love people, I love people fiercely, and I'm loyal, and I am extraordinarily giving.
Loyal? People say all the time that I’m cheating on my husband or that I’m betraying my husband and that’s simply not true. We have an agreement. Loyalty can exist in many formats. I’ve been called a proponent for open relationships, but I’m really a proponent of designing the relationship of your choice — making the relationship look the way you want it to look, not the way others expect it to.
What about jealousy? In terms of being confronted with who you are, one of the biggest components you have to deal with is the jealously factor. In the traditional monogamous marriage jealousy occurs — he’s looking at the waitress, flirting with a friend — and you feel these feelings, and it's almost expected. But when you are in an open relationship, and there’s actually a person to be jealous of, it forces you to go inward in a way you wouldn't otherwise. What is jealousy? It is fear turned in on itself. What do I fear? I fear losing him? But the reality is that I could lose him anyway.
In polyamory there’s concept called compersion. It's an explict, deep feeling of happiness for your partner's pleasure. Like if your husband goes and plays softball on Thursday. Instead of thinking, "I have to make dinner and cleanup and take care of the kids," you think, "That gives him pleasure and I am happy for him."
Part of what came out in the book is sort of, not arguments for, but an intelllecutal discussion in support of the lifestyle that my husband and I chose. It's also the story of a nontraditional marriage, paralleled with my journey as a person with a drinking problem. Three quarters of the way through the book we moved to Austin, and that's where I sobered up.
It’s not a sensationalistic tale, but really, for me, it’s a coming of age story. I came into my sexuality here and that to me is extremely important.
What motivates you to go public? The reason I started blogging was because I wanted a place to write. When I learned I actually had people who were reading me then it kind of shifted. I realized people were coming to me with questions and I realized I had a responsibility. Now I write because I think somebody needs to say something. If someone reads that there’s this woman who has this open relationship, when they find out their neighbor is having an open relationship there'll be less of a charge.
What have you learned? When you start talking to your husband or wife about sex and about what you really want — providing both you are being accepting of that information and not judging it — it can be really powerful. He learned that were some things that other women would do that I wouldn't do, and I learned that there are things I could do with other men that he wouldn't. And then there were things that we found we liked with other people that we would bring into our relationship.
I think everyone should make their relationship what they want it to be. Design it to their own specifications. What does that look like? It depends on the couple. Don’t model your relationship on your neighbor's relationship or your parent's relationship. That doesn’t allow for the possibility of it being whatever you two decide together
What's next for you? I’m not sure. I started writing a book about parenting in alternate relationships; I have about 30 subjects I’ve been interviewing. And I'll be starting a social networking business, where I help people create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. I’m also in school, finishing up a psychology degree. I’m going to launch sadiesymthe.com and start an open relationship consulting business.