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I Was in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship, and I Didn't Even Realize It

Is an Open Relationship a Good Idea?

"Will Having an Open Marriage Backfire on Me?"

This question is from a Group Therapy post in our Community. Add your advice in the comments!

My husband has a friend "John Doe," who hasn't had sex in many years. He is handsome — I think he looks kind of like a young Tom Hanks — and super sweet. He likes seeing romantic movies and miniseries and sometimes watches them with me. He is the most intelligent person I know and has an IQ of something like 180. His problem is that he was abused as a child and has depression. He was 9 the first time he attempted suicide and eventually turned to burning — he calls it "branding" — himself as a coping mechanism to avoid suicide. He doesn't do this stuff anymore, but he still has issues with depression. My husband has asked me if I would be willing to open our marriage to this friend of his. I am so conflicted about this. Here are my pros and cons.


  • "John" is the nicest man I know, and I would love to be with him. If my husband ever dies or leaves me, I would marry him.
  • I really think that I can help him with his problems with intimacy and women.
  • My husband has talked about doing this for a long time and insists he is OK with the idea of me making love to his friend. He even says that if John and I fall in love he will be OK with it as long as I don't leave him or fall out of love with him — which would never happen.
  • The idea of being with two men at the same time who both love me and accept each other is awesome.
  • We don't have children, and even though it would tear me to pieces to lose my marriage if things go terribly wrong, everyone that would be involved is a consenting adult.


  • I am really worried that John will be upset with my husband and I if we offer him this — he refuses to even go to strip clubs. I worry about ruining our friendship with him. I know he likes me a lot, but he still might refuse.
  • It seems impossible that my husband won't eventually get jealous even if he promises he won't.
  • Will I be jealous if John eventually gets another girlfriend? I don't think so, but I might change my mind if I fall in love with him.

I need some advice. What do you think?

Have a dilemma of your own? Post it anonymously on Group Therapy for advice!

