Why is my stupid brain trying to get in the way of good sex?
December 8, 2011 3:15 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I have the opportunity for an intimate encounter with an awesome couple. Yay! But... trepidation! Snowflake blizzard inside.

A married couple that we have been friends with for a little while has sent out very low-pressure but very unambiguous feelers our way. We think they're great and fun and we're extremely attracted to them. Both my husband and I had the same first reaction: "Oh hell, yes."

But we've both got this niggling doubt.

We've been together and monogamous for six years. Our sex life is still rich and satisfying, but that doesn't mean a little spice couldn't help. When we've talked about this before we've always come to the agreement that "It would be hot as hell, but it would have to be just the right circumstances." Well, by all appearances these are those circumstances.

Neither of us were inexperienced before we got married. In fact we have both, separately, been engaged in more-than-twosomes before. But in each case, that was over a decade ago and we were in casual relationships.

This is not a casual relationship. Six years in, my husband and I are unbelievably heart-achingly in love with each other. I guess we're just both scared that this might somehow "break the spell."

But that's crazy, right? As much as we swoon over this couple, neither of us has any devices on anything more than a couple of nights of sweaty fun. It's not like I honestly believe that this other gut might have a magical penis that I'll need to leave my husband for.

And we both feel that we're secure enough not to be hurt by seeing someone else's hands on the other's body, but be both also understand that we might feel differently in the moment and we're ready and willing to say "this isn't working for us" if we need to.

Everyone involved is (or seems to be) a mature head-on-straight 30-something with a healthy relationship towards sex. I very much want this to happen. So why am I hesitating?

I need some way to figure out if this is one of those irrational fears I should banish with a mantra like "You can't be scared to live your life" or one of those gut feelings I should embrace by telling myself "the stakes are too high."

Throwaway e-mail:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Take your time.

Grab "Opening Up" if you feel the need to do any negotiating or boundary-setting.

I doubt it will "break the spell". There is a lot of superstition tied up in monogamy. It's hard to tell where that ends and genuine, rational fear begins.

There's nothing wrong with either choice! Your brain is not stupid. Your sex drive is not stupid. Sometimes there's no simple answer.

With that said, I think this is relatively low stakes. I'd be more afraid of ruining the friendship than the marriage.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:24 PM on December 8, 2011 [9 favorites]

My thought is proceed with caution. I'm a big believer in 'gut feelings'. I really think that they are good indicators of things even when all other signs seem to point to something else. Not saying you should or should not do this or that it will necessarily end poorly; it might be epic and wonderful but I wouldn't ignore those gut feelings.

Also this: Everyone involved is (or seems to be) a mature head-on-straight 30-something with a healthy relationship towards sex.

Seems to be is just the thing... people aren't always what they seem (sorry, I know I'm stating the ultra-obvious) but there's nothing quite like sexual involvement/contact to bring out the crazy in people. Consider that even if you and your husband walk away content/satisfied/unscathed/etc. that the other side might still melt down, freak out or whatever.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:30 PM on December 8, 2011 [9 favorites]

As much as we swoon over this couple, neither of us has any devices on anything more than a couple of nights of sweaty fun.

I would caution against doing this if the above were not the case. As long as you both keep talking about your feelings and desires and have a clear idea on what this event means to you go ahead.

But, your anxiety is natural. The popular perception of marriage is monogamy. Our culture is built around monogamy. So why wouldn't you feel a bit anxious over breaking that? If neither of you felt any anxiety that might be a little odd. So, relax! You guys are doing everything right.

Whether or not it goes well or goes poorly the prescription is the same: talk about what you are going through.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:31 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, my first thought's the same as the young rope-rider's - these sound like normal, tentative sensations whenever we embark on a new adventure (hey, you both agree that it can stop if either of you is not comfortable) and I'm probably likely to be more wobbled by interacting with my friends afterwards.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:31 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

All you can be sure of is that things will change--change how, how much, how little, with in yourself, between your selves, with them? It may lead to a deeper commitment if you do or if you don't. Or it could lead to just a little less commitment. There is absolutely no way to know and I can assure you none of us knows--at best we can speculate and project. If you are on a trip and you take an unplanned turn the important thing is to know where you were going in case you still want to go there.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:46 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think you should wait 4-6 months and see if you still want to do it. The other couple will presumably still be interested and you and your husband will be making a real decision instead of acting on an exciting impulse.
posted by fshgrl at 3:47 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

If it's not broken, why fix it.

