Depends how you find out the relation was non-monogamous. A genetic test finding out you are not the father would be catastrophic to most guys.
Wow that is a dumb fucking poll!
Not all cheating is equal, obviously; since the question just says "discovering" then I think we're assuming that you merely learn of the infidelity, and we don't have cases of kids-that-are-not-yours or surprise-you-have-HIV or I-slept-with-your-sibling levels of betrayal.

Just to be clear, I guess that in the second case you're in a relationship where your sexual needs (if you have any) are being met despite the infidelity.
No question. If you're not getting any, you're constantly wondering what's wrong with you or your junk and that's gonna stick with you into the next relationship. If you're being cheated on, the other guy's just an a-hole and you can be glad to move on.
Hmm... I voted, but I am also unsure about what it will measure. The question could almost be asked: What is more important to me -- the pain I am feeling, or the pain you might feel.

Which sounds an awful lot like an exercise in Narcissism.
I mean, it really depends. I'd rather deal with one or two incidents of cheating over a ten-year period than go ten years without getting some on a semi-regular basis, but I'd take the sexless nightmare over a situation where it turns out my S.O. is constantly seeing someone behind my back.
Sadly, it's the second situation that most people trapped in sexless marriages are likely to find themselves in. They're not going to stray once or twice; if they're turning to outside sources for sexual fulfillment, either it's going to be having a long-term paramour, or conducting a series of NSA affairs.
After all that, JOE really didn't craft a poll question that accurately addresses the point that Dan makes, which is you cannot unilaterally end your partner's sex life by saying sex isn't that important in monogamous marriage, so you cannot complaint about the absence of sex, but sex is hugely important and you cannot have sex outside our monogamous marriage. That said, the poll could have been more accurately written as follows:

Would you rather:
(1) Desire sex regularly, but spend ten years in a monogamous, sexless marriage because your partner unilaterally decided they no longer wanted sex, or

(2) Unilaterally convert your monogamous, sexual marriage into a monogamous, sexless marriage, and ten years thereafter discover that your partner had been unfaithful to you on one or more occasions.
I'd rather not ever encountered JOE.
Probably would be worth a follow-up: "ARE you in a sexless marriage? Have you been cheated on in the past?"

From the responses you've gotten from readers over the years, it sounds like a fair percentage of people are already in sexually unfulfilling marriages. That's why there's porn and erotica and fanfiction.
If you unilaterally decide that your monogamous relationship is going to be sexless, you absolutely deserve whatever pain you might eventually feel because of that decision.

It's called "accepting the consequences of your actions".
I've experienced both (the sexless marriage and being cheated on) and I'd take being cheated on any day! It's easy (well, it was easy for me) to come up with all sorts of justifications about why you and your sweetie aren't knocking boots on a regular basis, but I couldn't reason away the cheating. It was a symptom and not the biggest problem in our relationship, sure, but it was a symptom that got my ass out of its complacent rut and for that I am oddly grateful. If the cheating hadn't happened, I'd probably still be married and getting laid once or twice a year. Instead, we split up (amicably) and now I'm having lots of lovely post-marital sex.
I didn't bother responding to this survey. There are too many factors to take into consideration make it a simple "would you rather."
FWIW, I suggest a third option: would you stay in a marriage where one (or both) spouses don't communicate their needs and make unilateral decisions that affect both partners?
I think this is a great survey, and one whose structure should be replicated to provide utilitarian answers (or guidance) on a range of questions where we have to decide whether the pain to person A outweighs the benefit to person B. Another that immediately comes to mind is how much prison we would undertake to avoid being victimized by a certain crime. Find an empirical answer to how much of that crime prison deters or otherwise prevents, and, boom, you have an utilitarian maximum sentence for each crime
I don't enjoy false dichotomies, abstained.
Doesn't matter, I'd cheat on my partner in either case.
Would I rather cut my hand off? Or cut my foot off?
Hmmm... geez, tough one.
I feel like this poll is directed at the very small number of cases where Dan might counsel someone to both cheat and not tell the other person about it. Generally, Dan's advice is for the soon-to-be-"cheater" to tell his or her partner that the current situation is untenable and that he/she will need to start getting his/her sexual needs met outside the relationship.
"Society" hasn't said living in a sexless marriage is 'no big deal' since the 70s. Individuals themselves still decide it's a worthwhile trade-off for whatever form of security they're getting from the relationship, but television, films, peers, therapists, and advice columnists mostly all agree it's a problem to be dealt with.
I was on the receiving end of being cheated on and I would have far preferred a sexless marriage. After I asked for a divorce my ex informed me that he had been seeing another woman. Note: 1) We were having sex between 1-3 times a week and 2) We were in counseling and he never mentioned the other woman. 3) He claimed that even though he set up a good cover story as to why he wouldn't be home at least one night a week, he also told me that both he and the other woman were too honorable to actually have be having sex.

As to why would I rather have been in the sexless marriage? Because then I would have had some control over the situation. If my ex wasn't giving me enough sex, I could decided if masturbation would be enough; I could have told he that I couldn't live without the sex and tried to go to counseling to see if that could change. Or I could have stated flat out that I couldn't live that way and if we couldn't reach some kind of accommodation then yes, I would have my needs taken care of elsewhere. Instead I found out that he was going to another woman and telling her what a failure I was while I tried to fix other problems in our marriage, ones I thought were more pressing.

I know there are reasons why people don't want to get a divorce OR "can't" get a divorce, but letting the spouse think the relationship is acceptable is an awful betrayal. It lets YOU stay in the marriage and get your needs met, while they think everything is okay.

