Savage Love Sep 19, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Dicks Deluxe


Starting with terminology if I may: “She is transgender, pre-op, and will not be having gender-reassignment surgery.” As BDF told us here in the past some trans people are non-op, and it looks like your friend is one of them.
Dan gave you some good advice. Whatever your choice is, it is my impression that there is decency on the other side.
While you didn’t mention anything in this regard I assume you haven’t even made out yet. Your friend being obviously passable could have also kept her secret parts to herself while having non-PIV sex with you.
She cares about you and doesn’t want to freak you out.
@COCK: I second Dan's continually excellent advice and CMDwannabe's wonderful comment.
@Dan the Man: Spot on advice, too, to MESSY.
@MESSY: I hope everything works out for the best.
Had to look up "alacrity." ...and I'm actually a paid, professional writer... nearly fluent in the English language. I always learn something from Savage Love, and sometimes it's a new word!

On an unrelated note, shared the recent column about the mom with the gay daughter seeking sex advice- followed by the demisexual question, with my soon-to-be-14-year old asexual/bisexual/pansexual/gay/demi-sexual/still-figuring-it-out daughter. Also suggested if she doesn't already read/listen to Savage Love regularly, she should. And don't skimp on the archives! Part of my job as a parent is helping her to be emotionally intelligent with happy and healthy relationships- no matter how she identifies on this vast and wacky spectrum. We have a great relationship, but the truth is most of her sex-ed (by volume) comes from fan-fic, aka not-realistic soft-core porn. I appreciate the resources. Apparently she does, too. Because she took a moment to pull me aside and thank me specifically. So now I return the gratitude <3 <3 <3

P.S. love the advise to MESSY. Nearly two decades studying/teaching yoga (including an escape from a manipulative marriage- not a bad person- in fact, now we get along and co-parent great- but not a good romantic partner), and the ancient ones teach that the only thing we ever need to fix, the only lack we need to account for, is the lack of awareness that we're already complete. Sounds like lots of clear messaging from the outside that the situation is not in-line with who MESSY is.

P.P.S. Every one is messy. And amazing. Put your energy where you want to see growth.

Something about MESSY's letter makes me think it was written by the husband. Not sure why except it pinged my bullshit meter a bit.
Re LW1: Good advice, but I would add one thing: BE HONEST WITH HER. Let her know that you are enjoying the relationship and wish to continue, but that you've never had an intimate encounter with another person who has a penis and you're not sure how your personal orientation toward females with vaginas would impact attempts at intimacy. She deserves to be able to make a decision on the direction of the relationship as much as you do.
Great advice from Dan this week. I will definitely be using the terms phallophile and vaginophile when discussions of whether not wanting to date a woman with a penis makes one a transphobe (I wholeheartedly agree that the answer is no). I would disagree with Dan's advice to "keep taking it slow." It seems to me that finding out whether COCK can like a woman with a penis should happen sooner rather than later, before either of them gets attached. One question I'd ask is, is he attracted to her? He says, "We are on the same intellectual wavelength, enjoy the same social experiences, and have a lot of fun together." He doesn't say he finds her attractive. If he doesn't, the penis is a red herring -- if he's not attracted, they should remain platonic friends. If he is attracted -- if they are mutually attracted -- they should have sex. He should tell her that he's not sure and reserves the right to stop at any point if her body turns him off. But it seems to me that giving it a try is the only way to fully answer his question.

MESSY: It doesn't sound like this relationship is healthy for either of you. I'm wondering if (probably) she has had these issues in other relationships, or if this is her only serious relationship. She may be holding herself to impossible standards, or she may just be with the wrong partner. It sounds like he brings out her worst self, and for that reason if no other, I think they should remain divorced and apart.
Agreeing with everyone else on LW1: either you decide you're into chicks with dicks, or you're not. Give it the old college try and if it doesn't do it for you, well, you wouldn't be the first person in the world to not continue a relationship because of sexual incompatibility, would you?

For monogamous, I think you need to have an honest talk with your person about what "they're not seeing anyone else at the moment" means. Clarify whether they mean "I'm fine to be monogamous with you until someone suitable comes along, at which point I'll be ditching you to go back to my poly ways," or "I'm fine being in a monogamous relationship with you for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether some poly hottie shows up and gives me the eye."

For Messy, I think you need to ignore the 'why' and focus on the 'what.' Either your husband is sneaky and gaslighting and is destroying your sanity, or you're just a real asshole around him, for reasons all your own. That's the 'why,' and we may never know. However, we do know the 'what,' and that's that you can't be in a healthy marital relationship with your husband. You can't fix the unknowable 'why' at this point, so you're going to have to focus on the knowable 'what.' Stay divorced. Get some of that co-parenting software that lets parents schedule all their kids' needs without having to interact with each other much. Work on yourself independently of your ex, with 100% no expectation that you will ever be able to maintain a healthy marriage with him. That ship has sailed. It sailed, and then it ran aground on some rocks, caught fire, and sank. Then a Kraken ate what was left. It's gone. There is no ship, only charred splinters in kraken poop.
@9 I agree. Messy this relationship doesn't work. Maybe you go from Jekyll to Hyde around your husband, or maybe he's got you thinking everything is your fault so HE doesn't have to changer. Either way it's not working, it never worked, let it go.

And I'd ask if you're so horrible why did your husband stay and why did he come back? Even if it's as bad as he had a part in this as much as you did.
Messy, what ages are the children and what sex are they. Both or one of you might be getting set off by your own infantile patterns.
Do you love this man? You don't mention that you do.
Some intimacy behaviour patterns can change, if you want the outcome badly enough to make the change. Have you tried meditation, sitting with your own mind, rather than putting it all over the world.
There's always fake it till you make it.
If there is not the love from you towards your exhusband- partner, then pull the plug.
You'll still have small children together and the need to find a way to courteously work with each other to look after them.

