Dear Em & Lo: In Defense of Cheating on My Husband

Dear Em & Lo,

I’ve read your books and love your website, but I notice you are against any infidelity and look down on those who have affairs, but you’re okay with swinging and group sex and anal sex probes and bisexuals and all kinds of things that normal folks (who occasionally stray) find disgusting. I guess my point is, how can you judge like that?  You judge cheaters but support skank!  You know your sex drive better than I do, obviously, but let’s say your husband could no longer perform in bed due to E.D.  You don’t honestly expect me to believe you would go without sex or rely on a sex toy for the rest of your life, do you?  I think that’s B.S.

What I’d like you both to know is that we’re not bad people.  We’re your softball coaches and school teachers.  I feed my neighbor’s son peanut butter and jelly on a Tuesday afternoon and have sex with her husband on Thursday night because she hasn’t let him touch her since she had the baby — THREE YEARS AGO!  We’re not trailer trash from the Jerry Springer show. We’re real people, ignored by our spouses.  We’re not evil. Give us a break, okay? After all, it’s not like you two are devout Church-going types either, ya know? You preach about free, uncommitted sex with both the opposite sex and the same sex (as long as a condom is involved) and hey, that’s fine.  Just don’t judge the rest of us. There are reasons for the things we do.  We don’t spread disease through our little suburban neighborhoods or anything like that.

— Straying Dog

Dear S.D.,

Here’s what we do judge:

  1. Lying to your husband (except when he asks if his penis is too small).
  2. Lying to your neighbor (except when she asks if her new haircut makes her look like Blossom).
  3. Lying to anyone, for that matter. And yes, faking orgasms is lying.
  4. Sex without barrier protection (i.e. condoms) — unless you’re committed to one another, have been tested together, have agreed to incur the risks of forgoing barrier protection, and are using another form of birth control (unless of course you’re both trying to get pregnant together).
  5. Sexism.
  6. Homophobia.
  7. Anti-choice people who want to take away our reproductive rights, comprehensive sex education, and access to birth control.
  8. Um, we can’t think of much else that we do judge. Pleated khakis on men, maybe?

And here’s what we don’t judge (as long as it’s done safely and consensually, of course):

  1. Homosexuality.
  2. Bisexuality.
  3. Swinging.
  4. Group sex.
  5. Open relationships.
  6. Casual safe sex (so long as both parties understand and accept its casual nature).
  7. Anal play.
  8. Sex toys, including anal sex probes.
  9. Kink.
  10. Roleplaying.
  11. Spanking.
  12. Bondage.
  13. Booty calls.
  14. Dirty talk.
  15. Phone sex.
  16. Text sex.
  17. Pony play (okay, sometimes we judge pony play…hey, we’re only human).
  18. Strap-on sex.
  19. Celibacy.
  20. Solo sex.
  21. Latex.
  22. Watersports.
  23. Legal prostitution.

Need we go on? We didn’t think so. You’re right — you totally nailed us. So long as sex is consensual, legal, honest, and fully condom-ed, we probably wouldn’t judge it. But if you’re married and sleeping with your neighbor’s husband and the respective spouses don’t know about it or don’t condone it — then hells yes, we judge you! You think anal probes are skank? Well, we think that cheating on your husband — and not only that, but doing it with someone else’s husband, to boot — is 100% pure skank.

We know we sound naive when we say this. We know we’re idealists. And we admit we have no idea what it’s like to want to stay in a crumbling marriage for the kids (or for the mortgage). We have no idea what it’s like to be ignored in a marriage — or in the bedroom. And we have no idea what it’s like to be married to an inoperative penis.

We can think of only a few very special circumstances where unsanctioned cheating might be justifiable, or at least understandable: For example, a husband suffers from E.D. and it threatens his masculinity to the point where he just completely shuts off from anything sexual and doesn’t deal with it at all it in order to keep it together psychologically, while his wife, who loves him and wants to be with him and doesn’t want to break his heart, decides to get a little no-emotional-strings-attached-sex on the side to satisfy her needs. Maybe we could understand that.

Or maybe not. We’re inclined to believe that in the majority of cases of cheating, there’s a lot of rationalizing that’s done on the part of the cheater for two major reasons. First, because it allows people the opportunity for drama and excitement in their lives (doing the new & novel thing, doing the forbidden thing, the taboo thing, the wrong thing always does). But that drama and excitement comes at the expense of the trust and feelings and dignity of the people they made a promise to, the people they’re supposed to truly love: their spouses. Second, it’s simply the easier way out.

