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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

SL Letter of the Day: Not an Either/Or Question

Posted by on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 5:26 PM

I managed to piss off my BF. He decided, for whatever reason, to sext a girl that he fucked twice a long time ago. He fucked her at least four years before we got together. She randomly hit him up, so he sexted her. He said he wasn't serious and that what he sexted/texted to her was all lies. Who's to blame here? Me for snooping on his phone—first time—or him for sexting with someone that he says never meant anything to him and never will? How do we fix this and move past it?

Still Livid And Pissed

My response after the jump...


Does it have to be an either/or question, SLAP? Can't you both be wrong? Can't you owe him an apology for snooping while he owes you an apology for sexting with another woman?

Backing up: the Snoop Nazis will blow up my email inbox if I don't take a moment to chisel Snooping Is Aways Wrong into the internet. So here goes: Snooping Is Always Wrong. But... you know... based on what you found... you had cause to be suspicious. And discovering that you had cause sprinkles a little of retroactive legitimacy on your snooping.

Now it's possible, of course, that your boyfriend was harmlessly getting his flirt on, as the kids say, and this was the exactly the kind of partnered-person-flirting-with-someone-else that actually benefits the partner of the person who's flirting with someone else. (Could you follow that?) If swapping sexually-charged messages with his ex-hookup got him so horny and that he came home and plowed all of that sexual energy into having sex with you—if he came home and plowed the shit out of you—and you never found about the texts, well, Yatzy for you, right? His flirting with his ex-hookup resulted in you two having hot, horny, relationship-strengthening sex.

So the question you have to answer is whether you believe him when he says he was lying to his ex-hookup. (Um, the only way his sext messages could lie would be if the pictures weren't of him.) Was he just innocently flirting, flirting in a way that might've benefited you two, like he might've if he had, say, run into his ex-hookup on the street or in a restaurant or some other way that wouldn't left a digital trail? Or was he actually making plans to get together and cheat?

You saw his sexts, SLAP, and you read his texts. You're in a much better position to judge his intentions than I am.


Comments (93) RSS

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scary tyler moore 1
Posted by scary tyler moore on June 19, 2012 at 5:46 PM · Report this
Uh huh that was the "first time" you snooped on his phone? Yeah right. Calling major bullshit on that.

Sounds like you have a relationship built on mistrust and deception and he probably deserves to go out and fuck someone else.
Posted by Swearengen on June 19, 2012 at 5:48 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 3
His ex wasn't a light fling if he was with her for FOUR YEARS. I'm very skeptical of his claim that the sext meant nothing. And if he's lying to her, that just means he'd lie to you too if he thought he'd get what he wants.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on June 19, 2012 at 5:51 PM · Report this
seatackled 4
Maybe he was just going to put is penis in his ex-girlfriend's ass, which isn't really sex, so there's no cheating.
Posted by seatackled on June 19, 2012 at 5:53 PM · Report this
Damn, @1 beat me to it.
Posted by Zach Annon on June 19, 2012 at 5:54 PM · Report this
Lilliable 6
It's a mighty big coincidence that the first time she snoops, she finds something.
Posted by Lilliable on June 19, 2012 at 5:56 PM · Report this
scary tyler moore 7
@3: no, dollink. he fucked her four times four years before the LW met him.
Posted by scary tyler moore on June 19, 2012 at 5:58 PM · Report this
What pictures? "sext" = sex + TEXT. just sayin'.

(In other words, yes, you CAN send pix, but you don't have to, in which case it can be a lie without it having to be a picture of someone else, because it doesn't have to be a picture at all.)

Regarding it being lies: I could see him characterizing it as just fooling around, but "lies?" Sounds an awful lot like what he sent was some sort of either romantic bullshit or blatant proposition, in order to call them "lies." In which case, he's lying to some other girl for the hell of it; not exactly a character trait to be proud of there.

Him being pissed at you for snooping is a smokescreen. Convicts fucking hate the cops for daring to bust them, too. Don't take his bullshit. You caught him red-handed, and what he needs to be right now is repentant.
Posted by avast2006 on June 19, 2012 at 6:00 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 9
@7, oops. Reading comprehension fail. Please ignore me.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on June 19, 2012 at 6:00 PM · Report this
@ 2 and 6
Have you never been in long term relationships? That's just not the way it works. In many relationships, the cheating happens, the other partner "feels" something is wrong, and that's why the snooping happens. I've been on both sides of that equation.
Posted by Phil H on June 19, 2012 at 6:12 PM · Report this
Am I the only one who would feel used if my guy got really turned on by someone else and used my body to get off on? He would have to make the sex really fantastic FOR ME in order for me to not feel used.
Posted by wxPDX on June 19, 2012 at 6:13 PM · Report this
@3, 7 and 9,
Number of times fucked: two

When: a long time ago, at least four years before SLAP got together with him.

When exactly: We don't know because we don't know when SLAP got together with him.

It's so very important to me that we properly understand SLAP's situation so we know whom to blame.
Posted by California on June 19, 2012 at 6:37 PM · Report this
@11 - my husband used to DJ for the strippers every now and then, and the way it worked for us, it wasn't really a matter of him getting a hard on from them and then coming home to, um, masturbate in me. Instead it was more that there was a sexual charge, some sexual energy, that transferred itself to our bedroom. That job put him in a different mood than his day job did, and we both reaped the benefit.
Posted by agony on June 19, 2012 at 6:38 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 14
@ 11, @ 13 has it right. As someone once said, it's not where your appetite is whetted but where you dine.

That said, you're probably not the only one who would feel "used," but that's no validation. Lots of guys feel justified in killing girlfriends and wives when they leave them, but the sheer numbers don't make that right.
Posted by Matt from Denver on June 19, 2012 at 7:09 PM · Report this
@11, @14, thank you for your perspectives. I think that agony's husband was open and honest about it made the sexual energy mutual. Having thought about it, the issue for me is that putting a penis in an orifice does not, by itself, make for a better marriage or more intimacy. Dan seems to imply that. I think @11's example is a good one because honesty and communication promote intimacy, and the sexual element catalyzes the whole thing. A bit like watching porn together.

@14, you do your point a disservice by illustrating it with violence against women, which has no place in this discussion.
Posted by wxPDX on June 19, 2012 at 8:01 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 16
@ 15, wrong is wrong.
Posted by Matt from Denver on June 19, 2012 at 8:14 PM · Report this
#2, #6, and #10:

Yeah, small chance it was the first time she snooped. But if it was (and even if not), very small chance it was the first time he was big-time flirting around.

They're a good match.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on June 19, 2012 at 8:38 PM · Report this
6 18
@17 why does it have to be a small chance it's the first time she's snooped? There has to be a first time for some people - and maybe this was hers. I got burned the first time I snooped and never did it again. But, I also prooved my "womanly intuition" was correct. Everyone's so goddamn judgy around here.
Posted by 6 on June 19, 2012 at 8:52 PM · Report this
Meh, I wouldn't mind if my husband snooped my emails or texts. I share more with him than I do with anyone else anyway, so I've got nothing to hide.
Posted by Amanda on June 19, 2012 at 9:13 PM · Report this
@18: While Dan has to take LWs at face value, as a non-advice-professional, (NAP), I don't.

If Dan had said, "You were justified in snooping and he's totally at fault.", then she'd show him the column. But she can't show him (nor maybe even risk him seeing it on his own), if she's fessed up to Dan about long-time snooping, first-time discovery.

