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,
From 2018 to the beginning of the pandemic, I had semi-regular (maybe twice a month) sex with a friend and coworker, “Mark,” who is married. His wife also works in the same hospital as we do. As soon as the pandemic happened, Mark and I stopped sleeping together. Now we’re all vaccinated and we have a bit of time off, and Mark suggested I join him and his wife to stay for a week in a cabin in the woods as they do every year. He’s told me before they pretty much just spend the whole weekend in bed. More shockingly, he told me it was actually his wife’s idea to invite me on the trip, and she was interested in a weeklong threesome. I’m into it, so I will probably go, but I’m a little nervous about the sex part. Since we’ve slept together before, Mark and I are pretty comfortable with each other sexually and know what the other likes, but I’m worried Mark’s wife will notice the lack of awkwardness and realize we’d been having an affair. Should we just pretend we’ve never seen each other naked before?
—Trio in Tahoe
Are you sure Mark’s wife doesn’t already know about your relationship? I have a hunch that she might be aware of what the two of you have been doing. Asking Mark whether she knows should be your first step. If she does, great! You can all be direct and forthright straight out of the gate.
If she doesn’t know, I strongly encourage you to speak with Mark beforehand and work out the best way to clue his wife in. I don’t think you should proceed with the threesome without being honest about your history with Mark. Yes, she might get upset or even rescind the invitation. She’s likely to be even more upset if she has to figure it out for herself. This conversation should be had before you all arrive at the cabin. Good luck.
Dear How to Do It,
I’ve been with my boyfriend for 11 years. He is very sexual, and I am not. We’re in our early 50s. Ever since we’ve been together, he has to “get off” if not every night then the following morning. This, somehow, has become my job, and I’ve become very angry about it—to the point where I don’t even want to see it ever again. He gets upset if I don’t assist. We use to have sex instead, but that became even too much for me. Now, I’m at the point of no return. What do I do about this? I don’t want him to get it someplace else, but I don’t want it as a job anymore. It’s making me hate any sexual thing between us.
—Help With Jack
This sounds miserable. I’m not sure why you’re still dating this man. I’m in awe of your ability to tolerate male sexual entitlement, but my mind is boggled as to why you’re still doing so.
Despite your 11-year investment of time, my advice is to take the nuclear option. Tell him you don’t want to see his penis. Tell him that his expectation that you bring him to orgasm at regular intervals has twisted your relationship into something you’re resentful of. Tell him that despite all of this, for whatever your reasons are, you’re hoping to stay and work out a functional relationship where your sexual boundaries are respected. Brace yourself for the possibility that he’ll choose to leave rather than do so. Good luck.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a 40-year-old cis hetero female who has been with my male partner for eight months. We are spending every day together and have plans to move in together within the next year. Our communication is healthy: We are open with each other and have been able to navigate disagreements, arguments, and communication breakdowns effectively. Our sex life is incredibly satisfying, and we are fortunate to be compatible in terms of our drive and what gets us off. We talk openly about these things, and for the vast majority of it, I feel comfortable and enjoy these conversations.
However, there have been a couple of times when we have talked about fantasies, and I get really uncomfortable. The first time happened a few months ago, and my reaction was stronger then—I felt like he was prying when he asked about what fantasies I have, and I pretty much shut down. We were able to talk through it, and things have continued on going really well. We had a conversation a couple of days ago that again turned to our sexual fantasies. He was describing a threesome fantasy of his and asked if I had any fantasies that I haven’t told him about. I didn’t have as strong of a reaction as I did before—I told him about a threesome fantasy of my own—but I again felt uncomfortable, and in my mind I was thinking that I didn’t want to be talking about this. My partner sees this as an indication that perhaps I don’t trust him to share these things with him. I’m confused about why I’m having this reaction. I feel a deep sense of trust with him, sexually and in all other aspects of our relationship. I have been thinking and thinking about this and haven’t felt like I can pinpoint what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s some kind of shame I feel about openly sharing fantasies, vestiges of Catholic guilt, or fear of being judged, but I do not want this to get in the way of us getting closer and moving forward. What am I missing?
You may feel more stress around sharing fantasies because of the trust you feel for your partner. After all, finding someone we can feel relaxed and safe around is valuable. Once we’ve got it, we’re reluctant to risk it. And since the two of you are so sexually compatible in regards to desired frequency and specific activities, you’ve got a lot to lose.
The next time you feel squicked out about sharing something sexual, sit with that feeling. Let it bloom, then listen for clues as to why you’re experiencing that emotion. Allow the thoughts to come, and take note of them. You’ll probably want to clue your partner in on your data-gathering plan so he isn’t left wondering why you’ve turned your focus inward.
Once you think you might know what’s going on, ask yourself questions:What’s the worst possible outcome? How likely is that? What’s the best possible outcome? How can I achieve it? Think through some outcomes in between, too. Meanwhile, you describe yourself as becoming more comfortable as time has passed, so I hope this quickly becomes a non-issue in a few months.
Dear How to Do It,
Through some miracle, I’ve fallen in love during the pandemic, and we’ve started having great sex. But I’m worried by a question of etiquette. My partner has had a less-than-superb relationship history and will often say things like “I’ve never felt like this before” when we do things together. But I have. It’s not that our relationship isn’t wonderful—I love them, and they make me feel excited and tingly and adventurous! They’re a new person, so everything does feel new and exciting! But the experience of having a loving partner, someone I am safe with and who pays attention to my physical needs, isn’t new to me, and it feels disingenuous (and disrespectful to my past lovers) to act like it is. I have no difficulty spilling out praise, dirty talk, gratitude, or shock when they do something new and unexpected, but I’m very aware that they’ve never had sex where their needs are met, and I have. Should I get over myself and tell a probably common white lie? Or is it OK to want to acknowledge (internally) that my past wasn’t a misery? It feels silly, but I do care about this, since my first partners were somewhat cruel to me, so learning to be with people who made me feel good about myself was a big part of my growth. I simultaneously understand how they’re feeling, and also don’t want to erase that part of my own history.
—Lucky in Love
It is absolutely OK to acknowledge that you’ve appreciated being treated well in the past. It’s wonderful that you’ve had partners who nurtured you, gave you positive reinforcement, and generally treated you kindly. And it’s great that you’ve had partners who met your desires. These experiences of yours might be part of what makes you a considerate and caring partner now.
There’s no need to go into detail about the ways in which you’ve been comfortable and fulfilled with others, unless your partner is interested in hearing that, but you also shouldn’t hide your history of happiness. When you’re communicating about your relationship, focus on what you’re experiencing now—those excited tingly feelings! That adventurous vibe! The love you feel! And, if you feel comfortable, you might share some of your own growth the next time your partner brings up how new their own enjoyment is.
One last thing: I’d like to applaud you on the effort you’re clearly putting into your partner’s comfort and security. Well done.
More How to Do It
I live with my partner of 10 years in a happy, committed relationship. My partner is a fantastic person and very considerate and giving in bed. So what’s the problem? I desperately want to have sex with other people. Every time we have sex or I masturbate I think only of other people. Everywhere I go I get crushes: subway passengers, my bank teller, co-workers, the gamut. I can’t imagine a better partner in life for myself and I really don’t want to break up over this, but I also know that suggesting we open up the relationship would be devastating. I should have known this was going to be a problem before, because even in the beginning it wasn’t his physical appearance that attracted me to him, but we fell in love anyway and have now built a life together. How do I manage this? It’s not going away, and it feels like I’m cheating.
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