LW1, good answer from Dan. Trans women not disclosing up front, waiting until some connection has occurred, seems dishonest and is dangerous. This LW sounds like a good man and the woman is lucky. A lot of cis men would not be so human in their response.
LW, you say you want this relationship to continue, so talk with her. Tell her how you're feeling after the disclosure, and go from there.
I wouldn't be convinced MESSY isn't 'awful' to her husband. Why doesn't she make a promise to him, something relatively simple, she can keep? Like cooking him a favourite meal? Or reading and discussing a favourite novel, or following a sports team in a minimal way? Start small, by all means. If she knows a loving gesture that would actually make him feel loved, why doesn't she do that? I feel we need more detail. Why can't she?
I'm pleased with Dan's compassionate answer to MESSY. It's funny the way guilt works towards change. Feeling guilty about one bad action is great. You do something wrong-You feel bad-You make changes for the better. All good. It's how we learn and grow.

But walking around in a constant state of self-loathing tends not to work. It's possible that the self-loathing is deserved, but that becomes irrelevant if it leads to a cycle of: I did something wrong- I'm unforgivable and bad- I don't deserve better- I'll punish myself by doing things that are bad and unforgivable. That's the self-sabotage cycle. For that reason, good therapists usually downplay blame and spend more time on the reasons behind the actions. Start with the idea that you're a good person making bad decisions that aren't making you or anyone around you happy. Start with the idea that you're a good person reacting to bad circumstances.

Sometimes the therapist's standpoint of you're a good person who's doing understandable things is such a revelation that the patient concludes that the therapist has said "you're right" or that the therapist has taken your side. In reality, the therapist isn't making value judgments, and implying "you're right" isn't meant to suggest that "husband is wrong."

I would certainly like some details including this particular part: "We reconciled four months after the divorce, despite the affair I had." Was that affair during the time you were separated or divorced? Because if so, it wasn't an affair. During that time, you were single.

There are more baffling statements: "I don't do the right things to make him feel loved even though I do loving things." What does that even mean? Is it possible that making him feel loved is a moving target that no one could hit? It sure sounds like you're expected to be satisfied with anything he does for you while he gets to be dissatisfied with everything you do for him.

That makes me go back to Dan's advice. You might be better off out of this relationship. Your children might be better off if their parents divorced. Consider it.
It is a confusing letter, Fichu @13. The affair, whenever it occurred, might have resulted in
exhusband- partner punishing her with high expectations that she constantly prove her love. Like you said, he might be insatiable, a moving target.
Fichu @13: I agree the letter is confusing. I interpreted it as that her affair was the reason for the divorce.

"I don't do the right things to make him feel loved even though I do loving things" also jumped out at me, and suggested that they just aren't compatible, not that she's the bad person that either she or her husband or both of them insist that she is. What is she doing, and what does he want her to do? And are those wants reasonable? Are they, for instance, sexual in nature -- is he pressuring her to show her "love" by doing things in bed she doesn't enjoy?
It seems with MESSY that even trying is another form of self sabotage. She knows she doesn't want to be in the relationship and yet she chooses the option guaranteed to blow up in her face. The marriage isn't her problem, it's symptomatic of her problems. She needs to remain solo for as long as necessary and find that center/learn to be more honest with herself.

She knows what she wants, and currently makes the decision to do/get what she wants. If the wants don't change she'll be phase-locked into this loop no matter the partner.

@10: "And I'd ask if you're so horrible why did your husband stay and why did he come back? Even if it's as bad as he had a part in this as much as you did."


@15: "What is she doing, and what does he want her to do?"

I took it as just a general inability to provide stability (love isn't enough), but that information would certainly help.

@1: "Whiteness" is correlated to skin color but not exclusively. It is the dominant culture. For example, you'll find that with latinx heritage there is a hierarchy in the US and well abroad. The full support of Zionism from American power may certainly reflect a similar hierarchy.

This isn't the venue nor the format to get deep down into it (far too many times does the JavaScript on the slog crash iOS Safari during a long seriouspost), but there's some nuance involved there independent of whether you agree with the move by whichever Pride group.
@13 excellent unpacking of the guilt/shame spiral. I was married for many years to an alcoholic, and that's how it went - did terrible things when drunk, felt awful about it when sober, got drunk to avoid having to feel the shame of the terrible things, did more terrible things because drunk. Very hard to break out of.
I'm going to buck the trend here and say that messy is a narcissist. She manipulates everyone (even professional therapists) around her so she doesn't have to change who she is, she's a "good" person to everyone who doesn't actually have to live with her and see who she really is, and she doesnt seem able to enact change in her behavior that fosters change in her relationship.

The "you do you" advice about not being dragged down with guilt is good for a relationship where the person is being constantly reminded and resented for past sins by the SO, but that's not what she said. She said hes even willing to go to counseling with her.

Something that does come up with me is it sounds like this woman and man have been dating a not-insignificant amount of time and while given her anatomy I could see why she would be hesitant to bring it up but 35 year olds, especially those that read Savage Love and would possibly be open to dating a women with a penis aren't typically waiting around that long to have sex to see if they want to proceed with the relationship.

So I kind of get the feeling that she was either dishonest with him for explaining why she didn't want to have sex with him or there some additional complicating factors here.
18- Muffy-- I reread the letter, and you may be right. The question, however, remains: Why can't she change? Or: What can she do to change? Or: If she can't change, what can she do to mitigate harm to herself and the people she loves and the people who love her?

If the diagnosis is Narcissism, the treatment for it, as with the other personality disorders, is talk therapy, and it sounds like that's had only minimal success.

More speculation on what she means by not doing the right things to make him feel loved. This might be off the wall, but I wonder if one of those therapists might be coming from a Christian standpoint. (This is all in the news now: Holly Salzman.) It could be one of those deals where the therapist is trying to teach her how to be properly submissive to her husband.

