I Cheated On My Husband. It Was the Best Thing I Ever Did.

A woman's hand slowly removing a wedding ring while other neon pink wedding rings float in the background.
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How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.com

Dear How to Do It, 

I am a 40-something woman who has been with my husband for 20 years. We are business partners and have two amazing children. But over the years, our marital partnership took a backseat to everything. We lost our personal connection and I felt lost, lonely, and in need of the human connection and sexual gratification that I no longer had with my husband. So, I had an affair that happened organically with a man who was also in a miserable marriage. We all are acquaintances through our children. At the time, I was able to compartmentalize my emotions during the affair and not feel guilty. But over time, it consumed me and I fell in love. It is the kind of love and connection I have always longed for. Our sex life is amazing and gratifying.

I decided it was time to come clean and we outed ourselves. It’s been messy and uncomfortable and gossiped-about, though my circle of friends have been so supportive and judgment-free, as they know how unhappy I was. We are now both getting divorced from our spouses. The process has been painful for all parties. We are all doing the best we can, though I know how difficult this must be for the two betrayed spouses.

My question is: how do I now deal with the guilt I feel for the damage I have left in the wake of my selfish behavior that has led me to the best love and sexual connection of my life? I put my happiness first, now I fear I will never feel free of the pain I’ve caused. I’m in therapy. It’s helping, but I don’t want my past betrayal to keep haunting me for the rest of my life.

—Trying to Move On

Dear Trying to Move On,

Life is messy and love is indomitable. Sometimes unethical means result in blissful ends, and when that happens, the latter seems to justify the former. For example, when someone comes out, many are inclined to forgive them of the lies they told to survive in the closet. I think a situation like yours is somewhat similar—you did something bad for the greater good. You didn’t have to cheat, of course, but it seems like a change was necessary. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re going to have a hard time taking care of others. This is why you’re supposed to put the oxygen mask on you before tending to those around you as the plane is going down.

Now that you’re experiencing the “best love and sexual connection of your life,” you have the foundation to better enrich and help the lives of those around you. “Selfish behavior” is not so easily defined when you consider how much your happiness and outlook affects those whom you love and support. Your emotional health is vital for your family in the long run, even if the way you went about that stings in the short term. Scandal is abundant and people are quick to move onto the next one.

Focus on the good in your situation. That may be easier said than done, but there’s a book that may help in that endeavor by Rick Hanson called Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. Therapy is good. Consider family counseling too with your kids if they’re showing resentment and having a hard time getting over their parents splitting. More than anything, give it time and know that despite how hard this shift is, it’s worth it. You wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. You’ve made your choice and it came at a high cost—value it.

Dear How to Do It, 

My husband and I have been married for 16 years and experimented with non-monogamy here and there. We’ve recently hit what we believed to be the jackpot: another male/female couple where the woman is very interested in both of us (I’m queer) and the man likes to watch and enjoy his wife’s pleasure. We’re also just friends with them—we play board games, hang out, and have non-sexual fun together. My husband and I used to go to swinger parties occasionally, but haven’t since COVID, and we really just wanted a couple we could do this sort of thing with—and we found them!

We’ve been hanging out and playing together for about 18 months now, and it came out this week that our friends have recently also been “dating” other couples. No sexytimes with anyone else yet, and they have every right to live their life as they see fit, but I’m wondering what the ethics here are, and what my husband and I need to think about going forward. STI testing? Emotional landmines? Anything else to look out for?

—Six Is a Crowd

Dear Six Is a Crowd, 

If being a gay man in an urban area has taught me one thing it’s this: Unless otherwise stated explicitly, you can assume that whatever your playmates are doing with you, they’re doing with others. If your arrangement is evidently nonmonogamous (as yours is with this couple), many don’t feel the need to explain what and whom else they’re doing. It’s implied. Non-monogamy means non-monogamy.

That said, it’s cool that this couple let you know that they’re hanging out with other couples and it’s cool that you acknowledge their “right to live their life as they see fit.” Are you OK with the explicit risks that come with that? (Previously, these were implicit, even if you didn’t realize it.) I believe that anyone who isn’t strictly monogamous should be getting tested regularly—even if you had a contract with this other couple stating that you’d only have sex with each other, slip ups happen. People cheat. This column would have a hard time existing if they didn’t. So yes, get tested.

