How Do I Get Over My Partner’s Three-Way?


How can I get comfortable with something that unnerves me?

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

man buttoning the sleeve of his shirt

Q: My fiancé is an honest man and shared with me a lot about his past. One of the things he told me from the beginning was that he had a threesome with a married couple who were his very good friends. It happened and ended over ten years before he met me and only happened a few times. I was okay with the information as it was in the past and I respect his honesty. But since I started planning the wedding a few months ago, I felt uncomfortable inviting this couple to our wedding, and I told my fiancé that. But he is adamant that he wants them there, as they’re some of his oldest friends.

So I told my fiancé that maybe I could meet them before the wedding and give myself a chance to familiarize with them. But the day came, and I was quite emotional and upset but tried hiding it from everyone (the couple didn’t know that I know about their activities), but the moment we drove off, I burst into tears.

I’m not a jealous/possessive type and I trust my fiancé. I also know that it’s in the past and there was no hint of sexual tension between them, but I just feel lost and have a jealous pain. And with the knowledge that they shared some intimate moments together, I feel like I don’t want to say my vows in front of them.

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

Be honest with yourself. You say you’re fine with it because it happened in the past. You say there’s no sexual tension between them now. So what is it that’s bothering you, honestly?

It’s easy to pin your feelings to the couple themselves, to focus on how you feel around them. But, I really don’t think it’s got anything to do with these folks. Having them around just forces you to face that you’re uncomfortable. Instead, I think you’re a little shaken that he’s had a three-way experience at all, with anyone, ever.

Forget about this couple, set down the guest list for a minute, and try to figure out why a past experience would bother you now. We’ve all had various experiences of different levels and kinds before marrying. What is it about this one that sets you uneasy? Are you afraid it’s something he’ll want to do again, and that you won’t be game for? Are you afraid it means you alone may not be enough? Does it demonstrate some inconsistencies between the way he sees sex and the way you do?

You see what I’m going to say here, right? Think about what’s bothering you, and then when you pinpoint it, talk about it. Make sure you’re aligned in how you see sex (presently, within your relationship) and how past experiences do or don’t inform that. If three-ways are off limits to you, find out if he’s on the same page. And discuss what it means for you as a couple if you’re not on the same page. Setting sexual expectations is normal and important.

These chats could confirm that this is just something that happened in the past, that it’s not something he plans to do again, and that you’re totally aligned in how you see sex working within your relationship right now. Or, they could reveal some disagreements that you may want to work out with a counselor.

If it turns out that you are on the same page, but it doesn’t ease that uncomfortable, jealous feeling, well. I mean that’s sometimes just part of being in a relationship and having a short lifetime of experience before having met one another. Jealousy isn’t fun, but it’s normal and human, and probably something you can process best with a therapist. I’ll be honest, I sometimes think about the life my husband had before me and wonder what it means about the way he sees me. But when I get my head on straight, I realize that what’s happening right now is what’s really important. So, what’s happening right now for you two?

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Roselyne

    I will absolutely second the “figure out what’s actually bothering you, maybe with a therapist” suggestion.

    At our wedding, two of my husband’s ex-girlfriends were there (including the one he broke up with right before we got together – she and her partner are some of our best friends). And if my husband had had a problem with having people at our wedding who I’d slept with/had threesoms with… Um, honestly, that would have a) eliminated a sizable portion of my friends, and b) been a huge problem for me. I’m not saying everyone has to have the same level of comfort with pre-relationships shenanigans, but if they’ve happened, and you’re with the person and want to marry them, then you do have to either come to terms with it and ACTUALLY be comfortable with the fact that they have a past that doesn’t include you (and, erm, if you’re over 15, they’re more than likely gonna), or decide that it’s a deal-breaker for you and deal with that realization. His past isn’t gonna go away.

    Honestly, I think it’s really unfair to your fiance to insist that he can’t have some of his best friends at his wedding because he slept with them years ago, has no plans to do it in the future, (presumably) has no tension going on, things aren’t weird between them, etc. I can see how you don’t want the reminder there, but it’s his wedding, and his friends and relationships, too.

    • Kayla

      This seems to be a really important distinction. In some circles (including mine), it’s pretty normal to have slept with some of your friends. This does not disqualify them from continuing to be your friends, or from participating in traditional friend activities (getting coffee, attending your wedding, etc).

      In some circles, apparently, that is not the case. Once you’ve slept with someone your friendship is forever tainted and invalidated by The Sex and they will curse your wedding with smut if they attend. I personally think this view is deeply sex negative and controlling, which I know isn’t a popular opinion around here. (Seriously. Last time I said this I was called a whore like a dozen times.)

      It sounds like LW and LW’s fiance are not on the same page on this issue. A counselor could help.

      • Roselyne

        I personally agree with you, and it would be a deal-breaker in any relationship if someone tried to tell me who I could or couldn’t be friends with, especially if I felt it was couched in judge-y comments about my past sex life. That said, if you’re both on the same page about ‘The Sex Taints Everything’, that’s fine (for your relationship, not for society as a whole – judge-y comments should be withheld in public, pls). It just sounds like, for the OP, he’s on the page of ‘we fooled around AND we’re good friends, we are no longer fooling around, good friends should be invited to my wedding’ and she’s on the page of ‘tainted grossness makes me uncomfortable’, and that’s just… complicated and messy and has tons of undercurrents that should probably be worked through.

        In the end, it’s not about the guest list. It’s about expectations and attitudes towards sex and sexual pasts and friendship and complicated emotional stuff. So… working that through with your partner (working through, not ‘my side is right!’) seems like a prerequisite to settling a whole bunch of stuff.

        • Kayla

          Definitely. My biggest concern here isn’t that LW seems to be in the “sex makes you an ex, and exes can’t be friends” camp. It’s that they don’t seem to be in the same camp.

      • A.

        Uh, totally not your whole point, but WTF to (several!) people calling you a whore for expressing a dissenting opinion about sex and friendship?! That’s super uncool and sorry you dealt with that.

        I’m probably someone who would be more uncomfortable with the idea of one of my husband’s past sex partners attending my wedding. But we got together when we were 19, so that would only be the girls (now women) he slept with when he was 16-18 and he has zero contact with now, so it’s really more that I can’t *imagine* it than it being something I’m morally/inherently opposed to. And on the flip side, many of my friends, all of whom live in New York City and have a very enmeshed friend group, would be horrified at the idea of having to cut out past partners (serious or not) since it would completely destroy their social group…which they say they couldn’t have survived without over the past 10 years, making them non-negotiable. So I think overall experience, age, and even location can really play a role regarding feelings on this.

        • CII

          Definitely agree with A.’s point about how experiences, age, location can shape the perspective of someone in this situation. So to could the size of your wedding, and its significance to you.

          Personally, I would have been incredibly uncomfortable with this idea. But that personal level of comfort is shaped a lot by when my husband and I got together (young) and the number / nature of prior relationships we had.

      • Lisa

        I just wanted to comment to say that I’m really sorry you had to deal with that backlash. That’s totally uncalled for.

        • Kayla

          Thank you! But the offensive part of the backlash was just a random person whose opinion I really could not give less of a fuck about. Like my hair and my backside, my skin is thick.

      • Lawyerette510

        I’m bummed I wasn’t in the comment section whenever you received the backlash, because I would’ve liked to have voiced support for you. Like Lisa and A. said, totally not ok to name call you for voicing your perspective.

        Additionally, I agree that the idea that having had a sexual encounter or relationship with someone automatically taints the relationships is based in puritanical perspectives on sexuality and have a lot to do with controlling people’s bodies and punishing them for past choices in a larger systemic sense. I say this as someone who is in a monogamous marriage and who is not friends with anyone I had previously had sex with, but not because of The Sex, while at the same time, I entirely adore one of the women my husband had a strong friendship with and for a while they also casually dated and had sex then went back to being friends. My only problem with her is that she took her rad husband and their adorable kids and moved across the country.

        • Kayla

          It was the weirdest thing. The worst comments were actually a few days later, when someone went through and left really nasty comments on every single comment I’d made that day. Every single one. Like, what?

          But I don’t really mind being told by anonymous angry internet users that I’ve had a lot of sex. I have! It’s been awesome!

          • AP

            WHAT. That’s terrible.

          • A.

            Oh, and since it was a few days later, it probably didn’t register with mods right away/at all. That’s awful! And just…weird, too.

          • Kayla

            So weird! Once or twice would’ve been one thing, but it was like I checked my email DAYS LATER and had 10+ replies from the same person, each one as batshit as the last. But, you know…

            ¯_(ツ)_/¯

          • Eenie

            Not that it makes it ok, but I read the comments and didn’t remember anything of the sort as of late, so it’s somewhat good to hear it was after the fact and you were able to brush it off. To counteract, I’m an anonymous internet user that is very happy you’ve had lots of sex!

          • BSM

            This happened to me, too! It was quite bizarre.

          • up_at_Dawn

            I have been both slut shamed and prude shamed. It’s ridiculous. Women can never win.

            Seriously, is there an idea number of sexual partners or something?

          • Kayla

            AHH! I wonder if it was the same person. It was so strange.

          • Violet

            I remember that guy. He was… not APW’s usual typw of commenter. To put it mildly.

          • Liz

            Psst, if that happens again, shoot a mod an email so they can shut it down. I’m sorry it happened!

          • Aubry

            I’m late to the party, but man – internet hugs to you. I know it sometimes isn’t easy to have negative comments thrown your way. Even if you know they’re wrong and just some troll with sadness in his life and nothing better to do. Practising compassion is hard when you want to rage. For what it’s worth I’m super happy that you’ve have a great an varied sexual history. I hope your continue to have all the great sex, to make up for the lack that that one angry person’s life.

