DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m certain that you receive thousands of letters, but I am genuinely struggling and confused.
My wife of 10 years (we’ve been together for 20 years total and have two kids together) has shared that she is into the idea of having sex with other people. Specifically, she is into the “Stag & Vixen (Hotwife)” lifestyle, where she has sex with other men (and possibly women) but wants to remain committed to our relationship and family. She says that she has a need to pursue pleasure and needs to be slutty because we got together when she was fairly young, only 22 years old, and she feels like she never got to fully explore her sexuality. I am trying my best to understand where all of this is coming from (some of which was triggered by my past addiction to pornography and subsequent lack of sexual energy and desire for her – I have committed myself to the NoFap lifestyle and it made a big difference in my desire for her but the historical hurt remains). I am trying to be “cool” with it because I love her and I want her to be happy and feel sexually fulfilled. I am also trying to be understanding because our sex life has been reinvigorated since we have been communicating more openly and honestly about our fantasies and desires and I want that to continue. I want to remain deeply committed to her, the mother of my children, and to please her sexually (which I mostly do, she told me so).
When the two of us are having sex and she tells me about the fantasy of f--king other people and flirting and sexting, etc., I find it fairly hot and exciting. When, on the other hand, she tells me about flirting with the electrician and some subsequent dirty talk via text, I completely lose my mind; I feel anxious and hurt and confused and have irrational thoughts like, “she doesn’t love me” (which I know is not true) and that “I am worthless” (which I know isn’t true) and “I should kill myself” (which I won’t do, but that is an indication of how incredibly horrible I feel). I also feel mad at her and while having an unrelated argument I have said something like, “If your hobby is f--king other people, then I can have a hobby too!”. Immediately, I regret it and feel ashamed because I don’t want her openness about her innermost desires to be used against her. Did I mention that I REALLY love this woman and I’m committed to doing the hard work to stay together?
My friend told me that “I don’t have to force myself to feel OK with something that I’m not OK with.” He points to the fact that my internal reaction speaks very loudly that I don’t seem OK with this. When I tell my wife how I feel, she takes me in her arms, kisses me deeply and assures me that she loves me, wipes my tears, then f--ks my brains out. At this point our mutual agreement is that we can flirt and dirty talk with other people but what if I can’t handle this? And what if she wants to, but I don’t feel motivated or interested in pursuing other people for dirty talk and flirting?
Can I learn to control my jealousy and calm my mind, reassuring myself that this is just a kinky game that she needs to play or am I doomed to feeling the f--ked up way that I feel? Is it OK that I am interested in the fantasy, but not the reality, of my wife having sex with other people? My wife told me in one of our first discussions, “Hurt feelings are not sexy. I am not doing this to hurt your feelings.” But I feel so hurt and confused. What if it’s a deal breaker for me? I am scared of losing her if I tell her that I am NOT cool with her having sex (or maybe even dirty talk) with other people. Am I “c--kblocking” her sexual desire and need for fulfillment if I say that it’s a deal breaker for me?
Reluctant & Struggling Stag
DEAR RELUCTANT AND STRUGGLING STAG: There’s a lot to unpack here, RSS, but let’s start with this: you’re giving yourself a series of false dichotomies. That is, you’re looking at this as though there were only two, diametrically opposed answers, and that’s not the case.
Now, before we get to the meat of your problem, allow me to define terms for folks who may not be familiar with Stag & Vixen or hotwifing. Stag and Vixen is a form of ethical non-monogamy; much like with cuckolding, the basic idea is one partner (the vixen) — usually, but not exclusively a female partner — has sex with other people while their partner (the stag) watches. Unlike cuckolding, there isn’t an element of humiliation for the partner who’s watching. The stag gets their own erotic thrill from watching their partner have sex with others; sometimes they may be directly involved, sometimes they just watch. The thrill derives both from watching their partner have sex with someone else (voyeurism) but also knowing that their partner is hot and other folks want to bang ’em too. Similarly, the vixen both enjoys being watched (exhibitionism) and the novelty of new partners, etc.
Needless to say: much like cuckoldry, it’s very emphatically not for everyone. It can be pretty intense and doing this successfully requires a lot of trust and open and free communication between the partners. Everybody really needs to be on the same page, or else this runs the risk of opening fissures and driving wedges in relationships — especially if the vixen says, does or acts differently with the bull (the guest star doing the banging) than they do with their partner.
There’re other benefits to the stag beyond they voyeuristic aspect too. As you yourself noticed, RSS, this can lead to hotter, more intense sex between the stag and vixen later. For a lot of hotwife/S&V couples, this is leveraging a quirk of biology and psychology, where folks with prostates will often have a harder, more forceful orgasm if they believe or know their partner slept with someone else. It’s theorized that this is a form of sperm competition, where someone is attempting to”flush” out the competitor’s sperm and ensure that their sperm will be what impregnates their partner. Similarly, a lot of folks report that opening up their relationship to forms of ENM — including stag-and-vixen or hotwifing — has lead to more sex; rather than leaving folks satisfied, it increases their appetite and often reignites the spark between the original couple.
This is part of what I suspect makes things weird for you, RSS; you’re both having way hotter sex and more powerful orgasms hearing about the stuff your wife is into, but also it’s conflicting with the sense that this says something about you and her relationship with you. It’s also why she’s f--king you til your eyes bleed when you talk about this with her; she’s trying to show you that this isn’t because she doesn’t care for you or doesn’t desire you. In fact, I suspect that the thoughts and fantasies get her revved up and she’s taking that newfound energy and desire to you. Again: it’s very much a “yes, AND” situation, rather than an either/or.
