Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Ask Polly: Give Me One Reason Why I Shouldn't Cheat On My Wife


I'm a new reader and dig your crazy no-bullshit advice. But I'm writing not so much for advice, but to throw down the gauntlet. My understanding is that always ends well.

The subject is me cheating on my wife. I'm sick of feeling guilty about wanting to, and rationally I'm having a hard time figuring out why I shouldn't because I think it may actually help our marriage and improve the chances of us providing a happy home for our children. Clearly a convenient conclusion but one I've done a lot of thinking about.

Here are the supporting facts:

1. My wife is no longer interested in sex. She is too busy and tired from stressing over the kids and delivering our little royals to their next playdate to generate biological feelings for me. Before the children were born we had a "zestful" sexual relationship but no longer.

2. It is said men in general have a much higher sex drive. I am a man and find this to be a considerably large understatement, along the lines of saying Transformers might be a shitty movie.

3. I find my wife sexy; I also find other women sexy. Some of these women will have sex with me and we will enjoy it.

4. Having sex with other women will relieve much of the emotional resentment I have against my wife for her sexual indifference (even though I empathize with her), and we will have a better emotional relationship as a lack of sex will no longer be a source of conflict.

5. I will feel physically better if I have sex with other women because I will be released from the buzzing, thrumming miasma of lust that plagues me every moment during a sexless week. Believe me, most men are familiar with these feelings.

6. My wife is an outstanding mother, and otherwise a good wife and best friend.

7. I believe my children will be happier raised in a home with a caring mother and father present.

8. My wife and I have spoken about my inescapable need for physical affection; we have tried methods to rekindle her physical passions, but to no avail.

9. Deep down I believe she would tolerate my affairs as long as I was safe, respectful, discreet, and continued to be a good father and husband. I think she would prefer that approach over a frank discussion about open marriage, which would hurt and offend her with its brazenness. I would rather carry the burden of culpability than dispel her sense of our family.

10. Affairs with other women will not change my love for her.

Finally—and this is more of an observation—if gay men can maintain their marriages while entertaining outside engagements, isn't it biased and unrealistic to punish their heterosexual peers for addressing the same urges?

My challenge to you is to make a compelling case why, on balance, I should not pursue outside affairs in the interests of my family's longevity and happiness, provided the facts above. I don't think you can.


Cheating Gauntlet Man

Dear CGM,

Cheating is called cheating for a reason. The issue on the table is honesty, not sex. If the lack of sex in your relationship poses a serious threat to your marriage, you should sit down with your wife and tell her that. You should ask to see a couples' therapist together. You should say that you need her to commit to some concrete plan for changing things between you, whether that means letting someone watch the kids one afternoon and one evening per week so you can have time together, or deciding on a minimum fooling-around schedule, or reading a book about sex therapy and then talking about it, or some combination of those things. Tell her that you need to know that things are going to change, because your frustration and powerlessness in this area is affecting your outlook on your life and your marriage.

Here's what you shouldn't do: Assume that your wife would be fine with you discretely running around town, fucking other women, or that she'd prefer that scenario to discussing this openly. Because I can personally fucking guarantee you, your wife would rather talk about it. She is not remotely ok with you fucking around. You've been watching too much "Mad Men." Making a rousing argument for fucking other women on the sneak is a pretty elaborate way to justify something that's unjustifiable. It's a brave-looking way of being a total chickenshit.

Fucking other people when your wife thinks that you two are monogamous is dishonest, hurtful and beyond insulting. It's the kind of thing that many people never, ever get over. It's the kind of thing that will lead to you, alone, in a one-bedroom apartment, while your sexy, wonderful wife remarries someone handsome and loyal and honest who makes his desires known instead of hiding behind logic and lists.

Married gay people who fuck around on the side tend to have conversations about it first. The difference between discussing it openly and honestly and just sneaking around behind someone's back is enormous. Having an open marriage and cheating are two entirely fucking different things. The former is a choice. The latter is a crime that's willfully committed against the other person. When you cheat on someone, you betray their trust, you rip apart their love for you, you embarrass the fuck out of them, you depress them (in this case, at a time when she has little people who depend on her and she can't really afford to be depressed beyond belief), and you permanently alter their ability to respect you. Do you know how bad that feels, loving and believing in someone more than anyone else, and then having your love injured irreparably?

It's unspeakably arrogant to assume that your wife will never find out so you don't have to examine any of these very real consequences. How often do you think random women who fuck married men end up telling the wives about the affairs? How often do you think wives find out by other means? All the fucking time.

To me, what really works about marriage is the feeling that you have someone on your side, who would never do anything to hurt you. When that person betrays you, it's hard to get that feeling back. And in the company of children, believing in your partner is unquestionably crucial, and intoxicating, really. You know that you're supported and cared for. Having that support and trust and care ripped from you, when there are little kids in the picture, could make someone feel more vulnerable and heartsick than you can possibly imagine.

I know you think I'm being dramatic. I am not fucking being dramatic.

Now, to be fair, I think that for heterosexual men, what really works about marriage is the feeling that you have a woman on your side, who loves you and loves your kids, and who is also very attracted to you. When that person rejects you, over and over again, it's hard to get that feeling of well-being back. Believing in your marriage and having regular sex with your wife is also unquestionably crucial, and intoxicating, really. Having that support and attention ripped from you, when there are little kids in the picture, could make a man feel more vulnerable and heartsick than his wife can possibly imagine.

If that feels accurate to you, then my guess is that you don't really want to fuck random women as much as you think you do. What you really want is to feel desired and adored by your wife, whom you love very much. You feel invisible. You feel like she doesn't want or even love you anymore.

Your challenge in this situation is to show up and make yourself vulnerable, not to disappear and force her into an inherently vulnerable position. Your challenge is to resist the urge to avenge your wife's lack of desire (by fucking other women). Even though you've gone to elaborate lengths to make this form of punishment appear harmless and logical, at some level, this is about you feeling hurt and neglected and powerless to change it.

When you feel hurt and vulnerable and you're willing to talk openly about it? That's an opportunity for your marriage to grow into something more beautiful than it was before. You already have a decent marriage. Don't run away and protect yourself and lie and hide and fuck yourself and your kids over in the process. That may be the easy way out in the short term. In the long term, though, you'll drop a bomb in the middle of your life, and you won't be able to pick up the pieces once it goes off.

Honesty. That's all you need. You need to go to your wife and be very honest about your sexual needs. If she waves you off, and doesn’t listen, don't accept that. Make her understand that this is a gigantic thing in your life, and your marriage is at stake.

Now, I have to admit, I'm sort of wondering how involved you are with your little royals. You talk about your wife ushering them hither and thither, but not you. And you seem to assume that you'll have plenty of free time to wander off and fuck other women. Does your wife have that kind of free time? If she wanted to have an affair, could she conceivably free up her schedule to fuck someone on the sly? I'm guessing that she's running around in circles, picking little fucking shoes up off the floor, or waking up in the middle of the night with a sick kid, or doing another fucking load of laundry because you forgot. While you imagine fucking other women, what is your wife doing? Loading the dishwasher? Sleeping, because she never fucking gets enough sleep and she feels exhausted all the time because she never has a second to herself?

If so, I would suggest that you get to know your little royals a little better. Tell your wife that you're going to take Saturdays from 10 to 4, and she can do whatever she wants. Her interest in sucking your cock may experience an uptick under such circumstances.

But if your kids are very little and your wife is very, very busy with them in ways that you could be, too, if you got off your smug ass and made it so, yet you sit back and watch her rushing around in circles and you still expect her to keep everything running AND fuck you every night once the kids are tucked away? You really should divorce your wife and hire a housekeeper, a nanny and a live-in sex worker instead. Because that's the level of service you seem to require.

I suggest you spend more time with your kids, and also more time thinking about what's best for them, so the burden of stress doesn't always rest on your wife. Find out how you can do more around the house so your wife is less sick of seeing your fat face, begging for a tuggy. Meditate. Exercise more often to burn off all of that free-floating lust. What ever happened to good old-fashioned jacking off, anyway? Christ almighty. But more than anything else, learn to speak honestly to your wife. Explain to her what your minimum needs are, and (IMPORTANT!) ask her what her minimum needs are, in order to feel happy. Explain that you really feel like your marriage will suffer horribly if you don't have more sex, and (IMPORTANT!) ask her if you can't watch the kids more or take over the dishes every night so she can read a book. Say, "I'll put the kids down, then we make out right after that, then I'll do all the dishes while you go to sleep." Believe me that there are ways to entice her.

Obviously you need to adjust your expectations a little about how much sex you can have, and she needs to adjust her expectations that sex can only happen when she's totally in the mood. Sometimes, you get in the mood by going for it, plain and simple. Sometimes you get in the mood by saying "Well, it's Friday at 3 p.m. and we're home alone. It's now or fucking never." Sometimes you get in the mood by watching your husband usher the royals to a play date while you flip through a magazine for once in your sorry life. I know, it's all so fucking romantic. The faster you both accept that having a family sometimes means not fucking like rabbits whenever the mood strikes, the faster you're going to wake up to a new paradigm that isn't as compromised and flat as it sounds, it's just different. The sex is actually just as good. We were built for it. Everyone gets worked up over how it should start, how it should unfold, how spontaneous it should be, how much it should resemble a scene out of Top Gun, all blowing curtains and plinky soft rock. Sex itself is pretty excellent with or without the candles and the plinky plonk.