  • Anon

    My now husband was not comfortable with me inviting a married couple I had a threesome with years ago. Lucky for him they live too far away and couldn’t bring their kid to our kid-free wedding so they chose not to attend. My husband was happy even though he would have consented to them being there because they are friends. However, there was another guy i wanted to invite who i used to have a friends with benefits type of relationship, and husband was absolutely not ok with that, even though he is ok with the guy as a person (and he has a gf too). He just said that he is uncomfortable around him. And I had to make a choice: what was more important to me? Having my friend there or having my husband be comfortable on his own wedding day. I told the friend that i couldnt invite him and why, and fortunately he understood. He was sad he couldn’t go but he understood. It was not an easy conversation, and I was afraid i would lose the friendship, but it also shows what a good friend I have. Me and my husband have different views on being friends with people we had sex with. Im the type of person who can be friends with anyone and I try for amicable relationships with those people, but my husband is not. He doesn’t understand that probably because of his own past experiences. So I think you might be more like my husband, and I am more like your fiance. So following Liz’s advice – figure out if that’s what’s bothering you and talk to your fiance, you want to be comfortable on your wedding day.

  • Sosuli

    I totally agree with Liz, but also wanted to offer the letter writer some solidarity. I would be totally uncomfortable in your situation too! But I also think it’s great that you are thinking about how to move past this, not just “how do I make my fiancé not invite them.” Because that will solve nothing. Even if they’re not at your wedding, if they’re such close friends you will inevitably end up seeing them at a whole host of other events. Better to work through this now and actually leave it in the past than end up feeling like this every time you’re faced with them or other people from your fiancé’s past in the future. I would also like to mention that not only discussion but time as well might help with this. If you’ve only met this couple once (which is what I think this letter is saying, but am not 100% sure)… I don’t think it’s that surprising that you felt this way. I had some serious hang-ups about my FH’s ex-girlfriends for the first couple years of our relationship and a lot of serious talking about what was bothering me along with just getting used to the thought of them over time helped. Not saying time alone will fix this – working through it is absolutely necessary – but be kind to yourself and don’t expect to be able to just flick a switch to turn those feelings off.

  • Rachel

    I’m very glad Liz suggested working with a counsellor or therapist here. This definitely seems to be a situation that’s triggering something deeper for you. Like Roselyne mentioned below (or above, depending how you sort the comments!) – for me it would be a huge deal-breaker to have my partner tell me who I am and am not allowed to maintain friendships with simply because we may have a shared sexual history (and yes, to me part of maintaining those friendships would include inviting those close friends to the wedding). Jealousy can be a perfectly normal reaction, but it’s not something which should be left unattended to rule your decision-making. Your best bet is to address the jealousy and insecurities head on, ideally with the help of a trained professional who can help you work through the deeper feelings and develop strategies to address them.

    • Kayla

      “Jealousy can be a perfectly normal reaction, but it’s not something
      which should be left unattended to rule your decision-making.”

      This x 10000

      • CMT

        Somebody cross stitch that on a pillow, stat!

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I agree, but I want to stress how important it is that you be comfortable and make peace with your own role in this relationship and who you are to this man. I say this bc in these conversations with your fiancé, it might come to light that threesomes might be something he’s interested in (not necessarily with this couple) or something that he would like or something he fantasizes about and since he’s so forthcoming, he might just tell you that. And if you’re feeling this way about something he did well over 10 years before he met you, I could see hearing something like this could be unsettling. Making peace with someone’s past also includes making peace with their present. When you have these conversations you open up Pandora’s box so to speak and you have to prepare yourself. I just want to assure you that none of what he did before you or might want to do in the future or fantasize about says anything about you. When you have these conversations alone or even with a counselor together, you might establish some boundaries on the topics to help you process as you go along.

  • Mrrpaderp

    This couple is basically an ex. A casual ex, sure, but it was more than a one time thing. So my thoughts about this situation are closely aligned with how I would analyze an SO’s friendship with an ex.

    Right off the bat, I find it incredibly odd that this couple are two of FH’s oldest friends that he just HAS to have at his wedding, yet LW has only met them once and at her insistence. Maybe there’s a distance issue, idk, but if these people are so important to FH’s life then I would think he’d have made more of an effort. ESPECIALLY given his past with this couple.

    More generally, being with someone who maintains a friendship with an ex is hard. The only way to really move forward is to do exactly what LW tried to do – to get to know the ex(es) and see first-hand the relationship dynamics between the ex and FH. But developing a level of comfort with an ex takes Time. A lot of it. FH is not being fair to LW by pressuring her to include these people in their wedding day when he denied her the processing time she rightly needed. I’d venture a guess that LW’s emotional state about this couple has more to do with the pressure of including them in her wedding than with her actual discomfort about them (sans wedding).

    FH didn’t manage this relationship in a way that his future wife can reasonably be expected to be comfortable with it. The consequence of his decision to mismanage the situation is that he doesn’t get to invite them to the wedding. This is a classic, a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an (emotional) emergency on mine.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      Well did he really mismanage? Was it on him when he told her this information to create a space for her to get to know them if she didn’t express a need or desire to do that? I think she stated her need and he’s trying to accommodate that. Her discomfort didn’t come up until recently so I don’t see how this is his fault. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. She feels how she feels and from what she said, he’s at least sensitive to that.

      • Mrrpaderp

        Yeah, I do think it was on him. If you have an ex who’s a close friend (1) you need to know pretty early in a new relationship that your SO will be accepting of your friend/ex if nixing your friend is a dealbreaker for you; (2) it’s pretty understandable that a new SO meeting an ex is anxiety-producing for your SO, so it’s not very kind to spring that situation on them shortly before the wedding. LW is going to have to learn to be cool with this couple, but I don’t think it’s fair to her to put her comfort on a timeline.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I don’t think he sprung it on her. He told her he had a threesome with some close friends. This is not new info. If that was an issue for her, she should have told him then. She’s now communicated it’s an issue. He’s not ignoring it. I don’t see the problem. I think it’s a person’s responsibility to let their partner know what they are and are not ok with, not for their partner to guess.

        • Leah

          I don’t think I agree with you here – I think FH managed this about as responsibly and
          considerately as anyone could be expected to. I invited exes to our
          wedding, including one who my
          husband hadn’t previously met. We’ve been pretty need-to-know about past relationships, but these were people who I considered friends, and he knew that, and I’d explained my relationship to these exes early and consistently in our relationship. And I certainly mentioned as we put together
          our guest list that these were people I was planning to invite (as did FH here), and
          tried to give him space to raise questions/concerns. I don’t know what else one would recommend doing in this situation…
          And certainly LW has some unresolved emotions in this case, which is 100% allowed, but I don’t think that’s on him…

    • Eenie

      My fiance has old HS friends that I’ve never met. I’ll meet them for the first time at the wedding. He went through A LOT with these friends (death of a friend, criminal prosecutions of another), and though they don’t see each other hardly ever, they are still really good friends. Friends we could call out of the blue and they would do whatever we needed. He could not imagine his wedding day without them. He doesn’t need their approval of me, so he never pushed for me to meet them. It’s about the shared history. Granted one that relationship doesn’t involve sleeping with each other, but I can really understand how a really good friend of a SO’s doesn’t need to meet me to be important.

      I’m not sure I agree that this is lack of planning on his part. He told her from the beginning and said it was important to him. It’s important the LW feels comfortable on her wedding day, but I’m not sure why that trumps the future spouse including his nearest and dearest.

      • lmba

        “It’s important the LW feels comfortable on her wedding day, but I’m not sure why that trumps the future spouse including his nearest and dearest.”
        Agreed.

    • Natalie

      I disagree with you on this. It’s completely reasonable to me that old friends (who may live far apart) may not meet a friend’s partner until the wedding. I did not meet several of my husband’s closest friends from high school and college until our wedding, because they all live scattered around the country now. He had in fact slept with one of them (a high school/college girlfriend), but I don’t view her as an ex. They’ve been good friends so much longer than their relationship lasted. FWIW, I liked her immediately and had none of the struggles you say come with trying to be ok with being friends with an ex.

      Being with someone who maintains friendships with exes may be hard for some people, but it’s not difficult across the board for everyone. Perhaps LW’s FH should have known that this is something that might be hard for LW, but it sounds like SHE didn’t know herself how hard she would find it. I don’t see how FH mismanaged anything. I don’t know what he could/should have done differently.

    • BSM

      I would not consider casual sex with someone(s) a few times as an ex, at all. An ex constitutes a romantic, committed relationship. Depending on what happened then and since then, I could see myself potentially being uncomfortable with inviting my husband’s ex(es) to my wedding. Someone he had sex with a few times 10 years ago who is a dear friend? Definitely no problem.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        I wouldn’t consider them an ex either but I do see how it could be awkward or uncomfortable just based on the sex. I will be honest and say how long ago this happened is a factor for me. This is casual sex that happened OVER a decade ago, not last year. I definitely think LW has an obligation to do the work here and figure out why this bothers her so much. I don’t really think this is a big deal but I totally get her having feelings about it. I just hope she gives herself a chance and tries to work it out.

    • Liz

      Realized while reading this that I hadn’t met one of our groomsmen until the wedding day. I think it happens.

      • EF

        yeah, my partner had only met half of my brigade before…the rehearsal. we live far away. it happens, and it wasn’t weird.

  • anontoo

    Ok, so I have a different take than what’s being presented here. I think it IS partly about the couple – the LW says she feels weird saying her vows in front of them. Perhaps if LW is getting married under the presumption of committing to monogamy, and this couple doesn’t/didn’t define marriage as monogamous (or did, until they met LW’s fiance, and then didn’t hold to that original commitment), that might be what she’s resisting. And that’s my question – have LW and her fiance talked about whether their marriage commitment does or does not include monogamy (ie. no threesomes)? If not, it’s time to discuss it. And maybe unpack what this other couple’s marriage vows were (as far as her fiance understands/knows), and whether LW wants their marriage vows to mean different things. Just clarifying that with herself and her fiance might help.

