Hey Miss Lagsalot!
I have been wanting to write in and say how much I adore your blog, think you’re rad and ask you questions for quite a while now. Why the reticence you ask? Well, mostly because this brings with it a confessional of some things that I don’t often share.
I am currently in a great relationship with a wonderful woman that I love very much. However, I have quite the abundant sexual history that threatens to overtake my better sensibilites somewhat often. That is to say, I can’t seem to be happy enough with what I have monogamously. This is a predicament i am sure you can understand, as you have the boyfriend and girlfriend thing happening. (Lucky duck) Now, here’s the other thing: I don’t really want to have a dual relationship. I want to be in love with one person but able to physically enjoy other people. This doesn’t have to be separate from the person I am with either; just something different every now and then.
You probably would ask me “have you talked to your partner about this?” to which i would have to give a yes/no answer. Yes, we have discussed having threesomes or being more open to experiment sexually with other people but no I haven’t talked about how much it is something that I want. See, her reactions range from vehement rejection to subtle curiosity, yet pretty much never actually willing to take it a further step. Every time the subject is broached and we discuss who we would maybe want to fool around with she presents a litany of requirements just short of a best friend bond. It seems unfair to somewhat acquiesce to the idea of being open, only to present such stringent requirements for the person of interest that finding them is next to impossible. You might say “well then, why NOT one of your best friends?” and for that I can only tell you that she would no way, no how do anything sexual with any of her best friends. Probably not mine either. See the trouble?
I feel that her hesitancy comes from a place of insecurity, or a worry that whomever else is involved will take me away from her emotionally. That and the fact that my sexual history does include more than one threesome, which i think intimidates her. To me sex can be something that you do with friends as an extension of your enjoyment of each other and doesn’t have to be a sealed commitment every time. How can I communicate this to her without her feeling like I have lost interest in her? How can this fantasy be made into something real that she would be just as enthusiastic about?
Anyhow, that’s my story and my question. What do you think? Am I just caving to typical male lust or is this a legitimate interest that deserves looking into?
-Reticent but curious
p.s. Should you be personally inspired to er, take a hand in the matter you would find opposition somewhat lacking on this end. Just sayin’.
Dearest darling RBC,
You know… if I had a dime for every time I’ve been offered to “help” open up a relationship… I’d have like maybe 30 cents. But hey! That’s a stick of gum! And gum is pretty great!
The question you put to me is a verrry complicated one that seems to depend greatly on the personalities of the people involved. So, since I don’t know much about you or your womanly companion, I’ll try to give some general pointers that might be worth trying and can be tailored to the people trying them.
First of all, RBC, I like you. You’re a pervert with compassion, a player with a heart. And that, no doubt, is why you landed such a wonderful girlfriend in the first place. So congrats on that. I wish you the best of both sexy fun times and moonlit walks on the beach. You deserve to have it all! And there’s a lot you could have. There are lots of options for more openness in relationships, and it’s important to know what kind of arrangement you’re looking for before having a real discussion about it. It sounds to me that you are into the idea of openness to screwing around with or without your lady in attendance, within predetermined boundaries. Sounds delicious! These types of more-physical-then-emotional relationship models work well for a lot of people and might be a good way to combat the fears she may harbor about emotional connections with other people. Emotional entanglements are, in the end, usually trickier for everyone involved. Knowing exactly what it is you want is a good starting point because it can form the basis for explaining your desires (and conversely explaining what you do NOT desire: ie, cheating, long-term relationships with others, etc.) and being able to allay her anxieties.
Along with knowing exactly what it is you’d like to do, it’s important that you think really long and hard (hehehe) about how important to you the idea of sexual variety really is, congruent with how important exclusivity may be to her. While obviously I’m a big advocate of more open relationship styles because that’s what works for me, the same is simply not true for all people. A lot of folks are honestly just geared toward monogamy and do not want or need multiple partners. Others might be intrigued by the idea of openness, but are beset by too many insecurities to make it workable. If your honey falls into one of these categories, then the choice may have to be yours as to whether you want to pursue adventures or make do with what you have.
