In Other Words: “My Husband is Sleeping With My Mother”

My sister sent me this recent WTF(!!) column from ELLE’s Ask E. Jean, who seems a little off her rocker, maybe?

My mother is an attractive, interesting woman who reads ELLE and The Economist, dresses fashionably, and maintains a petite size 2 frame. Recently, I found out that my 39-year-old husband (of 14 years) has been having sex with her when he attends conferences at the resort near where she lives. When he told me, I was bothered by the fact that it didn’t bother me.

He’s a wonderful man — father to our two children and a good provider — and he’s always taken care of me emotionally, sexually, and financially. I know I should be upset; I know I should feel betrayed on so many levels. But I just don’t. He says he enjoys the relationship with her but will stop if it’s what I want.

Honestly, if my mother and husband are happy in their affair, I just can’t seem to find the energy to be angry or jealous. So my question is: Is this normal? Should I be upset? — No Talent for the Conniption Fit

I mean, WTF, right? No, seriously. Your husband is banging your mother and you’re … you’re OK with it? And you’re wondering if your reaction is “normal”?! Um, NO. No, it’s not normal at all. None of it is normal on any level. Yeah, being upset is an emotion that takes energy and I can see how someone who isn’t automatically upset by a situation that would “normally” make one upset would rather expend energy feeling a positive emotion, but come on! Your husband is banging your mom! Instead of denying the abnormality of the situation, get upset! Get angry! And get to the bottom of the issues that exist to have created such a mind-blowingly awful betrayal.

This is not what E. Jean advises. Not at all.


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  1. Meh. Go read Sex At Dawn.

  2. Oh, god. I saw this when I got the magazine & was like “Uhhhh okay, E. Jean, I guess that’s one way to look at it.”

    But seriously, what the fuck? “Unconditional love” is how E. interprets this? I would say it’s more “apathy.” I mean, if you’re not upset that your husband is fucking your own mother, than you must be jaded as heeelllllll.

    1. Skyblossom says:

      That’s what I thought. She feels nothing because she isn’t emotionally attached to the husband so she doesn’t care.

      1. And apparently isn’t emotionally attached to her mother either? Two of the people who should be closest to her are betraying her and she doesn’t care. Something’s wrong.

    2. Yeah I read this as more like the woman is depressed or really doesn’t care about her husband rather than she loves him so much she wants him to be happy.

      I find it hilarious that the husband was like “I’ll stop if you want”.

    3. E. Jean was being sarcastic, right??? I’ve never read E.Jean’s column before but there’s no way that could be a real response….

  3. LOL! That is some fucked up, repugnant shit.

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      I believe its repugnant ass shit, not repugnant shit : )

      1. As a former lecturer in English and composition, I can assure you that the correct phrase is “seriously fucked up repugnant ass shit.”

    2. I’ve just been schooled 😉

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        Props to you for finding the perfect movie quote for this! (saying Props dates me, doesn’t it?)

      2. Snaps to you for saying props…

  4. Hmm…I feel like she might be depressed. Or done with the relationship herself? I get how maybe she’s realizing she’s ok with her husband being non-monogamous, but with her Mom? And for how long? Because, even if I realized I was ok with an open relationship I would be pissed at the lying that had been going on. I just don’t know, I just can’t even imagine being told by my husband he was sleeping with my Mom.

    1. I thought this too. Also: I wonder what the husband thought when the wife was just “meh”

    2. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

      My thoughts exactly. It isn’t unconditional love, its depression so bad that you can’t even work up the energy to be mad at your husband for banging your mom.

  5. The other woman’s answer is crazy. This is NOT Papua New Guinea, and key to that e ceptional culture’s arrangement is a lack of lying, which this involved. This is not some other woman, it’s her own MOM!

  6. Maybe the LW is still in shock and that’s why she’s not upset?? So bizarro!

    1. That’s sort of where I would lean too, because I’ve been there. Earlier this summer my mom committed a huge privacy violation against me, and when I first found out, I totally underreacted and tried to make it water under the bridge almost immediately. It took time for it to sink in before I got really, properly mad.

