marriage: an investigation

What It’s Like to Watch Your Husband with Another Woman

They say you can never understand someone else’s marriage. But this week, New York Magazine and the Cut decided to try. We interrogated dozens of couples (and a throuple) to see what makes their marriages work — or not.

You need to have a buzz, but you cannot be drunk. If you are too drunk, then you will get irrationally jealous. You will not have the part of your brain that says, “No, he loves you, he is just doing this for fun.”

Your husband must concentrate on you. Yes, something is happening for him, but that is a physical sensation and he needs to feel it, enjoy it, but he must check in with you, stay aware. You may think you understand the word aware, but your husband must be aware of you as though he is in your brain. This is about turning you on. As for the girl, she can do what she wants. You can’t control her. She has to be very attractive — but not as attractive as you, in your eyes or your husband’s.

It cannot be a porn scene. This is something you’re choosing to experience together as one aspect of your loving relationship.

These are Sloane Ford’s instructions for a threesome with your spouse. It all started on the morning of her 27th birthday, when she got an invitation: A server at the restaurant Sloane and her husband, Richard, run together asked if she wanted to play hooky and go to the beach. What Sloane didn’t know then was that a few days prior, the waitress, Karin, had approached Richard. “What if I join you and your wife in the bedroom?” she’d said. “You can propose that to Sloane, if you like,” Richard had replied shyly. He was a devoted husband.

Sloane didn’t know Karin well enough to go along with this impromptu plan, which is why it worked. At the beach, the two women laid out towels. Their toes were painted, and their legs and feet were tan. They played music from a little wounded boom box, drank Champagne, and ate grapes. Something about Karin made Sloane feel childlike.

Around sunset, they returned to Sloane and Richard’s home. Richard wasn’t there, but within the hour they heard his car pull up and he joined them on the deck for cocktails. In addition to the right amount of alcohol, there is another component to how a threesome comes together, Sloane says. It is these words: One thing led to another.

The people involved can rarely tell you the precise moment that they decided to go forward. They’d have to admit seeking something that feels unsavory, alien. A husband who desires to enter another body, to hold another lobe of breast. A wife who wants to see her husband want someone else so that she may want him as much as she’d like to. A third person who enters a room as a cipher in a tank top. Someone turns on the music. A husband who makes the first move. A wife who closes her eyes to the first move. Someone reapplies lipstick. Someone positions her body in such a way. Someone is afraid of her carnality. Someone lights a candle. Someone’s stomach drops.

One thing led to another, and Sloane was messing around with Karin, and then Richard approached and kissed Sloane’s shoulders while Karin kissed her mouth.

It happened slowly. The two women were both sucking, taking turns, being polite, eyes glittering with the absurdity and excitement of it. One thing led to another, and suddenly Sloane’s husband was behind this other woman, fucking her, and something inside Sloane stopped. Richard noticed right away. Immediately, he extracted himself from the other woman. “What’s going on?” he asked his wife.

“I suppose I wasn’t ready,” Sloane said.

But she was confused. It had been a fantasy of hers to watch her husband fuck another woman, one she went to in her head in too-plain moments. In the near future, she’d fantasize again about Richard fucking the girl and it would turn her on, but now something felt terrifically wrong.

One thing led to another, and Sloane decided she could keep going. After all, it had already happened. Her husband had been inside someone else in front of her. She had watched his spine thrusting.

Adapted from the upcoming Three Women, a nonfiction investigation of female desire.

*This article appears in the April 1, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

What It’s Like to Watch Your Husband with Another Woman