Supporting a bisexual partner without ignoring my own needs
September 1, 2011 9:01 AM   Subscribe

How can I best support my GF in her bisexual identity/lifestyle in a way that doesn't ignore my own needs?

My fiance is bisexual and wants to to see other women on occasion (I am male). She has been clear from the start that our relationship comes first and that she is willing to remain monogamous with me if that is best for me and for our relationship. When this first came up I was supportive and open-minded. I did not feel threatened in any way by the idea of my GF seeing other women. When she then raised the idea of bringing another woman home to our bedroom, I responded positively and we agreed that we would explore this in the future. I am completely new to this sort of thing.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago: my GF discovered that a good friend of hers was bi-curious and was interested in exploring fooling around with my GF. My GF speculated that this could potentially lead to other activities between the three of us and possibly the other woman's husband. (He and I are not bisexual or bi-curious, for the record.) That couple had been spending time on Craigslist for about a year, looking for another couple to swing with, but never actually pursued anything before now.

The four of us hung out one evening and discussed, over a bottle of wine, our comfort areas and disclosed where our boundaries and expectations lay. The conversation was very good, but we did not explore all possible scenarios or develop robust action plans.

Following this conversation, my GF, the other woman and I went out as planned (the other man was busy) and, after hanging out at a bar with other friends, went off alone and had a amazing threeway (strictly oral sex). The women got each other off, and then both got me off. We all felt very good about the whole experience.

Because this developed faster than everyone had explicitly agreed on, now the other man feels left out (understandably!), but he is not upset and their relationship is still healthy. So now, the tentative plan is for my GF to visit the other couple and have a similar experience with them in the possibly very near future. I have explicitly sanctioned and encouraged this, because I also feel that things are at the moment not balanced.

My GF feels that the nature of her relationship with the other woman - given that it is based on both friendship and sexual attraction - makes her feel a little less inclined to include the men than the other woman is. I admit that I do not yet fully understand this and I intend to explore it more in the near future, once I know how best to approach the topic.

Depending on how the next encounter with the three of them goes (assuming it happens) and other factors, I think I see three possibilities: (a) we quit while we're ahead and at most, the two ladies see each other alone from this point forward (FF); OR (b) occasional FF, occasional FFMM; OR (c) FFM encounters with the other man and myself alternating.

I still support my GF and her sexuality. I still embrace her idea of feeling more complete when she is permitted to experience sexual intimacy with both genders. Things are a little more complicated now, but I really want to stand by the commitment that I made. The main complication that I see is that I was brought into the present situation and was made to feel explicitly included, and I now face the prospect of being excluded, which somehow would feel different had I never been included from the start. This yields mixed feelings, needless to say, but I am still open minded.

Sorry for the long post. From here, I am not even sure what questions I should be asking. One obvious question is, how do I continue to support my fiance in both her current relationship with the other woman, as well as with other future women, without compromising on my own needs?

Sincerely hope that any other important, unasked questions are more obvious to the MeFi community than they might be to me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Keep lines of communication open. Don't be afraid to tell her if you feel uneasy about anything.
Honesty isn't always pretty, but it does make life easier in the long run.
posted by luckynerd at 9:15 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You want to support your GF's sexual needs, yet still maintain the relationship between the two of you.

My guess is that the key to that is ensuring that your GF's sexual partners have no emotional connection to either of you. That way, her sexual needs are met, and there is no threat to the relationship (as emotionally defined).

As such, I'm not seeing a sexual relationship with a "good friend" as a terribly good idea. The emotional component is there, and while it may not be a threat to your relationship, it doesn't have a clear demarcation of THIS being about sex and THAT being about emotions.

But -- that sexual relationship has already started. And so far, no problems. If you feel the need to 'balance it out', maybe you need to let that balancing happen, and quit while everyone's ahead.

