How My Heartbreak Led Me to an Open Relationship with a Married Couple

Emily Stroia
Dec 29, 2020 · 16 min read
Photo by Taisiia Shestopal on Unsplash

Escaping the grip of heartbreak is like trying to climb out of quicksand before you are swallowed by the pain. Once it all hits you all you can do is try to come up for air and tell yourself to do the one basic thing you’ve been doing since birth, breathe. There are many ways to process heartbreak. We develop these patterns on how to cope with the pain and then these patterns become our second nature. Some of us go inward and retreat. Some of us work until the sun rises. Some of us just focus on the positive and completely avoid any negative thoughts. And some of us just make a mess out of our sadness. I’m that girl. I walk on the edge of being okay to one triggered thought and I go too far.

When my boyfriend, Myles, first broke up with me, I sobbed as if my mother had just died. During the day, I hung out like a lost soul at my best friend, Roxanne’s house attempting to work from my laptop with intermittent crying breaks and asking her every half hour, “Do you think he’ll come back?”

We still followed each other on Instagram so I’d purposely post occasional pictures of me smiling big, red lipstick, big black framed fake glasses, fitted blue jeans and a black leather jacket with erect shoulder pads that made me feel like a movie star. If you’re heartbroken, why not make it fashion? I’d refresh my Instagram stories every few minutes just to see if he had viewed them. I wanted him to want me again and if he didn’t then I wanted him to regret breaking up with me. I wanted him to suffer the same way I was suffering. And when the sun went down, I turned into a creature of the night. I ate once a day and the rest of my missing calorie intake was consumed in alcohol.

Roxanne invited me to a post-burning man rave. “Yes! Let’s do it”, I said in a high-pitched tone with slight hesitation. I heard my therapist’s voice in my head, “I think you should heal and take care of yourself during this time”.

“I think you should heal and take care of yourself during this time”

We got to the rave and I got to explore the burning man replica art installations, pretend to dance to the weird techno-house music, and sip tea with a bunch of strangers dressed up like characters from Alice in Wonderland. For a moment, I forgot about my break-up or the sadness that sat on my shoulder like a sponsor periodically checking in with my choices. We ventured over to the beer bar and while I was standing in line, someone caught my eye.

He walked past me, stopped and did a double-take. He was wearing an olive leather jacket, dark jeans with frays in the knees, and had dark brown short hair with a sway in it. His dark eyes turned me on and the way he looked at me made me want to know his name. Before we lost eye contact, before I could think, said, “I like your hair”.

He weaved his way through a group of people over towards me. “I’m Jake. I like your glasses”, as he locked eyes with mine. The voice of sadness interjected in mind during our conversation, “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be healing and taking care of yourself. What if he comes back?”.

Jake got me and Roxanne a drink. He introduced me to his two best friends who were there to kick off his birthday weekend. He sent his wife and daughter away to the local hotel for the night with some cash to spend on whatever they wanted. I wondered what it was like for his wife to be married to him. I wondered what it was like to be in an open relationship. The idea of open relationships always intrigued me and he wasn’t the first polygamous person I dated.

We danced together and chatted a bit about his open relationship with his wife. He showed me her thoughtful texts to him during the night and his replies. “I met someone,” he replied to her. “Oh good! Have fun!”, she said. I was shocked at their ease and trust with each other. My initial thought was to not waste my time but my curiosity spoke to me.

I’m not looking for a relationship. He seems pretty cool. I could just hang out with him for the night. Why not, just have fun!

It didn’t take much for me to convince myself this was the right choice for me considering my intentions. I liked how Jake made me feel around him; safe, cared for, seen. “We are going to be hanging out for a while? Yeah, you and I are going to be hanging out for a while”, he said with a sense of certainty about us that I wasn’t aware of. I didn’t know we were an us already.

A few hours and 2 molly pills later Jake invited Roxanne and me to go back to his house. I, without second thought, said yes. Before we did anything he gave me a tour of his home in Hollywood. They were installing a pool in the backyard. His wife had an entire room just for her clothes, pointed shoes and fancy hats. They both had taste for fashion and nice things. After the tour, Jake and I went to the hot tub. Roxanne sat in the corner of the living room side-eyeing me as she pretended to be interested in the guy with long hair who sounded poetic when he spoke. Jake leaned over and kissed me gently and then slid his tongue in my mouth. An instant heat and wetness filled my body that wasn’t from the hot tub.