You're right that she may well have tweaked on something in his behavior or demeanor or possesiveness about his cellphone and snooped for the first time. But whether it was her first or her 101st, she would write this same letter. Therefore there's a potential, predictable reporting bias and my feeling that it was a small chance it was her first time and a small chance it was his first time. We only know it was first time she found something. Possible scenerios:

Her first (snooping), his many (sexting): She's in the right, but he'll keep doing it, and learn to hide his tracks better.

Her many, his first: She's paranoid (and, IME paranoid women aren't the best partners), so maybe that's why he looked further afield? Flirting is fun, and more fun without all the emo / drama on the homefront.

Her first, his first: She's in the right, maybe he's learned a lesson.

Her many, his many: they're made for each other, but now #14's example of domestic violence is very germane because it's going to be an increasing shitstorm in that household.

But covering all the bases would make a lousy column. Dan's gotta take LWs at face value, mostly, and go with his gut on what is the most likely scenerio. His gut got pretty accurate after the first dozen years.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on June 19, 2012 at 10:34 PM · Report this
@18: How does proving your womanly intuition was correct constitute getting burned so that you would never consider it again? If anything I would think that would have convinced you that a) your intuition should be trusted, b) snooping under provocation is not the same thing as paranoia, and c) if you actually found something, the cheating bastard deserved to be caught and all his caterwauling about invasion of privacy is deflecting blame from his own wrongdoing.

Serious inquiry.

Posted by avast2006 on June 19, 2012 at 10:38 PM · Report this
@14/15: But isn't the letter writer claiming ownership of her partner's flirting / sexual attentions? Not saying that's at all wrong if that's their arrangement (as it is for most couples). But it is exerting claims of ownership of another's time and attention.

Domestic Violence is similarly about feelings of ownership and attempts to control another. Inappropriately and to an extreme, but on a continum with other feelings of possessiveness and ownership that are based, fundamentally, on insecurities and inadequancies.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on June 19, 2012 at 10:41 PM · Report this
@11: "He would have to make the sex really fantastic FOR ME in order for me to not feel used."

What makes you assume that wouldn't happen? Second, why would you want to turn his apparent ardor into a cheap excuse by having him tell you that he saw something sexy elsewhere? Seems to me that you practically WANT to ruin the moment for yourself.
Posted by avast2006 on June 19, 2012 at 10:45 PM · Report this
I don't see why everyone is hanging up on whether or not this was truly her first time snooping. It is not an unreasonable scenario. If someone is _not_ the paranoid type, the most likely thing to trigger that first snooping attempt is some amount of suspicious behavior, whereupon that initial snoop immediately hits pay dirt. Funny how that works.

Bottom line is, he was doing something nefarious and she caught him at it. Hurling accusations of paranoia at her is completely non-productive, because he is in fact guilty.
Posted by avast2006 on June 19, 2012 at 10:59 PM · Report this
sissoucat 25
@11 and 13

I have lived both experiences. You pretty well feel the difference between being used as a convenient puppet, and being more desired as the result of an exterior attraction. It's night and day...

Someone who is doing it while hoping it were with someone else resents you, doesn't want to look at you, doesn't want to talk to you, lights will be off, no eye contact - he/she's off in his private space. He may rigidly instruct you to moan because it fits his fantasy, but he will show no regards for you as a person, nor have any interest in your actual lust. That's very easy to spot in situation, that you're worth as much regard as his own hand. It will be very loosy sex for you, and you'll feel as used as an old tampon. That's a clear case for DTMFA .

Someone who feels very hot because something happened or didn't happen with someone else, and who wants to share that energy with you, will try to connect with you more, will be more enthousiastic about sex than usual, and will make damn sure that everything goes according to your wildest dreams, including being more game than ever before - and could be up front about it (oh, honey, someone is making me soo lusty, want to share the goods with me ?) so what if the fantasy that made him (or her) going involves another person, as long as it's invested in your time together to make it better for both ? As #15 puts it, it's like having watched porn together.

Some people look to share the goods (heightened libido, willingness to pleasure the other one), some people want you gone and use your body as a decoy. It feels very very different.

Before I experienced that, I couldn't understand how some people could turn a blind eye to their partner's philandering, and still be quite joyful figures. Now I guess that a wide-loving person would feel very happy to have an accomodating partner, and would bring home a lot more eagerness for sex, out of the gratefulness of having someone who lets him/her indulge...

Love doesn't need to be exclusive. In parental love too, there are people who will have their favorite child, and there are others who will love all of their childrens, without prejudice to any of them. It's crushing to have been the unique and favourite lover and to fall out of favour because another one has come along ; it's not to be loved the same way no matter how many lovers there are.
Posted by sissoucat on June 19, 2012 at 11:10 PM · Report this
26 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
lol @ Yahtzee!!
Posted by Doot on June 20, 2012 at 12:40 AM · Report this
MythicFox 28
Nobody who actually uses the term 'sext' unironically is mature enough for a relationship.
Posted by MythicFox on June 20, 2012 at 1:11 AM · Report this
Snooping is just... not that bad. I have been with my husband 10 years. We don't generally look at each other's phones and emails. But sometimes, we do, and I kind of feel like it's a very minor, forgivable offence? I sort of feel like you can hardly blame your partner for snooping every once awhile.

Sexting and old girlfriend is less minor, but I also feel like it's a forgivable offence? Unless he made plans to meet up with her or something. We all need to get our rocks off somehow.
Posted by MichelleZB on June 20, 2012 at 5:31 AM · Report this
tainte 30
sext? in english, please.
Posted by tainte on June 20, 2012 at 5:34 AM · Report this
Have you checked in on how your fav homo-retailer is doing?

JC Penny stock peaked at over $43 a share in February.
Currently it is $21.

The old CEO bailed yesterday.
The new CEO, Ron Johnson, blames Penny's problems on its marketing.

maybe they haven't featured enough homosexuals in their advertising.....

couldn't you be a darling and run out and buy some more of those dingy Tshirts you so love?
Posted by ....XOXO....JC.Penny on June 20, 2012 at 5:43 AM · Report this


just, wow.....

Back in February,
the department store chain faced criticism
from the American Family Association's One Million Moms project
for its hiring of Ellen DeGeneres to be the company's new spokesfaggot.

Back in February.
When the stock was at $43.
instead of $21......

In a direct response to the boycott campaign of One Million Moms,
JCPenney ran a Father's Day ad featuring a same-sex couple.

and very trendy.....
Danny gushed and slobbered about it all over the Slog on May 31.

His exact words were: "Well done, JCPenney. Suck it, haters."

Well Done, Indeed!

One Million Moms say, "Suck It Yourself, Danny......"
Posted by OneMillionMoms shouldn't use that kind of language..... on June 20, 2012 at 6:25 AM · Report this
Don't let the whole "four years ago" thing diminish the problem. Guys very often look back with sentiment and longing to previous sexual encounters; what's that Harvey Danger line?
Fingertips have memories.
Mine can't forget the curves of your body.
That sexual nostalgia is a weakness that can mess up their current relationships.

One of the weirder things that I have noticed over the years (and others, feel free to chip in if YMMV) is that as men move away from bad relationships they often feel less troubled by the problems within that now-defunct relationship. Women, OTOH, tend to turn those things over in their mind, often getting more and more pissed in retrospect. Put metaphorically, a man's resentful memory is a blade left out in the rain, a woman's resentful memory is a blade constantly sharpened, ever more razor-sharp.

In other words, the guy is forgetting that the ex-lover may have been worth dumping, and better remembering that she was worth banging. The sexting isn't harmless, it's foreplay.
Posted by seeker6079 on June 20, 2012 at 7:05 AM · Report this
I got burned the first time I snooped and never did it again. But, I also proved my "womanly intuition" was correct.
If you were right, how did you get burned? I'm with avast in wanting to know.
Posted by seeker6079 on June 20, 2012 at 7:17 AM · Report this
Hahahaha, "I brought her to orgasm through sexy texting, but only as a JOKE!"

