New girlfriend rattles nervous wife

Hello,

My husband and I just started our open marriage. We’ve been discussing an open relationship for awhile now. Well, husband met a girl in a show they were in together, and he fell for her. He was hiding it from me for a bit, but finally opened up to me. They scheduled a date after he and I decided to open our relationship, but she didn’t know that then. He told her last night, and they are meeting tonight.

I’m very nervous. We have had a threesome before with another woman, and I was fine. This is a little different. Maybe it’s just because it’s new.

She also wanted to add a rule, but I don’t know how I feel about it. She didn’t want sex to happen every night because she doesn’t want to feel cheap. I don’t know how I feel about limiting my sex-life with my husband, but I also want her to feel respected in our relationship. What do I do? And how do I get through the nerves??

Nervous Newbie

Dear Newbie,

First of all, let me start by apologizing that we couldn’t respond the day you wrote in time to address your nerves. I hope you managed to get through your husband’s date without any undue fuss.

It’s not unusual to be nervous about a new situation in your relationship. I think the best way to deal with nerves is to acknowledge to your partner that you are feeling apprehensive or concerned, and share the source of your concerns to give them a chance to assuage them. Probably the worst thing you can do is to keep it all bottled up inside and let that fester into resentment or worse. I find that the more you talk out an issue, the less threatening it becomes. 

Successful poly relationships require communication. You and your partner are in this together, and you both have to be equally committed to the idea of an open relationship in order for it to work. So when feelings are at risk, someone needs to speak up, check in, and talk it out. It might feel very uncomfortable at first, but given time and experience, it gets easier and better, and you’ll find out a lot about who your partner really is. And isn’t that why you’re in the relationship in the first place?

Second, about that rule. There’s a general consensus in the poly community that rules should not be enforced on people who didn’t have a say in them. So it sounds like the three of you need to discuss the proposed rule before it goes into effect. It’s important to approach this discussion with an open mind and be willing to talk about different options. 

Try to get to the heart of everyone’s wants and needs. What is the relationship between sex and her self-esteem? What other ways could she feel valued, legitimized and safe in the relationship that doesn’t involve limitations on sex? If you and your husband skip sex one night a week, how would that affect everybody? Who decides what nights?

These kind of conversations seem strange because we live in a monogamy-dominated society, but they should really be pretty straightforward if everyone can be comfortable talking about their relationship wants and needs in an egalitarian spirit. Since your husband is the point of the “V” (he’s the person with the relationship with both you and his other partner, your “metamour”) he should be taking the lead on facilitating this discussion. It sounds like you just need to get him to start that ball rolling.

Over to you, Leon!

Hi Newbie! Glad you and your partner trust each other enough to open up your relationship responsibly!  

I’m a little concerned that some of it was apparently started without your knowledge and consent, but that’s a common faux pas among newly opened partners. It can take a while to learn how to find the most mutually satisfying balance between completely open honesty, and the instinct to protect our partners from hearing what we think they’ll take as bad news. As long as you and your partner’s underlying relationship satisfaction stays a mutual priority (with your needs being met as well as his), I think new metamour relationships can create a lot of fun and compersion for all three of you. 

Nerves are usually due to suspense: not knowing how things will work out and being worried about the outcome. You’ll probably notice that nervous feeling fading, or transitioning positively into excitement or comfort, as you gain more experience with the scenario. Make sure you stay in touch with your own needs during this time, and make sure you’re communicating them in ways they’ll each understand.

Generally, when someone wants to impose a rule that NOT everyone agrees with, I suggest finding out the underlying need or desire it’s designed to protect. You suggest that the new partner doesn’t want sex to happen every date night because she doesn’t want to feel cheap – did she mean she wouldn’t want to have sex with your partner on each of their dates (my interpretation), or that she didn’t want you and your partner to? If the former, that sounds like a reasonable safety rule for herself and her own comfort levels, but I’m not quite sure how the other interpretation makes sense, and agree with Mischa that agreements should be negotiated by all parties to whom it will apply, rather than imposed as a rule. 

Regardless, my instinct is to focus less on her actual rule and more on the motivation behind it. Why would any of those scenarios trigger her to feel cheap? Very often people fight hard for “their rule” without realizing there are other ways to get what they actually want, perhaps less restrictively and/or in ways that incorporate others’ needs as well.

Good luck to all, and let us know how it turns out.

Posted in advice, communication, jealousy, open marriage