#ethical non-monogamy
#romantic relationship
18 January 2023

My boyfriend is bisexual and wants to be open with his sexuality and I am struggling with the thought of sharing him with other people...

My boyfriend is bisexual and wants to be open with his sexuality. I am fine with him being bisexual and open, I am just struggling with the thought of sharing him with other people even if it is just sex.

Sophie Desjardins

Hi Needing Advice,


I think I understand your concerns regarding the situation, and I will try to address them to the best of my abilities. Having an open relationship is one of many ways to be with other people that fall under the umbrella of ethical non-monogamy (ENM). Accepting that other people are interested in that way of having relations with others is a good start, but a key element for ENM to work is that everyone in the relationship must be comfortable with what it entails. So, I’d say the question isn’t knowing if you tolerate or accept an open relationship, but if you are truly comfortable with it. So, let’s talk about some basics of ENM to help you determine if it’s something you want in your life.

Whether his relationships with other people are “just sex” or not doesn’t really make how you feel about this any less important. It’s essential, in any type of ENM, to have an understanding of what the rules are, and those rules will vary according to the people involved (in this case, you and your boyfriend). Basically, what I’m saying is that you have to talk about it together and establish rules about what one can and cannot do and how you want things to work. The key to good ENM is communication.

These rules can be about anything you like, or don’t like. They should always be open to being adjusted or changed because, as time passes and things happen, it’s possible that one or both of you will feel a need to adjust those rules.

What can those rules be about? A lot of things. They can be about when one is permitted to have relations with other people (a certain frequency, a certain night in the week, etc.), if you want to be made aware of who your partner is having relations with or not, if you want to know what it is they do or not, if they need to tell you before they have an encounter with someone else or if they just need to tell you afterwards. They can also address basic things like always using protection from STD. This is not in any way a complete list of what should be in there, but more of a list of examples of what people make rules about in their ENM relationships. Ultimately, these rules should exist to help all partners involved be comfortable in the relationships and feel good about how things are.

And let’s face it : monogamous relationships are also subject to rules, but those are, for many people, the socially accepted ones. The norm. And even with those, there are a lot of gray areas. Is it cheating if you look at another person? Is it okay to have friends of the gender that you are attracted to? To masturbate? I’m of the opinion that monogamous couples should also negotiate the rules of their relationships. With ENM, things are more flexible and fluid, and thus talking about things becomes very important.

With all of that said, and with rules in place, if your boyfriend has relations with other people, it’s very likely that, at some point, you’ll feel things. Jealousy, for example, is a common one. Most if not all of us have been raised in a monogamous social environment, so knowing that our partner is having sex with someone else can nag at us even if we’re rationally okay with it. It’s an effect of socialization in such an environment. The question here isn’t if you’ll feel jealousy, it’s how you’ll handle it when it happens. Even the most practiced and experienced non-monogamous people can sometimes feel jealous when their partner is hooking up one night and their plans fall short, leaving them all alone at home. The trick is to look at those feelings, figure out what they are about and deal with them. It can be okay to talk about those feelings with your partner, but that depends on how and why you talk about them. If it’s to try and make them feel bad and stop, it could be a problem. But making them aware that last week you felt bad about something and, after thinking about it, you’d like to adjust the rules is a very healthy thing to do. 

This is a very quick overview of ENM. It’s impossible to go over everything in my response to your question as entire books have been written on the subject. What I hope is that these basic elements will help you in your struggle.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important that you don’t do it because you feel like you don’t have a choice. Guilt is a poor guide for our sex and love life, and so is fear. Saying you’re okay with it because you’re afraid to lose him isn’t good for you in the long run and letting him do it because you feel as though saying no would make you a bad person isn’t any better. There is no “better way” between monogamy and ethical non-monogamy. They are both different ways to apprehend and live relationships and that’s okay. 

In the end, I think the decision comes down to comfort and trust with yourself and your partner. If you choose to try it, I’d recommend starting small and building on it. You could, for example, discuss him doing it once or a few times and see how you feel. In the end, it’s possible that you’ll find a place that is good for the both of you, or maybe you won’t and go your separate ways. And, though you haven’t said anything about it, I will point out that you could also think about whether or not you want to try having relationships with others as well. Just a thought.

I’ve done my best to sum up ENM in a very short text, but clearly there’s a lot more to it than the basics I’ve written about. The best reference I know and recommend for ENM is “The Ethical Slut”, by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton. It’s a great read and goes into much more depth about everything I’ve talked about here.


Sophie (elle/she), volunteer for AlterHéros