On the Edge

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’m this close to starting an affair. That’s what other people would call
it, because the man in question is married. Every cliché in the book
applies to what he says about his marital sex life. But he’s not
deluding me with any hope it will become anything other than sex. He
and his wife (whom I’ve met socially) have three boys, and a very
strongly committed relationship. But she has never enjoyed sex, due
to a mangled surgery in her childhood. According to him she has
encouraged him to “find an outlet” and even suggested me as a
possible sexual partner (Mondays only) “to help their marriage.”
According to him she fears celibacy will eventually erode their
marriage, and a controlled relationship with me is a better option. I
know what I would tell any friend or client (don’t laugh but I’m a
therapist). But I’ve been attracted to him since we met three years
ago, and right now I’ll settle for anything I can have.
On the Edge

Dear On the Edge:
I’m assuming what you’d tell a client might differ from what you’d say
to a friend. To either I hope you’d predict the certainty of short-run joy
followed by inevitable heartbreak. Throw in the likelihood that you’ll
lose access to your paramour as a friend after the affair ends. Every
pair of lovers begins believing that they are different and that they’ll
beat the odds. But the costs of short-run pleasure are heavily
outweighed by the long-run sorrows. If you’re determined to leap off
this cliff, nothing anyone can say will dissuade you. You’ll wrap
yourself tightly in Better to have loved and lost than never to have
loved at all. And that may be enough for you now.

Adultery notwithstanding, if the three of you do manage to create a
functional polyamorous relationship, you’ll still have to face the
problems of secrecy and/or disclosure. You may not be able to share
the source of your newfound happiness with anyone except your
closest friends. Most people will have strong judgments, as well as
fears that their own spouse might be infected with desire. Also, all
three of you need to think about your reputations in the community. I
predict more trouble than joy, though the joy will come first.