Anyone who believes guys (and girls!) when they use that excuse and doesn't dump them on the spot nearly deserves what comes next.
Posted by my adult friend finder profile? laughs! on June 20, 2012 at 7:21 AM · Report this
6 36
@21/34 I hear what you're saying. I got burned because when I snooped I actually found something worth getting upset about - he'd placed a personal ad in a local paper looking for a relationship with a women with qualities completely opposite of mine. I was young and it was devastating. I justified my actions because I actually found something and that made me feel a tiny bit better about getting into his e-mail. For me the pain of finding out the whole ugly truth from snooping rather than confronting my partner at the time wasn't really worth it.

Since then i've learned to communicate better - and not date assholes. It's worked so far.
Posted by 6 on June 20, 2012 at 7:34 AM · Report this
BrotherBob 37
Texting (sex-texting) a suggestive memory:" I remember how great it felt banging you. I miss that. I miss you." He says it is a lie, she says it is betrayal. If she didn't discover it and didn't call him out, what would he have done next? I think if I had to put them on a scale, he would be heavier than she. "The old GF "randomly hit him up" is where I get the sense her relationship is in trouble. He should have ignored her. DTMFA
Posted by BrotherBob on June 20, 2012 at 7:37 AM · Report this
Even if you did snoop and it wasn't the first time.. who the hell cares? Dan has said so many times that mild snooping is totally normal, happens all the time, and should be expected in long-term relationships. I believe exactly what he's said is, "I've flipped through Terry's text messages, I assume he's flipped through mine..."

So fuck all that noise about how you found out. Your boyfriend should be apologetic and the fact that he's mad and blaming you is a huge red flag. He sounds like a dick.
Posted by andersonville on June 20, 2012 at 7:41 AM · Report this
@36: Thank you. That makes sense. I'd only quibble about "burned", which confused me, because I took it to mean that you had been wrong in your snooping or had misinterpreted something.

/colloquialism pedant
Posted by seeker6079 on June 20, 2012 at 8:01 AM · Report this
They're both in the wrong, but if she doesn't want this to happen again, she needs to cut him loose. She's not going to stop snooping now that doing so has rewarded her with new information about her boyfriend, and her boyfriend isn't going to stop sexting since he knows he can throw out flimsy excuses and get away with it.

Wait no, actually, they're made for each other.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on June 20, 2012 at 8:47 AM · Report this
AFinch 41
You know, I want to say, as someone who has been on both sides of the dynamic to, that @10 is right - the way it works - with people who don't have trust issues - is that you start to feel a little worried and you check it out.

However, I've also endured the "I have trust issues" type and yes, IME they are terrible partners. You'll want to cheat just to give 'em something to be suspicious about! Ok, not really, just hyperbole. It took me waaay to long to learn that snooping and suspicion are dumping offenses.

I don't snoop - even when I got cheated on and dumped, I didn't snoop. I don't snoop on my partner now, and I'm sorry, no, it's not ok, not even 'just a little bit'. If you suspect your partner, you should confront them - you should investigate (which is not the same thing as snooping) if you aren't satisfied with their answer. Investigating means checking out their story and verifying it - letting them know you are doing it - letting them know you don't trust them. You have to be honest enough to admit you don't believe they are honest.

Snooping is sneaking around and "investigating" without wanting to admit you are suspicious and investigating. Don't snoop - read over your partner's up their wallet in front of up their phone in front of them...if you're all for honesty and trust and full disclosure - grow some balls/ovaries and live what you preach.

I don't want to get too holier-than-thou - I've been a sneak and a CPOS in my life - but the self-righteousness of the sneaky snoopers (who are the other side of the insecure people coin from us CPOSes) is really tiresome. Neither is justified or justifiable, under any circumstances.
Posted by AFinch on June 20, 2012 at 8:49 AM · Report this
Original letter writer here

The texts were mostly reminiscing (you gave me the best head ever, I was always excited when I knew you were coming over). Hers were along the same lines (you were the best sex ever, this and this about you turned me on, etc)

We had a fight before the sexting happened (yes I use the term sexting it’s widely known and people who read it know right away what I’m talking about. Don’t see how maturity has to do with using a widely know term). The sexting was as he explained his revenge which I’m not even sure how he would have gotten the revenge satisfaction cause obviously he wasn’t going to show or tell me about them.

I feel guilty for snooping. Yes it was my first time. Yes I’ve had the urge before but never did it because I always thought about how I would feel if he violated my privacy which he did recently. I don’t know why I grabbed his phone the other day it was thoughtless reflex when I saw it and not I guess I know why my instinct was to check it.

I also apologized for it that same night I confronted him. He broke down scared and apologetic that I would dump him right then and there. He said it was the first time he did anything like that and it would also be the last. He realizes he needs to fix this. We both don’t have a clue as to how. Nothing is normal anymore. Every thing triggers a memory of those texts and pisses me off all over again. At least he’s been willing to answer every question I’ve had about this girl and every time he adds how she meant nothing, she was a hit it and quit it. Which I understand we’ve both fucked people before “us” but what I don’t understand is why sext her now? And he can’t seem to give me an answer to that other than he wasn’t thinking and he was stupid for doing it.
Posted by rapinkzel on June 20, 2012 at 10:31 AM · Report this
Sexting with someone other than one's committed partner is at least as bad as kissing someone other than one's committed partner. It's an act of cheating and I truly doubt that SLAP's partner was doing it for her.

As for "snooping is always wrong," I call BS. Snooping can be wrong and it can be right. If we're going to say, "laugh off the sexting because it benefits YOU by making your partner more horny," then why can't we say, "let him laugh off the snooping because it benefits HIM by making his partner feel more confident." Except it doesn't because he really WAS cheating.
Posted by DRF on June 20, 2012 at 10:32 AM · Report this
ShifterCat 44
Is anyone else creeped out by the boyfriend's claims of "she never meant anything to me and never will"? Even if it's a casual fling, your partner should mean something to you.
Posted by ShifterCat on June 20, 2012 at 10:58 AM · Report this
Aurora Erratic 45
Totally off-topic: this week's Savage Love is just a blank space where a column ought to be. Anyone else have that problem, or just me?
Posted by Aurora Erratic on June 20, 2012 at 10:59 AM · Report this
nocutename 46
Keep scrolling down. Scroll down for a long time.
Posted by nocutename on June 20, 2012 at 11:18 AM · Report this
AFinch 47
@44 - I think he's just saying what he thinks he has to in order to try and salvage things.

@42 - I don't buy the 'revenge' line either - more like: we had a fight, I'm pissed off, so I'm gonna go find some ego-salve somewhere else. Flirting, sexting, etc, are all really validating and while I don't know what your fight was about I'm gonna guess he was being immature and pulling "I'm gonna take my marbles and go elsewhere"...and getting that kind of attention from another girl was a way of feeling better.

My advice: if you feel violated and can't let it go (yet), then by all means, tell him, you're gonna check up on him and if he's really contrite, he's just gonna have to accept that you're going to be doing spot checks. If he doesn't like it, then too bad, game over.

