Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My husband and I do almost everything with our best friends, also a married couple. I am extremely close to the wife – I would consider her my best friend. And my husband is close to her spouse as well. I thought I pretty much knew all about them and their marriage but it turns out, I didn't; she recently told me she and her husband have an open marriage.
It started over a year ago. She said they have ground rules and so far it has really livened up their marriage and made them both happier. They are allowed to separately be with other people, or sometimes they jointly "see" someone.
I didn't even know what to say. I felt surprised and shocked, like there's this secret life my best friend has had that I didn't even know about. The fact that they are having bisexual experiences through threesomes makes me incredibly nervous. Could her husband be interested in me or my husband? Could she?
My husband could tell something was up so I told him everything. His reaction was not what I expected. He doesn't seem freaked out at all. If anything, he's fascinated. He grilled me about the details, their rules and everything I knew, and now he keeps bringing it up, cracking jokes about it, calling his buddy "lucky."
I feel very strange about us even hanging out with them, like will it be a matter of time before they suggest a foursome? And to add to that, now I'm afraid my husband is going to want to do this too. What can I do?
First, you can take a deep breath and relax. Just because your friends sleep with other people doesn't mean they want to or are trying to sleep with you – or your husband, for that matter. Part of friendship is respecting and supporting each other's choices, and she and her husband have decided for their own private reasons that this is the best path for their partnership. It means a lot that she trusted and confided in you, so rather than slamming the door on her, perhaps try to understand their situation.
While this route may sound unconventional and even alarming to you, it's been decades since authors Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy published "The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures" (a great read for anyone curious about the practice of open relationships). As recently as May, New York Times writer Susan Dominus took a hard look at open marriage in America, and how jealousy, love and desire play out in these arrangements. This article looks at various reasons other couples have opened their relationships and would also be a good resource as you try to understand your friends' decisions.
As for your husband's interest in this whole scenario, don't overthink it. Love is complicated. Sex is complicated. Just imagine how complicated it must be to feel love-like feelings and simultaneously juggle intimacy with multiple partners. This isn't sneaky, secretive cheating we're talking about; it's informed adults who've agreed to a set of rules and standards, and then must coexist in the same space while managing feelings of competitiveness and jealousy. Your husband is probably so inquisitive only because he finds the whole thing to be amazingly complicated.
Sorry to break it to you, but they're really not into you. At least, not in that way.
Think about it: It took your best friend a year to tell you that not only is she sleeping with other people, but her husband is sleeping with other people too, and sometimes they even sleep with the same people at the same time! If they wanted to draft you and your hubby into their orgy organization, they would have recruited you many moons ago.
Maybe they think you're too uptight or conservative and would get all judgmental – kinda true. Maybe they think you're too traditional or innocent and would just make things weird – kinda true. Maybe they think it would ruin a really good friendship – totally true. Maybe they just don't find you two all that hot — sorry. And maybe they value your friendship and would hate for any jealousy or awkwardness to break up a great thing – true that. Probably all of the above, to some extent.
Ultimately, to them you're family and you do not bring family into things like this. And if anything, your friendship can get a lot stronger from this because she confided something very, very personal and important to you. Now is not the time to shun her or run from your friendship. And it doesn't mark a shift in the friendship – like you guys can't continue on being friends and doing (just about) everything together. Do their sexcapades really change anything about your friendship? I don't see it.
And your husband? Oh, he's harmless. This is how bros typically react when they can't handle a topic – sex being one of the most complicated. Instead of having a grown-up talk about it, they joke and make fun to deflect their embarrassment/fear/insecurities. He's talking a big game to you, but he sure as heck won't make jokes about it in front of your friends. He's probably more shook on this than you are. So if you can move on with the friendship, which you totally should, so can he.
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