Two Letters: One From a Woman Who Should Cheat, One From a Woman Who Shouldn't Have Cheated

Comments

1

For LW1 Dan doesn't mention the other possibility of a negotiated exception that would allow her to step out a bit. I recognize the odds of the husband agreeing are exceptionally small. She could make the argument that he is satisfied, and she will continue to ensure he is satisfied, placing a priority on what little sexual connection they have, if he allows her this option. It seem unlikely but at least it preserves the relationship AND lets her get hers.

2

"We are not in a place financially to acquire professional/clinical counsel"
- are you in a place financially to acquire a divorce? Most of the options beyond therapy are going to end up costing you quite a lot more in the long run. If you really can't get therapy, I would at least try to open up the conversation at home. It sounds like you guys still like and respect each other, so that's a good start. Three things: It doesn't seem like your husband understands the depth to which this bothers you; it doesn't seem like he's spent much time interrogating his own desire (there's a decent chance during the early child-rearing years he simply decided to shut down that part of his life and since that was post-sexual peak for him, it never came back, whereas you are just on the backside of your sexual peak, libido wise) and thirdly, I would refrain from implying that being rejected 50 times is a big number. Many men in committed relationships would be thrilled if their partner told them no only once a week. Also, try mutual masturbation, where you two just lie in bed and get your own selves off (ideally while connecting verbally/aurally/eyes) and maybe that can open the door to some assisted masturbating and before you know it he'll be fucking your brains out in public at Hedonism XXXIV

3

For letter 2, she might want to contact her HR department as well.

4

Off topic:
I, Ankylosaurus from Savage Love, was quoted in an article about accidental anal sex on Slate and I can't share my joy there without crossing the streams. I was once quoted in the SL reader roundup and now I was quoted on Slate. Time to hang up my skates and call it a career.
https://slate.com/culture/2019/05/booksmart-lesbian-sex-scene-accidental-anal-really.html

5

Thank you for your service, Ankylosaurus! Here's a live link:

https://slate.com/culture/2019/05/booksmart-lesbian-sex-scene-accidental-anal-really.html

6

Hm. I thought my links would be click-able. Learn something new every day.

7

@6 yeah some asshole web developer turned off all tags about a year and a half ago. We ain't even got italics and bolds up in hurrr.

8

L-dub 2, you suck! Now you have to deal. Them's the breaks. To continue on the affair while trying to reconcile... wtf? I hope he breaks up with you so he's spared whatever other selfish self-absorbed bullshit you're going to throw at him the rest of the marriage.

9

L-dub 1, at least one of your 'can't evers' is gonna happen. Best if you actively choose as opposed to miserably letting one happen. Good luck!

10

LW2 STUPID, STUPID, STUPID It is implied that she was having unprotected sex at a time she was trying to get pregnant (presumably by her husband). She is lucky that she didn't pick up something from Todd that she "gifted" to husband. Is she a DRAMA QUEEN? Despite what she says about wanting to reconcile with her husband, is she subconsciously sabotaging her marriage.

Perhaps the fact that you're currently separated will play in your favor; separation is often understood to allow for seeing other people, although your husband surely will be wounded—or have his barely scabbed over wounds ripped back open—when he learns you were fucking Todd during your separation.

In this case, separation DID NOT allow her to see other people. That would have (and probably has) completely ruined any chance at reconciliation. To do the exact thing that brought on this crisis in her marriage is insane. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Lying once was bad enough, but twice, inconceivable (I always loved that running joke from The Princess Bride).

11

I wasn't sympathetic for the first half of CASED's letter. She "didn't make sex a priority" so he may have done what needed to be done in his own head to stay sane (i.e. detached from her, emotionally/sexually); "he rolls over and falls asleep" is just male physiology and not his fault (they both should have insisted on a model of "she comes first"); "He rarely initiates or gives oral sex" is very passive (how about "I sometimes haven't responded to his initiation and don't always insist on him going down on me").

Then in the second half, it sounds like she really is trying now, to no avail. His doctor says "his equipment checks out okay" (or at least, he says the doctor said that). But what are his testosterone levels (i.e. has she seen the lab reports?). I know guys who went from disappointing their middle-aged wives to keeping them satisfied after rubbing gel on their back each day.

12

Even if Todd doesn't tell her husband (if she does it first), there is nothing to prevent him from telling co-workers. Since it is usually against most company policies that fraternization (much less adulterous ones) is at the very least frowned upon, but more commonly grounds for discipline, demotion and/or termination, going to HR may be the worst thing she can do. The simplest solution from company's perspective would be to fire both LW and Todd.

13

As for TTCUMM, too bad all medical examiners are aware of thallium poisoning now. A generation ago, she could have eliminated the jilted lover, Todd, maintained her marriage, and gone on to cheat with some new guy, off him before getting caught, wash, rinse, repeat.

So, yeah, be honest with the husband and give him the choice of continuing with a cheater* or both starting anew - him possibly with a more traditional relationship and her in some swinging / explicitly non-monogamous relationship model.

*I'm not sure that "some people have always had a particular kink and others loved someone with that kink and learned to enjoy it" often applies to cuckolding, but maybe there's a small chance?

14

@13 David in Kenai—I came here to suggest murdering Todd! Glad at least one other person went there. How about tampering with the brakes on his car?

15

This column is about as convincing as one of those YouTube videos made by someone claiming to be a centrist (or a classical liberal) who will say, "See, I criticize both sides."

16

@14: a classic Rockford Files solution!

17

@15 Except Dan really does advise against cheating. Not as often as some would like, but he has always been pretty consistent about when cheating is the best option in his opinion and it's far from a blanket endorsement.

18

Todd is a dick. But the LW lied in a way that now has her getting caught. She either fesses up or leaves the husband. Either way, Todd is a dick and if he persists, as seatackled wrote, report him to HR.

LW is pinched. If the husband is non-responsive, she either needs to divorce him (which she says she does not want to do), see if asking him about an open marriage will change him or give her a hall pass, or just cheat. That's not a rocket science summary, obviously. But the time she is spending feeling bad about herself and him isn't going to improve. It's time to make a change in some way. Just avoid that prick, Todd.

19

CASED, you want a number of goals that appear to be irreconcilable: (i) stay married, (ii) more sex, and (iii) no cheating. The only ways out of this dilemma are to get more sex from your husband or get your husband's approval to have sex with someone else.

With respect to getting more sex, "working" equipment does not sound like a complete medical analysis, particularly, if your husband's sex drive has markedly decreased over the past 20 years. If that is the case, then you need to push for a more thorough medical review. If your husband's libido is naturally low, does he enjoy sex when he accepts your advances, or not? If so, would he commit to having sex two or three times per week after you initiated? Do your husband kiss and cuddle you when neither of you have an expectation that it will lead to sex, or is he never physically affectionate? Could you build in some of this physical affection before sex or outside of sex, and accept that after sex he is going to roll over and go to sleep?

