How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!
Dear How to Do It,
My husband and I have been talking about an open relationship/marriage for over a year now, and we are strongly considering going ahead with it when the pandemic is over. We are trying to set rules for ourselves to avoid problems with jealousy. He is comfortable with me sleeping with women or nonbinary people, but not with men (I’m bi and usually prefer women), which totally works for me. I have no such clear limitations to what I’m comfortable with, but I’m nervous because before we were together, he enjoyed casual sex several times a week and regularly visited a few escorts, while I tended to have only a few casual encounters a year and long dry spells when I wasn’t into anyone. Our libidos match well as a couple, but I am a lot pickier than him about potential sex partners. I don’t feel jealous about the concept of him sleeping with someone else—but I do think I would get jealous if he was having a lot more sex outside of our marriage than I was. Is there a way we can set the terms of our open marriage to avoid the potential for such an imbalance? Or is that just a sign that we should keep things monogamous?
Dear Opening Up,
Yes, there is a way to set terms of your open marriage: Refer, as a model, to your husband’s stated discomfort with you sleeping with other men, and how you integrated that into your agreement. Granted, it was no sacrifice on your part, but it goes to show that it is nonetheless completely reasonable for you to ask your husband to refrain from getting carried away. It would be just as reasonable a request for any of his burgeoning hobbies. If collecting stamps threatened to impede on your time together, you’d have every right to ask him to direct his attention back to you.
To foster a productive conversation about this, figure out what bothers you about him having a highly active sex life with other people. Is he generally prone to compulsion? Do you dislike the idea of being tethered to someone that others could deride as a slut? Is it fear that he won’t have time/attention for you? The more specific you can be with your concerns, the more likely you are to be heard. People can get extremely suspicious that their partner is trying to control them or harsh their mellow when a directive boils down to, “ ’Cause I said so.” You should also determine what constitutes a frequency with which you are comfortable. Once a month? A week? A few times a week, but never on Sundays because that’s your day together? At a certain point of infrequency, this may start to seem arbitrary, so try your best to figure out what would work and explain why.
I know a lot of poly/nonmonogamous people don’t like vetos or similar limitations, but it is in my experience that one’s partner can be a positive influence, someone with a close but more objective point of view whose guidance can help you from going too far. I don’t think your impulse is necessarily to be controlling; I think by voicing your concerns, you might just be doing your job.
Dear How to Do It,
My husband wants to be cuckolded and watch. He didn’t realize that he wanted to do this until we were already married and had our first child. Ten years later, I am tired of telling him how uncomfortable the idea makes me. It goes against my moral and religious views. But at this point, it’s the only thing that I could possibly do that would make him happy sexually. He brings it up constantly. I’m not interested in a divorce, and I’m worried that maybe it’s me who is making a big deal out of nothing. Is this really such a common situation? Every time I’ve agreed to take a step forward with this, it just doesn’t feel right. How do you even go about finding someone to participate—someone clean, respectful, and discreet? I feel like I’m dating again, and I’m lost.
—Conflicted and Confused
You are not obligated to have sex that you don’t want. Full stop. And this is why I find your letter so disconcerting: Your husband is pressuring you to have sex that you don’t want to have. There are no positive and affirming reasons why he should want to watch you have a bad time and as long as you are uncomfortable with this scenario, a bad time is virtually guaranteed. You are who you are, and 10 years into a relationship, he should be well aware of this by now. For all this scenario’s futility, he might as well be pestering you to have a different eye color. You don’t and you won’t, and he has to understand, as a grown man, that he cannot get everything he wants.
Meet insistence with insistence. Keep telling him no. I’m sorry this incessant requesting is your cross to bear—hopefully you’ll exhaust him, and he’ll give up. The only other suggestion I have here is to consider allowing him to experience voyeurism with someone else, perhaps at a sex club or swingers party. This would, obviously, not be the same as watching his wife with another man, which is often the point of cuckholding play, but it would be better than nothing. If he’s making you as uncomfortable as you claim with his pestering, I do not think he deserves this allowance, per se, and I realize your views may very well make you uncomfortable with this prospect as well. That’s just too bad for him. I don’t recommend giving in, even if it means you’re so incompatible that your marriage must end. You can find someone else who doesn’t attempt to coerce you.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a 66-year-old man; my question is only tangentially related to sex. I have long had a problem in getting the last drop of urine out, and I wear an absorbent pad for this. Lately I’ve been having more trouble finishing. Sometimes I am absolutely sure I’m finished, but then like 30 seconds later I find that there is more. I think I might know why the problem has increased: For a while now, I’ve been doing that exercise where you “squeeze” hard while you’re peeing, to strengthen the muscles down there. I started doing this because I’ve heard that doing the exercise can result in more intense orgasms, and that is *definitely* true. Could I have aggravated the urine-flow problem by doing that exercise? I know I should ask my urologist, but I’m embarrassed.