NOTE: I know there are exceptions to every rule and in a few cases the only choice is to look outside the marriage (spousal illness, fear of losing children) , but as a general rule I think some people convince themselves that they could not get a divorce even if that would be better for their partner. If your partner has said having sex with someone else is something I can't tolerate, then they get to make that choice. I don't think you get to have the sex while enjoying the benefits of the marriage.
Answering yes to the second question brings integrity into the equation. That 'yes' is yes to a lot more than infidelity.
What a stupid poll.

QUESTION: Would you rather...
1) Try to fuck a rabid bobcat while playing "Dixie" on a flute"
2) Eat a platter of fried porcupine penises (without any ketchup)?

So hard to choose!
The answer would also likely depend on whether the higher or lower libido partner is answering. Assuming most relationships aren't ENTIRELY sexless (probably more like once or twice a year) then of course the lower libido will go w the first choice and the higher the second.
Why would I be in a supposedly monogamous relationship in the first place?
Option 1 wouldn’t happen (I’d leave or unilaterally open the marriage before the 10 years were up) and Option 2 would be devastating. So neither.

I think the difference between the options is that in the first, you know there’s an issue so you can act. You have agency. In the second, you are deprived of agency.

I get a certain amount of attention from married men whose sexual needs are not being met within the marriage but who love their kids and want to stay married and therefore lie to their wives. They really do not take kindly to my pointing out that their wives deserve the option of dumping their asses and that they are depriving them of the information they need to make informed decisions.
I voted for sexless marriage too, for many of the same reasons @19 illustrates. And I have a high sex drive and am polyamorous-ish. I just want to know what my partner is up to. I want to know what he's thinking about important issues, like love and sex and our relationship. If he's "cheating,*" he's lying as well (about some really important stuff) and I wouldn't want to be with a liar.
I think we all agree that this is very much a false choice. Hardly anyone HAS to cheat, they just are good at making excuses for it. It's selfish. I actually think it's a little worse than denying your partner sex (which is terribly bad behavior as well), because like @19 explains, the cheated-on partner isn't given a choice how to deal with it (because he or she doesn't know).
* by "cheating" of course I mean not acting in accordance with whatever level of monogamy was agreed upon by both of us.

I voted for the first option as well as that's kinda what i am in now!! For many many reasons I'm in it. I had a bf and a husband and nether of them truly liked the situation and wanted it to be strictly monogamous so i had to stick with my husband because of my kids. Their relationship with their father is more important right now than chasing an orgasm. It was a freaking tough decision but that's life. Anyways, i wouldn't want to be lied to for 10 years that is fucking bullshit.
Team cheater. Looking good for us so far. Interesting to hear the perspectives from the other side though.
Another condition might be added: "...knowing that by preferring one of these, you are opening the door to the other one coming true."
@25 I decided as you do, despite also being high-libido and poly-ish. Partly a devil I know thing (it might actually have been ten years, I don't really want to do the math), but mostly what you said! My heart is with Alison at @24 though: I would never put up with the sexless bullshit again!

@18 I disagree. I was in a sexless marriage and felt the weight of 'you shouldn't care' weigh me down pretty strongly. Maybe part of that came from my spouse, but it felt like a lot of it came from societal attitudes.
I would rather be sexually unfulfilled than be lied to. Dishonesty is my deal breaker.
I'm with @22: the high-libido partner already knows the frustration of being less than fulfilled and likely fears past performance predicting future returns.

While the low-libido partner gets it whenever they want - they can snap their fingers and have an eager sexual partner, but they may have fears that not doing this icky sex thing very often is causing their partner to think about straying. So the cheating spouse is a bigger fear for them.

That said, we have a few exceptions already posted (@25 and @29).
I'd take the good sex one;box2, as long as a massage a week was thrown in.
I'm with @30. I also think that the number of people saying that this poll is stupid is a sign that the poll is actually quite clever. You are being forced to look at the problem from both sides.
An online poll of Stranger readers will be subject to significant selection bias.
The question assumes that people only cheat out of desperation, after suffering for years without sex and after trying everything to have more sex within their marriage. After years of communication, counselling and sexy underwear.

But many times that's not why people cheat. They do it because they're selfish or bored or because they want to hurt their spouse or because they're jealous or petty.
Sublime @7: That's not the right way to phrase the poll either, because it's "would you rather be the asshole or be the one who married the asshole." The same person isn't going to be in the position of being the one who wants the sex or the one who doesn't want the sex.

I agree the re-re-revised question was still phrased poorly, though. Option A implies a substandard, if not nonexistent, sex life; Option B does not imply anything about the sex life. Option B leaves the possibility that you had a perfectly fine sex life, but your partner cheated anyway. So I picked B. Because depending on the outcome of the question "did you at least use a condom," I'd find cheating forgivable and a handy excuse to go get mine back with the next -- or current -- person I fancied. Sauce for the goose!

And yes, Option A would just not happen for me. I would leave. Ricardo nails it @10.
Both marriages are doomed, might as well be in the one where sex still happens.
The pain when one faces those ten years of one's life would be about the same.
Box1; a waste of time.
Box2; a waste of trust.
Whenever I read "Let's settle this question once and for all!" I visualize the writer is that blond girl from Addams Family Values, who can't believe everyone doesn't get excited by Disney or wholesome white protestant goodness.
I am so confused about how I'm supposed to vote. One would be horrible, but I don't see how two makes up for one at all. I'm going to sleep. Hopefully someone will explain this in fewer than five emails.
I am not at all sure what question this survey would answer. It seems like, would you rather 1) have a painful twinge in your leg that causes you to limp for 10 years, or 2) no pain for 10 years but then you get hit by a sledgehammer in the knee, breaking your leg. The choice between slow, continuous, gradually deteriorating pain or extreme, sudden, and traumatizing injury pain. (I am not sure how the choices are pain-to-me vs. pain-to-partner...either way, partner is suffering. Or am I supposed to choose hypothetical partner's preferred style of torture, too?)