If the optimal amount of sex for your husband is none. Is he willing to let you have sex with other men? If the answer to that is no, and he is unwilling to provide you with a minimum amount of sex, then he is trying to unilaterally end your sex life. In this case, you are not "cheating" by having sex with other men, because you simply cannot cheat him out of something that he does not want.

20

TTCUM, even if you come totally clean to your husband, someone like Todd isn't going to stop trying to find ways to gain control over you, simply to harass you or in the hope that you will start having sex with him again. You or Todd need to leave your place of employment, as I don't see how your marriage moves forward if you are still in close proximity to Todd everyday. If you are at a large corporation, I would speak to someone in HR about Todd's threats, as he may reluctant to risk his job by continuing to harass you or your husband. Hopefully, this gives you breathing room to find a good exit, assuming Todd keeps his job. But if you are at a small place of employment, you may need to consider just resigning.

21

A classical example about why you do not get involved with a co-worker. The potential humiliation for the husband is HUGE. Get a new job, in a new city, as far away from Todd as possible. Unfair? Yes, but LW2 has no one else to blame than herself.

22

The problem with going to HR is that her cheating will become public (common) knowledge. Todd sounds like a self absorbed, entitled, vicious and vindictive (chose an appropriate noun) She always had more at risk than Todd, which is what gave/gives Todd power over her. He obviously doesn't care about the chaos and carnage strewn in his wake.

23

100% disagree with #1. Cheating isn't going to fix your broken marriage - and it is broken. BTW, divorce isn't an option because "forever means forever?" Well, that "forever" included fidelity on your part and him not neglecting you. If you cheat you've broken your wedding vows worse than if you'd divorced, so that's really not an option. Your options are getting an open marriage, getting him to go to some counseling with you or otherwise working to fix your broken intimacy issues, accepting the new status quo, or divorce. Cheating isn't an option - if you have to lie to your spouse to do it, it's not an option.

24

Going to be unpopular here and stick up a bit for Todd. He has been fucked over a bit by LW2. She had a months long affair with him, which I'm presuming was more than just sex and probably had feelings involved, dumped him for husband then came back to him when husband was unhappy. Todd doesn't sound controlling, just hurt, and maybe trying to now do the right thing and not let LW2 continue lying to the husband she wants to get back with. If he was controlling, he would threaten to go to HR. The continued messages to her are more likely just signs he still wants her and (let's be honest) last time LW2 dumped Todd, she ended up going back to him so he's probably just holding out for that.
Only solution- quit your job. Save Todd's feelings, save your husband's, and stop screwing co-workers.

25

@24/Lesbisaurus: "If he was controlling, he would threaten to go to HR." And tell them what exactly? He has nothing to complain about, unless it turns out that TTCUM is his supervisor, and not merely a coworker. Conversely, TTCUM can inform HR that Todd is leveling threats against her, and sexually harassing her. And how exactly is Todd trying to "do the right thing?" When is it ever the moral obligation of a lover to inform someone about your cheating with their spouse? I would say never. The obvious implication is that Todd hopes to quash any reconciliation between TTCUM and her husband. We are agreed as to the reason: Todd wants TTCUM back, but he is going about it coercively, which is why she needs to put a stop to those tactics. No matter how hurt he is, his behavior is wrong. And when you are cheating with a married person, you don't get dumped for their spouse.

26

DTMFA! That was to LW2's poor husband.

27

Good one Ankylosaurus @4. Congratulations.

28

@25- I'd say the same about her. This isn't sexual harassment on his part as much as it's trying to communicate, unless she has repeatedly told him to stop. Plus yes, actually, many people do see that as the morally right thing to do, especially if cheating partner was planning to continue lying, as she was going to do (or if not lie, omit the information).

29

I love how Letter 2 is a cautionary tale to the writer of Letter 1.

Yes, cheating runs the risk that something like Letter 2 will happen. As I've said in comments to previous similar letters, don't technically cheat. Tell your husband that you need sex. If it's not with him, it will be with other people. You'll tell him about it if he wants to know and keep it to yourself if he doesn't. He is also free to have sex with other people if he wants (and I suspect she will prefer to not know). That way, if any of these affairs are exposed, she can't be blamed for cheating, or for not offering her husband the same opportunity to fuck other people that she gets. All the rewards of cheating, none of the guilt.

TTCUMM: What Dan said, plus quit your job and go find a new one.

30

Congrats, Ankylosaurus @4!

Agree that TTCUMM is a worse villain than Todd. Todd is being a manipulative shit, though. He chose to have an affair with a married co-worker. No, her actions weren't fair -- they weren't fair to the husband, but that bit didn't seem to bother Todd so much. Todd, learn a lesson here, go forth and fuck married women no more.

32

@4 about the accidental anal, I haven’t seen the movie but the discussion surfaced a distant memory for me. First time I ever tried to use a tampon... because pads in those days were horrific and required this belt contraption they were attached to... anyway trying to interpret the diagram in the package I tried putting the thing in the wrong hole. It was unsuccessful and uncomfortable and I figured I was doing something wrong but I didn’t know what. I had never found my vagina and didn’t know where it was. Must have been 11 or 12. Discovered my sister’s porn at 14, read Our Bodies, Ourselves (thank you, Boston women’s health collective) cover to cover at 15, so this was a short lived problem. But it is entirely believable that an inexperienced girl who had never used her hands for masturbation might miss on her first encounter.

Today’s letters? Nothing much to say except the inspiration to express my gratitude to the universe that I am not married. So good when it’s good! So terrible when it (all too frequently) is not.

33

M? Anarchist - I've actually had the mirror of this thought when listening to the YT videos of an online acquaintance, whose sincere but inadequate criticisms of the right remind me of efforts like this. He and Mr Savage (both Seattle-based) should meet; they're both quite glib and abrasive, and disagree on about 90% of the topics on which I've heard them both opine.

34

Lesbisaurus @24: if you knowingly screw a married wo/man you really don't get to complain when you're dumped for the spouse. #1, That's the spouse, you're not - are you really surprised that the spouse is higher priority than you? #2, you knew this person was a lying cheat - what did you think was going to happen? They're ok shitting on their wedding vows, but they'll treat you with honestly and loyalty? You, the sidepiece? Really? You're that damn special?

It's like buying a stolen laptop and then being upset that it's not 100% as described, and also that the thief doesn't follow up with tech support!

35

I wonder whether LW1 has been completely clear with her husband. I have said to my husband that regular sex (defined very broadly) is essential for me. I’ve later had to clarify that I also need him to show he wants me, even though I’m the higher-libido person. Saying those things very clearly and calmly has always had positive results for me, while hinting or being sad did nowt.

I did have to deal with some internalised shame for asking for sex as a woman, and I have (unfairly) resented him for putting me in that position. But it hasn’t changed the fact that, in our relationship, I’m much more likely to get what I want if I ask for it.