Now, I would address the idea of an open marriage, but I think you need to completely redesign your marriage to accommodate your wife's and your needs before you think about that option. And anyway, open marriage means both of you can have sex with other people. It doesn't mean that you can but she can't. (I've heard of this arrangement, and sorry, but it's sexist and idiotic.) That path is pretty perilous, particularly with kids in the picture. Maybe they can swing it in France. I don't doubt it. If I had access to lots of red wine and stinky cheese and smoking hot Parisian men, I might pry open my sad little heteronormative mind to just about anything.

But you haven't really worked on your sex life in earnest yet. It's understandable that this is not your wife's top priority, but if you're really contemplating cheating as much as you seem to be, then you'll be doing her a big favor by making the bleakness of your current outlook very, very clear to her. She needs to stop waiting for magic to happen, and start making a concrete effort to meet you halfway. You need to meet her halfway, too. If I were the one charged with handling the lion's share of the kid-related shit, I don't think I could look my husband in the eye without sneering, let alone fuck him.

Again, this is not "Mad Men." Right now, you are keeping a big part of who you are hidden. As long as you're lying, you can't have a good marriage. More lying won't fix that.


Dear Polly,

My boyfriend told me last night he wants me to sleep with other men. He says if I am willing to be in an open relationship, then he wants to "make it work." If I am unwilling to consent, then we're going to break up. These are my options, and I don't know what to do. The decision we're going to make needs to happen quickly, so I hope you can offer your advice soon.

Some background: I am 28; he is 21 (if you are shaking your head already, I don't blame you). We've been together for just under two years. We met over Pride Weekend 2011, the day after New York State legalized gay marriage, a heady time. I had recently ended a two-and-a-half year relationship with a man who was 15 years my senior, and I was doing typical newly-single things: fooling around with a bunch of guys, going out all the time, spending all the money. I met this handsome, charming 19-year-old and thought he would be my summer fling, but ended up developing strong feelings for him. Later that summer, he went back to college upstate, and I became his long-distance boyfriend. We've been together in a monogamous relationship ever since, which has required a lot of sacrifice on my part, specifically traveling to see him at school and also visiting him twice when he spent a semester overseas. This is our second summer living together, and I have never loved anyone more in my life.

I am surprised by this development, but I can't say it's coming out of nowhere. There have been some issues in the past with him keeping secrets (exchanging nude photos with guys online, being on Grindr when he lived overseas) and me finding out via snooping (I'm the worst), but never any cheating. I feel like we've moved past these trust issues, and I'm deeply grateful that he had the courage to tell me this rather than sleeping around behind my back.

We discussed too many things to reprint here, but the main issue seems to be that he feels like something is missing from our (very active) sex life, that it's not as exciting as it used to be. He does not want to rip off my clothes and throw me on the bed every time he sees me, as he once did. He finds me attractive but is not actively attracted to me in the same way he used to be. That sounds like fairly standard long-term relationship stuff to me, but since this is his first one, he is apparently freaked out by it. Worse, he often feels like it is difficult to get into the mood to have sex with me. I feel terrible that he has been regularly consenting to sex that he wasn't 100% into. He doesn't want to switch things up in the bedroom, either; he just wants causal sex with randos, but he doesn't want to date them.

For my part, I am very happy with our sex life and have never had better sexual chemistry with someone, so it saddens me to learn that the feeling is not mutual. I should note here that my previous relationship was highly dysfunctional and my then-boyfriend had zero sex drive, meaning sometimes six months or more would go by without any action. This led me to secretly cheat outside of the relationship until it ended. All of which is to say I understand how bad it feels when you're with someone you love and the sexy times are not all that you want them to be.

My boyfriend says he loves me, I am his best friend, he wants to be with me forever, and the thought of breaking up is both unfathomable and sickening. I agree with him on all these points, but he also seems not very into the idea of having sex with me! It's hard to know why he wants to continue if that's the case. Is he just too afraid to break up with me?

I have a pretty common problem: I don't want to lose the man I love and my best friend, but I am also extremely against the idea of an open relationship. It makes me feel kinda old-timey, but I appreciate the stability and comfort that comes with boning the same person forever. I am not ruling out the possibility that I could be happy in an open relationship, but it would be extremely difficult for me to endure, I think. The thought of him having sexual experiences without me is really troubling, but he says he is completely comfortable with me sleeping with other men (which, to be honest, is something I don't have a strong desire for). Sure, there are guys I would sleep with, but it's not something I need to do to be happy and feel satisfied.

I love him, so is it worth giving an open relationship a shot and then calling it quits if it fails? Or is it better to end things while they're good and let him explore the world and figure things out? It seems like those are the only choices I have, and no one likes having an ultimatum. As you can tell, I don't have a very positive outlook on the open relationship scenario. I will say that I am willing to introduce other people into our sex life so that it remains a shared experience. He seems open to the idea, but I can't tell if that's naive or wishful thinking on my part.

Given his age, I'm not surprised that he wants a little more sexual experience. I tried to be diligent about making sure that he really wanted to be in a monogamous relationship so early in his life, and I do believe he really did at the time, but I get that these things can change. I wish he could just take a year or two and get all his fucking done and then commit to me, but I know that's completely unrealistic. I think he's being a bit dramatic in saying this, but he currently feels that if he is struggling with monogamy in a relationship with the person he loves the most, then monogamy will never be "viable" for him.

Right now I'm angry and hurt, focused on the sacrifices I've made. I've spent a lot of money to make this relationship work, what with the constant travel, and I've also called on friends to help him get summer jobs. That's just me being petty and defensive—those are normal things to do for those we love. My point is I'm aware that I'm upset, and I don't want to react out of anger. I want to take my time and figure this out the right way. I can't believe he is willing to risk losing me entirely in exchange for the freedom to sleep with other men. I can't believe that the first boyfriend who I felt comfortable enough to introduce to my family is doing this to me. I think he is scared, confused, and overwhelmed. I feel the same way. Neither of us knows how to proceed.

What should I do?


Life Is Garbage

Dear LIG,

Your boyfriend was 19 when you met him. He wants to have some experiences, not just be hidden away with you forever. He knows that in ten years, he'll regret not going out into the world and sowing his wild, wild oats.

I would let him go. You've stated in 15 different ways that you don't want an open relationship. Obviously you could try it out, but my hunch is that you'll only end up traumatized by it.

You say you've given up a lot, spent a lot of money. No one has given up more than a 19-year-old guy whose been in the same long distance relationship for two years of college. He's being honest with you. I understand your anger and disappointment, but you have to take a step back and look at this a little more clinically. You say you can't believe that the ONE person who you love like crazy is doing this. Dude, you knew he was 19 when you met him. You can pretend that you were tricked, or cheated, or bait-and-switched, but that's not remotely what happened, and in your clear moments you can obviously see that.

Yes, you're hurting. And you'll miss him. But he needs to get out and do his thing. He's just too young for this, that's all. Of course he has unrealistic expectations of relationships. He won't figure out how it works until he gets more experience. I know married people who are still confused about this, simply because they've been married to the same person since they were teenagers.

In my personal experience, it doesn't take all that long for a lifestyle of slutting around to sour on you. Now obviously gay men have redesigned and perfected that lifestyle in a way that makes it much less sour. And it's also less rife with unwanted sexist implications than it is among heterosexual randos. (GodDAMN I love that word, "randos." I wish I had more day-to-day use for it.) But I can easily see your boyfriend coming back to you eventually. Maybe that's unrealistic, and certainly you can't focus on it. But I can see it.

I guess you could try the open thing if you really didn't want to see him go. I don't know. I feel like your emotions will get in the way. And if every time he comes home from a night of hot sex, you're right there weeping into your hands, that's going to doom the relationship forever. At least if you give it a clean break, there's some chance that he'll get his fill and return. And you'll survive with your dignity intact.

Does anyone who's in a functioning open relationship want to weigh in on that? From what you wrote in your letter, though, I think an open relationship would be emotional hara-kiri. It just doesn't sound like it will suit you.

And maybe it's worth saying this: You love him a lot, but you will fall in love again, probably sooner than you expect. You might not want that now. But you never know what you'll find out there. You could stumble on a love that puts this one to shame.

Let him go. You'll be fine—great, in fact. Just let him go, with your blessing. Even if he gets teary and wants to come back, I would insist that he take some time away. He needs to feel what it's like to be alone. That will do good things for him, and for you. It sucks, but it's not the end of the world. This will suck at first, and you'll be heartbroken. But then it'll get much, much better. Keep the faith.


Are you anxious to find the cure to your vague dissatisfaction with everything? Write to Polly for some vaguely dissatisfying guidance!

