Savage Love Podcast Comments


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I feel bad for the last caller. All the warning signs are there, but he seems hell bent on pretending nothing's wrong.

Here's a scenario: Boyfriend/husband (or girlfriend/wife) supports partner all through med school, even though the long hours mean partner is unable to contribute as much to the relationship. Then, suddenly, with graduation rapidly approaching, partner explains that since they've grown apart over the last few years, they would be better off breaking up/divorcing and going their separate ways. Oh, and by the way, partner's been having an affair with a fellow med student for the past few years, and they're going to be doing their residency at the same hospital. But, thanks for paying the bills.

It happens so often it's become a cliche. The only difference here is that the guy is aware of what's happening the whole time, but has deluded himself into believing that nothing's wrong. Here's the question I would have asked: Who's paying for med school?

By the way, calls like this are the reason I love Dan Savage. He's easily the nation's most prominent proponent of non-monogamy, but he doesn't let that blind him to the real situations people face.
Posted by YuriMichaels on July 24, 2012 at 6:06 AM · Report this
Oh, OUCH. Dan assumed that woman calling in about body-image issues was fat. He may not hear the end of that.
Posted by dchari on July 24, 2012 at 8:09 AM · Report this
Ohhhh the poor open-relationship caller. He never COMMUNICATES with his damn girlfriend, so he ascribes all these motivations on her - "she was trying to tell me she feels neglected" - without talking it through with her. Dan should ask him one simple question: "Have you confirmed all this with your girlfriend? Have you talked to her about your insecurities?" If not, that's a huge red flag right there.
Posted by dchari on July 24, 2012 at 8:34 AM · Report this
It sounds to me like that last caller should man up, dump the selfish and dishonest girlfriend, and find his own way for a while. He sounded like an abused spouse to me.
Posted by nanoboy on July 24, 2012 at 8:39 AM · Report this
the last caller is whipped plain and simple
Posted by toronto on July 24, 2012 at 8:54 AM · Report this
Dan, I swear to god, if you keep using EVERY GUEST EXPERT YOU BRING ON as an opportunity to whine about how people call you out on your bullshit and to have them pat you on the head and say that you were right all along, I am going to put my fucking foot through my laptop. Cut it out, you self-serving douchebag!
Posted by eptified on July 24, 2012 at 11:10 AM · Report this
I disagree with exactly one half of your advice to the daughter who maintains a strong friendship with her father. They both absolutely need to take a much closer look at Mom's feelings, and remember that she is a member of that family, but I do not see evidence that their relationship is absolutely inappropriate. I do not see any reason that she absolutely must redefine her entire relationship with her dad. Sure, the relationship is uncommon, even unusual. And there is no question that if we examine deeper it certainly could turn out to be inappropriate. But what I got from the phone call was one person who genuinely loved spending time with another person. Sometimes, we have favorites. No, it is not fair for the mom. Yes, there may be underlying justifications for it, which the caller did not give, and the absence of which demands that mom be given some measure of consideration.
Unlike pretty much everyone else who has ever disagreed with you enough to say something, I don't think you should die in a fire. I love you, Dan. You are a national treasure. But I think you inferred too much this time. This woman clearly loves her dad. Who are we to tell her that love is inappropriate?
Posted by Yaynumbers on July 24, 2012 at 12:15 PM · Report this
To the caller whose mom said that she was having an incestuous relationship with her dad:

I agree with Dan that you need to draw boundaries, but you it's not necessarily that you spend too much time with your dad. If you just spend less time with your dad and stop answering his texts, all that's going to happen is that he'll feel neglected and confused and your mom will be depressed because even WITHOUT you spending so much time with him, he still doesn't help around the house or pay her enough attention.

While it's true that children shouldn't be involved in their parents relationship, you are unfortunately already involved in their relationship, because your relationship with your dad is a point of contention. You need to extricate yourself. So I recommend you have a conversation with each of your parents, separately:

To mom, you need to explain that these comments about incest are very painful for you (which is why I imagine you're having difficulty with sympathizing with her situation) and that you'd really like them to stop. Tell her, carefully, that if she feels neglected or taken for granted, that is something she needs to discuss directly with your dad and it's really not your problem.

To dad, you need to say that his neglecting your mother is putting you in a seriously awkward position and he needs to talk to her about it.

