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Divorce is not an option

By Dan Savage · October 26th, 2005 · Savage Love
My wife and I were married straight out of college. At the time I knew she suffered from a potentially debilitating mental disorder, so I came into the relationship with my eyes fully open. Since then, nine years and two children have followed. About two years ago her disorder began to get worse -- suicidal ideation, hallucinations, delusions and the like. Her psychiatrist put her on a new medication that for the most part has eliminated her symptoms. She has gotten her life under control and is doing much better.

But here's my problem, and I feel extremely selfish for this: One of the side effects of the medication is a complete loss of interest in sex. She is still loving and affectionate, but her libido is nonexistent. We have discussed this many times and argued about it. Over the past six months we have reached a tacit agreement: I don't ask, and she doesn't pretend. I am 32 years old and married to my best friend who wants nothing to do with me sexually.

Divorce is not an option. My children are my life. In addition, my wife needs me -- and I take the "for better or worse" part seriously. More importantly, I love her. In short, I am looking at forgoing sex for the rest of my life. I am successful, intelligent, ambitious, kind and better than average in the looks department. I am flirted with frequently in my daily life, and I find myself increasingly desperate for even a small taste of sexual intimacy. What am I to do?

-- Desperately Seeking Anything

You're to fuck other people, DSA. You write that you take the "for better or worse" part seriously, and that's admirable. I fully support your decision to remain in your marriage, stand by your wife and be there for your kids. They all need you, and they all need you at home. But that "for better or worse" stuff? It doesn't just apply to you, DSA, it also applies to your wife.

So, yeah, it sucks to be married to someone who, as the result of a necessary medical intervention, is completely uninterested in sex. That definitely falls into the "worse" column. Likewise, it sucks to be married to a man who, to preserve his own sanity, occasionally has sex with other women. That falls into the "worse" column, too. But you have needs that have to be met, DSA, and meeting them isn't just about satisfying your need for sexual intimacy. You're feeling "increasingly desperate" about the prospect of "forgoing sex for the rest of (your) life." If you don't find a nice woman you can be sexual with -- perhaps someone in a similar circumstance? -- your desperation will eventually reach an emotional crescendo and you will sabotage your marriage. So do the right thing and fuck other people.

Yeah, yeah, adultery is wrong. But when you consider the damage that divorce would do to your wife and kids, a little adultery is the lesser evil. So don't ask, don't tell and don't get caught, DSA -- although you might want to say something to your wife now, something you can remind her of if you do get caught, something along the lines of, "I'm not going to pressure you about sex anymore, but you have to know that if and when opportunity presents itself, I don't think I'll be able to help myself." You've resigned yourself to living with this "worse;" it's not too much to ask your wife to resign herself to the probability that you will, at some point, fuck someone else.

About a year ago I moved abroad to be with my boyfriend. Now we don't have sex anymore! I confronted my partner about this, and he admitted he's having impotency issues. He is 35 and drinks and smokes a lot and has a stressful job, and I think these are the reasons for our lackluster love life. How serious is this? I don't think I can survive without sex. He is eight years older than me and claims that sex is no longer important to him. Does he not love me anymore?

-- Between a Rock and an Unhard Place

How serious is this problem? Deadly serious, I should think, since you say you "can't survive" without sex and he's apparently not willing to make any effort or changes (drinking and smoking "a lot" can impede a man's ability to get it up), just excuses. Does he not love you anymore? Dunno, BARAAUP, but he clearly doesn't love you enough to take your unhappiness at the current state of your love life seriously. DTMFA.

There is this girl who is dating a friend of mine, but we all hang out at least once a week. Their relationship is "on-again, off-again," mainly "off" when my friend is sleeping with other girls.

When we hang out, with or without her boyfriend around, this girl is always talking about how she wishes her boyfriend was more like me, didn't use drugs, etc. She also seems to always find ways to be in physical contact with me, sitting next to me, leaning on me, etc. I am in love with her. I am also married.

I'm a 24-year-old guy, and my wife and I have been married for two years. We dated for eight years before that. (Yes, we started dating when I was 14.) I thought I was in love with my wife, but now, with this new girl, I feel so much more that it makes me wonder if either one of us ever really experienced true love.

The most sensible option, of course, is to assume that this is just a fleeting crush and continue my married life. The other option is to talk to her about my crush and see if she feels the same way about me. There's no sense getting a divorce only to find out that this girl doesn't really like me, right? What do you think? My wife and I have no children, so that's not a concern.

-- Torn Married Man

First off, TMM, I find it odd that your wife either doesn't know or doesn't care that you hang out with a cheating, drug-abusing buddy and his long-suffering girlfriend at least once a week. If she knows and doesn't care, it's entirely possible that she wants out of this early, ill-advised marriage just as much as you do.

So what do you do? Talk it out with your crush -- she might be all over you because she's into you or she might be all over you because she sees you as "safe," i.e. married and therefore not a potential boyfriend. And just because she tells you she wishes her boyfriend were more like you doesn't necessarily mean she's attracted to you. Anyone who repeatedly takes back a cheating, drug-using boyfriend has a taste for bad boys, something you're definitely not. So while she might regard you as a better man, that doesn't necessarily mean you're her type. She may just be relying on you -- AKA using you -- for emotional support while she gets her kicks from her bad-boy boyfriend.

