How to Do It

I Gave My Husband One Rule for Threesomes, and He Broke It Right in Front of Me

How can I learn to trust him again?

Two women standing over a man in bed looking guilty.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images Plus, StHelena/iStock/Getty Images Plus, and feelphotoart/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!

Dear How to Do It,

My husband and I have an amazing relationship, and I love him deeply. A few months ago, at my suggestion, we started trying threesomes (with another woman) and have really enjoyed it so far. It’s brought us even closer—it’s given me a chance to explore that side of my sexuality—and it’s been a really fun and positive experience. One of our boundaries concerns his orgasm, which we decided from the beginning should always be with me. It just felt like a more intimate thing, and it hasn’t been an issue until our most recent encounter. The other woman and I had spent quite a bit of time teasing him, and he wasn’t able to hold back when he was inside of her (he was wearing protection, of course). He feels absolutely terrible, and I understand how it happened, but I’m now feeling uneasy. I feel like my trust has been broken, but it was an accident, and I’m not angry, just on edge. There’s nothing to be done about the past, but I’m trying to process how to move forward and also not spend our next encounter worrying about it happening again. Any advice?

—Over the Edge

Dear Over the Edge,

Anything uncontrollable is a less than ideal boundary. Imagine if your boundary was “I won’t sweat heavily during the sex.” You’d spend the whole time monitoring sweat levels and worrying about whether this amount of sweat is too much sweat, and you might cross the line.

But the boundary you set is what it is, and your husband accidentally violated it. Talk about how you’re feeling. Get it off your chest. See if you can zero in on what’s making you feel uneasy and edgy about this particular event. Allow your husband to share his feelings as well. You know—support each other and be emotionally intimate. Cleave to each other. Do the healthy relationship things. They’ll help you return to normalcy and rebuild trust.

Dear How to Do It,

I am a woman happily married to a man, and we have three great kids. Up until two months ago, I would have told you I was straight. But then a female friend helped me after a car wreck. After I recovered, I developed a crush on her. At first, I tried to tell myself that it was just some sort of rescuer-rescued thing, but it made me take a hard look at how some of my preferences changed over time and whether I’m really sexually attracted to women as well as men. It turns out that some of the inner turmoil I have is related to my sexuality. I am bi. I haven’t told anyone I know yet.

I’m curious about a few things. What if it turns out that I’m wrong, and I’m not bi at all? Could it really be a phase at this stage of life? I am nervous about telling people I am bi because I see much biphobia online. Is telling people going to open me up to endless questions and ridicule from those I love? Finally, I would really like to make out with my friend, but she is married to another woman. So, perhaps I’d like to do that with someone else at some point. My husband and I talked about maybe opening up our relationship again when the kids are older, but I think it might open up a Pandora’s box at this stage in our lives. I’d really just like a one-time pass, but I don’t know how to ask for it or if I should.

—Baby Bi

Dear Baby Bi,

You just told me! Congratulations on coming out. It’s a process. You’ll have plenty of chances to come out in the future.

Bisexuality has varying definitions, some of which stick to the male/female binary and others that are more gender-inclusive. Either way, bi sounds fine for you, and at the end of the day, identity labels and their meanings are personal. Anecdotally, bisexual women tend to be more flexible than your average one-or-the-other adult. Monogamous or commitment-loving bisexuals might be with one gender for a while and then another, drawing accusations of their sexual identity being “just a phase.” I distinctly remember being told to pick a side during puberty in the early 2000s. It hurt at the time and still makes me grimace.

People can be harsh and judgmental. Especially online. Remember that people are generally far less concerned with your individual identity than whatever they have going on inside them. And that even the most vitriolic online commenter is probably more polite in person. So try not to read too much biphobic rhetoric.

If you encounter ridicule from your friends and loved ones, you may want to reconsider the depth of vulnerability you bring to interactions with them. As for questions, they’re simply a part of having people who care about your wellbeing and want to understand. You can ask for privacy, but you want to be careful you aren’t shutting your support system out. Sometimes our friends’ questions help us gain a deeper understanding of ourselves.