What’s more embarrassing: talking to a professional about a common issue or walking around with piss in your pants? The answer to me seems clear-cut. It’s worth getting over your embarrassment and getting proper treatment. I can’t examine you from here, and buddy, you wouldn’t want me to, anyway.
You can certainly overdo pelvic floor exercises, but your Kegels are most likely not the cause of your issue according to my go-to urologist source, Charles Welliver, the director of men’s health at Albany Medical College. I don’t mean to drag you, but this brings up another reason why it’s important to talk to your doctor: If you aren’t a medical expert, your self-diagnoses can’t be trusted. You might be experiencing what’s called “post-void dribbling.” Something that often helps manage this is what is known as “urethral stripping,” though I prefer the more illustrative term “perineum pressing.” Take one of your fingers and push a few times on your perineum after urinating. That’s the bump between your scrotum and anus. A nudge or two with your finger there after peeing is very effective for flushing out the last few drops that might otherwise end up in your underwear—way more so than the classic post-piss shake out. Try that as you muster up the courage to discuss this with your doctor, and find that courage sooner rather than later.
Also! Don’t perform Kegels while you’re peeing. It’s true that you engage those muscles that you use to stop your stream, but you shouldn’t do that while your stream is flowing. Welliver says that doing so may close your sphincter, which isn’t something you want to do while you’re voiding. If you’re worried that you’re overdoing it, stop overdoing it. A pelvic-floor exercise session should include just a handful or reps, performed a few seconds at a time, with rest in between. It’s helpful to use an app that increases resistance over time and also limits sessions to just a few minutes. (I use Stamena.)
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Dear How to Do It,
My girlfriend and I, we’ll call her T, have been dating for a little under four months. We were friends before we started dating and us getting together had been a long time coming. Sparing you guys all the details about us starting to date, we moved in together with a mutual friend about two months into the relationship. T and I have separate rooms. When we first moved in together, we were having sex nearly every day and were really close, but after I had a really hard month with an extended bout of depression, I leaned on her too hard emotionally and she withdrew from me. I think it’s worth mentioning here that we’re in an open relationship and date separately. I haven’t had much luck meeting people in the middle of the pandemic (moved to a new town when we moved in with our friend), but she’s got a whole other romantic partner and is still going on dates. Meanwhile, she’s told me that she’s not sexually attracted to me anymore. I guess my question would be if there’s any way I could regain that closeness with her, and potentially even get back to having sex. It doesn’t dominate my mind, obviously and I can live without it since I have other sexual partners (who are out of reach at the moment due to the pandemic), but I want to know if there’s any chance to change things. I love her and I know she loves me, but the distance is making me feel like she doesn’t care. I don’t want to give up on this relationship, but I’m at a loss as to what to do next, especially because my love language is physical touch. I’m not really getting that right now.
—Distanced and Depressed
You put your relationship into warp speed and landed smack dab in a black hole. That’s the way love (and the cosmos) goes. There are certainly methods for reigniting sparks that we’ve outlined extensively in this column (with no small bit of inspiration from Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity), but the problems of waning sexual interest tend to come years into a relationship, not months. It seems to me that you moved in with T before you showed her your full humanity. Once you did, she determined that she wasn’t interested in what she saw. In the process, she revealed that she is not a partner who’s ideally suited to your needs. While it’s possible to take up so much emotional space that you block out your partner or otherwise place an undo emotional burden on her, generally speaking, leaning too hard on your partner emotionally is not a thing and certainly should not be a deterrent. Being someone’s rock is part of the job description of partner. I’m sorry, but my evaluation is that T is not your person and that you’re probably going to have to wait until the pandemic is over to find whoever that may be. When you do, please wait at least a few more months before moving in with them. Live and learn.
More How to Do It
I’m a mid-40s hetero man with—well, I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it a fetish, more of a hankering. I’m attracted to older ladies. Older as in 60s, 70s, and sometimes beyond. I’m not especially looking for an older girlfriend, more along the lines of fun and friendly banging and general foolin’ around. From what I’ve found, the usual online suspect sites (rhymes with Cinder) aren’t great places for finding willing ladies of a certain age. I am a registered nurse, and I work in a hospital, but that isn’t, ahem, a particularly good or ethical place to play pick up. I happen to live in a rural-ish area that is demographically skewed toward an older population, and I know for a fact that people tend to be horny creatures regardless of age. Any suggestions on how I can go about hooking up with the Golden Girl (or Girls) of my dreams?