How to Do It

An Affair to Remember

I just ended a secret tryst. The problem: He was so much better in bed than my husband.

A man and woman in a secret tryst, with neon stars glowing above
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by grinvalds/iStock/Getty Images Plus

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.com.

Dear How to Do It,

I’ve been married for about 10 years. About a year ago, I had a brief affair. We realized it was a mistake and ended the relationship. He lives far away, so I haven’t seen him since. Neither of us told our spouses about it, and we have no intention to. I’ve never done anything like that before, and I won’t ever again. I feel bad about it and wish it hadn’t happened, except in one respect: The sex I had with this man was off-the-charts amazing. Like, I didn’t realize that sex could be like that. Sex with my husband is fine—but I feel like I’ve been watching a black-and-white TV my whole life and I suddenly discovered Technicolor exists. I don’t want to go back to this ex, but I can’t stop thinking about the sex. I realized that I get very turned on by things that are out of my husband’s comfort zone. I can’t talk to my husband about it—telling him about the affair would only hurt him, and when this kind of topic has come up in the past, he has been very clear that if anything ever happened, he wouldn’t want to know. How can I get over this?

—In Living Color

Dear In Living Color,

Are you sure you can’t talk to your husband about it? Really, really sure? I know you say he would never want to know, but I ask because I’ve encountered many people who thought they couldn’t talk to their spouse about major problems and turned out to be wrong. At least one person I know almost destroyed a decade-plus-long marriage because he was afraid of being honest with his partner. The whole thing was sad.

Maybe you really can’t talk to your husband, though. Maybe he really doesn’t want to know. If that’s the case, you’ll have to live with the burden of knowing the grass is greener on someone else’s groin. You’ll have to hide your secret. But I don’t think you have to suffer in silence, wondering if you could be that sexually satisfied with your husband if only the two of you could connect, honestly and openly. Why not at least talk to your husband about trying something new in bed? Maybe his comfort zone can expand; maybe he’d be excited to explore with you. Write down a list of the reasons you don’t think you can talk to him. Ask yourself if those reasons are real or fear-based. Really consider this. Please.

The good news is that part of the appeal with this man you had the affair with could have been the transgressive nature of the act. Another part of the appeal was probably the novelty. It’s not like this guy had a magic penis or something super rare that you’ll never find again. You ended the affair, so focus now on fixing whatever led you to it in the first place.

Dear How to Do It,

My spouse and I are just starting to date as a couple, and this will be the first time in my life meeting people for sex before developing a relationship with them. I have a severe life-threatening allergy to all nuts that leads to highly unsexy reactions to things like argan oil conditioners, macadamia hand creams, pistachio body butters, etc. I’m worried that saying, “If you ate nuts today, you’re only allowed to touch one of us” will kill the vibe and come across as creepy. On the other hand, I’m horrified of dying because a casual acquaintance forgot to disclose a hazelnut coffee before going down on me. During regular dating, it was never an issue, because I’d discuss my allergy at length during multiple dates and then have sex only after the person showed that they fully understood how dangerous it is. Casual sex doesn’t work that way. What’s the best way for me to protect that casual sex partner from the shock of having me swell up, choke up, and die after kissing them?

—Hold the Nuts

Dear Hold the Nuts,

Given the life-threatening nature of your allergy, I encourage you to avoid dating people you can’t rely on to be honest about their nut interactions. This does mean you’ll need to establish a rapport and evaluate how well a person can keep track of this before you have sex with them, but isn’t that a great idea for all of us? Don’t we all take a calculated risk that this person would have noticed if, say, he had a syphilis sore? Or that he would have volunteered any unsafe sexual behavior between his second-to-last STI screening and now? Just like in your main relationship, you have to decide what works for you and whom you’re comfortable sleeping with under what conditions.

However, you’re right about the phrasing. You might want to consider something a bit less dramatic, like “I have a serious nut allergy and can only touch you if you haven’t come into contact with nuts.” Or “Could I see that lube bottle? I need to check for nut-based ingredients before it goes on my skin.”

You’ve got plenty of practice disclosing this allergy of yours to long-term partners. I think you’ll do fine. If disclosing feels like a chore, try to keep in mind all of the sex-related things people who don’t have a nut allergy need to disclose, address, or evaluate. And, you know, keep track of those for yourself too.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m almost 42 and am in a very happy and healthy relationship with my partner. We make love regularly, at least once a week—though I confess I’d like to more often—and my partner is very attentive to my needs. We’re quite good together. However, my orgasm has left me. I used to be able to come fairly regularly, and then I went through a stage where I would have multiple orgasms in the same encounter, but now … nothing. I feel like it could be coming, but then it stops. My partner (who is 20 years my senior) tells me not to worry about it because making love isn’t just about orgasm, but I miss that wonderful rush of sensations. And no, before it’s suggested, I do not enjoy toys or masturbation. Is this just an age-related change on my part? Should I talk to my gynecologist?