Heather Havrilesky (aka Polly Esther) is The Awl's existential advice columnist. She's also a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and is the author of the memoir Disaster Preparedness (Riverhead 2011). She blogs here about scratchy pants, personality disorders, and aged cheeses."The Cheat" photographed by Joseph Bremson. Sea of hot men photographed by "Albert."

107 Comments / Post A Comment

Mr. B (#10,093)


Werner Hedgehog (#11,170)

Sooooo many of LW#1's supporting "facts" are really just opinions.

skyslang (#11,283)

@Werner Hedgehog Like men having higher sex drives? I love it when people take a personal preference and turn it into a massive generalization.

City_Dater (#2,500)

@Werner Hedgehog

Because this special sort of jackass believes his opinions are, in fact, facts. He probably also describes himself as "babysitting" if his wife ever leaves him alone with their children.

RobotsNeedLove (#236,743)

@City_Dater UGH there's a partner at my firm who says he's "playing mom" when his wife goes away for the weekend.

tinyplants (#245,621)

@skyslang yeah, that really bothered me. I think LW1 and others in his situation would benefit from checking out daniel bergner's new book, What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire. I'm only halfway through but I think it's a great read to shake up gender stereotypes about how women don't want as much sex as men blah blah they need intimacy/comfort for sexytime feelings blah blah all the science says so blah blah. (Actually one of the takeaways from some of the studies discussed in the book is that if LW1 wants to ignite his wife's sex drive again he should maybe suggest that SHE have sex with some new people – I wonder if he'd be cool with that hmm?)

cherrispryte (#444)

"your wife is less sick of seeing your fat face, begging for a tuggy"

A+ job using fat as an arbitrary insult for no apparent reason, excellent work, would read again ++++++++++++

HeatherH (#241,099)

@cherrispryte "Fat face" isn't an arbitrary insult, it's a 2nd grader's insult, which is what I was going for. It's the kind of insult that springs to mind when your I Want To Cheat On You husband demands sexual favors. Was I implying that said husband was overweight? No. Just that his face looks bloated when he doesn't help with the dishes.

myfanwy (#1,124)

@cherrispryte @HeatherH Respectfully submitting "poopy face" instead

cherrispryte (#444)

@HeatherH You used the word fat in a negative way. Which, I suppose, might be acceptable if you're striving to sound like a 7 year old, but is pretty offensive behavior in an adult.

HereKitty (#2,713)

@cherrispryte Would calling this paragon of husbanding a "big fat liar" also be pretty offensive behavior? Genuinely curious.

fattiesthinnies (#245,577)

@cherrispryte I'm with cherrispryte on this on. Like casually tossing out the faggot word (context being every thing, and reclaiming words tinged with negative intentions being very important… fag can be a lovely, impish, sexy word meaning gay dude), using fat here, in this way, is meany-ish. Not to wanna-cheat dude, but to fat ppl.

As for the fat liar, that's maybe more along the lines of voluptuous. Like… large. In the same way that skinflint denotes not-much-extra, close to the bone.

There's a great kids book, I think it's called the fatties and the thinnies, about two brothers who happen to have different body types, who then go to a world/land where people are divided up depending on their body types. It's sweet, in that it illustrates just how arbitrary (and unecessary) putting so much emphasis on these distinctions is. While there are genuine health (including mental health) issues involved in weight issues – be they being overweight and out of good physical shape (the two not always going hand in hand, larger people can be in very good physical shape) or being burdened (even to the point of physical danger and harm) with an obsession with being "thin" causing a great deal of unhappiness… that's all dumb stuff that gets in the way of us being happy during this brief time we're here on this earth.

I don't think you need to make justifications for using a term like "fat face" yes it's common parlance, but so is sissy, and there's lots of sissy boys who have been harmed by meanness (which is sad cause sissy boys are the best!) so maybe lets just not use those terms which have, historically, been used to denigrate, unless we are using them in clearly contextual ways which will not continue to do so.

A big fat thanks!

@fattiesthinnies The word "denigrate" has racist etymology. I try not to use it in my everyday speech, lest I continue to imply that black people are inferior and that a fall from grace is equivalent to becoming black.

It's tough to parse every single word. (Take "jipped" out of vocab, too, since it's also racist.)

I'm not being facetious, here. But I do take issue with this level of language parsing in an advice column where the guy writing in is clearly a big douche, and he's not actually called fat or overweight or shamed for his body in any way. When I read that sentence, I didn't think "this guy is fat, and that's bad." I thought about how uncomfortable it is to have someone's face up in your face. Anyone's face looks big at that proximity, and it would make anyone uncomfortable. Not least of which would be an overtired, overextended wife being asked to perform adult duties on what is essentially just an extra kid around the house. (His list of "justifications" are childish enough to make me feel confident in saying that he joins the "royals" in his mindset.)

There's no discernible difference between the example you used for "voluptuous" (a positive word, though "big fat liar" is always used negatively) and this example, if what is meant by "voluptuous" is voluminous — the sheer volume being described. If the word "fat" can be used in those other contexts as a descriptive word, then reader response can allow it to be used here. (As I said, I didn't interpret it as a slight on anyone but this in-your-face, apparently terrible husband, and his in-your-facedness.)

If it can't be used here, it shouldn't be used anywhere even metaphorically or descriptively.

Lightenup (#270,230)

@cherrispryte I'm really behind on this but had to comment because you're so self righteous it pains me! He said 'fat'….. What a terrible thing to do! And people defending you saying it's like people using 'faggot' as a derogatory term…. Not atall people don't choose to be gay, there is no way to become straight however there are a few novel concepts such as exercise and dieting! Apologies to anyone who is overweight due to unavoidable circumstances. However the point largely is that it was a light hearted comment which of course people who are sad enough to feel they have to try and put the false pretense out to people they've never met that they are the saviours of the weak in response to when infact the point made was simply a throw away comment. Regardless the point made about the idea of his fat face somewhat repulsing her is understandable as in the modern age obesity is not a desired feature for many however many people seem to want to drive themselves to it! I do not however agree that it is wrong of him to debate sleeping with another woman as sexual urges are only natural and if they are not being fulfilled by the person you are with and there's no end in sight I don't believe there's any argument that he can't do as he pleases with his life whilst respectfully assuring that his kids and wife remain happy! This is not because he is a man it's because he is a human being denied his basic urges and he should be able to 'fuck' who he pleases! I use the word fuck in quotation to the simple minded 'Polly' who is so happy to write with such an air of importance but has enough of a lack of intelligence that she must throw obscene language in to reinforce what little basic point she has. Especially as she seems to be trying to tell a man what his wife would prefer in such certainty when she has not once met either of them. And one last thing people debating the sexist stand point…. Little heads up…. Its not only women who recieve sexist persecution…. In fact a lot of the time it's quite the opposite! Fight for equality or even dominance but you can't have both!

540948388@twitter (#272,425)

@Alicia Watkins@facebook "denigrate" comes from latin and does NOT have a racist etymology. It does include the latin term for dark/black, but with the meaning of "keeping things in the dark"as in "not in the open". And seriously, anyone who has a problem with "fat face"(a well-deserved appellative in this case) I suggest s/he writes a letter to Polly explaining their issues.
On another note, I also thought the word "randos" is thebest ever and, damn it, I will FIND ways to use it in everyday discourse.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

Yeah but can you give me a really good reason why I shouldn't commit murder, if I feel like it?

ejcsanfran (#489)

@stuffisthings: To be honest, not really.

r&rkd (#1,719)

Nihilism! Etc.

Smitros (#5,315)

@r&rkd Amateurism!

PistolPackinMama (#231,054)


1) Are you good at decorating really small, small, small spaces and do you like bright orange as a clothing option for 25+ years?

2) Do you live in a state with a death penalty?

If the answers are 1) yes/yes and 2) no, go for it.

skyslang (#11,283)

Excellent advice to #2. I've got a friend in a similar situation, and he agreed to the open relationship and is MISERABLE, trying to act cool about it all the time. Listen to Polly and let it go. It will hurt, but you will feel strong and true to yourself. And hurt is nothing compared to feeling upset all the time that your boyfriend is fucking other guys, and then feeling guilty for being upset, and then feeling like a conservative debbie downer and then trying to push all that shit aside because he's coming home in ten minutes and you have to act cool or you're going to have another fight…I mean, the emotions my friend is dealing with are really fucked. LET IT GO.

Olivia2.0 (#1,716)

LW#1 makes me feel physically ill. Polly – your answers were great – and there were MANY red flags/disturbing things in said letter – but did anyone else find him referring to his OWN CHILDREN as "the little royals" super disturbing?

themnemosyne (#241,230)

@Olivia2.0 My guess is that it's because this asshole couldn't actually remember their names.

doraleigh (#239,253)

@Olivia2.0 @Olivia2.0 It could be that he refers to the kids this way because his wife (and him, by allowing her to do all the heavy lifting) treat them this way. Damn, do I see this all the time — parents whose existence completely and totally revolve around their kids and who refuse to consider that their kids are really little a-holes some of the time. Not saying that this is what his wife is doing, and not defending him at all (AT ALL), but I do see relationships in which the wife is so caught up with the kids that the marriage relationship completely disappears. It is not defensible to cheat in this situation — and also, this situation evolves because BOTH partners want or allow it — but I think this happens all the time: the kids take over, one or both partners is miserable, and cheating seems like a viable option. Umm, this is especially true if the husband is an a-hole himself.

brad (#1,678)

i feel like this advice has really failed in regards to LW#1. because an unrepentant dick looking for reasons to be more of an unrepentant dick cannot be helped. the only answer for such a flea is to divorce his wife immediately so that she may find an non-dick as soon as possible.

