I’ve been married for nearly 20 years, and we used to have a pretty good sex life. We figured out ways to help my wife reach orgasm most of the time, but she’s always been fairly indifferent to sex, and as the years have passed, she’s totally lost interest. She still participates for my sake, but she’s ruled out the things that get her off and has made it clear she’s just discharging her “wifely duties.” Occasionally she’s said she would be OK with opening up our marriage so I could have sex elsewhere. Usually I’ve taken that as a sign that she feels inadequate and wants to relieve me of guilt, but she’s brought it up again recently, and I think she’s sincere. But I also believe that she would be deeply hurt if I ever took her up on it.
I’m not crawling out of my skin for lack of a vibrant sex life. But I’m also not averse to a hookup. I love my wife, and I don’t want to leave her. If the situation ever arises where I could plausibly pursue sex with someone who’s flirting with me, am I really at liberty to pursue it? Can I take her permission at face value, even if I don’t think she really appreciates how it will affect her? To be clear, one of her conditions was that she would know about it, so secrecy is not on the table even if it might actually work better that way.
—Is Our Marriage Really Open?