How to Do It

My Girlfriend Told My Wife About Our Affair. The Result Was … Unexpected.

I thought I had the perfect solution for my sexless marriage.

Man shrugging, graphics of three people.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Davidovici/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Every Thursday, Rich and Stoya answer a special question they could only tackle together, just for Slate Plus members. Join today to never miss a column.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’ve always been a free-spirited guy, and I don’t really know how I ended up married, especially to a prudish woman. Our sex life reduced a lot in the past few years, until I felt like my wife was just giving me boring maintenance sex three times a week and always claiming she was too tired or didn’t have the energy for anything kinkier or more exciting. We have three toddlers, so I didn’t want to mess up our family, and I decided to quietly take matters into my own hands.

This fall, I discreetly started seeing a female friend a few nights a week. She knew I was involved in a marriage that didn’t sexually fulfill me, and I was able to enjoy sex with a true spark; plus, getting my needs met helped me become a better and more patient husband. Unfortunately, my girlfriend told my wife, and initially neither of them seemed to understand why this was the best arrangement for all involved: helping my girlfriend enjoy good sex, my wife maintain our family stability, and I still got my needs met.

After using your suggestions to find a kink- and polyamory-friendly therapist, we were able to agree to keep the arrangement, but what I thought would be a dream is a disaster. Neither of them want separate sexual contact, and my wife turned out to be less straight than I thought. When the three of us are in bed together, my wife and girlfriend practically ignore me in favor of each other, and I’m having real sex two nights a week or less. While I’m technically free under our arrangement to meet another woman, the two of them go out on dates practically every Friday night, leaving me home with the kids and not so much as a blowjob.

How do I rebalance this relationship so it’s fair again? I feel like I did so much work to open this relationship and am not getting any of the credit for it, or the opportunities I was promised.

— FOMO

Rich: Once again, I’m approaching a question with a little bit of suspicion. This one is so hilariously…I mean, it’s poetic justice is what it is. It’s either from somebody who’s totally putting us on, or somebody who just can’t get it. I still think that it’s worth talking about, regardless. He spelled it out for himself and he’s still not getting it.

Stoya: I would like to go through it line by line: “I don’t really know how I ended up married”? So the first problem in the story that’s been presented to us, is that this guy married someone without making a decision, right?

Rich: Right.

Stoya: And if he had made a decision, he probably wouldn’t have ended up married to a prudish woman, when he’s the kind of person who thinks that maintenance sex three times a week is not enough sex.

Rich: That, to me, is outrageous. It also calls to question the very notion of a free spirit, which I don’t know that that concept exists without attendant selfishness. “Free spirit,” as portrayed in this letter, is a completely selfish person who just goes about life, thinking that he is entitled to whatever, to do whatever, to get whatever, while he keeps skipping along. And as this free spirit learned, there are consequences to that.

Stoya: And then the way that the universe is conspiring to give this man exactly what he deserves, I’m like, why would you go out and meet a third woman unless you want your wife and your new girlfriend to all be having sex with each other in sapphic daisy chain? Because apparently your wife loves sex, just not with you. I don’t know what this guy is doing in bed that is not landing with his wife, but there’s something that his girlfriend is doing for his wife that he has never done for his wife. I expect that’s why she is far more interested in the girlfriend than she is in him.

Rich: And again, he’s kind of taking all of this stuff for granted. He bemoans the fact that he’s having “real sex” twice a week or less. Well, OK, firstly, you are still getting laid in the way that you desire. Secondly, you could expand your definition of real sex to include this kind of fantasy scenario. I mean, yes, your wife and girlfriend may be cultivating this relationship on their own, but you’re still invited. You’re still playing a featured, if not starring, role. Better than nothing!

What I find to be the biggest problem here is his use of language. The way that he is swinging around his entitlement of “I know best…This isn’t fair.” Fair? Fair for you is not fair for the group. Now you have to think in terms of the pod.

Stoya: Or the community that you’re a part of, whether that’s a dyad or a triangle. It makes me wonder what this guy is like at the bank or the coffee shop or at work. I think he would do well to evaluate: Does he have a fairness problem in other contexts? Does he frequently find himself saying, “This isn’t fair,” when he means “This isn’t fair to me”?

Rich: Right, right. This isn’t fair because it’s not going exactly the way that I want it to, irrespective of everybody else’s needs and desires and what people are telling me, maybe not with words, but with their behavior. What is fair here? It’s not entirely spelled out, but he took on his girlfriend “discreetly,” which I think means without the knowledge of his wife. And yet it still worked out. His wife didn’t say, “I’m going to leave you now,” as many wives do when this happens; she had the open mind to say, “OK, well let’s continue this. And let’s not even just continue this, now I’m interested in her,” you know? I don’t know what you’re complaining about, man. It’s really working out for you. What more do you want other than, like, concubines or servants?

Stoya: I think he does want concubines. And I need to say, I’m offended: ‘I feel used and objectified by this after your suggestions to find a kink and polyamory-friendly therapist.’ Did he read anything else by us? Because if he wanted to cheat like this quietly, it’s not even like he could have gone to Dan Savage for permission in 2022—he would’ve had to go to Dan Savage in 2006.

Rich: Right.

Stoya: And so I’m just like, why are you even bringing this to us, if you obviously didn’t bother to read all of the things that Rich and I have said about connecting with your partner, talking to your wife first, all these kinds of things? No, you cherry-picked and you want it to be fair. So, I have little  except laughter for this person. And I do feel like we might be being trolled.

Rich: I think that we try to be as understanding and compassionate as possible, but there are some letters that you can only laugh at. And so, at the very least, he’s providing us with a laugh. As somebody who referenced the column within his question, I honestly don’t know what he was expecting from us, but I think that gratitude is really in order here. This could have worked out so much worse in so many different ways. You just have to deal with it. You have to deal with the situation and just be happy that you have what you do, because it very easily could have left you with nothing, in terms of love and romance. What is even the question?

Stoya: “How do I rebalance this relationship so it’s fair again?” So I’m just going to quote a song, “There’s Gonna Be Some Changes Made” from Fosse: “You’d better change the way you’re living, and if that ain’t enough, you better change the way you strut your stuff, because no one wants you when you’re old and gray. You’d better change your way today. You’d better change your way.” And then it talks about lay off the this, and lay off the that. It’s about a really self-centered free spirit.

Rich: Yeah.

Stoya: That song wouldn’t leave me alone from when I read this letter. It’s like, look man, you’ve got this pretty great situation and you can pull your head out of your butt and be happy for it, or you can sit there and whine about fairness. But if you don’t change, they’re going to leave you and they should.

Rich: Yeah, it’s gratitude. That’s what it is. That’s the key to life, and it’s the only thing that would make sense here.

More From How to Do It

My wife and I have been in a relationship for 25 years and recently decided to “open” our relationship. Now it’s my wife’s turn. And bam! I feel like I have had my first emotion this week because all of those things I have been calling emotions till now pale in comparison. I had absolutely no idea that this was coming. I have not been able to eat or sleep. My wife’s “date” is coming up. Is this a common reaction? Will it go away to a manageable level? Will I be able greet my friend again without the desire to throttle him? I trust and love my wife, and I want this for us. Do you think I can work through this?