A Snood Mood (#1,737)

@brad See, I thought the advice was fantastic because she lets him know in no uncertain terms what a douchewad he's being, but then she doesn't sink to his level of assholery and actually gives him good, empathetic advice. It was a nice combo of a slap in the face, then sitting him down and addressing him as a human being.

I agree the wife would be better off without him though. Guy's an asshole.

scrooge (#2,697)

I think everybody's being a little hard on #1 guy. He's not that much of a dick, he's just as much of a dick as thousands of other men. Being in a marriage with a partner who doesn't want to is no fun at all. Maybe some of the commenters here will find that out as they get older.

The advice is good, though. I would also add: he kind of ignores the inconvenient fact that the women he presumably intends to cheat with are actually people, too. With feelings and so on. They are not just wandering vaginae. This makes things more complicated than he might think.

brad (#1,678)

@scrooge – he doesn't ignore it at all. "some of these women will have sex with me and we will enjoy it". boom. non-issue.

HereKitty (#2,713)

@scrooge "wandering vaginae," perfect!

dullhypothesis (#234,533)

@scrooge Just because lots of men are dicks doesn't mean their dickishness is diminished. If it quacks like a dick, walks like a dick, etc.

scrooge (#2,697)

@dullhypothesis Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, etc. And the bird you are referring to is actually, I think, a dickcissel (dark-throated meadowlark).

commanderbanana (#167,624)

@scrooge True fact!

Here's a little story for you: a friend mine became involved with a married man who was in a very similar situation (young kids, wife disinterested in sex, yadda yadda) and they had an affair for about a year. He and his wife ended up working on their marriage and he ended the affair.

Fine and dandy, right? Except that he'd told my friend repeatedly that he'd be leaving his wife when the kids were older, etc. etc. He actually thought she'd be thrilled that he and his wife were giving it another go.

To say she was peeved at being dumped was…an understatement.

She emailed the wife. With photos.

I'm not defending what she did (either the affair or the tattle). I'm just saying, if this guy thinks he can noodle around diddling other women without any consequences, he doesn't know human nature very well. Say the mistress gets too clingy/needy/whatever and he wants to break it off? It's not going to be hard for her to find a way to contact his wife. I think my friend just googled her and found a work email.

Point being, people don't just show up when you want them to and leave when you don't want them anymore.

mrsteacherface (#240,466)

@scrooge He is definitely being a dick, but I can understand how frustrated a person could be if he/she doesn't have the physical intimacy in a relationship that he/she wants. I think a man or a woman would feel rejected and resentful and horny in this situation. I like the advice – definitely see a therapist, definitely tell the wife how he feels.

Anarcissie (#3,748)

I thought LW1 might be a troll. He's too perfect.

A Snood Mood (#1,737)

@Anarcissie I thought the same thing, but how much of a troll? Like, not-even-married-dude-making-the-whole-thing-up-to-rile-up-the-women-folk, or actual married guy with children who thinks he's being super clever? He's an amazing mixture of stupid and impressed with his own "cleverness", that's for sure.

Anarcissie (#3,748)

@A Snood Mood — I'd hesitate to guess at his life circumstances. I just think it's pretty funny the way he carefully touches every base. Of course there are reams of this kind of thing all over, but you seldom see it delivered with such perfection. It seems impossible for someone to be such a complete cliché without making a conscious effort.

deod (#245,582)

@Anarcissie I thought LW1 might be a Dan Savage-following troll. All of his numbered reasons outline the exact situation that Savage says creates the unique environment that cheating is permissible in.

apb (#9,461)

@Anarcissie Gotta differ. Dan Savage would advise the LW just about all of the above, plus at the end he'd say "if this doesn't work, try a companionate marriage where you both sleep with other people."

Anarcissie (#3,748)

@apb — I have never observed Savage to advocate dishonesty ('cheating'), which is what LW1 says he wants to do. Reticence, sometimes, but speaking and living a lie, never. So that's a new one for me, and I read Savage's stuff regularly. Can you point out an instance?

stinapag (#10,293)

I've never understood why LW#1s of the world feel like they can write out these awesome justifications to advice columnists, but can't articulate the same to their spouses.

You want to fuck around? Fine. TELL YOUR WIFE.

If that makes it less of a great idea, then maybe it's not such a great idea. Have an open marriage where all parties (including the women you're sleeping with) are aware of what's going on. Leave your spouse. Talk about the underlying issues and/or take some of the stress off your spouse as Polly suggests. But don't sleep around thinking that somehow this is saving your marriage.

trog (#245,172)

Gay guy here in a somewhat open relationship. My two cents: Perfect advice, Polly, and so smart to combine these two letters. Both stress honest communication between partners–and the cold reality that relationships require work and compromise.

When in my 20s, I couldn't have handled an open relationship. Too wrapped up in ideas of the perfect man who I would satisfy forever–why would either of us even notice another man!!! Fairy tale stuff. I had several monogamous relationships then, but we always broke up after about a year. Now in my 40s, I have a better idea of what's important in a relationship and how to communicate it. I've learned that sexual attraction to your partner ebbs and flows. That's natural. The question is, how do you both deal with that? What do you do if one of you is more sexual than the other (as will happen from time to time).

The whole cruising and hooking up thing can be a real boost to the testosterone, self-confidence and the relationship. But you also have to navigate insecurities and jealousies and trust issues. If you can do it, you'll be stronger for it.

But each couple has to work out the fine print of the open relationship. (For me and my man, it's no exchanging numbers or dating the trick, no Grindr, no sex in our house, and the trysts only happen a few times a year, etc.) The rules may change over time. Couples should discuss this regularly.

If, like these guys in their 20s, you find that actually you're not that compatible, then you can break up and move on with dignity and respect (and yes, some tears).

But seriously, I don't think any 20something gay guys should aim for lifelong monogamous relationships at that stage. Especially with a 9-year age gap in the partners. And living in a large urban area. No sir. And if you make absolute monogamy the linchpin of your relationship, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Good luck!!!

Tulletilsynet (#333)

People* with a bad conscience about a thing don't call the thing by its plain name.

Counting the word "fuck" in this post.

1. Number of times the guy who wants to fuck around on his wife uses the word "fuck": 0

2. Number of times Polly uses forms of the word "fuck": 25

3. Number of words in Polly's answer: 2,506

4. Percentage of Polly's words that are forms of the word "fuck": 1.00%

5. Instances of the word "fuck" used by Polly in the sense of fucking: 14

6. Instances of the word "fuck" used figuratively by Polly or as an adverb or expletive: 11

7. Data for the cheater guy corresponding to 2-6 above: 0, 515, 0%, 0 , 0.

[* Or their troll personae.]

Titania (#8,471)

@Tulletilsynet I'm not as data minded as you are, clearly, but he uses the word "sex" and the variant "have sex" multiple times. Maybe you think "fucking" is the ur-verb that describes the act, but I think that's just a matter of taste–"have sex" is pretty direct as far as I'm concerned. I generally appreciate any effort men are willing to make to not come off as total pigs, including not saying fuck fuck fuck every other word (also–not cheating on their wives) so I wouldn't ding him for that.

Danzig! (#5,318)

"No one has given up more than a 19-year-old guy whose been in the same long distance relationship for two years of college." Well when you put it like that my 4 quiet years of university seem like a tremendous, earth-shattering waste

Rustic (#245,592)

@Danzig! sad-five, man. sad-five.

jaimeleigh (#1,840)

You know, if my husband straight up stopped having sex with me I'd be devastated. If he didn't feel like it was a problem that we stopped having sex I'd be devastated. The same way that if he stopped talking to me I'd be devastated, and if he didn't feel like it was a problem that we stopped talking I'd be devastated.

I don't think he's that terrible of a person necessarily for considering this, or wondering if it is the answer. Sex is really important, and I don't think it is fair to dismiss his needs for sex as just, you know, douchey dude is douchey. Even if you have little kids and you are busy and tired, sex is important. I know it's easier to demonize the dude. It sounds awful. Busy mom being busy parenting and he wants to get his dick wet. But…I don't know. I just don't think it's that black and white. Yeah, he needs to tell her just how serious it is, this should start absolutely start with a conversation. But sex is part of the deal. I don't think it is fair to just opt out at any point in the marriage.