    • Roselyne

      Not to stir the discussion more (um… I may fail at that), but you’re also going to be speaking your vows in front of many couples who have less than ideal marriages. Like, if you’ve got more than 20 people in front of you, we can basically guarantee some crappy behavior, some divorces, some worked-through infidelities (from couples who DID promise monogamy, failed, worked through it, and are still together), etc. How other people respect their wedding vows doesn’t qualify or disqualify them from hearing yours.

      I think it’s definitely important to clarify what you want YOUR vows to mean, but realize that what’s a deal-breaker now may not be one in 10 years, and that how other people chose to live their marriages isn’t commentary on how you chose to live yours.

      • anontoo

        Couldn’t agree more. Well said, Roselyne. My point was that maybe that’s the underlying issue that she’s having that she needs to hash out with her fiance (and I did not mean that feeling that way would mean she shouldn’t have anyone without a perfect marriage at her wedding). Because HA HA HA HA HA on that concept. Our wedding would have had like three people at it if that were the standard. :)

        • Roselyne

          Cool. I’ve just heard people say that before, and it always prompts me to take a deep breath and be like ‘god, i hope people have more indulgence towards your difficulties when looking back at YOUR marriage in 30 years’. Because life ain’t all roses and sunshine, but you want someone who can weather out the storms with you, ideally without judgement from the entire world, y’know?

          • Totch

            There’s this tradition in chinese weddings of having a “good luck woman” who helps with parts of the bride getting ready. She’s considered good luck because she’s got kids and a spouse and has never been divorced (preferably her parents are still alive and nothing bad has happened to her ever).

            We know who we’d ask, but she’s divorced and has had health problems so we’re hoping it’s not a big fight with family because REALLY?! It’s supposed to be someone whose luck you want to rub off on you (eg. if you want a bunch of kids, pick a woman with a bunch of kids) so there are plenty of reasons she’s great, I’m just worried the divorce will be a sticking point.

            Not related to the question, but a totally codifed version of what you’re talking about that I’m thinking about a lot lately.

        • EF

          I love your point actually and think you may be spot on. our vows didn’t include monogamy (because it freaked me out to include it) and it didn’t include ’til death’ or whatevs, because again, i’ve seen awful relationships where one person shrugs and says, ‘well i said it was for life.’ no one mentioned anything at the time, though a couple of close friends have made comments since then — but not unsupportive.

          there are a lot of ways to have a marriage. but it’s really really hard to recognise the whole different, but still good…thing.

    • anon today

      But why would you need your guests to subscribe to your concept of marriage to witness your wedding? My MOH has been in a messy affair with a married man on and off for several years now, and while I don’t agree with what she’s doing, I wanted her to stand up for me at my wedding because I want her to support me as an individual, which she is totally capable of doing, regardless of other choices in her personal life. Her relationship is not a referendum on my marital values.

      • Bandy

        What anontoo wrote was exactly what I was thinking. It’s not that every guest at her wedding has to subscribe to her view on marriage necessarily, but I can imagine that if you are standing up there about to say vows involving lifetime monogamy, you might feel uncomfortable if a couple in the second row can attest to your partner having actively helped them break their own vows, or at least taken part in an act that involves a different perspective on marriage.

        I think this is less “you’re jealous what’s wrong with you” and more “go talk to your fiance about your vows, make sure you’re on the same page, and then try to chill out”.

    • lady brett

      this was exactly my thought! it could be unmentioned in the letter or the editing of it, but if it was about anyone he’d had sex with, it would probably be more than just these folks. it sounds to me like, in the context of planning a wedding and marriage, it is the part that he was chill with sleeping with married people (who were clearly also chill with it) that is causing concern. and i’ll just say that my marriage vows don’t require monogamy in the least (or i wouldn’t have said them), so this is about your feelings about what marriage is and means rather than some sort of rules.

  • Alexandra

    Lots of ways to live a life. Seven comments and they already run the gamut.

    Personally, I am 100% not ok with the exes of either party being a part of my marriage in any way. Before I got married I broke ties with all of my exes (and there were many!), including one who was never a real boyfriend but with whom I had a pretty emotionally intimate friendship. And I mean completely, irrevocably broken ties: no facebook friends, deleted from my phone, completely out. of. my. life. Husband did the same thing without my even suggesting it. It was a shared value of ours right from the beginning of our dating relationship: this is it, I’m with you now, the past is truly in the past. I have zero jealousy of people in my husband’s past, and he has none about my people, because it simply isn’t part of the equation.

    That’s OUR deal. It’s mutual and we’ve never had to fight about it, except a small discussion about one friend–the one I never had anything physical with. Husband requested that said friend be ghosted on, and though I disagreed, this is my husband we’re talking about. If something makes him uncomfortable, you know, I took a vow to love this guy for the rest of my life. Old guy friend can find new friends. I can’t find a new husband. My husband is a reasonable person and I don’t find him to be controlling, so I honored his request.

    All that to say–the heart is a funny thing. Different people can tolerate different levels of ambiguity or flexibility about the nature of the relationships their partners forge. Our way wouldn’t work for everyone, or maybe even most people. What’s absolutely ESSENTIAL, though, is that spirit of honoring one’s spouse in the matter. Spouse trumps friend. If spouse feels uncomfortable/unhappy with an auxiliary relationship, in my opinion, other spouse should honor that and sever ties.

    That’s my personal boundary. I would not marry someone who didn’t respect my wishes in this kind of thing. I would not do a bunch of emotional gymnastics trying to force myself not to be uncomfortable. Maybe that makes me controlling or manipulative, but I think it’s ok to own your discomfort and not apologize for it. Most men would!

    • A.

      “If spouse feels uncomfortable/unhappy with an auxiliary relationship, in my opinion, other spouse should honor that and sever ties.”

      Oh, wow, I so fundamentally disagree with this statement that I feel like I need to parse it out because of just HOW much I disagree with it!

      So, to start, I think that your relationship is your relationship and if you’re both happy, that’s wonderful. The rest of what I’m going to say doesn’t necessarily and certainly isn’t mean to reflect on your individual life and truth.

      But since you brought it to generalities and called it an ESSENTIAL generality that spouse always trumps friend, I would say that there’s a difference between “My spouse is my priority now” and “Whatever my spouse says about my external/auxiliary relationships goes, regardless of my feelings on the matter.” When I agreed to marry my husband, I didn’t agree to give up my individual sense of community–I agree to join and combine with him, in all ways fun and scary and clean and messy. Sometimes, I have to deal with people on his side who I don’t like or make me uncomfortable for whatever reason and sometimes he has to do the same.

      The reason we do that is because that’s part of being a PARTNER, and understanding that a spouse cannot and should not fill every emotional, social, spiritual need, and there are often friends and family members who do fill those areas. Sometimes some of them are even exes, though not always (definitely not in our case, but we started dating at 19 so we only really had high school exes to speak of).

      So tl;dr, I think if a friend is toxic, a couple can/should have a long conversation about how and why that friend is toxic, but to insist on cutting/severing ties with anyone, just on the basis of being “spouse” and therefore the ace-in-hole? Holy Not-Even-Close-To-My-Values-Ever-EVER, Batman.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        Yes I agree with you here. I think ultimately that’s an issue of boundaries and people need to be clear about what theirs are. YOUR boundary isn’t MY boundary. If we have agreement on that fine, but that’s not always the case.

      • Liz

        I sort of agree with both of you (Alexandra + A)! My husband and I each hold the sort of trump card that Alexandra describes- if he had a problem with someone in my life, I’d consider his comfort my top priority. But the only reason that works is because, well, we’ve never really had to PLAY those trump cards. He’s asked me to ditch folks all of zero times. So with that track record, if he was to say, “That person makes me reeeeally uncomfortable…” it’d be taken very seriously. If he was asking me to ditch folks left and right, yikes, giant red flag.

        That said, I don’t think “partner’s comfort trumps” necessarily means recklessly chopping folks from your life. It probably more often means setting boundaries about how/when certain interactions take place.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Definitely a boundary. Asking your partner to cut someone out of your life is a very big deal and just would never happen on just the strength of my husband asking.

        • A.

          Fair, though—and I admit this may be a semantical difference—I think there’s a difference between “As spouses/partners, we should be able to discuss relationships as a unit and my extreme discomfort needs to be taken very seriously” and “Carte blanche, by nature of being Spouse, I have say over who stays and goes in our/your life.” I’ve seen both in action and one is almost always healthier than the other, to put it mildly.

          • A.

            Actually, way less semantical after I rewrote :)

          • Liz

            I think we’re saying the same thing! Fist bump.

          • toomanybooks

            “As spouses/partners, we should be able to discuss relationships as a unit and my extreme discomfort needs to be taken very seriously”
            Yes! Well put. I think when we get down to it, this is probably all anyone who brings up anything along the lines of “veto power” is really arguing for. (At least for the most part!)

      • Alexandra

        I think we’re talking about two separate issues. I have a good-faith understanding that my husband wants what’s best for me and for our relationships–he’s not going to lay down ultimatums about auxiliary relationships except in extreme cases.

        For example, I have a girlfriend of whom he disapproves, for good reasons. I maintain the relationship because I feel bad for her and want to help her. He’s supportive of that–he’s never made a request for me to break ties with this friend. He doesn’t disparage her or me for trying to care for her, although caring for her can sometimes be a grind.

