Q: In college, when my then-girlfriend and I started living together, she had a part-time job as massage therapist. She also occasionally received money for having sex with three of her regular clients. This bothered me, but I’ve got some friends who are in successful open relationships and at least I could rationalize that she was only doing it for money. Fast-forward a few years: We’re out of school and married but, as neither of us has a fabulous income yet, she’s still “working” with two of these guys. I know she loves me, but I’m ready to do with less money and fewer people in our relationship. She feels like doing without the extra cash put a bigger strain on our marriage than continuing something that’s been manageable for several years. This has always been an issue between us, but the longer it goes on the worse it’s getting.
He Said: Your wife has been having sex with these two other men for several years now, since before she knew you. At this point I would be surprised if she isn’t emotionally attached to one or both of them, and they to her. Breaking up with a long-term lover (or two) could encompass a lot more than simply doing without the extra cash.
Since she says money is the reason she has stayed in this line of work, you two should come to some agreement about how much income it would take for her to feel like she could stop hooking then see what both you and your wife could do to earn it. But that's just a starting point. Your wife may be getting more out of having sex with these guys than just money: friendship, being wanted, being in control, inspiring jealousy, experiencing sexual variety, exploring her dark side, feeling taken care of, nurturing others … I don't know all the reasons, but you'll need to find out if you haven’t already. Ordering her to stop doing something that’s been a part of her life for a long time might feel justified to you, but you’ll need to substitute something of equal or greater value to replace it with. Once you get your wife's fidelity and undivided attention, what will you do with it?
She Said: First, as a woman, I want to commend you for not caving in to the societal urge to shun your wife as “serious material” because she was selling sex. Women throughout the ages have chosen to sell sex—from desperate drugged-up streetwalkers to revered sacred prostitutes and royal courtesans to economically disadvantaged housewives of every nationality, including many of our own mothers and grandmothers. And why shouldn’t they? They own the most cherished natural resource on the planet. You know. The P word. And I don’t mean the literal body part. I mean all the beauty, radiance, love, energy, and juicy aliveness that comes with it. The stuff men crave and will pay for with money and more.
OK, soapbox speech over. Kudos to you for being open-minded. But let’s move on to your marriage, shall we? As a feminist, as a woman who actually admires what your wife has done and what you have been big and open enough to allow, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do to save your marriage. Get a really, really great job that you like and that pays as much money as you can humanly make. I know you can do it. The recession is lifting, you have a college degree, and you live in San Francisco. Think positive. Once you get this job and have more money coming in, then tell your wife you need her to get the best job she possibly can; she will inevitably agree since you say she sees the importance of income to your household. Once she does that, tell her she needs to stop selling sex. Do not ask her. Do not discuss it. Do not say, “I need you to stop selling sex.” Say, “You need to stop selling sex. That phase of your life is over. You’re mine now, and I’m yours. I’m going to take care of you in every way, and you’re going to take care of me.” And once she stops selling sex, tell her that anything she was experiencing through prostitution—her dark side, her maternal side, her desire to be disrespected or powerful or profane—she can still experience with you. Tell her you will go wherever she wants to go sexually, emotionally, psychologically. Then hand her five hundo, slap her ass, and tell her to undress right now.