As for your husband, go to him and start with your realization that you’re attracted to women. Really underline that this attraction is in addition to your attraction to men and specifically to him. Talk through it. He might suggest that now is a good time to open up your marriage or at least grant the one-time pass you’re craving. He might have qualms. You won’t know until you talk about it.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a female stripper who’s married to a guy who is amazingly supportive of my sex work. We have great communication, are open about our desires, have a stellar sex life—we’ve even hired an escort together.

A few weeks ago, my husband mentioned that he’s been noticing some of his female friends getting into indie porn and content creation and hardcore promoting their accounts all over social media. He shared that he finds it interesting to see their personal interpretations on sex work. I agreed that it was interesting, and we talked about it for a few minutes. He mentioned one specific girl’s videos because they were very unique. We moved on; it didn’t bother me. Why should it?

Then it came up again about a week ago. He showed me a still from Unique Clip Girl because it was pretty extreme. I was like, “Yeah, wow!” Not a big deal. I see stuff like that fairly often, and we often share porn or clips with each other. I did see the girl’s username on the screenshot he sent and followed her on social media, because she has interesting content, and I follow a ton of other sex workers and content creators. But AFTER that, he mentions, in a very offhand way, that he actually used to sleep with Unique Clip Girl. I say, “Oh! You didn’t mention that before.” And he says yeah, at the time she was too much for him, so they quit dating. And for some reason that changes my feelings. I no longer feel as OK with it. And I hate that, because he has been so accepting of my sex work. I tell myself jealousy is a normal feeling, I just need to deal with it. That it’s more about me than him.

Then last night, I fell asleep on the couch. Woke up and couldn’t find my husband. The bathroom door was open, but the lights were off. I poked my head in to see him sitting on the toilet with earbuds in, jerking off to something on his phone. When he saw me, he panicked and flipped his phone face down immediately. That was weird. He knows I don’t care if he jerks off to porn. I encourage it. The shame and panic in his reaction freaked me out more than anything. I asked him playfully what he was doing. He said, “I was horny, but now that you’re awake I’d be down to play.” I asked him what he was watching. He said some anal video. I said I was too tired and was going to bed. He finished himself off.

I woke up this morning feeling uneasy. I looked at his likes tab on Twitter and sure enough, he had watched and liked an anal video Unique Clip Girl posted last night. He likes clips as a way of bookmarking his favorite ones to come back to. So now I know he was jerking it to a video of a girl he used to sleep with. Now the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach has intensified, but I feel like a hypocrite for caring as much as I do. I’m not OK with the fact that he didn’t feel it necessary at first to honestly describe the nature of his relationship with her. I’m not OK with the fact that he’s masturbating to her content and hiding it from me. She’s been liking his posts on social media and interacting with him too, so he’s not just consuming her content from afar. They seem to have rekindled some kind of weird relationship or contact through her sex work.

I’m worried that if I bring it up and tell him I’m not comfortable with it, I’ll be policing his sexuality. Both of us have dealt with that from partners in the past and have discussed how traumatic it was and how we’re so glad our relationship isn’t like that. I’m also worried that if he feels her content is “off-limits,” he’ll just want to see it more because it will give him more of a naughty thrill … because that’s how desire works. And who am I to tell him he can’t? I rub my ass against hard dicks for a living. Yet I know my feelings are still valid and need to be addressed. I’m just experiencing a ton of anxiety as far as how to go about it. Please help this sex worker navigate the minefield of desire and boundaries and communication! I’m stuck.

—Suspicious Sex Worker

Dear Suspicious Sex Worker,

There’re ideals, and then there’s reality. The reality is that your husband’s interest in this particular human’s content is driving you up a wall. And it isn’t just his current taste in porn, it’s his interactions with her social media presence. Yes, interacting with performers and creators can be a great part of porn consumption, but in this case the—presumed—sexual and marketing nature of her online profiles is making things weird. They’re having a relationship that includes his consumption of her sexual media and they used to date.

