There’s an old saying: “If you treated your wife like you treated your hooker, you’d have the world’s strongest marriage.”

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Not familiar with that chestnut? Well, then you probably haven’t talked to enough prostitutes. Yes, they say things like that. And they’re not kidding.

Sex workers love talking about their married clients. They’ve got tales that’ll make you cringe, involving some pretty out-there sexual requests. (It would seem that if more married women consented to put their fingers up their husbands’ buttholes, prostitution might cease to exist.) But many of their stories are shockingly, well . . . sweet.

The way they talk about their relationships with their Johns—who’ve been repeat customers almost as long as they’ve worn wedding bands—it almost sounds like a marriage. A happy marriage, no less. Brianna, a sex worker based n New York City, estimates that 90% of her clients are “married or in long term monogamous relationships.” And while they certainly visit her for the chance to be with a naked woman who isn’t their wife, she also says that her job is “95% emotional labor and just 5% sex.”

And the emotional labor is a two-way street. Some married guys try harder to please their prostitutes than they do the women they ostensibly promised to spend the rest of their lives with.

We spoke to a dozen high-end escorts—the self-employed women who make more per hour than most cardiologists—and asked them to share their relationship secrets.

What do their married clients do right, and when do they screw up? How do men woo them, negotiate with them (emotionally and otherwise), and behave in ways that would probably translate nicely if they started using these same strategies with the women they’re cheating on, who aren’t offering their companionship in exchange for an envelope filled of cash left discretely on the nightstand? 

SECRET 1: Ask For What You Want Like It’s a Business Transaction

With prostitutes, there are no games or emotional manipulation. If you want something specific, you have to ask for it. Whether your idea of a good time is gently spooning while she strokes your hair, or getting spanked while she calls you a dirty little man-bitch, you have to tell her up front.

“It’s so easy in this environment,” says Amber from New York. “Maybe it’s because of the transactional nature. It’s better this way, I think. You can’t go into a car dealership and say, ‘Whatever you’ve got on the lot is fine.’”

Heather from Orlando, Florida says her best customers are the ones who don’t beat around the bush (unless that’s what they’re paying for.) “I had a guy actually write me a three page letter, explaining every tiny detail about his fetish,” she says.

The same goes for the escorts. There’s not a lot of mystery about what they will or won’t do. “It’s all there on my website,” says Heather. “No scat or piss fetishes. No physical pain. You want any of that, don’t waste your time.”

“Married couples expect each other to read their minds,” says Cecilia Dahl, an escort who sees clients in Austin, Dallas, and Houston, Texas. “That’s not how it works, at least not with us. Maybe because there’s money on the line.”

She can’t grasp why married men aren’t more honest with their wives. “It’s weird,” Dahl says. “You’ll make sure a Starbucks cashier knows exactly what you want. But you won’t tell your wife you like oral, and you’ve made a vow to be with her forever.”

The Experts Say:

These prostitutes might be on to something, says Dr. Michael Bennett, MD, a Boston-based psychiatrist and co-author of F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems. Just don’t take their advice too literally.

“The sex worker or Starbucks employee knows that they can invite customers to ask for what they want,” says Dr. Bennett. “Not just because the transaction is impersonal, but because no matter how degrading or demanding the request, they’re going to get paid.”

You’re not paying your wife for sex. (At least you shouldn’t be. If money is changing hands, you’re doing marriage wrong.) You can’t walk into your bedroom tonight and make requests like you’re picking options from a menu. But there is some value in talking about the things you want—sexually and otherwise—with a little more openness and bluntness.

Take the emotion out of it, says Dr. Bennett. “Stay away from expressing your need for sex or your feelings that you deserve it.” Instead, talk about what’s lacking in the bedroom without making it personal. “Tell her you want to know what gives her pleasure, and she should know what works for you, because it’s good for the relationship,” say Dr. Bennett.

SECRET 2: Have Sex on a Weekday, During Your Lunch Break

Married men rarely visit prostitutes at night, and absolutely never on the weekend. That’s how sloppy Johns get caught. If you want to be surreptitious about paying for sex, you do it on a weekday, when you’re supposed to be at the office and you’ve got the perfect alibi.

“One of my regulars always tells his secretary he’s going to the library,” says Dakota, a longtime escort from Denver, Colorado. “I think that makes it more exciting for him. It’s an extra layer of doing something naughty. You’re on the company dime, and you’re actually getting laid.”

Remember when sex with your wife used to be like that? When there was no such thing as “date night”? You’d sneak away to see her, and it felt like you had a filthy secret from the world.

“The best sex is when it feels like you’re getting away with something,” says Deb Libra, an escort in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “That’s what married people need, that sense that you’re doing something you shouldn’t be. You should look at your partner and tell her, ‘I miss it when we used to do it in the car.’”

The Experts Say:

Men don’t visit prostitutes just because paying for sex is the only way they’ll get laid. Well, okay, for some of them maybe. But many guys are looking for the adrenaline rush they’ve lost in their marriage.

“What’s exciting about being with a prostitute is the thrill seeking, the risk taking, the taboo quality of it,” says Wendy Fader, Ph.D., a psychologist and sex therapist. “All the things that you ostensibly give up when you say ‘I do.’”