And then, after you spot-check a while, you're gonna let it go and forget it.
Posted by AFinch on June 20, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
@42 - this is one of those things where you either have to learn to control your emotions, or you have to let the relationship go. If you have decided to remain in the relationship and rebuild trust, then *tell yourself that* whenever unwelcome images and thoughts enter your mind. Remind yourself of why you are staying with him, allow him to show you why he is worth keeping around and worth trusting. Within a reasonably short period of time, the hurt will fade. If it doesn't, or if you are unwilling to work at putting it behind you, or if he continues to behave in a way that alerts your mistrust, do both of you a favour and break up now. It's reasonable to have a period of difficulty after an infidelity, even a relatively minor one like this, but he can't spend the rest of his life in the penalty box.
Posted by agony on June 20, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
Actually, Wikipedia (which is of course never wrong) says that Yatzy is a public-domain dice game, and Yahtzee is Hasbro's trademark for the boxed game they sell. So Dan was right, or at least not wrong, to spell it "yatzy." Savage Love and Wikipedia--an educational combination!
Posted by bija on June 20, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this
Tim Horton 50
Was your boyfriend's ex in or out of town?

I really wouldn't care if Mrs., Horton was occasionally exchanging sexually charged messages with ex-bfs (don't most people do this from time to time?) as long as the ex was out of town or inaccessible. If it was someone she could make this an instant reality with, then we probably need to talk....
Posted by Tim Horton on June 20, 2012 at 12:18 PM · Report this
I went through this EXACT same thing. I wonder if one of my friends wrote this letter and plans on sending it to me... ?

My guy's response: it was basically akin to porn, it wasn't real, it was stimulating, i never thought it would lead to anything, I would never cheat.

I was furious and took some space for awhile. We met up to talk and decided to continue dating because we both really love each other. We talked, he knows he hurt me and he's been going out of his way to do special, sweet things.

So here's my advice on how you guys get over this. I know what it feels like to get triggered and how painful memories can be.. but if you want to keep dating him you have to decide you are not going to keep punishing him for this. You have to bite down, grip your hands, and try to put it out of your mind when it pops in. Try not to go cold on him for no reason, have a little phrase you repeat if you are feeling overwhelmed. Mine was, "we're going to be ok."

And most importantly, dude, you have to step it up. Big time. If she's going to try that hard to make it better, you do too. And that means by showing her how important she is to you. The way people show love are through words, time, gifts (doesn't have to be expensive, just pick a flower), acts, touch, etc.

You guys have to rebuild that trust and connection. And I'm living proof that it's possible! Good luck!
Posted by andersonville on June 20, 2012 at 12:27 PM · Report this
#42 (original letter writer): Where do you go from here? A counselor I know recommends "After the Affair" by Spring. He could be telling the truth about "it just happened" if not innoculated by a shitstorm like this, "How you doing?" goes through "Could be better" to dix pix in less than 48 hours. He's right to be answering your Qs. (caveat - when the Q and A is only picking the scab, he's allowed to point out BTDT. And if you're asking about the gory details and the blow-by-blow, that should be refused as it will only burn mental images into your head that you don't want).

He gets a probationary period of many months in which you're allowed to be snoopy and, as Reagan famously said, "Trust, but verify." But you need to be able to let go of the hurt and take the risk of trusting him again. If you're not ever going to do that, cut him loose now and go find someone who will never make a mistake.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on June 20, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
why is he wrong? why is he trying to cover his arse? what is wrong with flirting anyway? it's not like they were sharing fluids, so where is the big deal? to me the snooping is a big deal, and the fact that she cares about his private conversations enough to comment, a bigger deal. surely there is enough trust in a long-term relationship that ur s.o.'s other relationships are just that - with other people - so therefore none of your god-damned business?? this is not a picture of 'love', this is a picture of jealous control-freak, which is a form of domestic abuse. HE should DTMFA.
Posted by sappho on June 20, 2012 at 1:45 PM · Report this
Tim Horton 54
@42 - This is my advice and brutal truth.

I was your boyfriend, caught by Mrs. Horton when we were in our mid-20s, a dozen years ago. Mrs. Horton snooped my email and found sexually hurtful things I had recently exchanged with an ex.

Brutal truth #1 - he enjoyed sexting her. I sexted my ex because it made me feel good. Outside validation does that. It's also nice to know that your exes think about you, and an ego boost that you were their best lay. Sexual messages also makes your dick hard. Your ex probably sexted her for all these reasons. He also sexted her because he didn't think he would get caught and didn't think he would hurt you. Or that is why I did it. Only you would know whether he was really going to fuck her.

Brutal truth #2 - what he wrote may have been true. She probably was really good in bed. I am sure they were excited to see each other back when they were together. Mrs. Horton had exes that were probably better at kissing, or oral, or doggy, or something. Unfortunately, your snooping tore open one of the white lies of a long term relationship.

These brutal truths are easier to accept once you are older and in a secure relationship. Back when me and Mrs. Horton were first dating in our 20s, I would not want to believe that her exes made her cum like a wild woman but they probably did, or some did. There us nothing unique about the shape of my penis that would make it the only one that could get her off. She had a past, and if she was honest, and if you are honest, you have exes too that you think fondly of, that you had hot times with. None of this excuses what he did, but it explains it. He fucked up because he is human.

That was 10 years ago, and although we had a temporary fall out, me and Mrs. Horton are now married 7 years with young kids and doing pretty good. The issue is long past us.

Good luck.

Posted by Tim Horton on June 20, 2012 at 1:47 PM · Report this
@42: 54 seems dead on. Ultimately it seems that you and you alone have to decide whether or not to give him a second chance. Maybe you actually scared him straight, maybe not. Then again, everyone screws up at some point or another. Your call.
Posted by bstrand on June 20, 2012 at 4:38 PM · Report this
sissoucat 56
@43 You made a comment about kisses being cheating. I'd love to read your advice (and the one of all the regulars, of course !) about a case where there is sex with others than the legitimate spouse, and I can't decide in conscience whether it's cheating or not.

A woman meets an older guy who seems unattached. She fancies him. They talk. It comes out that he's been married for years but his wife is not interested in sex anymore - they have something else in common that makes them stay together and be a strong couple ; sex is the only problem they have. Since foregoing sex, the wife has agreed that the husband can have his pick of discreet relationships as long as she doesn't have to know - thus there is no way to correlate what the guy says. On the other hand, the wife is not his first wife, and he makes it quite clear that he's never been a one woman's man and never will - but she still wanted to be married with him, and he gladly obliged. So the odds of the wife actually suspecting nothing of his behaviour are quite slim. The wife doesn't want to separate though, even less than the guy does. There are no children.

Dan has advocated having sex outside of marriage as a way to keep an otherwise quality relationship going, despite one partner not getting any.

I think that, when he had affairs while they still had sex, it was definitively cheating, even though the wife married him knowing he would. But now that they don't have sex anymore - I can't decide whether it's cheating or not. What do you think ?
Posted by sissoucat on June 21, 2012 at 9:45 AM · Report this
Well @56, cheating is a bit of a spectrum. Having sex with someone else is definitely cheating, and kissing is cheating-ish, but there are different kinds of kissing. As for sending sexy messages and naked pictures via cellphone? I wouldn't want my partner doing it with someone else.

Yes, this man is committing adultery and cheating. He's just doing it with permission. He is doing wrong, just not as much wrong as if he'd done it without his spouse's knowledge and consent.

My take on monogamish relationships is that the people in them are playing with fire. Sure, it seems likely that a few people could make that system work, but I'd bet they're rarer than they seem on Savage Love. I will be convinced otherwise if forty or so years go by and a widespread monogamish community can show that the success stories posted here aren't flukes, that monogamish couples not only occasionally but usually last for many years.

