How to Do It

My Husband Had a Threesome—With My Nemesis

I have to admit I freaked out.

A man and woman hugging each other with a floating shocked and angry emoji next to them.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by gorodenkoff/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, 

I’ve been married to my husband for over a year and am deeply in love with him. He makes me feel wonderful and loved despite my insecurities and makes me feel secure in my femininity (I’m a trans woman, so I’m often insecure about this.) My problem is that we have had discussions about opening our sex lives. I’ve had sex with every mutual friend we’ve had before we got married and he has always wanted to experience sex with others. I was wary—as the main person he wanted to sleep with is a cis woman and I felt some immediate insecurities surrounding that—but agreed to let him if the chance struck.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Well, it did, and he ended up having group sex with this woman and her boyfriend, plus another friend. When he told me, only a few hours after the fact, I have to admit I freaked out. I had a very big emotional response that involved a lot of crying and I’m not sure why. To assuage my fears he told me that it was “All right, but that it wasn’t anything compared to sex with [me].” I don’t know if I believe him. I’ve tried to come to terms and feel better or at least neutral about this, but it’s very hard. I don’t want him to stop having sex with this person if the occasion presents itself again, but I also don’t know why I’m feeling so upset about it in the first place. Maybe I’m jealous, maybe it’s the involvement of her boyfriend (who I believe dislikes me and could have had the motive to harm me in mind when suggesting the group sex), maybe it’s my exclusion… I don’t know, but I want to find a way through it so I can get over it one way or another.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

—Jealous or Maybe Insane

Dear Jealous, 

Open relationships are like a box of chocolates in that you never know what you’re going to get and you need to take a bite to truly understand the attendant complexities. So let’s chew on this for a while. Your reaction is common—no matter how much you try to avoid it, no matter how open-minded and sex-positive you know yourself to be—jealously can sneak up on and punish you like orange cream lurking in a Whitman’s Sampler. It sounds like your husband took it in stride, and attempted to pacify you with a compliment. Even if the group sex was mind blowing, you can at least trust that sex with you, someone he’s committed to and presumably loves, is its own distinct flavor. And by virtue of him sticking around and not immediately attempting to form a pod out of an orgy, you can trust that he holds sex with you in higher esteem than group sport sex.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

What you can’t trust, at least not based on the evidence provided, is that you have a firm grasp on the motives of the boyfriend of “this woman,” as you refer to her. You believe he dislikes you, which means he very well might not dislike you at all. And even if he does, men tend to be driven more by their dicks and balls when suggesting an orgy than revenge for absent parties. It’s not impossible that this was all orchestrated to make you feel bad—having witnessed some harrowingly high school-like behavior from men in their 30s, 40s, and beyond in gay spaces, I don’t want to snuff out the possibility of pettiness—but it’s highly unlikely. The safer bet is that it wasn’t about you at all. It was about them.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Your reaction was…not the best. After you agreed to an open arrangement, it can feel like you are reneging if you freak out when that arrangement is practiced. You did what you did, and I don’t want to shame you for getting emotional, as you are only human. But try to remain consistent going forward—when you say something is OK, make sure you’re actually OK with it. That your husband didn’t push back defiantly is a good sign of his compassion.

One way to avoid freaking out going forward is to set limits. Vetoes are somewhat controversial—some open/poly couples are entirely against them. Often the philosophy goes like this: You’re with me because you choose and I have no right to tell you how to live your life, even as your partner. That’s a lovely idea and having one’s relationship be proof of its concept must feel pretty amazing, but I think a lot of people need to set boundaries to feel secure and maintain the aforementioned all-important consistency. You say you don’t want to stop your boyfriend from having sex with this person should he get the chance again… But do you really not want that? The world is a big place—as someone who had sex with everyone in your mutual friend group prior to marriage, you know this. Placing a few people on the “do not ride” list doesn’t strike me as particularly oppressive, especially if said people have been rude to you in the past or are otherwise triggering. Might be worth a discussion.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You express uncertainty of the root causes of your reaction, and yet you articulate many. The truth is, it’s probably all of the stuff that you mention to some degree. There’s probably even more. So many factors drive your current sensitivities that ferreting out the exact proportion of their influence would be impossible. But I’m not sure that doing so would provide much comfort even if it were possible. As uncomfortable as it can be to experience jealousy and pain, those feelings and your putting them into words both with your husband and in your letter to this column is what processing looks like. I think the most practical thing you can do is use your feelings to reevaluate your new relationship—sure, those feelings will fade but they’re bound to return unless you make alterations. Let them guide you. That might mean adjusting to this relationship style, or it might mean erecting certain boundaries. The important thing is for you to keep communicating. The articulation in your letter tells me you’re well on your way to rectifying this situation.