        If you look at spousal requests through a lens of good-faith–this person isn’t going to be unreasonable, they’re not making requests to be controlling or manipulative; it’s a once-in-a-while thing, not a trump card they get to throw down at the first feeling of bleh, I don’t like this person–I maintain that other spouse should honor the request.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Making a request in good faith doesn’t mean that the request isn’t tainted with jealousy or irrationality though. Even if it’s a request that is rarely made. There is no request made in my marriage that is immune from deeper scrutiny.

      • Roselyne

        ‘So tl;dr, I think if a friend is toxic, a couple can/should have a long conversation about how and why that friend is toxic, but to insist on cutting/severing ties with anyone, just on the basis of being “spouse” and therefore the ace-in-hole? Holy Not-Even-Close-To-My-Values-Ever-EVER, Batman.’

        Agreed. So hard.

        If my husband EVER tried to say ‘delete this person from your facebook’ and expected me to do that… oh, wow, fireworks. Granted if the discussion was more of a ‘said friend acted inappropriately in X, Y, Z ways and I am uncomfortable having them around’, that would work WAY better (and depending on whether I personally consider those things to be deal-breakers, I would either cut contact OR ensure that he didn’t have to interact with people that made him uncomfortable, that we meet up somewhere that wasn’t our house, etc. He’s allowed to have boundaries about who he’s willing to interact with, and he’s allowed to share the reason for those boundaries (and sometimes those reasons inform mine), but he is not allowed to SET my boundaries.

        And if the reason was ‘this person was once someone you slept with’, we’d be having WAY LONGER discussions about trust and communication and NOPE.

        • Liz

          “And if the reason was ‘this person was once someone you slept with’, we’d be having WAY LONGER discussions about trust and communication and NOPE.”

          Yessiree.

        • laddibugg

          The thing is sometimes, for me at least, there are people from his past that make me feel uncomfortable for reasons that I can’t quite articulate. Luckily, my partner understands and respects this, and a doesn’t expect me to have a well thought out reason as to why.
          You might not accept that but as with anything people need to find partners that work with their wishes, not try to put themselves in a box that was made for someone else.

          • Roselyne

            Oh, sure! There’s someone in my husband’s past who makes me kind of uncomfortable, for no clear reason… so my husband sees him without me, somewhere that isn’t our house, during a time that doesn’t interfere with out relationship. I think that’s really all that I can reasonably ask for, especially since that’s what I’d feel reasonable giving in return for the same issue. (Personally, not judging anyone else who feel something else would be reasonable for their relationship).

    • My relationship holds these same kind of values. I can see how it wouldn’t work for others, and perhaps the reason it’s worked so well for us is because we DON’T have to play the trump card of “you can’t be friends with so and so” but that is something that I think is decided on before getting married. You choose a spouse that has the same values on past relationships as you do. I would not have been ok if I found out early on that my husband was best friends with someone he slept with and I would have thought that his values didn’t align with mine. That’s why the type of relationship you describe worlks for you and me, but may not work for the other responders. Just different values when it comes to relationship–not better or worse, just different.

  • Emily

    This couple isn’t an ex. They were friends that hooked up a couple of times with absolutely no plans for a long term romantic relationship. He wasn’t invited to be the third in a polyamory us relationship, he was invited to have a brief sexual adventure.

    There is no reason to think he has ever felt romantic love for either party. He probably does still have sexual chemistry with one or both of them, but if LW is hoping that her husband will never feel attracted to another person, she is out of luck. I assume she herself feels attracted to other men.

    It seems like the LW is having some Jealousy plus some sex shameiness and the resulting reaction is understandable but out of proportion to what actually happened. My advice would be for her to explore why the theeesome in particular is such a trigger.

    I

    • Stella

      I agree the reaction seems maybe more than is really called for (although I know I definitely had plenty of “extreme” reactions to totally unimportant stuff before my wedding!) — but I think it’s OK to want to explore this further and not necessarily sex negative or anything.

      It’s reasonable to want to be more or less on the same page with your husband about sex and to be honest if she doesn’t see herself wanting a threesome in the future — that said, if her fiance hasn’t had a threesome for 10 years, and presumably knows pretty well who he’s marrying, I think the risk of threesome’s being some sort of sexual deal breaker for him is pretty minimal.

  • up_at_Dawn

    Lots of discussion about exes here and the boundaries that people have with them. Whether or not someone is friends with an ex depends greatly upon the ex and the relationship that one has had with them. But this seems more like “That one, slightly drunken night and a couple times after” hook-up situation than dealing with an ex with whom someone had a meaningful relationship.

    So…with that said I don’t think it’s about the “People he’s had sex with are coming to our wedding” Ack! Although there may be some of that. I don’t think this is a jealousy thing necessarily. Or a “you can’t be friends with your exes” thing.

    I think, and LW, tell me if I’m wrong of course, that it’s about “My fiance has done something sexually (in the past) that I am 200% uncomfortable with and I’m not sure that we’re on the same page about sexuality and monogamy AT ALL” and you’re feeling kinda queasy about the whole thing.

    So ask yourself honestly, if this was one person (that was good friend) that he had sex with (one on one) years ago, a relationship never came from it and they remained friends- would you feel the same way about having that person at your wedding?

    Talk to him. There’s a good chance that was sex meant to him ten years ago (way before he met you) is not what sex means to him now in the context of your loving and committed relationship.

    • anontoo

      THIS.

    • Natalie

      “My fiance has done something sexually (in the past) that I am 200% uncomfortable with and I’m not sure that we’re on the same page about sexuality and monogamy AT ALL” and you’re feeling kinda queasy about the whole thing.
      THIS.

      I think the way forward is through lots of (perhaps scary and difficult) conversations about sexual relationships, values, and priorities. It’s scary to think you might not be on the same page as your partner on issues of sexual ethics. But two people rarely feel exactly the same way about any big issue, and the key is making sure your differences are ones you both can accept. It sounds to me as though LW and FH do share similar values, but the threesome issue is making her doubt that a bit. The way through is to have the uncomfortable conversations until they’re no longer uncomfortable.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        ” But two people rarely feel exactly the same way about any big issue, and the key is making sure your differences are ones you both can accept.”

        YES. Also don’t assume that bc someone did something sexually in the past that you aren’t ok with in the here and now, means that the past has anything to do with the here and now.

    • Katie

      Yeah, it sounds to me like he told her about his past, but that maybe she didn’t talk to him about it enough to make her feel comfortable about it. Like, the very first thing I thought when I read this letter, was “hunh. So he’s had at least some sort of sexual experience with another man.” If my husband told me that he’d had a MMF experience, that’s the first part I’d be asking a million questions about, because I would expect monogamy in my marriage, and I’m all for exploring and working on a sexual relationship to keep it mutually fun, interesting and satisfying, but I’d be worried that he’d have desires that I couldn’t (or… wouldn’t) fulfill because I’m not a man. After that, I’d want to know if he would feel sexually satisfied without multiple partners in the mix, forever. And then I would just ask a million questions out of plain curiosity!

      I’m not sure anyone likes to meet their SOs former sexual partners, LW, so don’t feel bad that you didn’t enjoy it. But DO make sure you’ve asked all your questions before you get married!

      • Mooza

        I had the same thought. Knowing that my husband had sex with another man would probably make me freak out. I’d probably get over it, but it would induce major doubt and insecurity.

  • Juliet

    I’ve been trying to think of a way to respond to the letter writer that
    expresses how not deal I think this situation is while not invalidating
    her feelings about it. I get the sense that it’s the idea that her
    future husband has had a threesome that makes her so uncomfortable, and
    it is manifesting with this couple. It happened whether or not this
    couple is at the wedding, so I agree with Liz that addressing the
    situation and her feelings beyond her husband’s relationship with the
    couple is really important.

    In addition, I think it could only
    make the LW feel better to read some sex positive books about sexual
    history and marriage. Dan Savage would be a great place to start.
    Becoming familiar with how totally common and totally healthy threesomes
    can be (inside and outside of marriage) may make her feel more at ease
    with the situation, even if that is something she is never interested in
    exploring in her own relationship.

    • Stella

      This exactly! I immediately thought of Dan Savage!!

    • moose

      I might caution the LW away from Dan Savage. While he’s wonderful in many, MANY ways, his take on the realities of monogamy and how unrealistic that practice may be in a marriage could trigger some deeper insecurities than what this situation is bringing out.

      The first time I heard him speak about how monogamy isn’t realistic and needs to be redefined, I nearly had a panic attack. For context, my partner has also had threesomes in the past and used to be much more sexually adventurous than he is now. I was going through my own bout of insecurity about what that meant for our relationship.

      So, might not be the best place to start.

      • Alanna Cartier

        Sex at Dawn could be a great read for this purpose.

      • I agree, if she’s really into monogamy and that’s part of what’s fueling this, a sex-positive educator who’s little more… Validating of that perspective might be helpful ;)

        • EF

          errrrr…*is* there a sex-positive educator who is more validating a long-term monogamy? because dan savage, alice dreger (shudder), and other prominent sex positive voices out there all agree that monogamy *isn’t* realistic, largely.

          • Ha, TOUCHE… tbh I maybe shouldn’t have chimed in here, since monogamy *isn’t* exactly a core value of mine & isn’t something I seek out vis-a-vis author perspective. I’ve just had some friends end up in emotionally shaky places over Savage and monogamy specifically… But I also didn’t mean to imply Dan Savage is by any means a bad choice when it comes to helping to normalize a range of sexual expression, just that he’d maybe be a proceed with caution?

            For the letter writer’s situation I’d maybe look at some of the relationship-based entries on Emily Nagoski’s blog, she focuses a lot on attachment but also ownership of feelings which I think might be helpful for jealousy blues.