But I encourage you to give it real thought and refuse to be afraid to bring up your desires. I’ve said this before and believe it to be true: Our culture prizes sexual exclusivity above almost anything, and we are therefore often told that it is the responsibility of the person with more adventuresome tastes to learn to keep his or her pants on to preserve the happiness of the more upstanding, chaste party. But, to my way of thinking, this is utter bollocks. It can be potentially JUST as bad, from a utilitarian perspective, for one person to suffer in silence, as it can be for another person to try some new things sexually. It is no more fair for you to go gallavanting off and having affairs while your partner miserably tags along, than it is for you to keep your mouth (and trousers) shut if your randiness really eating you up. Either way, someone is very unhappy, and there’s no reason to think it’s your job to be the unhappy one just because you want more sex with more people. You should say something if it’s really important to you. The only thing to do to figure out what perverted path can be jointly journeyed is the oft-suggested but rarely used communication.
Ah, but how to start this tricky conversation? How to make it clear that those things you’ve brought up and talked about as if it were all just a fantasy is, to you, much more than a fantasy? How to express your problems without scaring her into expressing her issues in a shrieking tone? Ah, there’s the rub. (Do I say that too much? It’s so useful! Willy Shakes was a smart dude!) Sadly, sweet RBC, you probably know the answer to this better than I do, since you obviously know your beau better than I. But here are some ideas to take into consideration:
How much about your vast sexual experience does she actually know about? If she’s heard about your past experiences and isn’t put off by discussing them with you, they might be a good launch point. “You know, I was thinking about that time that so-and-so, and whosiewhatsit, and I did that thing… And it made me realize that I really enjoy being able to be physically intimate with friends while remaining romantically attached to just one person. I feel so close to you. I wonder if we could do the same thing.” That kind of deal. If she doesn’t know about your escapades but you hope to bring her around to having more escapades with you… I think more in the way of communication at the ground level might be necessary first. Mostly because if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your past with her, sharing another person ain’t gonna go so well just yet.
Also: How much have you actually talked about this? When you say you’ve brought it up, do you mean a few times when you were drunk and feeling frisky? Did you laugh and shrug it off when she said she’d never consider a friend? Or have you brought it up repeatedly in earnest tones and discussed her comfort level in depth? Have you been in a crowded room with strangers and checked out potential playmates together? Or just hinted at with discussions of friends (who she won’t touch) and celebrities (she can’t touch)? How much do you know already, and how much do you need to find out about how she feels? Either way, you’ll need to talk more, but if it’s only been mentioned in joking tones in passing before, you’ll need to be more prepared for shock and possible backlash when you tell her you’re serious about it.
A very important ingredient in this recipe is, of course, you. As I said before, I don’t think it’s fair to you to think it’s your responsibility to make her comfortable if your needs are so pressing that you cease to be comfortable, yourself. But there is a balance to be struck and it’s very important for you to take a good, hard (hehehe) look at what you want versus what you need. For many of us, what we want — lots of sex and fun times, haha! — is not the same as what we need. But it’s very difficult to pick the two apart. One way to check in on reality in a situation where the two things look similar is to remember that, should you get your wish and go off conquering new and undiscovered pubic areas with your ladyfriend, all may not go as planned. She may not enjoy it. She may have a meltdown. You may find something lacking. You may have a meltdown. Emotions could become involved where they are not expected to. A playmate might turn into a serious emotional attachment. Really, the variety of ways in which an open/non-monogamous relatonship can go wrong is extensive. (I know: I’ve been on the receiving end of a great-haha-let’s-have-lots-of-sex-with-our-friends gone south, and it is UUUGLY. With at LEAST three capital “u”s.) If you can envision yourself getting into a tangle of bodies with a friend or newcomer but don’t like to envision yourself getting into a tangle of complications, this may be more of a want than a need. Of course, if you discuss and it turns out that you both unabashedly want the same thing, there’s no reason not go for it anyway and deal with it as it comes. But if she does NOT want what you DO want-but-not-need, maybe you should reprioritize.