A date night comes with zero risk. The worst that could happen is maybe the babysitter cancels, or you forgot to make reservations at that one restaurant you both wanted to try. There’s never a feeling that before the night is over, you’re both going to need a good lawyer.

How do you recreate that sleeping-with-a-prostitute excitement, but without the exchanging-currency-for-sexual-favors part? “It’s about finding ways to add an element of surprise and the unexpected,” says Fader. “You need a mental amphetamine. It’s not that complicated, it just takes energy. People go brain dead in a marriage. You have to be willing to try things that make you uncomfortable.”

Do your date nights usually happen on a weekend? Cancel it. Instead, have her meet you downtown during your lunch break for a quickie. Rent one of those by-the-hour hotels and see what happens. Or if you have to do a weekend, wait till your in-laws are on their way over, and then see if you can master the complicated positions necessary to have car sex in your unlocked garage before they arrive.

Are you seriously doing this? Hell yes you are. You’re a bad, bad man. It’s time to remember what that feels like again.

SECRET 3: Fighting about Money Gets You Nowhere

Savannah from New York has never had a disagreement with one of her customers about money.

“There are some guys who come in here and want to negotiate rates,” she says. “But I kind of always win. My price is not negotiable. You don’t like it? Get the fuck out.”

She thinks all financial disagreements between men and women should happen this way. Things cost what they cost. You pay for them or you don’t pay for them. The things you don’t pay for, you don’t get.

“I’m not an asshole,” she says. “If you’re a steady client and you’re $20 short, I won’t chase you down the street. But next time, you better make it right.”

The Experts Say:

Getting into shouting matches with your wife about unpaid bills? You may be on the path to divorce, says Sonya Britt, Ph.D., a professor at Kansas State University.

She studied data from more than 4,500 couples, and found that arguments over money—more so than arguments about children, in-laws, and even the frequency in which they have sex— resulted in “lower relationship satisfaction and a higher likelihood of divorce.”

In fact, Britt found that all that yelling about finances “could play into extramarital relationships.”

Which is kind of ironic, if you think about it. Fighting with your wife about money could lead you into the arms of a prostitute, with whom you never fight about money. Your ex-wife’s credit card bills were egregious, but hey, a blowjob costs what it costs, right?

It all comes down to treating your wife with the same respect you’d have for a woman charging you extra to tickle your balls.

SECRET 4: Give Your Armpit an Extra Whiff

Think the only thing prostitutes care about is money? “The money is great, but I’ll give up the biggest payday is he smells like a dumpster,” says Crystal from Los Angeles.

When escorts talk to each other—that’s how they find out whether a new client should be trusted—they don’t talk about who’s a big spender or who has an enormous schlong. “None of that matters,” Crystal says. “The best recommendation you can get is if she says, ‘He shows up on time, and he’s clean.’ That’s like music to an escort’s ear. Oh my god, he’s clean?”

Deb Libra has horror stories about clients who didn’t appreciate the amorous value of basic hygiene. “I can still remember my second day of doing this,” she says. “My booker calls, says a guy has negotiated for two hours. What’s he offering? Okay, I’ll take it. He walks in, and the smell, oh my god, it was indescribable. It was like a cross between old cabbage and a corpse. I almost quit the business then and there.”

As a 20-year vet of the sex trade, she doesn’t have a lot of expectations about the men she sleeps with for money. “I can accept that not everyone is going to have a stellar body,” she says. “Just be clean. Please, for the love of god, be clean.”

The Experts Say:

It’s not that you don’t bathe enough. You’re not a train hobo from the 1930s. You take showers and use grooming products. You probably don’t smell like old cabbage and a corpse.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t have body odor, and that she might be noticing something that you don’t.

“Women are more sensitive to odors in general than men,” says Dr. George Preti, Ph.D., an organic chemist who studies body odors at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Women will notice an unpleasant odor before a guy will. She may even notice something that he can’t smell at all.”

Preti has conducted research that proves as much. In a study comparing the olfactory abilities of men and women, only two of 32 fragrances blocked women from noticing a foul body odor, while men were fooled by 19 fragrances. Just because you can’t smell something doesn’t mean it’s not there.

So what’s the solution? Don’t be overconfident in your odor profile. “Ask her,” Preti suggests. “I’d trust your wife before I’d trust your own nose.”

SECRET 5: The Grass Isn’t Greener In Another Woman’s Pants

Every so often, one of Savannah’s regular clients goes through a horrifying transformation. “He gets that stupid look in his eyes,” she says. “He starts holding my hand too hard, or making too many jokes about how we should run away together. And I’m like, oh no, this poor bastard is catching the feelings.”

Yes, sometimes Johns fall in love. They promise to divorce their wives, empty their bank accounts, and devote themselves entirely to the woman they’ve been paying for sex.

The problem isn’t the impracticality of it, says Brandy from New York. (Divorce is messy enough without adding a prostitute lover into the nix.) Or that they’re confusing fiction like Pretty Woman with reality. The problem is that prostitutes are people. And people get more annoying the more you’re exposed to them.

