Tough letter, great response. Above all, thanks so much for linking to and urging us to read that great essay by Maria Bello.
From my reading, it doesn't sound like this married couple has anywhere near the communication abilities to handle polyamory.

Problems as listed by LW:
The Wife has no problem with LW smoking pot occasionally, but they disagree about the legalization in A DIFFERENT STATE and somehow that's a point of contention in their *marriage*?

LW decided his wife was depressed, even though she said no she wasn't, and this conflict plus whatever the symptoms of depression were, caused a break down in their relationship. And LW addressed this by.... what exactly? Telling her she didn't know what she was talking about and she was in fact depressed?

LW had a vasectomy and The Wife had a problem after. As in they didn't talk about it before hand? Or they did, The Wife said okay, and then discovered she wasn't okay, and somehow that because a problem for their marriage, not a problem for her?

The problems in this relationship seem like they were really avoidable or at the very least, very possible to address through some counseling. But at this point, I'm not hearing LW talk about anything making it worth saving. So, I'm going with divorcing, making sure your kids are okay (and learn better communication skills than their parents have), and seeing what happens with Rachel.

It's a little baffling that she could accuse him of "cheating" with his friend, because she means that she believes he went outside the bounds of marriage... but isn't absolutely refusing *any* emotional or physical intimacy whatsoever to your partner just as much of a violation of your marriage? Isn't the traditional idea of monogamous marriage supposed to be that you don't get any romantic or sexual intimacy outside of your marriage because you get it *inside* of your marriage?
The letter writer seems to really need to work on communication skills or any relationship is doomed. Comment #2 pointed out much of what I noticed, but it starts even earlier. He had a crush on Rachel, but he never talked to her about it in any way, as far as we can tell, which is how the whole mess likely started in the first place. But yeah, I really am unclear on how the vasectomy became a point of contention unless their communication skills are terrible or something else is deeply messed up in this relationship. And that means, he's likely just going to take bad habits into a relationship with Rachel. So, he should work on them so he doesn't have a follow-up letter in 5 or 10 years or whatever.
Something tells me Andrea already has a special someone in her life. The sudden suspicions about Rachel (after letting Rachel and her husband watch movies and play games, alone together, for years) is a probable sign that she is cheating herself.
@2: Plus he's been in love with his friend for 20-odd years and never got it together to say "Hey, wanna go on a date?"
I thought that only happened in bad movies.
Wait didn't this happen on Friends? Is LW's name Ross by any chance?
I feel like someone is going to ask Dan about cranberry sauce recipes, and he's going to realize polyamory might be the solution there.

I'm confused about the pot smoking: wtf are your feelings about legalization of pot in WA doing running all through this letter? Vs, say, how you do on the co-parenting thing for those two girls?

Your marriage is in crappy shape, and sounds like that's due to a concerted effort from both of you. I'm with 2 and 6 on communication. I would recommend counseling for the two of you and a moratorium on Rachel while you figure out what you want if everything you ever fantasized about with Rachel is NOT on the table. Because I really see the reality of that crashing and burning, and what you do about Andrea and your daughters shouldn't be based on how unobtainably perfect things would be with Rachel.
@5 knows what's up
@8: "I feel like someone's going to ask Dan about cranberry sauce, and he's going to realize that polyamory might be the solution there."

HAHAHAHAHAHA no shit, that's Dan's answer to every problem under the sun, except when the LW specifies that it's off the table, and then his answer is "cheat."
This letter has many problems, all intertwined. Unfortunately, he leaves out a bunch of important details while including some which seem trivial or only tangentially related.

His marriage is crappy and no one is trying to fix it. Did he stop trying because he was getting what he wanted from Rachel emotionally? When exactly did Rachel move back and how does that coincide with his marriage slipping downhill? No physical relationship for five years? Did he not suggest counseling or other methods for getting over it. It doesn't sound like he has asked her at all to explain beyond her "I'm just not interested in it anymore". How can she be mad about a vasectomy when they weren't having sex?

What the hell kind of friend is Rachel for telling him that she loves him when he is married? Did he have the talk with his wife that night before or after Rachel told him that? Did he start that conversation with "Rachel told me she loves me tonight and it made me realize how unhappy I am with you?"

