This column is part of Advice Week, Slate’s celebration of all things advice.
Sometimes, all you need is a different perspective. So this week, our columnists have swapped fields of expertise. In this edition, Emily McCombs, a Care and Feeding columnist, handles your sex questions.
Dear How to Do It,
My husband (cis man) and I (cis woman) have been married for 13 years, together for 16, and have a young child. I adore him, I’m attracted to him, and he’s an amazing husband and father. As with many marriages, once our child was born, our sex life definitely went downhill. I’ve always wanted sex more often, and over the years have been the primary initiator in the bedroom, but there was a period of a couple of years where he turned me down several times and I stopped putting forth the effort. Then I started suspecting something was going on and two years ago found out that he had been having random affairs with multiple women to varying degrees of intimacy (on many occasions he met these women at strip clubs and paid for various acts). We decided to stay together and it only strengthened our relationship, and interestingly, our sex life improved significantly. But then we got lazy or comfortable again and we went back to only one to two times per month.
Then during a recent date night, we went to a strip club, completely out of the blue. My husband asked if I would be willing to go and I was totally game. He never really tells me what he’s into, even though I’ve asked many times, and I just want him to let me in because I want to get adventurous with him. I am familiar with the strip club experience as I used to go with some bi girlfriends and it was a lot of fun and a total turn-on. My husband and I had a great time, it reignited our sex life. However, he shared something with me.
He would love to entertain a threesome in the future. I love the idea of this because I’m definitely into various scenarios with another woman involved, but I’m terrified of it causing damage to our relationship. In full disclosure, I had a couple of threesomes with a past boyfriend and one of my friends that did not bode well in either relationship. In detail, the guy ended up breaking ground rules and cheating on me, or during the threesome would climax early and then call an end to the experience before I got to truly enjoy it myself (making me feel used), so I know a lot of communication would need to happen about it first.
But secondly, I have no idea HOW to find someone for this scenario. I would feel better if it were with someone we didn’t have an existing relationship with because I’d rather it be a bit more transactional, but how does one go about finding that person? Does a checklist exist for how to set ground rules and what to cover communication-wise beforehand? I want our sex lives to be electric for us both, and I’m willing to take the leap, but I am not sure how to do it.
—Instructions Not Included
Dear Instructions Not Included,
Other than deciding to stay together, I’d love to know how you and your husband processed his infidelity and repaired your relationship after it came to light. Any kind of nonmonogamy relies on an unshakable foundation of trust and communication, and your husband has a history of being dishonest and not following “the rules” regarding sex in your relationship. You also mentioned that your husband is still resistant to communicating with you about his sexual desires, so I’m concerned about his ability to navigate the advanced communication skills required in a potentially delicate threesome situation.
If you truly feel that you and your partner have done the required work to rebuild a solid relationship, and that you can trust him unequivocally to respect your boundaries, then it’s a good idea to start by talking about what you’re each looking for from the threesome. What are your fantasies for how you’d like it to go, and do they gel? What sex acts are on the table and what are off limits? How about kissing? Cuddling? What forms of protection will be used for what acts? Do you have boundaries around when and how you have an orgasm? And outside of the bedroom: What forms of communication are OK and when? Is this a one-time activity or would you potentially like to see your third again? Is she spending the night? What forms of aftercare are acceptable?
Finding a female third is not easy—in the past, I’ve had luck with the dating app Feeld, but “unicorn hunting” is stigmatized for a reason. Male-female couples looking for women to have sex with are a dime a dozen on these apps and they’re notorious for treating potential partners more like props to “spice up their relationship” than human beings with their own needs and desires. You could also consider attending sex parties and clubs to meet partners, or (speaking of transactional) hiring a sex worker who sees couples and may cut down the potential awkwardness with her expertise. In all these scenarios, respect for everyone involved is paramount. There are women out there who are interested in joining a couple, but they can afford to be choosy, so you’ve got to come correct.
More Advice From Slate
I’m in my late 30s. I’m still close with my childhood best friend I met when I was 10. We live in different states. Leading up to her divorce last year, we talked on the phone several days each week for about an hour each time. I was basically her sounding board and cheerleader. I thought her crisis would end after she and her kids settled into a post-divorce home and life. It didn’t.