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How a Polyamorous Mom Had “A Big Sexual Adventure” And Found Herself

Hadley Finch Intro: Discover a polyamorous mom’s highs and lows

of juggling an open marriage with work and child care,

courtesy of a NY TIMES review of a new memoir,
“MORE” by Molly Roden Winter

Book Review By Alexandra Alter

For anyone prone to experiencing secondhand
embarrassment, there’s a scene in Molly Roden
Winter’s debut, “More: A Memoir of Open
Marriage,” that should come with a warning.

Winter is at her home in Brooklyn. She has just had
sex with her boyfriend while her two children sleep
upstairs. Her husband, Stewart, consented to her
tryst, but feeling guilty, she dashes naked into
the kitchen to text him: Don’t worry, she writes,
“he has nothing on you as a lover.” But instead
of texting her husband, she accidentally sends the
message to her boyfriend, who leaves in a huff, and
later breaks up with her. Winter, devastated, begs
her husband to come home to comfort her.

“I still get a little nauseous thinking about
it,” said Winter, 51, who was sipping tea in the
living room of her bright and airy townhouse in
Park Slope, Brooklyn. “Talk about the cringiest,
cringiest, most awful thing that could happen.”

It’s far from the only agonizing and
breathtakingly candid scene in “More,” which
documents Winter’s often turbulent experience of
open marriage — the resentment and jealousy she
felt toward her husband’s girlfriends, the
flashes of guilt and shame, and the challenges of
juggling her obligations as a wife and mother with
her pursuit of sexual and romantic fulfillment.

Winter is keenly aware that people may judge her
for the behavior she describes in “More.” But
she also said she felt compelled to write about her
experience, in part because she felt that
non-monogamy is so often depicted as something
happening on the fringes, not as a lifestyle that
married moms pursue.

“I felt like there were no stories from the
mainstream about it, and I felt very closeted,”
Winter said. “It often feels like mothers are not
supposed to be sexual beings.”

“More,” which Doubleday will release on Jan.
16, is landing at a moment when polyamory is
drifting from the margins to the mainstream. About
a third of Americans surveyed in a YouGov poll in
February of 2023 said they preferred some form of
non-monogamy in relationships.

Along with novels, TV shows and movies that depict
throuples, polycules and other permutations of open
relationships, there is a growing body of
nonfiction literature that explores the ethics and
logistical hurdles of polyamory. Recent titles
include memoirs like the journalist Rachel
Krantz’s 2022 book “Open: An Uncensored Memoir
of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy,” and
self-help and inspirational books like “The
Anxious Person’s Guide to Non-Monogamy,” “The
Polyamory Paradox” and “A Polyamory
Devotional,” which has 365 daily reflections for
the polyamorous.

Jessica Fern, a psychotherapist who counsels people
in open relationships, said Winter’s account adds
a new layer to the growing catalog of nonfiction
about polyamory.

“Her story, which is about what it means for a
mother to be erotically charged, that story I
haven’t seen enough yet,” said Fern, author of
“Polysecure” and “Polywise.”

Fern noted that there might be a scarcity of books
by moms in open marriages because they are simply
too busy: “When you’re a parent and you’re
polyamorous, who has time to write?”

Winter concedes that polyamory could be exhausting
— particularly when she had to balance it with
marriage, child care and working as an 8th grade
English teacher.

“I did not sleep very much,” she said.

Opening the marriage wasn’t just about doing
whatever — and whoever — she wanted, she said.
She had to cast off internalized sexism and her
tendency to put others’ needs before her own,
issues she worked through in therapy. What began as
sexual thrill-seeking led unexpectedly to
self-discovery.

“I thought non-monogamy was going to be all about
the sex,” she said. “I thought I was going on a
big sexual adventure, and it was going to be super
exciting. And it was, until it wasn’t.”

To be clear: “More” is also about the sex.
Winter recounts her experiments with butt plugs,
fisting and anal intercourse, and catalogs her
extramarital relationships — which range from
brief encounters in seedy hotel rooms to romantic
partnerships that last for years — in meticulous
detail. She changed the names of her and her
husband’s respective partners to protect their
privacy, but often leaves little else to the
imagination.

There’s “Karl,” the generous German lover who
seems intent on pleasing her in bed, then pushes
her to have a threesome with him and his fiancé,
then ghosts her. There’s “Laurent,” the
French-Argentine lover who refuses to wear condoms
and likes to have sex in public restrooms and
co-working spaces — a fetish that gets Winter
banned for life from a shared office space.