This guy sounds fairly self-absorbed but might be just hapless and lacking self-awareness. More importantly, it looks like he essentially abandoned working on his own marriage (wife clearly has lots of blame here too) while having date nights once a week with his bestie for whom he has had feelings for twenty years.

Bottom line: 1. He and his wife are not equipped for polyamory. 2. Dude is all mowing his neighbor's grass while his own lawn has gone to seed. He should cut off all contact with Rachel and decide whether he and his wife are both motivated to work on fixing their marriage or not. If they are, they should. If one or both isn't, they should divorce. Even in the latter case, he should keep all contact with Rachel at a minimum until after he is divorced. Then he and Rachel can jump start a romantic relationship fresh and unencumbered by guilt and other negative emotions and in a manner less likely to interfere with his parenting relationship with his daughters, which ought to be the most important thing this lovesick fool is thinking about right now, but clearly isn't.
Oh COME on. Sometimes there isn't much daylight between the sexes and sometimes it's different planets. If this guy wasn't married, he'd still be in the friend zone. There are plenty of alarm bells going off here.

What was the timing of Rachel moving back nearby? It's typical for women to be uninterested in sex after having a baby and for as long as nursing lasts--lactation hormones kill libido, for sound evolutionary reasons. Women at those times need lots of emotional support, and if they feel like their man is giving his emotional support elsewhere--like weekly intimate tete-a-tete's with his schoolboy crush--that can shut down the works.

Do the math--Rachel and LIC have been meeting together and presumably getting stoned together every week for a long time. If she was genuinely sexually attracted to him she would have jumped him.

Polyamory would be my advice too, but with a darker context. I think once LIC tells Rachel that Andrea is okay and would even be relieved if LIC and Rachel slept together, (so Andrea wouldn't have to) but that they are staying together because of the children, Rachel will drop LIC like a hot potato. Then at least he will know where he stands.
This is lame. LW is completely lost in life and Rachael sees it as a sign of weakness. Thats why she hears Andrea's suspicions of infidelity and responds by declaring love. She just wants to kick the guy around for old times sake. He seems into the game of being manipulated by others in the name of love.
Sounds like some guy has been cheating on his wife and wants justification to end it with her and run off with a new girl. So he writes up a creative letter that totally distorts the facts of his actual relationship and sends it off to the one sex-advice columnist whom he knows will be on his side.

Honor your FUCKING marriage vows you irresponsible TWIT.

I mean, do you notice how not one thing he says implicates himself in ANY wrongdoing whatsoever? SHE'S depressed, SHE has a problem with totally legal and above-board pot, she brought up her objections to the vasectomy AFTER it was performed..... There's no possible way LW could be at fault, the way he presents himself! I call so, so, SO much bullshit. People are selfish lying assholes.
@16 Dude may be lying but the letter is all we have to go on. And I don't see the point in 'honoring marriage vows' when both partners clearly want out.
I think #8 hit the nail on the head....just saying. You make sure the marriage is dead before you follow your childhood crush...who you ahve been hanging out with for months on a weekly basis...I mean seriously you have two kids together--make sure its final and take care of your shit or that childhood crush goes down the drain carry all your crap to the next relationship if you don't fix it.
LW and Andrea can "continue" to love and support each other? That seems like a reach for the last box of something at the back of the top grocery shelf.

Lucky Ms Bello to be on the position of being able to make unilateral declarations, though in many respects I can empathize with the approach. Was she the woman who thought an American version of Prime Suspect would be a good idea? (Then again, Mr Savage was, if memory serves, big on the US version of House of Cards.)
He should end the marriage but end it cleanly. Stay the hell away from Rebecca until the dust is settled. Andrea might be saying divorce-y stuff now but that doesn't mean she wants to be cheated on. And recent infidelity does not make getting a divorce any easier.
Agree with everyone saying he needs to figure out whether his marriage can be saved independent of figuring out shit with Rachel.

I also kind of feel like if he and Rachel were truly in love and wanted to be together, they would have made it happen by now. It takes fewer than 20 plus years to act on true love.
I've always liked Maria Bello, and now I like her even more.
Polyamory? Doesn't the term imply more than one loving relationship? They don't have that right now and it doesn't sound like either of them are interesting in trying to get back to it. (Wait, have they ever had it?)