      • Agreed. I’m someone that meshes really well with traditional monogamy and has no desire for anything else. If my partner didn’t have similar values I don’t think Dan Savage would help me feel more comfortable.

      • Juliet

        Hmmm- totally fair point. Everyone responds to and absorbs information differently. For me, hearing couples with strong relationships (like Dan and Terry) talk about their threesome experiences would make me feel BETTER about the a past threesome even if threesomes would never on the table in a current relationship, but I can definitely see how it could go the other way. Any other suggestions that are, as someone else aptly put it, more “validating of monogamy”?

    • the cupboard under the stairs

      You make LW sound kind of puritanical, but I don’t think she’s at all unaware that threesomes are healthy and common. I agree with Liz that her insecurity probably lies in the idea that her FH might want to incorporate other people into their sex lives later, which she clearly doesn’t want. Threesomes are all fine and good for people who want them, but if one partner in a monogamous relationship wants them and the other one doesn’t, that’s a problem.

      Also, I met Dan Savage a couple of years ago and was very disappointed to find out he’s kind of an asshole.

      • Eenie

        You couldn’t tell he was an asshole from his podcast?! (I like his podcast, he would just not be someone I’m friends with based on his sense of humor/general take on life.)

        • the cupboard under the stairs

          I’ve never listened to it, actually! I’ve only read his column. I totally agree about his personality. Generally good advice-giver, but not someone I’d ever like to hang out with.

      • Juliet

        I definitely don’t think the LW is puritanical. She knows her fiancé has had threesomes, as met the couple, and is fully trying to accept her fiancé’s past and consider have the couple at her wedding- that’s VERY sex positive and open in my book.

        But she wouldn’t have written the letter if she wasn’t struggling with the situation. And don’t think the LW would have burst into tears after meeting the couple if her feelings were simply about them being at her wedding. Sexual pasts can be so loaded, because our culture has such strong messages about what sexual experiences say about the kind of person you are. As a “more information is always better” person, I would feel better if the act that was upsetting me became more normalized to me, and I think reading about other couple’s experiences and relationships regarding threesomes might be a good place to start.

    • Natalie

      I agree that Dan Savage is a good place to start. My now-husband and I had very different sexual histories and preferred rules in relationships when we first started dating, and I found listening to/reading Dan Savage with my partner to be extremely helpful. As moose cautions below, the first few times we talked about non-monogamy I was extremely uncomfortable and rather terrified about our relationship. But listening to SavageLovecast together and pausing it to talk about different callers’ experiences, problems, etc., and what we thought Dan’s advice should be or where he was clearly wrong really helped us. It made me see that while we had differences, we had many more opinions and values in common. It was a very good way for us to talk about big, scary relationship issues (threesomes, cheating, ethical non-monagamy) in a context that referenced other people’s experiences rather than our own.

  • laddibugg

    I wonder if there are any other people that the couple has invited that either person has had sex with. If so, well this couple is kind of like an ex.
    Though I do wonder if her husband was intimate with the man… That adds a different layer to things.

    • Stella

      Yeah, I wonder that too. It of course needn’t be a problem at all, but if it’s a problem for her and she doesn’t dare ask, that’s not ideal.

      • anontoo

        Oh gosh, yes. if that’s the thing she is holding on to, then THAT is a (difficult) conversation she and her fiance definitely need to have right away. And again, does not reflect on the couple in question, but instead on defining their relationship bonds based on a fuller undersatnding of each others’ sexualities.

        • anontoo

          does not reflect on the *other couple in question. Ie the invitees.

  • MM

    I think the discussion’s getting pretty sidetracked by the fact that it was a threesome. That’s probably not really the relevant issue. The relevant issue is that these are people her fiancé slept with. Imagine if it were just a woman he’d had one-on-one sex with. Of course the letter writer would have veto power over inviting her to the wedding! If they’re some of his oldest and closest friends, then yes, he has the right to tell the LW that their presence is important, and want them to get to know each other and see if she can become comfortable with it. But if she can’t? She has the right to say “no” to inviting this couple just like she’d have the right to refuse to invite a single person her fiancé had slept with. Her comfort level with the concept of a threesome might be a discussion for their relationship for another day, but as far as the wedding invitations go…these are people he’s slept with. She has veto power, if she doesn’t want her wedding day ruined by their presence. Period.

    • Roselyne

      ‘ Imagine if it were just a woman he’d had one-on-one sex with. Of course the letter writer would have veto power over inviting her to the wedding!’

      Um… Nope? If he’d slept with a woman several times, considered her a good now-platonic friend, and wanted her there for his wedding day, no, I don’t think she necessarily gets veto power. I think that’s up for discussion within the couple to be on the same page.

      • MM

        It’s certainly up for discussion, and he has a right to make sure she knows how important it is to him, but ultimately, only one decision has permanent consequences. If they don’t invite the couple, it doesn’t mean he can’t still be friends with them. Their friendship can continue exactly as before. But if they DO come, and here memory of her wedding day is forever marred by the fact that she started sobbing halfway down the aisle because she saw them there? They only get that day once.

        And honestly, it’s not that hard to weigh these things when you’re deciding whether or not to sleep with your friends. One of my best male friends and I…almost…if you know what I mean, about 8 years ago. The ONLY reason I decided not to was because I valued his friendship and knew there were all sorts of ways a sexual history could complicate the future of that friendship. And thank goodness we didn’t! We’re both married and still good friends today. If we had slept together back then, there’s no way that would have been possible.

        • Eenie

          Uh, flip side: doesn’t invite the couple, tarnishes his (and her) relationship with them for forever. Pretty sure that would have more long term impact to me than some unpleasant or sad moments on my wedding day. It warrants a conversation. I really don’t think we can say “Of course they should come!” or “Of course they shouldn’t come!”

          • MM

            It wouldn’t mar their relationship if they’re honest about the reason. They’d understand that she just can’t have someone he’s slept with looking at her on her wedding day. And no one’so saying “of course they shouldn’t come.” Only that her feelings matter, and if having them there will result in a panic attack halfway down the aisle, then she’s allowed to choose a panic attack-free wedding day.

          • Eenie

            I agree with the last part of your comment (although I saw no mentions of panic attacks in the letter, just “uncomfortable” and sometimes a compromise for someone you love is that you are uncomfortable at times because it brings them joy or is important).

            But the first part is just not true. If someone doesn’t want me at their wedding because of our past (sexual, drugs, alcohol, whatever), I’m not going to put any more effort into that relationship. It’s a very bold statement to tell someone. SOME PEOPLE may understand, but others (me included) would be extremely hurt. It’d be a friendship ending statement. Because if you don’t want me to celebrate your marriage WTF do you want me in your life for?

          • Amy March

            I don’t understand how you could possibly think you know whether or not this would mar the relationship. It might not, for all the reasons you gave. It might be a huge problem, and not because those people are bad friends. It would be a problem for my friendship if a guy told me I wasn’t invited to his wedding even though we are good friends because we had sex a couple times when we were 21 and his financee doesn’t like it.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            These are close friends of his. Not casual ones. I think not inviting his close friends to their wedding could certainly have some negative impact on the friendship. That it would have no consequence is not an assumption I will accept.

        • Roselyne

          Two specific disagreements: ‘If they don’t invite the couple, it doesn’t mean he can’t still be friends with them. Their friendship can continue exactly as before.’ Um… not inviting a friend to your wedding is kind of a big deal. Most friendships don’t quite go on ‘exactly as before’. Just something to consider: it’s not just about The Wedding, it’s about how a significant event also impacts the rest of your life going forward, including your relationship with your friends.

          ‘But if they DO come, and here memory of her wedding day is forever marred by the fact that she started sobbing halfway down the aisle because she saw them there’ – if it’s that big an issue, there are significantly more unresolved issues under it that should DEFINITELY be discussed before getting married, omg. Also, then I’m assuming she wouldn’t be ok if, say, 3 weeks after getting married, he went out for a drink with them? So that their friendship could continue ‘exactly as before’?

          It’s only about the guest list in so far as the guest list highlights all the other tensions, expectations, relationships, and issues that are already present. Veto-ing someone, without dealing with the underlying stuff, solves the guest list problem, but it leaves so many traps just ready to pop up and have emotional consequences.

          • MM

            Not inviting someone to your wedding without a reason is a big deal, but if you don’t invite someone, and you’re honest about the fact that it’s because of your sexual history? They’d understand that. If they don’t understand that or forgive you for it, then they’re probably not very good friends in the first place.

          • Amy March

            Not good friends because they expected that the intervening ten years of good friendship were more important that sex-ing a few times? I don’t get that at all.

          • Roselyne

            ‘They’d understand that. If they don’t understand that or forgive you for it, then they’re probably not very good friends in the first place.’

            If someone was straightforward about not inviting me to their wedding because we had slept together 10 years ago, I would understand that they were making the best choice for the relationship they were currently in. However (assuming healthy boundaries, no leftover tension or flirting, etc – a healthy friendship, basically), I’d also assume that their spouse would never be a fan of me or hanging out with me, that our friendship would be impacted by their spouse’s willingness to see me or have me around, and that that would have repercussions on how and whether we hang out. And I’d be making this assumption because that’s what the request and explanation actually demonstrates.

            Also, I’d personally wonder exactly how great their spouse thought the sex had been, because, seriously, after 10 years, I can guarantee I don’t remember that many details about them unless it was exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.

        • Amy March

          Srsly? You’re blaming him for not anticipating this result 10 years ago? That seems way way out of line.

