The Pain Is Fine: How We Moved from Vanilla to Swirl to Chocolate Kink

a chocolate vanilla swirl ice cream cone with a blue store with yellow lettering on the sign (appears to read Zesto) in the background
Image by Shelby L. Bell / CC BY

“Causing Someone Pain Is Never Okay”

“Ow,” he says.

It takes me a second to even hear that he’s said anything. We’re cuddling on his bed, and I’m so cozy and comfy that I’ve half zoned out of reality.

“C’mon, Page, move,” he says. shoving me to the side.

“Oh,” I say.

He looks mad.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“You were lying on my hair,” he says.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

“You didn’t even know you were doing it,” he says.

“Well, now that I know that I was, I’m sorry,” I say.

His eyes are still cold. “Causing someone else pain is never okay,” he says.

Stepping On My Toes

I think back on that conversation later when we’re taking dance lessons. We keep getting tangled. Stomping on each others’ toes.

“Damn it, Page,” he says. “Watch where you’re going.”

I’m trying to…Well, okay. No, I’m not. I’m staring at his face. Thinking about how good it feels to be in his arms.

To be fair, he’s stepping on me, too. More than I am stepping on him, even. The pain just isn’t a big deal.

When I pull off my shoes and socks later, he sees the beat-up state of my feet.

“Christ,” he says. “How did that happen?”

“I don’t know,” I lie.

“Was it from dancing?” he says.

I don’t say anything.

“Page, you should have told me. That’s horrible.” He looks stricken.

“I’m fine,” I say.

He doesn’t believe me. I can’t say I blame him. I’m in the habit of lying to spare his feelings, even though this time I’m telling the truth.

He Never Got to Taste Other Flavors

We marry. Sure, we have some compatibility issues, but looking around at the other people we know, we’re no more mismatched than anyone else. In fact, to a lot of our friends, we seem like the couple who has everything going for them.

And I like it this way, the world thinking we are the embodiment of a great love story. So I keep a lot of the discord to myself. The “almost there but not quite.” The way he thinks that everything I say is boring and doesn’t read my writing because he doesn’t like it. The fact that I want sex much more often than he does and cry in the shower when I’m sure he can’t hear me.

He thinks I’m melodramatic. Needy. Intense.

And I believe him.

I know it can’t be easy to be married to me. I’m retired from a wilder life, as a musician on the road. Friends say I talk about my present in a way that shows that my past was full of greater adventures. And my husband can’t help but pick up on that and feel left out.

“I never got to have those exciting times. To get out there and taste all the flavors. I settled down too young,” he says.

But I like being settled.

One day we discover close friends of ours have opened their marriage. They’re polyamorous, they say, and it’s the first time I’ve heard the word.

My husband sees it as his chance to have the experiences he never got to have. And after some soul-searching, I agree to take the leap. It’s a difficult transition at first since we have no idea what we’re doing — and neither does anyone around us.

But I find many unexpected benefits, so I do the work.

I Discover the Kink Scene

And one curious theme emerges as I meet other polyamorous people and get to know them: A great number of them are kinky. At first, I’m annoyed by this, but as I learn more, I discover that I’m kinky, too, even though I’d never thought of myself that way before. But as I think back on my sexual experiences, it makes so much sense. I’m playful about sex. I like being creative, having fun. Even if what that looks like is a little weird.

But when I bring this realization to my husband, he’s uncomfortable. “I thought you were weird before, but ugh,” he says.

I do my best to explain, showing him resources, but he cringes away from them. “I’m not hitting you or calling you names in bed,” he says. “Forget it.”

He tells me I can do it with others, so long as I don’t tell him too many details. As the months go on, he surprises me with his openness, his support. He comes along with me, my boyfriend, and metamour when I visit a dungeon for my first play party. Starts to hang out with the some of the new kinksters I’m meeting.

“I’m not sure what to say when they talk about the kink stuff, but they’re great people,” he says. He goes to munches and board game nights. My poly vanilla husband.

The Ex Turns to Chocolate

The cracks in our relationship deepen. The incompatibility that was always there but just beyond our view. We divorce but amicably. Staying on friendly terms.

And then one day, many years after we part ways, he reaches out to me with questions about kink:

I want to negotiate, he writes, but I don’t even know where to start. 

A hot girl wants to top him, he adds, one from our old poly/swing circle back home. I know her but not well.

My vanilla ex-husband is getting into kink. I give him the best advice I can, amused by how things have changed.

*

As I write this essay, it’s been 2 years since he got into kink himself, and he couldn’t be happier.

And neither could I.

*

My book is out!

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory

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