Roxanne went home and I decided to stay. Jake said good night to his friends and then we ventured to the bedroom. I wondered if his wife would feel weird about another woman sleeping in their bed. He said I was a submissive like his wife and wanted to experiment with me a little. I was blindfolded and told to wait on the bed for him. My heart raced in anticipation. I couldn’t tell you how long I sat on that bed but after what felt like forever, I felt his body in front of me.

“You know, I could have you wait here for hours”, he whispered, playing tenderly with my breasts with something that felt like a cold metal nipple stimulator with jagged grooves.

I got goosebumps. He finally took my blindfold off and put his dick in my mouth. It felt wide in width and curved. I didn’t really want to suck his dick so I tasted it and stopped abruptly. He looked at me surprised. He came up behind me and whispered in my ear how he wanted to see me and his wife together. I felt a sense of sadness.

It was near sunrise when we fell asleep. I tossed and turned most and wished his arms weren’t around me. My mind wandered to Myles and I wondered if he missed me. I wanted to erase the last 12 hours of my life and call Myles, tell him how sorry I was and how I couldn’t imagine life without him. I wanted to say goodbye to Jake and never talk to him again.

Morning came. Jake made me coffee and we hung out for a bit talking about our night together. There was a feeling of kismet between us as if we both needed an escape from our lives. It was officially his birthday and had plans to have a rooftop birthday brunch with his wife, daughter and close friends at the Kimpton Hotel. He ordered me an uber home and we hugged goodbye. On my ride home, I wondered if we’d ever talk again but then again, it didn’t really matter. I was left to deal with my sadness, alone and heartbroken. I wasn’t going to reach out to him. I got home, took a shower, got into my pj’s, checked my phone hoping I’d missed a call from Myles. Instead a message appeared, “Audrey wants to meet you. Come to brunch, see you soon? -Jake”.

I sat on the edge of my bed staring at my phone contemplating his invitation. I looked for the cutest top I could find and a pair of fitted jeans with red heels. I wore black frame glasses for fashion and also because Jake asked me to wear them when I met Audrey. It would all make sense to her why he fell for me. In the Uber my mind raced with the same loop of thoughts. What am I doing? Why am I doing this? What is his wife going to be like? Isn’t his daughter going to be there? This is so weird. Why am I doing this?

“What do you want to eat? I’ll order you something”, — Jake. “Salad with shrimp sounds good. Thank you!” The Uber dropped me off at a posh chic hotel with marble floors and modern furniture. I took the elevator to the penthouse roof floor, clenched my jaw and held my breath. It’s just brunch. It’s just brunch. Breathe. Breathe. I step out of the elevator to a view of the Los Angeles skyline with mountains in the distance. There is a slight breeze in the air and the sky is painted light blue with white brush strokes. I walk down past the elevator and to my left is a large table. Jake is sitting at the end, his wife across from him, his daughter and all their closest friends. He immediately gets up from his chair, gives me a hug and points me to where my spot is at the table with a grilled shrimp salad and a glass of wine waiting for me. I try not to let my jaw drop. I sit next to Audrey. She has black shoulder length hair cut in a bob with bangs across her forehead. She reminds me of a darker haired Marilyn Monroe. “Everyone this is Emily.” Everyone gives me a warm welcome and asks Jake how we met. “Oh we met last night at the party in the park. We just connected really well.” There are two other younger women probably my age and a couple who are super into each other. The woman in a relationship nods her head and says, “Yeah that’s how it is sometimes.” For a moment I don’t know what’s harder for me to believe, I’m sitting at a table with Jake, his wife, daughter and all his close friends or that everyone is super relaxed about us especially his wife.

We chit chat for a bit and then decide to go for a swim in the heated pool. Audrey walks with me to change into our bathing suits and we go into the single bathroom together. I catch her looking at me as I’m changing into my 2 piece black bikini. “I just want to say thank you. Because of you Jake is smiling again. I haven’t seen him smile in weeks and I’m so happy. Thank you”. What? Wait, did she just thank me for making her husband smile? She gives me a hug and all I can say is, “Oh, of course. You’re welcome”.

