How to Do It

I’m Having a Very Distracting Reaction to My Hot Friends’ New Relationship

It’s messing things up, but I’m not sure I want it to stop?

A woman closes her eyes while an illustrated dream bubble hovers above.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Prostock-Studio/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,

Two of my friends are dating, and I keep having super-hot sex dreams about them. Now, nothing else compares.

These two friends (male and female) began dating about a month after I (female) met them, so essentially for our whole friendship theyve been dating. The problem is, I was attracted to both of them before they started dating, and now that theyre together, its worse. I just cant seem to get rid of my feelings for them. It’s like I used to have a crush on each of them separately, and now I have a crush on them as a couple. To top things off, I cant stop having dreams in which my wildest fantasies with them come true. The dreams are really good, so good that now I find myself disappointed by sex with other people. Even masturbation doesnt do it for me, every time I try to get off I cant help but wish I were with them, and anything else is subpar. I also really value my friendship with them and I dont want to ruin things. Help!

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— Threes a Crowd

Dear Three’s a Crowd,

You can’t have everything you want, and in fact, the intensity of your longing has no bearing on your entitlement. Your yearning for what you don’t (and may never) have, moreover, should not get in the way of appreciating what you do have: hot friends. That alone is an aesthetic reward. You should also cherish your dreams—André Breton wrote at length in attempt to correct what he saw as a mass underrating of dreams in his first Manifesto of Surrealism. (From an English translation: “I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams.”) If you can’t have these people, at least you can dream about them regularly. As consolation prizes go, at least that one is vivid.

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If I were you, I’d wait for someone hot to come along and distract you. It will happen. You will not spend the rest of your life pining for these people. If this longing is so unbearable, propose a threesome. It could ruin things, yeah, but if you’re living in a state of distraction, blowing things up may be good for you, anyway.

Dear How to Do It,

My husband and I are the only partner the other has ever had. We are in our mid-40s and have been together for 25 years. As in all longer marriages, ours has had ups and downs, but we are each others best friends and have worked through our marital issues, sexual and otherwise.

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Recently, and unexpectedly, I had an encounter where a man flirted with me. It sounds absurd, but this was the first time this had happened to me in over a decade. And it was intoxicating. I have no way of contacting this person, so there is no possibility of anything further, but I cannot stop thinking about him. In the aftermath, I cannot let go of the idea of a sexual encounter with someone else. The intensity of my feelings about this suggests to me that either I am incredibly attention-starved (we have two teenage children and my husband, while a wonderful person in many ways, has taken something of a benign neglect” approach to the entirety of our partnership); or that I am just now realizing what I missed out on by signing up early for a lifetime of monogamy. What do I do? I am absurdly miserable at the thought that maybe I missed an opportunity to have sex with another adult before I die. Yet I also understand that even mentioning the possibility of anything like an open marriage or hall pass” poses a risk to a partnership Ive spent my entire adult life building.

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— Distracted

Dear Distracted,

Your letter reads like a PG-rated version of Judy Blume’s decidedly adult 1978 novel Wifey, whose protagonist gets thrown into a tizzy that leads to a journey of sexual discovery after she catches a guy jerking off on her lawn. Incredible novel. What would Wifey (the character’s name is actually Sandy) do? Definitely have sex with people that were not her husband, that’s for sure. Don’t be too hard on yourself for “missing” the opportunity you perceived. It’s not likely that the guy who flirted with you is the only person in the world who could find you sexually attractive. There are more out there. The question is whether you want to pursue them.

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You know your husband better than I do, but if he’s your best friend, you should at least be able to have a conversation about this. It’s true, sometimes just saying ideas out loud can alter the color of a relationship, but unless your husband has already told you that nonmonogamy is a hard no and that even mentioning it will threaten your domestic bliss, I would classify such a conversation as a risk worth taking. (I’m going to guess, by the way, that your husband has taken no such stance, since your trepidation implies that you and he have not discussed this subject whatsoever.) You can preface your reveal by telling him what you don’t want: To ruin or even change things by bringing this up. At this point, it seems like if you have to choose, you’ll stick with your relationship over sex outside of it, so make that clear as well. In other words, make this as explicitly unthreatening as possible. There’s a chance he’s been feeling the same way and has been similarly scared to say something. All swingers/ethically nonmonogamnous/poly people start somewhere. Even if you don’t get what you want out of a conversation, the results will provide data to help you determine your next move and how long you’re willing to let your self be, as you put it, absurdly miserable. That’s no way to live—you must do something.

