What To Do If Your Boyfriend Wants To Experiment With Men
We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today's topic: what to do when your boyfriend wants to experiment with other men.
Q: “My boyfriend and I have been dating for two years. It’s pretty serious between us. We’re both in our late twenties, and have been talking about marriage, kids, buying a house, the whole shebang. The other day, he admitted to be that he’s always been curious about being with other men. He’s never actually hooked up with a guy, but has always had the suspicion that he might be bi. He said that realizing how serious our relationship is has made him increasingly anxious about the prospect of getting married without having actually ever been with a guy. Long story short — he asked my permission to hook up with a man on the side. The idea of him being with someone else is devastating to me. At the same time, I don’t want to tell him that he can’t explore his sexuality. I love him so much, but I can’t see how we move forward from here. What do I do?”
A: Thanks for the question. I’m so sorry you’re both in this difficult situation, but I also commend you both for your honesty. There are no easy solutions, but here are seven tips for sorting out what to do when your partner in a hetero relationship is interested in same-sex experimentation.
1. Take Your Time
You’ve just had a huge bomb dropped in your lap. I can understand if you feel a sense of urgency around making a decision, but you need to give yourself some time to feel all of your feelings and decide what to do. If you haven’t already, thank your boyfriend for his honesty, and tell him that you need some time to think. It might be good to spend a bit of time apart, just to give you the chance to clear your head.
2. Ask What You Can Share
I think it’s worth asking your boyfriend about the level of privacy he wants to maintain. You may feel the desire to talk about the situation with your usual support network of close friends and family. At the same time, this is a pretty intimate detail of his life that he might not yet be ready to share with other people. We unfortunately still live in a society where LGBTQ people are bullied, harassed, and even killed.
If your boyfriend doesn’t want you to tell anyone else, you may find it more useful to set up a session or two with a counselor or therapist who will keep what you say confidential. (This is a good idea regardless of his desire for privacy.)
3. Put Yourself In His Shoes
I have so much compassion for both of you. I know that your heart must be aching at the idea of him being with someone else, but even in the midst of this, you still don’t want to deny him the ability to explore his sexuality. That’s amazingly selfless and mature of you.
I also have a ton of compassion for your boyfriend, wanting to commit to you but struggling with these huge questions about his sexuality. I’ve worked with a lot of bi and questioning clients, and I know that it can be a lot harder for men to admit to bi-curiosity than it is for women. There are so many other people in your boyfriend’s position who have chosen to deny their curiosities or even their identities. Other people choose to have affairs behind their partners backs. I know this is painful for both of you, but I hope you each realize that both of you are amazingly brave.
4. Make Sure You Know What He Wants
I wasn’t sure from your question of what, exactly, your boyfriend is asking for. Is he just wanting to have a one-night stand? Or is he wanting to date people, or even get into relationships? Is this a one-time-only thing? Or a set period of experimentation? Would he ever want to experiment with you, in an MMF threesome, or only alone? I know that it’s hard to drill into the specific details of such a painful thing, but I think it’s important for you to make sure you understand what your boyfriend wants. Make sure you get the answers to all of the above questions.
One of the tricky things about this situation is that it’s hard to set limits on experimentation before that experimentation has even begun. Your boyfriend might be so desperate to keep you that he might insist that he just wants to try kissing another guy one time. In reality, that kiss might open up a whole new world of questions and curiosities. Tell your boyfriend, “I know this is hard to talk about, and I know this is uncharted territory for us, but I want to make sure I really understand what it is that you want. I’d appreciate it if you could be as honest as possible with me.”
5. Talk About The Logistics
If you decide you’re OK with your boyfriend hooking up with men, there are more logistics to talk about. Here are some questions and options to consider:
- Are you OK with him hooking up while you’re together, or would you want to break up for a period of time and give him that freedom?
- Would you want him to tell you any of the details of his hook-ups, or do you want to have a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy?
- Are certain people off-limits, for example, people you both know, or people from your town?
- Are there certain areas that are off-limits? For example, if the two of you live together, you probably don’t want him hooking up in your home?
Again, I get that this can be painful to discuss, but it’s important to make sure you’re on the same page.
6. Talk About Safety
Another important detail to talk about is sexual safety. Any sort of sexual activity comes with a risk of sexually transmitted infection. He’ll need to use condoms, and it’s good idea for him to get tested. Keep in mind that condoms aren’t completely foolproof against STI transmission, so it’s a good idea for you to get tested too, and for the two of you to use condoms for a while. Make sure you each talk to your doctors separately about the best ways to stay safe.
7. Make A Decision
This is one of those situations where I really wish I had a clear, simple answer for you. Unfortunately, I don’t. I can say that I think you have two general options: break up with him, or open up your relationship in some fashion. I don’t think it’s fair to stay in this relationship and insist that your boyfriend never explore this side of his sexuality. I can tell you from experience of working with people who tried to close themselves off that it never really works. Either the person breaks down and end up cheating, or they spend their lives feeling regretful and resentful.
At the end of the day, you’re really the only person who can make this difficult decision. I’m wishing you both the absolute best!
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