          • MM

            Meh, I anticipated it 8 years ago, that’s not somfar from 10. If he honestly thought he’d never be in a serious relationship back then, and has changed his mind in the meantime, then that’s definitely a factor in his favor. (Also, if he didn’t really value his friendship with the couple back then, that’s a factor.) But when you’re deciding whether or not to sleep with a friend, you Absolutley weigh the pros (it would be fun, feel good, help me deal with whatever I’m going through right now, for me it was the aftermath of rape) against the cons (if we get in serious relationships someday and this ends our friendship, will it have been worth it?) As for me, when I was in that situation, I decided I valued our friendship too much to jeopardize it, and if I ever lost our friendship over what happened, I knew I would regret it. And thank goodness I did! His wife never would have been ok with us staying friends if we’d slept together. My husband probably wouldn’t have been thrilled about it either. but now, we’re both happily married and happily friends with each other.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            While I applaud your ability your foresight with you friend and now husband I don’t think this was that deep. They had a few good times and moved on with their lives.

          • Amy March

            I anticipate not marrying someone with jealousy issues, and anticipate my friends doing the same. I’m not willing to live my life in fear of some small chance of an issue years later. And I really don’t think it’s fair to blame him for that even if it’s not the choice you would have made.

        • Hey! Just FYI, as someone who has slept with a good chunk of my best friends (be they exes or just hookups) the assumption that sexual history could LEAD to having to cut off the relationship is one I’ve literally NEVER considered.

          In fact, my partner’s ability to parse through their own insecurity and jealousy (as I own and work though mine) is something I look for. Obviously I’m supportive and loving, but not down to shame sexual acts because someone “should have known better” or “what did they expect”.

          Frankly, I can’t IMAGINE marrying someone who wouldn’t appreciate the fact that I’m forward thinking enough to be able to nurture deep, long term relationships that move from one manifestation to the next. It’s a point of pride, for me. It shows boundaries and loyalties… and that I don’t burn things to the ground and walk away from them just because one aspect doesn’t work out.

          Not here to tell anyone what to do, but I will say that it seems like someone is going to be uncomfortable: the fiance (not inviting his friends) or the LW… and the LW is asking for permission to give up trying to do the work it takes to make it ok for themselves. One hangout isn’t really… the work.

          I’ve been the person crying before (Like… crying for DAYS ON END) and it’s rooted in serious shit. It seems way easier to say “don’t hang out with anyone that makes me jealous” but the reality is that if I didn’t face WHY I was crying it was just going to keep coming up again and again in different ways. And I’d definitely want to figure that out before I said my vows….

          • Roselyne

            I just want to ‘THIS OMG’ your first two paragraphs oh so much.

            I’ve always been extremely, extremely clear on the fact that I have had sex, and relationships, and that if you’re uncomfortable with that that’s your deal. (Literally, at one point, I actually told my now-husband that he should just assume I’ve hooked up with friends unless he asked and I specified otherwise, and that it would probably save time. He laughed. We’ve been together for the better part of 10 years, and are currently in a monogamous marriage. ) The only people he’s had issues with are the people who treated me badly, which, erm… thanks for having my back, love, I appreciate that! :)

            Someone who didn’t accept that, or tried to brush it off, or made requests that I not see people I’ve hooked up with? I would seriously re-consider being in that relationship.

            (Similarly, the reason I didn’t marry an ex is because he asked my dad for my hand in marriage. It basically highlighted some issues that hadn’t quite come to the surface, and NOPE. Other people, as always, are free to make other decisions, but for me… NOPE.)

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            Yaaasss!!

            This notion that relationships can…EVOLVE is something I think people have a very difficult time wrapping their head around. It doesn’t help that we have this pervasive cultural narrative that says once sex has been introduced into a relationship, the relationship either goes forward into something resembling romantic monogamy or ends. And we are soooo suspicious of relationships that evolved instead of ending.

          • GIRL THAT SUSPICION THO. I ain’t got time for that. I just invited an old lover to a second hangout with a potential sweetie just to weed that shit out early.

          • Violet

            I agree with you on so many points: one hangout isn’t enough, insecurity and jealousy just EXIST– you can’t sanitize your life to avoid them, sexual history does not necessarily mean an end to cutting off a relationship altogether.

            But I do think you err in concluding so unilaterally that your view of sex is more “forward thinking.” It’s just different. Sex can be, as you say, just “one aspect” of a relationship. Or it can be so much more than that. It can be the one thing you’ve only ever done with literally one other person on the entire planet, giving it a level of, I don’t know, specialness, that nothing else in your life has. And that view isn’t better (or always feasible) either, but it’s not backwards.

            What’s backwards is shaming people for having different views of sex. I am so sex positive that I can be positive about people who want it only within strict confines and pre-determined parameters AND positive about people who want it as one aspect of a multi-layered, nuanced relationship. It’s literally ALL good.

          • TOTALLY with you.

            I will ALSO say that the dominant narrative is “sex is special” “sex changes things” “yr a slut or marriage material” so when I meant forward-thinking it was less in reference to another person who isn’t part of a dominant narrative and more as radically inclusive and sex positive AKA moving cultural conversations forward AKA in the direction in which all sexual experiences and choices are respected. Might not have made that clear enough ;)

          • lady brett

            <3!

        • tr

          I’m about as conservative as they come on these things–I mean, I’m waiting until marriage, I don’t personally believe in birth control, etc. Frankly, if I were any more conservative, I’d be veering into Duggar territory…
          And yet, I don’t see how a sexual history has to complicate the future of a friendship, or why a person’s wedding day would be ruined by seeing their spouse’s past sexual partner. Friends can have sex and still be regular, happy friends. Heck, actual exes can later become regular, happy friends. There will absolutely be people my FH has slept with at our wedding. It’s cool…the fact that they saw one another naked when they were 16 in no way impacts their present friendship 15 years later.
          Personally, I’d be pretty hurt if I couldn’t go to a dear friend’s wedding based solely on the fact that his new wife couldn’t handle the fact that him and I made out behind the bleachers in ninth grade. I’m guessing that if you and your best male friend considered having sexual relations eight years ago, you probably still did the equivalent of making out behind the bleachers. So why is sex treated that much differently?
          From a personal standpoint, I think there are a lot of benefits to abstinence, but the truth is, sometimes sex is just sex. It doesn’t automatically cast some sinister shadow that can never be lifted.

      • Agree on “nope.” I mean everyone’s entitled to their values & to have those respected (though not always 100% honored imo) in their own relationship. But there is by no means some universal understanding that people get “veto power” over any now platonic friend their spouse has boned down with… (to quote an old Doonesbury strip, “what so we only invite *your* friends? ;p )

    • Eenie

      This veto power you speak of doesn’t actually exist everywhere. It may be an agreement between you and your SO, common among your friends, but there are a lot of social groups where this does not exist. So it really isn’t that cut and dry, even if it wasn’t a threesome.

    • Amy March

      Ummm actually I think for lots of us she would not get veto power over a female friend he slept with a few times over 10 years ago.

    • MM

      And it doesn’t strike you as the least bit cruel to say she does not have veto power over her own guest list to her own wedding? Would that still stand if it were a formerly abusive parent she wanted to exclude? One of her fiance’s friends who’s always publicly opposed their relationship? A mutual acquaintance from school who’d bullied her years ago? There are all sorts of people who many people just would not want at their wedding, and I think, if it’s important for the bride or groom’s mental health, that there’s no day it’s more fair to make decisions like that.

      • Ashlah

        And what if she wanted to veto a friend of her groom’s because she just wasn’t very close to him? No one’s saying that her feelings don’t matter, but giving her veto power means her partner’s feelings don’t matter. Absolutely they should discuss it, and he should consider her feelings just as she considers his, and they should make a decision together. But veto power suggests that this is obviously unacceptable and that her feelings automatically trump his. For context, I’m personally not really a fan of veto power in many, if any, situations in marriage.

        • Eenie

          Agreed x 1000. Or as Liz said below: my partner has veto power, but he’s never used it. If he used it I would definitely take note because he hasn’t ever used it.

      • Amy March

        Of course not, but nice straw-men. We aren’t talking about an abusive parent. We are talking about old friends he had sex with a few times over ten years ago.

        It’s not “her” wedding or “her” guest list. It is theirs.

        • MM

          How are they straw men? They’re other examples of a person that might result in a wedding day panic attack, if present.

          • Amy March

            I fundamentally do not believe that the person who cries the loudest wins. You have panic attacks because of an abusive relative? Absolutely, let’s make sure we never ever see them again. You have panic attacks at the sight of one of my oldest friends who I slept with over 10 years ago? Let’s get you some counseling for that.

            I think escalating from people saying, nah no veto here to “but wait what about all these completely different much more serious situations” is creating a straw man. And she never says she gets panic attacks, so, again, escalating.

            It just seems an odd way to follow up a comment about the discussion getting sidetracked to introduce completely new and far worse situations.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            Key phrase: Over 10 years before they met. So we are presumably talking about a much longer time period.

          • MM

            That’s a fair point that she did not specifically use the word “panic attack.” She said that she cried, though. And I think it’s fair for her to choose that the only tears on her wedding day will be happy ones.

          • Nobody gets to choose that. Some people luck into it but nobody gets to choose that. A wedding isn’t perfect because life isn’t perfect, and sometimes imperfect days come with sad tears.

        • “It’s not “her” wedding or “her” guest list. It is theirs” I was just about to post this.

          • Natalie

            someone needs to cross-stitch this on a pillow.

      • Roselyne

        Abusive parent: hers or his? She OBVIOUSLY gets veto power over her own relationship, but not over his.

        I honestly think that for the rest of the people you bring up, that’s a conversation to have, not a veto. It’s REASONABLE to not want someone who bullied you at your wedding. If you tell your partner ‘X makes me feel like crap because they have treated me like X, Y, Z’, your partner will probably have your back on that. But you can’t just say ‘that’s my decision, pfft’. Mutual respect and care!