“So what do you think Audrey? Do you approve?”, Jake asks while we are sitting poolside. “I mean, how can I not?”, Audrey smiles back at him nodding sweetly completely casual. We all sit together like a special family staring at the sunset. A tinge of loneliness hit me in the core as I see Audrey rest her head on Jake’s shoulder. Is this how it will always be as three? There’s something about being second in a relationship that just doesn’t sit right with me.

Heartbreak is confusing. It can convince us to live outside our comfort zone, to try new things and to fall back into old patterns of behavior. It’s a wild ride into the unknown and can trigger old wounds. For me, the break up with Myles triggered my trauma around abandonment and feeling unworthy of a loving and safe committed relationship. Myles had broken up with me because of my insecurities around trust. In some way, I resented him for it but also at the same I understood. My questioning phone calls and distrusting tone whenever he went out with friends, an innocent social act, was triggering for me. I had been cheated on so many times I assumed seeing friends meant he would hook up or fuck another chick. In my daydreams, I couldn’t imagine a life without Myles but yet I couldn’t figure out how to make that a reality without ruining our relationship with my baggage.

It has been just a little over a week since the break-up. In that time I had entered an open relationship with a couple. It wasn’t what I wanted but it was the perfect escape. It started off just me and Jake, hikes along the coast of Santa Monica, brunch dates, picnics on the beach. It was more than sex for him. We both shared a broken past with our fathers and he thought that maybe that’s why we cosmically met, that I might be able to help him heal that wound. If he could give himself a tribal name it would have been “running warrior”. I liked his aura and soft connection to something deeper, something mystical. In a sense I think that’s why we both were drawn to each other.

I explored the relationship with Jake and Audrey and tried to figure out how it could fit into my life. One night I went over to their house and we all hung out in their living room that they transformed into what they called a sex den.

After a couple of glasses of wine, Audrey scooted over and asked me, “So what do you want to do with this?”. I stared at her waiting for her to elaborate. “What do you mean?”, I asked. “You know, with Jake. He’s in love with you.”

I didn’t know what to say. What do people like me do with open couples? All that made sense to me was exploring our relationship. Was he really in love with me? Did it matter? “I can’t be everything for Jake and I don’t want to be that’s why this works for us. I obviously will still be his primary partner but he’s totally smitten for you”, Audrey looked at me with an honesty I loved and craved deeply in myself. In some way I imagined Audrey as a slightly future version of myself. I wanted to love someone the way she loved Jake. I wanted to know what I meant to love someone unconditionally with unwavering trust and commitment. Jake and Audrey found a formula that worked for their relationship. I’m not saying it’s right but it works for them.

Days later I was at my best friend’s house when my phone rang. “Myles is calling!”, I jumped up out of my concentrated hunch over my laptop trance. My heart raced as a million thoughts flooded my mind before I answered. Do I tell him about Jake and Audrey? Should I even tell him? I want to be honest with him. Just see how it goes. “Hello?, I answered in a masked calm but anxiety-ridden tone. “Hey, uh, do you have a moment to talk?” I, of course did, anything for him. “Yes, I do. What’s up?”, I said. “I was thinking about us the last couple of weeks and would like to meet up. Do you have some time?” I paced back and forth in the room as I slowly said yes. “Yes, I can meet up but I have to tell you something first. I slept with someone. I just want you to know now before we talk.” His voice lowered and I could hear the sadness penetrate through the phone without him saying a word. “Wow.. I can’t say hearing that doesn’t hurt but I understand”. I felt like I had just put a dagger in his heart.

I put on my favorite pair of worn out denim jeans with black quilted leather boots and a beige sweater and met him the next day. We met over drinks and appetizers in a fancy restaurant with dim lighting and dishes I couldn’t pronounce clearly. He picked a spot in the corner at the end of the bar a bit more secluded from everyone else. He’d always been that kind of guy. He had questions, tons of questions particularly about Jake and Audrey. I hesitated my excitement to see him and yet all I wanted was to be in his arms.

Reconciling is an even more vulnerable process than heartbreak. You have to unweave the tangled web of problems left behind and repair what was broken. It takes time, listening, honest deep listening, compassion and patience. It’s not an overnight process and really requires looking not just at your partner but looking at yourself. I explained Jake and Audrey to Myles in a very casual but confident manner.

I wanted to be free with Myles in the way Audrey and Jake were free with each other. I wanted us to feel secure, and safe sexually with each other. Jake and Audrey’s relationship showed me a world of sexual freedom, self-exploration and unconditional love. It was their world and while I tried to make it fit into mine, the puzzle pieces just weren’t connecting.