I have no idea how to answer. I wouldn't like either but it's the "being in a monogamous relationship for 10 years" itself that is the sticking point, something I have never done and is hard to picture. How to choose between two disastrous outcomes that seem to be fairly common results of attempts to be monogamous by people who are either naturally polygamous or naturally asexual... It baffles me. (Also, why is someone who does not want sex for 10 years considered monogamous? Doesn't that mean you have sex with one person only? So taking out the "sex" part of the definition and the "one person" reduced to no person, you just have "only" ...which appears to me to be non-ogamous... So I don't really know what "sexless monogamy" is, sounds like an oxymoron.
Squidgie @40: It seems despite several attempts, "a monogamous relationship in which your sexual needs were not being met" leaves ambiguity. The premise is a sexless relationship, but there are many ways in which one's sexual needs might not be met. For instance, if your partner only consents to sex once a month and you'd like it at least every other day, your relationship is not sexless, but your needs are not being met. If you're kinky and your partner refuses to indulge you or let you get your kink needs met elsewhere, likewise. If you're bisexual and want to occasionally play with the gender that your partner is not, you might be getting loads of hetero sex but (all of) your needs are not being met. Sacrificing some of one's sexual needs may be preferable to being cheated on. There's just too much "it depends" involved.
In as much as all survey questions are based on unknowable hypotheticals, I think the question is brilliant. It makes as much sense as would you vote for Candidate X or Candidate Y in the primary when none of us know how either candidate will fare in the general election or will be able to keep campaign promises or what decisions will be made in the future when the possibilities for the future keep changing in unknowable ways. I'm thinking hard about my answer to whether tis better to be cheated on or to cheat. I keep coming back to option #3, leave the relationship while stating why: There's no satisfying sex here so I'm moving out and taking my chances elsewhere.
Squidgie@40: excellent analogy. As a haver of both types of physical pain, this helps explain why I chose B. Acute injury pain has an end point; once it happens you can take action to treat it; and you generally get more sympathy from society. Chronic pain grows, and you have little control over it.

Where the analogy falls down is that with option B you might look back and recast your happy life as a flawed one, but one doesn't necessarily have to react that way.
Agree with "sexless monogamy" being an oxymoron. Sexless fidelity, perhaps -- fidelity meaning not cheating. I do like the word nonogamy for not being allowed to fuck anyone other than the person you're currently not fucking.
Dumb poll. I didn't vote.

I was in a marriage where celibacy was imposed on me. It was highly painful. I didn't cheat. I am divorced. I will never enter a monogamous relationship again. If that imposes celibacy on me then so be it. I'm very happy being alone now. See the difference?
I am lucky - and maybe unusual? - in that while I love sex and I'm always (well, usually) dtf, I experience my libido as more a desire than a need. I don't seem to get the going-crazy feeling that people here describe during dry spells. I once would have thought that was a gender difference, but would have been wrong about that, based on the Savage Love commentariat.

Long way of saying, I'd definitely rather experience a low-sex or even sexless (but otherwise happy) marriage than be cheated on. I've been cheated on, and I've been in a sexless relationship, and I know which is worse for me.
All the possible fiddling and re-fiddling of the question; if the daily refreshers were good, Rumpole could make his cross-examination of this witness last a month.
If those are the options, I pick, and indeed have picked "c. Spend ten years alone, barring the occassional small appliance." It's not so bad, considering the pain of both a and b.

The poll implies that other needs are met by one's partner; I imagine that if I were offered a partner who would meet all my other physical, intellectual, and emotional desires, and the price of admission was either no sex with anyone other than myself for ten years or finding out about the occasional indiscretion, I would sign up immediately.

The trouble is, I have a hard time (informed by experience) imagining these scenarios occurring in a vacuum. A partner who deprives one of sex for years on end is usually emotionally abusive. A partner who cheats is by definition dishonest; often takes advantage of his or her partner in a million other tiny ways; and barring a brief flare-up around the start of the affair, often withholds sex/foreplay/affection from his or her established partner, either as a sulk or because it feels hollow or like cheating on the new kid in the bed. And the options given don't even take into account that both hypothetical spouses probably feel pretty trapped and hopeless themselves. So no. The only way to win is not to play.

Postscript/ aside: # 9, Slartibartfast, porn/erotica/slashfic are all a blast when used consensually within/aside a sexually fulfilling partnership. Don't knock it until you've tried it (but the usual crowd knows this well).. Go on, read a steamy romance scene out loud with your partner or perform oral sex on your partner as they look at pornography that makes his or her pupils dilate...
Would you rather...

1. Be satisfied with having less than 100% of your sexual desires fulfilled?

2. Cheat on your partner, live with the guilt and shame and constant need to lie and hide, and still not have 100% of your sexual desires fulfilled?

No matter what, you're always going to have to "settle" to some extent. If you can't accept the terms, and your partner won't agree to change them, end the relationship.

@36 / BiDanFan: I'm not exactly clear as to how you would have constructed this poll, or even if you would have changed it at all. I do get that no one would be in both roles, but assume that we are being asked to put ourselves in the shoes of those people. At any rate, as a poll this is fine in so far as it asks its own question, which some people in the comments are obviously responding to, even though it is not directed at the situation that Dan discusses, and that sparked JOE's thoughts.

I agree with @40 / Squidgie that the term monogamy suggests that the couple is engaging in sex. Obviously, Dan believes that a monogamous commitment ends at the point where one partner decides they no longer want sex. I agree. That's a very different circumstance from @19 / percysowner who was having sex with her partner 1 to 3 times per week, but her partner was regularly having sex with another woman. That's rank cheating, without cause.