I think that strict boundaries are the way to go, and that means no emotional component, because that's what your relationship is for. Her sexual needs can be met by someone or someones who are just fuck-buddies, not actual buddies. As for the bi-curious friend, she'll just have to be curious with someone else. There's so much potential for this particular situation with good friends to go wrong, no matter everyone's good intentions.

N.B. I have absolutely zero experience in this area to draw upon.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:17 AM on September 1, 2011

First off, is she your girlfriend or your fiancee? It is an important distinction if you're actively planning on getting married. This implies that a) you're both in it for the long haul and b) that you need to be damn sure that you're okay with whatever degree of open relationship you guys ultimately decide on.

As a bisexual woman in a monogamous relationship with a man I can't tell you how to negotiate with your partner, but I can tell you that you need to be very, very clear as to what these negotiations entail. If what she wants outside of your (primary) relationship is strictly FF encounters and you're okay with that, sure. If she wants threesomes, and you're okay with that, sure. If she wants to swing, and you're okay with that, sure.

Some of your needs, well, need to be addressed too. Don't worry so much about "balance" in regards to other people's relationships, that's for them to navigate. Do worry about how merely to "support" your partner, worry about how she is potentially supporting you and your desires as well. There is no right way or wrong way to have an open relationship, as long as you guys talk about it. If you'd prefer to be included, tell her, see what she says. If she'd prefer to have exclusive FF relationships, you guys then need to decide where, and if, there is an acceptable compromise. You're not wrong to want in, if that's what you want. You're not wrong to want out, if that's what you want. In fact, you're not wrong to not want her to have other relationships at all, if that's what you want.

Supporting your partner doesn't mean letting her call all the shots. So talk, talk, talk about it, and don't forget that you get to have needs and desires too.
posted by lydhre at 9:34 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your girlfriend wants to explore what it's like to have sex with a woman. Her friend is the best option for this since her friend is bi-curious and they know each other and have a rapport and comfort level. Her friend is in this less for exploration of a bisexual identity and more for the sex, it sounds like, and that's why she wants to include the men. All of these things are fine.

It sounds like you place a high value on standing by one's commitment. What you need to factor in here is that this is an exploratory phase for your girlfriend, and the nature of emotional exploration is such that it's hard to know how you're going to feel about a thing later on. When she set the terms of this interaction, she hadn't actually done it yet. Now she has, and it feels different for her. This is normal. It also means that she needs a bit of leeway in terms of how firmly she's going to be held to a plan she made with no experience. If she knew ahead of time what the impact of all this would be on her, there'd be no point to exploration.

What I'd advise is to hit the brakes on your adventures into swinging until you've had a chance to sit down and talk with her. You're going to find that instead of sticking to hard-and-fast rules made at the outset, this really works best if you make stops along the way and check in with each other about how you're feeling and maybe recalibrate what the terms should be, if needed.

She has the right to ask for things, you have the right to ask for things.

Here's what I'll tell you: If her one FFM encounter has made her think that she's less likely to include men in the equation, that's something that is going to need a lot of communication with the other couple. Otherwise it'll seem to the guy - fairly or not - that your girlfriend was willing to have a threesome with this girl and you, but not this girl and him. So talk that out.

how do I continue to support my fiance in both her current relationship with the other woman, as well as with other future women, without compromising on my own needs?

Have a sit-down with yourself and figure out exactly what those needs are and where you don't feel you can compromise. Then talk to her about it. And again: Hit the brakes, even just temporarily, on the playtime on the side until everything's completely okay with your relationship.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:44 AM on September 1, 2011

(I just want to point out that to me, as someone who dates any ol' gender at all, the issue here is monogamy as much as it is bisexuality - there are many bisexuals in monogamous relationships. If you want to support your girlfriend in fulfilling her sexual wishes, that's great and can deepen the trust in your relationship. I would view it as a bit dodgy if she framed it as "I am bisexual and therefore I cannot be happy without sleeping with both men and women", though.)
posted by Frowner at 9:52 AM on September 1, 2011 [11 favorites]

you are allowed to ask for what you want.

