Heather Corinna replies:
I'm 18 and I recently got married a few weeks ago. Thus far we've been pretty happy and are also expecting our first child. A few days ago we had some friends over: his best guy friend and my best girl friend. I guess curiosity got the best of us all and I ended up making out with the girl... and then one thing led to another, before I knew it my husband was having sex with her! I was giving oral to his guy friend, trying not to cry and kill my husband and best friend! Afterwards they left and we were left feeling so empty. I know I'm not innocent but I just feel like him having intercourse was just WAY too much. Now that's all I can think about, and I'm so upset. I just really need some advice. I really dunno what to do.
Kasey: before I say anything else, let me just say that I'm very sorry this all went down this way for you. You holding back tears while continuing to give someone oral sex (which disturbs me), your husband having intercourse with someone else and you feeling unable to say anything, your feelings of betrayal -- both self-betrayal and those feelings in terms of your husband and best friend -- are all traumatic things and I'm not surprised that you're feeling awful right now. You're also very young to be married, and about to be a young mother, so I imagine you're feeling very overwhelmed with a lot of things at the moment.
For the most part, when a couple is going to open up a relationship romantically or sexually, in order for everyone involved to feel good about it, and for it to be healthy within a relationship, that's something that everyone involved needs to negotiate and be on the same page with, full-stop.
Let me present an alternative scenario for you: you and your husband have those friends over. One or both of you feels an attraction to the friends and thinks you'd like to initiate something sexual with them. You or your husband then ask if you can speak to the other for a minute -- before either of you does anything with the friends at all, even kissing -- go somewhere alone and voice those desires, asking how the other person feels about them.
Since secondary partnership can be a pretty big deal, you might decide that this is something far bigger than one quick discussion in the heat of the moment can cover and agree that while one or both of you has those desires, you need to spend more time talking about all of this before either of you does anything with someone else. Some common things for couples to talk about in terms of secondary partnerships are what you're both really comfortable with, what limits and boundaries you have (including what kinds of sex with others, be that making out, oral sex, intercourse, is and isn't okay with you both if you see those things as being different), if people you're close to are even a good choice for a secondary partnership -- even as a one-time deal -- and if now, with your marriage being brand new, with you pregnant, is the best time for this. Couples opening up a relationship and doing it in a way that is more likely to be healthy will also often discuss things like safer sex practices, how you both are going to communicate with each other and any other partners if and when these opportunities arise, how you think secondary partnership might impact or change your existing relationship, and if you even felt your relationship was ready for this kind of a change and challenge yet.
If you'd already had those kinds of conversations in advance, you might have come up with some verbal or nonverbal cues to give each other to let the other know if something was or was not okay. You might have had a chat with your friends first about what your shared rules are, and found out how they felt about the whole thing. You would have both known the boundaries in advance so that, for instance, if you agreed that oral sex or kissing was okay but not intercourse, intercourse would not have even been an option and that would have been understood. If you had had these kinds of discussions -- and when a primary couple is on the same page, the discussion with the secondary partners can be pretty brief, though with existing friendships, I'd suggest being far more cautious and in-depth -- even if one of you was doing something inside "the rules" which the other suddenly found themselves feeling uncomfortable with (which happens sometimes in open relationships), you'd have felt a lot more empowered to interrupt and call it all to a stop.
Or, if you had agreed in all of those talks that what you both really wanted was monogamy, even at times either of you felt a desire for nonmonogamy, then none of this would have happened and if it did, it would have been clearly outside of your negotiated rules. As well, if you both had had these kinds of conversations, both of you probably would have felt a lot better able to make verbal objections to things you were not okay with right there and then.