I'd say we need more information. If she's crazy busy and he's not being a full partner, you're right, that's different. But, you know, you hear this all the time. Oh, if he did the dishes I'd want to have sex with him. I just wonder how often that is really the case, and how often the other person has just lost interest in sex or attraction to their partner, or they simply have very mismatched sex drives, problems not solved by any amount of dishes washed. I don't know. I get that he's easy to hate. But if he's tried to address it and she won't deal with it…she's also betraying the marriage.

doraleigh (#239,253)

@jaimeleigh Yes, yes, totally agree. I do have small kids and damn, sometimes (OK, all the time, like Heather says), sex is not the culmination of some romantic denouement, but happens because — hey, we have 30 child-free minutes, let's go. But it is also easy to say, OK, maybe tomorrow, or next week? is next week good? which really really really fucks up your marriage. Or has threatened to fuck up mine, at the very least. And my husband still actually desires me! If he didn't, like you, I'd be devastated. I really do not want to be in the position of defending this guy and his 10-point argument in favor of cheating, but there is definitely more to this story.

Jolly (#245,185)

@jaimeleigh I was gonna type mostly exactly this, but I'm glad I didn't need to put in the effort.

Sex is important. Whatever their other issues are isn't going to change that. He does need to have an honest look about what their other issues might be, and try to work on those. But there is a good chance that that isn't going to change the sex thing, and thus, his problem is still not solved.

He sounds like a dick, and hey, maybe it is just that he doesn't help out and is a terrible guy, etc. But I'm just going to say there straight up is a legit possibility that he is totally right, their relationship is working, and she just does not want to have sex with him anymore. Going around behind her back very well might actually be preferable to her vs. 1) tearing their family apart over differing sex drives or 2) being told about it, having to accept it to save the marriage, and then feeling like the fact that he needs to get it elsewhere is being rubbed in her face/something she can't stop worrying about.

I do think that it also depends on how old their kids are. Is this a "we have some newborn babes and jesus christ I can't do anything else for the next year?" Or is it "we aren't going to have sex for 18 years, if ever?"

Things like this make me think it is definitely more of a Dan Savage question.

wee_ramekin (#33,118)

@jaimeleigh @Jolly Well, yeah. Sex is definitely important, especially when you've committed to a life-long monogamous relationship.

Wanting sex from his exhausted wife is not what chaps my hide about this LW. What angers me is that he proposes to unilaterally find the solution to this joint problem by doing something that he can't tell his wife about, but which he has somehow decided she'd be "fine" with if she found out. THAT's what takes this guy from "Sexually Frustrated Dude We Should Sympathize With" to "Stright-up Doucebag".

Look, I've been the lady in a relationship who wanted more sex than her partner could handle (so, big LOL to the "fact" that men want more sex than women). It was awful. I came out of that relationship with a lot more sympathy for married folks who complain about their partner's lack of drive. But I also didn't cheat on my partner. I talked to him about it, we tried to work it out, I stayed longer than I should have, and, ultimately we broke up. WITHOUT any one cheating. Because that's what people who truly love and respect each other and their relationship do.

This guy's wife could be completely checked out of the marriage. He could be doing more than his fair share of the household/child-rearing chores. That still wouldn't make it right for him to make this monumental decision about their relationship without talking to his wife about it.

Jolly (#245,185)

@wee_ramekin Well it is lucky that you and your incompatible partner don't seem to have had a family together that would have added several layers of additional complexity to that breakup. Given the assumptions that their marriage is otherwise functional, and that they work together as parents, breaking up their family over this issue is a lot bigger than a regular breakup, and deserves a more comprehensive examination.

I think the biggest problem (among many problems) with this letter is that the guy wrote it like a major asshole who is making a point instead of outlining his problem fully and suggesting a possible solution. He didn't actually say much straight out about the actual situation that he is in. Is his wife not feeling it because she's got newborns hanging off her teats, or has she pretty much declared that she does not want to have sex with him anymore and is not interested in continuing to work on wanting sex anymore? If that was the case, has he already made her aware that that the idea of him spending his life/the next 18 years sexless is batshit? I would guess from "My wife and I have spoken about my inescapable need for physical affection" that she knows that he will be having sex with someone in the foreseeable future. And it sounds like she has already basically said that that is not going to be her.

My assumption is that, dickhead though this may be, this guy probably is a little bit more familiar with his wife than most of us here on The Internet are. After several years together, he probably has a better idea than any of us do about what his wife's needs and expectations are where he is concerned. And if I was her, in this situation, and I was tired of being hounded for sex and tired of trying to find ways to make myself want to have sex, I would definitely rather stuff cotton in my ears and decide to believe my marriage is great, with my husband who I love and who loves my children & I and who is dedicated to our happiness (because it is great, in all of the ways that I really care about), over constantly staring in the face the fact that I have failed to maintain compatibility and that I'm not enough for him. (Not saying that is my view of his wife, but that is how I would feel knowing that my lack of sex-drive was driving me husband to get sex elsewhere.)

Maybe his marriage actually sucks. Maybe she isn't really happy with him. Maybe he doesn't do enough around the house. Unfortunately, all of the space where the important details should have been in this letter are taken up by "BUT IF THE GAYS CAN FUCK AROUND, WHY CAN'T **I**?? IT JUST ISN'T **FAIR** !!!!! PLUS ALSO: GENDER STEREOTYPES ARE TRUE."

But the fact that none of the reasons to cheat that he gave hinted at all to "my marriage kind of sucks" make me think that maybe his marriage doesn't suck.

Also, LW!: if you DO decide to quietly get some on the side, you need to be fucking scrupulously careful, both about burning every. last. shred. of evidence (so that neither she, nor your curious, lots-of-free-time, soon-to-be-way-more-tech-savvy-than-you kids, find about about it), but also about your partners. You will use a condom every. single. time. If you're a little bit smart, you will also pull out every. single. time (so better find a girl who enjoys facials/anal/whatever). You should also invest some serious planning into finding one person who you are not into at all, and who legitimately is not into you at all. Doing research and finding a quality an escort (who tests regularly, even though you'll be using a condom ever. single. time.) might be in your best interest, because having safe, meaningless sex is going to be their guiding principle. Also: you should accept the possibility that you will fuck up and completely ruin your marriage and alienate your family, and remind yourself of that fact every single day. Might help keep you reliable about using Incognito mode in the browser/always logging out/etc.

Anyway, dickhead LW: honesty is the best policy, and you ARE being a certain kind of dick by not laying it out for your wife. You need to think long and fucking hard about your marriage, and your wife, and whether getting it elsewhere is really necessary, and whether you are ACTUALLY being less of a dick by quietly finding an additional hole and not talking to her about it, or whether this is just the easy way out for your spineless ass. But yes, you are correct: for some people, having their spouses silently and discreetly get it elsewhere is preferable to other options. But that is a point that can just as easily be made without all the idiotic generalizations you made in your letter, so definitely cut that bullshit out.

lemmycaution (#243,936)

@jaimeleigh This is a good point. Kids require a lot of work but that does not have anything to do with the real problem which is sexual desire. People find the time to have sex with the people they want to have sex with.

undertone (#251,777)

@jaimeleigh I'm really glad you posted this comment. While I did not care for the douchey tone of LW#1, I unfortunately find myself in a similar situation, though I have not come to the same conclusion him about what to do about it. It's painful and frustrating to be in a sexless relationship when one of the people still really desires it.

Myrtle (#9,838)

@wee_ramekin I feel certain that the "women wanting it less than men" is based on the fact that women aren't publicizing their male mate's lack of intimacy.

ipomoea (#207,034)

I cannot overemphasize how much more likely it is that your wife will fuck you if you start acting like a parent all the time and not just when it serves your purpose. Parenting isn't just making sure the kid doesn't eat a battery, it's also picking up food on the floor, making dinner sometimes, giving a bath sometimes. Our sex life got a LOT better when we consciously started alternating nights on kid duty: you bathe him, I'll clean the kitchen, and vice-versa. I know you want to come home and read Reddit for three hours and then proposition me for a quick hump, but it's not gonna happen if I just spent two hours wrangling a two-year-old to try to act like a decent human being while you looked at every single TIL post.

finguns (#16,217)

@ipomoea Preach. In our house it was playing guitar or listening to records instead of Reddit, but it's amazing how quickly that ole' lovin' feeling came back after we came to a similar accord.

re: LW #2…you already know what you need to do.
Even if he is the first man you really loved and trusted, maybe that change is because of you, not him. Maybe it's not something unique in him that you will lose forever, but a new capacity you have that will help you find another partner who is better suited to you?

Jolly (#245,185)

LW1 – Next time write to Dan Savage instead. He might green-light you.

Jolly (#245,185)

@Jolly Though I should add, it won't make you sound like less of an idiotic dickhead. Your generalizations and victim-complex are very seriously stupid, and I don't think any rightminded person is gonna give you a pass on that, not even Dan Savage.

skyslang (#11,283)

@Jolly Sorry, but that is such bullshit. Dan Savage has never condoned cheating, but just talking to your partner about the possibility of an open marriage. Which is totally legit if one partner refuses to have sex with the other, and by the way, exactly the advice Polly just gave.