You've a tremendous relationship, something most people long for. Personally, i can't imagine embedding a factor that could change it drastically.

I wouldn't do it.
posted by tomswift at 3:51 PM on December 8, 2011 [46 favorites]

And we both feel that we're secure enough not to be hurt by seeing someone else's hands on the other's body

I'm not certain what you mean by this but you might want to examine this premise. I don't know if this is a good idea or not for you, but I would disagree that only an insecure person could suffer emotional fallout from something like this, and with the notion that feelings of security in a relationship couldn't themselves be negatively affected.
posted by moxiedoll at 4:00 PM on December 8, 2011 [12 favorites]

think about this very seriously.

is a fantasy worth changing your relationship forever? because it will. and it may not be for the better.
posted by virginia_clemm at 4:02 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just because you can do it doesn't make it a good idea. I'm not saying it's a bad idea, either; more, this will change your relationship with each other, with your partners, and with yourselves as individuals. What is it exactly that you are afraid of? That your "regular" sex life may no longer be as satisfying? Or that this experience might weaken your emotional bond? Because those things are possible, yes. There's simply no way to know what will happen. You might have awesome sex with some good friends, or you might have a seriously awkward encounter with some people you will avoid later. There may be jealousy involved. One of you might want to repeat the experience. So on and so forth.

Only the two of you can decide whether the (potential) risk is worth the (potential) reward.
posted by sm1tten at 4:03 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

As much as we swoon over this couple, neither of us has any devices on anything more than a couple of nights of sweaty fun.

Devices change. And those particular sorts of devices typically are not the sort that are freely shared between partners.

There are some very good answers in this thread so far. In fact, I'm not sure there are any particularly bad ones. Among the many factors you should consider, which have been identified by posters with far more experience in this area than I have, I would suggest that you throw out any assumption or even hope that the current state of your and your husband's wishes, desires, or emotions will remain static approaching or following such an encounter.
posted by The World Famous at 4:17 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't see any problem here at all. You both think it will be fun, you both like the idea, you both like the other couple, you both are fully committed to each other in the long term -- this is basically a best case scenario for this sort of thing.

Go for it! Enjoy yourselves!
posted by ook at 4:21 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have had similar encounters that have not changed my relationship with my partner at all, by the way, so I would not assume that it will change your marriage. It could, but it is by no means a given.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:23 PM on December 8, 2011 [8 favorites]

Not my area of experience but: if you have so good a thing going now, why risk it for the uncertainty that it might be wrecked?
posted by Postroad at 4:23 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would probably do it, but not with people I had to see again. Too weird.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:27 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

And we both feel that we're secure enough not to be hurt by seeing someone else's hands on the other's body


"someone else's hands on the other's body" is the absolute least of it. This is "holy crap, my stud of a husband is absolutely nailing that chick and his face looks exactly like it does when he's doing me and holy shit, was that the thing he does that drives me wild and we only learned it after two years and now he's just showing it to her after two minutes, wtf."

Be honest, you'll be watching/hearing/knowing your husband is with someone else, while you are with someone else. That could most definitely be a mind fuck, so be straight with yourself, don't tiptop around the issue i.e. say "oh we're ok with someone else having hands on my spouse" 'cause hands are just the beginning.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:40 PM on December 8, 2011 [18 favorites]

If you are feeling a gut sense of unease, listen to that. You are sensing that something is wrong, or something may change, or possibly it's that little idea that you really don't want to see him with another woman. Only go through with it if you really don't have any doubts.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:46 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Risk: changing your entire (presently stable, committed, loving, functional) relationship forever
Reward: a couple of nights of sweaty fun

I'm not seeing a sufficient reward given the risk involved. What do you really hope to gain from doing this? It's not exactly satisfying curiosity, given your experience levels.

