How to Do It

My Husband Made a Stunning Proposal to My Best Friend. And Then It Got Worse.

I don’t even know where to start with this.

A woman awaiting a text message.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Juanmonino/iStock/Getty Images Plus. 

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,

I don’t even know how to start, even though I’ve run this through my head so many times. I’m a woman, married to a man. I’m in my late 20s, him in his early 30s. We’ve been together for five years now and just recently had a baby.

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Before the baby, our sex life kind of hit a wall. I hadn’t been having sex with him as much as we usually would. I chalk it up to serious hormone issues. But when we did it was great, or so I thought. Until one day I was chatting with one of my girlfriends, and she casually mentioned that she believed my husband asked her for a threesome with us. We laughed it off because I thought that was insane—he’s never said anything to me about such a thing ever in our relationship. I literally had no idea what she was talking about.

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He was out of town at the time, but I texted him saying “haha so funny, our friend thought you were asking her for a threesome. And he said, “I mean, yeah, if you want to.” I was shocked. To completely circumvent me and never mention anything to me about it to go around my back to ask her was beyond anything I thought he would do.

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He said he was going to talk to me about it but was afraid I’d react like this. The thing is, if he would’ve communicated to me about it and sat me down and had a conversation, I probably would’ve been down. But it was behind my back and weird. That’s why I “reacted” the way I did (which was really just crying and not understanding what was happening). My girlfriend said she felt awful because even she could tell it wasn’t coming from a partnership standpoint. It was just to fulfill his fantasy.

I’m fine with fantasies and want to explore. I will try anything! But I reacted with hurt and anger because of the way this bomb was just dropped on me. He sent me a screenshot of what he sent her, and he had asked if her and her boyfriend would be interested in swapping. Again, that is just not something I’ve ever even heard him bring up. I don’t want to have sex with another man. And I don’t want him having sex with my friend. And for some reason I feel crazy for that?

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He then told me our sex life was boring and he wants more. He thought my friend could “show me more” and “teach me things.” I’ve literally never been told this in my life. The people I’ve had sex with have had nothing but great things to say, and I’ve always been confident in myself up til now. I told him we can start slow and explore in other ways to build up to a threesome maybe one day. But it’s been a while now. He won’t have sex with me with the lights on. Hardly looks at me. Won’t play with my toys. I’ve tried time and time again to spice things up because that’s what HE wanted and asked from me. But I always end up feeling like an idiot and failure. And when we do have sex, I always lay there afterward wondering if it was enough. If he liked it. Or if I should just stop trying.

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I feel like he really only wants another woman and to have sex with other people, even though we’ve agreed this is a monogamous relationship. I’m still so hurt. And what sucks is I feel so great after having our first child. I feel like a woman and love my body. I want to be sexual and explore and celebrate. But my husband just doesn’t give me anything. And when I try to talk about it, he says it’s a “me” thing that I need to work out with my confidence and insecurities. I don’t know how many more times I can try to talk to him to attempt to get him to respond to me. What do you advise the next step is?

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—Iced Out

Dear Iced Out,

You are not crazy for having boundaries. You are not crazy for wanting to protect your friendship with this woman by keeping sex with your husband out of it. You are not crazy for having feelings, for reacting to this by crying, or for struggling to understand what your husband is doing. Absolutely nothing you’ve said to me about yourself seems crazy—or even slightly unreasonable.

Your husband, on the other hand, is exhibiting bizarre and inappropriate behavior and blaming you. He volunteered you to have sex with your friend’s boyfriend without speaking to you about it. On top of that, he’s not generous or even accommodating when it comes to your needs or desires, and he can’t have a productive conversation about what he’s done. I’m sure there are other red flags I’m missing, but at this point we’re already attending Lenin’s funeral. Why keep going?

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In all seriousness, what amount of abusive nonsense are you willing to tolerate from your partner? I know leaving the father of one’s new child is hard to imagine, but it is an option and I’d like you to strongly consider it. I think you need to assess what leaving would look like and what steps you’d need to get there and be safe and secure. If you really believe a further conversation with your husband will help, make it clear to him that you’re prepared to bail if he doesn’t shape up immediately. If you decide to stay regardless of how that conversation goes, I think you’ll need professional help together to dismantle the very distressing conditions he’s created in your relationship. Good luck—you’ll clearly need it.