If my husband hadn’t been able to respond to my direct requests, at least then I’d have known that our marriage wouldn’t make it in its current form. I’d much rather know that than fear it.

36

SublimeAfterglow @25: "When is it ever the moral obligation of a lover to inform someone about your cheating with their spouse?" Honestly, I'd say always. I mean, woulda been more moral not to screw the spouse in the first place, sure, but letting people know the truth is generally a good policy.

If Todd tells the husband, the husband now knows exactly what he's signing up for if he reconciles. Now, the poor bastard is just trying to eat a shit sandwich of forgiveness, reconciliation, etc. while not knowing that his wife was still fucking the other man the whole time - and probably only decided on hubby because she got bored of Todd. The husband deserves the right to make an informed choice.

37

I love that book Squidgie @32. I found a copy a few years back and it is a gem still. Such clear un contaminated by capitalism feminism in those days, and American women led the way.

40

@28/Lesbisaurus & @36/TrafficSpiral: "Plus yes, actually, many people do see that as the morally right thing to do, especially if cheating partner was planning to continue lying, as she was going to do (or if not lie, omit the information)."

I don't see a argument on behalf of people who rationalize knowingly having sex with a married person, and then develop a moral conscious which just happens require totally honesty with the cheated upon spouse, but only after the affair ends. If people want to behave morally, don't fuck a married person in a monogamous relationship. Once you've done that, you are in no position to address the moral obligation of your lover's conduct or the necessity of honesty.

And remember all those relationship in which Dan advises that to stay married and stay sane the married person can secretly get laid? Does morality require blowing up those relationships too?

Look, I do not defend TTCUMM's behavior, but TTCUMM did not victimize Todd, and his behavior is vindictive.

41

@40 - moral conscience.

@38/cockyballsup: I don't think all TTCUMM needs to allege is that Todd is making threats, leaving her messages, and sending unwanted texts. You can decide that is not harassing TTCUMM, and are free to characterize that any way you want, but I think its laughable to suggest that his behavior is all fine.

42

@cocky: yeah, it's a definite "doing the right thing for the wrong reason" situation.

43

I like Dan's advice to CASED. I also think CASED isn't going to follow it. With that in mind, I suggest:

Have you tried engaging your husband in non-sexual affection? I (and a lot of people) put sex and touching together into one bundle of ways to show affection. I put them together so much that withholding sex feels like withholding affection, but try separating them for your husband. You say you get along well. Ask him for a massage. Just nice touching, some massage oil, some muscle work. Let him think of it as non-sexual. Start hugging him when you leave the house and when come back in. Again, nothing he can associate with sex. The idea is for him to get comfortable with the idea that he can touch you and show affection for you without the pressure of having to have sex with you. Start here (while you're masturbating and drinking that vodka).

I don't mean to suggest that this will be enough. I mean that getting your body touched may be enough to take the edge off of your unhappiness long enough for you to rethink the problem. (I originally wrote "long enough for you to think straight," but that was going to contradict what comes next.)

When you do start to think about sex with someone who's not your selfish comes-and-rolls-over husband (I'm avoiding the word "cheating" here), don't look for a similarly frustrated but married man or woman. Look for a woman. Doesn't matter if she's married or single. Does matter that you can laugh and talk and fuck with her and feel affectionate. Your husband may very likely NOT feel heartbroken if you have sex with a woman. He might not even notice.

44

LW1....Another possibility is the husband is just not into sex...sexual incompatibility rears its head yet again. This is why people should wait before committing to a lifetime together, and should get pre-marital counseling to ensure they are on the same page money wise, kid wise, politics/religion wise and sex wise. Marrying when you are young can be super iffy.

45

David @ 11 - ""He rarely initiates or gives oral sex" is very passive (how about "I sometimes haven't responded to his initiation and don't always insist on him going down on me")."

Having had a couple partners who, through the most amazing of coincidences, suddenly lost all interest in giving oral (not in receiving it, mind you) as soon as we moved in together, I can say this: always insisting gets awfully tiresome, especially when they never have to even ask for it coz you're always happy to give it to them.

46

a couple of partners, I meant @ 45

47

WTF Dan, explain why it's better to dishonor oneself with dishonesty instead of being honest as well-articulated by BiDanFan@29 starting with:

"...to the writer of Letter 1...Tell your husband that you need sex. If it's not with him, it will be with other people."

What the hell is wrong with that, Dan? Integrity has value.

Yes, the marriage may then end because hubby doesn't want anyone else having what he doesn't even want (Dan has pointed out very well the absurdity of this many other times).

If their empty-nest marriage can't survive without preserving that absurdity, if it can't survive honor and integrity and honesty, then it's not worth as much as that honor and integrity and honesty.

Oh, and the notion of abandoning honor and integrity and honesty in order to preserve what has become a (now-dysfunctional) "promise [that]...Forever means forever" is irrational, so I doubt CASED will consider it anyway.

I don't disagree that there are times when dishonesty is /necessary/. I'm just disappointed by the low bar of 'necessity' that Dan feels is justified; it devalues the very thing it seeks to preserve.

48

SublimeAfterglow @40:

"And remember all those relationship in which Dan advises that to stay married and stay sane the married person can secretly get laid? Does morality require blowing up those relationships too?"

You blew up your marriage when you decided to cheat - don't try and put the blame on whoever let the truth get out. The whole "cheat to save your marriage" thing is bullshit. It's a justification for people who want to have their cake and eat it too. No one hears "baby I cheated on you because I love you so much and wanted to make our relationship work" and goes "awww! Thank you for being so considerate and dedicated to our marriage!"

49

If I were in a really grouchy mood this morning, I'd suggest the next time LW1 has yet another unfulfilled sexual encounter with her husband (seeing him satisfied - AGAIN), she present him with a bill for services rendered, perhaps a nominal amount of $200. After all, it's just another chore she's added to her list of marital "duties".

But, if I'm actually offering something practical, it would be for her to do something different the next time where they take turns (because words and hints aren't being unerstood by this clueless man: he needs actions). She can tease him for a while; then it'll be his turn to please her (and it'll be up to her to say exactly what she wants, whether it's oral or whatever); finally, ONLY after she's come first, he can fuck her until he's had his happy ending (and she might have a second helping).

But, honestly, I just felt like crying from reading her letter. Being with a man who doesn't even care that she's unsatisfied sounds like a dead end rather than a detour. I've been there; even though in my case he WAS affectionate in non-sexual situations which actually made sex much worse and I relegated him back to the friendzone.

As for LW2, first of all, you MUST tell your husband. Acknowledge that you know you're risking him no longer reconciling with you, but you didn't want to get back together with more secrets. Then tell Todd you've already informed your husband so that Todd will no longer have that power over you. Then look for a new job as Todd's toxicity will poison your work environment. Keep HR out of it as you'll want to have a positive recommendation to potential employers (even though as I understand it employers no longer give glowing recommendations but just confirm length of employ). LW2, don't feel that life is unfair. You engaged in risky behaviour (not just the affair but apparently unprotected sex!) and it's backfired on you.