I would be particularly concerned that this becomes a thing that is expected to happen in the future by one party but the other doesn't want it. Are you absolutely certain you are now and will always be on the same page on that? Really?
posted by SMPA at 4:47 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Why not lower the stakes? Start with a cozy night of canoodling where all four of you keep your clothes on. It doesn't have to be crazy cowgirl/cosmonaut sex the very first time out.
posted by roger ackroyd at 4:52 PM on December 8, 2011 [20 favorites]

This is not a casual relationship. Six years in, my husband and I are unbelievably heart-achingly in love with each other. I guess we're just both scared that this might somehow "break the spell."

It might. But so might a dozen other things.

I'm not saying that you should jump into this if you still have reservations. Take time to decide, take time to talk it over with him, make a plan about what to do in various bad cases (jealousy, one of you starts to develop feelings towards one of your friends, what happens if you have a falling out with the other couple--there are a lot of potentially fraught situations, but none that are, to my eye, can't be overcome with good planning and communication.)

And after you've talked through all of those scenarios, you might decide that you don't want to do it. Or that you do, and in that case, hey, awesome. But I think what's at the heart of your question isn't "should we have this foursome"--it's "how do we overcome the fear of damaging our relationship," which I think is especially potent when you're still in a high-limerence part of the relationship. The way is to embrace that it could happen, and for lots of reasons, but that you really love each other and can figure out how to put it back together if that happens. Avoiding things just because they could potentially change your relationship is a folly, and I think you know that.

(As for the limerence thing, I find that it comes and goes. Yeah, you lose it after a period of time, but it'll come back. And while it can feel like a bit of a come-down, the phases in-between are pretty awesome, too.)
posted by kagredon at 4:54 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm with roger ackroyd. There are a lot of places between not doing it and having a full-on foursome. Why not start with some over-the-sweater action, then move on to heavy petting? Throw in some necking and other 1950s slang for foreplay.

I'm a big fan of trusting your gut. It feels like your gut is saying no, but maybe it's saying "not just yet" or "not all the way" or "not all the way just yet." Trying something that's less high stakes may help you make up your mind one way or another.
posted by looli at 5:35 PM on December 8, 2011

If you don't want to do it, don't do it. Group sex, like all other sexual experiences, is optional. You don't have to try it, even if your husband and the other couple do.
posted by vanitas at 6:36 PM on December 8, 2011

If you're going to enter into a physically intimate relationship with this other couple, then you shouldn't fear a new level of emotional intimacy either.

To wit: get together with that couple for a drink or two and lay out your concerns about this encounter. Communicate clearly that you're interested, but that you have these fears. Try to negotiate a space where you can play with them, but still be able to back out if it turns out to be something which is truly triggering the fears you describe.

I suspect that your fears won't be triggered, but my own sexual history is one of pretty severe non-monogamy, and I've learned that a lot of people are wired differently when it comes to things like this.

Still, I'd say that finding a way to approach the situation where you can call things off if needed, and negotiating that ahead of time, would be the most respectful mature way to proceed. If the other people can't deal with that idea, are they really people you want to get involved with in this way to begin with?
posted by hippybear at 6:52 PM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Others have said this upthread but I think that it bears repeating—you have what so many others never, ever find.

And you're going to risk that—and you are risking it, you cannot know ahead of time how you'll react, how he'll react, you just can't—you're risking that for some fun rolling around in the rack?

If I had a Tiffany egg, I just don't think I'd be juggling it. And I don't even give a shit about Tiffany eggs. Given the choice between a Tiffany egg or what you've got, I'd chunk that egg into the river. I'd stomp it to dust.

What you've got is worth upwards of two hundred and forty-seven thousand, eight hundred and twelve Tiffany eggs, times fourteen. It's actually worth more than that, by a considerable amount.

I wonder if you know what you have.

I can't help but wonder if you know how rare it is to have what you have.