On top of both of those things, you need to look at your own behavior. For one thing, whether or not you enjoy so many weekends at home, it's probably not a good idea for you to go home so often. You're probably missing out on a lot of the college experience by doing so, and you're going to regret it when you're out of college and won't have the opportunity to make up it. Drop down to only 1 weekend a month at most.

On top of that, why is it that only your dad gets to be in on the fun stuff? I bet it's the feeling that she becomes a chaperone for her teenage daughter and her overgrown-teenager husband that really bothers her. Contribute to the household, and try to make your mom feel included. Do something that SHE likes with her and exclude your dad for a change.

I was very, very close to my dad until he died when I was 15, and not nearly as close to my mother. I have since become just as close with her as I ever was with my dad. Don't assume your mom's not as fun just because you're closer to your dad now.
Posted by alguna_rubia on July 24, 2012 at 2:08 PM · Report this
I think it's worth noting in the case of the young woman who's "too close" to her father that, since her parents' relationship is all but platonic, that effectively it looks like the same thing to her mother. And I agree with Dan- boundaries really do need to be set in this case, although definitely not without making it absolutely clear to BOTH parents why that it. At the very least, the sudden change in the relationship will make the parents see the emotional significance of the situation for their daughter (hurt feelings, wanting a good relationship with her father). It would hopefully prompt a much-needed conversation.
Posted by Leila on July 24, 2012 at 2:45 PM · Report this
Re: last call...

Dan, you know a whole lot about relationships, but not that much about vet school. Allow me to fill you in: veterinary school is NOT medical school! Veterinary school is a dark and terrible place, filled with psychological torture, grotesquely skewed gender ratios, unhealthy power dynamics, chronically drained emotional resources, and plummeting self esteem.

I had my heart ripped to shreds in vet school by some douchebag I was desperately in love with. Had I been a rational and healthy human being, I would have dumped that asshole twenty times over, but a vet student is NOT a rational and healthy human being! Meanwhile my (90% female and heterosexual) classmates were screwing every male professor, intern or resident who crossed their path, and destroying their gentle if sadly spineless long term boyfriends. Like the caller.

Sorry, caller. Here's a tip: never date a vet student. Here's another tip: if you need to get back at her, she has about thirty desperate classmates who will immediately fuck you, no questions asked.
Posted by pinkpeaches on July 24, 2012 at 3:57 PM · Report this
Regarding the caller who's visiting her parents on the weekends, an hour from college: in my experience the new college students who go home every weekend instead of spending time with new college friends end up dropping out/transferring sooner rather than later. She ought to buddy around with peers more, and make friends who can last her a lifetime. Dad will still be there for her.
Posted by Robilla on July 24, 2012 at 6:47 PM · Report this
The last caller had me on a maddening emotional rollercoaster that constantly switched between pity, exasparation and anger. Grow a pair, dude!
Posted by maddoxx03 on July 24, 2012 at 7:57 PM · Report this
mwdean 13
To the timeshare girlfriend caller: Listen to your own call. I think you're going to cringe at how spineless you sound. You sound like you're making a bunch of excuses to cover the fact that you're essentially being a doormat, and you don't sound happy. To me that sounded like a DTMFA situation. I'd bet mony that relationship's days are numbered.

@eptified: Most of the time Dan is right and his critics are wrong. In this case, definitely. The idea that mentioning exercise to an overweight person is inherently "shaming" is horseshit.
Posted by mwdean on July 24, 2012 at 8:13 PM · Report this
About the college girl spending too much time with her dad. Dad is using her. Yes he probably really enjoys his time with her, but he is hiding from his relationship with his wife. The daughter is caught in the middle, and has taken her dad's side without even understanding what is happening. She needs to find some respect for her mom, and step back. She needs to develop her own friends and get her own life. She needs to let her parents deal with the crappy mess of their relationship. My bet is that once they don't have her as a buffer, they will end up divorcing. But at least they can then move on with their lives.
Posted by SeattleKim on July 24, 2012 at 11:13 PM · Report this
John Horstman 15
@8: I agree, except for the bit where the caller necessarily needs to try to form a closer relationship with her mother. I don't think we can really say either way, not knowing their entire history (was mom a good parent, or was she always a jerk who unfairly lashed out at her daughter as a scapegoat for her problems with her relationship with her husband?). Mom's intentionally trying to hurt her daughter with the incest accusations, which is fucked up, because what she needs to be doing (as you say) is working shit out with her husband (and either divorcing or figuring out how to make things work). This is scapegoating; dad's desire to spend so much time with the caller seems like more of a symptom of the bad marriage than the cause.