50

Ricardo @45

Ah, the frustration of being GGG and in a relationship (or just an encounter) with someone who isn't.

51

TTCUMM-- Todd is a controlling asshole. Is there something you can hold over him? Is he married? Could you tell his wife about your affair? Or if not his wife, his parents, his church? Someone in HR? Has he done something illegal you turn him in for with the police? I hate to see scum like him walk away scot-free. I'm not saying anything about your own behavior is great. (Though the decision to get the abortion was a good one.) But what started as an affair has turned into sexual harassment.

If you can't call out the harassment for what it is, one step towards getting out of this mess is going to have to be looking for another job. That's not fair, I know, but since it looks like Todd enjoys putting you in uncomfortable situations, and since it looks like there's nothing that's going to get him fired, it's on you to seek employment elsewhere.

It looks like you have to break up with Todd again, but look how well that worked out last time. You also have to come clean with your husband again, which did work last time, sort of. Could you combine the two? Could you get your husband to tell Todd "don't come near my wife again"? That could be it even if you and your husband separate.

And you should separate-- for your husband's sake. Separate, be without a man for a while. Don't even date for a while. Get some good therapy, get your act together. Learn to stand on your own for a bit. Learn what's going on with you that you get yourself into these messes. Make some better decisions down the road. Good luck.

52

I'm tempted to say the woman deserves Todd. But of course no one deserves that.

She does deserve for her husband to dump her. And her husband absolutely deserves to know that she continued to lie right up until a few days back. Imagine going through the trauma and healing of something like that, feeling like you and the person who betrayed you are working through it, all the conversations about their emotions and honesty and trust and moving forward, supporting them through the abortion of someone else's child, dealing with the feelings of loss mixed with betrayal since you were likewise trying to create a baby, and then finding forgiveness, etc- only to find out that your partner was still lying to you all along! Crocodile tears through it all. She's sitting there talking about trust and love and healing your marriage then she runs off with Todd and lies lies lies. She's a shit person. Maybe she can heal herself and become a not shit person, but right now she's shit. Straight out of a dog's ass shit.

LW, tell your husband the truth. Let him dump you. If he doesn't then he probably has issues of his own. Then get yourself into therapy or take yourself on a solo trip and sit with yourself for a while and actually honestly consider who you are and what you've done and how you feel about other people's autonomy and emotions. Are you a sociopath? Just very good at lying to yourself? Selfish? Narcissistic? What is it that would let you behave this way? Very confused? Nonreflective? Do you truly understand that other people have feelings, just as you do? For some people, it takes a while to learn this.

I hope you can grow and get better.

BTW, the affair itself- seven months is a long time, but I can see how someone can get caught up in a whirlwind, the little choices becoming bigger ones, until next thing you know, you are in the middle of a storm. Passion and lust does that, life is hard, people find all sorts of ways to distract themselves. But the pregnancy, abortion, revelation to your husband- all of that was your wake up call, the time to come blinking out into the light and take a look back on it all and settle up. Be honest and reflect, take responsibility. The fact that you CONTINUED to fuck and lie your way through that- that's what I'm talking about here. That's the crazy fucking selfish behavior that indicates serious problems with empathy and honesty.

Also based on your letter, sounds like you are only actually dealing with it all now, owning up to it, because of Todd's attempts at retaliation. If he weren't threatening that, would you just carry on? So I'm tempted to say you deserve it.

But Todd's an asshole too. Maybe you two are made for each other, but it sounds also like he's vindictive and you probably want to take the effort to protect yourself - IN ADDITION to disclosing to your husband and (hopefully) allowing him to dump you. And if you really are going to 'break up' with Todd (and personally I'm not convinced you are- I think that when your husband dumps you, you'll just stay with Todd, or - even more likely - you'll just carry on having the affair which will solve both your problems in the short term) but if you are really going to break up with Todd, I recommend that you send him a clear short message saying never to contact you again and that you will consider it harassment if he does not stop with all the little notes, etc, and that you will approach HR if he persists. Then if he persists, you will have what you need to show that he is not leaving you alone.

Also why the fuck are you fucking some dude that feels like you wronged him for aborting a pregnancy? What a goddamn asshole- you two are made for each other.

53

LW1 does not have the option to cheat. Dan is wrong on this one. The kids are all grown up and moved on. The husband has no health condition preventing him from having sex. They are not elderly. There is no reason whatsoever that she should be able to cheat. Sometimes I think Dan gets a little religious with this saving the marriage bullshit.

LW1 needs to tell her husband that they are young and that she is a sexual person and that they MUST work on their sex life. Then take all the normal steps to work on it. She should tell him point blank, loud and fucking clear, that if they do not work on their sex life, that she is going to start fucking others. She should ask him how he wants her to proceed- either she can keep it discreet and never mention it again or she can give him info. OR he can choose these options are unacceptable in which case she is left with a choice: get a divorce, or have a sexless marriage.

Yes that really fucking sucks and my heart goes out to her and it's terrible. But cheating is not an option and will likely cause it to blow the fuck up in the future- look at LW2's situation. They have DECADES more of sexually active life. You really think that her stepping out and fucking others isn't going to come back home later and affect her marriage? If there is no way of the sex life getting better between them, then it's only a matter of time before they deal with the inevitable. Do it now, while things are still relatively good between them, or do it later when there are years of resentment and drama and cheating.

My guess is that years of bad habits or repressed libidos has created a new normal, and it's going to be a lot of work to rekindle any lust, but if he still finds her attractive and she still wants to fuck him, I bet it could be done. How much have they communicated and tried? Are they shy with one another due to all the years of baggage? Have they sought sex therapy? She says they can't afford it, but I guarantee it's cheaper than divorce. And discreet affairs aren't free either. She says she's tried initiating- what happens? He pushes you away? He lays there? He doesn't get hard? Before anyone could give advice, we'd have to know those details.

Also I agree that it's possible that he resorted to cheating as well. If you are pretty sure that he's not cheating now and if you are able to let the past be the past, you could also say something like "I'm sorry that we had long periods without sex in the past. I'd like to think about the future now. So if you've ever done anything with anyone else that is in the past, I will consider it forgiven. You don't have to feel guilty and you don't have to tell me about it." Then he does not have to respond but if there is some guilt holding him back, he can let it go.

Also a madonna/whore complex is a real thing, and there are men who cannot fuck the mothers of their children, in which case, you are back to the choice - divorce now and get on with your life or go through decades of resentment/drama, etc. I think the idea that you can just have fulfilling discreet affairs for the next 40 years is highly unlikely and you are just postponing the inevitable.

Keep in mind that statistically, you have as much life in front of you as you have behind you. How do you want to spend it?

54

To be clear, here's the part of Dan's response that is bad.