I wouldn't do it, not in a billion, trillion, million years.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:02 PM on December 8, 2011 [14 favorites]

Argh, but none that, to my eye, can't be overcome with good planning and communication.

Think of your relationship like a child. You don't want the kid cracking his skull open or getting eaten by a bear, and it's prudent to take measures to prevent that. But you don't want to go to an extreme, where you're preventing him from having new experiences just because they might pose some risk. That means accepting that he's going to get the occasional scrape or bruise, which is not something you want to happen, but you recognize that it's not as serious as a bear mauling, and you keep some bandaids around and life goes on. The hard part, of course, is learning where to draw the line at what's an acceptable risk and what's not, but you get better at it with time (this might be part of the problem--if you're unused to the rough patches in your relationship, it's harder to know what to look for.) It helps to remember that kids are a lot more durable than most people give them credit for. So are relationships.

I also disagree with many of the posters here, in that I don't think this is necessarily risky. It really depends on the relationship. For some people, monogamy is a cornerstone of the relationship and any break from it is a potential bear mauling. For others, it's a scrape, or even less. There's not a right or wrong answer here, but only you and your husband can know what it is for you.
posted by kagredon at 7:14 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would totally do it. It seems like you're in a great position for doing this the right way, in terms of trusting each other and being open.

Talk it through with each other and the other couple, set ground rules, and stick to whatever makes you feel comfortable. That might mean small steps at first.

I'd recommend checking out some websites for people in open relationships (like Life on the Swingset), as there are some really interesting, honest articles about the challenges and rewards of exploring this stuff.
posted by pourtant at 7:21 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Talk it through with each other and the other couple, set ground rules, and stick to whatever makes you feel comfortable.

I read a sex blog once, written by a woman named Liz. One day a couple approached het about a threesome. Liz was up for it. The wife said everything was game 'cept the husband could not cum in Liz.

Well he did. Liz wad surprised and annoyed, 'cause hey, GROUND RULES. But she didn't say anything. Neither did husband.

Then the wife reached over and checked Liz's crotch. All hell broke loose.

The moral of the story? Ground rules may be more trouble than they're worth, because they can be forgotten about in the heat of fucking.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 PM on December 8, 2011

It sounds like a good, fun situation.

However, something most pro-polyamorous books don't cover, is how unbelievably complicated it can be (it's like they've never been in a poly relationship!).

For example, in a two person relationship, there is:
What A thinks of B, 1
What B thinks of A, 1
What they each think of the relationship, 2.
That's 4

Then there is:
What A's friends and family, think of:
and A+B's relationship

What B's friends and family, think of:
and A+B's relationship

So, there's easily 10 viewpoints to be reconciled.

Now, imagine a threesome. A, B, and C

There is:
What A thinks of: B, C, A+B relationship, A+C relationship, B+C relationship, a+b+c relationship
Same for B
Same for C

That's easily 15 relationships just within the threesome.

Then multiply that by A, B and C's friends and family, if it all gets out.

Then you've got about... 36 different viewpoints.

In case you think I'm taking it from a mathematical perspective first, no, I'm not - that's me trying to lay out the complications of actual relationships I have been in.

I had an boyfriend, so if I'm A, let's call him B.
He had a secondary girlfriend, C.

A friend of B's, went and cornered C (a really sweet girl), and proceeded to verbally attack and berate her for 'damaging' mine & B's relationship.
I was *livid*.
None of my friends would have pulled that shit, because they know I can stand up for myself, thank you very much, and told B's friend that.

In another relationship, different people, same structure as above. B + C had a very dysfunctional relationship. They'd have drama, B would come home, and I'd calm B down, we'd have food, they'd chill out. Rinse, repeat.
It took me months to start to realise, that *I* was the key figure in their relationship. If I hadn't been around to calm things down afterwards, they couldn't have maintained the drama. I was extremely unsurprised to find that they broke up during the time I went out of town for a long trip.
At that point, I asked B how long he would have been going out with C if I hadn't been around...
He really thought about, and was quiet for awhile, before saying "About 2 weeks?".