That said, I think you're likely right that the caller is missing out on things by going home every weekend, and might consider scaling that back a bit. I like your suggestions of what to say to both mom and dad; I just don't think that trying to forge a relationship with someone who views one as a sexual rival for her husband and blames one for a bad marriage is necessarily great advice. Mom and dad need to work their shit out (and mom needs to stop blaming the caller) before any of that can possibly happen.

@13: I second this. My thought listening to the caller talk about how he was feeling much better was that he didn't sound at all like he's feeling good. Girlfriend is being an asshole; she's clearly just cheating on the caller, not treating her relationship with him as primary, enhanced by the outside sex. DTMFA, not because she's fucking other people, but because she's being an asshole about it.
Posted by John Horstman on July 25, 2012 at 9:04 AM · Report this
John Horstman 16
@2: It's a statistically-reasonable assumption, though I agree it discounts a LOT of other possibilities. Culture polices women's appearances with respect to the most absurd shit, like pore size/visibility, evenness of skin tone, nose shape, ear shape, labial appearance, toe size/evenness, eye brow/lash density/visibility, etc. (the Seinfeld episode with the man hands satirizes this beautifully). Mostly it's the kind of thing only visible in harsh lighting under a magnifying glass, the kind of thing about which only cosmetics advertisers/plastic surgeons and the women they're pressuring into purchasing their products care.
Posted by John Horstman on July 25, 2012 at 9:14 AM · Report this
Why is the mother being excluded from all of the weekend breakfasts and tv watching parties? This is the cruelty of it. Although unusual, I don't think the amonut of time that the girl spends with her father is the problem. The fact that the mother is excluded is the odd part. The caller never mentions why it is always just her and her father. The mother's accusations are harsh, but her jealous brain is probably rationalizing it as: "if they are doing innocent things, then why don't they want me there?" If the parents have a companionship marriage, then shouldn't the basis of the relationsihp be non-sexual companion-like activities such as breakfasts and watching tv.
Posted by everybodyeverything on July 25, 2012 at 10:48 AM · Report this
Wow, that last guy is clooooooooo-less.

DTMFA, you wretch, because you have been dumped already by her. She just had not bothered to give you notice that she is now giving the hot sex to someone else and the bills and dirty dishes to you, chump.
Posted by Snowguy on July 25, 2012 at 11:56 AM · Report this
I very much relate to the last caller and I'd offer him some sympathy and understanding rather than just calling him stupid or clueless like a lot of people have. He really wants to make the relationship work and think that she does too. He even tried to interpret her decision to stay with him and cheat rather than just dumping him as evidence that she wants to be in the relationship.

I have been there. I relate to all of it including the, "well, it was 5am and we didn't really get to that and she had to work." I don't think this relationship *has* to be abusive or stay abusive if he starts drawing the line and sticks to it. But when you ask for relationship advice from someone and spend the whole time defending everything your spouse has done wrong and condemning yourself for things that you should have done better and cannot recognize even one thing that your partner has done really wrong or that you have done right, then that's a serious problem. That sounds like me when I was deep in an abusive relationship. As long as she can do no wrong and he needs to get better, that's an unhealthy relationship dynamic and if it can't be fixed by communication (which this relationship so DESPERATELY sounds like it needs), then he needs to get out of it.

People in abusive relationships aren't there because they are stupid. They are there because they haven't learned the standard of treatment that they should hold other people to and deserve to have around them. And that's not something you learn in a book.
Posted by Kella on July 26, 2012 at 6:44 PM · Report this
@14, SeattleKim, I'm with you.

Doesn't anybody else think it's weird that the daughter knows that her parents aren't having sex, that their marriage is "companionate"? Is that something that kids normally know about their parents? My parents divorced when I was eight, so I wouldn't know.
Posted by LiveAndLet on July 27, 2012 at 6:39 PM · Report this
@20, Yes, I found the daughter's knowing about the companionate-ness of the marriage disturbing. Who told her about it, and for what reason? The likeliest explanations don't inspire confidence.