Or, if you realize that you NEED this to be happy but she does not WANT it, you may try other tactics. Maybe if the need is so strong, you might consider the fact that this woman won’t be the one to do this with you. Or if you need her more than you need fun sexy times with others, you must discuss your needs, openly and honestly, and then push her limits very slightly. Again, this is something that everything in our upbringing tells us is wrong. Pushing someone’s sexual limits is ranked right up there with bestiality in many people’s books. But how do we ever learn anything about ourselves or what we’re capable of, short of pushing our boundaries? Now, let’s be clear here: I do not mean BREAKING boundaries or DESTROYING limits. Taking her to a sex party without warning and making her do a gangbang is definitely NOT going to help anything. (Not that I think you’d do that, RBC. But you get my meaning.) But you could take her to a sexy party and chat with some open-minded individuals. (I know several swinging communities that host tasteful non-sex parties that are heavy on the flirting — an environment like that, in which you can meet and enjoy the company of people who are open to these ideas, might be a good way to get her more comfortable with the concept.) If you discover that what you’re thinking of is more of a need than a want, it’s your responsibility to bring it out of the shadows of your mind and tell her that this is important to you and you would really appreciate it if she could try opening herself up in ways to see if she might be able to help you get your wish. Certainly bringing it up and seeing where the boundaries lie and where they can be expanded is better than feeling pressured to keep it secret until you explode and go philandering (hah! I love that word! it makes something so exciting sound so fuddy-duddy). Get it off your chest!
Of course, getting it off your chest so’s you can get off in the first place sounds like the real crux of the issue. If you two have open communication already, and a deep understanding of one another, your needs should be very important to her, but so should her happiness be important to you. It’s a… what do you call it… a give-and-take? Whatever that means. Anyway, I think in any discussion of expanding sexual boundaries, the most important thing of all is that it be done in a safe, private setting in which you make it perfectly clear that you are in no way dissatisfied with her or the sex that you have. This is a very real instance of “it’s not you, it’s me,” and you need to be prepared to defend that position to your dying breath. Because anyone — male or female or anything else, monogamous, swinger, or polyamorous — will almost certainly feel as if the real message of, “Let’s try to hook up with other people together,” is “You aren’t satisfying me.” And “You aren’t satisfying me” is just a hair’s breadth away from “Let’s break up.” But it sounds to me like that’s the opposite of what you really want to say, which is more akin to, “I love you so much, and I think that it would be fun to do some extracurricular fun things WITH you.” Again, you know her; I do not. Up to you how to proceed here.
As far as her issue with raising the bar of who would be acceptable to hook up with way too high… Well… That’s a defense mechanism. One I’ve encountered in a partner or two, myself. I’ve had boyfriends who are totally there with me in the “let’s have a threesome with a guy” department until it comes time to choose a guy, and then everyone is someone we know TOO well, or a stranger, which is icky to me. Or he’s too hairy or smelly or weird or feminine, or… you get the idea. That perfect Johnny Depp lookalike with the not-too-big-but-not-too-small penis, a winning personality, and the emotional stability of a large boulder just never seems to come along! And the reason is that those guys NEVER wanted to get naked in the same room with another man. But they wanted me to think that they did, because I wanted them to. It sounds like your lady is placating you.
It also seems worth mentioning that if she is freaked out by the idea of getting it on with friends, she may REALLY very much NOT be into the ladies. I know, it’s a weird idea. I can’t figure it out either. But it seems likely. Sure, the idea of getting it on with many of my friends is pretty “ew” because I simply don’t think of them in a sexual way, but if you’ve mentioned the idea of a few of her more attractive friends and she’s totally freaked out by it, she might just be very very straight. Or very very worried about looking silly in front of them, exposing herself in that way to people who know her in a different way, and feeling insecure in her body, relationship, and sexuality.
All in all, there are a lot of reasons that women might not want to get into bed with a third person. It’s impossible for me to tell you which one, or which several, your girlfriend is thinking of. But the best thing to do to find out is to be honest, open, and above all, CARING and SUPPORTIVE while you tell her that you might have mentioned the idea before, but it’s getting serious now. Define first to yourself what exactly it is you want and what you would be open to trying. Then define how badly you want or need that thing. Then explain it to your lady in the most honest but beautifully-worded, open to feedback, prepared for criticism and suspicion, and loving way imaginable. Listen to what she has to say. Expect her to get freaked out. But remember that what you want is also important for the health of your relationship, and don’t let any irrational/knee-jerk reactions she might have be an obstruction: talk through them. Maintain that she is beautiful and that you would never, ever, ever want to hurt her, but that sometimes you have a hard time not acting on impulses and you would much rather act on them with her either there with you or somewhere else, giving her approval.
All things told, RBC, you’ve got your work cut out for you. But it could be really worthwhile work, if you do it right! Good luck! Oh and please, feel free to write back with tales of your conquests! Or, you know, send me some naked pictures of you and your lady friend. Just sayin.
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advice columnist general rule: <700 words, 400 is best. yr good at advice giving.