Savage Love Nov 14, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Orpheum Theater


The compromise for having kids or not is getting a dog.

Now, I'm not saying this is a good compromise...
Excellent advice all around, Dan, and snappy and funny, to boot! Plus some bonus Esther Perel, who may be the coolest woman on the planet and I wish I'd known about when I was married, because working with her might have saved us. Alas.
But that "rounding up a .64?" No. Not a .64, which isn't even 2/3 of 1, and isn't more than half--half--of what you're looking for. I don't think you should round up to 1 until you're at .75--maybe .7. I mean, would you want your son to round up someone who wasn't even two thirds? Please recalibrate!
Nocute @ 2 - I second that. .75 is a minimum.
If a couple hasn't had sex in 11 years, the youngest a child of theirs could be is ~10 years old. And the other kid would have to be older still. I wouldn't consider a 10-yr-old and and (say) 12-yr-old as "young children." They're school-aged, even middle-school or high-school aged. More than halfway to adulthood. Just seems an odd way to refer to them.
@4: I agree. I'm also curious as to why they don't have sex, if they're 'still in love'.
@1 ForkyMcSpoon: Congrats on being first. I'd agree, and although you've allotted yourself an out ("Now, I'm not saying this is a good compromise...") I am more of a cat person, myself. I can't help thinking Dan's spot on response to a LW a while back: "You've already made the dog mistake. Don't make the child mistake"---really fits like a glove here, too.
@2 nocutename: Nocute strikes again! I third Ricardo's comment. Spot on, and kudos! .75 truly should be the starting point bare-bones minimum.
Ever so spot on, Dan, again this week:
Q: Have you ever thought of moving to Vancouver?
A: Frequently between January 20, 2001 and January 20, 2009 and constantly since January 20, 2017. I share in your pain, feeling the same way.
p.s. I received a nice order confirmation email from the ITMFA store and once I receive my package, plan to wear my ITMFA tank top and flag pin proudly. Make America Think Again!

Fifthing or sevening the great advice, accompanied by an occasional potentially embarrassing laughter and giggle while in a public place.

As for sexless monogamy- “zerogamy”?

As for wanting kids- the wanting person should not force the not-wanting one. Accept no kids if you stay, and leave peacefully if you’re determined to have any.

Martial arts as an excuse for BDSM-related bruises reminds me of a mainstream Canadian film some 30 years ago that dealt with different sex-related situations. In one of them a woman claims “judo” as the reason for the marks. They spoke French in that movie, maybe in order to enhance the potential sexines.
Does anyone remember the title?
@2 That's always kind of bothered me as well. .67 is roughly 2/3. Maybe that's what he means? Because 2 outta 3 ain't bad? (I'm so sorry. I couldn't help it.)

Anyway, I'd jump through many hoops to see Dan and Esther on stage together.
Yes, Esther is one cool woman. I'm waiting on her book, getting myself prepared for my next life. Doubt it'll be relevant for this one.
If "What Do I Do" hasn't had sex with his wife in 11 years, his children either aren't "young" or they are adopted.
The question seems not to be "What if my wife doesn't want an open relationship and I do," but "What if I want sex and my wife doesn't."
I cannot understand claiming to be in love with someone and not wanting to have sex with them. FOR ELEVEN YEARS. Are there medical reasons? Is she asexual? Did she tell you that before the marriage and kids thing?
I'm with Dan: absence of sex makes the conditions for monogamy null and void. Assuming there is no medical reason and that she doesn't want to resume a sex life, tell her this, and go get what you need.

For the straight-appearing bisexual, I presume the question is not "how do I come out" but "how do I be out." Opening one's mouth is not necessarily a viable option, say, at work when the subject hasn't come up. Here's one way to do it, but not everyone has a backing band:…
How about putting up a Bi Pride flag at your desk?

For "My partner and I," that's the great thing about polyamory -- you can fall for someone else, while remaining in love with your partner. Good luck!

Ages ago my Gay Best Friend and I set the percentage for rounding-up to 85%. Perhaps that is why neither of us is currently married... (What's more important, marriage or compatibility? Answers on a postcard.)

CMD @8: My word for a sexless yet closed relationship is "nonogamy."
nocute @2 and Ricardo @3 - Dan has it right.

The difference between setting the bar at .75 or .64 is the difference between an LTR that can last a few months/years and the one that can last a few decades.

Not that there's anything wrong with a series several year LTRs but a lot of people want a life partner, which functionally means a decades long LTR. Tolerance for a .64 is important, people change over time (up and down on compatibility).