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henna-red henna-red 5 years
I really think you should consider revisiting sweetpuppylove's comments above....I absolutely get the same impression, that husband is covering up something big, and if it's not being on the down lo, then it's something else with a similar flavor. And it includes some kind of abuse from his past that is now emerging in his life with you.
henna-red henna-red 5 years
Skylark, you need to see a therapist! For yourself, your emotional just aren't getting what's going on here. Your husband is manipulating the situation, your actions, your responses....and you still aren't getting the whole story from him...I wonder if you ever will. You are responsible for your actions, not for your husbands', and you both have a lot of culpability here....but you still don't get that this whole situation is abusive, and that the source of the problem is with your husband. A therapist will help you to get honest with yourself about yourself, your husband and this whole situation. There is so much happening here and your husband is so far away from getting honest with you.....Get yourself some help...some objective, professional help....on your own, without your husband to start. You are not seeing the truth of this situation, and just blaming yourself is not going to fix anything. Put the anger away, it only clouds your judgement and vision. Put your self blame away, it prevents you from looking clearly at this situation, your participation and your husband's manipulation. Put away your interference with John's private life. Unless he asks for some help with an introduction, or with any involvement, then leave that alone! Stop involving an innocent party in this issue, which revolves around your husband, his issues, his dishonesty, and your inability to see or accept that he has an issue and is dishonest. And your unwillingness and inability to see his manipulation or to accept that that's what it is, is your issue. You don't want the truth. You want another version of the fairy tale you've been living. But that fairy tale is over now. This situation is going to happen again, with John or with someone else, unless you get a hold of yourself, and get some help! You are not at the root of this issue, which starts with your husband. You don't want to see that, or accept that, or deal with it. It's so much easier to blame this on yourself. That's a common response from someone who is in an abusive relationship; someone who probably was abused, physicaly or emotionaly or sexually as a kid, and is now repeating the pattern in her adult life with the person she's chosen to partner with. Don't feel bad that you're here posting again. You're looking for help! You realize that you need help but I wonder if you're in a position of safety at home with your husband. I wonder if there is some kind of threat....physical, emotional, or threat of loss, need some help, you know you need some help, and this space is a safe space for you to speak. It's a great first step, but it's time for you to go on to the next step. You don't have to look at partnership this stage you need some personal, individual help. If you don't feel that your husband won't be supportive of that, or if you feel that there will be some kind of threat.....then don't tell him. I normaly wouldn't say that, but you seem to be in a position of vulnerability, or at least that's what your responses are saying to me, and with the manipulation that your husband is using, I would suggest some time and space with yourself, for yourself, and without his involvement. Please, reach out to a professional for some help understanding this situation. If you don't, you are going to be facing it for years to come because whatever held your husband back from involving you in whatever is happening with him has changed, and he's now reaching out at home to express, inappropriately and abusively, his issue. There is much more here that meets the eye, and it's going to keep on coming get some help! blessed be
BiWife BiWife 5 years
whoa, whoa, whoa... it's mostly your fault? it was your husband's idea. your husband's fantasy. There is nothing wrong with sharing a fantasy - you guys should actually be doing this a lot, you need to be open and honest with one another in order to build a healthy relationship & strong marriage. You really have to take your focus off this "friend" and put it on your own marriage. Forget trying to set him up with friends. That's a terrible idea, especially when you have feelings for him - it will likely lead to jealousy if he were to date one of your friends now. Forget his issues at this point, you and your husband have some major issues to deal with. Again, there is nothing wrong with sharing fantasies between spouses. There is nothing wrong with exploring fantasies between spouses. Where it becomes an issue is when you involve other people outside the relationship. Those people need to have all the info and not be led into things blindly like you did with John Doe. There is nothing wrong with exploring fantasies that include more than just you and your spouse, but all the participants MUST have all the info.
skylark823 skylark823 5 years
Sorry to update this again. My husband and I are OK now. I've realized that this is mostly my fault. While my husband should never have shared this fantasy with me, I was the one who ran wild with it. Even today if this friend actually asked for sex I would probably say yes. I introduced him to one of my friends at dinner last night and she really liked him. I want to offer "John" to set him up with her. Would this be wrong?
onlysourcherry onlysourcherry 5 years
i sincerely hope that you and your husband will consider discussing this with a therapist who can help you work through your anger and both of your feelings about this situation.
skylark823 skylark823 5 years
We did the massage and it went fine (nothing "happened"), but you are right that it was probably a mistake. I have to admit I am pretty angry with my husband right now. It's not fair to build up a fantasy your partner can't experience. It's not fair to encourage your wife to fall in love with another man. I'm never going to do something like this again. It's not fair to torture me or "John" with might-have-been's.
Aquadave Aquadave 5 years
NO NO NO there are so many things here that can go wrong. If you go through with it more than likely John Doe will go psycho crazy with jealousy that you'll end up on a discovery TV show and not in a good way