Jolly (#245,185)

@Skyslang Except for when he does condone cheating? His exact phrase being "cheating is wrong (except when it's not)." If you listen to his podcast, I believe he discusses it somewhere in the last 2 or 3 episodes, in reference to his book which devotes a chapter to cheating and when it is okay.

cardiganboots (#232,781)

LW #1 imagines he is Don Draper, is probably actually Pete Campbell.

themegnapkin (#201,538)

@cardiganboots except, Don Draper is also a horrible person. Neither Don nor Pete is something to aspire to.

cardiganboots (#232,781)

@themegnapkin You are correct. Draper, at least, would not refer to his children he ignores as "the little royals" or write out his justifications for cheating to an advice column. He would just publish it in the paper.

Ugh, I also watch too much Mad Men.

teenie (#235,723)

the misconception that women have lower sex drives than men makes my teeth curl… especially when used as a "reason" for men to cheat.

woman who sexually burns her husband out on the reg, and takes the time to let him know how important sex is to her and work it out, instead of cheating on him

scrooge (#2,697)

@teenie Well, no wonder, if you can curl your teeth — kinky!

Titania (#8,471)

@teenie Have ended my last three relationships because my male partners were all unwilling to have sex as often as I needed to, and I was forced to cheat or leave. At this point I'm willing to settle for a guy who keeps me 80% satisfied & praying for a drop in libido when I have kids.

fabel (#201,544)

Everyone has said it already, but I can't resist: LW1, you are a fucking dick. Not because you want to cheat on your wife, but because of the whole icky tone of the entire letter—from "I'm a man, so believe me, my dick needs to be in things " to "I have come to the convenient conclusion that my wife would be okay with me fucking other women, as long as she doesn't actually know about it" (effectively removing all of your wife's autonomy)

Rachel Anastasia (#245,578)

THANK YOU for your words to LW1. THIS: "When you cheat on someone, you betray their trust, you rip apart their love for you, you embarrass the fuck out of them, you depress them (in this case, at a time when she has little people who depend on her and she can't really afford to be depressed beyond belief), and you permanently alter their ability to respect you. Do you know how bad that feels, loving and believing in someone more than anyone else, and then having your love injured irreparably?" That feeling of being cheated on by someone you trust whole heartedly… you fucking nailed it. UGH.

bibliobotic (#244,713)

"My challenge to you"

To me, LW1, this phrase – more than any other single thing in your letter – is what outs you as a giant monster fuckstick.

saretonin (#245,579)

7. I believe my children will be happier raised in a home with a caring mother and father present.

This is the fucking best. "caring mom" and Dad who simply physically exists in the same vicinity as the kids being presented as if they were equally valuable to the well-being of the kids!

lemmycaution (#243,936)


English, motherfucker, do you speak it?

Jolly (#245,185)

@saretonin I'm pretty sure caring was meant to cover both, rather than "caring mother and caring father."

IgotthisISWEAR (#245,193)

Polly I am %100 with you on LWI, even if this is the wrong crowd for fat face as an arbitrary insult. LW1 sounds exactly like my stupid dad, who ended up with a messy divorce that pretty much ruined my mom's life and definitely ruined his relationship with his kids. And LET ME LAY SOME TRUTH ON YOU, STUPID DAD: a family where one parent lies and sneaks around and blames everything on the other parent who is forced to play mind games with herself to pretend everything is fine so that she doesn't have to live in a cardboard box with three toddlers because she spent the last six years being a full-time mom for her spouse who never helped with childcare instead of pursuing a career is WAY WORSE than a family with two parents who may or may not be monogamous or continue to live together, but communicate honestly with each other. I can't believe I have to explain this to you, LW1. Ugh.
Ok, I'm done.

HeatherH (#241,099)

Wow, this makes me feel like my crazy old dad, but do people really not say "fat face" anymore, meaning "stupid face" or "stupid dummy" or "fucking stupid idiot"? Am I so old that "fat face" means, literally, the face of someone who is carrying too much weight?

Because a friend of mine says "I miss your fat face" constantly. And I never think she means anything besides she misses me, because I'm sort of a dumbass, mostly.

Anyway, for those who say "It's not wrong to want sex!"? Clearly I agree. The first thing I told this guy was: Talk to her very directly about the sex thing. Put your fucking foot down. Don't make excuses, "Oh, I already tried!" (I just heard this from a cheater recently. "Trying" is not actually enough. You throw down the gauntlet to a writer, but not your wife? What is that?) (Not that I don't encourage it. Sweet Jesus, this was a GREAT letter.)

What I take issue with is treating not fucking your spouse and fucking around on your spouse as equal and opposite crimes. They are not equal and opposite. One thing is a big fucking bummer that needs to be addressed. The other is a giant breach of trust that involves a third party. The common wisdom that fucking around is some kind of totally natural response to not getting laid enough is flat-out wrong. And the very arrogant assumption that "she would want it this way" is convenient and dismissive and unfair in the extreme. Talk to her. The end.

b3k (#12,241)

@HeatherH — don't get me wrong, I think he's probably a douche too (if only because he wrote some rando on the Internet to get permission to cheat on his wife), but I'd imagine his way of thinking is something like:

1) He wants to have sex with somebody who actively wants to have sex with him, vs somebody who (if he follows your advice, frankly) he'll basically have to browbeat into lying back and spreading 'em For The Sake of the Marriage. Really, does that sound like a good time to you for either party?

2) if his wife doesn't want to have sex with him/go see zombie movies with him/go jogging/etc., why should she care if he's doing those things with somebody else? "I don't wanna ever have sex so you don't get to ever either" is a shitty way to treat somebody.

My vote would be they get divorced and he still tries to have as much of an active role in his kids' lives as possible, but that's just me.

@HeatherH Was having trouble articulating to myself why the comments semi-defending LW1 rubbed me so the wrong way, and yeah, it's the suggestion that not putting out and cheating are somehow reciprocal.

lemmycaution (#243,936)

@b3k Good points. If he is going to cheat he is going to have to be the asshole who cheats. Nobody will give him a gold star for that shit.

Nonny (#245,598)

So, I have been a reader for awhile but registered to post this comment….


My experience is somewhat different as I am not a gay guy, but as a poly pansexual woman who has been in the poly community for a long time and seen a lot…

Open relationships, or polyamorous relationships, only work if the individuals involved are all okay with it. You are not okay with it; you have said so in multiple different ways. It is actually not uncommon for people to start out in poly *not wanting to do it* — and it *NEVER* ends well. I have *NEVER* seen someone go into it not wanting to do it without the relationship completely imploding. Sometimes the original relationship survives, but usually not without a lot of therapy, and they always go back to monogamy.

Bottom line, you know you are not okay with this. And, I sympathise for your partner, as I am about the same age younger than my own married partner as he is to you, at about the same age you cite, and I also wanted to have greater experiences. In my case, my partner's first relationship was in a poly triad, and jealousy is truly an alien emotion to them, so it was fine. In your case, you're not fine — and that's okay! But it isn't wrong for your boyfriend to want the things he does, either.

So, this is the sort of case where I would recommend separating amicably. Take the time you need to get over it. You may want to remain friends, but I would also point out that usually some amount of distance is needed to heal before you can really be good friends again. I do agree with Polly that he may come back, but also, he might not, so don't put your life on hold waiting.

MilaB (#245,604)

Marriage is really weird and we get in some weird head spaces when we are having rough patches, so I won't spend any time criticizing LW1 (though there is stuff to criticize!). I thought Polly's answer was great, but in case he is looking for a couple more reasons:

1. My brother went through a phase in college where he decided to just be completely self-centered (like he had this whole philosophical argument about morality he would give you, it was incredibly annoying, I am so glad he grew out of it), and in that time he cheated on a girlfriend a lot. And in the end he came to the conclusion, even from a totally self-centered position, it was not a good idea. By constantly lying to a partner, he felt less close to her and destroyed the intimacy he craved in a relationship. The constant lying and unilateral decision making also started to make him feel superior and look at her with disdain. Maybe that sounds appealing if you are a trogolodyte, but my brother wanted to be in a relationship with a woman he saw as his equal, and it was less satisfying to "be the boss".
2. I think a set-up like the one you are proposing would cause massive problems when you and your wife go through the inevitable rough patches that marriages go through. Like, are you going to want to stay up all night arguing, and crying, and talking and talking and talking until you work through some difficult issue? Or might you perhaps think "this is bullshit, I am going to go fuck my girlfriend, that is a lot more fun"? People in honest open relationships set up a lot of rules in advance. One that I have heard of is the relationship closes during times of stress. But you won't be in an honest open relationship, there will be no rules, and I think it would be mighty tempting to run off and fuck someone instead of doing the hard work of working on your marriage. Which brings me to…
3. Marriages take a ton of time, and when there are kids there is so little time. And now you are proposing you spend your free time with another lady? If my husband was cheating on me, that would almost infuriate me more than the sex. Honestly, I don't know how people in open relationships do it, that is the part that perplexes me the most. Your marriage will start to falter if you are not spending time on it. And your wife my start cheating too, because she is so fucking lonely. This happened in my in-laws marriage – my father-in-law had a lot of meaningless flings that I am sure he thought had no impact on his love for his wife, she was left alone with the kids, ultimately had an affair with her kid's swim teacher. Because he was actually someone she saw regularly.
4. You don't want to break up your marriage, but it is quite likely you will fall in love/infatuation with one of your side pieces. Because you and your wife are in the less infatuation part of a relationship (and not having sex to help maintain that bond), and some new lady is wooing you and sexing you and is so fun and new. So you might rip a part your marriage anyway. And your kids will hate you. Oh right…
5. Your kids will so hate you forever when this inevitably blows up in your face. Are you prepared for the look that will be in your kids' eyes every time they look at you for the rest of your life? I can't imagine anything worse than that. Divorce is hard (if you were to just end the marriage now), but kids will heal and move on. I don't know anyone who had a philandering parent who doesn't feel a huge loss of respect for them as a human being.

b3k (#12,241)

@MilaB Your Point #3 is why I can't see polyamory becoming all that popular among anyone except the young, under-employed or people really good at iCal. Most people barely have time to have sex with one person…

PistolPackinMama (#231,054)

Dear Letter Writer #1:

If I had found out my spouse had written a letter like this instead of talking to me about the problem and laying down some needs/expectations/desires conversations?

