Once a cheater always a cheater?
Hauke Gentzkow / MSNBC.com Illustration
By msnbc.com contributor
msnbc.com contributor
updated 3/25/2004 11:50:15 AM ET 2004-03-25T16:50:15

In this month’s Sexploration, columnist Brian Alexander counsels a woman whose husband has gone astray, advises two men on matters of masturbation and responds to a bisexual reader with conflicted interests. Have an intimate question? To e-mail us, click here .

Aftermath of affairs
Q: My husband's National Guard unit was sent to a military post for three months, and there he started having an affair with a local civilian woman. I was tipped off through his cell phone bill, and then the other woman actually called me and confirmed it. Subsequently I find out from another soldier's wife that he slept with a woman in his unit after being deployed overseas.

I am ready to file for divorce yet he is begging me to give him another chance because he "swears" he has changed after being overseas, isn't doing anything wrong now and finally realizes what is important. We have a 3-year-old son and I know you shouldn't stay married for a child, but I want what's best for all. Will a cheater always be a cheater? I do feel very ignorant for asking this question because to me it is obvious that he has fouled too many times, but I guess I'd like another opinion.

A: Don’t feel ignorant. Love -- and lust -- can make everybody stupid. That's why millions of people go through this, especially those like military couples who endure long separations. “It’s common,” says William Fenton, chief of counseling at the United States Naval Base in San Diego.

So what to do? Well, first, step back from your assumptions. According to Shelley MacDermid, the co-director of the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University, “there is evidence to suggest that when a marriage is not full of hateful conflict, and when it is not violent, and when there are young children involved, both parent and child may be better off in the long-run if they work it out.”

Fenton agrees. “It’s not automatic that marriages dissolve," he says. "Marriages can be stronger after an affair if counseling is sought and if both parties want to save the marriage.”

And by the way, MacDermid says some people do change, especially after serving in a war zone.

None of this excuses what your husband did. Being in the military, being deployed, is not a license to cheat -- twice. He’s a major league screw-up.

And none of this means you should stay married. Just don’t make your decision based on your pain. Get some help. The military makes counseling available and your husband should contact his unit commander or the family services division at his home base to tap into those resources. Even if he refuses, go on your own.

Meanwhile, Fenton recommends the following book that he sometimes uses with his clients: "After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful" by Janis Abrahms Spring.

Too much masturbation?
Q: Hello! I'm a 15-year-old guy who's wondering if masturbating is healthy for me. Will it affect my growth or have any other ramifications for my health? Thanks!

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Q: I am a 34-year-old man who masturbates almost every day and thinks about sex all the time. I have a great wife and our sex life is good, but I can't seem to stop having these urges to pleasure myself. Are there health issues to worry about? Will the lotion I use damage my penis?

A: Are you flunking algebra, Junior, because you're spending more time with the Playmate of the Year than your homework? And Mr. Married Guy, are you at risk for the IRS crashing your door because you're too busy stimulating yourself to file your 1040? Is your wife the disappointed owner of the world's largest vibrator collection? No? Then stop worrying.

There are certainly more productive things to do with your time, and if I were you, Married Guy, I'd be sure your wife really is happy in the sack. (Why not let her participate in some of your masturbation sessions? Or maybe she can watch you while you watch her?)

But there are no major health consequences to frequent masturbation. If there were, plenty of men would look like Gollum from "The Lord of the Rings." And as a matter of fact, some studies have shown that men who masturbate about twice per week might have better prostate health than men who hold their boys in reserve.

Lubrication can matter, though. Watch what you put on Mr. Willy. Try pure mineral oil. Reproductive clinics and sperm banks often tell men who donate to use sterile mineral oil because it's not toxic to sperm.


Scent of a woman
Q:
I'm a 19-year-old male college student, and I've been involved in a homosexual relationship for more than three years. At the start of the relationship I had just come "out of the closet" as a bisexual and I adored my boyfriend. I love him so much. But I've never had a female experience, so I almost feel like part of my sexuality has not been fulfilled. My partner feels horrible because he thinks he can't satisfy me enough. I guess that's true but it still doesn't stop my desire to feel the touch of a woman for the first time. I don't trust myself not to do something stupid and destroy what I hope will be a life-long partnership.

A: You’re 19-years-old for crying out loud! You know bupkis about life-long partnerships, and guess what: You aren’t in one now. This one started when you were the astoundingly clueless age of 16. Both you and he have a lifetime of change to go through.

Just take, for example, this “sexuality” thing you say you want to experience. You make it sound like an interesting experiment. But people don’t exist so you can check episodes off your sexual dance card.

Life is full of hard choices, and if you want to see what life is like with women, tell your boyfriend and date women. But be sure to be honest with them, too, and tell them you retain an interest in men (if you do).

Your boyfriend may not wait around while you play sheet hockey with a co-ed, but that’s life. It’s a messy business complete with heartbreaks -- the biggest being the grown-up realization that you can’t have everything you want.

Brian Alexander is a California-based journalist who writes about sex, relationships and health. He is a contributing editor at Glamour and the author of "Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion" (Basic Books, 2003).

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