This sounds about as ideal a relationship as you could have, but, I'm just telling you - complicated.

And, with there being 4 of you, there will be an interaction between you and her husband, your husband and his wife, that will be stronger than the other. How will that make you guys feel, if one of you is up for another 'session', and the other isn't?

The only other problems I could see is if they are actually having problems in their relationship, which means, if they suddenly break up, are you guys going to be expected to pick sides?

But y'know? You get a lot of this kind of thing with non-sexual relationships with friends, family. It can just be more intense.
posted by Elysum at 7:48 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ground rules are important and not more trouble than they're worth. They are an important part of maintaining trust, making sure you're on the same page, and keeping things within an agreed-upon level of risk. If you don't want to watch your partner have PIV sex, say so.

Note that I said maintaining trust. If you don't trust your partner to follow your ground rules then your relationship has much bigger problems than who is doing what to whom. Opening Up has excellent discussion on this as well as first-hand anecdotes from many people who are actually experienced in open relationships, swinging, etc.

There is no reason to avoid creating rules just because you don't trust your partner to follow them. It would be like not getting married just because you read somewhere that sometimes people leave their spouses. Silly.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:54 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

My situation is not entirely analagous to yours, since my SO and I have been swinging with other couples since we met, and so never switched from monogamy to non-monogamy, but I still wanted to point out a potential positive outcome. I have found that in my relationship, playing together with other people is an incredibly intimate experience and each time brings us closer. During a sexual encounter with other people, we both find so much pleasure in seeing the other person enjoying themselves, but the non-sexual moments have been just as good for building our relationship. We share a lot of bonding over talking about what we felt and experienced (I'm also bi, so we also take a lot of mutual pleasure in having the same taste in women), and we also talk over the more difficult feelings. I have also found it really good on a personal level, in that I do experience jealousy every once in a while, and it can feel really unsettling and uneasy, but I've really challenged myself to be very honest and direct about my feelings and what I am or am not comfortable with. All in all, I find that the group sex has brought us closer together as opposed to threatening our intimacy.

(That said, we have never had sex with friends, and not even with the same woman or couple with twice - having our partners be people we don't have a prior or ongoing relationship with feels like a way to deliniate the primacy of our relationship with each other. And so I also can't speak to how it might impact the friendships.)
posted by Neely O'Hara at 8:03 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Start with a night where clothes stay on. Then one where you only watch each other. Then one where you can touch but not fuck. Spend a while between each night chatting to be sure things are cool.

Going slow at something new and high stakes is totally ok and if they respect you they'll respect that desire.

Also read some of the literature, and be prepared for lots and lots (days, weeks) of intensive followup conversation to work through relationship insecurities you knock loose.

With luck everything will be smooth, but this is a bit of a roll of the dice. You can't actually predict how either of you will react.
posted by ead at 9:49 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

and his face looks exactly like it does when he's doing me

Actually his face is almost certainly going to look more excited than when he's doing you. When I was younger my then-boyfriend and I decided to have a threesome with another woman and I will never forget the look on his face when he was inside her. It looked so much more intense than he looked with me, I guess because it was new with them while he and I had been together a while. At that point I suddenly got really upset and asked him to stop, but he wouldn't because he was caught up in the moment and it was just too good to stop.

We were a lot younger and stupider than you and your husband sound like, but I did think I knew how I would feel in that moment and I ended up feeling completely different and much worse than predicted. How can you be sure what your feelings will be?
posted by hazyjane at 1:26 AM on December 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would just like to point out that there are many social circles where this sort of thing is as normal as playing a game of tennis together. Don't worry, chill out, relax and have fun.
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:23 AM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

The reason that monogamy seems to be the default (besides the old paternity thing) is the fact that people are not in control of the levers that control attachment and obsession, quite like they are not in control of who they are attracted to, and why. While it's true that, of course everyone has some control when it comes to who they choose for a mate, who they click with, or develop limerence with? That's all happens in a part of the brain that you don't really get to access to. Some people have much less control of it than others (I think everybody knows a few people in their lives that always get mixed up with the wrong kind of person and then cannot extricate themselves from the situation despite knowing it is terrible for them)