I'd seriously consider divorcing you, and you could fuck whoever you pleased.

Because a man who justifies cheating (endangering my health as well as my trust) using college sophomore grandstanding rhetoric and weak argumentation is not enough of a grownup to be my spouse.

Your wife isn't your mom, who you have to persuade yourself won't find out when you go to the likely to be busted ill-advised keg party at the chess team captain's house. She's an adult with whom you are supposed to have an equal partnership.

Grow the fuck up, and then talk to your wife the human being she is.

Christ Almighty, you sound like a tool bag. I hope you are a lot nicer in real life than you come off on paper.



lemmycaution (#243,936)

I am in a long term 15+ year marriage. gone about 4 years now w/o sex. It is super painful for me. Would divorce if I did not have a bunch of kids.

Did the "honesty" route 5 years ago. We had sex for a while but she hated it and we stopped. She doesn't want to have sex with me. The whole thing was theoretically dubious. Not a lot of enthusiastic consent on date night.

It seems to be a pretty common but not universal pattern in marriages. Women stop wanting to have sex after a while.

On the pet peeve side, this has nothing to do with "communication". This is a negotiation which has to do with the power dynamics in the relationship. His wife already knows he wants to fuck her. She just doesn't want to fuck him.

magicalmarker (#245,726)

@lemmycaution How often was your wife getting off in your sessions of marital congress? It may be unfounded, but I suspect foreplay had been abandoned as futile somewhere along the way to sexlessness. What is her incentive to have sex? Orgasm can be a great incentive. If orgasm is out of the question, at worst, a comparable exchange could be worked out. If she gets no pleasure, why should it be an essential part of the relationship without any compromise, if it is completely one sided?

x1134x (#261,802)

@magicalmarker Some women including my wife are annoyed by foreplay. "are we going to actually DO this or are we just going to goof around?" was actually a sentence told to me early on in our relationship. Its not that simple. Most people report "sizzling" sex in the beginning where both partners enjoy it. Usually marriage doesn't happen without it. Mine being an exception. We never had good sex ever.

Braeak (#245,633)

Lw1 I know u
I am married 2 u
U r a rude jerk I am staying with only or the health insurance while our kids are small
Ü r a horrible condescending narcissist
U want me to fuck u? Hell will freeze first

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

"My challenge to you"

The only challenge for all of us is understanding how did you get married in the first place. Did your wife ever hear you talk? I suppose she is too busy cooking your meals to listen to the incoherent babbling nonsense you think passes for sensible discourse.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

"I find my wife sexy; I also find other women sexy."

You forgot to mention you have two hands, two legs, two eyes, a nose, and a cock, as well as that the sky is blue and the water is wet, to even better enforce the impression of the completeness of your argument. It's just so generous of you to regal us (us little royals!) with such a worthy intellectual exercise!

wareping (#245,702)

so good

glasstwizzlestix (#242,762)

I don’t think LW1 loves his wife — I think he has a certain regard for her that he is confusing for love because he is still too much of a self-centered manchild to be capable of deeply and genuinely caring about something completely external to himself. She’s actually a companion he occasionally feels fond of where much of that warmth can be attributed to her familiarity. When you *actually* love someone, it becomes completely impossible to regard their body (or anyone’s) as a cum dumpster, or to approach sex in that manner. Until he does the work to figure out who he really is, begins to understand himself within the context of a wider perspective, and gains a deeper appreciation for his privileges in life, he’s not going to have the capacity to love someone who is either fully or co-equally raising his children, to the extent that she deserves. Until that happens or begins to happen, the kindest thing he could do for his wife is to step back humbly, and with humility, let her go, because it’s possible she’s never even realized she can do better. To LW1: When you can imagine someday pulling yourself out of bed every half hour for six or seven hours overnight in order to hold your wife’s increasingly thinning hair at the toilet during a particularly rough battle with nausea from her chemotherapy treatment when you’d only had about three hours available to sleep the night before which couldn’t even start until you’d finished bleaching and drying a quick load of pillowcases that were stained from one of her bloody nose episodes since by then you’d completely run out of clean ones, and then stumbling into some pants because you are just *compelled* to make the foggy-hazed drive to the closest all-night pharmacy in order to buy a pack of smaller-gauged syringes than the ones the hospital had on hand to administer one of her medications because the mere thought of her having to experience any more extra pain than is already necessary actually feels like personal crisis to you… THEN, you are deserving of her love and its expression through sex. But here’s the neat thing about that kind of love: It’s almost self-perpetuating; It’s close to impossible to give it out without receiving it right back in exchange.

HBM (#245,814)

Douchey Fuckstick Douchebagerson here. Most of these comments are off the mark. I do split household chores with my wife, care for and desperately love our children, have supported my wife's advanced educational efforts, and have been married for double digit years. I am also splitting the care of a sick mother.

I think it is possible the immediate perception of me by most of you as some post-frat fatfaced indulged lacrosse player who's effortlessly slid into a second adult childhood is more a reflection of your own experiences/insecurities in your own relationships than a bias-free evaluation of my situation. Why does my consideration of this threaten you so?

For those of you of the female persuasion who said you have stronger sex drives than your man/men, God bless you and I hope it remains that way. But please spare me the "personal anecdotal" lashings– it is safe to say, and the science is pretty uniform on this, IN GENERAL human males have a stronger sex drive than females. If that is a fact you are unwilling to acknowledge then you really are not in a position to offer any honest evaluation at all. If science doesn't work then all you need to do is compare the nature of homosexual relationships of the respective genders to come to a mature and rational assessment of that.

The assessments that I have not properly considered the feelings of the women I may FUCK outside of marriage is probably accurate; the chances I will get caught due to my own ineptitude and miscalculations of mistresses' responses is also relevant. Getting time to do this while still meeting my obligations is similarly an extremely valid point.

But I will say honestly that my consideration of this does not come casually or without consideration of a wife I dearly love. I have come to accept and appreciate my wife for what she can do, which is so very much. If she is not in a place where sex is something she wants to do, then maybe I should accept that and not try to force her into an intimate behavior she no longer feels compelled to do. And if I can respect that, then maybe I can also be considerate and not rub her face in my need to go beyond our relationship to pursue sexual relationships (as any normal, healthy, flesh-and-blood man needs), and avoid bringing this failure to the light of day (as already acknowledged, will be a challenge). Believe me, we have had many conversations where I have voiced my need for more sexual affection, which has only resulted in teary, sad guilt on both sides of the fence.

Outside of sex we have an excellent relationship and I am proud of the parents both of us have become, because neither of us came from super-stable homes.

In short, piss off.

lemmycaution (#243,936)

@HBM this problem is super hard. I honestly have never seen a good solution to this issue.

glasstwizzlestix (#242,762)

@HBM – Can you elaborate on how going beyond a (sexually un-fulfilling) marriage to pursue sexual relationships is, for a "normal, healthy man", a NEED (i.e., something mandatory for healthy survival) as opposed to a mere DESIRE (i.e., a strong preference one CAN healthily survive without, albeit often begrudgingly)… especially in a culture where access to porn is ubiquitous, and masturbation is not only no longer regarded as shameful, but frequently celebrated? To be clear, I believe you're conflating "thing I strongly crave and of which I imagine could add extra pleasure/value to my life" (EXTRAMARITAL SEX/AFFAIR), with "thing I (or all "normal, healthy men") actually NEED for health/well-being/survival" (which is: sexual RELEASE). Do you recognize the difference between these two things? My challenge to you is to make a compelling case for how you're NOT conflating the two in order to justify a selfish affair; I don't think you can.

glasstwizzlestix (#242,762)

@HBM – One more question I'm merely curious about. Notwithstanding anything you could try to infer from her low or currently non-existent sex drive, how does your wife feel about you?

(On reflection, my last comment could read more accusing than I intended it– I was more interested in evoking your logic and rationale than pointing a finger– and this question is really just intended to satisfy a curiosity. I mention this in case you're inclined to assume my question/comments come from a 'personally defensive' place.)

lemmycaution (#243,936)


The need/want distinction is not as clear cut as you make out. You can survive with out a lot of things that you need. Love. Friendship. And sex as well.