But unilaterally ending your partner's sex life is cheating. You are cheating them out of the sex life that you explicitly and implicitly promised when marrying them and asked for a monogamous commitment. And as many of the letter Dan receives attests, many of these marriages are entered into (sometimes foolishly) under false pretenses. Either sex occurs regularly until shortly after marriage, or promises of additional sex after marriage are unfulfilled. But in any event what's unclear is why a partner who decides that they no longer want sex with anyone should feel any pain at the thought of their partner having sex with someone else. As Dan posits, if sex is so unimportant that someone shouldn't mind having their sex life unilaterally ended, then why should doing this meaningless, unimportant thing with someone else be a problem or cause someone pain.

@44 BiDanFan

"Sexless fidelity" would only apply if both parties agreed to celibacy at the outset. Imposing celibacy on someone is cheating, morally identical to stepping out. In no way are you being faithful to the basis of your union.

Also, I love the underlying assumption of the poll: that you must choose between two kinds of unhappiness. As several others have pointed out, this is a false dichotomy. You don't choose to be surprised that your mate cheated on you. You don't choose to have celibacy imposed on you. That's contradictory. JOE has a morbid fascination with misery and is really reaching with this poll.
Sublime @50: I guess what I would have done is say:
Q1. Assume that you are married and for some reason your sex drive vanishes. Would you prefer that your partner leave you, or stay with you and have sex with other people behind your back?

Q2. Assume that you are married and your partner's sex drive vanishes. Do you believe it is kinder to them to stay and cheat discreetly, or to leave?

I completely agree with your second paragraph.
*Third paragraph, I can read but I can't count...
Those are some pretty shit options.
No opinion on the poll, just need to respond to commenters:

@24 Alison Cummins--it pains me to disagree with your lovely self but I think you are being flip about the pain of divorce for the children, and the parents who then only see their children half-time! As the former kid in that situation I endorse the "keep it a secret and keep living with your kids" approach.

On that note @1 and @3--my parents divorced only once I was an adult, and then my mom told my dad that we kids were the product of an affair. He (who had had affairs of his own) skipped the drama and we proceeded as ever--father and two adult children. We have a great relationship, which he also enjoys, and would not be enjoying if he had decided that it was a catastrophe.
Based on the rationale, I think Joe's question might be more to the point if s/he asked,

* If you knew that the consequence of denying your partner sex (all sex, enough sex, GGG sex... your pick) was that s/he would cheat on you, would you choose

a) to improve sex with your partner
b) to be left alone and have your partner seek fulfillment elsewhere
milkshake @55,

I’m sure you’re right. My flip reasoning is as follows:

In my own case, I don’t have kids. So my walking or unilaterally opening the marriage wouldn’t affect them.

In the case of the “discrete” gentlemen who contact me: if keeping the marriage together for the sake of the kids is so important, surely the wives/mothers recognize that? He’s ready to stay with the mother of his children and the heart of his family even though she doesn’t meet his sexual needs. Why wouldn’t she be willing to compromise too, and keep the family together even though it means dealing with his stepping out?

If she’s not willing to compromise, if the stability of the kids‘ home is not worth the humiliation of putting up with a wandering husband even for the short or medium term, there’s more going on than mismatched libido. He knows that too, because he knows she’d kick him to the door immediately, given the first excuse. Which is why he’s lying to her, because he mostly likes his life the way it is. Which hints that the marriage is based on various forms of coercion and is maybe not the greatest model for the kids. (See Already Dumped Motherfucker @48.)

This seems all nice and fair until one imagines a lied-to wife who would like to be all sensible and enlightened about things and keep the family together, but wouldn’t be able to cope with the jealousy.

Has anyone been in this situation? A relationship that both parents would have preferred to keep bumbling along for the sake of the kids, but that was dissolved by the discovery of spousal infidelity? Where undiscovered spousal infidelity would have been preferable? I’m interested in the perspective of the cheated-on spouse who couldn’t cope with the jealousy even though everything else was still going fine-ish.
@48: I enjoy tumblr's obsession with Hannibal slash. Oh Mads, it's never that "kind of party" ;_;
OMG, my siblings and I SO wanted our parents to get a divorce. They were not happy at all. Their staying together because of us was a guilt-wrenching nightmare.
I guess there's a right-way and a wrong-way to do it.
Alison @57 great question. I too would love to get that perspective.
@57 Alison - I've sort of been there. In my case, I specifically told my (ex) spouse never to stay just for the kids because that wasn't enough for me, and he said no, he wouldn't, but he told the other woman/women something different. And he used the infrequent sex line even when we were having frequent sex (like 2-3 times per week). And the issue for me was not jealously but broken trust.
FutureCatLady, were you the one who discussed opening your marriage and your ex-husband said no, and you later found out that he had secretly opened his side of it anyway? I recalled that story when thinking of instances of cheating that would be absolute, unforgivable dealbreakers for me.
@55 As an unmarried hetero woman, I agree with @24 Alison's approach of pointing out to extramarital sex-seeking, lying married men that they are doing their wives a disservice. We are not saying "you should get divorced if you want to have sex with someone other than your wife, no matter what the damage to your kids." We are saying, "wow, you regularly lie to the person you stood up with before god and everybody and promised to be sexually exclusive with, but, you think you are trustworthy enough for me to have sex with. Not going to happen. Go away now." If that helps the person recognize the CPOS within themselves and therefore helps his marriage (by ending or improving it), that's cool. If not, at least I haven't gotten myself tangled in his web of lies. Telling a guy that he is obviously not available despite his claim that he is, is not the same as telling him he should be available. (In most cases, this isn't a guy you'd have anything to do with in the first place, so I don't get your jump from "I won't fuck you if you're married and lying" to "you should get divorced." Even if a single woman in some situation did mean that, it's still the guy's responsibility to prioritize his children, not the duty of the random single woman he is hitting on.)
I don't usually tell married men that they should tell their wives that they are (trying to) sleep around. I just ask to meet their wives to ask for myself if they indeed have an open relationship. If they don't, or seem shocked, or tell me it's a DADT thing, it's a no go for me. (Personally I don't have confidence in the DADT arrangement, unless I know her and know it to be true, I think it most likely that he is lying... To me now, not just to her.) I might then deliver Alison's line about how the wife deserves to know. Usually by then, though, the lying CPOS types have lost interest. They are so baffled by the idea of conducting sexual relationships honestly, of not trying to fool women into fucking them/staying married to them, that it rapidly becomes clear we are not a match.
@52 BDF, your rewording makes the difference between the two choices whether you would prefer to lie or be lied to in a supposedly monogamous marriage. I would be firmly in the neither camp, and wonder why anyone would want to be married if it requires living with someone you can't trust.
@56 S&V, with your rewording, I would choose both. If I no longer wanted sex, I would try to find a compromise that would suit us both, and, keep my sexual activity minimal and encourage partner to find other outlets.
I guess it's hard to make a choice while picturing a sad marriage without communication. The whole thing makes me glad to be single.
FutureCatLady @62,

