When we set off on our journey into non-monogamy, back before we’d even considered playing separately, or forming romantic relationships with others, back when I would have at least in theory been satisfied just seeing another woman naked without even touching her, when the occasional threesome was presumably as good as it was ever going to be, Jill laid out a set of rules. We’d heard of couples negotiating boundaries and instituting such rules prior to opening their relationships, or more often prior to making a one-time sortie into the realm of the non-monogamous, such as a threesome. Talking extensively about such an event, something we had no reason to believe would ever actually happen, seemed a sensible course of action. Much like taking a firearm safety course, learning to spot a tail, and mastering long division, being prepared for a situation before you need to be is vital. Jill’s rules were put into place for her peace of mind, to ensure that while we were stepping away from long-standing preconceived notions of love and sex, my wife wouldn’t feel threatened.
While somewhat inconvenient and not necessarily conducive to free expression of sexuality, I couldn’t possibly find fault with the rules themselves, or with my wife’s need to have them in place. They were a safety net, after all, and much like my own all-encompassing need for openness, these rules were what she needed to feel whole and secure. Though some of them seemed arbitrary, I readily agreed to all of them, and wouldn’t have dreamed of purposely violating them. We’ve heard of first-time threesomes where the guy ignores or pretends to forget the fact that his primary partner has forbidden vaginal penetration, for example; I don’t want to be that guy, if only because I can’t keep myself from caring about my wife’s hurt feelings when I’m not the cause, and I don’t want to feel like an asshole on top of it because I am the cause. What follows is a list of nine rules upon which Jill insisted initially, with details and my thoughts on each.
1. No penetrative non-oral sex without a condom. In other words, if I ever put my dick in anything that wasn’t a mouth (or presumably if my wife ever took a dick in something other than her mouth), protection had to be used. This seems like the most common-sense rule in all of non-monogamy, and it is, but at the time this rule was instituted, there was no intention (on Jill’s part, at least) to allow such a thing to occur. She had no intention of letting me fuck someone else, nor was she planning to get fucked by someone else; this rule was basically a hypothetical. Like, “Don’t even think about putting it in someone else without bagging it up.” Still, it’s pretty cool that my wife thought it through that far, presumably pushing herself well outside of her comfort zone in the process. Be aware that, of the entire list of rules you are reading, this is the only one that still stands, and with good reason.
2. No penetrative non-oral sex, period. This one seems a common rule among couples just starting out in non-monogamy. It’s one thing for another woman to suck your husband or boyfriend’s cock, but having them fuck is past the point of no return. The final frontier, if you will. From Jill’s perspective, oral sex isn’t as big a deal. It’s perhaps not as intimate as actually fucking, plus there’s no chance the act will result in pregnancy. To me, though, oral sex has always been a favorite part of sex, presumably because my first girlfriend wouldn’t give head; ergo, I place perhaps a little too much importance on it. More than penetration? Probably not. But it’s definitely a big deal to me. So even with this rule in place, I was generally happy. As stated above, I probably would have been happy just getting to see another woman naked. Touching her, being touched by her – all of that was a bonus. Still, I was pretty pleased when this rule was eventually lifted. Though it didn’t benefit her right away, I imagine Jill was too.
3. No anal play. At first glance, this one seems arbitrary, just another limitation imposed by a person eager to maintain some semblance of control over a situation that likely seems to be snowballing into something enormous and unwieldy. But I believe this rule stemmed, more than anything, from Jill’s desire to have something that was exclusive to the two of us. Something that was special, or as she put it, that was just for her. Something she got to enjoy that no one else did. I understood her need for this kind of boundary, though I’d long maintained that no matter what I shared physically with another woman, the one thing that was just for Jill was the love. Emotion and feelings were solely for her. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time, but this wasn’t true. Or perhaps I did realize it and just wanted to pretend, to hope that feelings wouldn’t get in the way, in the hopes that my wife would be sufficiently satisfied that she’d allow me the physical extracurriculars that I needed. I suppose I should point out that Jill was the first to break this rule.
4. No emotion. An out-of-town friend with whom I’d built a fairly close online connection and eventually met for sex sought to maintain a long-distance relationship after she’d gone back home. This proved problematic for my wife, who indicated she was not okay with this; I eventually let the relationship go. If you’re not aware, I’m polyamorous. I’ve probably always been, certainly since long before I was able to identify polyamory as a thing. That is not to say that I need to have feelings for someone in order to be sexual with them. I don’t. But I do prefer to know someone on a level deeper than the superficial. I want to know who they are, what they’re about, what they value, and now more than ever, how they are likely to vote in a major election. With all of that said, however, I do find myself open to emotional connections, if only because there’s far too much negativity and hatred in this world. In the face of all that, why wouldn’t someone choose to experience love instead? For the longest time, love – or even a connection beyond sex – was Jill’s hardest limit. Over time, she was able to feel comfortable with the idea of me having sex with other women, as well as her having sex with other men, and other women. But either of us forging an emotional connection was the one thing she just wasn’t okay with. Until the day she was.
