This is a follow up column from ‘When someone’s rules become your own’.
Thank you so much for your detailed and thoughtful response — it couldn’t have come at a better time.
I say this because the situation has changed somewhat since I wrote to you, though unfortunately it’s still very complex. Jim came over to spend the night last night, a treat made possible by the fact that my husband has finally found a partner and was willing to spend the night at her house to ‘make space’ for us.
However, I got a nasty surprise; as we were heading toward bed (as you do!) he stopped and said that he was sorry, but we were going to have to use protection from now on, and avoid oral sex (at least the unprotected variety). I was shocked, and asked what I’d done wrong — but no, apparently it’s because if my husband has a lover, unless I want to ask my husband to use a condom for all forms of sex, then Jim can’t be fluid bonded with me anymore. (Just to be clear, my husband and his lover ARE using condoms for PIV sex — but I don’t know about oral. I’d assume not, because most people don’t.)
This was a real blow to me. I feel as if I’ve done everything I was asked to do — I’ve taken the ‘rules’ seriously, and been open about my restrictions with prospective lovers, though it would have been much easier not to do so. I’ve been tested, and careful. But what I’m being told is that Jim’s wife’s fear of what is (let’s be honest) a curable infection is SO important that it trumps absolutely everything else — and has the right to affect people at several removes from her as well. In other words, my way (well, her way) or the highway.
Jim could tell I was upset — we didn’t talk about it right that second, but we did later on, and he understood what I was saying (and agreed with it, from his own perspective). He says he’s certain she won’t change her mind, though — she’s a bit of a germaphobe, and very strong-willed.
From my point of view, though, this is something I’d hope she’d be willing to at least think about, to see if there might be another solution that she’d be comfortable with, instead of just stonewalling. The two of them have had an open marriage for a couple of years now, but I am Jim’s first proper lover — so these are issues neither of them have had to consider before. My instinct is that while I can’t force anything, I feel it should be permissible for me to at least raise the question, if I can figure out how to do so in a non-threatening way. But it’s nerve-wracking, especially since he and I have only been together for a few months. And I’m new at this, as I said — I’m not certain I have an ethical leg to stand on here.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that during the course of the night (during which a couple of mood-altering substances were consumed), we did the obvious thing… we broke, and enjoyed each other the way we both wanted to all along. For hours. And it was glorious. It’s a huge, passionate connection we have; reining it in will be very difficult and painful. And now I’m realising that either we will never experience that kind of unbridled connection again, or we will… and it will come freighted with guilt. Either way, I see pain ahead, and it scares me.
And that’s not even counting Henry into the mix! I did stand up for the rules, and he’s actually quite happy to oblige on the technical bits — it was the ethical implications that bothered him, and the intimation that I was doing this for someone else, not for myself. So you’re right, and I should have presented things as my idea in the first place. It’s harder, because it really isn’t how I would make the rules for myself… but I agreed to them, and I feel strongly about sticking to agreements.
Though I suppose that’s a bit of a moot point now, isn’t it?
I’m very confused today.
Honestly… as someone with some pretty intense medical anxiety, a weakened immune system, and someone who already has a number of health conditions… I can’t necessarily say I blame the wife. I don’t know what’s going on with her and whether or not she’s just intensely afraid for specific reasons that are similar to mine or not, but I can say like… I really do understand her fear.
And you’re actually, no offense, wrong about curable infections. You can pass HPV and Herpes orally, both of which are not curable. Herpes, while it is not a huge deal in day to day life, is still a concern for many people and, even though I know several people with Herpes, I’m not keen on getting it myself either. HPV is less of a big deal but it can and does cause cervical cancer. I know you mentioned she was mostly worried about gonorrhea but… even that is only so curable.
There’s an antibiotic-resistant strain going around at present and there are also wider concerns about antibiotic resistance that could mean some serious consequences for STIs in the future. If she is someone who has already taken a lot of antibiotics in her life or can’t take antibiotics… I can see a very good reason for being paranoid about it.
People can use STI concerns as a means of avoiding uncomfortable feelings and I can totally see that, but ultimately it comes down to individuals, their feeling of risk and the amount of risk they want to take.
The best you can do is maybe figure out the reason she feels so strongly about it. It’s possible she has concerns based on the above, who knows? But at the end of the day, this is actually Henry’s responsibility to do more so than yours. He is making the choice to adhere and agree to these rules. If my partner were questioned about our safer sex rules, he would not blame me for them. He would defend them as his choice to make as well (especially since I have offered him the chance to be non-fluid bonded to me for more freedom).
What alarms me here is the fact that he’s disregarded his partner’s agreement anyway and didn’t use protection (or at least, that’s what I’m getting from you saying that ‘you broke’ and did things ‘the way we both wanted to all along’). If my partner violated a rule they had agreed to with me, I would consider this cheating and I’d be really upset. You might have had fun that night but… you may want to think about the fact that what Henry’s has shown you is that basically he might have rules but he has no problem breaking them in the heat of the moment and ask yourself if that’s something that’s really desirable?
And if he chooses not to tell his partner about this… well, that’s definitely cheating and is that desirable for you?
With all due respect, you both have put yourself in a really, really bad negotiating position on this. You don’t really have a leg to stand on in trying to compromise with someone who may have a very legitimate fear of sexual infections if you completely and utterly disregard their rules. Why should she trust either of you from here on out when you’ve both proven you not only don’t have any regard for her boundaries or feelings but that you’ll just do whatever you want if you’re horny enough?
I think you should wait to ask about this until the dust settles from him telling his partner he broke the rules and also ask yourself if this is someone you want to continue seeing.
Note: I wrote this column in 2017 so it’s possible my perspective may have shifted or changed. Feel free to re-ask a similar question.
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