So here’s where the false dichotomies come into the picture. First, there’s the fact that you’re seeing this as being a way that you’ve failed. Maybe this is reflected in your relationship to porn and what it did to your desire for your wife. You were jerking it to porn and that meant you weren’t as interested in your wife, so doesn’t that mean that your wife wants to get her needs met elsewhere because she’s not as interested in you?
Leaving aside the “addicted to porn”/NoFap issue — which I have strong opinions about — what’s happening here isn’t an either/or situation. It’s not that “she sleeps with other guys” OR “she loves you and wants to be with you”, it’s a “yes AND” situation: she gets sexual novelty with others AND her committed, passionate relationship with you. It’s significant that what she wants is Stag and Vixen, as opposed to just a hall pass or an open relationship; what she’s saying is that she wants this with your involvement. This isn’t just something that she’s doing because she’s tired of you, it’s an adventure that she’s inviting you to join her on. And that’s awesome; keeping the sense of shared adventure alive in a marriage is important. It says a lot about how much she trusts you and values you that she’s asking about this and sharing it with you.
Incidentally, I suspect your wife may be downplaying why she’s decided she wants to do this. While a lot of folks — especially women — will frame a desire like this as “well, I didn’t get to have my slutty period when I was younger”, I think the real answer is that this is something she’s always wanted to try. The idea that women reach their sexual peak in their 30s has far less to do with biology and everything to do with women in their 30s and 40s finally having the confidence (and discarded all their remaining f--ks) to own their desire and sexuality. I think this fantasy has long been simmering at the back of your wife’s mind and she’s finally reached the point where she’s willing to say something about it. And, again: this is good. It means that she’s spent this long building up trust and commitment with you and — again — is inviting you on this journey with her.
But this is also where you’ve run into the other false dichotomy. It’s not a case of “you’re either cool with this OR you’re a sex-negative cockblocker”. You can support her sexual desire and need for fulfillment and not be able to be part of it. Your friend is right: you don’t have to force yourself to be OK with something you’re not OK with. If this is something you can’t handle and you know that trying to go along with it would be like sandpaper on your soul, that doesn’t mean you’re being sex-negative or cockblocking her. It means that this is a place that you can’t go with her. If that’s the case, you still have options. If you’re good at compartmentalizing, you can give her the freedom to see and sleep with others as long as she’s discrete and makes a good faith effort to keep it on the down low and you don’t find out. This would require a certain amount of deliberate and willing ignorance on your part, but folks do make DADT arrangements like this work. You may be able to find some way of bridging the gap by going to a sex party or swingers events, which may feel less personal or less of a threat to your relationship.
Or… you can agree that this isn’t going to work and end the marriage.
Yes, I know, that’s not what you want. But if non-monogamy is a dealbreaker for you AND you don’t want to stand in the way of her sexual needs and exploration, isn’t it better to let her go rather than feeling as though you’re holding her back from what she needs? And by that same token, isn’t it kinder to let her do what she needs without the worry about the hurt it’s causing you?
But that’s all a big if. This, from what I’m gathering, is all still theoretical — aside from some dirty texting with an electrician (which, for the record, I advise against, on many levels). Because here’s the third and final false dichotomy you’ve set yourself up for: you don’t need to choose between “we don’t do this at all” or “jump right in with both feet” . What you should do — what I would say you absolutely MUST do — is take baby steps, rather than leaping in. What may be more acceptable to you if you let yourself acclimate slowly could be traumatic as hell if you just dive in head first instead.
If you wanted to see if this is something you could live with, it’s going to be far less stressful if you don’t go from zero to “ok, time to watch someone plow my wife” right away. A thing you may want to do is start with going to a bar or club separately, and then watch folks flirt or dance with your wife. That’s all — nothing more threatening or salacious than a little flirty talk or a dance or two, no kissing, groping or whatever. If you’re ok with that — or find it to be a turn on — you can move to another step and allow for, say, a little making out with someone while you watch from a respectable distance. Again: if that’s a thing you end up ok with, then you can move up to another level. I would, however, make it clear that until you’re sure you’re ok with things, that penetration stays off the table. While rolling around, making out, even oral may be ok, penetrative sex is often the point where a lot of folks draw the line and — again — that’s OK.
With each of these steps, you can see how you feel and have opportunities to discuss your feelings with your wife. You can work together to find rules that work for you both for each step and stage and develop the open and non-judgmental communication you’ll need to make this work. You may find that what you pictured isn’t what she was wanting to do, or you may discover that the version YOU’RE ok with is something that turns her on. But the fact that you’ll be keeping those lines of communication open, talking with each other and reaffirming the trust and love you have for one another will be the most important part of that exercise.
The other thing I would suggest is to talk to a sex-positive couple’s counselor, who could help facilitate the conversation between the two of you. Having a trained third party help mediate the conversation may make it easier for the two of you to discuss this and figure out a path forward, or if this is simply something you can’t do. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists has referral directory that can help you find a sex-positive counselor in your area.
And, again: it’s totally ok if you’re not OK with this. That doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means that you have found a line that you can’t cross and that’s fine. But before you decide this is the end of your marriage and you can’t get past this, TALK. Talk to your wife, talk to a couple’s counselor. You have far more options than I think you realize. It’ll be OK.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org