The strategy to defend against this is to limit your types of exposure to temptation with a tiered approach. Monogamy is relationship threat mitigation strategy. When you abandon it (even as a group), you're sometimes opening a door you can't close. While you can pretend you know what's behind the door, you mostly don't. That's why people get upset about cheating. Not only does it represent a material threat to your relationship, it represents a /conscious action/ that puts your relationship in danger in the first place. You're essentially throwing the dice on your relationship.

There are certain types of people who can treat sex as a completely different thing from relationship type of emotions. I have known a few people who went very long periods of time thinking they were these certain types of people (and acting as such) until they met someone and blew their relationship to smithereens. I think nature also likes to play a joke to convince you that you're this type of person when you're not -- nature often has different priorities than you do.
posted by Feel the beat of the rhythm of the night at 5:27 AM on December 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Other commenters have suggested that since you have such an amazing relationship, you might not want to risk it for the sake of a sexual encounter. Personally, I think that the people in the amazing, trusting relationships are the ones best placed to make casual sex with other people work for them.

Having said that - you guys plan to be together forever, so there's no rush. Don't fall into this situation just because it sounds perfect on paper. Even if there was a time-limit on this couple's offer, that doesn't mean the opportunity will never arise again. You might want it so much in the future that you find your standard of acceptable conditions will adapt.
posted by guessthis at 5:52 AM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Something goes a little too far for me in dancestoblue's Tiffany egg analogy and if you know how rare it is and not in a billion, trillion, million years. I think thinking of a relationship in that way could be unhealthy. Tiffany eggs don't change much in a billion, trillion, million years. Good, healthy relationships are changing all the time, and can look quite different when you glance in the mirror after 5 years---and that should be totally fine. I guess I'd worry that treating a relationship like a treasure might lead to resistance to, and poor handling of, natural, ongoing changes that should all be just part of the joy.

(more on topic, I think I'm feeling the most affinity with the trust-your-gut folks who are hearing you a little too hesitant and suggesting you take it slow and see where your head winds up for it.)
posted by spbmp at 6:16 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

The idea of adding the risk of instability into a great relationship for "a couple of nights of sweaty fun" seems foolhardy to me.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:22 AM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

You're only juggling 100 Tiffany eggs if your relationship is as fragile as an egg. You guys sound happy, in love and proud of a strong relationship. This will bring you together if you approach it together. You are one unit in this experience. Enjoy it!
posted by theraflu at 6:39 AM on December 9, 2011

I did think I knew how I would feel in that moment and I ended up feeling completely different and much worse than predicted. How can you be sure what your feelings will be?

I think that what hazyjane said is definitely true - as much as you plan or prepare or talk things through ahead of time, you can never really predict how things will feel in the real moment as opposed to the fantasy. Even though I love swinging with my partner, there have been times where I've had negative gut reactions that I didn't expect. Like one time he kissed someone (which he almost never does), and I felt really jealous and left out and it was a really lousy feeling. But it was also fleeting in the context of the whole encounter, and I told him after how I felt, and we talked about it, and worked it out fine (and now he's even more attentive about kissing me more than before).

So again, YMMV and only you can say how it would work for your relationship, but it is definitely possible that you could try this encounter, and it could feel awful and not what you wanted and you hate seeing your husband touching another woman and never want to do it again, and it still doesn't have to ruin or threaten your marriage.

(the young rope-rider suggested Opening Up, and I second that recommendation - it really helped me think through different possibilities and issues that I might not have considered ahead of time.)

Best of luck - no matter what you decide to do, I hope that even just talking this out with your husband brings you closer.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 7:40 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of folks in my social circle have these kinds (and other kinds) of open relationships. I've seen it work very well, and I've seen it turn into an utter trainwreck. If you have poly-friendly counselors in your area, it might be worth talking to one together before you embark on anything, just to help you think and talk through anything you might not be thinking of already.
posted by judith at 9:11 AM on December 9, 2011

Six years in, my husband and I are unbelievably heart-achingly in love with each other. I guess we're just both scared that this might somehow "break the spell." But that's crazy, right?