      1. temperance says:

        I’m going through something similar, and … that’s exactly how I feel, too. What my mom did wasn’t as bad as boning my husband, but … yeah.

  7. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

    I have to think this husband is rich and the wife doesn’t want to leave him for that reason – so she is choosing to make the best of it. That’s the impression I got. I would personally advise her to carry on (and not be angry) if that’s what she wants but to make sure she gets some sweet ass on the side as well. It’s only fair.

    1. Wonder what his dad looks like…….?

  8. That’s like saying it’s ok to stone women because they do it in Sudan.

    The writer is either not in love with her husband and therefore doesn’t give a shit that he cheated on her. With her mother. (WTF?!) OR she has negative levels of self esteem.

  9. artsygirl says:

    I pray to God that the LW is highly medicated because otherwise her complete antipathy is SCARY….

  10. “Papua New Guinea is so violent that more than 820 languages are spoken there.”


    “My first inkling that you possess a nirvana-grade freedom from jealousy? You mentioned a fellow woman wearing a “size 2” in your first sentence, then went on to write two more paragraphs—a total of 158 words—without slamming her.”

    …WTF!!!!! That doesn’t mean you possess a nirvana-grade freedom from jealousy – it just means you’re not a bitch! Sheesh. For all we know the LW is a size 2 or less, too and has no reason to be jealous.

    Good god. This is why I stay away from “Women’s” magazines. I can’t stomach this shit.

    1. I think you and Wendy missed the sarcasm of the response. Her description of what got her to stay in that village should have been a dead give away.

      1. Avatar photo beelzebarb says:

        I totally got that from her response too. Also, she makes the comment about Papua New Guinea having 820 languages because it is so violent right after she calls it a paradise. Pretty sure she read that letter, drank three glasses of wine to see if she could bend her mind around it, and finally came up with a sarcastic response instead of saying “Lady, I can’t help you.”

      2. “Lady, I can’t help you.”


      3. Neither of the two quotes I pulled were said sarcastically, though.

        I pulled the first because WTF does a variety of languages have to do with violence?? That’s like me saying “The U.S. is so politically polarized that we have 350 different flavors of ice cream.”

        The second is just a face-palming example of women hurting women by perpetuating stereotypes – that we’re all jealous bitches who can’t bear that someone else might be a size smaller than us. Even if the whole response was meant to be satire/sarcasm, that line still doesn’t fit and is still WTF-worthy.

        Besides, even when advice columnists get snippy and sarcastic, they usually pepper in some actual advice, or some sort of nod to their own sarcasm (a la the DW favorite, “amirite?”). E.Jean, whoever the hell she is, shouldn’t be using satire as a tool if this is the best she can do.

      4. 350 flavours? What are they?

      5. The language quote was definitely not offered as a serious quote. Sarcastic or whatever you want to call it but definitely not serious.

      6. karenwalker says:

        I think the mention of the vast number of languages is meant to imply how disconnected and at odds the people there are – like no one could get along so they all had to break into their own little tribes with their own langauages

  11. People do things every day I can’t understand for the life of me. If it doesn’t bother her – I’M not getting worked up over it. You just have to look at the news to see what some other mothers have done to their kids. I’m glad I’ll never have to deal with this issue but in the realm of what apparently is possible for mothers to do to children? I’ll save my sympathy for small children in harm’s way.

    1. I don’t really think sympathy is a finite resource. If the LW actually doesn’t care and is not mentally ill or whatever, then good for her. But if at some point, she does feel betrayed by her husband and/or her mom, it’s still going to suck, whether or not people are going through worse things.

      1. I agree with you – no emotion is a finite resource. But the LW is a big girl. She knows the score. She has given it thought and is fine with it. If she wrote in betrayed and upset I would there there her and be outraged along with her. But if she doesn’t care – then neither do I. It’s not my husband and it’s not my mother. Like I said I’m not getting worked up over it. And I’m not going to tell a functional adult that she has a problem when, upon self-reflection, she thinks she doesn’t. It is her life to live as she wants. I’m cool with that.

      2. Avatar photo theattack says:

        “I don’t really think sympathy is a finite resource.”

