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All I want to do is to cheat on my husband of five years, whom I love passionately. My husband is intelligent, goofy, athletic, respectful, adventurous, and intellectually curious. We share the same values, sense of humor, and hobbies. We have great conversations and amazing sex. But I’m always falling for other men, which has never diminished my love for my husband. Crushing on other men is exhausting, thrilling, and miserable. I hate the unavoidable blushing, ear-to-ear smiling, crippling guilt, and occasional panic attack. (Compounding the misery, I can’t giggle with anyone about my crushes since I’m a married lady. I instead repress everything, which feels horrible.) Two years ago, I thought I had a solution: severing ties with all my male friends and acquaintances. This ended badly. The result: hurt friends and inappropriate crushes on the men I couldn’t avoid—colleagues and an attractive (distant) relative!

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My husband and I have discussed opening up our marriage, but he is strongly opposed. My husband is flexible about most of my needs but is committed to a lifetime of strict monogamy. He can’t fathom being intimately involved with more than one person; he says that if he had romantic or sexual encounters with other women, the extra-marital flings would destroy his feelings for me. Then the explicit threat: My husband said that if I cheat, our relationship will not survive. I’ve never cheated, although I’ve toed the line by being overly friendly with some of my crushes. To compensate, I wear a wedding ring and bring up my husband frequently in conversation. On occasion, some of the crushes have asked me out—probably picking up on my interest—but I said no (agony!).

My husband’s expectations are reasonable—every other married couple we know is exclusive—but I also know I won’t be able to keep my own monogamous promise for a lifetime, or maybe even another month!

So what to do? I don’t want to cheat; I’d feel guilty afterwards, and I’d probably confess everything to my husband the next day. I want a lifelong committed relationship with my husband and the freedom to pursue intensive friends-with-benefits relationships with other people. I hope my husband will pursue extra-marital encounters—but discover that these relationships don’t threaten ours. And if this arrangement isn’t possible long-term (i.e., the arrangement does threaten our marriage), I want to know it, so that I won’t resent my husband for the restrictions. But, since it’s hard to imagine my husband will agree to the above, I believe that a more limited polyamorous arrangement—for example, a “get out of jail free” agreement for an occasional lapse of willpower—may be enough to relieve my sense of living in a pressure cooker and avert not-sanctioned-in-advance, marriage-wrecking infidelity. I keep hoping that I’ll bring my husband around with enough persistence or by suggesting a more appealing polyamorous configuration. My husband keeps hoping I’ll stop discussing polyamory.

Also, I’d be interested to know if I am a freak? I know most people are attracted to other people outside their marriage, and occasionally develop stronger feelings. But are never-ending, extra-marital romantic crushes the norm? Is it weird that I can sometimes crush on two men at once—all the while being wildly attracted to my husband? Any advice?

Wannabee Adulteress

Do you have kids? — Dan

No, but hoping to have kids in 2-3 years. — WA

Is that wise? I mean, considering what you know about yourself and considering what you know about your husband? And what you know, essentially, is on one make-or-break issue (monogamy) you’re fundamentally incompatible. Maybe he’ll open up to the idea of opening up in time… but it doesn't sound like he'll do that unless you issue an ultimatum. And you don’t sound inclined to issue an ultimatum. But you should, WA, because it seems clear (at least to me, given what you've written) that you're going succumb to the temptation to fuck someone else sooner or later. How long can you hold out? Another decade? Another five?

Oh, wait. Just read back through your letter, WA, in which you doubt you'll be able to remain monogamous for even four more weeks.

Clearly a monogamous commitment isn't for you and you shouldn't have made one. Maybe you didn't realize, way back when you married your husband, that lifelong monogamy wasn't something you could do. But don't compound the error by having children. Your husband is “strictly” monogamous and you're not. Which means you’re headed for a crises at some point… and it’ll be a much bigger crises if it comes after you’ve had kids... with someone you probably shouldn’t have kids with… seeing as you’re not sexually compatible. Whatever else you do, WA, don't scramble your DNA together with your husband's DNA until you resolve this issue.— Dan

Thanks for the answer. Hard to take. Really hard. Read my husband my letter and your reply. Basically, we’ve decided to reevaluate the situation in a year (before kids), because right now we don’t see eye-to-eye and we can’t compromise about a lifetime of behavior. My husband says maybe his view will change in a year or maybe no. He doesn’t know. I honestly don’t believe I’ll change either my view or feelings because I’ve thought about monogamy and what I can and cannot promise for years. But for the coming year, until we reevaluate—I’ve promised not to flirt with or fuck anyone else.

Do you have any helpful perspective on the significance of monogamy/non-monogamy? The monogamy question at times almost seems trivial. Like, there are plenty of people out there who don’t get any love or sex, let alone a wonderful relationship with a truly good person. There are plenty of people who don’t get to marry for love at all. So why can’t I just keep my emotions under control like other grownups?! Or why can’t my husband just loosen the rules in exchange for getting to keep a great wife who loves him?! (But then I think that monogamy feels anything but trivial. The freedom to seek out love, sex, and relationships feels so essential.)

I don’t know, but I appreciate your advice. — WA

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Nothing really deep or profound coming to mind right now about the significance of monogamy vs. non-monogamy, WA. Monogamy works for some people (even some people who are hard-wired or predisposed to non-monogamy), it doesn't work for others. Some people find monogamy effortless, some find it impossible. Some people would rather cheat (or be cheated on) than be in an honest and open non-monogamous relationship; some people want the freedom to fuck others (and so they cheat) but can't handle the thought of their partners fucking other people (and so they police). Some people are capable of honoring a lifelong monogamous commitment even if it's a struggle. And what works for someone or some couples right now about monogamy or non-monogamy may not work for them always. There are lots of non-monogamous couples out there who used to be monogamous and lots of monogamous couples who used to be open. It's a constant struggle. — Dan



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