If six years in you haven't figured out the difference between love and sex, then yes, that's kind of crazy. You're not talking about trying a committed loving relationship with another couple. You're talking about a nice fun fuck. Keep that straight.

To be fair, it sounds from the rest of your question that you two have pretty open and healthy attitudes about sex-is-fun, though. Maybe just some sorting out to do?

I'd say move cautiously forward, since you have four interested parties here and low pressure, but first define your limits together, including "Okay, we will try it once, and then we will talk about it immediately, share our feelings about what happened, and decide together whether we want to do that again."

It's going to gnaw on one or both of your brains now, anyway, until you put it to bed.

Pardon the pun.
posted by rokusan at 11:13 AM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think Neely's and rokusan's responses are good.

Personally, I would view the risk/reward in a much more nuanced way than one of the examples above

Action: Experiment with another couple.
Note: I use the term experiment in the sense that there is a discussion afterwards that determines whether the experiment was a success or not. Success is both of you being enthusiastic about doing it again, failure is anything short of that.

- Changes your relationship with your husband negatively
- Changes your relationship with the other couple negatively
- Other negative, unexpected results
- Potential negative judgment by others if they were ever to find out
- Improves your relationship with your husband
- Improves your relationship with the other couple
- Other positive, unexpected results
- Fulfillment of a fantasy

So things seem pretty much a wash as far as risk/rewards. The exception beign that there's probably more downside potential with you and your husband's relationship than upside (only because things are so good now that it may be more difficult to move it up more).

But, how much damage would be done to your relationship if there were clear expectations that this was an experiment that may not ever be repeated if it doesn't meet both your expectations?

As for the relationship to the other couple, I think that there is a possible risk of irreparable damage there. But, also a reasonable chance for improving the relationship.

In my mind, the worst case doesn't have anything to do with the act itself, it's if you and your husband have different reactions to it. That is one of you really liked it and the other one didn't. As long as each partner is willing to set aside their individual wants for the good of the relationship, then things could still work out fine.

Also, to cast what a couple others have said in a different light. What if you were contemplating going sky diving? Would you consider it abnormal to have some fear and trepidation? In other words, I think that having some second thoughts is an absolutely normal response, and that it would be wise to consider the where and why of those feelings. But, it's up to you how much relevance you assign to those feelings.
posted by forforf at 12:07 PM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you do it, lay out ground rules before hand and set up some sort of check in system. Have a phrase that means, 'Slow down' or 'I'm feeing off' so you and your partner can reconnect or renegotiate. Have a phrase that means 'abort' if things become definitely not okay. Sometimes people, in the moment, get that queasiness, but they can't quite articulate it and therefore don't say anything , and everything goes downhill from there.

Also, keep in mind that different people respond in different ways to the same hormones. Some people bond very strongly with the flood of oxytocin that comes at orgasm, others don't. Some are more responsive to the dopamine receptors, which means they are naturally more monogamous. No amount of security and negotiation before can let you know if you are one of those people who naturally is more monogamous and will feel a strong reaction to seeing your partner with someone else. Always have a way out and start slow at first. Listen to your gut.
posted by avagoyle at 5:45 AM on December 10, 2011

My best relationship was sexually open and lasted six years - ended for other reasons. Ground rule was, "we both want this to happen/to continue happening". If either didn't want to begin, or to continue, it stopped straight away. At sex clubs the intimacy usually happened quite fast, in more private settings we always met on neutral ground for a drink and a chat before making a final decision, and then used a hotel room, not our home. It never diminished our love for each other, nor increased it - it was just a hell of a lot of fun for both of us and for the others involved (sometimes many since my partner enjoyed being with several men at the same time). But I want to add that I've never suffered from jealousy, and I imagine that that could make a difference.
posted by nickji at 9:27 AM on December 10, 2011

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