A lonely woman says that her husband of more than five years refuses to take off his mask — ever ... even during sex — though the two are monogamous and are both fully vaccinated.
The woman, who refers to herself as "Maskless and Alone," wrote into Slate's "Dear Prudence" and detailed her husband's extreme fear and paranoia surrounding surrendering his mask.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it was safe for fully vaccinated Americans to ditch the masks even while in the majority of public settings.
'He wears it to sleep,' for 'bathroom activities,' and 'even during lovemaking'
Maskless and Alone wrote, "I have been married to a great guy for five and a half years. He is handsome, sexy, funny, and kind. It's true that he has always been a little 'prissy' about illnesses, but I never thought it was a real problem."
The woman said that during the pandemic, her husband's fears hit a fevered pitch and since COVID-19's emergence in the U.S., he has flat-out refused to take off his face mask — even when the two are home alone.
"He wears it to sleep, to do most of his bathroom activities, and, yes, even during lovemaking," she complained. "To eat, he pulls it up to expose his mouth, and then quickly pulls it back down between bites. While he does not insist that I do the same, I can tell it bothers him that I don't — especially because I have now started going maskless outside, per the CDC guidelines, and plan on restaurant dining inside soon for a girls' night out."
The woman says that she's attempted to reason with her husband, but he balks every time, saying, "Scientists don't fully understand the virus yet," and more, "What's the harm?"
According to the woman, there's a whole lot of harm being done.
"I want to see my beautiful husband's face again," she wrote. "I want to kiss him on the lips romantically, like we used to, and not through a piece of fabric."
The woman said that her husband doesn't often change his mask and it has become "smelly and soiled."
"This is making me depressed and concerned about our future together," she admitted. "I have asked him when he plans to stop masking, and all he says is 'When it is safe for everyone.' What if this becomes a permanent part of him? My mother, who is very conservative, thinks that I should move out. But I don't think I'm ready for that step yet. What I want is my husband back."
'Certainly not offering him any real protection against disease'
In a lengthy response, Slate's own Dear Prudence pointed out what appears to be the man's deteriorating mental condition and called his behavior "alarming."
"'What's the harm?' is such an insidious phrase," Prudence wrote. "It's not a question; it's a statement of 'leave me alone.' But there is lots of harm in leaving him alone — harm to his mental health, to yours, and to your relationship."
Prudence recommended that the two sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk over his decision to continue wearing masks nearly 100% of the time.
"Tell him all about the harm here: His behavior is alienating you and is certainly not offering him any real protection against disease," Prudence advised. "Give him three options. First, he can make an appointment with his physician to talk about effective protective measures. If he does this, he has to commit to following the doctor's recommendations, and you have to be present so he can't lie to you about what happens there. Hopefully, his doctor will say he has to do option No. 2: start seeing a therapist. If he chooses this, he has to commit to at least six sessions (or some other number that feels right to you)."
Prudence said that the third option is considering leaving him.
"Finally, he can decide — because it would be his decision if he doesn't take another action — to call an end to the relationship," Prudence advised. "I know you want your husband back, but he isn't that husband right now, and he needs to understand just how serious this is. To be clear, you have to mean it when you say that the relationship has to end if he doesn't make progress, but I think that would be the right move."
Anything else to know?
In June, a study from Harvard University found that people engaging in sexual relations ought to consider wearing face masks for the purpose of preventing COVID-19 transmission.
According to the study, the riskiest sexual scenario at the time was sex with people other than those with whom a person is quarantined.
Other high-risk behaviors, the report found, included having sex with someone outside your household, and even sometimes sex with someone inside your household, depending on who they may have previously interfaced.
The best option, according to researchers, was abstinence since it was the lowest risk for infection.
The study's authors wrote: "SARS-CoV-2 is present in respiratory secretions and spreads through aerosolized particles. It may remain stable on surfaces for days. On the basis of this information, all types of in-person sexual activity probably carry risk for SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Infected individuals have the potential to spread respiratory secretions onto their skin and personal objects, from which the virus can be transmitted to a sexual partner. Because many SARS-CoV-2–infected people are asymptomatic, HCPs are left with little to offer beyond guidance to not engage in any in-person sexual activity."