I love the idea of them becoming future "partners" as cooperative and platonic co-parents, but polyamory should never be seen as a way to fix a broken marriage.

Dollars to donuts when this guy's wife finds a new love better suited to her personality, he won't like it. He's just got that ring of self-absorbed prick about him.
@25: Dollars to donuts she already has a boyfriend. When your spouse loses all interest in you and then spontaneously accuses you of cheating, they're cheating.

At any rate, he should get the hell out. Get with Rachel, or don't. Modelling an absurdly dysfunctional relationship for the kids is not actually helping the kids, buddy, and your wife wants a divorce. Give her one.
Yeah, one more vote for @5 - Andrea has moved along. Maybe part of the turn on for her was your little swimmers and now they're gone.

Also: @8 is right that you need to be prepared for real-Rachel to fall short of fantasy-Rachel. regardless of whether or not you get to bang her and or be in an open romantic relationship with her.

Sounds like you've been having an emotional affair for years, hiding behind the fig-leaf of physical fidelity. Maybe your wife, after emerging from PPD, was kind of alienated by the fact you'd become more or less openly involved with someone from your past that you carried a torch for. This does not sound like it came together all at once...sounds like it's been festering a long time and you've been ignoring it until it erupted.
@8 - too perfect: "I feel like someone is going to ask Dan about cranberry sauce recipes, and he's going to realize polyamory might be the solution there."

I find it ironic that the night Rachel confessed her love, the LW and his wife have the "big talk" where wife declares he should go with someone who makes him happy. Hey clueless LW, you obviously came home glowing. How the fuck did you think your wife, stuck in a loveless marriage, was going to react?

The fact that your wife told you to be with someone who makes you happy doesn't necessarily mean she wants a divorce. She might be seeing if you want the divorce. Your reaction to the invitation may have sealed your fate.

Anyway, I think @13 has it. LW is being manipulated. He will end up with a broken family and neither Rachel or Andrea
Whether or not Andrea's moved on to someone else (and I think it's entirely possible she has) it does sound like she's gone from resenting her husband to being over him and Rachel and the rest and ready to move on to a life with minimal him in it. Illustrating that the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.
Cue EricaP to blather on endlessly about her open marriage in 3...2...1...
@12 Alanmt: “How can she be mad about a vasectomy when they weren't having sex?”

Ooh. Interesting. Because it meant that he was having sex with other women?
... or because the children are the only thing they have in common, she wants to save the marriage, and another baby is all she can think of to reinforce the bond?
@8 I love me some Dan Savage, but his proselytizing about open relationships really bothers me sometimes. This couple doesn't even sound compatible enough to have a monogamous relationship, so I don't see how it follows that a non-monogamous relationship is the right thing to do. Dan's response to the recent letter from the woman with the sadistic husband ("A Painful Subject") actually bothered me a lot more than this one - it sounded like he was primarily advocating monogamishy as a solution to her woes, while relegating the observation that her husband sounded like a manipulative and potentially dangerous piece of shit to a mere footnote. He also didn't appear to consider the fact that it didn't sound like there would be much in the deal for her if they went monogamish.

I've seen a few situations where a request by one parter for an open relationship was actually a coercive move to get the other partner to accept a situation they didn't want and weren't comfortable with. It's a reasonable thing to bring up as a possibility when both partners might benefit from it, but presenting an ultimatum in the form of "give me permission to fuck other people or I leave" really can amount to coercion when there is a lot invested in the relationship, e.g., a married couple with kids. I'm not saying non-monogamy is bad; sometimes asking a partner to stay in a shitty monogamous relationship can be coercive and damaging too. I'd just like to see a little more nuance on this subject in Dan's advice.

As for LIC, he definitely comes across as a guy who has trouble taking responsibility for his own shit. His wife sounds a bit messed up too, but I suspect he's editing out a lot of important details. I love how he says, "The night Rachel told me she loves me, Andrea and I had a frank discussion about our relationship." As if that discussion just happened and he did nothing to instigate it.

@33: Yeah, I'd like a lot more nuance. (And I very much agree with the flipping examples of coercive and damaging in your second paragraph.)

