To have and not to hold

July 4, 2008

Dear Bartender: My wife and I no longer have sex, and I’m sorry to say that this situation is apparently non-negotiable. I have proposed having an affair with a woman who lives in a nearby town. She and I have already had sex. I do not want to divorce my wife, but I still want to have sex. My wife says I can’t have an affair. I say, no marital sex, no business calling the shots.

Bartender, what do you think?

— Frustrated in the MIdwest

Dear Midwest: The affair is yours to have. Your wife may end up divorcing you, but she’s wrong to think that celibacy and monogamy are the same thing.

I’m eager to hear if my readers have more to add to this topic.



  1. oh dear. i was married for over 10 years to someone i did not want to have sex with. i would have welcomed him finding someone else to take care of his needs. In fact, I encouraged it but he never did. I strayed from time to time but my misery caused me to gain a ton of weight so most men were not interested because (a) i was married and (b) i was fat. Finally I left my husband, lost 50 lbs., got a younger bf and started having great sex again. I wonder why this writer does not want to get divorced? I know I stayed in it way too long because we have a child together, but that turned out not to be so great for any of us. I have concluded after all these years that marriage is plain wrong. It’s only good for tax breaks and financial gain.

  2. Marriage is more than sex. In fact, in some ways marriage and sex are opposites. Sex is Mother Nature’s way of luring us into domesticity. It is, in fact, a very clever trick to get us to settle down. Odd, then, that the potential for sex — with other people — waltzes in later in life and tries to shake things up.

  3. Clearly this letter has nothing to do with sex. It has everything to do with a loveless marriage that the writer can’t or won’t exit for some unknown but obviously non-compelling reason that he thinks is far more critical than it truly is.

    Here’s where it get tricky. The writer clearly has no compassion for his wife and we don’t know why the wife doesn’t want sex. Is she ill? Is she rich? Are they staying together ‘for the children’ (which is really stupid- kids aren’t idiots. They can tell there’s no love really easily). We also don’t get to hear her side of the story.

    In short, it’s hard to tell whether the writer is a co-dependent sex addict looking for validation and an escape from torment or if he’s a heartless bastard unwilling to have compassion for a woman in pain who he promised to love til death do they part. Though I have to give him credit for including his wife in his conundrum, which is more than I can say for most considering an extramarital affair, what is clear is that he has gotten himself into a marriage he regrets and believes is better than any alternative, especially being alone.

    Either way, he needs to either accept life the way it is or exit the situation. There is no half way as cheating will just delay the inevitable anyway. If you put your self-esteem in someone else’s hands, emotionally, financially, mentally- you will never truly be happy. But it doesn’t matter what I say anyway, because he’s got to learn that on his own the hard way.

  4. Sex addict?? David, wtf. The guy wants to have sex with his wife and she says no. Does that mean that his two choices are 1) divorce or 2) celibacy? I’m with Bartender that monogamy and celibacy aren’t the same thing. People were meant to have sex. It’s kinda why we’re here, doncha think?

  5. I’m no MENSA candidate– but David sounds pretty spot on–

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