Go to your husband and tell him what’s going on. Maybe “Hey, I’m working through jealousy but also this is too weird for me. I don’t know what to do. I’m torn up over it. Can we talk this through?” Ask your partner for some help, rather than demanding he stop what he’s doing.

I don’t think off-limits necessarily increases desire. For example, we’ve heard in this very column from poly folks who are turned off if their partner’s partner isn’t totally into what’s going on. Part of the thrust behind the poly explosion is people who want everything to be consensual and above board. But, you know your husband, so if you say it’ll throw fuel on the fire, I believe you.

I don’t like that he’s being secretive about his viewing of UCG’s work, though. It signals shame or subterfuge and is a red flag. While you’re talking, you’d be within your rights to ask him to take a look at that and do some introspection around his behavior. Ideally, he could arrive at some understanding of why he was attempting to hide this particular video from you.

If the conversation doesn’t go well, it might be worth seeing a sex positive (very sex positive) couples counselor for some help in sorting out what’s going on between the two of you.

Dear How to Do It,

I started a new relationship about six months ago. I care about him very much and love spending time with him.

For background, my last long-term relationship was with a sociopath who I had to get a restraining order against. I missed or explained away several red flags. I also have a separate history of sexual assault. My past has never negatively affected my sex life—I’ve always had a high sex drive and enjoy rough and aggressive sex.

On our first date, my now-boyfriend and I had one of those amazing, sparks flying kind of nights. We ended up back at his apartment for multiple rounds of hot and heavy sex. The next few dates followed suit. At some point, while cuddling in bed, he took my hand and put it on his erect penis. It took me by surprise and kind of bothered me. I turned over and gave a little “I’m sleepy and hungover” grunt to signal I wasn’t interested. I didn’t think much of it because we can both be playful in bed, so I just brushed it off as him thinking he was being sexy. But then he started doing it more regularly, and I never showed any sexual interest when he did it. I’d always pull my hand away and say “not now” or scoff a bit, but I didn’t explicitly tell him that I hated when he did that for a while. It started bothering me so much that I found myself not wanting to have sex with him at all. I finally told him how I felt and that I find it disrespectful. He was extremely apologetic, said he never meant to be disrespectful, and asked that I tell him right away if he does something that I don’t like. He seems to not understand that pulling my hand away was an indication of my displeasure with the act.

He is respectful in every other aspect of sex and life in general. But now, weeks later, it still bothers me that he did the hand thing at all. I even get angry at times. It makes me think about consent, and sometimes I question if he was doing something without my consent. Is this a red flag? I can’t tell if I’m just being hypersensitive due to my history, or if he should have known that what he was doing was inappropriate, or if it is even inappropriate at all.

—Hands Off

Dear Hands Off,

It’s a red flag, but it might be like one of those small ones on a toothpick that hold sandwiches together.

Men—and the rest of humanity—can be obtuse and oblivious. Some people, especially those who were socially conditioned as male in their formative years, struggle to pick up on nonverbal communication. So it is quite possible that he didn’t know about your discomfort until you told him.

It might be useful to have a talk about nonverbal communication. State that pulling away is your way of signaling that you don’t like what’s happening. You can explain that his nonverbal communication feels like a demand, and that your nonverbal communication is something that he needs to pay attention to, just like your words.

The real test will be whether he does it again. If so, that’s a big ol’ red banner. Waving in the breeze. Signaling that you should move on.

— Stoya

More How to Do It

Recently, I was out with my husband’s friend’s fiancée for her bachelorette party. My husband was at the friend’s bachelor party the same night. Someone joked about them getting too friendly with strippers, and the fiancée said they were more likely to get too friendly with each other. She then started telling the group that she knew my husband, her fiancé, and at least one other guy from their friend group masturbated together into college and their 20s (we’re all around 30). She said she suspected they still do it now sometimes, but she doesn’t care because it’s “just jerking off.” I’m now kind of paranoid about this! I did some Googling that suggested this is a fetish for some guys who are with women. Um, is it?