My son, who is almost 30 years old, was married four years ago. He just shared with us that for the last three years, he and his wife have been practicing polyamory. They are committed to their relationship but have each had relationships with both men and women. We are trying to get our heads around this, as we come from a more traditional background (we’ve been married 40 years in a loving and respectful relationship), and we find ourselves feeling very sad. We are accepting and nonjudgmental, just trying to understand how he came to this decision. He feels that to make love “finite,” to love only one person, is “not being true,” and that their kind of relationship prevents dishonesty and is based on truth. He shared that his wife was the first one to broach this idea—and after many deep conversations, he eventually overcame his jealousy and is embracing this practice. They do not have children or plan to have children. I asked my son if he’s happy, and he says he is. —Sad Mama
If your son says he’s happy, SM, you should believe him and be happy for him.
It’s unfortunate that your son framed the news about his choices and his marriage—which make him happy—in what sounds like a clumsy critique of your choices and your marriage. (If that’s what he did, SM. I’ve only got your characterization of his comments to go on, not a tape recording of them, and it has been my experience that monogamous folks sometimes hear critiques of their choices when we nonmonogamous folks talk about our own choices. “We’re not doing what you’re doing” ≠ “You’re doing it wrong.”)
There’s nothing necessarily “finite,” untruthful, limiting, or dishonest about monogamy. If that’s what two people want, SM, and it makes those two people happy, that’s great. Monogamy is what you and your husband wanted, it’s what made you and your husband happy, and it worked for your marriage. You could see your son’s choice to be nonmonogamous as a rejection of everything you modeled for him, or you could see his choice as modeled on the fundamental bedrock stuff—for lack of a better word—that informed the choice you made. Your son and his wife are doing what they want, they’re doing what makes them happy, and they’re doing what works for their marriage. They’re not doing monogamy (or kids), but they’re doing what’s right for them and what works for them—just like his mom and dad did.
There are lots of people out there in happy, fulfilling open/poly relationships, SM, and lots of people out there in happy, fulfilling monogamous relationships. (And there are lots of miserable people in both kinds of relationships.) There are also lots of people in happy, fulfilling monogamous relationships they will one day choose to open, and lots of people in happy, fulfilling nonmonogamous relationships they will one day choose to close. It’s happiness, consent, and mutual respect that matters, not whether a relationship is monogamous or nonmonogamous.
If your son is happy, SM, you should be happy for him. But if he states—or clumsily implies—that you and his dad couldn’t be happy because you’re not doing the same thing he and his wife are doing, you tell him from nonmonogamous me that he’s full of nonmonogamous shit.
Two pieces of recommended reading: the book Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block, and an informative interview poly activist and frequent Savage Lovecast guest Diana Adams did with The Atlantic. But I don’t think you need to do a whole lot of homework about this. Love your son, respect his choices, don’t blame or shame his wife, and be kind to any partners they introduce you to. Having a poly kid is a lot simpler than you think. —Dan Savage
Many years ago, what was for me a bizarre sexual incident happened to me, and while I’ve largely laughed it off with no traumatic effects, the incident has always puzzled me. For the record, I’m a straight man in a good, loving marriage with no sexual issues to report. I was off on a golf weekend with a bunch of über-hetero buddies. We stayed in a condo that didn’t have enough beds for everyone, so I ended up sharing a bed with an ex-marine. In the middle of the night, I thought my girlfriend was waking me up with a blowjob, and a damn fine one at that. However, as I gradually became awake, I realized the mouth on my penis wasn’t my girlfriend’s. I called this guy’s name, and—this is the interesting part—he sprang up suddenly, like I just woke him up. I was also a little afraid, because he was a big guy who could have easily pummeled me to death out of embarrassment. But he jumped out of bed, went into the bathroom, and gargled before coming back into bed. Neither of us said a word afterward about what happened. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too well after that. (And frankly, I was a little offended by the gargling.) So the question is: Can you fellate in your sleep? Can you sleep-blow and still be a straight guy? —Blown Latently One Wild Night
Sexsomnia is a real thing—sleepwalking plus sex—but it’s an exceedingly rare thing. Closeted guys are a lot more common, BLOWN, and guys who seem über-hetero are often more successfully closeted than your lighter-in-the-loafer guys. Three other details lead me to believe this was a crime/blowjob of opportunity: It’s typically pretty difficult to wake a sleepwalker/sleep-blower (it takes more than calling out a name), the skills on display during the incident (it takes practice to give a “damn fine” blowjob), and his actions after he woke up with your dick in his mouth (rushing to the bathroom to gargle) smack of overcompensation. —Dan
I have no disagreement with what you said to letter writer WHIFFING (the man who wanted to know how to broach the subject of a female partner’s unpleasant vaginal odor). But I wanted to add something that seems to be largely unknown: A common side effect of long-term SSRI use is that the scent and amount of sweat can change to be offensive and copious. While it’s worth getting checked out if the person is unaware of the cause of an offensive groin smell (it could be a health issue), sometimes the cause turns out to be something the person is not willing to change because of the benefit it brings to their life. I’ve been in this position. Nothing I did to treat the sweating (beta blockers were offered to reduce the amount but couldn’t change the odor) made a difference, and my intimacy with my partner really suffered. We could basically be intimate only after I just showered; it took months for my partner even to bring it up. When I finally discovered the sweating in a list of side effects in a medical app, it was quickly confirmed by my prescriber as common but not talked about because it’s not physically harmful, so other SSRI users may not be aware of the connection. Just wanted to let your other readers know! —Shower Power
Good info to have, SP. Thanks for sharing. —Dan