"you don’t want to cheat (because cheaters are terrible people),"

First off, yes many cheaters are terrible fucking people. Second, yes not all cheaters are terrible people and LW1 is not a terrible person and if she cheats it would not make her a terrible person. So I agree with Dan about all that.

But the place where he screwed up is this idea that people think cheating is bad BECAUSE cheaters are terrible people. No- in this case I think cheating is bad because it has a higher potential of wrecking her life in the future and causing massive fucking problems.

This woman is 40. It's extremely unlikely that she'll experience 30-40 years of cheating without it wrecking her marriage and home.

55

Traffic @34: Excellent analogy!

Traffic @36: I would say only if the spouse lied to you about having been married in the first place. If you knowingly fucked a monogamously married person, you are complicit in their cheating, and you don't get to get on a moral high horse if they dump you later. You aren't "doing the right thing" by telling; you are taking revenge for something you yourself are guilty of! If they deceived both their spouse and you, then you are a victim and you should clue in the other victim. Bearing in mind, though, that the spouse may blame you.

Fichu @43: Interesting suggestion, I can see a lot of merit. (Haha, of course I'm biased.) She could have an affair right under her husband's nose with a "gal pal" with whom she suddenly starts spending a lot of time. Many men wouldn't consider it as much of a betrayal as they would if she had an affair with a man; some don't even consider lesbian sex "real" sex. I still say it's more ethical to announce that the relationship is now DADT, but this could be a great way to go about cheating if that is what she decides to do.

Traffic @48: They won't hear "baby I cheated on you" if the other person keeps schtum. Remember that "to have and to hold" is part of the marriage vows. If the other partner pulls the plug on sex, THEY'VE blown up the marriage. It was already blown up when the other partner decided cheating would be better than leaving.

EmmaLiz @52: Applause. Tell it like it is!

56

I hate to say it, but I agree with Sportlandia that getting rejected 50 times is nothing. I'm assuming that that was randomly chosen for hyperbole, but that really isn't very much for a long term relationship. That being said, it sounds like when LW1 does get sexual intimacy, it is selfish and unsatisfying, which is of great concern.

I would normally echo those who have said she is likely in the "friend zone" with her husband (a terrible place to be in a sexual relationship), except that she states that they have never had much of a sex life. Although, depending on how young they got together, they may have ONLY been in the friend zone and the husband couldn't distinguish between platonic and sexual love (if they got married at 20, this may have been the husband's only real relationship, but that's 100% speculation). I do wonder if he has ever had his testosterone levels checked, because getting that in order can make a BIG difference, but it won't cure the selfishness that results in him not caring about her needs. There really isn't a cure for that as far as I can tell.

She needs to tell him that they are going to a sex therapist together (I know she says that can't afford it, but I don't see another option outside of divorce). I don't think that cheating will help anything, unless she is ok with a companionate marriage (one that will likely be wrecked by infidelity). She could propose a break now that the nest is empty (they married young and didn't experience as much as she would like), this probably wouldn't happen, but may open the door to conversation about real change.

As for LW2, I have different advice. She should be the one to end the relationship. I know that this will never happen, because people like this are never capable of taking that step, but I think it is the only decent thing to do. I know people are going to say that this is taking agency completely away from the husband and giving him a pass for being passive, but I sort of identify with him from past experience (more for being taken advantage of, not cheated on), and it seems like he is the kind of person that will stick through anything (for love and/or principle).

They have only been married for three years and she has had a seven month long affair.
They were trying to have a child together, but that didn't stop her from having unprotected sex with a coworker.
She had an abortion because the child probably wasn't the husband's.

And the husband was willing to accept ALL of that, and she continued the affair anyway AND lied about it. That is a ridiculous amount of terrible to get over for the husband, which he was willing to do, and she still decided to lie and cheat. She is by all accounts a terrible person and needs to free him so that he can be kind and understanding to someone that isn't such a shit human.

I'm not normally this harsh, but I see absolutely nothing in her letter that suggests that she even feels bad about the situation (aside from calling the situation heinous). She says that "it's clear that I want to work on my marriage and cease any and all infidelity", but how is that clear??? She continued the affair until it a week before writing the letter, and is only writing for advice because he might expose her.

57

As for the whole "accidental anal" discussion from yesterday, I do have something to add to that.
Women need to understand two things when it comes to that situation (sorry about the numbering, I don't know why I do this).

Condoms are super lubricated.
We can barely feel anything when we are wearing them.

If someone is having sex without a condom, I doubt very much that "accidental anal" happens, or at least not frequently. If it does in that situation, the guy is most definitely a scumbag.

That being said, I was having sex once and completely accidentally went in the wrong hole during a thrust. This completely stopped all sexual activity and resulted in a ton of apologizing and making sure that she was OK. It should be clear that this was accidental, because anyone that wants to have anal sex in the future knows that you have to put effort in to making it feel good, and this situation pretty much shut the door on that permanently.

I am not saying that this does not happen intentionally, but I do feel the need to say that it does also happen accidentally, and I think it is dangerous to immediately equate it to sexual assault.

58

Just noticed that the numbering doesn't translate to the posts anyway, so never mind.

Also, was typing my post at the same time as EmmaLiz. Agree completely with @54.

59

A thought (I do have thoughts despite any evidence to the contrary) has just occurred to me. What if Todd is no, in fact, t single? The (probably correct) presumption is that Todd is single (not married or in a committed relationship, being in an open marriage/relationship(s) is possible including poly ones). LW2 is not explicit about Todd's relationship status (assuming she even knows if he has other concurrent relationships (if Todd is single he has much more "free' time than LW2). If Todd is not single then he is a douche/enema bag.

and yes, I know I'm overthinking this

60

Savage @56: The frustration in that phrase made me read it as the fiftieth time in a row, not the fiftieth time ever. Has she been rejected 50 times and accepted twice, or rejected 50 times total? I doubt she'd be complaining if it were total. She says they are in a drought. That is a different situation than even being rejected more often than not. If your reading is correct, or more correct, and even if she is being rejected more often than not but getting, say, one yes in three attempts, that would not justify cheating on her part. Even if the resultant sex is pretty crappy. It's up to her to make it less crappy by insisting that she gets off first.

I agree that TTCUMM should dump her motherfucking self already. Her husband deserves better and they should NOT make the kid mistake.

Skeptic @59: Married or single, Todd is an enema bag for blackmailing his lover. Even if she deserves it.

61

Maybe LW1 would have an easier choice if she realizes that her husband has already abandoned their 'forever' marriage in important ways. She can be there forever for him as a friend or companion, but she'll need to look elsewhere for what she needs to be happy.

62

Re the question TTCUMM asked, she has to tell her husband that her affair with Todd is only just over. Todd is acting out because he wants her back. But she could say that he won't get her back--the only issue for him now is whether he will vindictively hurt her. That might stay his hand.

