Help! My New Crush Says He’s in an “Open Marriage." Should I Go for It?

Advice on manners and morals.
June 20 2013 6:15 AM

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My new crush says he’s in an “open marriage.” Should I go for it?

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I'm a 27-year-old woman who recently made friends with a nice, attractive 34-year-old man. He asked me out for drinks soon thereafter and made it clear that he's interested in a romantic relationship. He's my type, and I like him, but after our date he explained that he's in an open marriage. I have no doubt that it's a mutual agreement between him and his wife. And I'm in a situation that makes the idea especially appealing: I just got out of a two-year relationship that was sexually unsatisfying (my boyfriend rarely climaxed). It left me feeling as if there's something wrong with me. The idea of a fling with someone new, with no commitment potential and nothing to lose, seems like it could be a positive ego boost for me as I look for single, available men to date. New guy is saying: Let me be your rebound! Let's be friends with benefits! But most of my friends think it's a morally objectionable thing to do and doubt that I can get involved without getting my feelings hurt in the long run. What do you think?

—Want a Fling

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Dear Fling,
I wish you’d explained why you are so certain that this guy’s wife is also party to the information that they have an “open marriage.” I’m assuming that he didn’t text a photo of you to his wife in the middle of your date with the note, “Things are going well!” I bet if you decided to have an affair with him, it would quickly become clear your relationship is surreptitious and you would have to go along with his rules. It doesn’t speak well for this this man’s character (no matter what arrangement he and his wife have) that he withheld the central fact of his being married until after the seductive banter and drinks. However, I understand the appeal of a commitment-free sex romp after coming out of a sexually frustrating relationship. But before you give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his friends-with-benefits proposal, make two counterproposals of your own. One is that you two get to know each other better first. I’m guessing he won’t want to invest too much time in activities unrelated to said benefits. Another is that given his history, you need to get a current STD status on him. Again, I assume he’s not going to be interested in generating any paperwork in order to get in the sack with you. But even if he demonstrates he’s disease free, consider that aside from the moral questions about a married man, investing your time in one does have a cost. You think you can be looking for that real partner while you are carrying on with this guy. But, as your friends have warned, you can’t anticipate what happens to your emotions once you get involved with someone. If this affair gets hot and heavy, it will likely make the available men seem lukewarm and lightweight in comparison. Keep at the forefront of your mind that your goal is to find your own life partner, not borrow someone else’s.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: Errant Dildo

Dear Prudie,
I occasionally have to take a shower with my 3-year-old daughter in the bathroom with me. The problem is that the last couple of times she noticed that I have hair in a place that’s not my head. She starting yelling "Eewww,” backed away, and got extremely upset to the point of tears. Now I'm at a loss as to what to do in the future when there’s no one else to watch her and I need to take a shower. I'm also worried that when she reaches puberty and begins to grow pubic hair that she will feel disgusted with herself. Hopefully by then, I'll be able to reason with her. I need advice as to how to handle this the next time. (I'm not at all interested in any solution involving total landscaping, landing strips, etc.)

—Natural Woman

Dear Natural,
Despite her obvious affinity for the industry, since you’re daughter is only 3 years old she’s too young to be a lobbyist for the International Brazilian Wax Society. I don’t think the problem is that your daughter has seen too much, it’s that she’s seen too little. If your underbrush hasn’t almost always been under wraps, the sight of her naked mother would not be shocking to her. I think it’s good for very young children to occasionally see their parents naked—and comfortable in that state—so that they know what adult bodies look like and that their parents aren’t embarrassed or ashamed. For now, when your daughter backs away from you in tears, stay calm, towel off, and reassure her that while having hair there may look funny, it’s just a part of being a grown-up. At some point this summer, you might think about joining a local pool. Your daughter will learn about splashing around in the water, but her greatest instruction will probably be the eyeful she gets in the locker room. I have vivid memories of being crotch-high in such circumstances and being mesmerized by the fascinating and appalling things that lurk underneath adults’ clothes. One thing this will show your daughter is that her mother is pretty normal, after all.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My wife has a habit that I find irritating. Instead of blowing her nose, she sniffs to keep the snot in, making a loud snorting sound. This isn't usually a problem, but now that the pollen has returned, this sniffing occurs every 30 seconds throughout the day. I feel this is rude habit and it must be irritating to others at the cubicles in her office. When I mention this to her, she gets defensive and thinks that I’m rude to bring it up. Is this sniffing habit truly annoying to others, or is it just me? We need another perspective so that we don’t have to resort to couples’ counseling.

—Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,
Now that chalkboards are being replaced by whiteboards a whole generation will be spared even knowing what it means to hear fingernails scraping one. It turns out there are certain sounds that drive people bonkers, and the science of how we perceive and experience sound is called psychoacoustics—or the study of acoustics that make people psycho. I know from my inbox, and life, that certain repetitive human noises—loud chewing, throat clearing, and yes, sniffing—can make some people feel as if the offending noise is magnifying and echoing through their skulls, threatening to make their brains explode. I assure you your wife’s fellow cubicle-dwellers are noticing. I do sympathize with your wife’s condition; without today’s over-the-counter allergy pills, I would spend about four months a year with a drip pan under my nose. But since there are pharmaceutical treatments for allergies, your wife has no excuse. If you can’t convince her to stop snorting and end up in couples’ therapy because of it, after a few minutes the counselor is sure to push that box of tissue towards your wife and say, “For my own sanity, please take one and blow.”

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
Every year since they were toddlers, our two children have spent at least a week each summer visiting my husband’s parents and my parents, who each live in different states. It’s mostly been great for all concerned. However, the last few years the kids have come back complaining about staying with my parents. It started with my parents letting them watch scary, graphic, forensic crime shows when they were young, which lead to recurrent nightmares. I broached this with my parents and was told that I watched similar programming and I turned out fine. Then my parents started complaining about the cost of having them visit, how much they eat, items that were "mysteriously broken" during their stay for which my parents want reimbursement, and computers that "ceased to function" after the kids used them. When the kids play they're accused of being disrespectful and rowdy, and when they sit and read or watch TV, they're lazy. They’re now in their early teens, are enrolled in several short summer programs, and can care for themselves at home when we’re out. They don’t want to visit my parents. Do I say they won’t be visiting because of the above-mentioned problems? Or should I force the kids to suck it up and try to enjoy their grandparents for as long as they have them?

—Summer-Time Blues

Dear Blues,
Before you decide whether to force your kids to visit, I think you need to do some reconnaissance with your parents. It may be that they are getting to a point physically and mentally where they are no long able to handle the demands of having children in the house. If their extreme irritability and whining about their financial situation is new, it requires some attention. So before you decide whether to pack your kids off, go visit your parents by yourself and have a heart-to-heart about how their lives are going. That will give you enough information to decide whether the visits are no longer a good idea, or if your parents need some guidance for making a vacation with teenagers go better. If you think they can still handle it, you can tell them that it’s true that teenagers can eat like velociraptors and you’d like to pay for the expenses of the stay. In any case, a week of togetherness may be too much, so tell your parents that your kids’ many camp activities mean that they can only visit for four days this year. As for your children, a few days of crotchety grandparents will be a good lesson in dealing with adversity.

—Prudie

More Dear Prudence Columns

Skin Deep: Should a husband tell his wife how he feels about her physical flaws?” Posted March 22, 2012.
My Gay Husband: He’s closeted, but I don't mind. Should I set him free anyway?” Posted March 15, 2012.
Gastric Warfare: I fear my mother-in-law is poisoning me, but my husband doesn’t believe it.” Posted March 8, 2012.
Smell Ya Later!: Should I break up with my fiance because he thinks I have horrible body odor?.” Posted March 1, 2012.

More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

The Wrong Touch: In a live chat, Dear Prudence offers advice on a frisky roommate, felonious family members, and friends who become lovers.” Posted April 2, 2012.
Whoa, Momma: During a live chat, Dear Prudence offers advice on having children after tragedy, elective surrogacy, and the demands of parenting twins.” Posted March 26, 2012.
Should I Leave My Infertile Partner?: In a live chat, Dear Prudence advises a man who wants to bolt after learning his girlfriend can’t have kids.” Posted March 19, 2012.
Sex Education: In a live chat, Prudie advises a student whose pregnant friend doesn’t know where babies come from.” Posted March 12, 2012.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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