And there’s “Jay,” a 29-year-old with a
shockingly large penis. After they have
unsatisfying sex, Jay tells Winter he usually
can’t orgasm from intercourse, but that he plans
to masturbate to the memory of her. “You’re
sweet,” she tells him.

Winter grew up in Evanston, Ill., and was in her
early 20s when she met Stewart Winter, the man she
would marry. He made her laugh and was passionate
about his work composing music for TV shows and
movies.

In 2008, they had been married for nearly a decade
and had two young sons when Winter met someone
else. Frustrated after an exhausting day caring for
their boys while he worked late, she took a walk
one evening. A friend invited her to drinks, and at
the bar she fell into a flirtatious conversation
with a man.

When she told her husband later, to her surprise,
he wasn’t mad. Instead, he urged her to sleep
with her new acquaintance, and share the details.

After Winter started dating, it wasn’t long
before Stewart also started seeing other women.
Though she agreed it was only fair, she was
consumed by jealousy and occasionally asked to
close the marriage.

Stewart confirmed that open marriage was easier for
him at first.

“Molly might have been more discerning than I was
at that point,” he said, comparing his dating
experience to being “at a salad bar.”

In the early years, many of her sexual exploits
proved unsatisfying. At the time, most online
dating sites didn’t cater to polyamorous people,
so she sometimes resorted to dating men who were
cheating on their wives and girlfriends. “Not my
finest hour,” she said.

Some of her closest friends worried that she was
sabotaging her marriage and that she would get
hurt.

“I worried that she was leaning so heavily into
the sex part that she was not really thinking about
the emotional element,” said Rebecca Morrissey, a
friend of more than 25 years, who added that her
concerns faded when Winter started forming
healthier relationships with her paramours.

Eventually, Winter swore off men who were cheating
and began seeing people who were also in open
relationships, a demographic that became easier to
find when online dating services added
non-monogamous to their menus. Even then, options
were limited.

“There were so few people that I kept getting
paired with Stewart,” she said.

Winter and her husband struggled with when and how
to tell their sons about their arrangement, and
wanted to wait until their children were mature
enough to handle it. That plan failed when their
oldest son, then 13, saw his dad’s online dating
profile on his laptop, and texted his mother in a
panic, asking if they were in an open marriage. Her
youngest son found out in a similar way a few years
ago, when he was 14, she said.

By now, her sons, who are 19 and 21, are blasé
about their parents’ sex lives. Her oldest has
read her book, and told Winter he skipped some of
the “nitty-gritty” sex scenes, while her
youngest chose not to read it, she said.

It took a few years before Winter felt comfortable
revealing the details of her open marriage to a
larger circle of friends and family.

When she told her mother about her adventures in
non-monogamy, she learned more about how her
parents, who have been married for nearly 60 years,
also had an open marriage.

Her parents, Mary and Philip Roden, were a bit
uncomfortable with the intimate details their
daughter shares in her memoir, but ultimately
endorsed the book, they said in a video interview.

“For the most part, I totally approved of what
she was saying,” Mary Roden said, though she
noted that she was put off by “the raw sexual
detailed descriptions.”

For his part, Stewart is enthusiastic about the
memoir, but worries that people will think he
manipulated his wife into opening their marriage.

“All my reservations, to be perfectly honest, are
because I’m being selfish, wondering, how is this
going to make me look?” he said.

“More” ends in 2018, when Winter’s boyfriend,
whose wife had recently divorced him, broke up with
her after she turned down his ultimatum to end her
own marriage. Winter was heartbroken, but moved on,
and has had other serious romances since.

She’s grown more confident that her marriage of
24 years has benefited from their outside
relationships. She’s mulling another book about
her open marriage — which will in part explore
the surprising connections she’s formed with the
“other women” in her life, including
Stewart’s girlfriends and the wives of the men
she dates.

For now, Winter is bracing herself for the impact
the book will inevitably have on her and those
around her — but she seemed undaunted.

“I’ve been spending a lot of my time calming
everybody else down,” she said. “This doesn’t
feel like something I need to be afraid of.”

**************************************************

Couples can throw away a marriage over a spouse’s fling

at a conference in Cleveland. Will you let the memoir, MORE,

start a courageous conversation about how you and

your beloved will keep things fresh and create happy,

sexy love that lasts in your relationship?

Hadley Finch

Claim a gift audiobook of my fave radio interviews

with Love experts at www.HappySexyLoveInRomanticRelationships.com

About Hadley Finch

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