Or it could be a twisted view of the 5 Love Languages. The book is supposed to help people understand each other better, but there are some who see even that as a tool of manipulation. Not: I understand that you're expressing love when you clean the house, But Instead: You're doing love wrong. Here's how you should express it better.
John @19: It didn't sound to me like they've been "dating" at all. It sounds like they've been friends. He even used the word "friend." Repeatedly. Do you talk to all your friends about what's in your pants? It seems she mentioned it when they started "considering 'taking it to the next level'," which I read as moving from friendship to dating, not moving from dating to sex. She sensed that a romance was possible and disclosed her status, so he'd have the info he needed. She's done everything right here.

Love the satnav graphic.
Sorry, COCK refers to his friend as a "friend" just once. Rest of my point @21 is valid. These are two people who met socially and have come to a mutual sense that they're interested in dating, not two people who are dating.
@18: I don't know, she could be more on the borderline side.

She does seem pretty self-aware for either, at least. It's entirely possible that the combination of her and her husband together is creating that sort of pathology, some personalities just reinforce each other.

It'd be easier to know anything of what's going on if we knew more of her prior dating life.

Regardless, they're not meant to be and she needs to recover for a while and figure out what she wants after time passing.
@20: "The question, however, remains: Why can't she change?"

I don't even know if she can't change, she's only referenced the marriage hasn't she? Not being able to change "for him" isn't the same as being rooted in that same self-destructive behavior.

A doomed relationship taken past it's expiration date can make anyone into unhealthy pathologies, or exacerbate latent ones.
@22: The quote "I like this person, I like our relationship thus far, and I want to continue this relationship."

suggests to me that they're casually dating and it sounds like the "next level" was them moving in a more physical direction. Still agree that she's done things in a proper, respectful order for all parties.
John M @ 19
I don’t think it’s dishonesty, more likely lessons in life after being ditched on the spot when mentioning the non-op status.
I would call dishonesty if they were having sex before disclosing, possibly even just kissing.

Fichu @ 18
I think MESSY is self-sabotaging her life through (assumed) sex acts and probably in other ways as well. This is not narcissism as muffy @ 18 suggested, but rather low self-esteem that comes to haunt her every now and then.
I’ve seen this behavior in a 12-step program that usually doesn’t get much sympathy on Savage Love.
I think they’re together because of the kids, and assume they both have some sense of responsibility.

That said, is having sex with others is always a shameful and demoralizing act for her once it’s over? Is it possible that her sexuality is not adhering to the monogamy/religious/social expectations?
It is also possible that not coming to terms with her sexuality and viewing her urges as a terrible, shameful trait is causing the low self-esteem to begin with.
I encourage her to find out and move forward accordingly while keeping an open line of communication with husband.
I know, very easy to say.
I disagree, met someone through the usual methods, typically you don't have to look for platonic friends, kind of implies dating apps/websites. Then the next-level, dating is not the natural next level for a friendship, it's great when it happens, I am personally in a romantic relationship with someone who was my best friend for years before we were a couple but I consider that an outlier in relationships and a move we were very hesitant to make for fear of the friendship.

I think "friend" is really a euphemism for we've gone on dates but we haven't defined a relationship yet and I'm hesitant to now because she has a penis and I don't know if I am OK with the idea of dating a woman with a penis.

I'm in the same age bracket as this guy and in my experience labels can be a little tricky as you get older, there is the immaturity of "boyfriend/girlfriend", the non-commitment of "dating" or "seeing" someone, "partner" comes off as very committed. My parents both call their SOs their "friends" that they are definitely sleeping with and my dad's "friend" has been with him for several years. Personally with me and my partner we skipped from friends that were sleeping together to saying I love you in a few weeks to being "Partners" in just a couple of months because we already had such a strong, intimate and long friendship that we considered it a permanent state, there were no surprises, no trying things out, no details to be slowly rolled out, we were just together.
all people in long-term relationships resent their partners for something

If that something is a big deal and its glaringly obvious at the very start of the relationship, you either move on or you end up regretting that you didn't.
" I met a nice lady thru the normal methods," this implies meeting on a dating site, which means they have been dating.
We have no idea for how long, except enough time for the LW to realise how well they get on etc etc.
Have you ever entertained the thought that maybe there's a reason every counselor or therapist you see winds up taking your side

She was referring specifically to her individual therapists. It's not hard to get a therapist on your side if the other person isn't there.
Lava @29: "I met a nice lady through the normal methods" to me implied socially. None of y'all have social lives? Wait, I forgot who I was talking to :P
Either way, I think we can all agree that once she realised the relationship, friendship, whatever you want to call it, had the potential to become sexual in nature, she disclosed her status. What more can one do?
@31, Fan. meeting socially is not the normal channel anymore, is it? What more can she do, you say. She could not let the LW continue to assume she is a cis woman, and disclose upfront.

@31 Just saying I meet a friend implies socially, that's the default way you meet friends, if you need to specify that you used methods you have an extremely limited social circle or you are implying you used a dating app/website.

I know some people use methods to meet friends, like people that just moved to a town where they don't know anyone, etc but most people without a major personality defect don't need "methods" to make friends, it kind of just happens, they go online to meet people with the same intention, implicitly looking for a relationship and not just a new friend to hang out with socially.
DAMNIT: What's with all the plural pronouns? If the partner is non-gendered or multi-gendered or at SOPATGS, that might be relevant information. If the partner is one of those boring binaries (e.g. male or female), there are single pronouns for that. The letter reads like a 1980's closet case describing their situation.

MESSY: "I make promises I don't keep and I don't do the right things to make him feel loved." Some people would rather be rejected for something they can control (he doesn't love me because I break promises and don't give the kind of affection he's said he wants), than to try to do everything right and be rejected (because then they would feel unlovable instead of just a screw-up). Yeah, rejection hurts, but it's not the end of the world and it's a whole lot better than looking back a decade and realizing you never really tried to be the best partner you could be out of fear of it not being enough.
We've been down this rd before, and my opinion doesn't change. The LW says he was shocked by the disclosure, so again, I assume enough time had passed for him to get to know the woman, have fun together etc, for him not go, " ok thanks, my preference is for a cis woman."
I see nothing to indicate that COCK's friend has behaved dishonorably at all. Even if she had, that wouldn't change the advice being sought or the advice offered.
(And it doesn't matter how they met, what "friend" means in this context, how old they are, etc.)