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My Wife Snooped on My Computer. I’m in Major Trouble for What She Found.

“My wife was snooping on my computer and found something she was never supposed to see.” Hear the full letter on the new How to Do It podcast now.

Dear How to Do It,

My boyfriend and I have started talking about moving in together. In preparation, we’ve been working our way through various “questions to answer before you get married” lists—stuff like “Where will we live?,” “Will we have children?,” “How much money is appropriate to spend without telling your partner?,” etc. We’ve found lists to cover most of the big topics, but the lists we’ve found about sex seem more focused on determining initial compatibility than discussing potential long-term complications (differing sex drives, crushes/infidelity, sex if one person has to temporarily relocate) and figuring out how to handle them. The lists that DO consider the longer term default to catering to the straight, cis, and monogamous.

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Do you have any suggestions for where to look? What questions about sex do you think people embarking on a long-term relationship should answer before they make any commitments?

—The Hard Questions

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Dear HQ,

Think about things that have gone sideways in previous relationships and what you’ve seen go sideways in the relationships of your friends, and ask about that. How much of each other’s time and emotional support will you need in a typical week? What should happen when there’s a higher-than-usual need for that? To move beyond the straight, cis, and monogamous more specifically: In the event you agree to nonmonogamy, will other partners be ranked under you two as “primaries”? Or do you prefer to allow each relationship to be what it is? How attached are you to each other’s gender presentations? If your—or their—gender presentation shifts, will that end the relationship? And if you do come out of monogamy or the heteronormative binary in some way, would you both want to come out to everyone? Is one of you more private, with restrictions on who they’re comfortable being out to?

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Mostly I want you to know that as great of an exercise lists are, life throws things at you that nobody can predict. And when it comes down to it, what we thought we’d be OK with—or not OK with—in theory can feel very different in practice. So make an agreement that these aren’t rules set in stone, and that you’ll be gentle with each other as you grow and walk through life.

Never miss an episode of the new How to Do It podcast. Subscribe now wherever you listen.

Dear How to Do It,

This is the most nonproblem problem you’re going to get. I’ve been seeing my partner, a 39-year-old man, since April. He is incredibly hot, sweet, and attentive—in bed and out. The problem is, while the sex is fun, I don’t always find it fulfilling. I’m not sure we are sexually compatible. My partner has a difficult time coming (which, fine, I’ve had great sex with guys who have a hard time coming before). I have to be on top or orally stimulating him in order for him to come. He’s also very orgasm-oriented. He sees any orgasm on my part as a win for him, and always goes down on me to make sure I come first. For my part, I’m one of those lucky ladies who orgasms fairly easily. I can orgasm from clitoral, vaginal, anal, and nipple stimulation.

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What am I complaining about, right? Well, he has never made me come from penetrative sex, and I really miss vaginal orgasms, being dominated, and occasionally coming at the same time as my partner. I really do not prefer being on top. I don’t see all orgasms as created equally. And honestly, I’m a bit of a pillow princess, or at least really enjoy it when my sexual partner takes the lead, whether that’s being thrown around a bit or manhandled, or just missionary with a leg thrown over their shoulder. Sex for me is a bonding experience mixed with a chance to let go. It’s the one place I don’t feel like I need to be in control or in charge. I’ve tried communicating my needs, but he just doesn’t get it. He has no idea how to dominate sexually and looks completely lost in missionary, doggy style, or pretty much any position that’s not me on top. The occasional times he does try to take control, it’s always included verbally asking my permission. I do not need or want to constantly give verbal consent. I am very communicative about my boundaries. I need dominance. I’d even take him pushing my hips to the rhythm he’d prefer, but he always lets go fairly quickly and makes me pick the speed. I try putting his hands back on my hips but he always just lets them slip off.

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He’s really good at letting me know he’s enjoying himself (helpful!) and enjoys making me orgasm, but he just doesn’t seem to understand how to take control. He’s perfectly happy with the way our sex life is currently. How do I communicate this as a problem when he’s making me come consistently? I’m getting bored!

—Pillow Princess

Dear PP,

This is an actual problem. You are reasonably hoping to have the sex you actually want.

