America’s longest-running sex-advice column!

Sister, Wife

Joe Newton

I married my high school girlfriend after college. We were happy, and the sex was fantastic. Then she fell in love with a woman and came out — just to me — as bisexual or possibly a lesbian. Our relationship somehow survived this tumult, and we decided to start a family. We are now in our 50s, our children are grown, and I have not had sex for approximately two decades. My wife long ago lost any desire for intimacy with me or anyone else. My sex drive is as strong as ever but limited to strictly solo activities. My wife remains mostly closeted in terms of not being out to her friends and family, with one exception: one of her sisters, who is single. My wife is overseas currently (for work), and we’ve been geographically separated for four years now.

That’s the background. I’m writing to you about the...

Want to read the rest? Subscribe now to get every question, every week, the complete Savage Love archives, special events, and much more!

...#8217;s the background. I’m writing to you about the bizarre event that took place over the weekend: I was texting with my wife’s sister and out of the blue she writes that she has my wife’s permission to sleep with me. This was totally unexpected and caused a panic attack on my part. It felt wrong. I was at a loss as to what to say. She assured me, still via text, that this was OK with my wife, and it would be a safe “sister-in-law with benefits” arrangement. She also has physical needs that are unmet, as she is single, so we’d be helping each other. My wife and I had discussed having an “open” marriage, with each of us seeking “girlfriends.” My wife has said she is OK with this, but I am not, as I fear having a girlfriend — I fear either of us having a girlfriend — could throw our home and family life into chaos and potentially result in divorce, which wouldn’t be fair to the children. Believing my sister-in-law actually had my wife’s permission to at least raise the subject, I went a bit down the road with her via text (things got explicit) and I experienced something I haven’t for 20 years: the elation of an imminent sexual encounter. Of course, I needed reassurance that my wife was actually OK with this, so I asked her. Well, it seems there was a major misunderstanding. My wife was appalled, utterly so. According to my wife, her sister “joked” about sleeping with me when the two of them were discussing the details of their relationships and their sexualities, and my wife only jokingly agreed. Now I feel guilty that I even considered having sex with my wife’s sister, to say nothing of the guilt I feel about the wedge this has driven into a close sisterly relationship. My wife doesn’t want to discuss this any further. I get that it is weird, especially if it were to be condoned by all parties. But I want to share more about how I feel with my wife. I don’t think she understands how depressing it is to feel that you’ll never be intimate with anyone ever again. That may not be a struggle for my wife, who says she feels no sexual urges at all, but it is for me. I’ve been told by both my wife and my sister-in-law to forget this conversation ever happened, so we can all move on. But I find I can’t move on. So, what do I do? Seeking Insight Somewhere First, I’m not the Supreme Court. I can’t overrule your wife and order her to discuss something she refuses to discuss, SIS, much less order your wife to allow you — the husband she doesn’t wanna fuck — to go and fuck her sister, who, despite having raised the subject, to disastrous effect, also doesn’t want to discuss the matter further. If you need to talk about this at length with someone, SIS, confide in a friend and/or talk to a therapist. Second, you haven’t had sex in 20 years, SIS, and it’s understandable that you entertained the first serious offer you’d gotten in decades. Your wife’s sister essentially offered a cheeseburger to a starving man. That you took a tiny little bite out of that cheeseburger before thinking to ask your vegan spouse if it was okay for you to have a cheeseburger… albeit a cheeseburger made with ground sister meat… isn’t something your wife should hold against you for the rest of your life, even if she’d rather not discuss it. Third, you have your wife’s permission to fuck other women — even date other women — so long as you aren’t dating and/or fucking one of her relatives. So, instead of grieving the pussy you’re never gonna get again (your wife’s) or allowing yourself to obsess about the pussy you never should’ve been offered (your sister-in-law’s), SIS, I would encourage you to get some pussy that doesn’t share quite so much of its DNA with your wife. Prioritizing stability when your kids were young was completely commendable, SIS, but your kids are grown now. And if you’re so starved for sex that you find yourself jumping at highly inappropriate offers — and “sister-in-law with benefits” clears that bar  — you would be well-advised to seek sex with a more appropriate potential partner than to wait for the next inappropriate offer that comes along. Yes, sex can create chaos. Hell, sometimes I think sex is chaos. But controlled chaos > uncontrolled chaos. Fourth and finally, SIS, your wife tells you she’s asexual and does not experience desire… and