LW should be honest and upfront while still being tactful and sensitive with his friend as he decides whether or not he wants to try and continue dating her and seeing if he is interested in having a sexual relationship with her. This situation and anatomy is new to him and he likes her enough to consider moving to a sexual relationship, but he is unsure about whether or not it will work for him.
What do we assume of DAMNIT's assiduous dodging of any gender pronouns?
Dan did call the column Dick Deluxe, Sportlandia @37. From that I'm guessing one of them if not both, have a dick. It doesn't matter does it, given the problem presented.
@35: I'll never understand why people get unnecessarily and incorrectly huffy about gender neutral terms.

They're not plural when not used as plural, this is how language works.
Also <3 to Dan's Dick's Drive-In joke, which I only now just got...
Fan, you need to see many of us don't live in Seattle or London or San Fransisco or NY. Or Sydney, Brisbane etc. There's no trans visibility on my local village corner or in my local pub.
The danger to trans women's lives is what alarms me with such an approach of not being upfront. And why spend time and the chance affection will occur, only to feel rejection when physical intimacy looks like occurring.
@40: Dick's Drive-in joke? I read and reread the three responses and I'm not seeing it. I'd like to - I lived in Seattle 20 years ago and walk across town to get (1) my exercise and (2) a burger.

@39, I'm fine with "they", "them", etc when being used for a generic person: "Each Passenger should don their oxygen mask before assisting others."

But this isn't a generic person. It's a particular person writing about a particular partner, who likely (but *maybe* not) thinks of themselves as gendered. That an anonymous letter to a gay advice columnist would avoid any mention of gender (their own or their partner's), strikes me as odd. A militantly non-binary LW? Force of habit of a closet case? Fear of being recognized from a very vague letter? A belief that no advice should be gendered? Enquiring minds want to know.
I'll be heading down to the gay pride march and rally in Brisbane on Saturday. I feel pretty queer, so I fit in somewhere.
With all this filth happening around my country's same sex non binding marriage equality survey, we can see how homophobic many in the wider community are. Christians pushing every button.
As a cis woman, I learnt early on that there are dangers out there, male dangers. Weirdos flashing themselves in doorways, men offering you lifts. I learnt to not go out alone at night, watch what I drank and the clothes I wore and the places I went.
My just on twenty year old son catches trains home from work late at night. I never worry, except to remind him to watch the head kickers when he's leaving town. If he was a she, I would feel different.
Trans women need to be careful too. Being a woman is being a member of the second sex, and despite our advancements, we still have to work with what is.
@Sportlandia: Sometimes Dan removes indications of gender from letters, and I'd imagine some male writers would do the same to spare themselves from being unfairly skewered (see, for example, MESSY's ex-husband).

* And you never had a Dick's Deluxe burger?

* It refers to a person who is not generic, if they (being the LW) feel that it's not important, they are communicating what they need to with proper, understandable context. If the gender matters they can state so. But otherwise the English language supports and provides for this. It's not a new usage.
Then what's your take on that letter, WoofCandy, @44? Rather than going all gender war mode give your interpretation.
@44 I've wondered if Dan switches the genders, or if writers-in do it all by themselves. My assumption is that DAMNIT is a women writing about [their] relationship to another woman (". I made it clear early on that I didn't feel comfortable"... seems a much more typically feminine construction, but I could be wrong) . @46, to @44's point: MESSY had an affair and got dumped and laid the blame at her lifetime of bad behavior, yet still Dan lays the lions share of suspicion at the husband's feet. It's almost as if he doesn't believe women can, on their own, do bad things or have impure thoughts. That's an attitude that wouldn't shock me coming from a SLOG poster but does a little bit from Dan, who I feel like has seen enough of humanity's shit by now to have dropped any illusions of snips-and-snails vs. sugar-and-spice. But whatever, it does sound like a dude writing; the affair, the "I don't do the right things to make him feel loved" bit.. smells very manly. Anywho, I can guarantee that had a man written this letter, that Dan would not have responded with "so - are you sure your wife isn't the problem?"
@47: Well that's a conspiracy theory that reflects solely on you.
Sportlandia, thanks for replying. The Woof man went silent.
I've got to go out now and I'll have to re read the letter and Dan's reply. Latter.
@47, Sportlandia. You have jumped to a few conclusions. We don't know when the affair happened or who dumped who. We know they got divorced and then reunited four months after.
Dan pretty well covered all options, the LW was pretty down on herself as the culprit. Is her husband fucking with her mind ( seriously, she's never fought for him, what the hell does that mean. And she carried and gave birth to his children), or she really is a big ol mess.
Either go or stay. If a man wrote in who was so self depreciating, I'm sure Dan would have questioned his self perceptions. You really believe us women think we're all sugar and spice and you boys are puppy dogs' tails?
The comments have already descended too far into pettiness and nitpickery.

DAVID @35: For whatever reason, DAMNIT did not want to prejudice the advice (see comment @47 as evidence of the inevitability of this happening) by revealing their own or their partner's gender. It isn't relevant to the question, so there was no need to specify.

Lava @36: Many people would be somewhat shocked to learn anyone they knew was trans and they hadn't picked up on it.

Lava @38: The title of the column does not necessarily have to relate to EVERY letter in the column. This title obviously refers to COCK's letter. Penises are irrelevant to the others, even if some of the characters involved have them.

Lava @41: COCK doesn't say where he lives. It's normal to meet people on dating sites, it's normal to meet people at parties, or at work, or through activities. Of the people I've met in the current calendar year whom I've sensed mutual interest in, two were from dating sites, five I met socially, and two were randos I met at clubs.