Regardless of what the crush says, you need to talk with the wife, too. You don't have to share all the details, but before you have kids, a frank conversation about how young you married and what you might have missed out on by doing so (true love?) could be a good idea.

The guy who puts semen on his friends' toothbrushes is committing sexual assault. No one should be forced or tricked into coming in contact with another's semen. Once, in college, while perusing a campus online discussion forum, I came across a posting from a woman who said her male friend had revealed to her that he planned to sneak into a women's restroom on campus and put his semen on the toilet paper in all the stalls. She wanted to know what to do about it. Replies were varied, but the general sentiment seemed to be that his plan was gross and disrespectful but not dangerous because sperm and possible STDs wouldn't stay alive long enough to impregnate or infect anyone.

To me, that is beside the point. His plan was to commit sexual assault on numerous women by finding a way to get his semen on their genitals without their consent or knowledge. Most people on the forum advised her to talk the perv out of it, but no one said call the police if he goes through with it. The photo in your legal pad and the pubes on the toilet seat are not as bad because those people didn't physically impose their bodily fluids on anyone, but it's still wrong to force others to deal with their sexual items just for the fun of it. A fetish or kink must be limited to actions that don't involve non-consenting and/or unknowing participants.

-- Pervs Should Respect Others' Rights

I just wanted to comment on your reaction to Puzzled By Pubes, the gay guy whose straight friend leaves a single pube on the toilet seat every time he visits ... for years on end. I have a fairly bizarre sense of humor and was inspired by this! I think a far simpler, but equally likely possibility, is that the shedding visitor is just having an innocent giggle.

As a kid we had a family friend who would always use the toilet adjacent the dining room while everyone was eating (an unfortunate layout in that San Francisco apartment, but it was in a great school district!). He must have prepared a pitcher of water in advance for his obscure little prank, because he would take these impossibly long and audible pisses -- so long, in fact, that conversation at the dinner table would cease and everyone would silently marvel at the profundity of his passing water. He would emerge, nonchalant as you like, and return to dinner. No one ever questioned it -- not the best dinner topic for mature adults -- but I thought it was a fucking riot, and I've have used it in my repertoire of stupid tricks ever since. While I won't use this particular one, I can relate. And I reckon there is nothing sexual about the guy's leftover pubes.

-- Just Joking in the John

I was subjected recently to a much worse case of hairrorism than Puzzled By Pubes. I opened a letter about two weeks ago. The envelope had a return address (which I didn't recognize) but no name. Inside was a single folded up piece of notebook paper with "Fuck You" written across it. When I unfolded the piece of paper, a nice little ball of short, black hairs fell out -- onto my pillow, by the way, since I was opening the letter over my bed by some awful chance. Inside the paper it said, "Yeah, that's taint hair!"

I have no idea who would want to do this to me. Even more disturbing is the fact that this guy (one can only assume it's a guy, since girls, as I understand it, don't have taints) included a return address. Does he want me to send him some of my own taint clippings? I am disgusted and appalled (although my friends mostly thought it was hilarious). Anyway, I think you should take a strong stand in your column against hairrorism. It's time for this disgusting practice to end.

A note to your readers: The taint is that remarkable little area between a man's anus and his scrotum.

-- Tainted

I am shocked at the ignorance you displayed in your answer to Puzzled By Pubes, the man whose friend had deposited a pubic hair on the toilet seat during every visit for five straight years. In some cultures this is a sign of great respect, a blessing of sorts! Leaving a single pubic hair says, symbolically, "I take that which protects the most intimate, life-giving part of me and leave a piece with you today." In my culture leaving a public hair on the north rim of the seat is a prayer for continued protection over the house. The south rim indicates a blessing of fertility and health for offspring. Leaving a hair on the east or west side is a wish for continued fortune from dawn to dusk. So, far from being a perv, PBP's friend could be honoring his host.

-- Cultural Sensitivity Guy

I'm a great fan of your column and just wanted to add a note to the advice you gave to Puzzled By Pubes. PBP should know that it's also possible that his friend is less a perv than a particular kind of maniac -- a trichotillomaniac, specifically. The National Mental Health Association defines trichotillomania as "an impulse-control disorder, along the lines of pyromania, kleptomania and pathologic gambling." And the symptoms include: "pleasure, gratification or relief when pulling out one's hair."

Trichotillomaniacs compulsively and chronically pull out their own hair, and though generally head-hair pullers are most noted, some might pull hair from other parts of the body, including pubes, body hair or facial hair. Also, the disorder can include doing odd things with hair that's been pulled, including biting or eating the hair and/or depositing hairs in a regular place. As a person who has trichotillomania and pulls facial hairs from my chin and eyebrows, sometimes I'll put the hair(s) on the same place on my sink every time, making myself a little collection there. And what better place to indulge a compulsive behavior than a bathroom? It's private, well lighted, with access to a mirror and some reason to be in there for a minute or two. I've placed hairs on friends' sinks in the same place I place them at home. There's no hostility or sexual feelings at all toward the friend involved; their bathroom is just a convenient place for me to indulge my weird need. So PBP's friend might not have something sexually perverse going on, just maniacal.

Here are some nice facty Web sites/articles: www.trich.org, www.nmha.org/infoctr/factsheets/92.cfm and www.citybeat.com/2003-08-13/printable/news4.html.

-- Pulling Out My Hair



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