Dear Dan: I have a slowly terminal disease and don’t have more than five or six years left. I haven’t told my wife, which brings me to my problem. We had lived together for seven years when she cheated on me the first time. We worked things out, we got back together, but we continued to live separately. Then I cheated on her. We got back together again but continued living apart. After a year of therapy, we got married, but again we kept our households separate. Fast-forward one eviction and three years of living in a studio driving each other crazy, and she cheated on me again — this time in our house. I moved out instantly. A few months and a terminal diagnosis later, I don’t have the will to file the divorce paperwork. We’ve talked a few times about trying to figure out how to fix us, but I don’t know if I can ride this messed-up roller coaster anymore. On the other hand, I don’t want to waste the rest of my life being a divorced 40-something, but I still feel idiotic trying to fix our fucked-up relationship. She reads your column every week, so if you publish this, I’ll have to talk to her about my illness, so at least that won’t be an issue. What should I do about us?
— Doubting The Marital Future Again
Dear DTMFA: You and the wife have a resilient connection, DTMFA. Some intangible something or other has pulled you toward each other despite infidelities on both sides. And reading between the lines — and ignoring the acronym your sign-off creates — it doesn’t sound like being alone or your terminal illness are the only reasons you’re hesitating to file those divorce papers. It sounds to me like you love your wife, DTMFA, and it sounds like she loves you. Imperfectly. And maybe your semi-imminent death is putting those infidelities in their semi-proper perspective. I’m thinking the real reason you haven’t filed those divorce papers yet is this: On some level, you now recognize that your actual, existing, loving-but-flawed marital relationship should be given more weight than the marital ideal that you’ve both fallen short of, i.e., a flawlessly executed monogamous commitment.
I’m sorry about your diagnosis, DTMFA, I hope your remaining years are rich and rewarding, and it would be a shame if you had to face them alone. Maybe if you two changed your expectations of each other — if perfect sexual exclusivity wasn’t one of them — you two would be less disappointed in each other. Good luck.
Dear Dan: Are there kinky people interested in BDSM without sex? I’m an early-40s gal living in the Midwest. I’m in a decent-to-great marriage, have two kids, a good life. But my husband is not kinky, not at all. I feel like I’ve done all I can to get him comfortable with rough sex, power play, etc., but aside from some very reluctant spanking, hair pulling and a few humiliating (not in a good way) attempts at bondage, our sex life is almost totally vanilla. I enjoy the sex we have, but not being all of who I am sexually is making me resentful, miserable and desperate. At this point, I’m not even interested in trying to get my husband on board — it obviously makes him uncomfortable, and I think he’s just been hoping my desires would go away. They have not, of course, and will not. But I can’t see breaking up my marriage over this! My desires for intense physical play, D/s, role-play, etc. are only getting stronger. Is it even worth trying to find people to play with who would be okay with no sex? I think I could be happy staying monogamous if I could just get some of my needs met elsewhere. I’m going insane, but I don’t know if this is a thing, and research online has not been helpful. Is there any hope?
— Sincerely Longing In Midwest
Dear SLIM: There are lots of people involved in the organized kink scene who do BDSM without the sex, SLIM. For some, the BDSM is the sex. Bondage, D/s, spanking, etc. is all they require to get off. But you’ll also find plenty of folks like you in the organized kink scene — that is, men and women who wanna do BDSM while remaining vanilla/technically faithful to their nonkinky partners at home.
Here’s the hard part, SLIM: Doing this on the down low—getting involved in the organized kink scene without your husband’s knowledge — is going to be impossible. You don’t mention having your husband’s okay to outsource your kinks, and I can only assume that you haven’t talked about it with him. You need to. Because the more involved you get in the organized kink scene, the more potential play partners you’ll have to choose from. The more play partners you have to choose from, the safer you’re going to be — and the less likely you are to be manipulated into going further than you want to. A guy who knows that (1) he’s your only outlet for BDSM play, (2) you had a hard enough time finding him, and (3) you’re hiding him from your husband is a guy with too much power over you — that’s a guy who could, after one or two sessions, make upgrading to full sex a condition of your continuing to see him.