—MIA

Dear MIA,

Emily Nagoski has a whole book just for you. It’s called Come as You Are and talks at length about orgasm, how to find it or lure it back, and a specific concept of “accelerator” and “brakes” when it comes to sexuality. I bring this up because I’m wondering if your brakes might have suddenly become more sensitive. Has anything about the sex changed? How about your life? Any new challenges, loss of old challenges, or new stressors? Pay attention to your inner world during the sex you’re having. Are thoughts or to-do lists intruding? Is your mind wandering? Keep track of anything odd or unusual in preparation for talking to your doctor. Maybe even make a list.

Nagoski says women probably don’t need to see their gynecologist outside of routine visits unless they’re experiencing pain. I think you should definitely bring this up with your gyno the next time you see her or him, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to schedule an extra appointment if you want to go sooner. It’s your orgasm we’re talking about here, not a hangnail. Before you go chalking it up to physical changes as you age, I think it’s worth doing some sleuth work to try to expedite the return of those pleasurable contractions.

Dear How to Do It,

I am a woman in my late 20s who just recently entered a new relationship with a man in his early 30s. I like him a lot. However, I am having some trouble navigating my new partner’s sexual preferences. The act itself is pretty vanilla (I’m on my back; he’s on top), but in order to reach orgasm he needs to maintain a very fast pace for three or four minutes (not exaggerating—the man has crazy stamina). Basically, as fast as he can go for minutes on end to the point where he’s dripping sweat. This is on top of us having intercourse for 15 to 30 minutes. This feels incredibly long to me, to be honest. I have never had a sexual partner need that level of intensity for that long to orgasm. By the end, I am bored, my hips hurt, and I’m basically dry. My body is obviously not into it. I did gently ask if this level of speed and intensity is the only way he could reach orgasm, and his response was “pretty much.”

Outside of the bedroom, we get along really well and he has a lot of other great qualities, but I am concerned that we might be sexually incompatible if this is the ONLY way he’ll ever be able to orgasm. I am unsure if it’s OK for me to communicate that I’m not enjoying that part of our sex life to him. I don’t want to make him feel insecure about something that is out of his control (you can’t help the way your body works) or make him feel like I’m not into any of it, because he’s actually very thoughtful and attentive to my needs.

Should I tell him how I’m feeling and see if he’s open to trying something different, or is this a big red flag that we’re just sexually incompatible?

—Jackhammer

Dear Jackhammer,

Yes.

You should tell your lover how you’re feeling and attempt to find solutions—because this is a big red sexual-incompatibility flag.

Since you say the two of you get along well outside the bedroom and feel moved to mention his other great qualities, I think he deserves the chance to find ways of having penetrative sex that work for both of you. In grand Dan Savage style, you might suggest alternating—one night he uses you like a Fleshlight, another night you both quit when you’re satisfied. (Get lube, though—you shouldn’t be dry and in pain.) You might also find you have a great time together experimenting, even if there aren’t as many orgasms for everyone.

The real red flag, the one I hope you don’t see, would be anything on his part that looks like digging in his heels. A shrug when you articulate your need for change. A display of disinterest when you express your desires.

Be upfront about the problem: “I find it difficult to be subject to that much extended pounding.” Or, “Extended vigorous thrusting is a bit too much for my delicate labia garden.” Please feel free to use your own words to avoid sounding like a saucy Elizabeth Bennet. Do brace for less-than-ideal outcomes. You might end up being unable to find a solution. If that’s the case, know that it isn’t anyone’s fault. Sometimes these things just happen.

—Stoya

More How to Do It

About a year ago, I confronted my husband of more than 10 years with evidence that he had surreptitiously set up a web camera in our bedroom, with the intent of watching me masturbate while I was home and he was elsewhere. He admitted it, and it has been an extremely difficult year working through the anger, betrayal, and feelings of violation. After several months of joint and one-on-one therapy, I chose to stay in the marriage. We are doing OK and are at a point where some days I can almost forget what he did. However, he is increasingly seeking physical and sexual affection that I cannot bring myself to engage in. We have kissed, cuddled, etc., but the thought of anything further makes me want to vomit. We had an amazing sex life before this, built on a foundation of a decade of trust and exploration, and I cannot get myself back to that level of intimacy and vulnerability. Part of me thinks I need to rip the Band-Aid off, get drunk, and let it happen in order to move forward. Part of me never wants to have sex with him again. What do I do?