henna-red henna-red 5 years
Ditto what BiWife has said. What you're doing is predatory, and will add to his trauma. It's not about him or his health, it's about your selfish usage of someone in a position of trust. This is the same way predators set up kids for abuse. It's absolutely an extension of that behavior, and is obscene. You continue to make excuses, say that you're limiting......thinking anything about this is ok is just wrong! It's wrong! I would suggest that your husband comes from a background of abuse, and is repeating patterns that he's familiar with, and that you also come from a background of being taken advantage of by this kind of personality. There is nothing OK about what you're proposing, and everything wrong. As BiWife suggests, you need therapy, and need to get honest with yourself about the position you've put yourself in. You are allowing your husband to push you toward an obscenely manipulative and predatory action, and you're willing participation speaks volumes about your own lack of self awareness, or moral discrimination. You are in a horrible place, and it will only get worse if you don't wake up, stand up, stop this destructive behavior, and find some help.
BiWife BiWife 5 years
You and your husband are setting your friend up for a sex-type thing without your "friend"'s knowledge or permission. I know you say you aren't going to be naked or whatever, but you and your husband are ascribing sexual feelings/connotations to this little massage session without letting your "friend" know about it. You are being intentionally deceitful to take advantage of his trust in people he presumes are his friends! Wanna know how people end up with trust & intimacy issues? They have people who take advantage of their trust. Just like you are working on doing right now. You and your husband need some serious therapy to figure out why it's necessary for you to screw up other people in the process of sexually sating one another. Figure out what's gone so wrong in your life that you no longer hold any respect for the people you call "friend".
skylark823 skylark823 5 years
I'm not pursuing anything slowly or quickly. I agree with the advice you've given, and decided not to do anything sexual with him. I'm not going to be naked or ask him to touch me inappropriately. I've just asked him to give me a massage like his massage therapist does to show my husband how to massage me in the future. My husband has agreed that this one time thing will be the extent of our exploration of his fantasy of seeing me with another guy.
henna-red henna-red 5 years
I just want to be very, very clear about what I see here, reading back through this. Your husband has friend, who is vulnerable emotionaly because of past abuse, he brings this friend home, and you also become friends. Your husband wants something sexually different, is not honest about what he wants, and so, with the intention of taking advantage of his emotionaly vulnerable friend proposes that you break the ice, sexually with the "friend". You know that this is wrong, but you passively agree with everything your husband proposes, and come to this site looking for someone to tell you it's ok to take advantage of this man, using the excuse that the two of you only want what's best for this man. And when people tell you it's not ok, you say oh, well, I'm going to do it anyway, even after my husband has admitted that he hasn't been honest, as several people have suggested, and you let us know that you are going to go ahead taking advantage of this man's trust within the friendship, you are just going to approach it more slowly, because you wouldn't want to scare him off. What you're doing is, IMO, is manipulative, abusive, selfish, and obscene. Coming here, basicaly asking for approval of you intentions shows that you have some mind left, if not much self esteem or judgment around your actions, allowing your husband to determine all that will happen in your life, including the abuse of this "friendship". It's a harsh judgement, but it's what I see here, and it appalls me! Coming onto a site, asking for advice but actually looking for approval of actions you know are wrong, and why they are wrong and then going on to listen to a man who you now know is a lier and a user and a manipulator....I will send along some good thought for you to, because you obviously need some help rediscovering your good sense, and basic human decency. This post really touches me, I come from a background of abuse and would shake you if I could. I can't so I try to do it with my words. Your actions and intentions are horrible and can potentialy damage someone who has had enough damage. Unfortunately for him, he has stumbled into a relationship that seems safe and is only a trap emotionaly, for him. My prayers are with him, and for him and his future emotional safety.
henna-red henna-red 5 years
So, just to bluntly point this up again...this isn't about what's best for your friend at all. And since you have decided to persue this, even if more slowly, then I all I have to say is that you are acting with selfish reasons, and what you are ultimately talking about doing is abusing and revictimizing someone who's been through this before. Your actions are selfish, and about passively responding to the selfish manipulation of your husband. This whole thing about helping someone who has been abused in the past and has issues with trust is a lot of bullshit covering up your own intentions to take advantage of an personal relationship with someone who trusts you both to not do exactly what you're proposing to do. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You keep making excuses for crossing a line that your "friend" has not invited you to cross. I'll hope for the best for him, I think he needs someone to hope for his best because that's not what the two of you have in mind!
skylark823 skylark823 5 years
After further talks with my husband about this, I decided to ask John to give me massages in exchange for dinner, cookies, etc. (He sometimes goes to a massage therapist, so I know he was comfortable with massages.) That will let my husband satisfy his fantasy without damaging our marriage or friendship with John. Thanks for the advice.
lifesoul lifesoul 5 years