I'm, on balance, sympathetic to her. She didn't roil or writhe in guilt, saying she wants her husband to take her back on any terms, and she didn't justify her affair by itemising her husband's shortcomings. The advice she didn't ask for is to reflect, in a spirit neither of unrecognised grievance nor of guilt, on why she had the affair. She subconsciously didn't want her husband's child? Didn't think he could give her a child? Was self-sabotaging? For reasons to do with her marriage or previous personal history? I don't think she can just go back to her marriage, resume trying for a child, without having satisfactory answers. For her sake and for her husband's.

63

I thought that LW1's husband was in many ways more in need of help than she was. Can they talk about his exhaustion and withdrawal?

64

TS @ 48 Unless they are in to cuckolding or humiliation in general

65

As long as Todd has the option of going public with the affair to friends, family etc. he will have control over LW2. He has the ability to damage/destroy morer than just her marriage. Something a person needs to remember when deciding to have an affair. So long as you have anything of value that you risk losing, you gave the other power over you, forever.

66

@15. venn. I'm not even sure LW1 should cheat and LW2 shouldn't have cheated. In the second case, I'd need a lot more information to make a decision--which she isn't interested in providing. And in the first case, the sadness of the married couple's situation doesn't exactly seem to be that she's not getting any sex....

67

Savage @56, they are 40 and are currently enjoying an empty nest. The absolute oldest they could've gotten together was when she was 21. That's if they only had one kid and the kid moved out right after high school. So I think it's pretty likely neither had too much sexual experience before (sort of like that LW last week). I think years of putting libido on the back burner can make people basically accustomed to celibacy. And young men (teens, early 20s) are usually hornier than young women. My experience of my 40s (second hand since we're monogamous now) has been that women my age tend to see a surge in their libidos while men my age tend to have a decrease - compared to their younger years. Just a trend, not everyone, but I could see how in a situation like that, a perfectly healthy guy with normal T levels could have internalized and coped with the lack of sex through his youth until he has basically a sleeping libido now. Other speculations: friend zone, madonna/whore complex, he's having an affair, etc. Also depending on what sex was like before and what exactly LW is doing to "initiate" and how she rejected him in the past, it could be that he sees sex with her as too much of a bother or too much emotionally baggage, etc. People fall into habits and roles in long relationships and it can be really hard to change them.

Also Savage, I agree that LW2 should end her marriage. I don't think it takes the agency away from the husband- she's half the relationship and she can end it too. I think she should tell him why (reveal the deceit) so that he's able to process exactly what happened in a healthy way, but I agree with you entirely. I also think there is no way she'll do it. Personally I suspect she'll continue both her marriage and her relationship with Todd until it blows up in everyone's faces, and I just really hope it doesn't happen after she and her husband have children.

Adding to the accidental anal (re condom) I think I should clarify something. I don't have a dick so I don't know what it feels like, but I think this conversation is starting with the assumption that the guy claims he doesn't notice. It's entirely possible (and in my experience literally has happened) that in the moment of thrusting in certain positions when it's really fucking wet, the dick has been partially inserted in my ass. Just slip and thrust, there you go. The fact that it's accidental does not mean that the guy didn't notice. It just means it wasn't intentional. Like when you trip over someone. You notice you trip. You stop, apologize, correct, provide care if it was painful, etc. In my experience, accidental anal is noticeable and brief, but it is accidental.

Also really there's no motivation for "accidental" anal unless it's to "punish" the woman or get one up on her (which does happen all too I'm sure) since most people in that situation aren't going to let you continue fucking the ass and since there's no going right back to the vag either so it's pretty much a sex ender.

68

EmmaLiz @53:
"... Also a madonna/whore complex is a real thing, and there are men who cannot fuck the mothers of their children, in which...."

Um ... but he IS treating her like a whore (or a prim Victorian married lady who isn't expected or supposed to have orgasms, etc. Remember the advice to lie-back-and-think-of-England was intended for the wife!). He IS having satisfying sex for him (provided by HER), but she isn't having anything good.

It makes me wonder whether - at some point during the drought - he turned selfish in retaliation. He'd reject her advances, initiate only on his own terms, and not bother about her pleasure.

71

You might be right, Helenka. I was assuming that since she said it had never been a priority for her and that her current libido and current drought is newish (when did both start? We don't know) that she'd been uninterested. But rereading, it does sound like he's just been getting his own needs met on his own time from the beginning and now seems uninterested totally. Maybe more about manipulation and selfishness then? All the more reason to get real with him and tell him they are going to improve their sex life or she's going to step out or they are going to divorce. Why in the world staying for decades in the current situation is even on the table is beyond me, affairs will just complicate the situation and make ti more miserable for everyone.

72

Again I lean towards thinking it's habits though. If sex was not a priority for her for the first few years they were together, that sort of sets a foundation for how things go. If she's not into it, it makes sense that he just gets himself off then sleeps- why prolong it if she's seeing it as something just to keep him satisfied that's not a priority for her. The question is if they can set up a new normal.

73

EmmaLiz,

I must misunderstand the whole premise then. If we are discussing guys who "accidentally" go in there, and don't notice that they hurt their partner, and continue ... then I withdraw my comment completely, because those guys are assholes. The idea that someone would intentionally do this literally did not cross my mind when I made my comment.

As far as not noticing sensation wise though (and I am not trying to whine from a guy's perspective, just explain); I don't know if it is true for all guys, or if I am just less sensitive/not using the right condoms, but the only actual sensation that I experience while using them is essentially pressure. A condom is literally covering our nerves in latex, so it really is possible not to notice. When my above story happened, I noticed because of her reaction, not my sensation. The only condoms that don't cause this are lamb skin, which don't help for STDs so they aren't useful for most condom required situations.

74

EmmaLiz @67: She says she's a 40-year-old woman married for 20 years, so they got married when she was 20. I think Savage @56 was speculating on how long they'd been together before they got married, which is not stated, nor is his age given, though she says "we married young" not "I married young." She also says they had a kid right away, which hints that they got married because she was pregnant. Her next couple of paragraphs speak of one child who has now moved out. Sounds like they never had much of a relationship aside from being co-parents.

EmmaLiz @67 re "accidental" anal: I don't have a dick either, but I have fucked quite a few people who do have them, and Savage's experience of "we can't feel anything with a condom on" would appear to be a minority view. Of course an ass feels different to a vagina, that's why straight men want to try the ass for variety. (If all you feel is pressure, with an ass you feel MORE pressure.) My suspicion is that youth and/or alcohol are frequently involved in cases of "accidental" anal, and that perhaps these chancers think that she might not have time to object before he's able to come or that she'll find herself enjoying it now that she's in the moment, after all those porn stars just love it so... -shrug-
Also, some men are rapists. By definition these men neither care about a woman's feelings nor stop when told no.

SavageMarquis @73: So this is not just an I-don't-want-to-use-a-condom whine. OK. You're in the minority but I accept that sensation is reduced more for some men than others. Have you tried Skyn condoms? Several people I know with penises swear by them.