Sure, it sucks if your husband gets E.D., but isn’t that the whole point of “in sickness and in health”? Also, who said that sex has to be all about intercourse? Last we heard, cunnilingus didn’t involve the penis. Same goes for handwork…and sex toys. The same goes for most of the stuff in our don’t-judge list, too. We’re sorry, but we just don’t think that faulty mechanics void your marriage vows (assuming, of course, that your marriage vows included sexual fidelity).

And sure, it sucks if your husband or wife ignores you, but since when did cheating solve that? Last we heard, good old-fashioned communication was a much better tool to fix that kind of problem. Or marriage counseling. Or divorce.

If your partner just plain doesn’t want sex anymore and you do — and you’ve tried everything you can possibly think of to remedy the situation, including reading all our books and seeing a sex or marriage therapist together — then ask their permission to have an affair. (Yep, that’s right, if they give their permission, it’s not skanky — it’s just good, clean fun.) If your partner says no, then you have two options: (1) Leave them. (2) Suck it up and deal with a sexless marriage (and learn to appreciate the art of masturbation). And those are your only two options. If sex is soooooooooo important to you that you think it justifies cheating, then it should be important enough to you to get a divorce. And if your marriage is soooooooooo important to you that you can’t possibly consider a divorce, then guess what? You’re going to have to sacrifice the sex part.

If you choose option one and leave your partner OR you get permission for extra-curricular nookie from your partner, do not, under any circumstances, have an affair with someone else’s spouse (especially not your friends’ and neighbors’ spouses!). We’re all in this monogamy biz together, and it’s our civic responsibility to keep each other honest and faithful. We don’t care if you’re not spreading STDs (though you can never be 100% sure about that if people are sleeping around) — you’re still spreading lying, disrespect, and some seriously bad karma.

We know that a sanctioned affair isn’t really the “done” thing yet. But you know what? It should be! Slowly, more and more people are catching on. And we’re going to keep on preaching our honesty message until the rest of you cheaters get on board.

And that’s the gospel according to Em & Lo.

From our high horse,

Em & Lo



  1. preach! never suffer or condone liars or cheaters; she’s just trying to rationalize to assuage her own guilt.

    (I resisted the temptation to call her a fucking skanky cheating cum whore in my response.)

  2. I can’t help but nitpick…re: number 4. Really? You’re against the concept of a fluid-bonded polycule, and would put that on the same level as any other kind of sex involving multiple partners?

    (I think polycule is a ridiculous word, but it’s so fun to say!)

    Everything else you said was spot on. 🙂

  3. I agree with Em & Lo, CBS, and Johnny. Especially Johnny’s point about how the letter writer is (potentially?) massively harming her husband, her neighbor, and her neighbor’s kids.

    I was in an abusive, sexless marriage for years. Yes, it sucks. But that isn’t a license to cheat. I didn’t. I got a divorce, and am now free to do as I please.

    Having said that, I am not at all convinced that your husband or his erectile dysfunction is the problem. By the way, there are many treatments for erectile dysfunction.

    Get a marital therapist to talk about your marriage and alternate ways that you can pleasure each other, a better vibrator, a long talk with your husband about an open marriage, or a divorce.

    While everything you (Straying Dog) describe makes cheating more understandable, it doesn’t make it right.

  4. Em and Lo are right ethically, of course. I get temptation though. You’re human. You’re made of flesh. Maybe your partner hasn’t done you in a year. Maybe you’re bored as hell and you had a weak moment. Not the right thing, but I get it.

    Here’s what I judge the shit out of you for though: fucking your neighbor. She trusts you. She trusts you with her kid. God damn. If only she knew that the nice lady who made PB&J’s for her son was a really a snake in the grass. She doesn’t do right by her husband, but that’s hardly any of your business. Don’t act like some sexual vigilante who’s righting other womens’ wrongs.

    Imagine the fallout this is going to cause when you get caught (yes, WHEN you get caught). You live across the street from these people! The kids will get caught in the crossfire. The neighbor lady will learn that not only can’t she trust her husband, but she can’t trust anybody – this’ll rock her world in a big way. What did she do to you to deserve that? What if your husband goes nuts with jealousy and does something stupid?

    If you’re going to cheat, cheat anonymously. Get on ashleymadison or something. Put up a craigslist ad. Find some guy way across town to fuck. That’s bad enough. But to look a woman in the face, smile at her, care for her kid, and stab her in the back? That’s looooow.

  5. Very well done!

    Exactly the response to some very “skanky” self-absorbed justification that I was hoping you would give.

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