'My wife insisted on an open marriage. Reluctantly I agreed' - husband of The Wild Oats author speaks out
Published 03/04/2015 | 02:30
Bored with their sex life, Scott Mansfield's wife insisted they both sleep with other people. Now she's written a bestseller about it. But how does Scott feel?
Poor Scott Mansfield. He never planned on having his sex life and his soul exposed to the world, with every excruciating detail laid bare for the delectation of others, but this is exactly what has happened. The book his ex-wife Robin Rinaldi has written about their open marriage has become a publishing sensation.
People are clamouring to read The Wild Oats Project, which recounts how the 44-year-old magazine journalist felt trapped in a marriage where the sex was routine and her husband was emotionally remote. Supposedly to fix this, she implemented a 12-month strategy whereby both parties could sleep with others during the week, but would return to being a couple at weekends.
Opting out of monogamy for a fixed period of time seems a weird way to fix a faltering relationship, so why on earth did he agree to it?
"It wasn't something I wanted to do. I didn't like the idea of opening up our marriage," Mansfield says, in his first interview today.
"But if I didn't do it, I felt we were heading for divorce, so I thought why not take a chance and maybe we can come out the other side?"
In her book, Rinaldi says one of the reasons for her year of living dangerously was that the couple's sex life was "vanilla''. She acknowledges that after 18 years together they still made love once or twice a week but she describes their love-making as being predictable and lacking in passion.
In a bid to spice things up, she had a stripper's pole installed in the living room of their apartment in San Francisco but when she performed a sexy dance, her husband merely commented: "Very nice, doll."
Ouch. That must be a difficult thing for a woman to hear. "Well, I thought the relationship was stable and happy," he says carefully. "When I was younger I dated a lot and by the time we got married I'd had enough sexual partners. I was looking for emotional intimacy and that was what I got out of the marriage."
Rinaldi says she might have put up with all this had the couple been able to shift their focus to raising a child.
Together for 18 years and married for seven, it had always been a point of conflict that she wanted children but he did not. In Wild Oats, it seems clear that the author's quest to have sex with strangers was spurred by the fact that her husband finally ended the debate by having a vasectomy - "I refuse to go to my grave with no children and only four lovers," she declares.
Does he believe Rinaldi's search for extramarital sex was an act of vengeance for being denied the chance of motherhood?
"I don't know Robin's mind, but I doubt it was revenge," says the 59-year-old IT manager of a law firm. "For a long time she was ambivalent about having kids. As our relationship went on, it was an issue we discussed often, and went to counselling about, but we didn't actually come to any resolution. I regret that now."
When Rinaldi thought she was pregnant, Mansfield admits he was stricken. "I was depressed. It was something I hadn't wanted. It was only a few days where she thought she was pregnant and if it had happened, I would have adapted. I would have been a good father. We would have been good parents. But it wasn't a life I would have chosen," he says.
He seems defensive about criticism that he behaved cruelly towards the woman he loved and says he was always clear about not being interested in fatherhood.
"Is it cruel not to change your mind about something you believe in? People can think what they want but I don't think Robin ever thought I was being cruel.
"At any point she could have left me and found somebody else to have a child with or I could have left her and found somebody who wasn't going to bother me about it," he adds.
Wild Oats chronicles the dozen lovers Rinaldi took, including a lesbian tryst and a threesome, plus the sex therapies and the orgasmic meditation course she embarked upon.
She rented a flat a few streets from the marital home, put an advert online saying Good Girl Seeks Experience and threw herself into risky sexual encounters.
There is juicy detail about the men she had sex with. "I found penises beautiful - ordinary organs that grew into sculptures made of flesh."
Meanwhile, all we learn about Mansfield is that he didn't cry at his own wedding but was teary at a friend's nuptials, had a passion for home-brewing that led to him publishing a book called Strong Waters, and had only one lover during the experiment (this broke one of Rinaldi's rules, which was that neither of them would have more than three dates with anyone).
He read a draft of the book before it went to the publisher but says he doesn't know if he wants to read about what exactly his wife got up to.
He says all this with candour and without malice, in a surprisingly laid-back way. An attractive man with salt and pepper hair, kind eyes and a genial manner, he seems at ease in his own skin.
He does not remember exactly when Rinaldi proposed the open marriage experiment, which went on from 2008 into 2009, which seems strange in itself. Surely one would remember when a spouse suggests a period of infidelity.
He admits he gave Rinaldi "hall passes" a couple of times in the early stages of their relationship, including sending her off to New Orleans with a packet of condoms and permission to do what she liked. "Robin mentioned periodically through the years the fact that she hadn't had many lovers. I knew it was something that bothered her," he explains.
He also says he did not want to be hypocritical, because as a younger man he had had plenty of sexual experiences, including a six-year affair with a married friend, and in the early days of his and Rinaldi's courtship, he had sex with another female friend and "felt bad about it''.
This was in the early days before they were emotionally committed, Mansfield says, and he knew that Rinaldi's open marriage idea would lead to trouble.
"If you have sex outside of your primary relationship and it's good, you're going to want to do it again. And if it's bad, then you've just wasted your time and your intimacy.
"I was against it but it wasn't going to be a long-term thing. It was only going to be for a while and we were going to try and keep it above board and keep to some rules, like not sleeping with people we both knew. I thought there was a chance we could get through it."
He is honest enough to admit that the fact that he also got to sleep with other women was "appealing''. He dated a handful of women but slept with only one and had a six-month relationship with her which he eventually broke off.
Still, he says he longed for the 12 months to be over. "I remember at least one conversation when I asked Robin if she was done yet, if she had racked up the stats she needed to rack up, and she told me no.
"But it was interesting for me to go outside of our marriage, I can't deny that. I enjoyed the feeling of being attracted to other women and getting good feedback. I had a couple of women who said to me: 'I can't believe your wife would risk losing you, you're such an awesome guy,' so when you hear that, you know, it makes you feel pretty good."
Was he ever angry about what was happening? "A bit, maybe," he says, "But when you dig beneath the anger, there's hurt. So yes, I was hurt."
He says there were times when he cried himself to sleep at night, knowing that his wife was only a few streets away in her little rented flat, having sex with other men.
After the 12-month period ended, the couple got back together but it was never the same, he acknowledges. "Robin was still going out quite a bit.
"We weren't making plans. Robin was in the process of checking out of the relationship and I was done trying to put a lot of effort into keeping the marriage together," he remembers.
"It hit me really hard when she said she was leaving, though it wasn't a surprise. It was the fact that suddenly it was real - there was no possibility of repairing it."
Rinaldi left him for one of the lovers she met during her year of sexual adventure.
"You know, maybe I was naive but I didn't realise she was leaving me for somebody else," he said.
Again there is no anger in his voice.
"I don't think I was any more upset about somebody else being involved - I was just upset that my marriage was over."
The couple are now divorced. Rinaldi is still with her lover and Mansfield has a girlfriend, Renée Alexander, who he lives with.
He says he's very happy and is not embarrassed about the intimate details of his life being made available for public consumption.
"It's my life and Robin's life and she wanted to write the book and I think people should do what they want to do as long as they're not hurting anybody else," he shrugs.
"A lot of married couples think about open marriages but would never actually do it.
"When it was happening, my friends wanted the salacious details - they were saying: 'I'd love to be able to date other women, call up old girlfriends' - but it was something they'd never do themselves," he says.
'Strong Waters' by Scott Mansfield is available on Amazon.