        Real-life example: my husband had a friend who wasn’t a fan of me (I had a backbone, he liked to walk all over people, I didn’t stand for it… etc). I didn’t want him there. He was my husband’s oldest friend. He was invited. (Full story: he came wearing a ripped t-shirt and cargo shorts, acted like an ass, and 3 months later my husband cut him out of his own volition. HOWEVER, if I had said ‘I get veto and C is not invited’, he’d probably have gone with it and resented it quietly. It was honestly not that big a deal for me – I maybe saw him for 5 minutes the entire time. Having cut him out of his own volition, my husband’s reaction was ‘well, I tried, he’s an ass, I’m sorry it ended that way.’ I’d rather the friendship end with peace and no resentment.)

        • MM

          Notice, though, that I never suggested a veto without a respectful adult discussion first. But if that discussion concluded with the LW saying “Please, homey, I just know I’ll have a panic attack on our wedding day if so-and-so is there. Can you please please consider my feelings here?” and the fiance’s response to that is “sorry, they’re my friend, you don’t get a vote?” That would be bad.

          • MM

            Haha, typo. I meant “honey,” not “homey.” Whoops!

      • Liz

        MM, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that she’s not ALLOWED veto power, simply that there are other ways that relationships operate, so we can’t come to this conversation assuming that such an arrangement is automatically the case.

        • MM

          Several commenters are saying she’s not allowed veto power. That if, after a reasonable discussion about it and good faith effort on her part to get to know them, she tearfully tells him that she simply can’t be comfortable with it, and she knows she’ll end up crying on the wedding day the way she did the night she met them, then that feeling and that reaction should not hold weight in the decision.

          • Ashlah

            I think we’re operating under different definitions of veto power. Because what you’re describing here sounds exactly like the mature discussions we’re all advocating, not veto power.

          • Eenie

            About to post the same comment. The whole POINT of veto power is it’s a no questions asked/discussion in my mind. Otherwise it’s just a discussion?

          • Amy March

            No veto power does not mean her feelings don’t hold weight. None of us have said that. It means there are two people with feelings and she doesn’t get to put her foot down and insist on her way.

          • lmba

            Agreed. “Veto power” about somebody else’s guest selection is something that your spouse ALLOWS you, not something you are automatically entitled to. It may the case that your partner says, “I will not invite anyone you are uncomfortable with.” Great! You have been granted veto power by your partner! But if instead they say, “I need to be allowed to invite the people who are important to me, even if it causes you discomfort,” then you don’t have veto power. Simple as that.
            In the case of the LW, her fiance has not granted veto power (at least not at this point). So she doesn’t have it.

          • MM

            I think I may have given the wrong impression with the word “veto.” I’m not suggesting that they don’t have an adult discussion about it, nor am I suggesting that she doesn’t try. I’m just saying that ultimately, after those things have happened, if she still knows that their wedding day will end the same way their previous meeting did, well, that should matter. It should matter A LOT. And ultimately it should take precedence.

          • I get what you are saying because my husband and I both use veto power occasionally. Yes of course we have discussions about our disagreements, but ultimately whichever partner is adamantly opposed to something is the one that exerts “veto power.” (IE, I don’t want a dog right now, my husband does, I use “veto power” on that decision. My husband wants another child right now, I don’t, I use “veto power.” ) In this case, the husband wants the couple there, the LW doesn’t because it makes her feel uncomfortable, and while yes, absolutely, they should have a discussion about it, I think ultimately the FH should concede to the LW because it is THEIR wedding day, about the two of them and not about the relationships they have with others. I hope this is not the case, and they can come up with a decision they both are happy with, but I can see how LW would have (what I consider) veto power in this case.

          • Natalie

            Yeah, I still disagree with your idea about veto power. I think more important than the issue of whether or not this couple makes the guest list is LW and FH getting on the same page about priorities. You argue her emotional comfort should take precedence. Others think maintaining his long term friendships is more important (I personally think my being uncomfortable and having to work through feelings of jealousy is a small price to pay for helping my husband maintain his community of friends, some of whom are exes). Neither of these priorities is inherently more correct than the other. But it’s vital that LW and FH can agree on which is the priority. Veto power skirts the ultimate issue here, which is how LW and FH navigate conflicts and make decisions together.

      • If your “rule” for the wedding is no one who stresses the other person out, fine, but that’s not most people’s rule…

        Going with the example thing, what about the beloved Aunt who talks way too loud and asks inappropriate questions? Your wife’s mother’s family friend who you’re meeting for the first time at your wedding? Someone who they shared active Military service with in a context you’re not comfortable thinking about? All these are things that could cause anxiety, even panic attacks but for most people would be conversations, not unilateral vetos.

        • MM

          Well, the first two examples aren’t really comparable, because those aren’t things that might make her cry on her wedding day. Someone who she shared military service with, who might trigger a PTSD episode, though? I think it’s totally fair not to invite that person, if she doesn’t want to. And she could certainly explain that to the friend in a way they’d understand.

          • Those are 100% things that might make someone cry. Either of those 1st two would be much more likely to make *me* cry (epic social anxiety) than being around a friend who my husband has had sex with.

            Not trying to be belligerent over examples, but what I was going for is that for many us there things that can cause us a lot of distress which still have to be negotiated against valuing and honoring the relationships in our partner’s lives. (Of course the flip of this is absolutely true to and her partner needs to respect her reaction and feelings)

      • Natalie

        I’m still not ok with the idea of “veto power” even in the cases you’ve mentioned. If my FH wanted to invite my abusive parent or someone who had bullied me, veto power over the guest list would not solve the real problem in our relationship. I’d need to discuss why the hell he’d want those people at our wedding, and if we could not agree whether to include abusive people in our lives, I’d need to re-think things. I don’t think there’s an objectively right or wrong answer in these cases, but not agreeing on the solution indicates some serious differences in values and approaches to life’s difficulties.

      • CMT

        You keep saying “her guest list”, “her wedding”, but it does take two people to get married, you know.

    • I think I’d prefer a discussion and then either a compromised or a mutually agreed upon solution to a “veto power”.

      The process of getting on the same page with this kind of stuff is just as important as the solution imo.

      • Natalie

        I think the process of getting on the same page is more important than the solution. In the big scheme of things, whether someone is invited to a wedding is not *that* important. The emotional ramifications of that decision, how it affects people’s relationships, etc., really matter. And how a couple weighs the relative importance of conflicting emotions, desires, and priorities in the context of their own relationship and in their wider community of friendships is hugely important.

  • lmba

    I very much understand that it is the underlying feelings about the threesome that are probably the more important issue here, as they have potential long-term implications for the relationship. However, I wanted to chime in about the idea of the couple/former lovers attending the wedding. I understand the jealous feelings, but the wedding is about the LW and her fiance committing to each other! Unless this couple is unsupportive of the marriage, I don’t see what harm there is in their attending. FH has not cheated on the LW with the couple, and the relationship is old news. I don’t see what harm could come of their attending, really. It’s likely that LW would barely notice their presence on the day of, and will be so busy enjoying the celebration of her commitment to her partner that it will be a non-issue. Certainly, when LW looks back at the wedding years down the road, the attendance/non-attendance of these people she doesn’t really know will not matter much, assuming that the issues she has around threesomes/sexual expectations/whatever are addressed in a healthy way between now and then.

    On the flip side, pushing FH to cut out valued friends from the guest list could be something he feels bad about for a long, long time.

  • Kim

    I think Liz’s advice is great, but in response to some of the comments–I think it’s important to not simply assume that the letter writer is sex-shaming, sex-negative, or somehow has the “wrong” attitude about sex. I think it’s possible to not want to hang out with a person or couple that your SO slept with, but also still have pretty healthy attitudes toward sex in general.

    I also wonder what it means to the fiance to have this couple there, and why it’s so important. (After all, it is possible to be friends with an ex or complicated-friendship-person and not invite them to your wedding.) Is this intimacy still a part of their friendship in a way he may not want to acknowledge? Is it just a friendship, and maybe he’s afraid that marriage means de-prioritizing those kinds of relationships in some way? Maybe it’s just an old friendship and the situation isn’t that complicated on his side, but I wonder if some introspection is in order.

    • Violet

      Thank you for using the word “intimacy.”

      I see two ways to view sex in a healthy, positive way (and I’m sure there are more, but these two seem to be the ones people are referencing in the debate):

      – Sex between two consenting adults can be a fun and pleasurable activity.
      – Sex between two consenting adults can be a method for establishing, reinforcing, and deepening intimacy (also, it’s fun and pleasurable!).

      I think it’s totally possible LW sees sex in a healthy way, and that her way includes a heavy emphasis on intimacy. Sounds like at this point, her fiancé sees it that way too. But he might ALSO simultaneously (or only 10 years ago, who knows) hold the view that sex can be healthy and good without intimacy.

      Committing yourself to be the other’s spouse is a major indicator of closeness and intimacy. For someone who views sex as also connoting a level of intimacy, having other sexual partners present (I don’t care what gender or how many) might rattle that person.

      I still think Liz is right, and talking is the answer. But I’d recommend focusing the discussion on how intimacy and sex are related (or not) for each partner in this relationship.

    • tr

      To me, if a person is someone who I would consider a close friend (not necessarily BFF close, but more than an acquaintance/casual friend), I want them at the wedding. End of story. It doesn’t matter whether we have a somewhat complicated history. Close friend=Invite.

      The FH haven’t 100% finalized the guest list, but the simple reality is that we’ll probably both be inviting people who we’ve seen naked. We aren’t inviting them because we’ve seen their genitals, but we also wouldn’t feel right excluding anyone on that basis.