Myles and I met again several times after. Once for a walk at the beach and another time he picked me up and took me on a drive along the Pacific Coast. Was there a future for us? Could we repair and grow together? He was willing to put in the work but I was stuck in my ego of feeling abandoned and hurt that he had broken up with me. I casually mentioned Jake and Audrey and pitched the idea that we all meet. Myles was game to meet them and even asked how I felt about him hooking up with Audrey. I got a pit in my stomach and started back-peddling my thoughts about the whole idea.

I did have plans to see Jake and Audrey again on Halloween and decided to go solo. Audrey stayed home with their sick daughter who had a mysterious fever for days. Jake needed an escape and so we all went out to the Abbey in West Hollywood. All night Jake made it clear he wanted more from carrying my heels when it hurt to walk, paying for everything to bluntly telling me Myles wasn’t the guy for me and that he and Audrey would always be there for me. It was quite strange to have a married man want to give you the world while also trying to repair a relationship with the guy who broke your heart. Our night ended with him going home and me being too high searching for a cab while sitting on the street of West Hollywood talking to a gay guy try to rationalize getting back together with his abusive boyfriend. All I remember is telling him he deserved better and to never take him back.

The next day Myles came over for dinner. We talked and I told him about Halloween with Jake. He listened with his caramel brown eyes and patiently asked questions about how I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t be friends with Jake and Audrey. It just didn’t feel right. What felt right was working on things with us and taking time to repair and heal.

The experience with Audrey and Jake left me dumbfounded for a long time. I felt confused. I didn’t understand myself. Why had I explored that relationship? What was I looking for? Did I want to be polyagamous? In my heart I knew I craved a solo partner and felt like I could have that with Myles but what did it all mean? Myles knew because occasionally he’d ask me what I learned from it. I didn’t know. I didn’t have an answer for him. My thoughts were still integrating something so unexpected but yet so profound.

My therapist taught me always to stick to the facts and throw out the thoughts that don’t make sense. If I practiced that exercise the facts were: 1. I was heartbroken, 2. I went to a rave and met Jake, 3. I liked him, 4. I wanted to explore what it was like to be in that kind of a relationship, 5. I didn’t want a committed relationship, 6. I still wanted to be with Myles. When you stick to the facts, there isn’t a lot of space for drama to take up in the mind. The writing is on the wall and you don’t have to live in false stories or misconceptions about reality. It is a simple way to really know yourself and understand the world for what it is.

Myles and I were on a road to recovery and healing and in some strange way my intuition knew he was the guy for me. Months before I had met Myles I had a vision in meditation that I was going to meet a long-term partner who was practical and grounded. The permanency of the relationship is what terrified me, not because I would spend the rest of my life with someone but because I was afraid I’d ruin it. My track record of abusive relationships and trauma left me lacking faith in my own ability to sustain a healthy loving relationship ever. Myles entered my life in a time when I was committed to self-healing and facing the darkest pains of my past.

Break-ups are for self-discovery, channeling grief in unexpected ways and facing your shadows. Healing might come from a fling or it may come from sitting with your pain. It really doesn’t matter. It is a journey of self-liberation and letting go. You may let go of an old identity or pattern of behavior when it comes to love and partners. It is an awakening into one’s self. Myles taught me that if I wanted a quality relationship I needed to be a quality person. Being a trauma survivor I repeated toxic patterns of communication in all my relationships and never really committed to changing myself.

You can’t enter a new relationship carrying old baggage without unpacking it some day. An old friend saw Jake and Audrey at a party a couple years ago who said Jake asked about me. I reached out to him thanking him and shared the news that Myles and I had recently had a baby.


Life is short for small talk. Stay to be inspired and change your mind.

Emily Stroia

Written by

Self-help & mental health writer. Can't do small talk. Mama. Yogi. Coffee lover. Nature explorer. Get my free meditation mini-course here:


A publication focused on mental health, motherhood, sex, sexuality, trauma and self-help.

Emily Stroia

Written by

Self-help & mental health writer. Can't do small talk. Mama. Yogi. Coffee lover. Nature explorer. Get my free meditation mini-course here:


A publication focused on mental health, motherhood, sex, sexuality, trauma and self-help.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store