That’s awful. I’m so sorry.

I was thinking of the opposite scenario: where you’d have been okay with hobbling along, and in theory with your partner’s stepping out if that’s what it took, but in practical terms you couldn’t manage the jealousy.

How about, your partner approaches you and says their sexual needs aren’t being met. That this is a huge problem for them but they would prefer to stay together and raise your children together and simply outsource the sex. You say okay because it seems like the logical thing, but in practice you go crazy when your partner is out on a date. You try to talk yourself through it because in other ways your partnership is pretty great. Your jealousy proves an implacable enemy. Ultimately you separate even though that isn’t the first choice for either of you. Would it have been better for your partner to cheat?
Squidgie @65: Well, that's the point behind every poll question that's been proposed. The answer to all of them is "neither!"
@66, I actually think maybe that was more the question the poll was trying to get at. "Would it have been better for your partner to cheat?" My answer would still be "no" but I think I would be in the minority on this one as well.
Interesting poll. Lots of dodging ("I pick the third alternative" and "I wouldn't be in that position."). Lots of complaining that two simple alternatives don't capture the nuances of individual situations.

I would choose the first alternative because I would rather feel angry and frustrated than guilty.
@4: "No question. If you're not getting any, you're constantly wondering what's wrong with you or your junk and that's gonna stick with you into the next relationship. If you're being cheated on, the other guy's just an a-hole and you can be glad to move on."

It could just as easily be flipped around. If you're not getting any, it could be that your partner just isn't into sex that much, or is closeted, or has a medical issue, or any number of other factors. You'd have to be the type that takes everything personally to assume it was something wrong with you.

And oftentimes, people who are cheated on will wonder if they weren't enough, or if they drove the other person away, or if they could have done something different to change the outcome.

I'm all for agency. Nobody's forcing new to stay in a sexless marriage. I'll leave before it gets to 10 years. It's a complete false dichotomy.
Me @69 Complete poll reading comprehension fail.

I carefully considered the two alternatives and then misread them. Alternative 1 is addressed to the high-libido partner, while alternative 2 is addressed to the low-libido partner. (More or less.) The two choices are not even approximately disjoint.

The question I answered was: Given that you've been in a sexless marriage for 10 years, would it be better to (1) stay faithful or (2) cheat? This is a true, if simplistic, dichotomy.
Alison @66 I think that situation calls for some after-the-fact lying on both parts: you agree the open marriage is not working, high-libido (HL) promises to stop going outside; low-libido (LL) accepts that as if it's true. HL uses good partner selection, condoms & frequent testing to keep LL pretty safe from disease. LL doesn't snoop in HL's phone, email, or gym bag.

It's like when the wife can't handle her husband watching porn, so he falsely promises not to, and she chooses not to snoop and uncover the lie.
Yup, it's a false choice. JOE's second choice conveniently and conspicuously omits the fact that the cheated-upon spouse embodied by Choice #2 spent those ten years ignoring the sexual needs of the neglected spouse embodied by Choice #1. There is a level of culpability inherent in Choice #2 that JOE simply does not want to acknowledge. You do not get to, on the one hand, ignore your spouse's needs as unimportant, and on the other, get mad at them for seeking this this thing that you find too trivial to bother with elsewhere. Either it is important or it is not; it cannot be both. Trying to have it both ways makes you a selfish, hypocritical asshole. Frankly your pain is deserved if you have the bad fortune to have it rubbed in your face that your spouse is outsourcing what you asserted exclusive responsibility for and then abandoned.

The choices should more properly read,

Would you rather:

a) Spend ten years in a monogamous relationship in which your sexual needs were not met or...

b) Spend ten years ignoring your spouse sexually, only to discover that your partner had been unfaithful to you.

When you put it that way, it is entirely clear what a bullshit position JOE is trying to defend.
Of course there are all kinds of situations in which the marriage is _not_ sexless but one spouse is unfaithful anyway. However, plug that scenario into the poll and it is immediately apparent that Option A loses much of its validity as a vote choice It is self-cancelling to stipulate that your sexual needs are not being met when they _are_ being met on something approaching a reasonable schedule

There are nuances, such as sexual schedules that, while still a disconnect, fall more into the range of "normal" (example: he wants it once a week, she wants it twice a day); or particular fetishes. But still the fundamental dichotomy is of one person wanting to ignore the sexual need of their partner, and then getting angry when that which they prefer to not be bothered with gets done with someone else who actually enjoys it.