“They don’t have to live with me,” says Brandy of her clients. “They don’t know what I’m really like. It’s very easy to be on your best behavior for an hour or two.”

Melody, an escort in Indianapolis, Indiana, has dealt with a multitude of men suffering from “grass is greener” syndrome. “Some of them tell me, ‘I would leave my wife for you.’ But they’re getting the fun part. They don’t have to deal with me day to day. They don’t see me in my sweatpants, vegged out on the couch, or stressed out about bills. If I lived with them, I guarantee I’d become their nagging wife.”

The Experts Say:

There’s nothing wrong with escape fantasies, says Fader. Even the most happily married couples daydream about getting out.

“That’s human nature,” says Fader. “But in a solid relationship, you might look at your co-worker and she seems really cool and hot and interesting. But then you keep your dick in your pants and you go home to your wife.”

Enjoy your fantasies. Imagine how wonderful it’d be to skip town with that mystery woman, create a new life and start over. But don’t act on it. It’s the same reason you can have revenge fantasies and then not poison your boss’s coffee the next day. Because you’re not a crazy person.

SECRET 6: It’s Okay to Want Something Just For You

Amber prefers married clients because they seem generally happier. From her vantage, single guys are insecure and guilt-ridden, but the married ones seem to have fulfilling lives. “I have one guy who talks about his kids all the time, how great his home life is,” she says. “He has this attitude like, ‘I work hard, I provide for my family, so let me have this. Let me just have this one thing.’”

It’s a reasonable request, until you remember, oh yeah, his “one thing” is putting his dick inside another woman.

“I asked a married guy about it,” Amber says. “I asked him, ‘Why are you doing this? You could lose everything.’ And he was like, ‘I’ve made a lot of sacrifices for my family. We picked up and moved to a city that I don’t like. We got the house that she wanted, near the school that’s perfect for our son. I’ve done everything for them. I need something that’s just for me.’”

The Experts Say:

Let’s break this down: Having hobbies are cool. Having hobbies that don’t involve your wife are cool. Having hobbies that maybe your wife doesn’t know about or even approve of are cool. Just don’t have hobbies that might result in you getting gonorrhea.

“I call it enlightened selfishness,” says Diana Wiley, Ph.D. a licensed marriage and sex therapist in Seattle, Washington. “It’s about taking care of yourself first. They even advise on airplanes to secure your own oxygen mask first before helping your child.”

In essence, Amber’s married client had the right idea. It’s okay to want something that’s just for you. It’s okay to be selfish. It’s even healthy to be selfish, to do something that solely satisfies your needs.

“When we do this, typically we are better partners and parents,” says Wiley. “When we feel energized— without resentments—this often flows into the primary relationship.”

Treat yourself to something special today—play hooky from work and go to a baseball game, or anything else that makes you happy—and don’t tell her about it. It could be anything at all, as long as it doesn’t—and we can’t emphasize this point enough—involve your penis making contact with a person who isn’t your wife.

SECRET 7: Some Fantasies You Should Probably Keep to Yourself

“I don’t see fetish guys,” says Brandy. “If it costs more than my therapist, I’m not going to do it. There are some things you can’t unsee.”

You don’t want to know more, but you kind of do, right?

“Once a man wants you to dress him in a diaper and feed him milk from a baby bottle, you cannot look at him as a man anymore,” Brandy says.

It gets so much worse. Brandy recalls another client whose favorite fantasy involved burning her at the stake for being a witch. “I’m on a rack, being tortured,” she says. “I’m burning alive, and he’s screwing me, mumbling something about the Judgment Day. It was awful. I wanted to die afterwards.”

It’s amazing what some escorts will smile and tolerate from their customers. But even they have their limits. “I’m not going to dress a 6’5” man in a woman’s dress,” Brandy says. “I’m 5’2”. It’s disgusting! It’s inappropriate. You know what I want to tell my clients sometimes? Stop trying to force a square peg in a round hole! That’s not even a metaphor or whatever. I mean literally, keep your weird shit away from my round hole!”

The Experts Say:

Christian Joyal, Ph.D, a neuropsychologist at the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, is pretty forgiving when it comes to weird sex fetishes. In 2014, he led a study examining the sex fantasies of about 1,500 adults, and found that most of the desires considered atypical by mental health textbooks are actually pretty common and healthy.

In other words, that sex act you’ve been afraid to try because you think it’s so kinky really isn’t all that kinky.

Unless, that is, it involves burning somebody at the stake.

“The first criterion to determine if a sexual interest is abnormal or pathological is if it involves non-consenting partners,” Joyal explains. This includes sex with children, animals, anything involving rape, and oh yeah, burning witches.

“Yes, re-enacting an interest to burn a witch should be considered pathological,” he says.

Nobody is saying your marriage shouldn’t be a safe and nonjudgmental place to explore your fantasies. But if what you’re into would make even a career escort wince, then maybe you leave your wife out of it.

“I think we’d probably be horrified if we shared all of our fantasies,” says Fader. “Thank goodness we have filters. A little repression can be a good thing.”

[This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the November 2016 issue of Men’s Health.]