I am a 30-year-old straight man and I've been with a 28-year-old bisexual woman for a year. Early in our relationship, after much discussion, we established that it would be open. I would have the liberty to see other women and so would she. We just had to be safe and always keep each other informed. The key was that she agreed to see only other women. I was uncomfortable with the idea of her being with another man, and she went along with it. Fast-forward a few months, and she told me that she had drunkenly kissed a male coworker. Hearing her say that hurt me. However, since then she has explained to me that the rule that she can be only with women is unfair because she's bisexual and she's attracted to both men and women. I can see whomever I might find attractive, but she has to limit herself. After much soul-searching, I came around to her point of view and she now has the option to see men too. My question: How do I deal with the jealousy and emotions that will come up when she does kiss another man? Or does even more with another man? We love each other, and I think it's important to note that while we have both been on dates with other people, neither of us has had sex with someone else yet.
— Having Emotional Reaction Means Asking Nervously
"Hard Truth #1: Renegotiating is crucial to the survival of all long-term relationships — even more so in unconventional, custom-designed relationships where there's no established template," said Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships. "And while I don't see any unfairness in HERMAN's girlfriend wanting to have the same freedom he has (to see whomever she wants), if he agreed to the open relationship on the condition that she 'see only other women,' then renegotiating is going to be difficult."
Your description of that particular limitation — only other women — as "key" to opening up your relationship, HERMAN, left Ryan feeling less than optimistic.
"Hard Truth #2: It's a time-wasting mistake to negotiate nonnegotiables," said Ryan. "I'm not saying we shouldn't be willing to learn and grow by trying new things. But our first task is to 'know thyself' and take it from there. For example, if you're certain you want or don't want kids, then that shouldn't be open to negotiation just because you met someone you like (or love) whose dreams go the other way."
Assuming you're willing to renegotiate, HERMAN, where do you start?
"Perhaps the question of why he's more bothered by her being with men than women," said Ryan. "Maybe he could ask her to set up a three-way with a man they both like so he can face the dragon, so to speak. See if the flip side of his fear isn't that he's actually turned on by the thought of her with other men. Lots to explore, once he's certain he wants to explore it. But, again, if this is a nonnegotiable — if this really isn't something HERMAN wants, despite his desire to be fair — it might be better to end the relationship than to attempt to be someone he's not or agree to something he'll never be at peace with."