Thomas Middleditch and Mollie Gates at 68th Emmy Awards. by Walt Disney Television, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

 

Welcome to Unsolicited Advice, the weekly column where I give advice no one asked for to people who don’t know who I am. This week our charming rural farmhouse gets swept up into a tornado and lands us right smack dab in the middle of the bizarre fantasy world we call Hollywood.

Silicon Valley actor Thomas Middleditch admitted in a Playboy magazine interview that he and his wife of four years are in an “open marriage”. Normally I wouldn’t touch something like this with a ten foot sex toy. Of course, these are two consenting adults and what they do with their bodies inside (and outside) of their marriage is their business. But it was the HBO star’s description of their journey into “swinging” that raised alarm bells for me.

“Only after I got married was I like, ‘Mollie, I’m sorry, but we have to get nontraditional here.’ To her credit, instead of saying ‘F–k you, I’m out,’ she was like, ‘Let’s figure this out,’” he recalled. “To be honest, swinging has saved our marriage. We have different speeds, and we argue over it constantly, but it’s better than feeling unheard and alone and that you have to scurry in the shadows.”

He goes on to say that it hasn’t necessarily been a smooth ride. In fact, it sounds downright stressful especially considering Middleditch’s fame and how that effects his prospects as compared to his costume designer wife. He admits she isn’t as excited about the arrangement as he is, and there is a constant negotiation for her comfort level when he explores “opportunities”.

“That’s one of the trickier elements of it all, because Mollie doesn’t get that and yet she has to witness it. I’m like, ‘Come on, what about this chick who’s obviously really into me?’ And Mollie will say, ‘Yeah, she’s into you. Where do I fit in?’ That question comes up.”

“It’s a game of inches on a minefield to try to predict who’s going to feel safe,” he concludes. “My first concern is Mollie. Anything that happens has to be run by the queen.”

“I just like it. I’m sexual.”

All the red flags.

Thomas…you seem to be congratulating yourself for your honesty as though it absolves you from the obvious narcissism of this situation. While you see a marital victory, I see a wife who was not only reluctant to acquiesce to your desire to be sexually active with other women but remains so. I’ve been married 20 years. I know that anything that is a recurring argument for years is not actually the healthy kind of arguing. It is a glaring sign that something is wrong and that one or both parties are hurting.

It sounds to me like Mollie really loves you, and it also sounds to me that she’s been trying to tell you that this arrangement doesn’t feel as good to her as it does to you. I suspect it isn’t just about the swinging, it’s about the trust. No matter what the circumstances are, a marriage cannot thrive if both partners don’t feel safe with each other. In this one interview you have thrown out several worrisome thoughts that make me think your wife isn’t exactly feeling safe.

You say Mollie is a private person and that you hesitate to share too much out of concern for that. That’s nice except you haven’t really honored that. In one single sentence you claim to want to protect her privacy while simultaneously putting her private sexual life on blast. Perhaps it would be one thing if this were a situation you’d both agreed to in the beginning and were both excited about. But exposing Mollie’s hesitancy and her unease with the lifestyle you chose for your marriage is a violation. I obviously know nothing about either of you but I’m guessing she finds the interview embarrassing at the very least.

You seem to have convinced yourself that your clever “workaround” saved your marriage, but I don’t see a marriage victory. I see a pre-divorce partnership.  I see a relationship that is dominated by your sexual needs. I understand there are many details between the two of you no one knows. Perhaps Mollie has her own needs that loom pretty large in your marriage. I don’t know, but this is Unsolicited Advice so I’m taking liberties. What I do know is that sex is not just a physical act- it is an expression of commitment, a celebration of intimacy and a declaration of trust. When you bring an outside party into the marital bed, you disrupt that cycle. It catches up to most people eventually.

Your narcissism makes it so you think your request for an open marriage was the loving thing to do, when in fact it was tragically selfish. “We have to be nontraditional about this” is a hell of a bomb to drop on a spouse after the marriage. While I understand that you perhaps may have felt disappointed by the realities of marriage once the sparkle wore off, what you so sadly don’t seem to get is that marriage isn’t about how well your partner serves your needs. It is about how well you serve your partner’s needs. Marriage isn’t a selfish institution, it is the exact opposite. It requires us to put the needs of our partner ahead of our own. As difficult as it may be at times, there’s a rich reward in that. It builds a foundation for a lasting commitment that isn’t based on how you feel but what you promised. It engenders something that is ultimately both vital and extremely sexy in a marriage…

Trust.

Mollie can’t trust you with her desire; you’ve all but said so yourself. Again, it’s one thing if this is an idea you both had and wanted to try together but it’s quite another for you to not only spring it on your wife years into the marriage but recognize that the arrangement isn’t a safe one for her. Yet you continue.

“I just like it. I’m sexual” has a lot of “I” in it and not much “we”. We’re all sexual, Thomas. You’re not the first human on earth to enjoy lots of sex. Lord, have mercy you sound so stupid.

And you say Mollie is your “queen”?

I say it won’t be long before Mollie is your ex.

Honor your “queen” by shutting up about her sex life in public and putting a halt to your “nontraditional” nonsense until you can both agree on a situation that is completely safe for both of your hearts.

It sounds like you’re really the only one enjoying yourself here. Poor Mollie. Get help, Thomas. You’re not well.

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