Just be sure the .64 includes stuff that's super important for both of you, your list may vary, but high on most peoples lists: having kids, sexual compatibility, politics, money management.
BiDanFan @12 - exactly my point. And if compatibility is most important for you, and single-hood / series of shorter LTRs is preferable, by all means set that bar at 85%!
On the question 'can there be a compromise on one partner wanting a child and one not?':

Let's suppose here that the couple here are monogamous, and that the person wanting the child has always anticipated raising a kid in a fairly standard nuclear family. Of course children can be raised by communes, collectives, polycules, villages; to an extent, they _have_ to be raised by more than a two-parent dyad, and to an extent, they should be; but leaving that aside, I'll imagine that the broody partner's mind cannot stretch to any non-normative form of cohabitation. The thing I'd say to this person is 'do NOT be led to believe by your partner that there are compromises'. In the long run--sometimes the short run or medium run--you are going to have to leave your partner to have a family. Unless, and in so many cases it's not likely and not practicable, you are going to be able to switch to some probably co-parenting arrangement ... maybe in which you are poly, maybe in which you are raising a child who's not your current partner's, for whom he or she has less than full parental responsibilities ... and you still want to be with this person as a monogamous or primary partner ... --well, unless all these things, your relationship has a sell-by date.

Of course, there are ways that both of you can expose yourself with children and get a feel for what it's like to be a full-on parent. Your friends can have kids. You can be an involved auntie or uncle. You can up the laundry and ironing you do in preparation. Or cut down on the sex (? -- ;). This is probably what you should do in the first instance. It's good first-stage advice. Maybe your partner will come round to it; maybe they have cold feet, or a heightened sense of responsibility and understandably fear not being 'good enough'. But if they're adamant...? If you're not moving to a kibbutz, if you're not becoming your nephews' and nieces' second 'mother' (mother of either sex) ... it's probably right that your mindset is 'there are no compromises'.

I have seen this situation from two perspectves. The first is as someone fucking unwilling fathers casually. Their relationship with their wives is generally terrible: resentful, often hedged in secrecy e.g. about the extent of their gay lives; they fret about being negligent fathers, are negligent fathers and in one case had bitterly repudiated mother and child. The other perspective is as secondary caregiver alongside a single parent. The only person virtually on the planet this parent (my friend/partner) had a bad, unresolved relationship with was the child's other parent. Despite his best efforts, I would say the child suffered through the ultimately absent parent's highly erratic, uncommitted care. If the arrangement is that there should be two willing, full-on parents, do your damndest to make sure there are two parents. Don't start out sort-of knowing there's only one.

Re your 'first time':

I built this up into an importance it did not deserve in retrospect. Did I really want this sex act? (I had internalised homophobia and understood sex as penetrative by definition). Weren't there health risks? (This was the age of AIDS). Hadn't I left it too late? Perhaps books and study were for me, and sex just wasn't? Perhaps my orientation was essentially Platonic? Wouldn't I disappoint any lover I really wanted? They were all unreachable! Wasn't my inexperience embarrassing? Couldn't I wait until college? Shouldn't any sex life I began to explore be separate, psychologically and geographically, from my father's?

Afterwards I had a sense of 'that's all I had to do?'.
No sex in 11 years—agree with @4 that these kids are not young, but likely still require a lot of hands-on parenting. Plus middle schoolers are probably less resilient to family upheaval.

I think the wife hopes he will age out of any desire for sex if she keeps stalling. I think she’s kidding herself.

Catching feels in open relationship—am I the only one who catches feels for other people all the time whether I’m fucking then or not?
I'm surprised that you didn't advise "amateur gay man" to learn as much as possible about his own body (what he likes, dislikes, or might be curious about) while solo, before going for partnered sex. Has he fantasized about whether he'd like to top/bottom/switch? If he believes he'd prefer to bottom, has he tried any anal play ... so that the first time his BF goes there it's not an automatic freak-out for him.

Being an "amateur" should not be a synonym for "clueless".
@ 4 - The children could have been adopted.

@ 8 - Could it be The Decline of the American Empire? And no, when they speak French in Canadian movies, it's not just for show, or sexiness, or to be exotic. It's because they're from Québec, where French is spoken as a first language by most people.

@ 13 - Actually, I'm pretty sure we're right precisely because of that. Since most married people tend to "drift apart", if you set a low bar of .64, by the ten-year mark your partner will be a .54 to you, and on and on like that. After 30 years, you'll be living with someone who you'd run away from if you were to meet them then.
I 100% agree with Harriet @15 that pushing someone who is iffy into having a child is a big mess waiting to happen. Don't do it. If you absolutely have to have a kid, leave and find someone else. If you've left it too late, biologically (quite likely these days) to do that: suck it up, be sad, mourn, and get over it. Possibly console yourself with the several hundred thousand extra dollars you will have, as well as the free time to spend it in. Or, if you've got the means, leave and do it alone, but make sure you have a serious support system set up before you do: grandparents and nannies and friends.

