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,
This weekend my fiancé (26M) and I (25W) had a game night with two other couples. The three guys have a regular poker game with other friends, so we decided to end the night with Texas Hold ‘Em. The two other women there decided to sit it out, so it was just me vs. the three guys. The other women became my cheering section and assistants, and we were talking a lot of shit when things were going well for me.
Fast forward a bit and I’m barely hanging on, just a few chips left. Then suddenly, a great hand—after the flop, I’m sitting on four aces. I can’t do much with it though because I’m so low on chips. Then one of the other women, who can see my hand, says, “How many chips if she bets her dress?” My fiancé, the chip leader, says 20; I say, hell, why not, and make the bet. I win so it doesn’t matter—I’m still fully clothed. But it loosened things up.
A few hands later, “Bob” goes all in and loses everything including his boxers. He’s, uh, lacking in that department, but no one cared. Then my fiancé, not exactly a giant, makes some snide remarks about Bob’s size (“anyone got a magnifying glass”) and Bob laughs along but is clearly embarrassed, and Bob’s girlfriend tells my fiancé to eff off.
Fast forward a few more hands, my fiancé stupidly goes all in and I beat him. (To be clear, no one has to be betting clothes—it’s still just poker.) He loses his boxers. He looks bigger than Bob, so he’s acting smug. But the next hand, I actually do lose my dress, both of our naked men apparently like what they see, and it turns out Bob is a grower, not a shower. When they are both at full mast, Bob is noticeably bigger than my fiancé. And everyone lets him have it. It was mean, but if I’m honest, he deserved it. Bob’s girlfriend said I can borrow Bob if I want to know what a real man feels like, etc., and I laughed along with some of it. Not proud, but I did.
Well, my fiancé is FURIOUS. He says it’s my fault because I made it a game of strip poker, and I didn’t support him when everyone turned against him. I know he felt humiliated, so I tried to be nice at first, but now I’ve made clear I think it’s his own damn fault. He’s now saying he doesn’t want either couple invited to our wedding, which is just insane. Am I right to tell him to get over it and grow up?
—Hold or Fold
Dear Hold of Fold,
LOL, sure, I’ll play: Yes. Tell him that while he doesn’t (necessarily?) have a small dick, he’s acting like it. See if that straightens him out.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a stay-at-home mom of three kids: a pre-schooler and infant twins. I spend most of my day holding one or both babies, and sometimes, after school, I end up holding both babies, the big kid, and our dog. More often than not, at least one kid ends up in bed with me at night. (We’re working on it.) I feel like I’m never not being touched by someone. By the time my husband gets home, I don’t want to be touched anymore. What I’d really like is to get into a sensory deprivation tank for a couple of hours. We still have sex about once a week or so, which I think it pretty good considering that we have three little kids, but right now I feel like it’s just another thing to check off the to-do list. I feel badly that I’m giving all of myself to my kids and there’s not much of me left for my husband (or me). Do I just have to accept that this is how life is until my kids are a little more independent, or is there a way to get over this feeling and enjoy my husband’s touch again?
— Hands Off
Dear Hands Off,
In this specific case, I think you’d benefit most from listening to your body over the nagging voice in your head. You state it quite clearly: You don’t want to be touched. In any scenario, this is enough justification that you not be touched, but in your particular case (as a mother of infant twins), you have two squirming bundles of justification. Couples who have kids frequently see their sex lives disrupted, at least for a while—not just for physical reasons (vaginal intercourse is recommended to resume not until six weeks after giving birth) but also as a result of things like fatigue. Cut yourself a break—you are doing well, and you can only do so much. Right now, your primary task is to take care of your new babies. Your concern indicates that you’ll find a way back to regular sex with your partner when it feels right. Maybe a few sessions in a sensory deprivation tank would actually help get you back on that path sooner than later. In the meantime, in a piece about post-childbirth sex on Psychology Today, Sarah Hunter Murray shares some suggestions for reigniting the spark after the arrival of a new baby (or babies). Taking time for yourselves, sharing intimacy that doesn’t necessarily qualify as sex proper, and even counseling could all prove beneficial. Understanding that you are human with finite time and energy may help as well.
Dear How to Do It,
I have been seeing a guy for about four months now, and I’m wondering if he is gay. He works five nights a week, so we hardly see each other, and when he does get a day off, he “has” to spend it with his housemate, who is a guy. He can’t make plans with me unless he knows if his housemate is not working and what he is doing. They go on camping trips together and now are buying bikes together so they can go riding together. I’m so confused, because our sex life is amazing, and he has no trouble in that department. But we are not together properly. I have asked him if he could be gay, and he has said no and got annoyed about it. His housemate, by the way, has no girlfriend, and I know they are in contact with each other every single day. This is the only friend he really has as well. What do you think?
