Thank you for the the work you do. I wrote to you once, years ago, to thank you for giving me the courage to come out as bi to my family. I still appreciate that to no end because it really helped me be who I am.
This question revolves around cheating. I've been with my boyfriend for four years. I love him very very much. I haven't slept with or thought about sleeping with anyone else beyond casual fantasies for most of that time. We haven't had sex in almost a year now. No real reason, partly, I think, because I'm not the happiest I've ever been with my body plus both of our jobs have been incredibly stressful lately. Just all those little things that happen in life adding up and both of us ignoring it.
Recently, I've started thinking about a man I work with. I've known him for over a year, we used to work quite closely together on the same team but have since changed roles slightly. He has a girlfriend, they're quite serious, live in different countries but see each other as often as they can. He's kind of an a-hole, but I'm attracted to him. He's a nice person but has some small-town mentalities that would put me off a relationship with him. I don't think I wouldn't want to be with him beyond a fling, I've just been thinking about sleeping with him a lot lately. No opportunity has arisen, I've just been trying to decide what I would do if it did. And I wanted your opinion—more than that, Dan, I wanted the opinion of a bunch of strangers on the internet haha.
Am I a monster? I don't think so, I haven't done anything I don't know that I would do anything I just feel that I need more opinions. I asked a friend of mine but she's been cheated on before so she has some serious feelings about the topic. Either way, thank you for all that you do for the community I'm a big fan and you have helped me a lot.
Questioning And Confused
Don't cheat on your boyfriend—at least not yet, QAC.
Go to him and say, "It's been a year since we had sex and while I haven't slept with or seriously thought about sleeping with anyone else in all that time... something is starting to shift and I've found myself daydreaming about a coworker. I expect, after a year without sex, you've probably had a few daydreams or fantasies of your own. So, yeah, we need to talk—obviously—before one or the other or both of us winds up cheating. We've both been stressed out and overworked and I haven't been feeling very comfortable in my own skin and we've taken each other and our sexual connection for granted. But it seems pretty clear to me now that we need to make an effort—a conscious effort—to get back on track sexually."
And in answer to your question, QAC: no, you're not a monster. Or if you are a monster, well, you're no where near alone. With the possible exception of the asexual and/or dead, everyone has contemplated cheating. Sometimes it's a sign you need to end the relationship you're in, sometimes it's a sign you need to make an effort to reconnect with your partner, sometimes it's a sign you need to open up the relationship, sometimes it's not a sign of anything at all—other than you're alive, you have eyes, and perfectly natural urges—and sometimes it's a combo of two or more of the above "sometimes." (It's possible to reconnect with your current partner while simultaneously opening up the relationship—not only possible, but a common enough occurrence to be a cliché; indeed, it's a plot point on Wanderlust.)
Before you cheat, before you talk with your friends about cheating, before you read through the comments... you need to talk with your boyfriend about this sexless year, how you're feeling, what he's feeling, and where you go from here.
And a bonus question...
I'm a 35-year-old queer woman. I've been with my husband for 15 years, married for 12, and when it comes to my marriage, I'm tired. We have always been sexually mismatched. I'm kinky with a high libido, he's vanilla and has a very low sex drive. I'm polyamorous, and I do date women on occasion, but he's not comfortable with me seeing men (the infamous one dude rule). My husband is monogamous and refuses even the idea of a special guest star on occasion. Every year at least once, I get fed up and demand that he put some work into our marriage so that I'm not constantly feeling sexually frustrated and rejected. I cry, he says feels terrible, and for a week or two, things improve. He makes an effort to have more sex and be more affectionate. Then things taper off with excuses of being busy and tired. He prefers sex in the morning, when he has energy. I find that exhausting and unnecessarily restrictive. (With a small child who gets up at 5:30 AM on weekdays, and me working online very early mornings on weekends, if we limit sex to mornings, sex never happens). But if we have sex in the evenings after the kid is in bed, he can't always get it up, keep it up, or get off. (I know sex doesn't always have to be intercourse, but I'd like it to be a good portion of our love life.) I'm in a no-win situation. I made a marriage counseling appointment without his consent, telling him that if he wanted to be married to me, he needed to go to therapy, see a doctor to check his hormone levels, or give up his one dude rule. When he refused all three—he claimed he was willing to see a doctor but "forgot" to make an appointment—I called a counselor.
It's not going great. He "forgets" about our homework (which is literally "spend dedicated time together X times a week") and I'm tired of begging him. I tried to engage him in a "fun game" to texting about his sexual preferences and he answered two of my questions, and consistently "forgot to think about" the third. After three days of reminders, I gave up. It was just another way of being rejected by my husband. I'm not his mother and I shouldn't have to "get in his face" to remind him to pay attention to his wife (which he has specifically suggested that I do). I don't think he even realizes what a deep pit we're in. He seems happy, or at least complacent, and acts surprised literally every time I bring up that I feel like we're struggling.
So what do I do now? We have a young kid and are financially dependent on one another. Do I "forget" about his one dude rule and just cheat? I don't even know if that would make me happier/more at peace or if I'd feel worse. Do I just white knuckle it for the next ten years and walk away? DTMFA?
Tired Of This Shit Already
Do what you need to do to stay married and stay sane.
So, yeah. Cheat. But before you find a dude with whom you'd like violate your husband's "one dude rule," say something like this to your husband: “I’m done trying, I'm done working on our sex life, and I'm done pressuring you to try. I’m not going to leave you, and I don’t want to cheat on you. But I can’t promise you that I’ll be able to resist temptation if an opportunity presents itself."
Then go find that opportunity, TOTSA.
I'll get grief for this response—this is the four millionth time I've given it and I always get grief for—but as I told this guy and so many other guys and gals before him... if the "cheater" isn't cheating a partner out of anything their partner values or desires (like, say, sexual intimacy), then no one has been harmed or deprived and it hardly counts as cheating. It would be better, of course, if we lived in a world where everyone could be perfectly honest, upfront, and rationale about their desires, choices, and behaviors, but we don't live in that world. There are people in relationships like TOTSA's—financially dependent, DNA scrambled together—and working on the relationship hasn't worked and getting out of the relationship isn't a realistic option.
In some cases cheating is the least worst option—and not everyone who gets cheated on is the victim. As the brilliant Esther Perel put it...
There are many ways that we betray our partner: with contempt, with neglect, with indifference, with violence. Sexual betrayal is only one way to hurt a partner. In other words, the victim of an affair is not always the victim of the marriage.