Hm, Mr. Savage is most particular about people quoting him on that particular issue, and I seem to remember that it was more complicated than "keep a quality relationship going." I think it went something like cheating is acceptable when it's the only practical way to "1. stay sane and 2. stay married," but there were a lot of caveats, like "divorce has to be out of the question for some karma-imperiling reason.
Posted by DRF on June 21, 2012 at 10:10 PM · Report this
@56, since the wife isn't talking to you (I mean, to the hypothetical person), there's not much point in wondering what she thinks and whether she's happy or would be happier with other circumstances. My honest advice (based on probabilities and not knowing this particular "older guy" at all) is that he's lying, and he's having sex with several other women besides his wife. Doesn't mean one can't sleep with him, but one should use condoms and understand the emotional and physical risks of the affair.

On the other hand, the older guy may in fact be a gentleman, operating with everyone's best interests at heart. Odds are against that, but anything's possible. Life and love involve risk.
Posted by EricaP on June 21, 2012 at 10:13 PM · Report this
Found it! (…)

Dan Savage said, "Cheating is permissible when it amounts to the least worst option, i.e., it is allowed for someone who has made a monogamous commitment and isn't getting any at home (sick or disabled spouse, or withholding-without-cause spouse) and divorce isn't an option (sick or disabled spouse, or withholding-without-cause-spouse-who-can't-be-divorced-for-some-karma-imperiling-reason-or-other) and the sex on the side makes it possible for the cheater to stay married and stay sane. (An exception can be made for a married person with a kink that his or her spouse can't/won't accommodate, so long as the kink can be taken care of safely and discreetly.)"

My interp is "Cheating is always bad but sometimes it's less bad than not cheating." The next question is whether Mr. Savage would consider having sex with a non-partner with the partner's permission cheating. My guess is that he wouldn't (but I do).
Posted by DRF on June 21, 2012 at 10:14 PM · Report this
On the specific question of "is it cheating if you're no longer having sex in the marriage" -- I think Dan says no when it's the would-be 'cheater' asking the question. The would-be 'cheater' knows if there's any marital sex. If there isn't, then the would-be 'cheater' isn't really cheating, though might be advised to seriously consider other options.

But outside parties can't ever really know if there's marital sex or not.
Posted by EricaP on June 21, 2012 at 10:18 PM · Report this
"The next question is whether Mr. Savage would consider having sex with a non-partner with the partner's permission cheating. My guess is that he wouldn't (but I do)."

Why? What exactly about the word "permission" do you fail to grasp?
Posted by avast2006 on June 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM · Report this
There is nothing about the word "permission" that I fail to grasp. It's about whether the word "cheating" applies when someone has sex with someone other than one's committed partner. I find that it does. It's not as bad as doing it without the spouse's permission, but the cheating spouse is still giving to someone else something that should only go to the other spouse.

Say two people are playing Monopoly and one says to the other "It's okay if you break out of jail/skip the rent/take another card." It's still breaking the rules, but it's not as bad as rearranging the counters when the other person isn't looking.

EricaP is making an excellent practical point. Just because one member of the couple says that the relationship is open doesn't mean that said person is telling the truth.
Posted by DRF on June 22, 2012 at 6:47 AM · Report this
Dude, you don't set "the rules" within someone else's marriage. This is a very simple concept, yet it utterly eludes you.

Marriage is not Monopoly; there is no "The Rules" for marriage. When you are the only two people playing, the rules are what the two of you agree that they are. Even when you are playing Monopoly, if you allow someone to skip a rent, you are not Breaking The Rules, you are Cutting A Deal. (Have you never played a game with your kid, allowing take-backs when they make a bad move? Are you going to call him a "cheater" after telling him to go ahead and take back that move? Seriously?) Unless you are playing in a tournament, and have to compare your victory against all other players in order to determine the tournament champion, there are no rules that cannot be renegotiated. There is no such thing as Tournament Marriage.

If you do say it's okay but then secretly resent them because it's really not okay for you, that doesn't make them a cheater, it makes you a liar. They are abiding by the agreement that the two of you set forth; you are the one who isn't abiding by it.
Posted by avast2006 on June 22, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
Avast, Sissoucat asked me my opinion and I gave it. Because the question was addressed to me as @43 and to the DS regulars, why don't you give your own answer? Sissou probably wants a range and that's something you could provide.

I didn't create the rules for someone else's marriage. Society does. The idea of what marriage is has changed over time and can differ across cultures, but for any given context, the concept of marriage has boundaries. That's why people can't just say "We're married!" and have it be so. They have to apply for a license or declare common law or it's not real (U.S. rules). Or they have to be blessed by a priest and exchange vows during a specific ritual (Catholic rules).

The monopoly analogy was only there to try to explain things. I admit it doesn't line up perfectly and I guess it doesn't work well in your case. I'm trying to say, "In any situation, cheating is bad, but cheating with the other person's permission is less bad than cheating deceitfully." It would be better for these spouses to go to couples counseling to repair their sex life than to involve a third person, but for the active spouse to have an extramarital affair is not the worst possible scenario.
Posted by DRF on June 22, 2012 at 6:51 PM · Report this
Okay, here is my assessment of sissoucat's' scenario. I'm going to take at face value that the wife has actually said and done what the scenario describes. The whole "so you can't verify it with her" is a red herring. If she has given him explicit verbal permission to go ahead behind her back, of course she is going to assume he is using it, otherwise why give permission? My opinion is that "as long as I don't have to know about it" does not mean "If I ever find out, through any means whatsoever, that you are actually using this permission that I gave you, it will be summarily revoked." That would be stupid. It means "Do not embarrass me; do not put me in the position of having to explain you."

My opinion is that "cheating with permission" is an oxymoron. It's also not a matter of whether they were still having sex back then, versus not having any sex now. It's that there wasn't any permission back then, but there is permission now. Hypothetically, she could just as easily have given him permission back when they were still having sex. The term for such an arrangement is "open relationship," not "cheating." Many people find this a satisfactory way to conduct their lives, and it is not contingent on whether they are still having sex with their partner.

"I didn't create the rules for someone else's marriage. Society does. "

It does, does it? So if Society finds out that Jack is screwing around on Jill, and Jill says it's okay by her, Society is going to step in and annul the marriage? When was the last time that happened? Society bends over backwards to defer to the people within the relationship as to whether their private conduct is acceptable to one another. (Unless you're gay, in which case Society is a fucking busybody.)

You can think anything you want about what would be the best course of action for someone else to take within their own marriage, but you haven't quite figured out yet that you are not a factor in their relationship - in other words, that you are irrelevant.
Posted by avast2006 on June 22, 2012 at 7:50 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 66
Oh hey, @64, it's not, they have to apply for a license OR get married in a church. ALL couples seeking marriage have to apply for the license. Even the ones who get married in a church. Marriage is a legal state, & only when your country clerk has received & processed your license application are you granted your license, which then needs to be signed by the officiant at your ceremony, be that in a church, or at city hall.

That's, becoming married.

Anything else beyond that - religious, or not; monogamous, or not; children, or not; is entirely up to the two people entering the marriage. Not you, or the county clerk, or your rabbi, or whoever.
Posted by Eva Hopkins on June 22, 2012 at 8:29 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 67
Just to finish my comment to DRF @ 64 - cheating w/ permission, isn't cheating. What defines the rules of any couple, married or not, is between the two people in the relationship.

Posted by Eva Hopkins on June 22, 2012 at 8:31 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 68
Avast @ 65, I high-five you from afar. We were typing v. similar things at the same time.
Posted by Eva Hopkins on June 22, 2012 at 8:32 PM · Report this
"So if Society finds out that Jack is screwing around on Jill, and Jill says it's okay by her, Society is going to step in and annul the marriage?"

No, but society will say they're doing marriage wrong. You've probably seen it happen whenever congresspeople get caught cheating on their spouses.

To Sissou's hypothetical couple, I am relevant in that I am one of the people who was asked for an opinion.