if what you want is to not be left out, then you have to say that. and if your fiancee is unwilling to provide you with what you want, then you have to find someone who does.

you are a free being who can ask for what they want. you can choose not to be with a person that won't offer that to you. this has gone beyond the bisexuality that was originally discussed.

tell your fiancee that you need to have a long discussion about this before anything happens. it will be hard, and you may try to avoid the discussion. stick with it.

best of luck
posted by Ironmouth at 10:19 AM on September 1, 2011

She does not have a God-given right to sleep with other people because she is bi. Many bi people are perfectly happy in monogamous relationships (raises hand). It doesn't sound like she is, so you two have to negotiate. Communication is paramount. Any time you hear yourself thinking "I bet she did that because..." or "I think she feels that ..." just STOP. Ask her. Assumptions will tank this.

Things are a little more complicated now, but I really want to stand by the commitment that I made.

A statement like this will also tank this. You and her have to decide if your relationship is ultimately more important than her sexual exploration. You should not have to grit your teeth every time she goes out with another woman just because three years ago you said it was OK. If it ceases to be OK, then you need to renegotiate.

What's weird is you talk about "not compromising my needs" but I don't get any sense of what they are. Does she know? Do YOU know? Figure this out first. Then communicate.
posted by desjardins at 10:55 AM on September 1, 2011

Well, her being bi has nothing (or very little) to do with her wanting to swing or have an open relationship. I mean, there's plenty of bi people who are monogamous. You need to sit down and have an adult discussion on just what you're comfortable with her doing. Do you need to be there when she's with someone else? Do you feel the need to be part of the action? Do you want to only be informed about her other partners or meet them before she does something? Do you only feel comfortable with her being with women and not men?

It's okay to ask for these things if they'll make you comfortable. If any of them are dealbreakers for you, then she has to make a choice on if that's reasonable for her to accept.

If any of this stuff is to succeed, it has to be done with clear open communication and both of you telling the other just what you're comfortable. If you feel jealous or left our or misunderstood, you tell her immediately and she is to do the same. Otherwise you're doomed.

Hope things work out for the best.
posted by inturnaround at 11:18 AM on September 1, 2011

Btw it's perfectly natural to think "I won't be jealous" and end up jealous. You're in trouble when you start thinking "I shouldn't be jealous."
posted by desjardins at 11:21 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

As such, I'm not seeing a sexual relationship with a "good friend" as a terribly good idea.

Agreed, particularly when that person has an SO who wants to be involved (and has already been left out).

Sex clubs exist because keeping the dividing line between sex and emotional involvement is important, and not always easy. I recommend starting there.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:15 PM on September 1, 2011

Things are a little more complicated now, but I really want to stand by the commitment that I made.

Statements like this are a lot more dangerous than you may think. You need to chuck your pride at the door and open the lines of communication. If you feel hesitant about the arrangement, tell your GF. If you feel awesome about it, tell your GF. You can't just sit by because it has to be fair and not take care of your own emotional health.

You need to decide what kind of boundaries you want to set. Are YOU comfortable with swinging? Are YOU comfortable with your partner seeking out other partners? What limitations do you want to place on that (sex only/no emotions, women only, threesomes only, you have veto power, etc.)? In turn she has to feel free to come back to you and say she wants something more or something less. If she doesn't want to include you, it's nothing personal, threesomes aren't for everyone. You need to be your own advocate and give her the space to be her own advocate. Your other partners need to do the same.

As a side note, it sounds to me as if your GF is genuinely interested in this friend and wants to pursue something with her, whereas the friend is more interested in the sex and swinging aspect. This might end up in a mess. (It also might not.) You four may need to have a (brutally) honest discussion of what you all want, not just boundaries.
posted by buteo at 12:36 PM on September 1, 2011

Opening Up is a good resource for thinking and talking through the challenges, opportunities, and parameters of non-monogamous relationships. It has a lot of the same advice in this thread, put together in an orderly fashion with questions and exercises to help in starting and guiding reflection and conversation.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:57 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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