Seen your friend’s man with another woman? Got away with an affair? Caught an STI? Tracey Cox tackles tricky relationship and sex dilemmas NOBODY can ever agree how to handle
- British sexpert Tracey Cox shares her opinions on the hard bedroom questions
- She gathers a panel to talk out the less black and white sexual dilemmas
- Includes taking Viagra secretly and not knowing if your baby is your partner’s
Would you own up to an affair if there’s no chance of getting caught? What about an STI you got while cheating? Tracey Cox (and a panel of men and women) tackle six tricky sex and relationship dilemmas that no-one ever agrees on. What’s your view?
Most moral sex and relationship dilemmas have a very clear ‘right’ answer that nearly everyone agrees with.
Should you have an affair with your best friend’s husband? Um, no. Is it a good idea to send a naked photo to your boss? Nup. Should you surprise that ex you’ve been stalking for two years on their birthday, now that they’re married with a child? Let me think about that one…
Few would argue yes for any of the above. But there are scenarios where the answer isn’t so obvious – or divides people down the middle. It’s a blatantly obvious ‘Yes!’ for some and an equally emphatic ‘No!’ for others.
These six sex and relationship dilemmas are the type that get this reaction.
I asked a panel of men and women, at different ages and stages in their lives, to tell me what they’d do if put in these situations. Then I’ve given my own take on it all.
Whose advice do you (vehemently I expect) agree or disagree with?
You might have heard a lot of sex ‘what-ifs’ but Tracey Cox reveals the tough moral dilemmas no one can agree on in the bedroom
THE SCENARIO: YOU CHEATED AND CAUGHT AN STI
You had sex with someone on a lad’s/girl’s holiday and didn’t use a condom. A week later, you find a blister on your genitals and test positive for herpes. Knowing it’s highly contagious, do you tell your long-term partner or keep quiet, avoid sex for a bit, and hope you won’t get found out?
‘If it was an STI that could be cured with a course of antibiotics, I’d keep quiet. But herpes reoccurs. You’re probably going to get caught at some point anyway.’
‘Keep quiet but take all the precautions you possibly can to ensure your partner doesn’t get it.’
‘If you confess it’s all over anyway. No-one’s going to forgive being cheated on AND risk catching herpes on top of that. You might as well see if you can get away with it.’
The problem with herpes is that, even if you aren’t having an attack, you can still pass it on through asymptomatic shedding. This means the virus can be present on the skin, even if there are no visible symptoms. Herpes really is for life. It’s painful and not something you want to give someone you supposedly love.
If it was an easily cured STI, it then becomes a purely moral dilemma. But herpes doesn’t fall into that category. Knowing you have herpes and not telling your long-term partner really isn’t fair. (Wearing a condom isn’t the answer either. Unless the area of the outbreak is covered by the condom, they’re not protected.)
THE SCENARIO: YOU SEE YOUR FRIEND’S HUSBAND OUT WITH ANOTHER WOMAN
You’re having dinner in a restaurant and spot your friend’s boyfriend/husband out with another woman. It looks quite innocent but at one stage, he reaches across and holds her hand for a little while. Do you tell your friend you saw him or keep quiet?
‘I’d casually mention it the next time I saw her with the expectation that she’d say, “Oh that’s his best friend from university” or “That’s his sister”.’
‘I would always want to know if someone saw my husband out and holding hands with another woman, however “innocent” it looked. I vote 100 per cent for calling her the next day. First thing.’
‘I would wait until I next saw the two of them and then take him to one side and say I saw him at the restaurant. If his reaction was normal, I’d drop it. But if he looked shifty, I would tell my friend.’
Holding hands is very different than spotting someone kissing or feeling each other up under the tablecloth. If it is a friend and they’re going a trauma, holding their hand is a way of showing support.
Tracey Cox reveals that most researchers believe around ten percent of men are fathering children that aren’t theirs, though other studies have suggested that number is much higher.
I quite like the third scenario. Though I’d go one step further and approach the guy on the night. I’d wait until the end of the evening, then go to his table and say, ‘Hi! I saw you a while ago and thought I’d come and say goodbye before I left. Give my love to X (name of wife)’. All the time, I’d be carefully watching his and her body language and reaction to me appearing. One final look over my shoulder while walking off should clarify whether it’s dodgy or not. If he’s looking ashen, nervous or in any way horrified, that confirms there is something going on.
If that was the case, I’d follow it up with him the next time I saw him. Pull him aside and say, ‘I’m not sure what that was but you’d better explain’. If I did catch him out, I’d say either he stops the affair immediately or tells his wife….or I will.
THE SCENARION: YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH YOUR FRIEND’S PARTNER
A friend tells you they’re having an affair. You’ve been desperately in love with their husband/wife for years. Do you manipulate the situation to your advantage? (Encourage the affair with the hope that they will leave or hint to their partner that they’re cheating, hoping they’ll get found out?) Or do you take the moral high ground and try to get them to see what an amazing person their partner is, and that cheating is wrong?
‘I can’t see myself staying in love with someone else’s partner for that long. What’s the point?’
‘No-one deserves to be cheated on. I’d make it clear to my friend that her husband deserves better. If she can’t treat him with love and respect, she should leave. That’s what I’d say even if I wasn’t in love with him.’
‘I’d think to myself, ‘She/he clearly don’t love them or they wouldn’t be doing this’ and the gloves would be off. I’d encourage the affair and hope it ended the marriage.’
The first response raises a good point: why would the person allow themselves to be emotionally attached to someone who isn’t available and hasn’t been for years? So, a visit to a therapist to look at self-esteem issues is a good first step.