@66 Oh, I know. I was just giving two examples of contexts that create rules for marriage. If someone gets married in City Hall, then the Catholic Church says they're not really married. If someone gets married in a religious ceremony but doesn't have a valid marriage license, then the U.S. government says they're not really married. That's what I meant.

It's kind of like running a red light. Is running a red light always bad? Yes. What if there's no one there and it's safe? Still bad but probably not that bad. What if there's no one there and it's safe AND there's an emergency in which seconds count? Still bad but definitely less bad than not running the red light.
Posted by DRF on June 22, 2012 at 8:37 PM · Report this
@67 Marriage is when a couple makes a declaration to their community that they're going to commit to one another. No, it's not just about the pair of them. It's about the pair of them and their community.

If marriage were only about the two people in it, then gay couples wouldn't care whether the states and federal government recognize them or not.
Posted by DRF on June 22, 2012 at 8:40 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 71
@69, kind of. Sorry to be so persistent, but the confusion between marriage, the legal state of being married, & marriage, the rite that happens in a church, is part of why it's taking so long to grant gays full marriage equality.

Part 1: For the purposes of the following paragraphs, married = LEGAL marriage only , NOT church marriage. If someone gets married at City Hall, has gotten the legal documentation & filed it, they are married, whether the church recognizes it or not. Atheists get married too, right? If someone gets married in a church, and files the legal documentation, then they are married, both legally & religiously. If someone gets married in a church, but *does not* file the required paperwork with the county they are married in, then they are NOT legally married, regardless of what ceremony in a church, temple, synagogue or in someone's backyard they have participated in.

In *most cases*, the couple to be married has a ceremony in front of thier family & friends their community. That's true. But what gays want the right to do is *legally* marry their partner, the RIGHT to be joined in marriage to them. They're not going to get, nor should they be able to get from the government, the *church wedding*, the RITE, as that's a separate thing. Separation of church & state means that you can get married if it's only the couple at City Hall, or in front of others at church/a hotel/etc. But to repeat, the participants in the religious "rite" of marriage aren't married until they file their wedding license.

Gays don't want to be able to get married just so they can have the ceremony in front of family/friends/community. (Though of course some do!) They want to be able to marry each other so they can have the legal rights of marriage - next of kin/hospital visitation, rights of inheritance, ability to file taxes jointly, etc. The *bonus* is that they would then also be perceived as a "real" couple, enjoying the presumed additional stability & support from society such pairs enjoy. If their chosen faith acknowledges gay marriage, they can also be married in their church/temple/etc.

Is it ultimately better to be married in front of your community? I'd agree most prefer that. But someone who gets legally married @ City Hall or in their backyard by an officiant is just as married as someone who does it in a church.
Posted by Eva Hopkins on June 22, 2012 at 10:01 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 72
@ 69, Part 2:

Once a couple is legally married, whatever the rules between them about extracurricular nookie are, ARE between just them - as long as neither partner breaks those rules. ;) The example of political scandal spouses maybe isn't the best one as once a politician achieves a certain status, the news vultures circle them & their family just lookin' for a whiff of scandal. Ditto for celebrities. And once there is blood in the water, so to speak, if divorce happens, then the legal definitions come into play; what is considered provable adultery in each state, etc.

Before AND after a couple is married, marriage ≠ monogamy, necessarily, *between them*. There's a whole lotta extracurricular hanky-panky that the community the couple got married in front of might never know about. They might have an agreement that flirting with other is okay. They might have an agreement that kissing is okay, sexting is okay, once a month flings are okay, occasional guest stars in the bedroom are okay. It's up to them, & smart couples will figure this out before they tie the knot. & neither you nor I has the right to decide from afar that they are more or less married than a couple who is 100% monogamous from the get-go.

Dan & his HICBIA Terry have this, the word used is monogamish. Might not apply to a marriage you yourself have or would want to be involved in, but it works just fine for lotsa married people.…

Posted by Eva Hopkins on June 22, 2012 at 10:15 PM · Report this
It sounds like what we're really talking about is whether or not the word "cheating" should apply to this type of extramarital activity. We seem to be in agreement that it's neither the best nor the worst thing for these people to do.

We are on the same page with respect to the definition of legal marriage.

In the State of New Jersey, at least as of a couple years ago, a ceremony of some kind was a legal requirement. It does not have to be a religious ceremony.

It's my understanding that gays want legal marriage so that they will be recognized as married by the wider community, in this case the government, their employers, hospitals, and possibly also their parents and neighbors.

It's not about whether it's better to have a wedding ceremony in front of the community. The act of getting married, regardless of who physically attends the wedding, is a message to the community.

As to whether someone who's married in city hall is "just as married" as someone who's married in a church, we'd have to establish whether being legally married or religiously married is better than the other. They are two closely overlapping concepts.
Posted by DRF on June 22, 2012 at 10:19 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 74
To sum up (& then I'll stop threadjacking, I swear) =

Marriage, the LEGAL state, what gays should be granted as well as heteros = RIGHT to marry

Marriage, the religious ceremony in front of one's community, that does not have to be automatically granted to gays 'cause of freedom of religion = RITE, or sacrament, of marriage.

- whew -

Sissoucat @ 56 - all that said, it sounds like your hypothetical woman suspects the hypothetical guy doesn't actually *have* the permission he says he has. I personally wouldn't consider someone getting some side nookie in a truly sexless marriage to be cheating, provided there was true permission. There's a difference between not wanting to know - not wanting to get one's face rubbed in it - & total open relationship. But in the few sentences provided by you, something rubs me the wrong way. "My wife doesn't sleep with me anymore" is one of the most common lies ever told. Not saying it doesn't happen, just saying I've known non-hypothetical women friends who believed that line, who discovered later they were being played.
Posted by Eva Hopkins on June 22, 2012 at 10:24 PM · Report this
Sissou's question is whether the term "cheating" applies.

If the question is whether reporters should investigate the non-criminal sex lives of real-life married couples, the answer is, "Not unless someone campaigned on a pro- or anti-extramarital-sex platform," but if the question is whether a given man has cheated on his wife by having sex with someone else, the answer is "Yes he has."

To go back to my earlier metaphor, if the question is, "Is running the red light a reasonable thing to do under the circumstances?" the answer may well be "Yes it is," but if the question is "Is 'running a red light' what happened?" then the answer is still "Yes it is."
Posted by DRF on June 22, 2012 at 10:26 PM · Report this
@74 We posted at the same time again. What's "threadjacking"? Does it mean "talking to someone who's interested in what you have to say"? I don't mind, I swear.

I concur that religious institutions should have discretion over which religious rituals to perform and for whom. They are as free to consider gays not really married as they are to consider my aunt, who is civilly married to a man who had been divorced, not really married. The world didn't end when churches had to legally recognize heterosexual civil marriage and it probably won't end when it they have to legally recognize homosexual civil marriage either. (By "legally recognize" I mean "recognize for employment, power of attorney, and next-of-kin purposes.")

We all seem to be on the same page about whether or not the man should be allowed to have the affair. The current difference seems to be about whether or not to call it "cheating."
Posted by DRF on June 22, 2012 at 10:30 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 77
I lied! Threadjacking continues. I'm not discussing whether legal marriage is better than religious marriage. I'm telling you they are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS entirely.

DRF @ 73: you know how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares?

All marriages that have the legal paperwork, are marriages, including ones with ceremonies. Marriage ceremonies that do not have the legal paperwork attached, aren't legal.