Shifting to an open relationship (and probably after just agreeing to lifelong monogamy a couple weeks ago if your wedding was traditional), even just for one evening, often causes some upheaval in a relationship, and brings up some new issues and feelings which monogamy may not. All of that stuff I just mentioned may seem like a heavy load, but it is what people who have sustained healthy, polyamorous relationships over time have overwhelmingly found to make it most likely for everyone involved to stay emotionally (and physically) healthy and comfortable, and most likely to keep primary relationships strong. And for couples who work things that way, it often isn't a drag: in fact, many who do feel that all of that communication and negotiation usually makes them closer and is really beneficial.
Clearly, the two of you were not prepared as far as discussing the possibility of something like this, and how you would manage it, in advance. I gave you the examples above so that you could have some idea of what that situation looked like in a healthier, more fully consensual context.
Not being prepared for something sexual like this that is unexpected and unplanned happens -- Okay? It happens. -- and it more frequently happens among people who have no expectation of wanting or being provided with this kind of situation, or with folks who assume that monogamy is just something natural and easy, rather than -- like any other relationship model -- something clearly defined, discussed and negotiated as well as negotiable. So, you were not prepared, and this has now been something you've both been part of. It's done. You can't unring a bell, you can only work through this from here on out. If the two of how have love and respect for each other, and are committed to a healthy relationship together, you can likely work this out together. It's just going to take time and effort.
It's probably obvious, but the first thing you and your husband need to do is to sit down and really talk about this very honestly: talk about how it left you both feeling, talk about where you felt boundaries were overstepped, talk about what you both want to do from here on out.
You might talk about how you're both even feeling about sex with each other right now: if one or both of you feels awkward about that for a while, or wants a little break for a bit, that'd be understandable. I'd suggest revisiting whatever agreement the two of you made about sex when or before you were recently married, and talking about if you want to stick with that agreement or consider negotiating something different for the future. Given how you are feeling right now, though, I would advise taking a good deal of time to work the aftermath of this through for a while first before even reconsidering a revisit to nonmonogamy any time soon. If you're a pretty new couple, you probably need to spend more time developing your own relationship before you branch out in any way.
I'd also add that given your age, one or both of you may not have had a lot of dating experience or other sexual partnership before now. If that's the case and one or both of you is feeling like your marriage happened fast, or so early that you feel restricted in that way, that's another thing that would be smart to discuss. You certainly wouldn't be the only couple in the world to feel that way, and it's a good thing to get out in the open and talk about what you both want and how you're both going to manage those feelings if you are going to be married and committed to each other. Just acknowledging those feelings if you have them is productive and sound, no matter what you two decide to do -- or not to do -- about them.
Based on what you've posted, a lot of the reason this seemed to go the way it did was because of a total lack of any communication and behaviors in line with sound sexual negotiation. Even if you don't find yourselves in this position again per outside sexual partnership, to have a healthy relationship with each other -- in the bedroom and out -- you're going to need to work on better communication and negotiation between you.
If you had cultivated good practices of communication and sexual negotiation in your own relationship, just with each other, I'd expect to see a situation like this go radically differently. Some of why it went down this way may be because you haven't even had any real practice with real sexual negotiation between the two of you: it's not just for non-monogamous people, it's important for all people to have a healthy sex life. It also often takes time and practice for a couple to get good at, so don't beat yourselves up for not being there yet and having something happen which showed up that area of weakness: again, you're young. I also want to be clear that if you feel any reservations about saying no to your husband -- about anything -- or feel unable to have a real voice in any aspect of the relationship, that's something I'd evaluate very seriously. I say that because I'm not sure how neither of you noticed if one or both of you was not feeling happy about all of this, or how he (or his friend) could not have seen that you were upset if you were on the verge of tears, and that troubles me.