If you can't be bothered, then you don't get to be bothered.
EricaP @72,

So that would be deciding that yes, cheating is preferable... and would have been as a first strategy?

Has anyone here been there?
@75 Alison - So in your scenario, the assumption is that the cheated upon spouse never finds out? Or are you asking if it feels better for the cheated upon spouse to be (1) consulted first, possibly resulting in marriage ending jealousy, (2) blissfully ignorant, never finding out the truth, or (3) blissfully ignorant for a while only to learn the truth a little later?

It's hard for me to address these hypotheticals because I have an obvious bias or two. The first is that it's not possible to know if the cheating partner is being neglected or is wanting to keep his partner faithful while playing the field (sometimes motivated by the *cheating* partner's inability to handle feelings of jealousy), and the second is when the risk of discovery is not factored into the equation.

I am not anti-DADT as I know there are some people who would prefer not to know, and I am personally somewhat flexible about disclosure of rare and isolated incidents, but mostly I expect transparency so I can problem solve and make informed life decisions.
@63 BiDanFan - That was me. But to clarify, I did not introduce the possibility of open marriage because it was my preference. I raised it as a potential solution to some tension that was building between us during a relatively short-term libido dip at the onset of menopause. He was beginning to feel unwanted and I felt the dynamic was beginning to threaten our marriage, so I was trying to problem solve. He said no, he wasn't interested in open marriage, he just wanted to feel more desired by me, so we went to work on getting my libido back up and actually had success. I later discovered he was having extramarital sex before/during/after the libido dip occurred. So, yes...the marriage was open already, I just didn't know it.
Alison @75, to me, there's a big difference between my partner keeping me completely in the dark (cheating as a first strategy) versus us coming to an arrangement where I know on some level that it's happening, probably, but I agree not to snoop and uncover his lies. Then we're in it together, versus him taking me for a fool.
Avast2006 @73
You postulate a couple. One ignores the other's needs, and the other satisfies those needs outside the marriage. Then the question becomes: which of those people would you rather be? That is a very good question.

My take on this is different. I postulate the same couple and ask the person being ignored: do you cheat or not? Another interesting question.

Your version is better and closer to the original poll.
I think the poll results and this discussion have amply proved Dan is right and JOE is wrong about being able to definitively quantify which is more hurtful, being cut off from sex or being cheated on (deservedly or no). The answer depends on the person. And the answer is, if you're doing either of these things, you belong in the DTMFA reject pile.

FutureCat @77: Thank you for clarifying. I don't think it makes a difference to my conclusion. Your husband was unhappy; you offered him a solution of open and honest non-monogamy, and he rejected it in favour of dishonest and potentially unsafe non-monogamy. That's not just a DTMFA, that's a "get a really good lawyer."

In Alison @66's scenario, in the position of the spouse who thought they'd be okay with an open relationship but then discovered they actually weren't, I don't agree it would have been better for the other spouse to have just cheated. Dishonesty is never the preferable option. It was better for them to have attempted to have an honest arrangement. What the LL spouse should then do is modify it to DADT, as Erica @72 says.
It's not black and white. I was in a 12 year relationship and we loved each other very much, but there wasn't a lot of sexual attraction. We broke up, and I've been with someone else for 4 years. Lots of passion for the first 3 and a half years, I still think he's gorgeous, but now I can't fuck him at all because I'm upset about other aspects of the relationship and don't feel emotionally safe. This is worse I think, because I realised we've never liked each other as much as my ex and I. Sexual compatibility and satisfaction doesn't paper over every crack; although we would've broken up long ago if it weren't for the orgasms. I'm in that stage where I know we have to break up but I can't face doing it yet. I still see my ex sometimes on a friendly basis and he's still an amazing person.
Hmm, possibly I answered a different question than what was actually asked.
I wish the choice had been threefold "Would it be more painful to be left by your partner or to have an undersexed relationship or find out they had been cheating?"

That seems dead on it. I have to admit, my view has changed on this, which I did not realize until I inadvertently tripped over a critique of Dan Savage on another website. The writer (and many of the commenters) considered DS fat shaming (in that he considers it part of marriage/ltrs to make an effort to keep in shape for the other person) and bordering on rape culture based on his views of GGG (no one should ever feel obliged to provide sex if they don't want to do so).

I am not sure of DS's view from many years ago. I would assume, like many people, as he has lived, his views have moderated and flexed as well. As I stepped onto the soccer field three days ago, I heard some teenage girls say, "OMG, who are they going to play" "Oh they are the old mom team...." I thought to myself, "Lets see whether you are stepping on the soccer field at age 40 there missies." But its the casual cruelty of youth from inexperience.

And I have grown as well. One of the laments of individuals overweight (of which I am one) is that one of the reasons it can be so difficult to lose weight because food is all around us all the time, and we must eat to live. (Bear with me). Well its just as cavalier to refuse to recognize that people may have a hunger for sex like that as well. We can survive as an organism without sex - I won't put it as high as the hierarchy of needs as sustenance - but its still way up there as one of the innate desires. To be sure, on the individual level, people may want more or less of it, but we should recognize, like food, that it is not strange, unusual or wrong that one person could really need it and failure to have it could lead to a very unhappy person.