        OMG I love this! Can I steal it, pretty please?

    2. lets_be_honest says:

      There was a mother in my neck of the woods that was caught sleeping with her daughter’s boyfriend AND his friends, who were all 15 at the time. People are crazzzy!

      1. I read about that – isn’t she pregnant by a 15 year old now? Charming. Mothers lock their children up in cages and starve them, abuse them, sell them, even kill them. Those stories raise my blood pressure and make me borderline homicidal. This? This is a “to each their own.”

      2. lets_be_honest says:

        Agree 100%. BUT, not in a million years would I have thought the daughter wouldn’t have been devastated. Pretty surprising she doesn’t care.

    1. Hah! That made me giggle at work =)

  12. Now that I’ve picked my jaw up off the floor …

    Even if the LW wasn’t in love with her husband, I find it hard to believe that she wouldn’t be angry. I was dating a guy for a while whom I realized that I wasn’t into and broke up with, but I still got annoyed the night he took me to watch his former crush’s roller derby team and he spent the whole night talking about how awesome she is. Surely this woman would feel upset that he lied to her or that he and her mom were willing to do something that could have devastated her.

    1. Maybe this surprises you, but I once knew of a couple who had an open marriage, with affairs on both sides. They had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” agreement. Now that wouldn’t work for me, but whatever. People are freaky and unconventional at times. You were jealous of something when you had very little emotion invested ? Now that’s something that I don’t understand.

  13. I dunno, seems OK to me….

    Wait is this REAL WORLD not fetish porn world? OK, never mind…

    1. @ Diablo – Between this and your comment above – you are winning this thread!

      1. YES!!! I rarely win serious debates, but I often win silly ones.

  14. fast eddie says:

    His affair is far from mainstream but so what. In the 60s and 70s it would have been no more then a little unusual. Some of my progressive friends had sex with mothers and their daughters. The LW is OK with it and he’s doing all the right things at home with her and the kids. Morality is what any individual makes of it. This case isn’t something to applaud but there’s no harm evidenced for anybody involved. If he were sleeping with his own mother, therapy would be beneficial, but even then morality is in the mind of the beholder.

    1. Avatar photo theattack says:

      What disturbs me about it is that the husband and the mom didn’t know the LW would be okay with it. The two people she should be able to count on the most in this world voluntarily did something knowing it could have completely devastated her. Not very many people would be okay with their SOs having sex with their parents, so they had to have known they were deciding that having sex was worth the risk of the potentially irreparable damage it could have caused her. That’s beyond selfish to me.

      1. i feel the same way. it’s one thing if that’s what they are all cool with, before it happens. but, he was cheating on her. it ended up that she’s ‘ok’ with it, but it was also far more likely that she would have found out he was cheating on her and been pissed. the who the cheating is going on with doesn’t change the fact that he cheated. for me it makes it harder to wrap my head around, but even if i could, i still would be upset about the lying that was involved.

    2. Would you say the same if it was daughter, mother and grandmother? How bout if we throw a monkey in there too?

      Just kidding, FE, but ya gotta admit, it’s more fun to have an over the top reaction to this than to be all reasonable and relativistic.

      1. “… it’s more fun to have an over the top reaction to this than to be all reasonable and relativistic. ”

        Haha, right?? Like, guys, come on. Can’t we all come together on this with a collective WTF?

      2. Ready, everyone? One, two, three… WTF!!!

      3. Avatar photo Brown-eyed NoVA Girl says:


    3. If you are married to someone, you owe your spouse a modicum of respect to communicate your desire to fuck that hot neighbor, your gym friend or your spouse’s MOM before any sexual activity ensues. I really don’t understand why this conversation wouldn’t happen. It would be difficult, but if you want to stay married, you need to respect your spouse. Let them know how you feel and try to reach compromise before you betray them by FUCKING THEIR MOM.

    4. fast eddie says:

      The biggest “problem” with the arrangement is that her mom is never going to be out picture like a random lover could be. Because it’s more to it then the act of them having sex together complications will arise and it will get sticky or ugly. I’ve known quite a few couples that had an open marriage and they all ended in divorce. The conflicts that inevitable occur make this marriage particularly precarious.

