Emily and Paul hate when people ask how they met. "Through friends," they usually say, and it's not entirely untrue. What they're leaving out, however, is that those friends are their ex-husband and ex-wife, respectively, and that sometime during orgasm-filled weekends of swinging among the four of them, Emily and Paul fell head over heels for each other, divorced their spouses and lived happily ever after. It's not your typical love story.
Emily was 23 when she married her high school sweetheart, Mark, in 2001. By 2003, the couple was engaging in threesomes with an old college friend, Amanda, unbeknownst to her husband. That husband was Paul. (All names used in this story are pseudonyms.) Eventually, Amanda and Emily roped Paul into the fun by giving him a threesome of his own. And, sometime after that, the couples started switching.
This was a new experience for Paul but old hat for Emily, who'd been living in an open relationship with Mark. It had begun while he was deployed.
"At first, I'd make out with guys, and I'd tell him about it," she says, "and he was, like, 'Eh, whatever.' He'd be upset a little bit, but it was kind of OK. But then I gave him permission to do the same. That's when he started messing around with Amanda," she continues, "which evolved into them having sex."
In other words, no concrete boundaries were set to dictate what would fly in their arrangement and what wouldn't. Instead, it was almost as if each party took turns upping the ante.
To a degree, threesomes with other women had been Emily's way of buying more sexual freedom. "A little bit of it was putting money in the bank," she says. "As in, 'OK, I'll do this for you, but in the future, I want to do things with other guys.'?"
Eventually Paul became the guy Emily did those things with, unaware that his wife had already been a sexual guest in Emily's marriage.
Upon looking back, neither Emily nor Paul can quite remember how he learned the backstory. "I think you told me," Paul tells Emily, causing her to chuckle.
"That doesn't sound like me," she says.
"Well, I think you slipped," Paul replies.
When she did, Paul was angry: at Amanda for cheating, and at Mark — a man he called a friend — for nailing his wife behind his back. But here's the rub: By the time the secret came out, Paul had already developed feelings for Emily. He didn't want to stop seeing her.
Which is, of course, where the waters got extremely murky. Each pair stayed married, but the four continued to swing regularly. It began to run their lives.
"It was all-consuming," Emily says. "It was like drugs."
Why such an addiction? "Because it feels like the first time you fall in love," she says.
Of course, she was falling in love. With Paul. ...
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