Woof @44: Someone else who magically knows the people in the letter, and that the husband is a perfect angel who isn't to blame in any way for this mess whatsoever. Most messes are made by two people. Recognising the possibility that a spouse is an abuser -- there are abusers of all genders -- isn't misandry, it's reality. I don't see anyone "skewering" anybody, rather suggesting possibilities, as there are a lot of ambiguities visible from the one side of the story MESSY has presented.
You don't know that Fan.( MESSY's letter involves s dick. ) Any more than I know Dan was referencing all the letters. Point taken re dating. Not sure that is a universal situation re trans women. I read recently a top model who has been doing elite designer's catwalks, has just come out as trans and she has been passing herself of as cis for several years.
Not sure why you're describing the comments as having gotten petty and nitpicking. People are allowed to see the same situation in different ways.
Lava, you don't find David's demand to know the gender of DAMNIT's partner petty and nitpicking? Or John's critique of COCK's potential girlfriend for not wearing a T-shirt that states "I Have A Penis" in every social situation?
I've come down with a head cold, I guess it's sapped my patience for dealing with obtuseness. I'll check back into the comments when I have more health points to spare.
Aw, Dan, love your answers this week. I think you work at the hardass advice attitude but the compassion comes naturally.

MESSY's letter does sounds like it was written by the husband, or it's channeling what he says, or it's narcissist games. Maybe he's a manipulator in this relationship and/or she is, we can't tell through the letter, but what we're pretty darn sure is there's no story where they're good together or are going to be. They should stay away from each other for a year and see what perspective they get.

Best kind of advice is the advice that's valid whether the letter reads one way or another.
Sorry to hear you have a head cold Fan and no I didn't react the same way to those posts. I read David as musing and asking why, and your reading of John's post, I don't see it.
@54: "They should stay away from each other for a year and see what perspective they get."

And after that year they should continue to stay away from each other. Both parties have been horribly unhappy for years and revisiting the trauma is not going to bear anything but rotten, codependent fruit.

Whether it's any combination of "her fault" or "was manipulated", the only way she can improve herself is through effort and therapy, giving a very short timeline and "end-goal" is going to stunt any potential growth as a person.

A year is a very short time to recover from a situation as unhappy that and they would both find themselves in the same misery, acting out those same roles. Better she focus on herself for a while.
I'm sure you're not entirely arguing with me here, I just feel uncomfortable with leaving that "hope" dangling with such a train-wreck of a relationship (and honestly, having dated someone like the LW in the past.)

If you're hurting someone repeatedly and they're asking you to "prove" your love to them, it's never ever going to be enough time to "make things right" nor should one (selfishly!) feel compulsed to.
@34: "know some people use methods to meet friends, like people that just moved to a town where they don't know anyone, etc but most people without a major personality defect don't need "methods" to make friends, it kind of just happens"

On a separate thread here, this really glosses over the concept of social capital.

I moved well past college and had to use "methods" to meet new people, but I see persons complaining of loneliness and not seeing the energy expent on finding and maintaining groups of IRL, good friends.

Past high school and college you're not stuck next to persons and forced to interact, so all friends would be earned through "methods". You invest social capital in relationships, spreading a web of finding persons who meet your interests. But most lead different lives, so you move on and spread yourself further, eventually finding persons here and there in various circles, and link them together through you. It's not exactly a conscious process, and it can be exhausting mentally and physically.

That's why I'm totally sympathetic to the lonely, I'm outgoing and have put a lot of energy into finding good supportive persons but someone with less energy and who expects it to be as easy and smooth as it was earlier in life is going to have difficulties, because there are a lot of steps glossed over in the process of cultivation.

People change, friends develop families or move, and unless you stay in the same town and area you grew up in, you're not going to eat chips, listen to Souxie Sioux LPs, and play D&D every weekend forever. Someone not partnered is also going to be socially limited from certain events and not have the benefit of their circle to draw off from.

Point is, sure it's possible if you're in a larger city, outgoing, can draw off of a subculture, invest the social capital over months to years, and can deal with the lonely outcome of not having the capital investment pay off immediately...

But it's not easy for everyone.

Hope that aside was helpful to someone struggling with anything similar, it's all good to keep in mind.
I'm outraged as well at the devolution of the comment thread into fighting and was so nice in the old days.
@48 what's the old quote about conspiracy theories being true? Just because your paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you? I feel like Cassandra up in here.
Well phooey, I had a long response typed up about how MESSY's letter reminded me of when I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, and blamed myself for being an awful person because I believed it when he would tell me he yelled at me because I "made" him do it by doing something wrong, or would get mad if I didn't adequately "prove" how much I loved him like he did all the time, and then the power went out in my building and I lost it all. To summarize, I thought a lot like MESSY did, i.e. "it's my fault, what's wrong with me?" I even did the "promise-breaking" thing he/she described - I started being late for dates, and wouldn't keep small promises, partly because it got hard to make an effort when it felt like I was walking on eggshells all the time already, partly because I thought that, maybe if I could make him a little less fond of me, he wouldn't get triggered so easily if I mentioned something that would upset him (like having fun with my family; he got jealous if I had fun with anyone but him).

I could be on the completely wrong track of course, but MESSY's portrayal of him/herself as the bad guy and the husband as some paragon of virtue who needs him/her to fix him/herself so that he/she is worthy of him reminded me of how easy it is to get into a relationship like that and not see it for what it is.
58-Undead-- Carolyn Hax summed it up well. (I'm remembering and paraphrasing so forgive me if this isn't entirely right.) School provides both shared interests and proximity. After that, if you want friends, you're going to have to look for something to provide those, and that something can feel artificial. Work provides daily interaction (proximity) but not necessarily shared interests. A hobby group will provide shared interest, but it probably meets once a week at best, so little proximity. There's really nothing like college where first you're thrown together with people who share you interests (same history class) and then you run into that person in the dining hall (proximity), and then you have the chance to narrow those interests further (hey, you're in my intro biology class too, and there you are in chess club).
All these letters remind me of the vaudeville sketch, "Doctor it hurts when I do this!" *SMACK with rubber chicken* "Then, don't DO that!"