The safest bet then would be to tell the friend that you don’t want to hear anything more about the affair because it puts you in a difficult position. If it comes out that you knew about the affair and didn’t warn the husband/wife, they’re unlikely to choose you as their next romantic interest anyway. Then I’d sit back and see what happens, without actively intervening.
If you do end up with their ex and have manipulated the situation, they’ll will make sure they know about it and, again, you stand to lose them.
THE SCENARIO: YOU’RE SECRETLY TAKING VIAGRA
You want to impress your new girlfriend, so you take a Viagra before you sleep together the first time. She gives you lots of compliments about how hard your erection is, so you take one the next time…and the next. You’re now terrified to have sex with her unless you take a pill first, fearful your ‘normal’ erection
will be bitterly disappointing. You’ve now fallen in love with her. Do you keep on taking the pills or confess?
‘I’d confess. If she didn’t understand and got all funny about it, she’s not the right person for me anyway.’
‘I’d wait for a while then turn it into a bit of a joke and hope she saw the funny side. I’ve tried Viagra and it gave me the worst headache afterwards. I couldn’t put up with that forever!’
‘I’ve done this but only when I’m partying hard and with women I won’t see again. It’s a slippery slope otherwise.’
This happens a lot – particularly with young men. If they click on one ad for an erectile dysfunction drug, they’re bombarded by them. The drug suppliers feed on men’s insecurities, brainwashing them into believing that anything other than a ‘rock hard’ penis is some kind of failure on their part. Men are sucked into taking one, ‘just this once’, when they want to impress and next thing they’re on the Viagra treadmill.
Because lots of young men use Viagra and don’t let on, young women grow up thinking very hard erections are the norm. So are likely to comment or react when faced with an erection that isn’t created by a little blue pill, and liable to naturally wax and wane during the sex session.
I get the appeal of ‘back-up’ but I’m all for honesty during sex. If you have done this, the right time to confess is probably once you know the relationship has legs and is going somewhere. As one of the guys said, if she can’t relate to male anxiety or cope with a penis that responds to its owner’s emotions and stress levels, she’s not worth the risk of taking Viagra when you don’t need to.
Recreational use of Viagra is dangerous. Buying it from an unreliable source is risky because of contamination and if you have an unknown underlying condition, it can be life-threatening.
THE SCENARIO: YOUR UNBORN CHILD MIGHT NOT BE YOUR HUSBAND’S
You meet up with an ex, just before you get married. You still had feelings for him and wanted to check you weren’t marrying the wrong person. You end up sleeping together but leave knowing you are marrying the right person after all. Three weeks after the wedding, you find out you’re pregnant. It could be your ex or your new husband who is the father. What do you do?’
‘If I thought the two men were similar enough and I loved my husband, I’d keep quiet. It would be the end of the marriage if you told the truth and a child needs both parents.’
‘The child would probably suffer if you told the truth, so I’d probably keep quiet. And I would have used a condom.’
‘I think this happens more than we know and I’m disgusted by it. They say women are the kinder sex but I think women are way more devious than men.’
Most researchers believe around 10 percent of men are fathering children that aren’t theirs, though other studies have suggested that number is much higher.
For me, morally, this is the trickiest dilemma of all. If other people know the truth and it’s likely to come out at any point – even years later – your mind is already made up for you. It’s both pointless and cruel to life. If it’s likely to remain a secret only you will ever know, the solution isn’t so obvious.
It’s undeniably abhorrent behaviour to fool a man into believing a child is his when it isn’t. But for every man who finds out and is broken, there’s another who says they’re glad they didn’t know because they’d rather have had the experience of bringing up a child they love, with a wife they love, than knowing the truth and having had neither.
Maternal instinct is a hugely powerful thing. Most women in this scenario are thinking about what’s best for the baby, rather than what’s best for the parents. Plenty wrestle with what to do for so long, they feel they’ve missed the moment and that it’s best to just hope their secret never gets discovered.
The biggest thing to consider in this scenario is how well you’d handle being the only person to know. Remember: you’d be lying to your child as well as husband. Secrets poison relationships. Some women can’t bond with the child because they feel so ashamed. Others feel so wretched every time they look at their cuckold partner, the marriage falls apart anyway.
I think this dilemma is intensely personal and I have never had a child which is why I’m sitting on the fence for this one. I think I’d probably tell my husband and hope he’d forgive me. But that’s without even touching on the other moral dilemma of whether the biological father also deserves to know…
THE SCENARIO: YOU GOT AWAY WITH AN AFFAIR
Your relationship was going through a rocky patch and you ended up having a brief affair with a co-worker. It’s all over, no-one knows about it, and you’ve sorted out your problems with your partner. Should you come clean and confess the affair or keep quiet?
‘I couldn’t live with knowing what I’d done. I never be able to look my partner in the eye unless I confessed and begged for forgiveness.’
‘I can’t see the point in confessing if you got away with it. Why would you? It happened, it’s in the past and you’re moving forward. What would it achieve?’
‘My mother had affairs and it ruined our family. I would never cheat, so would never be in that situation. But I think people who do cheat should own up to it and take it on the chin.’
If the affair is known or strongly suspected, you’re better off telling: better a voluntary confession than an unwanted discovery. But there are valid reasons for keeping your mouth shut otherwise.
Confessing might feel wonderful for you, after living with the heavy burden of guilt, but it’s sure as hell not going to feel wonderful for your partner. Infidelity is devastating and heart-breaking. It wipes out all trust and it can take years to rebuild (if, indeed, that’s possible).
The only person who stands to benefit from the confession in this circumstance is you. The relationship was in trouble and you made a mistake. Live with the consequences of what you’ve done and spare your partner.
Tracey’s podcast, SexTok, deals with three sex dilemmas every week. Listen to it every Tuesday, wherever you listen to your podcasts. You’ll find her products, books and more info about sex at traceycox.com
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