    5. Ahahahah all the 20 to 30 set are clutching their pearls in horror and then the geriatric sex machine comes along and schools them on the swinging lifestyle we all missed out on. “Only mother and daughter? In my day every family reunion turned into an orgy!”

      Really though, I’m not personally into it, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to get angry when they’re not. Maybe she’s just not the jealous type. Plus she says “when he told me” so it’s not like she caught them. They’re prob into some wild shit, she’s not super close with her mom and knows that she’s still a fox. More power to em if everyone’s on board.

  15. Michelle.Lea says:

    weird, but i dont know. if she’s not bothered with it on any level, either she really has found nirvana, or she’s f’d up. i suppose if she can live with it, more power to her? but if her husband kept it from her, at the very least shouldn’t she be upset about that? weird. i agree with the comments i saw above about her just not caring.

  16. Avatar photo theattack says:

    Well, Thanksgiving might be a little awkward this year….

    1. And I’m assuming since it wasn’t mentioned that the Mother is single/widowed/divorced? If not does the Father know? Imagine that conversation at dinner.

      1. Avatar photo theattack says:

        bahaha! wowowowowow!

    2. How’s the job going? I’m “working” right now….

      1. Avatar photo theattack says:

        I dont’ start until next Monday, so today is my last real day of unemployment! (because of the holidays and all) Thanks for asking!

        But I just found out that I have to take a drug test in the office when I get there and not at a lab. Does that mean I have to pee in front of my new boss? Anyone? Super nervous about that. I can’t even pee if someone can hear me on the other side of the door. Ahhh!!!

      2. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        Congrats on the new job! I’ve never had to take a drug test but I would be so good at it- I can pee in front of anyone! Not saying I do, but I could.

      3. Wouldn’t the drug test in BC include the phrase, “It’s OK… I grew it myself”?

      4. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        Nice. I’m not sure anyone tests for it out here. What with most of the province’s mayors publicly stating that they are pro-legalization. It’s only a matter of time, I say! Not that legalization would really have that much effect on the amount of people smoking it, nobody’s afraid of the law on that one (being about as bad as jaywalking) but I’d really love the money to go to taxes instead of gansta’s

      5. Taxes, schmaxes, I really would grow my own. I mean, I’m pretty good with tomatoes, and I only LIKE them…

      6. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        We’ve been debating it for years. We have our own veggie garden and I’m pretty sure we could grow some great stuff. The only issue is we smoke so very little! Obviously, none while I’m pregnant, but otherwise I usually only have one or two week long stints where I smoke it every day, in a year. My husband is only a social smoker (or drinker) and won’t say no when someone passes it to him, or he’d smoke it with me at home, but he wouldn’t smoke it by himself.

        I’m sure we could give it away though, wouldn’t be too hard 🙂

      7. Avatar photo theattack says:

        hahaha, That’s awesome, lemongrass! And thanks!

      8. Avatar photo the_optimist says:

        Pretty sure they’ll just make someone (probably female) from HR stand outside of the stall while you go. Still annoying, but luckily not your direct supervisor (I hope).

      9. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Well this agency has like four people in it, so it probably will have to be the boss. Thanks! I can deal much better with someone standing outside than someone watching me.

  17. Something More says:

    Yeah, I’m in the “whatever” camp. I mean, if the wife is OK with it, so what? Yeah, her hubs is a douche for cheating and he (and her mom) lucked out hard-core considering the end result, but to each their own. Maybe it’s not normal, but aren’t we defining the “new normal” every day? I don’t think it deserves the OMG WTF everybody seems to be giving it.

  18. My family is really too, too dull.

  19. Before I even read either Wendy’s or Jean’s responses, I read this letter to my SO.

    His response: “Not sure if crazy or enlightened?”

  20. Bittergaymark says:

    Fake… I don’t care if it’s in Elle… Fake. Fake. Fake…

    1. Avatar photo the_optimist says:

      I’m inclined to agree. Also, Elle kind of sucks. I don’t see how reading it would make you all that interesting. Unless she’s supposed to seem worldly because she reads Elle AND The Economist?