I don't think the daughter appreciates her role in contributing to exclusivity of the relationship. Totally heard cruelty in her laughter, which suggests the real relationship at stake is with mom.

Hey last caller, if you read this: You sound like a good guy, but also like a guy who's tightly wrapped around his girlfriend's finger. She doesn't want you, man. She's avoiding treating you well because that'd be too damn inconvenient for her right now. Quit making excuses for her inconsideration. You deserve better.

Posted by Tdot spot on July 28, 2012 at 6:03 AM · Report this
The girl who hates herself, I don't necessarily assume she is fat. Years ago, I felt similarly about my body (although I was single at the time), and I never weighed more than 120 pounds.Of the things that bothered me about my body, my weight was a part. It wasn't the cause of my feelings though. The cause of my low self esteem was years and years of verbal abuse from a family member and bullying from peers. (No worries - I'm all good now.)
Posted by Brie on July 30, 2012 at 6:21 PM · Report this
MythicFox 23
@2 -- She's already feeling like she's fat. She probably has a dozen people to tell her she's not and it's not working, so treating her with the assumption that she's not fat but just suffering under delusions of inadequacy isn't going to help her.
Posted by MythicFox on July 30, 2012 at 8:20 PM · Report this
@23, I think the point is you can be disgusted with your body for any number of reasons, not just fatness. See my earlier post.
Posted by Brie on July 31, 2012 at 10:04 PM · Report this
bella28 25
Dear god...I'm a week behind on podcasts. Ugh the whipped abused boyfriend caller was PAINFUL to listen to! I kept cringing....duuude...get out NOW. Go grab your balls off her bedside table, screw them back on and leave. Serious.

ps. Daddy/daughter call...super creepy.

Those are my infantile comments for this week.
Posted by bella28 on August 1, 2012 at 3:42 PM · Report this
Last caller, the boyfriend, just needs to dump her now. This is an abusive situation. Get out. He sounds like a nice guy, maybe too nice, and she is taking advantage. Find someone worthy of your generosity, not this selfish liar.
Posted by ff gg on August 1, 2012 at 6:48 PM · Report this
That last caller reminded me of Cameron in Ferris Buehler's Day Off. To quote Ferris, "If things don't change for him, he's gonna marry the first girl he lays, and she's gonna treat him like shit because she will have given him what he has built up in his mind as the end all be all of human existence. She won't respect him, because you can't respect somebody who kisses your ass. It just doesn't work."

Poor thing.

I had a theory when I was younger that abusive straight relationships in which the woman is the abuser will last longer than the reverse. Ah, more anecdata.
Posted by maddy811 on August 2, 2012 at 8:14 AM · Report this
I think Dan missed the forest for the bush with the caller whose girlfriend started having a relationship with another guy. According to both the caller and (his words) the gf, it wasn't about the sex, which is what Dan focused on. My take was the caller was pretty clueless about communication, relationships, and at the age of 23, his pre-frontal cortex appears to still be underdeveloped and he hasn't mastered an understanding of cause and effect, or complex human interactions, which is not particularly out of the ordinary. What I heard is that the guy said they had discussed being monogamish, then gf stated her interest in "dating someone else." Those are different things. Monogamish is having a committed relationship that is open to inclusion of additional sex partners. Dating someone else is an interest in having a whole other relationship, possibly polyamorously, but probably as an easy transition for gf into a more satisfying relationship. The caller admitted he wasn't meeting gf's emotional needs, and didn't seem too concerned about that. I got the impression that he wasn't emotionally developed enough to meet those needs, or care, and didn't say anything to Dan (and Dan didn't ask) if he was capable or interested in doing that, and seemed ok with gf going outside the relationship for those needs, so long as he continued to get his fair share of sex. I'm not saying gf is a peach or not taking advantage of the guy, but it sounds like monogamish may be perfect for these two, but only if the relationship is between gf and her new bf, and the caller is the part that makes it monogamish by providing some additional sex for his (ex) gf on the side. I suspect that's what is already really going on, he just doesn't realize it, but Dan should have.
Posted by Mr.E. on August 2, 2012 at 12:59 PM · Report this
brothasoul 29
Posted by brothasoul on August 8, 2012 at 11:54 PM · Report this
brothasoul 30
If one of your parents accuses you of fucking the other, I challenge you not to be disgusted by that. I challenge you not to be bothered by that. I challenge you not to laugh at the absurdity of that, but BE PREPARED, because said parent will then call your laughter cruel.