75

Savage @73: Also, if condoms are compressing your dick, try a larger size!

76

@3 She might as well email all the gory details of her private life to everyone at her work cos that’s what going to HR will amount to.

77

@73 I think this is the case for most guys, certainly in my experience. The sensation is greatly reduced.

79

for CASED: To quote another of Dan's favorite things (that he neglected to mention in his response) if sex is not important enough to your husband to do for/with you, then it can't be important enough for him to care if you do it with someone(s) else. "I don't care about this supremely unimportant (to me) thing, even though I know it IS important to you, but how dare you do this supremely unimportant(to me)/important(to you) thing with someone else!" Tell your husband you won't pressure him for sex anymore, but if an opportunity presents itself to have sex with someone else, you don't think you'll be able to turn it down, ("and that won't bother you, right? because sex doesn't matter to you?") That way, worst case scenario, your ass is somewhat covered if you ever get "caught" for "cheating," and best case, your husband will realize how important this is to you and will start putting out.

Another thing you mention in your letter (that I'm surprised Dan didn't jump on) was how you "tactfully let him know [cuddling, kissing, or conversation] were important to you." STOP BEING TACTFUL!!! Say to your husband, out loud, this exact sentence: "Cuddling, kissing and conversation are NECESSARY for me to feel loved by you. You say that you love me and that you're still attracted to me, but I DON'T FEEL THAT WAY." No more subtlety. It's time to ask for exactly what you need, explicitly and unambiguously. And if/when he tells you he can't give those things to you, tell him that you love him, you want to stay married to him, but you didn't sign up for celibacy and neglect and, [once again, see above] "I won't pressure you for sex anymore, but if an opportunity presents itself with someone else, I don't think I'll want to turn it down, ("and that won't bother you, right? because you're 'not up for it' anyway?)"

You say cheating would "break his heart," but he's already breaking yours. Why does his heart matter more to you than your own?

81

@69 & @70 are disqualified, so, congrats on having 69 during this thread EmmaLiz!

82

BDF,

Luckily I am in a committed relationship so it is no longer an issue, but I have tried all of them. Skyn is better than most, but still not great.

@80 is a great explanation.

83

The first letter makes me sad. Most people are glossing over the fact that not only are they not having satisfactory-for-her sex, there is an overall lack of intimacy. He isn't showing her physical affection outside of sex, although she has told him it is important. @79 nailed it. I just feel bad for people in unnecessary anguish because they can't see the marriage is possibly not worth saving. I also agree with everyone who has said she should not get a pass to cheat, for both moral and practical reasons.

84

I'm actually surprised no one (especially the lw!) has mentioned the obvious practical solution for LW2. If she has sincerely broken up with Todd, and wants to get back with her husband, she should tell Todd to fuck off and stay out of her marriage. We all know she has no problem with lying, so if Todd says anything to the husband, say that it isn't true, he is lying because he is vindictive, and that he just wants them to split up. Same goes if Todd says anything at work. He's lying because she turned him down. Is that shitty and manipulative? Yes, but the lw has already been shitty and manipulative. I don't disagree with everyone saying she should get out of both relationships and work on becoming a better person, but that seems unlikely so if she is sincerely committed to fixing things with her husband and not cheating anymore, then one final lie will simply break Todd's ability to blackmail her. Call his bluff. Didn't someone say last week that lying is a life skill? Seems to me defending yourself from a spiteful bully is a good use of it. (I say that because Todd is as guilty as she is but is applying a double standard and feigning moral honesty for spite.)

85

Tachy, ethics aside, I bet Todd could prove it. (notes, texts, pics, emails, receipts, etc).

86

I feel the commentariat has failed collectively (with a few partial exceptions) with TTCUMM. People have been too judgmental. It’s not plausible to me that someone in a monogamous or presumptively-monog-by-default marriage, trying for a baby, would cheat simply on a whim or for reasons of sheer personal gratification. It’s not consistent with the thoughtfulness and hard-headedness of her letter. (The other explanation, considered by EmmaLiz, was that the LW was a sociopath or narcissist. There isn't enough information here for me to make a judgment). TTCUMM has made a decision that she wants to make a go of her marriage and seen that, logically, this means leaving all possible extenuations of her behavior at the door. This is intelligent and self-denying. She's being hard on herself. Unfortunately a consequence is losing the sympathy of people who might have had more time for her problem had she explained her situation a bit more inclusively.

I'd say, 'don't feel that you have to plow on with the marriage in a spirit of shame or contrition'. Try to work out what you really want, consciously and unconsciously. Try to separate your feelings about having a child from your feelings towards your husband (i.e. your personal history) and the specific circumstances in which you were trying for a baby with him (who wanted it, whatever previous understanding you wanted about family).

87

" It’s not plausible to me that someone in a monogamous or presumptively-monog-by-default marriage, trying for a baby, would cheat simply on a whim or for reasons of sheer personal gratification."

Harriet, if you want to argue, do so honestly. No one -especially me who you mention- is being harsh on her for the initial cheating in that circumstance which you name. I think it's a bad thing to do, but it's understandable and common, etc.

If you want to actually engage, respond to what the judgement is actually over- the CONTINUED lying and cheating AFTER she was found out, after the abortion, during discussions with the husband about the future of her marriage. That sort of duplicity is not sympathetic nor something you can get wrapped up in, etc. It's deliberate on-going lying, lying about the things you are lying about, etc. Also, nowhere did anyone say it was on a whim, so you are creating straw men to knock down. And finally, since you summarized my words as suggesting narcissism or sociopathy, here's what I actually said:

"honestly consider who you are and what you've done and how you feel about other people's autonomy and emotions. Are you a sociopath? Just very good at lying to yourself? Selfish? Narcissistic? What is it that would let you behave this way? Very confused? Nonreflective? Do you truly understand that other people have feelings, just as you do? For some people, it takes a while to learn this."

People lie to themselves for all sorts of reasons and they escape stress or sabotage what they perceive as traps in all sorts of ways, and I'm sympathetic to them and suggested this as well. But unless they ALSO have some sort of total disregard or disrespect for others, when they face consequences, they tend to reckon with them. Once she was found out, once she was sitting in the abortion clinic with her husband while pregnant with Todd's child, once she moved out and told her husband she needed some time away, once she was discussing with her husband their options for the future of their relationship- she was STILL LYING throughout all of this, continuing the affair and lying to her husband even as they discussed their future. Regardless of her motivations, that requires some amount of disregard for others, some level of extreme selfishness and also hardness against the feelings of others.

And finally, I don't see all this beating herself up that you keep mentioning. In the letter, she is panicked that she is going to get caught. She only mentions her husband's feelings at all once, and in a way that serves herself- that he would be hurt if he found out. Something that apparently only bothers her now that there is real risk that he will.