while that may be true… there’s a chance it’s not. While asexuality is both real and valid and vice-versa, people have been known to lie to their spouses about important things no one should lie about. Maybe I’m old and jaded, and maybe I should keep my mouth shut, but I could see someone who married her cis male high school sweetheart before realizing she was maybe/probably/most likely a lesbian claiming to be asexual — not just to get herself off the having-to-fuck-my-husband hook, but to spare her husband’s feelings. (“It’s not that I don’t want to have sex with you, honey, it’s that I don’t want to have sex with anyone.”) Again, it could be true, SIS, your wife could be asexual. Or your wife could have a girlfriend on the other side of the world that you don’t know about. That could also be true. P.S. Maybe I’m jaded and maybe my sample is skewed (my sample is definitely skewed), but something about the conversation your wife had with her sister — the disastrous conversation that led to this whole mess — has my spidey senses tinkling. Seeing as your wife is asexual and decades into a loving but sexless marriage and that she and her sister were close before this… would she really have much to say to her sister during a conversation about their relationships and their sexualities? I mean, besides “still asexual,” “still married,” and, “still not fucking my husband,” all things her sister would’ve already known. It seems likelier to me that… your wife may have said something else… and whatever she said prompted your sister-in-law to make the joke that led to this misunderstanding. P.P.S. Now go get laid. In other words… move on someone else. My hub and I enjoy your columns and it’s opened our minds about sex a lot. We recently gave each other the okay to try to fulfill our monogamish fantasies IRL but haven’t acted on them yet. But I did meet a guy online, who is also married, and we’ve been having the most incredible cybersex. It’s turned into regular chats, and we’ve talked about meeting up in person. Why am I feeling kind of guilty about this? The hub knows I’m fucking around online with this guy, and it even turns him on! I find myself thinking about this other guy all of the time. Should I end it? Or keep having fantastic orgasms without the hub? Wife And Naughty Tease Seeing as you brought this question to me, WANT, and not a priest or an uptight monogamy fetishist posing as a couples’ counselor, I’m gonna go ahead and tell you what you wanted to hear: keep fucking around with this guy online and IRL, if you get a good feeling from him after you meet up in person. New relationship energy (NRE), which is what you’re feeling for this guy, can be intense, but it’s always temporary; so, go ahead and enjoy it as long as it lasts. As for the guilt, well, people who do and enjoy things they’ve been told — for no legitimate reason — they’re not supposed to do and enjoy, e.g., gay sex, extramarital sex, kinky sex, seeing a sex worker, etc., sometimes convince themselves that having the decency to feel bad about what they’ve done (at least during their refractory period) means they’re still good people. I’m here from the future — I’m here from your future — to tell you that you don’t have to feel bad about what you’re doing with your husband’s permission, WANT, and to his delight. Unless feeling bad about it turns you on, of course, in which case… then you can enjoy doing it and enjoy feeling bad about it, too. We splurge on a housecleaner a couple times a month while we’re at work. We always make sure to tidy up our personal items before she comes, but this week I accidentally left not one but TWO vibrators by the bathroom sink. I had forgotten to put them away after I washed them, and I was in a rush! Total accident! When I returned home to a clean house, the vibes were neatly laid on the bathroom counter. I am not a person with shame around sex, but this made me feel SO embarrassed! She should not have had to see/touch those! Should we apologize? If so, how to bring it up in a way that’s not awkward? Should we pay her extra for that session? I’m so embarrassed and don’t want her to feel demeaned. Very Intense Blushing-Enhanced Situation What does your housecleaner know now that she didn’t know before? Assuming she’s never spotted one of your sex toys before — an assumption I would classify as semi-reasonable (at best!) — she now knows, thanks to your shocking carelessness, that you have sex and that you, like millions of other adults (and surely one or two of her other clients), sometimes use sex toys. Even if she was shocked and mortified and disappointed in you, VIBES, I think you should follow your housekeeper’s lead: she didn’t make a big deal about it, and you shouldn’t make a big deal about it. Just like your holes, VIBES, the memory hole is there to be used. P.S. Once after very specifically asked that our room not be made up during a week-long stay at a hotel, we came back after breakfast — on the very first morning we were there — to find the sex toys we’d left strewn all over the room neatly arranged on the shelves of our walk-in closet. If we could look the little old Slovenian lady who cleaned our room in the eye every day for the rest of that week, you can look your housecleaner in the eye, too.

Comments on Sister, Wife