“Will Having an Open Marriage Backfire on Me?”

Is it a way to include a great new person into the picture? Or is it a trap created out of insecurity?

This week, a question comes from the TrèsSugar community. A woman and her husband spend a lot of time with one of his good friends. Her husband broached the topic of opening their marriage to this friend. While her pro list is longer than her con list, she wonders if her husband will get jealous and if there is any way this won’t end in a disaster.

My husband has a friend “John Doe,” who hasn’t had sex in many years. He is handsome—I think he looks kind of like a young Tom Hanks—and super sweet. He likes seeing romantic movies and miniseries and sometimes watches them with me. He is the most intelligent person I know and has an IQ of something like 180. His problem is that he was abused as a child and has depression. He was 9 the first time he attempted suicide and eventually turned to burning—he calls it “branding”—himself as a coping mechanism to avoid suicide. He doesn’t do this stuff anymore, but he still has issues with depression. My husband has asked me if I would be willing to open our marriage to this friend of his. I am so conflicted about this. Here are my pros and cons.

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PRO

  • “John” is the nicest man I know, and I would love to be with him. If my husband ever dies or leaves me, I would marry him.
  • I really think that I can help him with his problems with intimacy and women.
  • My husband has talked about doing this for a long time and insists he is OK with the idea of me making love to his friend. He even says that if John and I fall in love he will be OK with it as long as I don’t leave him or fall out of love with him—which would never happen.
  • The idea of being with two men at the same time who both love me and accept each other is awesome.
  • We don’t have children, and even though it would tear me to pieces to lose my marriage if things go terribly wrong, everyone that would be involved is a consenting adult.

CON

  • I am really worried that John will be upset with my husband and I if we offer him this—he refuses to even go to strip clubs. I worry about ruining our friendship with him. I know he likes me a lot, but he still might refuse.
  • It seems impossible that my husband won’t eventually get jealous even if he promises he won’t.
  • Will I be jealous if John eventually gets another girlfriend? I don’t think so, but I might change my mind if I fall in love with him.

I need some advice. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. I think the intentions to open the marriage up is nice, but why is this the only solution to help John? Can’t you just talk to John 1-on-1 to help him through this–is your sex necessarily the answer? Don’t you guys have a wonderful single friend to set him up with. I just think opening a marriage to get someone out of the depression and its effects is one of the strangest ways to go about this. Doesn’t make it wrong either–but surely there are options since you’re hesitant and probably right about all the Cons.

  2. In my experience before you even start down this road you have to ask yourself some more questions. What kind of relationship are you looking for? Are you looking to swing once in awhile with a third person there? Are you looking for someone that you or your husband could have sex with on the side with out the other marital spouse there? Are you wanting to have multiple emotional relationships with people? Or just sexual? How will you define your relationship after it is opened up? What are your ground rules? What is the other man’s role in this new definition and what are the rules he would need? What if your husband decides since you have a new male partner he wants a new female partner? Then what?

    I’ve done variations of the open relationship. From full on open where me and my primary partner had other emotional and sexual partners to more of a swinging arrangement where me and my partner just had the occasional partner swapping trysts or group experience. But these relationships all started with very open and honest communication between us and then between the people we wanted to include in this once we decided on our boundaries and rules. These are not the world’s easiest relationships to maintain. There will be jealousy. There will be unexpected reactions if you all are unexperienced. You will need to be continually open and honest with everyone involved. It will take work.

    I also question why offering up your sexuality is supposed to be the cure for this abused person’s depression? Has consideration been paid to the fact that he hasn’t had sex for many years? Is this a choice he’s making? Is he not comfortable with that level of intimacy? Does he have a history of sexual abuse? Are you two ready and willing to deal with opening that door? This is a person who doesn’t sound like he is the most stable individual in the entire world. In my experience I did not drag them into an open relationship as they often lack the coping mechanisms necessary to deal with all the emotional issues and jealousy issues that crop up. He apparently was actively suicidal at one point in his life. From the original post he sounds like he’s still contemplating suicide but using self mutilation as a coping mechanism. Sounds to me that he would benefit more from therapy and good friendship rather than being used for a good time by two people who are supposed to be his friends. Also I feel that therapeutic sex is playing with fire with this particular individual.

    My suggestion for you and your husband if you’re thinking about going down this road is to find a good swinger community of like minded people and start working from there.

  3. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Expect John to bond limmerantly with you if the sex works. This may not be comfortable, and you may want to get a book on limerance, and read up on it. If you get limerant, it will diminish the value of your marriage, at least temporarily. A formula that’s worked for me in affairs has been not to have them with my partner’s friends, in fact to use “don’t ask; don’t tell.”

    It doesn’t sound like John is very safe psychologically. This may be too much of a sacrifice once the newness wears off.

    • Dolores Haze says:

      I agree. In poly circles this is called “NRE” – New Relationship Energy. If you google that term, lots of folks chime in with advice about how they handle it, or simply ride it out.

  4. Anthony Deluca says:

    This is extremely risky. There is a very real chance this will destroy your marriage.

  5. I am wondering why he would be upset if you broached the subject. Is there any indication he might be something other than heterosexual? You know your feelings for him, but do you know his feelings for you?

  6. Wirbelwind says:

    I think this article says a lot about a serious danger to “open marriage” or a cuckold fetish :
    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/dear_prudence/2011/08/take_my_wife_please.html

  7. What is the danger of admitting your husband is gay? This is the question you should be asking.
    What will my reaction be when he comes? Should be on your horizon.
    Strip clubs are questionable enough- let me get this straight[?]- a bunch of guys getting inebriated and tumescent together.
    Yes it is a double standard- most guys can conceive of a 3way with their SO & another woman.
    Frankly having looked at ourselves in the mirror we question her taste already…. Has she looked at my back hair?
    There is no straight guy who wants to get into bed with another man under any circumstances.

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