“It now appears that happiness has almost doubled.”

Eric, 56 years old: “My wife and I met when we were 17 and 18, and we would probably have separated a long time ago if we had not understood in time the importance of not letting fear control you in your marriage. How many couples do you hear coming up with rules that both partners must abide by, In other words: Whoever makes a “mistake” is punished. How many times do you hear about couples falling apart, or about one falling in love with the other. The very word “cheating” indicates that there is love that is not based on freedom and enrichment, but on restrictions and limitations.

Before my wife and I became deeply enamored a few years ago with another couple with whom we developed a direct, open and intimate love relationship, we had been in brief relationships with others before. The concept of an open relationship has a connotation of selfishness and hedonism, but in fact it is about giving the other something that you cannot give yourself. It would be something if the two of us and our family locked ourselves for forty years under a low-oxygen glass jar, inaccessible to others. An open relationship is not: doing what you feel, but understanding what you and your partner need. Understand that you are responsible for your happiness. A happiness that cannot be imposed by any prohibition of meeting others outside your relationship. Edith and Stefan met by chance.

It started with a simple message on Facebook. My wife managed to put two Christmas trees in my Fiat 500, Stefan responded, and a conversation ensued that my wife then asked if he and his wife would like to come over for dinner. We said in December: Bring your bathing suit, and then we’ll go to the hot tub. Throughout the evening we chatted in the warm water about our children and our work. It turns out that they spent the same type of camping vacations with their kids as we did, and so there were more similarities. Five years apart, and it was as if I saw our lives reflected in theirs, with such a delay of five years.

Max Kisman statue

An instant friendship developed and since we tell everyone we also see each other side by side if it suits us – not without discussing it with each other first – it was no surprise that my wife received a date request from Stefan the next day. I agreed, and came back very happy. Jealousy is a beast that can be tamed with a lot of practice. Realizing that she is more than I am in the whole world now that she has a wonderful relationship with Stefan two years later makes me happy too. The ones I lend, because that’s how I feel a little bit. And I need not be a saint for that, I should only see that the increase in her happiness should not come at the expense of the happiness we have together. And it’s not just about sex, performance will be very cheap. My wife loves water, and for years I have tried to enter the seas and lakes, but I am afraid of water. Now she’s diving with Stefan. I’m not saying I’m never jealous, but it’s not the all-consuming jealousy you can feel when it comes to cheating. I fully understand that our lifestyle is not ideal for everyone, and if you open your marriage to avoid a crisis, the chances of failure are very high. Transparency and trust are assumed, isn’t it my property just because we’re married?

four partners

A few weeks after their date, I met Edith. And by chance, or perhaps it has to do with that parallel view of life I mentioned earlier, something happened between us. Since then we see each other in fours or in pairs, every weekend. Recently my sister asked after I announced that we passed: Very cute, but who are we? The four of us are having a great time, last month we were on a Spanish island. We were all lying on the beach, close to each other. I was already happy with my wife, and that happiness seems to have almost doubled now. We are now four equal partners, not: Edith is my girlfriend and my wife my enduring relationship. It is also not true, as with some “extramarital affairs”, that there is more emphasis on sex in Edith. Like when you’ve been married for years, there are days with her that you go without having sex just because it just doesn’t happen. The focus is on learning and curiosity. We occasionally switch partners for an entire weekend. The first time I walked into the grocery store with Edith, I saw myself fetching products from the shelves that I had never bought before. I made curry with it, and that was new to me. Of course I could have lived very well without this experience, but this way of living still meant a lot of new ideas. It was Edith who finally helped me with a lot of patience with my fear of water.

Meanwhile, my wife and I are closer than ever. Insecurity, secrecy, fear of losing one person to another, and not knowing exactly what’s going on pose a much greater risk to the continuity of the relationship than publicly dating others and finding out what’s going on. So I think our quad will be connected for a long time and it’s not excluded that we will all live together one day. We are already making plans to start a catering business in Southern Europe in the future. I wanted to do this for a long time, but my wife had doubts. With Stefan and Edith as enthusiastic partners, I was able to catch up. Our grown children, seasoned catering entrepreneurs, have already indicated their willingness to participate. They are quite comfortable with our new relationship building.


Times change, and love and sex change with them. Modern love contains many forms, open relationships, deep friendship with an ex, online love, non-binary love, and love for benefactors. Corine Koole is looking for stories about all kinds of love for this column and podcast.

sharing? Send a brief explanation by mail to: moderneliefde@volkskrant.nl.

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