This kind of strict either/or binary thinking is so outdated, I feel like you’re writing me from a ‘90s sitcom. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Potential sex aside for a second, the kind of intimacy you describe among men is indeed so barely visible that it often arouses suspicions that something is amiss—in this particular case, deception. It’s a nice thing to have a close friend? It speaks to the strength of a relationship that it can overcome societal expectations and just be what feels right for the people involved? Riding a bike and a dude are two very different things?
Let’s say, though, that your guy and his housemate in fact are, or have been, sexually intimate. That also doesn’t mean that he’s gay. He could be pansexual or bisexual. He could be questioning. He could consider himself straight, whether he’s embracing or dissociating from his sexual behavior with another guy. None of that would preclude him from enjoying sex with you. The proof is in the pudding, which in this particular case is actually semen. You’re having good sex with this guy, and no one is putting a gun to his head to be in this relationship with you. I don’t think you have anything to worry about in terms of being deceived here. However, maybe your suspicion is part of a larger picture of mistrust. Maybe you’re jealous of the time he’s spending with this guy, or you just don’t like it for other reasons. You are not obligated to, nor are you obligated to stay in a relationship with someone whose lifestyle doesn’t jibe with yours. My gut tells me that if he’s openly hanging out with this guy so much as to objectively warrant questions, he doesn’t actually have anything to hide. I think if there were some kind of sex going on that he didn’t want to disclose, he’d be way more sneaky. But I don’t know him like you do.
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Dear How to Do It,
My spouse and I (I’m a woman) married young and have been together for four years. When we met and married, she presented as a cis man. Early this spring, she came out to me as trans after I’d discovered she had begun the hormonal transition process. She is clearly much happier—enjoying old hobbies and exercise, making tons of art, connecting socially, having a way higher sex drive, blossoming at work—and I want to support that and be a good partner. But personally, I feel really angry and upset that she didn’t tell me for so long, and that I only found out in an argument. My understanding of our partnership is upended, and she says it’s “not any different for [me] because I’m bisexual anyway” and she’s the one going through changes.
I can’t talk to my friends because they don’t seem to see her as a person, only an “issue”—they either make platitudes about how proud I must be of her, or they show stunning transphobia (which is not acceptable). But the thing is … I feel lied to. Also, the things that physically attract me to women are totally different than in men. I thought our long-term history and her beloved personality would carry our partnership though, but at this point, I don’t feel attracted to her physically, and I feel like we’re on different pages emotionally. Is it possible to get past this, or should I be calling a divorce lawyer? I’m so angry, angry at her, angry at my lack of sexual interest, and I don’t know what to do next.
The coming-out process is often messy and the best course of action, in general, is to assume people did their best in a difficult situation and forgive the infractions committed en route to self-actualization. But I feel for you. I’m not sure how your spouse justifies her keeping her transition from you even after committing to it to the point of discussing it with at least one doctor and obtaining meds for it. But she had to realize that she’d have to let you know at some point and that given how delicate this information is, delivering it properly was crucial. The way in which you discovered her transition could only make a potentially fraught situation more difficult to process. Your anger is reasonable there, but again, I’d be willing to forgive it in light of palpable compassion elsewhere.
What I think is most detrimental here is her dictating your sexuality to you. As you point out, things that draw you to men don’t draw you to women and vice versa. At the very least, she should be willing to accept this as an issue to sort out if you are to stay together (then again, maybe she is acknowledging this and that it portends a possible breakup makes it too painful for her to actually deal with right now). Bare minimum, she should acknowledge that this is a change for you, too. I understand that the process of transitioning can really consume people—it makes sense that after suppressing oneself for so long, a sort of dam breaks upon coming out and one can’t help but get absorbed in oneself. Sometimes people have to take care of their own shit for the sake of the unit. But most relationships will not be able to sustain this level of one-sidedness for very long. Has she given you indication of team spirit? You say you want to be a good partner—does she? This knowledge may carry you through a rocky transitional moment, and its absence may point you more in the direction of the door.
More How to Do It
I am a straight woman in her mid-30s married to a wonderful man. We have lived together for a couple years, and we dated for almost a decade before getting married. I entered this relationship after a very toxic ex nearly destroyed me emotionally and physically, and since then I have always had trust issues. I was recently online on my computer when I noticed that the ads on the sides of the screen were for Ashley Madison. I do not think my husband is cheating, I really don’t, but I still get that jealous pang in my chest when this happens. Is it possible that those ads are showing up because of websites I visit? For example, I do read advice columns that address infidelity issues, and I have also watched porn on occasion on my phone. (I do use incognito mode on Chrome to do so, because I would be mortified if my hubby found out. I don’t want him to think he doesn’t do enough for me, and he doesn’t watch porn at all.) I do notice that when my husband is on his phone shopping for car parts, I inevitably end up with ads on my Facebook feed for car parts, so I think it’s all interconnected. So, am I just in denial? Or is it possible these ads are my fault, and if so, is there a way to stop them from showing up?