You like being dominated and being on the bottom, and part of what sex does for you is allow you to let go. You aren’t getting any of these things. Orgasms do not equal satisfaction, and not all orgasms are alike. Annie Sprinkle talks about the different types of orgasms in her book The Explorer’s Guide to Planet Orgasm: For Every Body. That might be a good starting point: ”Hey, I get these regular orgasms with you that are pretty cool, but I’d really like to have one of those earth-shattering ones that only happen for me when my partner is really in charge of the situation. Are you open to trying to give me one of those?”

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Your partner’s response will tell you a lot about whether your dynamic has a chance to reach compatibility. If he won’t engage, move on. If he expresses that he feels your request is “anti-feminist” or violence against women, you’ll need to do the work of undoing that judgment. If he’s open to trying, Sinclair Sexsmith has a great site where they talk about the inner psychology of domination and they’ve given us tips in the past for shy-but-interested dominants.

If the two of you can’t get on the same page, there’s no shame in thanking him for what he’s given you and leaving in search of a sexual match.

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Dear How to Do It, 

I’m a bisexual woman who recently got out of a long relationship with another woman. A few weeks ago, I decided to get back out there and look for a friends-with-benefits situation.

I met someone through mutual friends, we got drinks together, and we really hit it off—we get along really well, have lots in common, and the sexual tension was through the roof. I was clear about what I was looking for, something casual, and he said he wanted the same. He invited me back to his place, we got down to it, and at first, everything was great. Wonderful. And from there, uh … not much happened. He couldn’t get or stay hard. He seemed to avoid this fact, though, and kept trying to have penetrative sex even though that clearly wasn’t going to work.

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I felt really awkward because my sexual experience with men is limited. I haven’t slept with a man in years, since high school. So I just wasn’t sure what was normal or how to react. I kept asking what would be good for him or if there was anything I could do, but he kept saying there wasn’t. I tried asking what had happened afterward, and he just brushed it off. “I get nervous during my first time with someone new,” he said. And I was like “Yeah, OK, I guess that makes sense.”

A few days later, he texted asking me to come over, and I went, assuming things might be different. But the same thing happened. He also asked me to go down on him (flaccid!), which I did, assuming that was just a normal thing straight women did. A few days later, he texted me again, I agreed to go over, he couldn’t stay hard. The cycle continues. I’ve been seeing him on the regular for about three weeks now (please don’t judge me), and it’s mostly really fun! But he’s only finished a few times, and always by masturbating. Every time he goes limp inside me, I just feel kinda bad about myself. I don’t know what’s going on! My friends have informed me that this isn’t normal. And every time I try to talk to him about it, he just shuts down. I even suggested he might want to see a doctor, and he dismissed the idea entirely.

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Is there any hope of this getting better? Should I just abandon this? This has all the makings of a good friends-with-benefits situation—he lives close to me! we get along! all the foreplay is really fun! but I just don’t know if I can get past this.

—Hard Knocks

Dear Knocks,

So rather than have a discussion where he lets you in on what’s going on, or consider seeing a doctor to make sure everything physical is OK, he mashes his limp willy against you? This isn’t going to get better until he engages with the issue, and that doesn’t seem likely without a lot of work. It isn’t your job to fix him, or help him fix himself, especially when he responds by shutting down. Friends with benefits can involve true friendship, but only when there’s open communication. In your position, I’d cut my losses and move on.

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Meanwhile, in case your next partner also has a penis, there’s an art to fellating a soft one. There’s way less up-and-down with your head and more gliding your tongue around the glans—the underside, which is generally the most sensitive part. There’s less hand motion and more gentle finger squeezes. If the person has a foreskin, you’ll want to be very gentle with it and avoid pulling it back until they’re erect. You can also nibble gently on the baggy part with your lips. Circumcised dicks are a little more straightforward.

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Try to get “normal” out of your head, and replace that goal with “enjoyable for me.” Good luck.

More How to Do It

I’ve been with my husband 14 years, married 11 of those. Before we married, I discovered he had female friends and exes that he kept secret from me. He “didn’t know how to openly talk with me,” he said, but he could with these other women. Yes, all these were people he was attracted to, but swore it was platonic. I forgave him and we moved forward. Over the 11 years, I have again discovered “platonic” female friends that he has found on dating sites. One woman was a bike-riding friend (at my urging, he began long daily bike rides), and I later learned he told her he was single. More recently, I discovered other women who called and texted daily.

So, I catfished him. I created a fake account on one of those sites, and immediately, I was aghast by what I found.

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