Just to give you a sense of what’s recommended for a population that tends to be very sexually active, the CDC says men who have sex with men “at increased risk” (“i.e., MSM on PrEP, with HIV infection, or if they or their sex partners have multiple partners”) should get tested every three to six months. (As a PrEP taker, I love that I am required to get tested every three months.)You could opt to get tested a few weeks after having sex with new partners or up the frequency if your current partners are having sex with others, especially if they aren’t using condoms. You have to decide what you’re comfortable with, but regular testing is a good idea.

The emotional landmines would in all likelihood pertain to jealousy—I urge you to work through that, as it can be a real turn-off for those who aren’t jealous and want to have fun. Books like The Ethical Slut and The Jealousy Workbook might help. The cooler you are about this, the more likely you are to keep seeing this couple. That said, if you don’t feel cool, you don’t have to be cool—if it’s too much for you, say something. If they’re willing to hear you out and work with you to achieve a balance that satisfies everyone, they’re worth keeping around; if not, your situationship is worth reconsidering.

If you’re interested in group fun, be really cool and ask them to introduce you to their friends. With relationships, it’s important to be open to evolution. This could be the start of something exciting or the beginning of the end—you have full control here. This little foursome you have is elective and supplementary. You’ll be OK if it ends and if that’s going to happen, the sooner you figure out it’s not for you, the better.

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Dear How to Do It, 

Recently, I’ve begun to delve into the world of polyamory. And by “delve,” I really just mean just “explore what it could mean for me in my future relationships.” I am a single dad, so I often spend my time with my kids or at work. I don’t have a lot of time as it is, so it’s very important to me to find someone who is serious. I also know that it’s not very easy to be taken seriously without a partner already in the lifestyle, unless your desire is to be a bull. It is not mine.

However, I do want to explore this side of my sexuality—I’m just not quite sure how to begin. My other conflict is that I would like to have a committed partner, but I have yet to find a woman who is also polyamorous, but not so over-the-top that it causes a rift between us. I have come close before, but something always inevitably happens that lets me know that I haven’t chosen correctly, even when I have been direct about my interests and kinks. Do you have any advice on how I should proceed moving forward? I hope my questions make sense.

—Poly Eager

Dear Poly Eager, 

Your questions make sense, but you can’t really build an infrastructure for a relationship that does not yet exist. That’s something the two (or more!) of you need to do together. It’s really hard to say how your poly relationship will fly when you don’t have your co-pilot. If you feel non monogamous at heart, I understand why you’re motivated to go about doing things this way and your eagerness to announce your  nonmonogamous inclinations before so much as a greeting. But of course, that will reduce your pool of potential partners considerably. And keep in mind that an early conversation about a disinterest in monogamy may scare off a potential partner as well (though that’s for the best—it keeps you from committing to a dead end).

I also think that you should be very clear about what you want. “A woman who is also polyamorous, but not so over-the-top that it causes a rift between us” doesn’t quite cut it. If you’re going into this thinking that you’re going to police how someone else does polyamory, you’re going to have an even more difficult time than you expect. What is “over-the-top” to you? What are your hard boundaries, and what are things you are open to negotiating?

You’re right, it can be tough for single men in poly circles, but you should do your best to put yourself out there—if there are local groups you could attend, try it. You can also cast a wider net via nonmonogamy-friendly apps like Feeld or even OkCupid. You can also attempt to socialize online via Reddit and other sites (here’s a thread about navigating polyamory as a single guy that you may want to read—lots of good insight directly from the community). The difficulty you describe is part of the process—it’s one that requires care and patience. Stick with it.


A few weeks ago I was visiting my boyfriend overseas, and my mother was taking care of my pet rabbit and my plants. To cut to the chase, she found my BDSM gear. All of it. Worse, she thinks my boyfriend uses it to “abuse” me. Despite my protests otherwise, she told most of my family I’m in an abusive relationship. That couldn’t be further from the truth—I’m in an incredibly great, respectful, consensual kink dynamic with my boyfriend—who is, of course, mortified by all this. He’s now asking that we not spend time with my family over Thanksgiving. I don’t blame him. How can I kindly tell my family my sex life is none of their business and to drop it? Some have hinted that I’m a terrible mother because I am into BDSM.