My husband and I just recently started having an open relationship about 4 months ago and things up until now have been going good. Tonight we went out with another couple who my husband recently went on a one on one date with the wife. Things started out well enough but my gut was just telling me that the other wife has more feelings for my husband than just friendship and sex just in the way she stares at him when she doesn’t think anyone notices or feeds him her food or gives her drinks of her drinks (which she did not do with her own husband ). I am not a jealous person but something about the whole night was setting off warning bells for me. What is the best way to deal with the situation or am I being ridiculous?
The best thing you can do for yourself in any relationship is to learn how to read and work through your feelings. If you and your partner know how to read your own feelings, and your partners feelings, you can learn how to better communicate verbally and non-verbally. This can be particularly difficult in ethically non-monogamous relationships, as you find yourself confronted with new and unusual emotions in new and unusual circumstances.
Whether you feel that you are a jealous person or not, I believe that jealousy is a natural emotion. You may not have had the opportunity to experience a lot of fear or envy in your relationship in the past, but those opportunities are here now.
1. Experience compersion
This is called, by some, the opposite of jealousy. It is a good feeling you experience when your partner is happy, even if you are not necessarily the one making them happy. This is discussed frequently in terms of open relationships and marriages. I put compersion pretty close to meditation.
2. Trust your instincts
If you want an open marriage based purely on the sexual experiences you and your partner can experiences, you may have to dial back the friendship aspect. Though it’s certainly possible to have friendship and sex, the better you get along, the more likely it is for those intimate feelings to develop. If you feel that something like that could happen and you don’t want it to, you need to talk about that together.
3. NRE: New Relationship Energy
It sounds like your husband could have been experiencing new relationship energy. This is the time at the start of a relationship when you really enjoy spending time with that other person. Your hormones are going crazy and you really connect. NRE fades, and in long term relationships is replaced (one will hope) with a deeper kind of intimacy.
NRE is a sign that your partner is having experiences with someone he really clicks with. For many people, that is hard to find. For many people that is the best outcome of opening their relationship. Knowing this type of experience exists and seeing it unravel can be two different things.
4. Work through envy and fear
If you are feeling envy and fear as parts of jealousy, work through those feelings. If your partner is flirting with this other woman (and why shouldn’t he, if he’s going to have sex with her?) why don’t you take that opportunity to flirt with her husband? If you’re not interested in her husband, bow out, and look for someone who does make you feel excited and NRE-bound. If you are afraid, work through triggering experiences. Focus on compersion. Talk to your partner. Create new boundaries if you’re unhappy with the current ones.
Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable at times. Often times one does not know what they really want out of an open relationship until they start to explore it. Boundaries are moved and flexed and changed, and sometimes removed completely, after you get started.
It might feel like you want your partner to have fun and explore his sexuality, but you might also want him to not enjoy it too much and generally feel indifferent about it. Feelings are complex. Sometimes nonsensical. Not always fun. You want him to enjoy himself… but if he shows he’s having too much fun it’s concerning. You trust him… but you feel like it’s moving too fast.
Feelings of Control
Open relationships can distort your feelings of control. They can make it feel like you don’t have a grasp on everything. Monogamy gives us a false sense of security by telling ourselves that our partner won’t fall for anyone else. In some sense, monogamy does prevent against this by giving us fewer direct opportunities to make those connections. But ethical non-monogamy can give us opportunity to explore ourselves. To learn more about one another. And to strengthen our trust and love for our partner. Warning bells? Of course. If you’ve been monogamous for most of your life, your mind is not accustomed to those new experiences you’re having. It needs time to adjust, to learn, to explore. It is time to differentiate between discomfort, and disinterest. Between areas of growth and areas of “no thanks, I don’t want to do that anymore.”
I would highly recommend reading up on other peoples experiences with non-monogamy and devouring as much knowledge as you can about it. You can find a list of some of these books on my resources page [here]. Your reasons for opening your relationship and your original boundaries are all a mystery to me, but nothing about this sounds particularly abnormal to me. Some people have an easier time of it than others, some people struggle and then find success. Sometimes it continues to work, sometimes it doesn’t.
I would recommend seeing this experience as something that you work on, your partner works on, and you work on together. Learn to communicate in ways that aren’t inflammatory. Use this experience to grow closer together and to move forward.
I’d love to work through any more specific questions you have. If you (or anyone else) has a question about sex or love, submit it at the top of the page by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer it on my blog.