I Cheated. I Liked It. What Now?
Now there's a secret lurking in my marriage. How do I move forward?
Welcome to Ask A MWLTF (Yes, that’s Mother Who Likes to F*ck.), a new monthly anonymous advice column from Scary Mommy. Here we’ll dissect all your burning questions about motherhood, sex, romance, intimacy, and friendship with the help of our columnist, Penelope, a writer and mental health practitioner in training. She’ll dish out her most sound advice for parents on the delicate dance of raising kids without sacrificing other important relationships. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a wife and mother in her late thirties. My husband and I are happy, but recently, I strayed. I’m not proud of it, but I am glad to say I didn’t stray very far or for very long. It started when an old college boyfriend reached out to me on Instagram. He said he’d had a dream about me and was so curious what I was up to. The next thing I knew he was telling me exactly what he wanted to do to me at our next class reunion. He asked me to send him pics throughout the day and I found myself obliging him for a few weeks, once even stripping down in the restroom of a Le Pain Quotidien. It was weird but hot. My sex life with my husband had always been satisfying, but it had been in a bit of a hibernation since our second kid was born. Lucky for me, the old boyfriend lives far away. Things progressed to a few steamy phone calls, but no farther. I was feeling myself getting swept up in all the horny excitement and novelty, then one night I was looking at the old boyfriend’s Instagram page, and there were his beautiful wife and kids doing their beautiful wife and kids things. I felt bad. At that moment I remembered why 20-year-old me had broken up with him in the first place. He was a schmuck. Very attractive, very seductive, but fundamentally a schmuck. And now I was becoming one, too. I ended things abruptly and cut off all contact. I never told my husband because what would be the point of hurting him when it was over and I’d learned my lesson? Still, I made a mental note that it might be a good time to add a bit of long-distance foreplay into my marriage.
I wondered if part of what had drawn me into this discretion was the thrill and immediacy of newness of sexting, phone sex, naked selfies — things my husband and I dabbled in when we were dating but had long given up. I get that it’s been good for us to have the second and fourth Friday of every month set aside for a sex-date, but there’s also something erotic about the words and images and spoken desires that have to stand in for the act itself. I crave that spontaneity. And I crave it from my husband. But how do I tell the man I’ve been married to for a decade that I want him to talk (or text) dirty to me when that hasn’t been a part of our relationship for years?
Deprived of Dirty Talk
Let me start by expressing my admiration. This may seem like a strange thing to say to a person who's just confessed an extramarital dalliance with, as you put it so deftly, “a schmuck,” but all the same, I mean it. What you lacked in impulse control, you clearly made up for in self-awareness, pulling yourself out of what could have been a relationship-destroying spiral, sparing your partner unnecessary pain, and then doing the necessary soul-searching to figure out what unmet needs might have led you to the brink. The next step is figuring out how to communicate these needs to your partner. Furthermore, I’m impressed by the way you avoid the all-too-common trap of assuming this faltering means that there’s something fundamentally wrong with your marriage or your partner. This could be the case, but it could also be, as you seem to suspect, that you’ve simply slipped into the all-too-common intimacy rut experienced by countless other couples in your situation. If that is the case, what better way to shake things up than adding sexting or other forms of dirty-talk into the silent-film of your current sex life.
The first step is to communicate with your partner about your new desire and gauge his receptivity. For many couples who live together, it’s easy to make the mistake of assuming that talking about sex or texting about sex is a thing people do as a substitute for the actual act. In fact, the idea of physical intimacy, intimations on what you want to do with a person but can’t do at that particular moment, can be as arousing and exciting as the intimacy itself. Also, and this is important for people raising kids who have limited time and energy, sexting can be a great way to stimulate desire while conserving energy.
The best place to begin is often with disclosure. Simply talk openly about where your mind has been can be incredibly sexy. A statement like, “I’ve been thinking a lot about the last time we…” or, “I was thinking how the next time we’re together I’d love to...” offers your partner a window into your desire. It also offers your partner a chance to invite you into the dirtier corners of their own fantasy life. The back and forth of dirty talk gives us space to play at new personas, to be direct if we are normally passive, to be exhibitionistic if we are normally shy or self-conscious. So often the temptation of a dalliance is not the appeal of the other, as you realized quickly, but the chance to be someone new with that person, to leave your old patterns and scripts behind. Bringing dirty talk, real or virtual, into an established relationship can give both people the chance to re-invent themselves in the relationship and to inject a bit of playfulness and spontaneity into what’s become rote or automatic. The fact that you and your partner haven’t done this kind of thing in a long time could present a challenge, but it could also present an opportunity. Sometimes it’s the people we think we know best who most surprise us.