  • Amy March

    For ways to get comfortable with them, can you hang out again? Maybe go do like a painting class, or a beer tasting, or socialize in some way that is less awkward than just all sitting down together? Or try reading up on visualization techniques- instead of visualizing a perfect game, picture yourself seeing them and being neutral and moving on? All good things to work out in therapy, but as an initial way to shift from “ahhhhhh” to “I am implementing a plan that will work.”

    • Violet

      Yeah, they need to go out for a Paint Nite, or something.

      After I met my partner’s father for the first time, I cried. After hearing about all the horrible things he had done, it was emotionally charged finally meeting him. In the following years, I interacted with him a few other times. He was never going to be my favorite person, but I felt strong and like myself around him. He didn’t end up coming to the wedding anyway (surprise, surprise… not), but if he had, I would’ve been okay.

      LW is totally allowed to have an emotional reaction. But she’ll probably feel better if she works on feeling better, rather than letting two relative strangers dictate how she feels, you know?

  • AP

    I realize this is not really helpful to the situation at hand, but THIS is why I don’t get specific with my husband about my sexual history. Beyond the ‘need to know’ we don’t really share details. And I love it.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      Yup.

    • A.

      In general, I agree that’s a good policy, though I could also see a cost:benefit analysis happening with the LW’s partner in this particular instance. I.e., if this couple is very important to him and after spending time with them, the LW found out about the threesome through a channel that’s NOT her husband? He might know her well enough to know that her reaction would go from “I’m uncomfortable with this” to “I’m uncomfortable with this AND you lied to me about it via omission, so now I’m extremely hurt/angry too.”

      It reminds me of the other APW from awhile ago where the woman lied about her sexual history with a friend and then her fiancee found out…a lot of people in the comments agreed that because of her dishonesty (and solely because of it), he actually should get a veto on whether the friend can come to the wedding.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        This can definitely backfire but I think this is one of those things where it depends on if you believe your specific sexual history is anyone’s business, even your partner’s. Beyond possible high risk exposure to STDs, mine is not on the table.

        • A.

          Oh, absolutely. That’s my take as well. I was more musing that if the letter went something like “I recently found out that my fiance had an extended threesome relationship with married friends of his and he never told me, even though he’s still very close to them. I feel lied to, hurt, and like the ground fell out under me. For these reasons, I’m not comfortable with them at our wedding,” I think we’d generally see a different response (right or wrong!)

          If you know your partner is someone who takes past sexual encounters as an important element of a relationship as a whole, you definitely risk a huge backfire. Know your people/person thing.

      • Liz
        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Except there she actually DID lie. It’s one thing to lie and saying nothing happened and it’s another to say my sexual history before you is none of your business. The fiance here didn’t lie, LW said she was fine with it then later said she wasn’t fine with it. And here we are.

          Anyway, my advice is, ask people the information you wanna know.

          • A.

            Yup! Though I think [unless I’m misinterpreting] some people here seem to be saying that his upfront, unwavering honesty about what happened gives him a bit of an edge, since it was always part of their discussions as a couple. If he hadn’t been upfront, there may be a shift in overall validation of her concerns.

            Not that being “right” or “wrong” in society’s/APW’s eyes should influence what you share with your partner, but practically speaking, I know I would probably be more likely to tell my husband about a hypothetical time I hooked up with a very close friend over an experience with people I don’t see anymore, since I’d be acutely aware that NOT sharing that info could be seen as dishonest to my partner. Especially if he found out after having spent significant time with my friend assuming things were always platonic between us (and the reason why this kind of revelation bothers people so much is really the crux of the issue!)

            But yes, big difference between actually saying “No, nothing happened” and simply not sharing.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            You know what else I think? I think sometimes we think we want to know info that we really don’t and vice versa. Relationships and humans. Whew.

          • AP

            Tangential, but related: I was watching a TED talk by Esther Perel a few days ago about infidelity, and she talked about a few ways to help the healing process after an affair. One of her suggestions was for the partner who was cheated on to resist the temptation to ask about every detail of the affair, because knowing every little detail helps no one and is death by a thousand cuts. I thought that was interesting. https://www.ted.com/talks/esther_perel_rethinking_infidelity_a_talk_for_anyone_who_has_ever_loved?language=en

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            You gain NOTHING. A helpful exercise I think is asking yourself: Is this information going to be helpful to me in anyway. I a firm believer in your partner does not need to know every single thing about you. They don’t need to know every single crevice of your mind, sexual preferences, fantasies etc. I think often it does more harm than good.

    • Ashlah

      Maybe I’d feel differently if I had a sexual history before my husband, but I’ve really appreciated hearing about his past. Sure, there were some surprises that I had to work through, but overall I feel like I have a deeper understanding of who he was before we met. Of course he was never required to disclose, and who he was before we met isn’t really important compared to knowing who he is now, but I’m glad to know about it. Like I said, though, it’s easy to say that when I’m not the one sharing, and I certainly don’t think this is a requirement for a good relationship. You do you. And then again, there may still be some things he’s kept from me, who knows.

      • AP

        Being slut-shamed about your sexual history is a real thing and has happened to me, so I decided a while ago that my past is mine and I don’t owe it to anyone else. It works for us, because we can concentrate on our sexual present and futures, which is just as fun and rewarding!

        • Ashlah

          I absolutely understand! I hope I made it clear that while it’s worked for us, I’m not prescribing it as the “right way to do things.” I think not disclosing is a perfectly valid and understandable option. It’s shitty that you’ve been shamed for your history, and I don’t doubt that it’s a common occurrence, unfortunately.

          • AP

            Ugh, yes, it’s absolutely common and totally frustrating. Sometimes I wish I felt freer to talk more openly about my past sex life! But I also know myself and my own insecurities, and I don’t really want to hear about my husband’s past, either. So, non-disclosure policy it is!

    • Eenie

      The extent to which we’ve talked about previous sexual encounters has been: “Do you have any STDs?” “I’ve had this issue in the past, it’s normal.” “I’ve never dealt with this before.” “There’s nothing I want to ask you about your history.” And we are in concurrence that this is the best sexual relationship for either of us without any hesitation. We don’t know each other’s “numbers”. And frankly don’t care. But we are both on the same page about all of it, and that’s what really matters.

      • AP

        This is us exactly. It’s the best sex of both our lives, and that’s all we need to know.

    • Natalie

      I think it’s really important to have open discussions early on about whether you want to know details about sexual history. Your policy works great for you, but would not be ok for me. It’s important to let our partners know whether they should tell us that they slept with a good friend once a long time ago, or if we’d rather just not know. It sucks to talk about, but similarly, honest discussions of “if you cheat on me once and plan to never do it again, should you tell me about it?” are really important. Getting on the same page about information sharing early on can curtail issues of over-sharing (“how can I be expected to make casual conversation with this person now that I know you’ve had sex with?”) and feelings of betrayal (“why didn’t you tell me that you have this long history with this person I though was just a friend?”).

      • AP

        I definitely agree that it’s good to get it out there early on how much each person is comfortable sharing about their pasts. It helped that my husband and I were on the same page about this early on. But I think discussions of specific past experiences are very different from discussions of sexual values and important relationship questions. While I do think it’s important for couples to have open discussions about values, I don’t think those conversations have to happen within a context of specific experiences. For instance, in one relationship a partner revealed that he had cheated on a girlfriend in the past. It was important to him that he share this with me, but I didn’t need to know about it in order for us to still have a conversation about cheating in general and what it means to us. But you’re right, it’s about what’s comfortable for the couple.

        • Liz

          Ooh, see, I would want to know that. Not because of the sexual aspect or because I don’t think that a person could grow and change and commit to monogamy after that. But because I would imagine going through that sort of experience would be a little perspective-altering, have a lasting impact.

          • AP

            I can definitely see where you’re coming from. In our situation, it was a milestone thing that he only shared with people he really trusted, and it was a life-changing experience for him. On the one hand, I’m glad he felt he could share that with me. But on the other…I also know the woman he cheated on and I don’t feel great about knowing such an intimate detail of her life. I kind of wish he’d never told me the specifics. I feel the same way about this letter. “I had a three way 10 years ago” would have been more than enough information for me, without naming the couple. But the privacy of other parties involved is a whole separate issue!

  • toomanybooks

    To me it doesn’t seem like the LW is hung up on threesomes or worried that her husband doesn’t want monogamy. I think it’s fair that if this one couple would make her really uncomfortable, she can veto them being at her wedding.

    In my opinion, if people are comfortable sleeping with friends, they should also be comfortable with the knowledge that it can complicate things.

  • honeycomehome

    I think talking to a trained therapist, even for just 2-3 meetings, would be helpful.

    We’re all assuming the issue is about sex, and that the letter writer is uncomfortable about threesomes. But… she doesn’t say that. She doesn’t even hint at the sex being the problem. What she’s hurt by and jealous of is the intimacy. This couple represents a special, likely intense, and intimate relationship in her fiance’s past that she can’t touch. I think she’s bewildered to find herself feeling jealous, since she says she isn’t a jealous type. I do think part of the problem is that her husband hasn’t really introduced them, hasn’t explained their significance in his love life beyond “it was a long time ago and is over,” and our letter writer hasn’t seen them as part of her husband’s daily or regular life.

    In some ways, maybe the finace has minimized the situation by saying “It only happened a few times, and it’s over, now.” That might not really be the point. It was a significant and different relationship from anything else he’s had. If all my SO had to say about the first time he fell in love was “It was short and it happened a long time ago, but she’s still a good friend and I can’t imagine not having her at my wedding,” I would not feel comfortable. Not because he’s been in love, before, but because it’d feel like there was an intimate part of him that he was keeping from me. I think it’s the same situation, here.