Dilemma: COCK has a surprise trans girlfriend. Solution: Stop being so wishy-washy. Make a decision (stay or go) and be done with it.

Dilemma: DAMNIT (who usually isn't monogamous) is in monogamous relationship with with someone who usually isn't monogamous. Solution: Stop being so wishy-washy. Make a decision (stay or go) and be done with it.

Dilemma: MESSY, for more than a decade, has treated her husband like dogshit on the bottom of her shoe, but despite years of therapy is still doing it. Solution: Stop being so wishy-washy. Make a decision (stay or go) and be done with it.
aeros66@59..."I'm outraged as well at the devolution of the comment thread into fighting and was so nice in the old days.

What are these "old days" of which you speak? There have always been a handful of contrary (not gonna say "idiots" because everybody deserves their opinion no matter how ludicrous it may be) commenters stirring the pot. Many of these current ones are kittens in comparison.
@63: Well, in fairness, the solution "Stop being so wishy-washy. Make a decision (stay or go) and be done with it. " could really be all the response needed to 96% of all the letters run.

@64: I assumed that aeros66 was being ironic@59.
@65 ~ Yes.
@64 I was gonna say, SLOG is way more civil than it used to be.
@61, Jina. Your comment reminded me of aspects of my marriage, second guessing myself.
I often thought it came about because some men of my ex's generation would rely on his wife solely for his intimacy needs. Hopefully with the further confrontation of strict gender roles, for a lot of men this has changed. That pressure coupled with unconscious patriarchal expectations about how a woman should be as a wife, and I often felt disconnected and my authentic self not good enough.
Undead @56, you forget the small kids part. Obviously not a great priority for this couple as they do the crazy making dance on each other.
She won't have a lot of time to focus on herself, because small children, maintaining a seperate domicile etc etc. What she would have is space in her life and her head to feel herself away from whatever it is these two do to each other.
Whoever is feeding Messy this bull, and we all know who it probably is, needs to stfu. Change in this sort of situation needs to happen for both, it is a dynamic, a family one. If these two continue this way much longer, she'll end up in a really reduced mental state. Time to push back Messy, both against your own and his collusion in this mess. You guys are adults and have small children, and it sounds like your stuff fills the airways.
Find a more competent couples therapist, maybe do weekend workshops together, if you've got people to be with the kids. You have reconciled after the whole divorce process and this is what you two got back together for?

@56 of course you're right that after one year apart she should go for infinity years apart. I just like to imagine the LW is listening and might be convinced. And it's easier to accept advice that sounds more measured, less like a judgment on the relationship, which makes people defensive of it.

And it works out about the same; a year of no contact is usually enough to realize "I don't want to go into that again" if anything ever will be enough. (Not enough to get straightened out for a new relationship, that takes longer...)
@68: "Undead @56, you forget the small kids part."

Certainly they will be forced to interact but perpetuating this abuse on whatever party/parties will only pass this hurt further on the children.
In regards to “dick move” and other negative penis–related expressions:
I wonder why those expressions are still so liberally used and accepted, including by many who would be careful not to make similar statements on other human body parts and even by those who would find those statements to be offensive.
This is not an attempt to ignite another genitalia war and not directed at anyone here in particular (“dick move” was used by Mr. Savage at the end of his response to COCK.)
Am I seeing too much in this?
@LavaGirl: My take is informed by a friend who allows himself to be bullied and degraded by his wife of many years.

Why does he put up with it? He doesn't seem to understand he's being mistreated, even though it's obvious to everyone (men and women) in our social circle. She got him young, so he doesn't have much prior relationship experience. His personality fits the nice, passive, conflict-avoidant profile commonly targeted by borderlines, narcissists, psychopaths, and assholes. According to my lady, he's a "total catch", but it's not clear he sees himself that way. And our culture offers almost nothing that might help a man like him recognize the dysfunction in his relationship, let alone address it.

As for MESSY, I don't think she's emotionally fit be in a close relationship.
Same with the c word and pussy etc. CMD. It is strange we use slang words describing our genitals to offer put downs and worse. And the c word is the most offensive word there is to use.
I used to love that word as a describer of the fullness and power of a woman's genitals, not anymore as I hear or read it spat out in anger more and more.
WoofCandy, I don't see your friend's situation is like Messy's. It doesn't sound like she's bullying him. My take is he's the bully here and she acts out passive aggressively by breaking her word to him.
Dysfunctional relationships abound, thanks to the capitalist methods of child rearing, teaching us isolated and sometimes loopy modes of intimacy. It's whether people have the will to pull themselves out of their neurotic patterns.
@72: "And our culture offers almost nothing that might help a man like him recognize the dysfunction in his relationship, let alone address it"

Low self-esteem and dating shitheads is not a gendered thing.
@undead: Is there meant to be a connection between the sentence you quoted and your reply? Or are we doing some sort of free-association riff?
@71 the apologist view is that because dick-havers are systematic oppressors, and everyone else the oppressed, that negative associations with mens bodies are not as powerful and harmful as they would be for women.

What many people then (incorrectly) conclude is that because it's less powerful/impactful to use phrases like "dick-move" etc, that it can be considered NOT impactful and therefore harmless and completely fair and appropriate to use in almost any situation. This goes for essentially anything: "Men are strong, and I am weak, therefore it doesn't hurt as much when I choke and punch them. Therefore it's ok to grab this guy by the neck and punch him in the face" (Amelia Molitor syndrome). "Women are more emotional than men and therefore these pointed insults will not be as hurtful, so I can use them with no impact whatsoever". "This person is rich, and new taxes will not impact their way of life as much as it would mine. Therefore, the rich can afford unlimited tax increases".