I've officiated at some wedding ceremonies & had to educate myself on marriage law in a few states now, & am from North Jersey outside Manhattan. I was a bridesmaid about..6? 7? years ago at the wedding of two gay guy friends of mine, at a church, in Pasaaic, NJ. They were full on ceremony married, with a priest & everything, those guys, & it was beautiful. But despite the ceremony, the couple was not *legally* married, because there was no gay marriage or even civil unions in NJ at that time. The state didn't recognize it.

In the same year, my across the street hetero neighbors got married, legally, at city hall in Plainfield, NJ, by filing a marriage license, then doing the wait period, going back & signing the paperwork. They had a witness there. & voila! They were legally married.

What constitutes the requirements for legal marriage vary from county to county, okay? Not just state to state, & *not* church to church. Church/the ceremony/celebration has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. Check out this page & note that the requirements for officiants are broken down - by county-:…
Posted by Eva Hopkins on June 22, 2012 at 10:34 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 78
No, threadjacking means, this original letter was not about "What's the difference between legal marriage & religious marriage". ;) & we've likely bored the pants off anyone else reading, which is why I apologized for threadjacking. But this is seriously important, as this distinction is, as I mentioned, a huge part of the problem with the public's perception of gay marriage.

Some people of faith feel that granting gays the *legal* right to marry - with the license, tax breaks, etc - means they'll be forced to allow gays to marry in their churches, even if their church doesn't recognize those unions. Because they don't want that to happen, they are against granting gays those rights. (Or as I prefer to view it, they don't want to stop discriminating against gays.)

If it would be made somehow clear to those religious people that what should be granted to gays is the LEGAL/CITY HALL/TAX RETURN/RIGHT to marry, I feel that fewer of them would be as opposed to the idea as they are now.

Posted by Eva Hopkins on June 22, 2012 at 10:40 PM · Report this
sissoucat 79
DRF, Eva Hopkins, avast2006, EricaP - thank you so much for all your answers, it's a real treat ! I knew I could trust Savage Love commenters to get answers ! You guys rock ! Very interesting viewpoints - It will take me days to digest it.

The discussion over the meaning of marriage is also very interesting. Over here there are no civil licenses to be had ; marriage is a civil ceremony in the town hall, that can be followed by a religious ceremony or not, usually on the same day. Very religious-minded people will invite people only for the second one.

Erica P, you are so sharp ;) well I won't deny I could be the non-hypothetical third party there - at least, I'm a pretty close friend of hers.

The question of whether the older guy is lying about his marital arrangements is not that easily resolved. He did admit to having had sex on the side before the permission was given - and that's cheating, by everyone's book - and I don't think a dishonest cheater (I mean one who lies to get in other beds) would ever admit to a potential mistress with scruples that he has cheated before, in less pristine circumstances. And that he's never been marriage material, as far as monogamy goes - nor will he ever be.

The described situation is not "my wife won't have sex with me anymore" - which I agree is the classic dishonest cheater's line ; I wonder how it works too, since it's not very tempting to know that one is sought after because some guy's hands ache, and he's too cheap to go to the honest sex worker... Here it's "my wife has decided to forego sex entirely", something more akin to a philosophical or religious stance - and there are other circumstances pointing towards the lady being a philosophically-minded person. Please understand I'm not talking about sex-is-sin fundamentalists here.

Besides, I've seen the guy, he probably has no trouble finding eager partners with no moral hangups - why would he bother to lie ? I may be a bit naive there, I know. Anyway, thanks a lot, and lots of immaterial hugs !
Posted by sissoucat on June 23, 2012 at 1:38 AM · Report this
@77 Legal and religious marriage are not two different things entirely. They involve many of the same promises and characteristics. Neither is religious marriage a subset of legal marriage. They're better described as a two-circle Venn diagram than as rectangles and squares. A couple can be religiously married without being legally married, just like they can be legally married without being religiously married. It's just that the former is very rare in the U.S.

@79 This is real life?! Sissou, do not have sex with that man. EricaP is almost certainly right! And the wife is a friend of yours? Depends on a lot of things, but having sex with a friend's husband no matter the circumstances is probably a bad idea. If she has said that she doesn't want to know then you'll spend years of your time and energy hiding it from her.

Also, where's "here"?

Come to think of it, "How do I find out whether or not someone is telling the truth about being in an open relationship?" would make a good question to Mr. Savage.
Posted by DRF on June 23, 2012 at 6:44 AM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 81
@ 79 Sissoucat - it all sounds seriously complicated. I bet your hypothetical friend could find lots of other charming, attractive men to fool around with who don't have all those complications. I'd feel a lot better if it was clear that he had this permission. Tell your 'pal' to trust her instincts.

@ 80. Sure. Someone can be religiously married, without getting the paperwork filed to be legally wed. (I honestly don't know anyone who's done that.) But they're not married in the eyes of the law; they aren't legally/civilly wed. That's why I said the square/rectangle thing. Because I was talking about *legal marriage*. Ugh, I feel like I'm not speaking English, and am dropping this, now.
Posted by Eva Hopkins on June 23, 2012 at 7:42 AM · Report this
@79: Ack, that's different! I was answering the hypothetical question "Is extracurricular sex with explicit permission still cheating, especially if the permission is in the form of 'I don't ever want to find out about it'?" I just assumed the permission had in fact been given in that form, and followed the reasoning that stemmed from that assumption.

It looks like your actual question is "Is he lying about her having given him that sort of permission?" Based on the details you laid out, I could see that going either way. I could see a guy trying to look like he is leveling with you: "Look, I know I've messed up in the past, but this time it's totally legit. I promise." Yeah, right. It's awfully convenient that we can't go to her and verify. It would damage his credibility for your 'pal' to find out about actual infidelities (the kind without permission) in his past on her own. Better to own up to them now, if doing so will bolster the current situation.

On the other hand, maybe the wife really has decided to go celibate. It's a fairly regular feature here in the columns. I'm not seeing the practical difference between "my wife won't have sex with me anymore" and "my wife won't have sex at all anymore." In both cases, the amount of sex he is having with her is zero -- which means, in my opinion, that in both cases she has abandoned her post sexually, and has little moral standing to complain about a sex life in which she refuses to participate. The only practical difference I can see is if "my wife won't have sex with me" means she is having sex with someone else, in which case she has even less than zero justification for being outraged if he does the same thing. Are you trying to use the difference in wording to figure out if the whole celibacy thing is a lie?

The issue of whether he is (or ever was) marriage material is moot. He's already married to someone else, and apparently intends to stay married to her.

Posted by avast2006 on June 23, 2012 at 9:35 AM · Report this
@79: "The described situation is not "my wife won't have sex with me anymore" - which I agree is the classic dishonest cheater's line ; I wonder how it works too, since it's not very tempting to know that one is sought after because some guy's hands ache, and he's too cheap to go to the honest sex worker... Here it's "my wife has decided to forego sex entirely""

All this means is that a lying cheater found the right words to tell you, the situation is likely identical.
Posted by don't be so credulous of liars on June 23, 2012 at 10:20 AM · Report this
@sissoucat: "he probably has no trouble finding eager partners with no moral hangups - why would he bother to lie ?"

Because he wants you, not some random person who would say yes. And as @83 points out, the fact that you're considering this means that he has found words that work on you. He is presumably charming-as-all-get-out, and I can see why you want to do this. What consequences do you think would happen if you revealed the situation to his wife over coffee or a drink? Has he told you that she would walk? That he would be mad at you? Even if he's telling the truth, that was a deal between him and his wife, and I don't see that you are bound to keep his secret. In fact, it might shake out the truth, and get everyone to a better place...
Posted by EricaP on June 23, 2012 at 12:58 PM · Report this
@84, I mean -- even if he's telling the truth about having this agreement with his wife, that's a deal between them, and not binding on you.
Posted by EricaP on June 23, 2012 at 1:03 PM · Report this
@81 I see. Your statement "All marriages that have the legal paperwork, are marriages" made it look like your squares/rectangles analogy was meant to apply to all marriages, not just legal marriages. It looked like you were saying "legal marriages are marriages but religious marriages are not marriages unless they are also legal marriages." So what you're really saying is that rectangle represents marriages that are both religious and legal and that square represents either marriages that are only religious or only legal. I still think a Venn diagram works better.