88

@87. Emma. You mistake my motivation. It’s not that I want to argue. It’s that I don't want the LW to be turned away by a chorus of boos and hisses--don't want her to be overwhelmed by a tide of execration, especially if she has some form of anti-social personality disorder and can't see she's acted really wrongly.

(You were the person I mentioned as an honourable exception to her wholesale beasting, in wondering whether there's some psychiatric explanation for her having acted as she did. Your quotation includes word-forms for 'narcissist' and 'sociopath', so I haven't misrepresented you).

I wouldn't think it certain that she only cared about her husband's reaction when she needed to abort Todd's fetus. The circumstances here wouldn't be crystal to me.... Was it impossible that the child she was carrying could have been her husband's ... because they hadn't been having sex? Do TTCUMM and her husband go through a period of estrangement and marital sexlessness, which they repair by committing to go on with their marriage, and deepen it by having a child? Or is she trying for a child at the same time as adulterously fucking Todd? If it's the second, how is she sure the fetus is Todd's child? Why has she said anything to her husband (if she isn't motivated, at least in part, by a concern for the truth and their wellbeing as a couple living in the light of the truth?).

Yes--telling her husband that she has split with Todd while still seeing him is worse than having the initial affair. Todd may hold some power over her at work? It may be hard to peel herself away from him? From the sex? From the feeling that she might as well? She and her husband took time out for reflection--in her mind this might offer her a loophole? I don't see that there's a difference in kind, morally, from starting the affair and persisting with it post-disclosure--a step-change from unfortunate to completely morally vacant.

My view would remain that there are things she chose not to tell us--probably to do with children, how she and her husband individually want children, how he makes her feel with and without children--that would give us a better read on her actions and place her in a more sympathetic light. I won't embroider but almost any fuller narrative treatment e.g. describing how she got together with her husband, how their visions of their future came together or drifted apart, would make her seem more sympathetic than what she gave us.

89

Harriet, I'm not sure here what you are getting at regarding the pregnancy. She says that she got pregnant and she had to come clean with her husband about the affair and abort the child. She does not say that she knew for sure who was the father. She said it could've been either. She at least had the integrity to tell her husband and not lead him to find out later somehow when the baby came out (if it wasn't his). Todd seems pretty sure it is his- who knows why. These people are in the best position to know, not us. What we know is that she was actively trying to get pregnant and fucking both men simultaneously and thought there was a high enough likelihood that the baby was Todd's that she (ethically) revealed the affair. I'm not sure why this makes any difference to your reading of the scenario. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt that she told her husband about it b/c she thoguht it was the right thing to do. But there's also the possibility that the birth of another man's child would've been impossible to lie about- for example, if the men are different races, if there is ever a paternity test, recessive eye color, etc- so we likewise can't assume she wasn't acting with her back up against the wall. Or it could simply be that husband was out of town during the time she got knocked up and she'd have no way to explain, etc. Yes, perhaps she might've self-consciously sabotaged her marraige and pregnancy out of some fears of the future. That does not excuse ongoing lies afterwards. The husband likewise has just as much right to make informed decisions about entering parenthood. The fact that someone has whatever emotional or psych reasons for behaving the way they do does not always make them sympathetic though I agree that this is a matter of subjectivity. I'm sympathetic to people who acknowledge and work on their issues. If she was not aware that she was treating her husband unethically, she surely became aware of it after the disclosure, at which point she continued to lie. Hence my advice that she figure out what it is that enabled her to carry on that way- be it a psych problem or an unhealthy amount of selfishness or fears for the future or whatever. She needs to focus on herself. And her husband has the right to make informed decisions about his future, and the info necessary to do that will include a clear-eyed assessment of his wife's mental/emotional state.

This is the only thing we are disagreeing about: "I don't see that there's a difference in kind, morally, from starting the affair and persisting with it post-disclosure--a step-change from unfortunate to completely morally vacant." I think it is absolutely morally vacant to lie to someone who is forgiving you and trying to move on after a transgression while you are still actively committing that transgression. The one- sneaking around and having an affair before you are caught- is a lie as well and a betrayal and I'm not excusing it, but it can involve a high level of "getting away with something" moreso than lying to someone's face actively and repeatedly about their future and their emotions, almost a sort of psychological abuse. It's the difference between stealing money from someone (which is bad) and continuously stealing money from someone who is asking you to help them find the thieve (which is worse).

90

Look I've always had issues with the 'stay married' part of Dan's advice.

Why do you want to be with someone who doesn't seem to care about your needs. Someone who is okay with you crying yourself to sleep at night?

I notice that in the end LW your husband gets everything that he wants and you get nothing you want.

No relationship can survive that. And the people who harp on about 'sacred promises' are usually the people doing the bare minimum on their end.

My advice DTMFA. I'm not guaranteeing you a sex life but I get the feeling you will be a lot happier once your away from a man who doesn't care about you.

91

@89. Emma. I've read the letter through again a few times and my sense is that TTCUM's most pressing question is, 'how can I get out from under Todd's thumb?'. But if she genuinely wants to save her marriage, Todd has no power over her. (In extremis, she changes job, or the couple move town). If she finds Todd more attractive than her husband, if she keeps going back against her better judgment, then Todd has all kinds of power over her.

There's nothing I disagree with in your first paragraph. Re whether continuing-to-cheat is a whole step-change of bad, maybe we disagree a little--but it wouldn't perhaps determine our views of this particular case.

92

Todd has the power to reveal their affair to her husband or to force her to reveal it. LW is concerned that this will destroy her chances of continuing her marriage. I say she knows better than we do if that is accurate or not. So this is one way Todd has "power" over her.

Todd also has the power to reveal the affair and abortion to coworkers. She cannot lose her job for this, but it is possible that it could make her workplace hostile or overly dramatic towards her. She does not seem concerned that he will do this and instead complains that he keeps acting - at work - as if they are together. The implicit threat seems to be that if she doesn't go along with it, he will reveal the affair to the husband. Regardless, he is in a position to make her work life uncomfortable. This is the second way Todd has "power" over her.

Finally, most people cannot simply move cities and change jobs, but let's go along with your suggestion that they can. Causing someone else to change jobs and homes is an extreme act of "power" over someone.

She can easily sever his power over her, yes, but it comes at a cost- probably her marriage, maybe also a peaceful workplace, etc.

Hence my idea that she is either about to A) seriously reckon with herself- who she is, why she acts like she does, what consequences her actions have- in which case I hope she deals with it honestly and grows from it, or B) continue the relationship with Todd in secret in order to avoid the reckoning with reality (and her husband)- but in real life this will just postpone the inevitable, hopefully not after they've had children, etc.

Of course there are other paths she could take, but it's my guess she'll do one or the other. This is another one in which I really wish there were a followup- like a series that gets cancelled half way through and leaves us all unsatisfied. Not nice to use other people's lives as popcorn entertainment, but I can't help but wonder what she does next.