SL Letter of the Day: She Wasn't Fine—And You Knew It
by Dan Savage
on Tue, Jun 5, 2012 at 4:49 PM
I take your words as gospel when it comes to romance, so hopefully you'll be willing to help me out. I am in a monogamous relationship. The sex is incredible and we are a match in almost all ways.
I proposed a little while ago the we try to realize a fantasy of mine by having in-the-same-room-sex with another couple. Not swapping, just watching and being watched. I checked all the boxes off the GGG-list: constantly asking my girlfriend her thoughts and feelings, reading each email message to her before I sent it, asking her if she was still comfortable with going through with it. We found a good match, and went out on a date night with the other couple.
The minute the date started, it was clear she was having problems. It was nothing the other couple would have noticed, but I could tell she was not having fun. I must have asked her 20 times over the course of the evening, "Are you OK? Do you want to go home?" Each time she gave a monotone, "I'm fine." When it came time to decide whether to go to their house, the same thing happened. I gave her as many opportunities to gracefully exit as possible, and she said no at each one. So, as you can probably guess, when it came time to actually taking off the clothes and getting down, she froze up, wouldn't do anything, and we had to go upstairs.
I feel that, by not taking any of my opportunities to bow out, and then freezing up at the crucial moment, she completely destroyed the fantasy of mine. I think that what she did was enormously unfair to me and the other couple, and she should apologize. She only talks about how dirty and wrong it felt to her. I think that is fine that she felt that way, but then why the hell didn't she bow out before agreeing to go over to their house?
Thanks for any help you can offer, Dan.
Confused In California
My response after the jump...
I definitely could've guessed that your girlfriend would freeze up. I could've guessed that and I wasn't there and I don't know your girlfriend. You were there, on the other hand, and you do know your girlfriend. So why couldn't you guess that your girlfriend would freeze up?
Given the way your girlfriend was behaving, CIC, and given that you could tell she wasn't having fun ("...it was clear she was having problems... I could tell she was not having fun"), you didn't have to guess that things weren't going well. You knew they weren't going well. Yes, you checked in with her; yes, she told you she was fine. But she wasn't fine and you knew it.
Look, CIC, you can tell yourself that you were faithful to the letter of GGG—involving her, clearing things with her, checking in with her—but I'm here to tell you that you weren't faithful to the spirit of GGG. Let's review:
Your girlfriend wasn't okay that night, CIC, and you knew it.
She was telling you what you wanted to hear, CIC, and you knew it.
You should've called the whole thing off, CIC, and you know it.
Why didn't your girlfriend tell you she wasn't okay any of the twenty times you asked? I dunno. Maybe she hoped she would loosen up and start to feel okay with it. Maybe she knew how much it meant to you and how hard you'd worked to set it all up and she didn't want to disappoint you. Or maybe she was afraid to tell you. Considering the shit fit you've pitched in the wake of this aborted foursome-of-sorts—your demand for an apology, telling her that she's "completely destroyed" this fantasy (really? this scenario doesn't turn you at all on anymore?), claiming she owes the other couple an apology—it's possible your girlfriend didn't say, "I'm not fine and I want to go," any of the twenty times you asked because she feared your reaction. Which it seems she had every reason to. So she coasted along all night, telling you what you wanted to hear, hoping she would warm to the idea. And then, at the last possible moment, she bailed.
And that was her right. When a couple is trying something new—whether it involves others or not—both partners should feel empowered to call things off at any time without fear of being retaliated against emotionally or physically—hell, that applies whether a couple is trying something new or a couple is doing the same-old/same-old for the millionth fucking time. Each of us has an absolute right to bail—to withdraw our consent—at any time. We owe our partners an explanation, without question, but we don't owe our partners an apology.
You have one legit beef, CIC: your girlfriend has used sex-negative, shaming language to explain why she had to bail. ("She only talks about how dirty and wrong it felt to her.") That's hurtful and humiliating and for that she owes you an apology, CIC. But only for that. Your girlfriend doesn't owe you an apology for bailing at the last minute. She certainly doesn't owe two strangers an apology.
As for you, CIC, you need to take some responsibility for the embarrassing way things fell apart at the other couple's apartment. Once again: you knew she wasn't fine. Back at the restaurant you should've said, "Look, you're telling me that you're fine but you don't seem fine. Let's just have dinner, let's talk with this couple about their experiences, and maybe we can get together with them or some other couple another time. But tonight we're going home alone."