For example, I think if you've been dating a few months and things are really not working, you should break up. One thing I've learned on slog is that adding more people to a relationship that isn't working is not a fix, and yet it seems that's now being tossed in as a basic first response to "husband is asshole who hurts you during sex and punishes you for wanting to have safe boundaries, have you considered opening your marriage?" Whereas a long-time couple wrestling with one partner's complete loss of libido following SSRIs might consider opening the marriage, if all the other parts are good but they can't work their way over this one change. That includes their being good at communicating, respecting boundaries, valuing each other, all that other stuff. A couple who is failing at those isn't going to be helped by adding more people with whom to fail at them.
Not sure why people are so concerned about him trying to save a marriage that has been dead for years or feel the need to second guess him on her emotional and physical distance. A lot of White Knight BS in these comments.
@35 - children.
I can see why their moving towards divorce. LW is not getting the respect and admiration he needs, he’s been rejected sexually (the ultimate rejection) for years. I would bet that Andrea has had no emotional security from LW for years (that will dry up the sex drive) and may have none of the logistical help either (financial security, help with kids, etc.). Needs aren’t getting met because needs aren’t getting met. Add Rachel to the mix and you have the classic response to this very common midlife crisis.

This is a temporary problem that Dan is suggesting a permanent solution to (divorce). The permanent solution will affect the kids negatively; remember they are learning how to love through their parents. When times get tough in the kids’ marriages 20 years from now, they will repeat all the same bad behaviors of withholding affection because they (the kids) are in pain themselves, then the march to divorce begins. Too many people love their spouses for what they DO for them, and not loving them for the people that they are. When their spouses stop doing those things – goodbye.

If LW could stop looking at his wife’s faults for one second, and try to meet her needs, just try to love her unconditionally – your marriage could be back (with all the benefits) within a year. Take up meditation, go see a therapist, try and figure out what you and your wife have learned about love from your own upbringings. Do at least a little work before you throw it all away for a fling with Rachel.
I've seen this script before and here is how it plays out....
Wife wants out of the marriage for whatever reason. Wife consults divorce lawyer who advises her to not be the one to pull the plug. Much more advantageous for her if husband pulls the plug. So wife, knowing hubby is hot for his unrequited love offers hubby an opening for him to end the marriage. Wife and lawyer gets to implicate unrequited love as home-wrecking mistress regardless of whether there has been sex between hubby and unrequited love (mistress to the divorce court) or not.
Wife gets the house and the kids and husband gets more unrequited love plus the agony of being alienated from his kids.

How well do the children deal with physical avoidance by the parents? I'm thinking an amicable split might be best/least confusing.

I've survived sex once every couple of months, but NO physical interaction would be a deal breaker. The whole interstate legalization thing sounds more like a smokescreen for monumental cluelessness.


PS: I believe warmth, hugs and kisses between parents is as important as between parents and children, for the children. Or at least I perceive how the lack thereof "didn't help" me.
@33/34, I think Dan's perspective was that this married couple used to have a satisfying sex life. Then the guy brought up his sadistic needs, and their sex life collapsed. But they still didn't want to get divorced.

Dan suggested it was possible that if the guy got his sadistic needs taken care of by someone outside the marriage, then he would return to doing whatever it was that used to satisfy his wife. That's what she would get out of it.

I agree with those who thought their problems and incompatibility had gone on too long for that kind of repair work. But I can see why Dan thought it might possibly help.

Here, Dan moves pretty quickly to recommending that the LW get divorced. Not sure why he thought the LW should get together with Rachel, but then by that point he was spinning some crazy-ass fantasy involving the four adults all being friends and hanging out together, so I think he had left reality far behind.

@38 there no way you have actually seen this time and time again because we are no longer using fault as a basis of divorce or property division in the US.

If you live in a community property state, division of property is by a set formula.

In the non cp state in which I live, it's also a formula. Judges don't have discretion to punish adulterers thru property. period.

FYI, it's actually advantageous in every state in the union to file first.
No lawyer worth their salt would advise waiting.

-a divorce lawyer whose practiced in 3 very different states
This guy strikes me as someone who can stress and complain about anything. He's in a bad marriage that he wants out of. His wife just told him she wants out, too. That's a good thing. For years he's been secretly in love with a friend from high school, and she just professed her love for him. Again, that's a good thing. Ending relationships, especially with kids, is really fucking complicated, but this guy seems to have just won the romantic lottery and all he can do is whine about it.
"I've suppressed my love for Rachel for so long because I never believed we would be together. But I'm human and I still wanted an emotional connection so I eventually got married."