      1. Avatar photo Brown-eyed NoVA Girl says:

        However, I wold LOVE to see this question written to the editors at The Economist and hear their snarky, British reply, perhaps with some enlightening fiscal advice about alimony.

  21. landygirl says:

    Eeeeeeewwwwwww!! You and your mom are honking the same hooter. Gross.

  22. Sue Jones says:

    Eh, while it absolutely would be a deal breaker for me, apparently all parties here are OK with it. Who are we to judge? And what about the Dear Prudence where the gay twin men were long term significant others (since age 12)? That one is the same level of “wow!”

  23. So… he chose Mrs. Robinson after he married. Interesting turn of events. Mrs. Robinson seduced him afterall. *starts humming the song* Dammit, now that will be in my head all night.

    I really don’t know what to make of this. Fake? Possibly. Of course… I’ve seen some really fucked up love-hexagons in my lifetime. And then some.

  24. WTF? Has to be fake. I can understand not getting that upset when finding out someone has been cheating on you, although the fact that this woman isn’t more upset considering she has two sons with the man is a bit strange. This is her MOM though! Line has been crossed.

  25. I get maybe That the LW might be one of those wives that gets completely taken care of and so is able to look the other way when the husband has a mistress or women on the side, because maybe she cares more about her stability than his faithfulness. But, your own MOTHER?! No way. Even if I felt like LW and didnt care my husband was sleeping with someone else, I’d still disown my mother for sleeping with him and keeping it a secret. Who cares if she’s got a rockin bod. She betrayed me completely and interfered with my marriage, knowing that it could possibly hurt me deeply. That is effed up big time

  26. Jenniferw says:

    Boy, and I thought my holidays with the in-laws were awkward.

  27. The misogynist part of me (that I try to keep locked away in the back corner of my mind) really wants to buy this guy a drink! I mean … damn dude. This was about as big of a drama landmine as you could put yourself into and he got a free pass—unbelieveable.

    For the record I still think he’s a giant douche though.

  28. Fake fake fakety fakebomb.

  29. istrice01 says:

    Personally, I think the husband is a selfish cad and the mother is not too far behind. Also, I wouldn’t be ok with this in the least as I want a monogamist marriage, emotionally as well as physically. I can’t imagine my husband telling me and I’d be heartbroken. Anyway, enough about me and my projections.
    I think a better question would be not if her feelings are “normal”, but what” could go wrong?”. As another person pointed out, there’s more to it then just the husband and MIL having sex. From the info of the post, it seems the affair has been conducted remotely, when he attends conferences at the resort near where the MIL lives; however, has the wife given any thought to what might happen during family get togethers, holidays, or vacations? Since the MIL isn’t a random lover, she’s most likely going to be there some times and how will the husband and MIL behave during these situations? Or what about when the MIL comes to town and wants to hook up with her daughter’s husband? What about that? Will the husband tell her about it and or just go and do it? If he does ask her if he can meet her while in she’s in town, how is she going to feel about that? Or if she finds out later that he met her in secret how is she gonna feel about that? It’s one thing when it’s conducted remotely during these conferences, but if he’s actually setting aside allotted time to be with MIL instead of hanging out with her, how is she going to feel about that?
    Also, it’s more to it than them just having sex. Let’s say he loves his wife and still takes care of her(sexually, emotionally, financially), I would be willing to bet there’s an element of emotion felt between the two. What if the MIL wants to change the dynamic a bit and wants a deeper relationship? Is the wife prepared to deal with that, or the husband for that matter? What if someone wants more down the line? If the husband has any decency at , if the wife gets upset and tells him to shut the relationship down then he should-on all fronts. No sex and no communication of any kind.
    In general, I just wonder if either one of them have thought this out. Anyways, those are just my ramblings on the subject.

  30. Maybe this surprises you, but I once knew of a couple who had an open marriage, with affairs on both sides. They had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” agreement. Now that wouldn’t work for me, but whatever. People are freaky and unconventional at times. You were jealous of something when you had very little emotion invested ? Now that’s something that I don’t understand.

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