5. No playing separately. Much like my wife’s fear of and discomfort with emotion, her rule that we never play separately was born of the same basic concern: That we would not be doing all we can to strengthen our own relationship. After all, if we are having threesomes, or even same-room full swap, it can be argued that we are doing it for the good of the connection we – Jill and I – share. One may theorize that such play, with all parties present in the same room, is good for our marriage and our sex life. One may also theorize that when we start playing separately, we are no longer doing it for us, but for ourselves, individually, and that might turn out bad for our relationship. This was certainly Jill’s theory, and who was I to argue? As with any generalization, none of this is true across the board. Fortunately Jill abandoned this rule relatively early, as with our differing schedules and scarcity of childcare it proved difficult if not impossible to arrange a threesome when a twosome was simply more logistically feasible. On top of that, not every woman with whom I had sex was interested in my wife joining us, and she was gracious enough to allow me the freedom I needed. I can’t say I would have done the same if I was her. As of this writing, for reasons outside of my control, we have not played together in any non-monogamous scenario in almost eight months.
6. No lengthy makeout sessions with anyone other than Jill. This rule was instituted to prevent Jill from feeling left out or bored during a threesome. It is understandable that, given the novelty of having a guest present in a sexual context, one partner might be more focused on the newcomer. Because we weren’t likely at the time to invite another man into our bedroom, there was no “with anyone other than Jack” equivalent, though personally I wouldn’t have cared if Jill did engage in such behavior while I watched. This is a rule I confess to occasionally breaking, though inadvertently; as stated above, I never would have purposely endeavored to hurt my wife. However, when your third is not privy to this rule, it’s understandable that she might want a lengthy makeout session, and in the heat of the moment it can be very hard to broach the fact that you and your wife are still feeling things out, and currently she’s not really down with long bouts of tongue-wrestling while she watches. Which is not to say that she wouldn’t have felt less awkward if she was, say, performing oral sex on one of us while it was happening. Anyway, this rule fell away around the time we started playing separately; I believe Jill felt that if it was happening when she wasn’t present to see it, it shouldn’t be an issue when she was.
7. No sleeping over. Another fairly sensible rule, especially prior to our acknowledging that we’re poly. In fact, this one seems to be advice column 101 when it comes to threesomes. It makes sense that your guest leaves afterward rather than sticking around to soak up any of the intimacy you and your partner are sharing. A threesome is a pretty big deal the first time it happens (and probably the second and third as well); when it’s all finished it’s normal to want to reconnect with one’s primary partner. I can admit to hoping this rule was eventually lifted, if only because I’m greedy and I liked the idea of sleeping not only with my wife but with another woman. We have no guest room, so when Rye came to visit we really had no other option than to crowd into our way-too-small bed. Not that I think we would have dismissed her to the guest room if we had one.
8. No fucking anyone else in our bed, or any bed Jill would be sleeping in. This is another rule that was instituted at a time when fucking was off the table; it was more of a hypothetical. Essentially, Jill was telling me that if I ever fucked anyone on the bed we share, she would have to buy a new bed, and I wouldn’t be allowed to sleep on it, or anywhere in the house. Once penetrative non-oral sex fell within my wife’s boundaries, however, the rule was enforced: Unless I was able to rendezvous with the other person at her place, I’d have to get a hotel. In one instance, Jill booked a hotel room for the weekend because a Twitter friend was coming to visit from out of town, coincidentally over my birthday weekend. As I would be with the friend all day Friday (while Jill was at work), and Jill would stay with me the rest of the weekend, she made sure to book a room with two beds. I was told to keep any antics with the friend confined to one bed, as she and I would be sleeping (and fucking) in the other. I agreed wholeheartedly, and followed her instruction to the letter. However, shortly before checking out of the hotel on Sunday morning Jill decided she wanted to fuck in the other bed. I was proud of her for conquering her fear, and happy to think that perhaps the “no fucking anyone else in our bed” rule was on its way out. Ultimately a large part of what killed this rule was the fact that getting a hotel room any time I wanted to have sex with another woman proved financially unsustainable.
9. No coming inside another woman, even when wearing a condom. This was a rule that was quickly put into place once Jill decided she was okay with penetrative non-oral sex. Her rationale was that condoms can fail, and it would suck if she had to go without the second child she had long wished for while having to endure the knowledge that I had a secret child somewhere that I was paying to support. I understood her concerns; such a thing would be life-changing, and would not only strain our finances but also Jill’s and my marriage, and potentially our ability to hide the nature of our relationship from Jill’s family and friends. Ultimately, while I found the rule inconvenient, it wasn’t a big deal because most of the women I slept with preferred to swallow anyway. In the end, it was Jill who broke this rule during our foursome. I found myself wondering if she would be as diligent about telling H of our rule as I had been; while fucking W face down on the futon, I guessed she wasn’t going to interrupt their rhythm to say, “You know, I have this rule about Jack not coming inside another person, and what’s good for the goose…” I knew that wasn’t going to happen, and it didn’t. But I didn’t care; I was far too excited that my wife was happy, enjoying physical pleasure and some degree of deeper connection. Still, as we processed everything on the long drive home, I did say, “See? I told you it wasn’t easy to bring up.” Which is why I generally brought it up well before the festivities began.
The nine items listed above represent, for all intents and purposes, our journey from monogamy to total openness and more or less practicing polyamory. Your mileage may vary.