You're also going to want to talk together about those best friends, and each also talk to those friends. Your marriage isn't likely to be the only relationship in all of this which has been impacted, and close friendships can be just as important as marriages or romances can. I'd suggest talking to your friends with the same kind of candor and honesty you talk to each other with regarding all of this. I would suggest bearing in mind that it would not be unusual for your friends to have assumed that if the two of you went ahead with sex with them, that was something you both negotiated and okayed -- or had at least discussed being open to -- in advance. In other words, I hear you expressing anger with your best friend, and while all of your feelings are valid, I'd leave some room for misunderstanding on her part, since if it was the two of you who initiated this in the first place, I can see how she might presume everything that went on was acceptable to you, particularly if no one was making any verbal objections or asking for a pause to talk about all of this at any point. I'd also leave room for the possibility that she feels as awful and as traumatized as you do, especially if she, like you, did not feel able to say no or to put a stop to anything that went on. If she, like you, was also holding back tears while having sex with your husband, this may be even more complicated than it seems. I've been given such an abbreviated version of this event that it's hard for me to tell what was going on emotionally with everyone throughout and what those dynamics really were like.
With all of these relationships -- including the relationship you have with yourself -- it's probably going to take some time to sort this through, and you all may feel awkward or uncomfortable for a while. That's okay: in any close relationships that go one for a while, there are going to be times of conflict, difficulty or transition we have to work through while feeling uncertain, uncomfortable or overexposed. Having sex with a close friend, particularly spontaneously, and particularly when they are a big part of your lives and an existing relationship, can often be tricky to manage after-the-fact. Having sex outside a marriage or committed relationship with your partner, even when it is agreed upon, but especially when it is not, is also very tricky and often hard to work through. If you find that with any of this, your talks aren't productive -- or even possible -- or aren't helping, I'd suggest you or you and your spouse together consider looking to a professional counselor for extra help. Sometimes, having a mediator or someone much more objective is a really big help, both in terms of being heard and when it comes to developing tools for healing and dealing. I want to add that it is also okay if, for any reason, you feel like you can't continue one or any of these relationships: you're going to know best what is best for you and what you can and cannot live with.
From a sexual health perspective, I'm going to assume that it's likely that you both were not practicing safer sex for some or all of this event. Folks that aren't prepared to negotiate sex in general also tend to be unprepared when it comes to safer sex. Even if you did use latex barriers -- condoms, dental dams, or gloves, whichever were needed for a given sexual activity -- but particularly if you did not, you are both going to want to get in to your healthcare provider for a screening for all sexually transmitted infections in a month or so. Since a sexually transmitted infection could also complicate your pregnancy, now that you two have not been sexually monogamous, your best bet would be to practice safer sex together for any sex you have for the next six months. That's condoms for any oral, anal or vaginal sex, six months of monogamy, and then one more STI screening after that first one at the end of that six month period. If you're both free and clear with that second screening, and are going to stay monogamous, you can go without latex barriers at that point if you prefer.
Lastly, I have to voice that it seems to me the flavor of this whole event was at least somewhat ugly: not fun, not joyous, not loving, not warm. A little creepy and cold, from my read. I can't even tell if all of it was consensual on everyone's part. I don't say it seems ugly or creepy because a married couple had sex together outside the marriage, since again, those situations do not have to resemble what you've described here, by any means, and I'm not of the mind that any one model of relationship is right for everyone when it comes to exclusivity or nonexclusivity. I say that based on what you've posted and the tone of what you have posted.
Now, it may just be that this was the way it was because you were a group of people with no knowledge whatsoever about how to sexually negotiate together or singly, because the group dynamic of the four of you has something unhealthy in it, or because a level of life or relationship experience wasn't present for any or all of you to know how to handle and conduct this. But if any of this was nonconsensual, was or felt forced, or if you or your husband (or your friends) at any point were doing things you simply did not want to be doing, some of what you're feeling right now may be about a sexual abuse, rather than just a bad judgment call, and you may want to look at or seek help with dealing with this from a standpoint of sexual trauma, not just an error in your relationship or a poor sexual choice on your part. If that is the case, one good place to start is with the support services RAINN provides, which you can access online here, or through their toll-free hotline here:
Hopefully, I've given you enough information to start with no matter what the nuances of this situation were. I'm going to leave you with a few more links to take a look at, and wish you the best in working through this.