So the answer in this critique of DS (the comment had to do with a women not wanting to sleep with her husband, who had gained a massive amount of weight) was that the husband owed her nothing. He wasn't required to keep his body in a certain condition simply for her desire (along with references to the inevitable of gravity). I think it set up a straw man as if DS didn't recognize the inevitableness of gravity. I first grew acquainted with DS through the Lovecast, and in that venue, he absolutely recognizes how crazy it is to expect one partner to look as if he or she remained twenty.

On the other hand, to assume in a marriage or LTR we don't have obligations to one another is also untenable and a fantasy. We expect fidelity. We expect honesty. Aren't these obligations. Replace the word body with anything else... What? the wife isn't expected to keep her body only for the husband?

And that is where I have moved. I could not stay in a sexless marriage, period. Not for ten years. I've been there. Not in a sexless marriage, per se, but in a marriage where the sex was treated as short shift, and the answer is, "live like this, or divorce me."
@11 ShimmyDooWop We have matching stories. I really can't say which is worse.
@DarkHorse, 85: It does feel to me sometimes like we have overcorrected to a position where no one "owes" anybody anything. I suppose that's technically true, but it's not a good basis for a relationship. It seems to me about courtesy and respect. You (the generic you) may not owe it to your partner to look like you did when you were twenty, but you owe it to them to try to present them with a body they can still be attracted to. And similarly, they owe it to you to be understanding and patient if that is a difficult thing for you to do. If there's acting in good faith on both sides, mutual goals (including happiness with each other) will be much easier to reach.

In other words, I agree with you.
@84/6: Pretty much. You don't owe it to your partner to look like you did when you were 20, but you kind of do owe it to them to refrain from burning down the house you both bought. There's a spectrum.
the wording of the question is flawed because both answers seem to reflect a different person in the answer. The first, by the person with the higher libido, and the second by the person with the lower one.
To me, this is a "Sophie's Choice" kind of poll in that both choices are really bad. Plus it's flawed. It's seems like Joe is biased toward the first choice - and there just isn't enough context to answer accurately. If there was cheating, were sexual needs still totally being met during that time? Is the cheating a brief one-time thing, or systematic over the course of the entire 10 years?
I don't think it will be very valid because the issue in the first choice is 'dealable'. You can try to fix the sexless marriage problem, you can jack off, you can open the relationship, you can divorce etc. you are not actually locked in for a decade. In the second case there is no dealing because the 'damage' has already occurred in secret.

But the real problem with Dans standard thing about this issue is this: human nature. People minimize the hurt they cause to to others in their mind, and they maximize the hurt done to themselves by others. While I have zero doubt that there are people who need to cheat to keep their shit together I think the last person capable of making the assessment of justifiability is the person who is thinking of cheating. Have they really tried to 'fix' their sexless relationship? Have they really let their partner know how negatively it is affecting them? Have they honestly considered moving on to another relationship that provides more of what they want? if it's really no big deal why is it happening in secrecy?

tl;dr: People are great at justifying their selfishness. Asking them to be the only judge of their actions (implicit in a secret arrangement) means that most people will find a justification somehow.
False dichotomy, of course, as JOE notes - if my sexual needs were not being met, I wouldn't endure ten years of marriage. But, given that I don't actually have partnered sex that often anyway, I know I can manage fine without it, and I'd rather that than risking potentially serious STI exposure due to having sex with someone who is having sex with others unbeknownst to me (since not knowing about the other partner(s) at all also means I haven't had conversations about safety related to that, and I wouldn't necessarily trust a deceitful partner to play safe).

Even though I have no emotional investment in monogamy, the pro-con calculus comes down squarely on the side of me knowing more/accurate information, which is the sexless, non-cheating side. But becasue I have no emotional investment in monogamy, my thought process to answer the (false dichotomy) question doesn't actually tell JOE anything about what ze's trying to test. These results aren't simply not scientifically valid or not generalizable, they're utterly meaningless.
Also, well done Squidgie@40! "Nonogamy" is a brilliant neologism.
I'm largely with Ms Sandi regarding history. If my parents could have lived together for a year, they'd never have married. As it was, it took them 28 years to divorce, and my mother's only lament was putting it off so long.
#9 Slarti – You don't seriously think that only those in unfullfilling relationships are into porn/erotica, do you?

Yeah, I think someone thought they'd constructed another Kobiyashi Maru, that wasn't close to getting any sort of definitive answer, because this issue doesn't lend itself to definitive answers. Just one issue being different, like one person being effectively crazy and willing to do irrational destructive things, or one of the couple having a degenerative progressive disease, changes the whole equation. Any number of people (of either gender) have commented over the years here that they were unable to extricate themselves from a relationship for months, or even years, because the other person promised to make their life hell if they did. As Bi has said, there're too many 'it depends's' involved.
The whole 'make two choices, but each one from the different partner' is less a triumph of rhetorical craft and more a way to make the the poll a bust. We're not 'seeing the problem from both sides,' we're given an artificial choice wherein each partner only has one way to act.
As always when we're talking cheating/stepping out on a partner, I think there's (potentially) a big gulf between what we say, what we do, and what we might do if the starts align a certain way.
Plus a certain amount of (in Samuel L Jackson voice), motherfucker, the fuck you think would happen, if you went on that way while presenting certain choices as alternatives? Wait, guess this is what Ricardo said at #10. And Avast at #73.
The situation referenced in #84, where people on the other board concluded 'the husband didn't owe her anything,' well, that husband better expect some Sammy in his ear; maybe his wife can't supply paperwork, but 'hey man, I don't owe you' is a really bad foundational idea for a relationship and if he's banking on that to keep her loyal, I say good luck.
Not to go too far down this rabbit hole, but the 'look like you did at 20' is a strawman. First of all, many people, myself among them, didn't really have it together at 20 as far as self-care went, but learned as we went; the whole 'when I was 20' implies that physical degradation is inevitable with time, whereas we actually have a lot of agency that way, and thru both advances in medicine and exercise science, get more all the time. Dan likes to say on the podcast that 'age makes ruins of us all,' and he really needs to retire that one, even the oldest buildings can be maintained. I spent many years in health clubs where testosterone-laden hardbodied young trainers salivated over members who were 40+, there's nothing magical about age 20.
People who would be grossly insulted if a stranger questioned whether they maintained their hair, nails, or teeth, all stuff you can sit in a chair and pay to have a stranger keep up for you, will often write off the rest of their body with a 'hey, whaddya, I'm old. Like, 35!'