Advertisement

Dear How to Do It, 

I want to preface this question by saying I’m on a waitlist for a therapist, but my insurance is terrible so I’m DIYing what I can while I wait and looking for some help. My one-year relationship with my current partner is the healthiest and most loving, warm, and mutually supportive romantic relationship I’ve had in my adult life. I love them very much and am delighted by the way they see the world. Prior to them, I had rollercoaster hot/cold relationships with fantastic sex and heartbreaking emotional components.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Unfortunately, about six months in, my sexual interest in anything waned, although I still think my partner is gorgeous and make an effort to have some type of sex once a week whether I’m feeling it or not. The distance/mystery/novelty and uncertainty in previous relationships really got me off, but it was also unhealthy. My partner is firmly against opening up when we discussed pursuing it to recapture part of that feeling. I’m reading Mating in Captivity and struggling for other resources or tools that might help me recapture some of those feelings in a healthy relationship. Suggestions?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

—Feeling Caged

Dear Feeling Caged, 

First, how’s your sex drive overall? A change in libido could result from a host of issues like stress, fatigue, and hormonal changes. You say your insurance sucks, but if you’re feeling a lack of sexual motivation in general, it’s worth checking in with a doctor if you can swing it.

If this isn’t a libido problem, but squarely an issue with your interest in your partner, six months in is on the early side to be feeling this way. Of course, all relationships are different and it is conceivable that you’re in a relatively accelerated version of a pattern that is experienced by many people in relationships. But something to consider is whether you’re actually sexually compatible with your partner. The honeymoon halo has faded and what you might be left with is the reality that you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t exactly push your buttons. Mating in Captivity does provide some tips on fostering the distance/mystery/novelty that you crave, but at a certain point you may need to shift gears and look at the relationship not for what it could be, but for what it is. Since you have a good thing going otherwise, though, I’d wait until therapy before making any major decisions.

Advertisement

Help us keep giving the advice you crave every week. Sign up for Slate Plus now.

Dear How to Do It, 

How often is normal to do anal in a long-term relationship? My boyfriend and I have great sexual chemistry. I’m a bottom so it takes a lot of preparation on my part. Without getting too detailed, this means dietary and cleanliness considerations. And then that effort goes out the window if despite my best efforts I’m not feeling up to it. We do it probably once or twice a month, but we do other sexual activities several times a week.

Advertisement

My boyfriend is happy with our sex life. However, it seems like other people do anal pretty frequently, and even that it’s the main form of sex that they have. Back when I was just hooking up or dating casually, this was the case for me as well, because I could prepare ahead of time more easily than when navigating daily life. I’m just wondering if this is normal. Is there something others are doing differently or that I could be doing differently to make this a possibility? I’m mostly satisfied with our sex life, but I’d love to do this more often.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

—Butt Problems

Dear Butt Problems, 

What I’m about to tell you is easier to say than live by, I realize, but you are queer (or gay or whatever other word you use to signify “not straight”), which means your identity and the life you lead already exist outside of the bounds of what would be deemed “normal” by the general population. My first suggestion is to embrace liberation and disabuse yourself of conforming to any notion of normalcy.

Some people do have anal all the time. Some people have as much anal in a night as others have in their lifetimes. Some people only have oral sex (“sides” is what they sometimes call themselves). I knew a couple that pretty much only had anal when in group settings (and that would inevitably involve the top in the couple and the guest third double-penetrating the bottom, who could ejaculate from anal stimulation alone). When they were alone together, they’d just jerk off and make out. Talk about forging your own path.

Advertisement

Some people’s systems are more equipped to take dick than others’. It’s completely reasonable to refrain from anal if you think it’s going to create a mess. You have great sexual chemistry and your boyfriend is happy with your sex life. You’re “mostly happy” but your letter suggests a certain dissatisfaction. You should figure out whether that dissatisfaction is a result of actually wanting more anal or wanting more anal because you think you should want more anal because it’s, in your suspicion, normal.