You POS. You're admitting that you joined yourself to another human being and created children with them without feeling anything significant enough to even possibly compete with your feelings towards your flame? You couldn't just buy a fucking dog or cat? Get friends you don't feel the need to fuck? Or join some kind of club?

"I don't want to hurt Andrea or our children but how do I turn my back on a love that I have desperately sought for so long?"

You didn't desperately seek anything you fucking coward. That's why you ended up marrying Andrea in the first. As for hurting them; already accomplished. You should have let go of the romantic aspects of your feeling
for Rachel before you ever put a ring on your wife's hand. Instead you've probably were harboring some kind of fantasy of said romance and comparing it to the reality of life with Andrea throughout a good part of your marriage. Rachel moving back and hanging out with you just gave enough substance to bring it into full force. No sensible woman wants a man to martyr themselves by staying with them when they love someone else. It's not just cruel to the man, but condescending to the woman. Give your poor wife a divorce already, you nitwit.

And if you're daughters ever ask you what happened, just reply that you're a hamster trapped in a man's body. It makes about as much sense as your letter.
@43 I agree. Andrea deserves an ending of this being the second-choice one.

But, to be fair... don't you know that most humans are hamsters trapped in human bodies ?
Actually, I'm pretty sure lots of sensible women want their man to stay with them even if they (the husband) loves someone else; financially and social security can mean more to some women than love.

Depending upon the day I aspire to be a hamster, or I feel like the "Papa Bear" that I prefer to be.

For some weird reason, given the way the letter presents info, I wonder if Rachel and Andrea aren't colluding to make an equitable transition for the LW. Ehh, whatevah...

@33 I think Dan sometimes gets so caught in Making A Point that forgets to see if the point is valuable to to the letter writer.

LIke in the previous letter with the abusive husband he was so fixated on championing monogamish relationships that he completely overlooked the red flags the guy was handing out.

Same here. Yeah non-sexual relationships are valuable and should be recognized as such but I don't see what that has to with a relationship where both sides clearly want out.

And 37 I've never understood this belief that children are automatons who will do whatever their parents did, and will no way be their own person or have relationships completely different from what their parents had.
@47 When times get tough the amygdala kicks in and all of a sudden "I've turned into my mother/father." Even if you hated how your dad yelled or your mom nagged, all of a sudden you're doing it with your spouse. We're not automatons but at the worst points in a marriage, it sure seem like we've recreated our childhood home. There are exceptions, particularly for those who recognize the bad habits they learned and the pain they experienced as a kid.

Childhood pain is real, even though to a parent it may seem illogical (no honey, the divorce isn't your fault...). The LW can take the easy way out, blame his wife and then repeat the cycle in his next marriage because he hasn't dealt with the underlying issues (whatever they are). He's kidding himself if he thinks it won't affect his kids negatively.

Caveat: if anyone is in an abusive situation, you need to leave for yourself and the kids. Even if you are worried about your partner, there's little chance of them getting help if you stay and enable the situation to continue.
@I agree this guy should get into therapy before getting into another relationship I'm just annoyed by the 'if you get divorced your kids will divorced too!' attitude which seems insulting to said kids, and ignores that they may have their own reasons for choosing to end their relationships. Which may have nothing to do with their parents.
@46 I meant it in a misanthropic way, but I'm glad you put it in a furrier context. Most days I want to be a cat.

@48 yeah, sometimes I've found myself channelling my own mother when in tough spots, and whenever I see that approaching again I try to leave the scene and recover my calm.

I also sometimes find my brain thinking of channelling my own father, but whenever that happens it scares the shit out of me, and I brush out the thought with a fast "er, no, brain, I'm actually never going to stoop that low as for a behavior, thanks for the reminder anyway, I've come a long way since childhood, already feeling better".
Now Ms Sissou and Mr Married have gotten A Desirable Residence stuck in my head and the ghastly Anthea (please don't defend her, Ms Cute, just because her husband cheated) forcing Daniel into that ridiculous owl costume.
20, what does Erin's poetry from six years have to do with anything?

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