I have a complex problem. I'll try to be concise, but the details matter. I'm a 42-year-old, mostly-straight married man. My wife of 21 years (do the math and you probably see one of the issues) is a cheater. In those years, she's had sex with four other people that I know of, and there were a few other relationships that in which sex was imminent before I snooped in her texts and e-mail and confronted her. Those are the ones I know about, and if I had to bet, I'd say there are more I don't. Each time, I get angry, she says it won't happen again, we carry on. I have asked repeatedly over the years about open relationships or three-ways to satisfy these needs honestly—I'm okay sharing her, I just don't want to be cuckold—and she says she doesn't really want to sleep with other people and that she made a dumb mistake/was unhappy with our relationship at the time/got too drunk/blah blah blah.
I'm not entirely innocent. Early on, I had sex with someone else as a reaction to her fucking the first guy. A few years ago, she told me when I asked again about three-ways that I should just do what I need to do and not let her find out about it. I see now that the offer was made from a guilty conscience, but I took her up on it after one of the other affairs when I was feeling angry and vindictive.
A couple of months ago, I found out that she slept with two other guys over the past year or so. I told her that was it. If we were staying together, I was going to assume she's not going to change, and I'm going to fuck whomever I want, when I want. After talking it out, I walked that back a little to an agreement with rules about when and where. She also finally agreed to three-ways, and we've had a fairly successful one.
Things seemed okay, until I had my first date. She snooped in my phone and blew up at me for not telling her about it. I find that unbelievably hypocritical of her. I've since gone on a few more dates—always when my wife is traveling for work—and it's making her miserable. She obsesses over it, asks for details about the dates, cries about it, and is popping more Xanax than usual. I feel guilty and I worry about her mental health. So, on one hand, I feel like I should be a concerned spouse and just end this agreement that we have. On the other, I think she's being really unfair, and ending the agreement due to her unhappiness will make me very resentful. In hindsight, I wish I'd taken advantage of the don't ask/don't tell policy. But that ship has sailed.
I don't really want a divorce because she's perfect for me in so many ways, and we have two youngish children. But I really don't know what to do here, and the more we fight about it, the more likely divorce seems. She's tried therapy with no demonstrable results for either the cheating or this current situation. And I don't see any marriage counselor on the planet agreeing with me that should be able to fuck other people because I'm owed. Help?
Don't Wanna Be Cuckolded Anymore
My response after the jump...
"I'm owed" is a terrible reason to fuck other people, I agree. But "I'm only interested in a marriage of equals" is a good reason, DWBCA, and a good starting point at your first session with a fuck-other-people-positive marriage counselor. And you can find a sex-positive, open-relationship-positive, monogamish-positive, threesome-positive marriage counselor through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT.org). The kind of marriage counselor you need exists, DWBCA, and AASECT is the place to find them.
I'm afraid I don't have much help to offer you otherwise. It obvious now that your wife would've preferred a dishonest open relationship to an honest one—as indicated by her behavior over the years as well as that don't ask/don't tell arrangement she put on the table—but unless she's willing to suspend her disbelief and pretend she doesn't know that you feel just as free to make dumb mistakes/get too drunk/blah blah blah as she always has, I'm not sure how you create a successful, honest open relationship with her. If preserving your marriage for your kids and/or for the otherwise perfect aspects of the relationship is your top priority, working your way back to an old fashioned dishonest open relationship—ending your agreement, carrying on however you like—may be your best bet.