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Dear How to Do It,

I’m 23 and live with my parents. I snuck in a guy a few weeks ago when they were away and we had sex for 18 hours straight. It was amazing and up until that point, I was a virgin. I realized how high of a sex drive I have, but I also dont want to go against my incredibly catholic family again and have sex outside of marriage. Im not in the position to move out yet though. How should I talk to them about how I need this even if it goes against my religion?

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— Need to Do It

Dear Need to Do It,

It sounds like you in fact do want to go against your incredibly Catholic family again, and perhaps in a manner akin to a marathon. Or several of them. In this column, we generally promote honesty as the only policy, but I’m going to do the opposite here and encourage to you keep sneaking around. Getting shit for your sexuality just isn’t worth it, nor is threatening your living situation if you don’t have the means to move out. I don’t think you’re going to convince them—by virtue of your existence, they are aware of what sex is and, for whatever reason, have chosen to renounce it in a recreational context, or at least have led you to believe that this is their stance. You know they’re wrong, and soon enough you’ll be able to leave them to their wrongness. In the meantime, be careful (having sex when they’re out of town is a much safer bet than, say, sneaking a dude in while they’re sleeping), keep your head down, and put away enough money so that eventually you won’t have to worry about their judgement and how it may affect the roof over your head.

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Dear How to Do It,

For many years (15-20?), I have had a toenail fungus problem. When it first showed up, I wasn’t too worried about it, but my wife thought it was gross, so I agreed to get it treated by a doctor. Meds helped control it, but never quite cleared it up. I tried different meds with a different doctor, same result (also tried tea tree oil, same result). Both docs said that it was not really a health issue for me, was possibly uncurable, and was not likely to be contagious if I wasnt sharing out my socks. The main reason to treat would be aesthetics.

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About a year ago, I finally decided … screw it. I have toenail fungus. It’s ok. I don’t really care that much about the appearance of my feet or anyone else’s. So I stopped doing anything about it, and it slowly got worse again. My wife was not happy about this development, and we argued. I told her I was sick of trying all these daily treatments/medications that never work, that I really don’t care what my feet look like, and that it’s my decision to make. She told me it’s a major turnoff, and that if I am interested in having sex with her, I should get it checked out again. I told her that I almost always wear shoes, she sees my feet perhaps a half dozen times a year, that she could easily avoid seeing them altogether if she chose … and during sex I can keep my socks on. She told me that more than that—she is embarrassed by my feet.

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I let her win the argument. I made another appointment with the doctor, and will see about the options. Basically, I agree with her that a spouse should be willing to do what they (reasonably) can not to physically repulse their partner. However, I dont like how she handled it, and I feel like what is driving this is not physical repulsion. After all, the fight was not prompted by her noticing my feet, it was prompted by my (foolishly) telling her they were getting worse. I think the real problem is that she thinks I have something contagious, and she is worried about her friends finding out. Who is right?

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— Sock Wearer

Dear Sock Wearer,

To some degree, you’re both right. You have closely monitored this issue, tried several remedies, visited multiple doctors, and concluded that this is not a big enough deal to warrant consistent treatment. (And indeed, toenail fungus can be no big deal.) Your wife, though, may have broader anxiety about the health of her spouse, which may present in ways that seem somewhat irrational but are ultimately well-intentioned. I have to wonder, too, if you aren’t somewhat lax in other areas and your partner consistently feels like she’s picking up the slack/guiding you to your healthiest self. This debate over toenail fungus may actually represent a more generalized exasperation on her part. Maybe she’s overbearing, and you know better than I do, but the good-faith reading of her behavior is that it’s coming from a place of love. As love is presumably at the root of your marriage, all things come from there.

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Toenail fungus is contagious, by the way. If you can live the rest of your life sleeping in your socks, knock yourself out (literally … in socks), but I understand at least a bit of trepidation there on her part. Also, you told her you were “sick of trying all these daily treatments/medications that never work,” but they do work. They aren’t effective in eradicating your fungus entirely, but they control it. They work. You lose that one.

Unless there is a good, demonstrable reason for forgoing treatment (side effects or price, for example), I think people should do whatever is in their means to take care of whatever is ailing them, big or small. This is just my philosophy. I’m not a “screw it!,” type of person, so I’m naturally biased to your wife’s side. I ultimately feel that you should have the final say of what you do with your body, but if this is something easy that you can contain with minimal effort and no drawbacks, why not do it? Is it because you’re lazy? Operating from the kind of bullshit-adjacent principles that you suspect your wife is for giving you shit about your fungus? You really might be projecting here. But even if you do have a leg to stand on, there’s toenail fungus on the foot that’s propping you up. That seems like a good metaphor for the shakiness of your argument.

— Rich

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