this is a serious topic and according to me i wouldnt want you to have an open not going to judge you,,,you can do as you feel...but why does your husband want to share you...your mutual friend may seem the best guy,,,but you are not for may feel emotional towards him..find him hot...but you aren't a cant cure a man with should have a talk about all this and reason well,good luck
BiWife BiWife 5 years
In that case, keep it a fantasy for now. You can do a lot of talking and role-playing without ever involving another human being (especially not an emotionally fragile one). This is good news for you & your hubby - exploring fantasies together can be a lot of fun. As an exercise, try making a sexual "bucket list" of all the things you've always wanted to do, compare and "cross off" any items your two lists have in common first ;)
skylark823 skylark823 5 years
I've talked to my husband some more about why he says he is alright with me potentially doing this, and he says that he admitted he has a fantasy about me being with another man. He says that he doesn't want me with a bad guy who probably has an STD, could be dangerous, etc. He says that he thinks if I have a boyfriend on the side I will inevitably have feelings for him. So he wants me to be with the one friend he can trust not to take advantage of the relationship.
testadura67 testadura67 5 years
I actually know several couples in open marriages who have healthy relationships and sex lives. I know the situation can work as long as all parties are openly communicating and being responsible with their own emotional lives. However, your cons list is pretty big, not so much in length but in gravity. The main aspect I see in my friends' open marriages that makes it work is that they are in love only with each other. If developing romantic feelings for this man is a concern, then I would say absolutely not. You have a responsibility to your marriage to maintain that connection with only each other. Sexual attraction is not romantic love. If you are already blending these feelings for this other man, then it sounds like a bad idea. Is your husband aware of these feelings? He might not be so willing to share if he was. Again, the key to an open relationship is complete honesty and healthy boundaries. Best of luck to you.
steph1234 steph1234 5 years
What is the point of marriage in your case? Why even be married if you are going to do this? This is sad to me. First of all, you talk as if you are already in love with this other guy...2nd, why is your husband wanting to share you? NO WAY would my husband share me with his best friend, no matter what the circumstance....and in no way would I entertain the idea myself. You need to STOP....tell your husband no. and then get to the bottom of this. This is sad and weird....get some counseling....therapy...something.
steph1234 steph1234 5 years
What is the point of marriage in your case? Why even be married if you are going to do this? This is sad to me. First of all, you talk as if you are already in love with this other guy...2nd, why is your husband wanting to share me? NO WAY would my husband share me with his best friend, no matter what the circumstance....and in no way would I entertain the idea myself. You need to STOP....tell your husband no. and then get to the bottom of this. This is sad and weird....get some counseling....therapy...something.
dreamalittledream dreamalittledream 5 years
you actually said: 'It seems impossible that my husband won't eventually get jealous even if he promises he won't.'   That's your answer. No matter what, you're married-for better or worse-to your husband. Why even entertain the idea if you think it's inevitable he'll get jealous/hurt?
sweetpuppylove12 sweetpuppylove12 5 years
ok, i'm going to ask a question that might come out wrong and why wouldn't it ?! is your husband gay or bisexual? b/c i dont know any heterosexual man that would be willing to share his girl, let alone his wife with his "friend." he might want another woman in the picture but not another man i dont care if he friend saved his life he would never offer his wife to sleep with him.  i just think its either he's sexual desire or his testing you, i dont know you might want to ask your husband questions before you make any life changing chooses. maybe his friend needs to stop hanging around with the two of ya so much, friends can be good for ya or can be bad, and this friend is just smells like trouble, in my opinion. he sees what a loving relationship you two are in and he wants a piece of it, i'm just guessing. now what doesn't the friend go out and meet women? what is depression have to do with it, i have been suffering from depression since i was 13, and i've been in therapy for a while, but i've had two serious relationships w/my depression and i've made it out okay. i just think the friend is using his disorder to mask behind it b/c he's scared of rejection, aren't we all. but he needs to be out there looking and creating his on health relationship. you need to be asking your husband some serious question as to really why he wants this threesome or two ome with you and his friend. good luck hope this helped.
Lil-Maw Lil-Maw 5 years
Part of me feels that your husband might be suggesting this out of his own insecurity. Maybe he has concerns about your close relationship with his friend, and your willingness to jump into bed as a favour confirms that you're not as into your marriage as you might think. Granted that's a tricky and slightly mentally abusive way of tackling things, but the whole situation just seems a bit off and improper. To each their own I suppose, but I know my guy is the ONE AND ONLY love of my life and the thought of sharing him or being shared with someone else just makes me want to be sick.
amvck amvck 5 years
I agree. This is a disaster waiting to happen. I understand that you and your husband both care for his friend but he isn't your responsibility and you aren't going to do him any favors by taking care of him. What he needs now is for you to be his friend and that's it. I would also have a serious talk with your husband if I were you because there may be some things that need to be talked about/worked on if your husband is suggesting sharing you with someone else. 
GTCB GTCB 5 years
There is no way that this doesn't end in DISASTER.  Instead of spreading your legs for poor "John" how about hooking him up with one of your friends instead.  The fact that your husband is the one suggesting this is ludicrous.
henna-red henna-red 5 years
three more year itch.
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