Advertisement

Assuming that you want anal for anal’s sake, and not because everyone else is doing it, I suggest definitely getting enough fiber, both in the insoluble form (like in vegetables) and soluble form (as in psyllium husk, which you can take as a nutritional supplement). You can check this past column for more tips for how to run a tight ship/clean ass/tight ass/clean ship. Good luck, and don’t sweat it. How you do it is secondary to enjoying whatever it is you’re doing.

Advertisement

Did you write this or another letter we answered? Tell us what happened at howtodoit@slate.com.

Dear How to Do It,

I have been out as bisexual for about a decade now. My issue, however, is that I have never been with anyone other than cis men. I didn’t let myself come to terms with my sexuality until my early 20s. Throughout all of high school, I was pining over a girl. I’d write secret angsty teenage love poems about her and spend hours creating playlists that I’d burn onto CDs and gift her. It was all pretty obvious but we lived in a homophobic conservative area so at the time it was easy to not acknowledge our secret glances, touches, and just general sexual tension. After high school, we grew apart and I fell in love with the man I am now happily married to. It wasn’t until after I started dating him that I let myself realize I was definitely bisexual. He definitely helped me realize this by being such a supportive and loving partner. We’ve been together for almost 13 years now, and have a great marriage, except now I’m being a stereotypical selfish bisexual and want it all… I want a happy marriage with him and to explore my sexuality with someone who doesn’t identify as a man. My husband and I have openly talked about this for three years now, and he says he doesn’t want to explore or date other women but is completely comfortable with me opening up my side.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

The pandemic has slowed down my getting out there, and now I find myself in a new city with no queer friend network. My long-winded question is: How can I ethically explore my sexuality with people? There is a queer event I am thinking about going to in a few weeks but am I supposed to tell my life story to every potential partner right away? I know from personal experience (from queer friends and strangers on dating apps) that if you say you’re bi but haven’t actually been with a same-sex partner, people don’t believe you and think you’re just questioning and using them. But I know I am not straight. I know I am very attracted to people who aren’t men, too. Conversely, others think I am probably a lesbian and once I experience sex with a woman I will forget all about my husband. But I know I want to grow old with him. I want to have transparency, but doing this song and dance all the time is tiring and honestly a big turn-off. I just want to at least finally kiss a woman or someone besides a man because we are mutually attracted to each other. So how can I get this first kiss without having to explain, “No, really, I’m not straight. No, really, I’m not cheating. No, really, I am not secretly looking for a unicorn. And no, really, I’m not a lesbian even though I’m attracted to them. I’m bi and want to make out please because you’re hot!”

Advertisement

—Certain Selfish Bisexual

Dear Selfish Bisexual, 

Bad-faith takes on and straight-up misinterpretations of your sexuality aren’t inevitable—they’re just some examples of countless reactions. People who are worth your time are the ones who aren’t going to suspect something is amiss when you reveal yourself—they’re going to accept you. It might also be good to keep in mind that IRL events are not apps—they’re entirely different mediums, and the latter is much more prone to having people essentially interview each other about all sorts of life experiences, including sexual history. At an in-person event, your lack of experience may not even come up, or it may come up after you’ve already shown an unignorable amount of your humanity, rendering you much more difficult to write off over something like your sexual resume. And even if someone does write you off, there’s a good chance that another person won’t.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Practically speaking, you aren’t obligated to disclose your sexual history (or any other facet of your biography that could not be construed as need-to-know information) to a stranger.. Your life is yours to share or not, and you should be judicious about revealing information that could lead to you being judged unfairly. I don’t recommend lying to people in the event that you are asked point blank whether you have experience with women. But you certainly don’t have to offer that upfront and you can speak about it vaguely when prompted. If the conversation goes there, telling people you’re inexperienced should suffice. The only way you’re going to change that is through…experience, and any stigma that complicates that is worth circumventing.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

—Rich

More Advice

I’m a straight, single guy in a casual relationship that’s been going on for almost a year. “Peggy” and I hang out two or three times a month—drinks or a movie, conversation, then ending the night in bed. Neither of us wants anything more serious, but we enjoy each other’s company tremendously and the sex is great, especially oral, which we both dig giving and receiving. Here’s the issue: The last time Peggy slept over at my place, she woke me up with a blow job. Now, being asleep, I couldn’t technically give consent.

Advertisement