Basically, the thinking goes, the presence of privilege prevents someone from feeling bad, ashamed, unconfident, hurt, etc. This is not true. They might not suck as much, if you are a male, or white, or straight or cis or rich, or any other privilege you have, but it doesn't mean that the suck is 0. So while I don't really have any type of visceral reaction to "dick move" or a majority of male-associated disses and insults, but I see it add up to something that bothers me. I see all the ways society tells me that certain aspects of my personality - my feelings - either don't exist, shouldn't exist, or to the extent that they do, should never be discussed openly. I see the ways that my gender has limited my choices in terms of how I earn a living, interact and exist within the world, and so on. But of course, I'm not really allowed to discuss this in an open and supporting environment without being accused of being an MRA, gay, or simply just weak; and i'm ALSO told these shouldn't bother me at all because women have it worse. But someone else having it worse does nothing to alleviate my issues.
Lava @ 73
I think that actually illustrates my point. Had Dan wrote “a cunt move” some would have been objecting, and rightfully so.
I have also witnessed some ordinary thoughtful folks who shy away from the p and c words and cringe when others say them having no problem describing someone they don’t like as “he’s a dick.”

@76: It was a reply to "our culture offers almost nothing that might help a man like him"

Beyond that, agreed that more persons should know that they shouldn't feel obliged to "male things work" when they're miserable. I always advocate for LWs to get out in these impossible spots for their health and happiness.
@77: "I see the ways that my gender has limited my choices in terms of how I earn a living, interact and exist within the world, and so on. But of course, I'm not really allowed to discuss this in an open and supporting environment without being accused of being an MRA, gay, or simply just weak; and i'm ALSO told these shouldn't bother me at all because women have it worse"

Sincerely, the saddest thing here is how you limit yourself and your potential. If other guys are telling you what you're allowed to be as a man, you're under no obligation to live the life they'd have you live.

Find your own happiness. Don't let the patriarchy define you as a man.
The PNW is pretty great for not trying to pigeonhole you into shitty categories, if you're in the outskirts or a more rural area you might have better luck at a more nurturing community in Portland or Seattle.
@13, 15. I'd think it easy in marital contexts for one partner to do ostensibly loving things without making their spouse feel loved. Let's take a stereotypically gendered example. A wife can have her husband's sock-drawer impeccably organized, his trousers perfectly creased, while denying him emotional or sexual imtimacy. This can even be deliberate--a kind of Stepford Wives holding herself above blame. And it can be unhappy and automatic and come about because her partner is denying her the things she needs.

I considered whether MESSY might be narcissistic or sociopathic and coming to a realisation of it. On balance I think she (probably 'she') isn't, and that the problem is that, deep-down, she doesn't love her husband.
I agree Harriet, I don't think she loves him or herself much. Because after all she is so bad. Organizing his sock drawer? Are wives still doing that.
CMD @78. There would be an outcry if Dan said he's a c..t, because calling someone that means they are scum, lowest form of human. Being called a d..k, means the person is a tool. Do women get called a d..k, like men are called c..ts. Not sure I've made your point at all.
Sportlandia, @77, your feelings can be discussed openly, if you push off the noxious notions of how a man must be. Society tries to define men and women certain ways, it's up to those of us who reject such tight constraints to break them. Tell people how you feel, change those internalised rules. Sharing our feelings with trusted friends and lovers, helps keep us being open and clear.
Boys aren't socialised to have the same sort of intimacy that girls are allowed, because you see boys with their heads together in school yards sharing intimacies, it would immediately be assumed they are gay, as you pointed out.
Girls just being girls.
Find a men's group, other men who are working to get beyond being defined by others. There was a book that came out many years ago, 'Iron John,' about the burgeoning men's consciousness raising movement. I've never read it. It's probably pretty dated by now, it still might be an interesting read. Find modern literature written by men, who are not MRA tools.
CMD @78: It's settled, then. We must now call all bad behaviour "an asshole move" because everyone has an asshole.
CMD @78: Much of this is an American thing. I guess, much like feminists have been far more successful in getting women called Ms in the US, in the UK it is not at all uncommon to hear people of all genders being called a c*nt (censored for delicate American sensibilities) or a twat. "Bollocks" also has a variety of uses, both good and bad ("the dog's bollocks" is something that's really good).
While I'd like a bit more feminism over here as regards how women are addressed ("Ms" good, "luv" bad), I'm happy to keep all the colourful language!
He's a "dick" has become so genericized that I don't think most people even think of the penis implication anymore (not that it isn't there sub rosa). She's a "cunt" still has that strong genitalia connection and is a much more powerful and negative put down as 1) it hasn't passed into common usage and 2) in a male-dominated society, female = weak or bad. Not saying that's true, just that it's sadly still the way it works in Trump's world.
@82: Its really hard to know what's pathological and how much is situationally horrible behavior, her therapist can suss that out.

The issue with "loves" and "doesn't love" is a bit tangential to that her relationship with him is damned and doomed. However she feels about him is irrelevant to how they are together, as a unit.

@83: "if you push off the noxious notions of how a man must be. Society tries to define men and women certain ways, it's up to those of us who reject such tight constraints to break them. Tell people how you feel, change those internalised rules."

Yes! There's still a lot of power in these feelings of loneliness/powerlessness and giving up expectations and living life on your own, healthy terms is scary. But it's really the only way to be better and whole, I hope Sporty some day finds that strength to power through.

Unrealistic expectations are real and harmful, one has to fully reject them in practice, false promises and feelings of entitlement are holding everyone back. That's how we got Trump, and the only way to reject those forces is to reject the constructed romanticism around what a "real man" is.
@86: Douchebag remains an accurate term for a harmful, unnecessary object. I'd say the more neutral enema, but that has the potential for medical purpose!

That has not been my experience at all, years ago I broke up with my boyfriend after realizing him and most of our friends were really toxic to my life, we had been together for over 3 years. I basically cut everyone out of my life. After taking some time to regroup I went to a local gay bar and asked to borrow a light from a guy. We started chit-chatting, he said he was waiting for friends but I should join them.

