Lifestyle Matters: How to Ethically Manage Mismatched Desire

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Lifestyle Matters: How to Ethically Manage Mismatched Desire

Infidelity is not an ethical answer to a lack of sexual intimacy with your partner. Here’s what you can do instead.

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Lifestyle Matters, SDC’s own erotic advice column!

Dr. Jay and Liseth open the series with an answer to an SDC member’s complicated question about online dating and consensual non-monogamy as they relate to unfulfilled sexual desires.

The Question


I have a question. For a couple of months, I am a full member of SDC. The reason that I became member is to find someone to have sex with, just for fun. Not for a relationship, not for whatever, just sex for fun. But I am married, and my wife doesn’t know about this, so basically I am cheating on her.

However. The problem is that she has her menopause, and for a long time she wants no sex at all. For me this is OK, I don’t blame her, my love is no less for her, and I shall not leave her for that. But my libido is high, and I want to have sex, just for fun, because I love sex so much. So I decided to enjoy SDC as a member, looking for a woman who is looking for a man to have sex with so we both will be happy. So that I will lose my frustrations of not having sex and so I can continue my happy marriage with my wife. So far so good.

But other SDC members annoy me because I am a cheater, and for that I can not be an SDC member. My question is, is that true, that you can’t be an SDC member because you’re cheating?

I do not want problems with my wife, so I cannot tell her what I am doing, I know she will not understand. But I do not want to have problems with SDC, too. I just love to have sex, so I am looking for someone who loves to have sex too.

That I am cheating my wife is my own responsibility. I am aware of that and I handle that. SDC is purely for sexual desire, to have fun together with the SDC partner I find. And I am honest to that SDC partner, she will know about this. I also spoke to women who are SDC members and are married too. They are also looking for sexual desire because their husbands will not or cannot give them sex. SDC is in my opinion not only for couples but also for individuals who are looking for sex. SDC is about modesty for both sides.

Am I right or not?

Waiting for your answers,

Regards, John “from Holland”

The Answer

Dear John, 

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source, it dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds, it dies of weariness, of witherings, or tarnishings, but never a natural death.” – Anais Nin

Thank you for the questions as they are quite relevant to many of us, and we are sorry for your pain as it is real. Your situation is intricate and has a few important pieces to it. Sexual desire differences are a very real challenge and common problem in middle-age.

Here’s what we see:

First, sexual desire is complex, especially for a woman, for many reasons. You say upfront, “I don’t want to leave my wife or want to divorce her, because I love her very much,” so we will coach you from that commitment. Love has requirements and is a verb, not a feeling. That means, when confronted with challenges such as these, there are things we must act on, and DO if we claim the mantle of “love.”

A lack of desire for sexual intimacy can be caused by a plethora of things — from menopausal hormone changes (real deal for men and women!) to attitudes about sex, poor communication in your marriage, unaddressed relationship problems, stress, sexual functioning of either partner, medical conditions (diabetes, thyroid), endocrine disorders, drug/alcohol abuse, medication side effects and/or psychiatric issues (e.g. depression). In the DSM-5 (Psychiatry Bible), Sexual Desire Disorder has been broken down into two separate conditions: Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder and Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. Both of these refer to a low level of sexual interest resulting in a failure to initiate or respond to sexual intimacy. So, love “requires” doing some due diligence here: go with her to get a full medical examination, schedule a “wellness” check-up” with a licensed mental health professional, talk to each other about what’s happening between you sexually and emotionally, and most certainly, open a dialogue about sexual needs and what that means to each of you and your feelings about what is or is not happening between you.

Second, the real problem here is ethical, not sexual. It’s a given that people have a right to pleasure, and sex is a potent vehicle to experience it. What’s missing in this picture is “consent,” due to deception and secrecy — the basis of any ethical foundation for any relationship. If you have made the decision for your partner, which you did — “so I cannot tell her what I am doing, I know she will not understand” you have taken from her the ability to exercise choice, the centerpiece of consent. Ethics, if you invoke them here, require us to give our partners the opportunity to make an informed decision about how they will be in a relationship with us. If you lie or withhold critical information, you remove your partner’s ability to consent for how, or if she chooses, to be in a relationship that involves others. Without candor and transparency, you violate your partner’s ability to exercise consent because it is impossible for her to make an informed decision. THAT is the betrayal of infidelity — the removal of choice to participate in a change within your intimate life together, not about finding a sex partner for “fun.”

The other “ethical” sticky-wicket here is the fact that you are asking other people to participate in a complicit deception involving betrayal of your spouse. Infidelity is not about the sex, although sex is often involved. It’s primarily about lying about doing something you’ve agreed not to do and duping the other by changing the rules without their participation. If you are in a monogamous marriage, and not both active in the erotic lifestyle, there is a presumption of exclusivity both emotionally and sexually. Unless, as a couple, you have an explicit agreement to expand the boundaries of your marriage vows as in Consensual Non-Monogamy (CNM), you are asking people on any dating site to participate in an affair.

Asking people who join an adult dating site to seek mutually consensual sexual encounters when one party in the encounter (marriage to someone makes them a part of the act whether they’re present or not) has not given consent is dishonest and lacks integrity. Tacitly, you are asking people to participate in an active betrayal absent informed consent, as not all the adults involved have given permission. There are more ethical ways to address this dilemma where informed consent is not in play as it is in the SDC scenario. Professional entertainers (specialists in complex sexual dynamics), masturbation, porn, and fantasy are all sexual options with less sticky ethical issues to contend with.

You ask an excellent question here that many people struggle with: Does an absence of sex in a relationship justify infidelity? If partners do have such an obligation to each other, does a failure to meet this obligation make it OK to have this need met elsewhere?

Betrayal and infidelity come in many forms. I (Dr. Jay) was in a sexless marriage for over a decade where sex was used as a negotiating lever; if I was good and complied, I got some, and if I wasn’t, it was withheld. Let’s be fair: there are many ways spouses can betray each other beyond just affairs or denying the other sex — being “neglectful, indifferent, contemptuous, asexual, demeaning, insulting,” as Esther Perel says — often is as — and sometimes more — damaging than physical abuse. Some make the case that a sexless marriage is cruel and sadistic, hence justifying having an affair. Maybe, but you will pay a “guilt and shame tax” unnecessarily, for a short-term solution while inheriting long-term problems with tentacles. The better option here is to actually “love” your wife by respecting her enough to make her own decision about your intimate relationship together and honoring her with the truth about your desires, needs, and fantasies. Then, collaboratively, you can exercise consent together about what agreement you will choose for how to meet your needs.


Dr. Jay and Liseth

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