Although personal anecdotes are illuminating, they're not always instructive: for every five or ten 'My mom and dad stayed together through the storm, it was really best for us kids,' there's another five or ten 'The two of them made each other miserable, and we little ones soaked it up like helpless psychic sponges.'
#57 Allison – Can't reason based on 'surely,' whether it's a man or a woman, Shirley can be a crazy irrational bitch, who acts completely against her own interests. Anytime we say, this situation is quite clear, surely the other party will be, y'know, rational, and do if not the right thing, the smart thing, things can explode. People do irrational shit all the time; they have irrational expectations, beliefs, hopes for the future, and we're all quite good at finding rationalizations for whatever they are. Someone upthread mentioned 'standing up before God and everyone else,' I must admit to flashing on the Zen parable of the old woman and the hermitage this one time for my own ends..
To your question, the reasons the less-sexual person in a relationship might not be willing 'to compromise too' are manifold: they always thought sex was dirty/unnecessary, they're infuriated their partner doesn't find them enough, they think it's against the will of god/whoever...lots of stuff.

DarkHorse, if you're starting soccer, you really must check out Dick Hartzell's vids on ankle prehab, on Youtube, and get a medium/green Jumpstretch band to do it with. And get a pair of extra-large furniture sliders ($10 for 4 at Lowe's, you'll only need two) for lateral exercises like side squats.
I am totally pro-honesty myself.

DADT after the fact I don’t think makes sense, because if jealousy makes you that unable to tolerate an honestly-acknowledged date, then you aren’t actually going to truly believe your spouse isn’t cheating on you. Every time your spouse is late or unreachable or goes out with friends, you’re going to be wondering if they are cheating, and feeling crazy for wondering.

However, the “discrete” gentlemen who contact me for sympathy and entertainment state that they are virtuously lying to protect their children’s family. That only makes sense if either:
1) The wives don’t care about the children and do not take their interests into account when making significant decisions; or
2) The wives would be unable to do what they thought was best if they knew the truth, so by lying to them they are supporting the wives’ agency and simply enabling them to do what they would want to do.

Option 1) can’t be the issue because who would go to such effort to keep an intact family with a parent who didn’t care about the kids?

Hence my question. If nobody here can report the experience of having been told the truth and wishing they had been lied to so that life could go on as before, then I will hazard a guess that Option 2) might be bullshit.
@milkshake #55: As another child with divorced parents, and like Sandiai@59 I say leave as soon as you know you're unhappy. Enduring a miserable home life because one or both parents is miserable in the marriage, as I had to do leading up to the divorce, was far worse than having divorced parents. Which was actually a total non-issue for me; part of my difference here is almost certainly that I cannot fathom why anyone finds their parents divorcing to be painful or troubling in the first place. I can understand how additional material deprivation might result - and be shitty - if one's parents were poor and/or the non-primary-custodial parent was an asshole who didn't sufficiently support zir kids after a divorce, but still not how divorce qua divorce is worse than a bad relationship. Is it just that people think about the question in terms of a choice between a divorce and a good relationship, which isn't actually the choice at all?

@ciods #86: I always have to wonder why people whose relationship hinges on a deep ethical analysis of what any partner owes another are even trying to save the relationship in the first place. If one hits the point where social coercion is zir default mode of interacting with zir partner, the relationship is already doomed. We absolutely DON'T owe our partners anything, but they don't owe us partnership, either - why people who don't actually like each other or want to be around each other or aren't motivated by a strong desire to make the person they love happy get or stay married (or in other long-term relationships) at all is beyond my comprehension. (In case it's not clear, I think you're absolutely correct.)
Alison @95, so you don't believe in "I promise not to watch porn, you pretend to believe me"?

Denial is a wonderful thing, and it's easier to live in denial if your spouse keeps his outside sex to himself.

I agree it's not for everyone, but I think it works for some.
@86. Agreed. But sometimes people find themselves on a down slope and must crawl their way back through a tangle of resentment.

@87. Bingo.

@94. Cat your advice is timely. I have been playing for several years now straight but this last week after three consecutive days, my right ankle is hurting like a mofo. Shin splint feel. I am going to visit those videos to improve the stretching routine.
@89. Yes. Those points are valid. This is not some scientific study, remember.
In the second choice, I assumed sex was fine. Otherwise, if not: then I'd suspect my partner was cheating.
So my cheating partner is covering their tracks, by making sure I'm satisfied.
Interesting the cheating one got more votes; out of those two choices.
People want sex with their relationships. Like I take milk with my tea and coffee, no sugar.
Totally manipulating the poll to get the answer you want. Both are's just a measure of which is less worse.

As a person who was cheated on, and who was also as unsatisfied as her husband and in an almost sexless marriage, it boils down to communication. We had shitty communication. I stayed faithful, he cheated. But, why? No idea. It could be gender, or some personal baggage that had me "taking the high road" - or just masochism on my part. I still don't know.

Guess what? We're still together. Only now we're talking about our needs/wants/desires, not hiding behind some sort of antiquated idea of what marriage should be. Life is weird and hard and a lot of fun.

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