One of those friends is now my partner and the rest are very good friends that I pretty much see every week. Also I was able to reconnect with a bunch of old friends that I disconnected from in my toxic phase, one of those friends and how I met most of those friends in the first place was a woman that came up to be the second time ever I went to a gay bar (The first time I was trashed and just trying to get laid and I have basically no memories of) and said something along the lines of "Oh poor baby, you look new and scared, come talk to me and my friend).

My experience has always been put yourself out there, be confident, be kind and the right people will find their way into your life.
@89: I'm not suggesting there aren't good persons and that being outgoing isn't a productive path, just that it's not always so simple as "just put yourself out there!"

There's a lot of subtext that persons gloss over, and I'd be willing to bet you out energy info making and maintaining those connections. The exchange of social capital.

Essentially I'm not arguing with what happened, but after things work it's easier to discount the energy expenditure, and there's a sort of survivorship bias there that discounts the experience of those who didn't have the same fortune. To put it a different way, the "natural ease" you feel is the ability to passively devote an allotted amount of social capital whereas others may expect it to happen without expending the same efforts. Others may have to put themselves out there as you did, but take a conscious, active effort to do so. Hopefully that explains the perspective that I'm suggesting here.

Confidence isn't necessarily possible to possess in public when you're already smarting, kindness can be expressed in a conversation but that has to be initiated, I don't know that suggesting that good things WILL happen without expending that effort to combat fears and insecurities first.

Again I think we may be speaking similar things but from different POVs. I just think that it's okay to feel insecure and take risks, that it requires more active exchange of energy, and it must be taken into account that you're not going to jive with everyone's personality and become BFFs, or even remain friends with life being so full of flux and change. I see that filtering and those attempts as an investment that can but doesn't always pay off. Just deal with the exhaustion as best you can and the energy can be put towards finding yourself in the situation that makes you happiest with those good people.

Regardless, I'm very happy to hear your story, grats!
@82. UndeadAyn. I don't think I can say whether the relationship is doomed or not. Responses to MESSY's letter have ranged from 1) her (probably) husband is an abuser who gaslights her, to 2) she's a good person who messes up and self-sabotages, even in this context, to 3) she's a game-playing narcissist who exercises control by withholding things from him. I can't tell which of these is right from the letter--so I'm not sure I can tell anything. Nor do I know whether the conventional vocabulary of 'loves', 'cares for', 'fights for', 'makes an effort for' is apposite or not.
@91: I don't really care whether "love" is accurate or not (self-ascription allows her to feel howeced she's going to feel), it's irrelevant to the pathological harm this relationship is doing to all parties.

I can't know her/his "true soul", all I can go by is that this relationship is incredibly toxic for them and their kids and the farce needs to end.
@undead: It was a reply to "our culture offers almost nothing that might help a man like him"

Not really. My statement was about the lack of support available to men in relationships with female shitheads.

Your reply: Low self-esteem and dating shitheads is not a gendered thing. appears to be a rebuttal of a different statement that no one here has made.

Is there some connection that I'm missing, or are you just confused?

@93: "My statement was about the lack of support available to men in relationships with female shitheads."

It's an extremely unproductive statement that looks to introduce a perceived unfairness without stating what "support" is, how men are exclusively and universally denied it, and what would need to change so guys are better protected from other guys calling them "pussies" or whatever you think is preventing self and external help with codependent and toxic relationships.

Nobody here is arguing in favor of bro-isms and any aspect of toxic masculinity that's holding a guy down and repressing his potential and happiness.

Claims of gender gatekeeping for support systems that are not gendered in practice or structure is not going to help your agenda, and certainly not any guy suffering from being trapped in a relationship like the LW's.
Beyond the argument of which set of genitalia gets it easier, it seems like genitalia is often presented in a negative way.
And speaking of, the actual act gets it far worse. “I’m going to screw you,” “stop fucking with me” are mild every day uses. In most of them sex appears as unwanted, some times even forced.

@94 just for the record, when I think about why I can't speak freely about things (as referenced in @77), it's people like you who make it this way. I hesitate to say I have this issue or that issue because biotches like yourself will jump to conclusions and hyperbolize just to make [yourself] feel smugly superior. Congrats. Yes, my issues with the patriarchy are self-inflicted, the only reason I haven't overcome them is because "[I] limit [my]self and [my] potential". Wow, great comment, really dug to the core of it there.

Why does Woof's "our culture offers almost nothing that might help a man like him" need to be a "exclusively and universally" a men's issue? What kind of logical leap is that? That's a zillon times less productive than what you're replying to. Your responses add up to "shut up and accept it". Well, go deep throat a cactus. Peace.
@96: I get that you want to express however you're hurting, but literally nothing of what I've ever said here, to you or anyone is "shut up and accept it".

Radiating whatever hurt outwards is not going to help you, maybe you should speak with a professional if whatever has occurred in your life is so traumatic? Hopefully the option is available to you.
And "Yes, my issues with the patriarchy are self-inflicted, the only reason I haven't overcome them is because "[I] limit [my]self and [my] potential"."

I'm saying you're internalizing these harmful messages and if they're causing pain, why would you stick to them?
The harm is real, the hurt is real, and it hurts all of us. I apologize if I've suggested that anything is your "fault", I'm just suggesting that maybe the culprit of a lot of misery should be targeted more carefully (again, not you).
@undead: I see.

Here's some feedback for you. Your profound narrow-mindedness and lack of imagination has closed you off to the reality that female bias can and does work against men, which is ironic because your behavior here is proof of it. When men (the few that are left) speak here, you dream up the worst possible interpretation you can imagine, make up a story about them that fits some stereotype you read in a tabloid, label it "mysogyny", and then point to your made up story as an excuse to bully and harass them. You hijack feminist concepts like "tone policing" and use them to rationalize your toxic and abusive behavior. You seem incapable of listening to them, or engaging in good-faith, two-way conversations with them. And you suffer from the delusion that your angry diatribes are somehow helping your cause.

You're not a feminist. You're just a bully and a hater.

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