Lady Comment (#246,060)

@HBM I won't speak for all ladies, but here's why I reacted so strongly: the "logical" argument in your letter is not an argument for cheating, it is an argument for having an open relationship. And yet, you aren't suggesting having an open relationship, you are suggesting cheating on your wife.

The difference between those two things is huge. One is about identifying your needs and using your words. The other is about lying to your wife in the hope that she Won't Mind. Re-read your letter, and try to replace the opening question with: "I want to lie to my wife about an issue that affects our marriage and possibly her health."
That's why I reacted so strongly, anyway.

So here's some reasons you should not do what you suggest:

Your wife is an adult human being who gets to be a part of decisions about her relationship with you. That includes "Honey, I want to have sex with other people". If you are in a monogamous relationship, changing that dynamic without discussing it with your wife is wrong.

Now, let me be clear: Sex is important. And you are allowed to make sex a dealbreaker. I am not going to question whether you "really need" sex – I trust in your description of your own experience. However, your wife also gets to have dealbreakers. And I think that for a lot of people "sleeping with someone outside the marriage" is a dealbreaker. I don't know your wife. Maybe you're right, and she Won't Mind! But you can not know that until you ASK YOUR WIFE DIRECTLY. This is not the kind of thing you get to decide on someone else's behalf. But I suspect you already know that.

Listen, I've been on both sides of the sex-drive divide, and both of those sides SUCK. It feels bad to want your partner more than they want you. And it feels bad having to turn down your partner because they are in the mood for sex and you are not. (

You get to make Sexytimes a dealbreaker. You do. But you don't get to decide that the solution is to include other people unless she agrees. It is a consent issue, and it is a health issue.

Are you afraid of having this discussion? That would certainly be understandable. But I suspect that most of the reasons why you would not want the discussion would also be good reasons NOT TO CHEAT. If you truly think she'll be fine with it…what's stopping you from talking about it? And if you don't think she'll be fine with it… well, then you've answered your own question, haven't you?

svetlana monsoon (#245,948)

Hey, Polly, you're an asshole for using "fat" as an insult. Curb your bigotry.

Heather doesn't do safe space really.

I personally am pro-fat though. :)

1. My wife is no longer interested in sex. She is too busy and tired from stressing over the kids and delivering our little royals to their next playdate to generate biological feelings for me. Before the children were born we had a "zestful" sexual relationship but no longer.

Try helping her with the kids so she's not as busy and tired. Done. Next question?

Myrtle (#9,838)

I missed this one when it was published. But, Internet means never having to say Too Late. LW1 seems to assume that his side fuck is a blow-up doll who'll never get tired of being #2, or up the ante by, say, getting pregnant. I saw it happen to a married guy and the wife refused to divorce. Nice life, kids strewn like a charm bracelet between multiple women. Incidentally, highly against his professed religion. I'm sure his friends are proud to know a man who demonstrates such sterling character.

Mr. Objective (#252,626)

I see three things glaringly wrong in this guy's marriage and parenting.
1. Calling the children "royals." Ouch! I am a dad, and while I called my daughter princess as a term of affection, I did not spoil her or resent her requests (which sound like demands in this guy's case). She got one parent-funded extracurricular activity per semester as a child (dancing, theater, soccer) and I made it clear there were rules to be followed always and when to give Mom and Dad their alone time. We are all now fantastic adult friends because she is not spoiled like many of her peers who are incapable of sharing and working. If your children are "royals" you are failing as a parent, period. It's not your job to take your kids to Disney World or get them in the best preschools. It's your job to teach them how to stay out of jail and be a good freakin' citizen. Children can only impose on you unfairly if you let them (not talking about legitimate demands, all children deserve having those met. But no, you are not required to buy your child the newest video-game, dress, shoes, etc.)
2. Communication — if a guy is resorting to writing to an advice column, he and his wife are definitely not talking enough. Time for both to stop whining and talk.
3. Finally, it's clear neither he nor she understands what a marriage is for the other. Look guys, she's not going to want to have sex with you if you don't help with the kids, chores and give her some alone time (Polly's advice here was great). And ladies, guys won't want to help with the kids, do chores and give you alone time unless you have sex with them when they do such things. Not every day, but most guys want it two to three times a week, just letting you know (health problems, periods, crises, of course, intervene, we all know that, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to keep a guy happy if you boff him when you can.
LOVE being monogamous, it's so much more relaxing and fun and just downright pleasant than looking all the time, but it's agonizing when you're in a sexless relationship for no legitimate reason other than she's not in the mood anymore. I've seen many guys, good guys even, finally give up, run to a stripper or hooker or coworker after that. And yes, ladies, sometimes it is your fault, not his, that he strayed. Women routinely blame men for ruining relationships, and I often agree, but sometimes women think once a guy puts a ring on it, they can just let everything go to pot without a fight. Remember, every man who marries gave up his bachelor freedom to be with you, I guarantee you that's how he sees it, so if you don't honor that, indeed, trash it and him by talking him down with your friends or belittling his efforts to help out, he'll eventually walk, just watch.
Finally, guys really, really, really, really, really, really like to have sex. However my fellow guys, contrary to pop culture and horseshit you've heard on talk shows, many women don't care as much about sex as you do, they want you to know you value them first before boffing you, so don't be surprised if she does not share your love of sex until you share your love of her.
It sounds like what we've got is two people here who were infected by phony ideas that are rampant in consumerist America — that we can "have it all" because "you deserve it." No one deserves shit after age 18, life is fucking work. If you're in a marriage and neither of you don't work on it, it will collapse, no question.
I'd make it clear to the lady here, look I'll do whatever it takes to repair this marriage and then do it. But if after making a serious effort, she kept turning me out of bed, sayonara. Marriage is give and take, and both these people need to grow up. You get what you give, it's a simple as that. Good luck, lovers everywhere.

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x1134x (#261,802)

There's some good stuff in Polly's response to LW1. But even though issues are identified, solutions are sorely lacking.

This edited sentence is VERY true about most men in the "I want to cheat" situtation. (myself included) "you don't really want to fuck random women as much as you think you do. What you really want is to feel desired and adored by [edit*SOMEBODY*] You feel invisible. You feel like [edit*NOBODY*]wants or even loves you anymore.

"Your challenge in this situation is to show up and make yourself vulnerable." Which is usually too big a challenge because:

this is about you [edit *BEING*] hurt and neglected and powerless to change it.

Men feel that *IF* it is brought up, NO good will come of having done that. I believe MOST if not ALL of them have tried this avenue and either received a negative or dismal positive result.

Disagree with this one: "When you feel hurt and vulnerable and you're willing to talk openly about it? That's an opportunity for your marriage to grow into something more beautiful than it was before." Or an opportunity for your marriage to END, because she's that entrenched in non-attraction for her husband.

"Honesty. That's all you need. You need to go to your wife and be very honest about your sexual needs. If she waves you off, and doesn’t listen, don't accept that."

Don't accept that HOW? we're right back to the beginning of the LW1's post. Cheating is his way of not accepting it. There are no other choices you can make that work. You can't threaten divorce to get sex. You don't WANT a divorce, you want sex, but there is NO way in a marriage beyond RAPE that you can "not accept" your spouse's lack of libido. This is where that POWERLESSNESS comes in. You don't "feel" powerless you ARE powerless. The ONLY thing you can do is express to them openly that you consider a person who has vowed to be monogamous sexually with someone else is guilty of breaking that vow when they choose to not engage in sexual activity sufficient for their partner. JUST as guilty as had they broken the vow by having sex with other people. Its not JUST a promise "not to have sex with others" but ALSO a promise TO "have sex with your partner". Either way of breaking that promise is equal to the other, so when your spouse cheats on you for lack of libido AFTER having tried the FEW piddly-ass inconsequential things they can do to communicate to you the issue, BOTH parties are EQUALLY guilty.

And furthermore to address the "help with the kids more" angle. Its total poppycock. I've given my wife 6 months of time where I cooked every day, I kept the house clean, I did all the laundry, she sat and watched the TV watching true blood, and the originals, and vampire diaries etc. It didn't increase her attraction one iota. I was the TEMPLATE for the "perfect" husband, and it just got me walked over like an industrial grade doormat. "I'm too tired" or "I'm exhausted" or "We don't have time" or any other excuse just amounts to "I don't want to have sex with you". Period. People who want to have sex, HAVE SEX.

Finally I'll teach my children that sexual compatibility is PARAMOUNT to any and all other considerations when it comes to having a mate, and will teach them not to be stupid like me and think that since I was good with this woman "on paper", and we just didn't seem to be able to connect in the bedroom, I shouldn't be "shallow" and throw it all away over sex. My children will know that if the sexual relationship isn't in place, nothing else worthwhile can be built. Low-drive people need to marry low-drive people and high-drives need to find the high-drives. Looks, abilities, income potential, etc are ALL secondary to sexual compatibility.

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