Sissoucat, it once again seems that all respondents to your question concur about the best course of action.
Posted by DRF on June 23, 2012 at 1:28 PM · Report this
sissoucat 87
Hey y'all, I didn't say it was definitively me, I said it was pretty close to me, and I want to leave it at that.

@DRF - "here" is an European country called France. I have no contact with the wife, only with the lusty would-be third party, who has no contacts with the wife. So there's no friendship to be destroyed there - remember the third party didn't even know there was a wife.

@Eva Hopkins - The third party's instincts are to go for it, and she's been asking around to get feedback. Mostly the offline advice has been "how do you know he's not lying ?" and "not if, but when you go for it, remember to put a condom on".

@avast2006 - Well all the questions are interesting. The issue of knowing whether, were the info provided by the guy truthful, it could still be called cheating, while technical, has no unambiguous answer - it ranges from "cheating but not a big deal" to "not cheating" - depending on how cheating is defined. The issue of assessing the truthfulness of the info is not easy either.
Posted by sissoucat on June 24, 2012 at 12:31 AM · Report this
sissoucat 88
@EricaP - What do I think would happen if the mistress would talk to the wife ? I don't know, really.

The only thing I can draw comparison from is my experience of when my husband took his mistress home, me knowing, her not knowing how much I knew, but still knowing that I knew something. It was an asshole move from both of them. I was not jealous at all of the sexual part - if I hadn't felt sex was the only way to keep my kids' family from falling appart, I would have stopped having sex with him years before, because let me tell you it was boring. What I felt was being thouroughly humiliated - I had to see it to believe that I was indeed that little respected by my husband. But my husband was a manipulative POS ; it's not that usual that a cheating husband insists on bringing his mistress home.

You know, respect is very important, much more than sex. If the situation is accurately described by the guy, I would imagine the wife being humiliated by the lack of respect of such a disclosure, and I would hope that the guy would then do the right thing and dump the indelicate mistress. Of course I'd rather have your alternative of everyone getting to a better place by full disclosure - I feel secrets hurt much more than they protect...

But I well know I'm not a good judge of human character, unless I've experienced the exact situation first - #83 is quite right in me being overly credulous.
Posted by sissoucat on June 24, 2012 at 12:50 AM · Report this
sissoucat 89
@DRF - thank you for finding the question I was trying to formulate, and failed to.

"How do I find out whether or not someone is telling the truth about being in an open relationship?"

But I think the answer would be "you are shown proof of the partner's permission", so I won't go and bother Dan with it, since I think I already got an answer - though of course I'd highly value his opinion (read that, Dan ?)

You know, I have a relationship with an occasional lover, and I've made it pretty clear from the start that I was not to be repressed by any relationship anymore, so it would be an open one. He wrote me a piece of paper acknowledging just that : that he was my lover but that I was still free to do whatever I liked with whomever I liked. I've not used it yet, but it feels empowering.
Posted by sissoucat on June 24, 2012 at 1:06 AM · Report this
The third party didn't know there was a wife until when? The husband disclosed as soon as the subject of sleeping with the third party came up? As soon as the relationship became romantic in any way?

As for how the third party can tell if the husband is on the up-and-up about being in an open relationship, the obvious answer seems to be "ask his wife." However 1. if the wife is "you have my permission but I don't want to know," this spoils things for her and 2. if the husband is lying, then the wife might not do the logical thing and blame her lying husband. Rather she might begin to beat the third party, pull her hair, throw her footwear out the window and call her foul names.

I guess another option would be for the third party to recruit a go-between, someone who could ask the wife if the relationship is open in such a way that would not tip her off. Still, that has ring of deceit about it.

I'd still ask Mr. Savage this one, Sissoucat. "How can you tell whether a man who says he's in an open relationship (and his wife said 'go ahead but I don't want to know') is telling the truth?" would interest a lot of the readers.

Necessary caveat: I've heard that France is much less strict about these things than in the U.S. but have never been there myself.
Posted by DRF on June 24, 2012 at 1:49 PM · Report this
interesting thoughts about venn diagrams... and crazy american christians.... where i live(not america), the churches (some, not all, but many more than you'd think) have been conducting gay marriage celebrations / rituals, with all the bells and whistles, for _years_. years and years. pretty much starting from when homosexuality was legalised (1986). there are quite a few couples who have been 'married' in church... and people still don't see that 'marriage' as really legit - people are still fighting for marriage equality. and this is despite the fact that we have 'civil unions' available to hets and homos, which is a legal union, but not exactly the same as marriage(mostly, you can't adopt, and you are 'spouses' rather than 'husband' and 'wife'). personally i think that civil union is better(although the adoption thing needs sorting) - keep the religion out of it. it's interesting that no-one really enforces societal ideas of what the relationship is 'supposed' to look like/ consist of, when it's a c.u., and a few open/poly people are going for this option for that reason.
however it's pretty clear from where i stand, that the biggest ceremony in a church, with religious blessings and family and all, while important... doesn't make any legal difference. and is therefore viewed by most people outside those immediately connected as not valid.
Posted by sappho on June 24, 2012 at 2:32 PM · Report this
That's a good example of why letting gays get married is good for marriage in general. If gays can get marriage lite (which is what civil unions are), then what's to stop heterosexuals for demanding marriage lite?

In the U.S., if people don't want religion in their marriage, they get married at city hall, a nonreligious chapel (like in Las Vegas) or by a justice of the peace. They're still referred to as "married," though, and they have the exact same legal status of people who have religious ceremonies. (I don't know when city hall marriage first became legal in the U.S., but it was commonplace and legitimate during the early twentieth century.) In the U.S., you're more likely to see people who want the GOVERNMENT out of their relationship. These people decide not to get married at all and just live together (the smarter versions of these couples make sure to file for power of attorney, rights of survivorship, and make sure that any property is in both peoples' names).
Posted by DRF on June 24, 2012 at 5:07 PM · Report this
sissoucat 93
@90 OK, I'll ask the question.

As for your question on how romantic it's been : out of the blue, the third party e-mailed the guy that she was falling for him, and that she was contacting him because there was no visible clue he was in a relationship. He answered back that he was both free and not free, and in a non-conventional relationship. They met in a public place to check the waters. She told him she was not looking for more than a hookup. He detailed his situation. I don't know what happened first, her saying she meant just a hookup or him saying he was married. After that, she began to shop around for advice.

I couldn't tell you how strict is France - it very much depends on people. But sexual misbehaviour is considered a very private matter, as long as it's consensual. So someone can have the exact depraved sexual life he/she wants, it won't lead to more than gossip, and such gossip never has any influence on work nor on everyday life. Nobody will ever publicly confront you about your sexual shenaginans, even if everyone privately deems you a walking shame... That privacy doesn't extend to sex crimes.

I remember working in a science research center, where a female bad researcher had just given birth. She had got her job by being the PhD student of a well-known much older researcher and marrying him. The other researchers were jokingly wondering whether the baby would sport a facial gash ; that refered to her strongly suspected lover, a researcher in the facility with a facial gash. Nobody would ever have confronted the pair, since it was felt that it was her husband's problem, nobody else's.
Posted by sissoucat on June 26, 2012 at 6:22 AM · Report this

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