Young heart who has had the gall to nurture a close relationship with your father, do not worry yourself with thoughts that you are in the wrong. First of all, understand that many within the - Why The Fuck Would You Be Close To Your Dad, I Mean It's Not Like He Gave You Life Or Helped Raise You Or Anything, You Fucking Weirdo - chorus, may not have had close relationships with their parents, so their response towards you may be influenced by that. There have been moments where I have had a close, open communicative relationship with my mother... so I can relate to the depth of that parent child bond. The two of us have also had moments where we were at the polar opposite of that side of the relationship, so I know the other part of that as well. You called in to get some feedback on whether or not there was anything you could do to deal with charges of incest & intense jealousy coming from your mother, who is essentially scapegoating you for problems in her relationship with your father, and the response is to FURTHER scapegoat you because you had the NERVE to have close relationship with your dad!


Let's try this again:

You shared that your parents may not have gone out on a date since you were a child, and you revealed that they may not be sexually satisfying one another. If those two things have been going on for that long - and your mother is not happy with that - then she has had a long time to be angry about those two things. Maybe, with you as a constant presence in the home, she didn't have to think about that as much, because as you also shared, her accusations have started flying out, in the year since you've left home...AND your relationship with your dad had become closer, in the year since you've left home. I am uncertain if you are an only child, or if any of your siblings happen to live at home, so I am speculating here, but if your parents, in your absence, have been left to live alone together for the first time in 18 years, and they have spent 18 years not thinking through some of the more sensitive aspects of their marriage, they may for the first time be doing that now. So 18 years of hurt and resentment, may be coming out in unexpected ways - like say your mom insinuating that you must be fucking your father! That mindset is shit that SHE needs to work out. YOU do not need to do a fucking thing to fix that. In fact you CAN NOT do a fucking thing to fix that, as your mom has complete responsibility for her thoughts and actions. As much as we might sometimes want to make our parents do and think what we want, they are individual human beings, who ultimately have the task of deciding how to act for themselves.

That goes for your father as well. The most striking difference between the two, seems to be that your father is choosing love. Maybe he is not getting the romantic love that he needs for your mom, but as his daughter, he has always felt a strong sense of paternal love for you. So because he likes the feeling of love, and showing love, he takes actions that are loving. Do you know what fathers who love their daughters, or brothers that love their sisters, or [insert relationship here] that love their [insert relationship here] do to show that love. They go to fucking breakfast together. They watch damn TV together. The call and text all the fucking time. BECAUSE THAT IS AN EXPRESSION OF LOVE! Not the end of the fucking world.

So, please don't stop being cool with your dad. If your relationship deepened when you moved away from home, because he missed you, imagine how he'll feel if you kind of cut off all ties all together - or start to distance yourself right now - if that is not something that you even want to do. Your relationship with your father should not be dictated by your mother's egoic jealousies. To cave in to that would likely do the relationship you have nurtured with your father, some damage.

You want to know what to do? Talk to your dad. You are already close to him, and the two of you obviously have significant trust between the two of you. Gauge how he feels about your mom's insinuations. Ask him why he shows you he loves you so much. I bet he'll say it's because he's your dad, and he really damn loves his babygirl. And then you both can talk through how to deal with mom. Maybe the both of your could tell her you love her, in the hope that she feels more included. Maybe you'll come to understand that she is determined to be unhappy, so no matter what the two of you do, she is going to steer her relationships in a negative direction. And if the latter is the case, it is more important for you to not end your relationship with your dad. Just because your mother's misery wants company, doesn't mean she deserves to get it.

Now I will put out there, in the event that something inappropriate is going on between you and your dad - be careful. Sexual and mental dysfunction in a family can do irreparable harm, so if that is your reality, please take steps to seek guidance from a professional who can help to guide you towards more healthy outcomes. That advice may need to be passed along to your mom as well, because if her accusations are unwarranted, she may need to speak to a professional who can help her understand why she would stir up such polarizing sentiment. Then maybe she will stop, before she finds herself without a husband or daughter to express her jealousies to.
Posted by brothasoul on August 9, 2012 at 12:52 AM · Report this

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