There are 7.5 billion people here, we really don't need any more. Especially any that aren't truly wanted by everyone involved.

*goes to donate to Planned Parenthood again*
Re: compromising on kids --

What about becoming foster parents?…
Ricardo @19: I'd rephrase Delta's comment to "The difference between a .75 and a .64 is whether you'd rather be happy or married." If all you want is to settle, then by all means settle. But this is not a recipe for long-term satisfaction with a partner. It's a recipe for long-term misery. (And what about the .85 who's out there, and who now also has to settle for someone else because you picked the first Mr or Ms "You'll Do" who came along?)
BDF @ 22 - Agreed.

I'm of the "It is better to be alone than in bad company" school of thought, so I'd choose hapiness on my own (if need be) over marriage, but anyone who wants to settle into something that's perhaps comfortable even though it may not be satisfying is welcome to do so. I've seen enough examples of that around me - including my parents - to know it's not for me. (Funnily enough, my siblings and I, now all in our 50s, are all currently single and very much convinced we'll stay that way forever.)
BDF @ 22, cont'd. - And I wish more people were honest and admitted that they're looking for Mr. or Ms. You'll Do instead of pretending they're looking for Mr. or Ms. Right. Everyone else's expectations could be adjusted accordingly and there would be less deception in this world.
@21: MiscKitty, while your suggestion stems from admirable impulses, I think it is a bad idea to foster children as a compromise to having your own through birth or adoption when one member of the couple doesn't want children. Unless the only reason someone doesn't want kids is because of a commitment to zero-population growth, foster kids are not a "halfway" compromise when one person wants the responsibilities and joys of raising a child and the other one wants the freedom of not having those responsibilities. Foster children have already been burned and are frequently in greater need of stability and nurturance. They shouldn't be used as "trial kids" or compromises.
delta35: I married someone who I would have put at .98. The marriage lasted decades. It still ended. Rounding down my expectations to significantly less wouldn't have necessarily made a marriage last for 50 years--or at least not happily. If I had married someone who was my .64, that marriage likely wouldn't have lasted 2 years. Long-term relationships take a lot of compromise and sometimes work, but life is going to throw some serious obstacles our way, and if your parter is only just above half of what you want, I don't think it's going to be enough to weather the storms.

I don't think there's any way to guarantee going in that a relationship will be able to survive happily for the long haul. That doesn't mean we don't try, and it doesn't mean we don't each have our own must-haves and willing-to-compromise-on and reluctantly-agree-to characteristics.

I agree that holding out and looking for perfection leaves you alone for life (which is not necessarily a bad thing, either), but rounding up a .64 seems like bad advice and fairly glib, too. Dan has a tendency to say something once and then adopt is as his default or as gospel, and I don't think he really thought through what .64 was the first time he said it when initially made his point about settling and "the one." Now it's just his standard line. I'd ask Dan if he thought Terry was only .64 or if he'd want his son to settle for a .64--if he really stops to think of what it means to have a partner hit only 2/3 of what you want in a partner. I'd say .75 is more realistic if what you want is merely to settle and I also think that .85 is not a ridiculous goal. Plenty of people meet and marry their .95.

Also, is the point you should settle because no one is 100% of what you want, or is the point that there is more than one person out there you could be happy with? I'm never entirely sure which of the two he means when Dan says there's no "The One". You find some schlub and decide he'll do, or when a relationship that you thought was "It"--the big "It for Life" doesn't work out, you know that there is another "One" (or several more "Ones") out there.
Another situation where a .64 may be an acceptable compatibility level is when you are poly. A while back I was fortunate enough to have three .64s who added up to about a .98.

Or if your standards are ridiculously high in the first place.
Just thinking out loud here-- A friend knew she wanted children but couldn't find the right guy who was the right companion for her as a friend and lover who also wanted children. She adopted and went the single mother route. It's worked out for her. She works a good job with flex hours, takes care of her son who's now in junior high, does pretty much everything. If her facebook page is any indication, her son is terrific, well-adjusted, really growing up to be a great young man. She has a supportive family, but she doesn't live with them, so they help on occasion, not on a day to day basis. She doesn't date regularly, doesn't have a man in her life. I think she'd like to, though I'm not sure.

This is speculation, but how different would it be if she'd talked to a guy who did want to be with her but didn't want children and laid it out plainly that she'd have the kid but do everything? They could continue dating and sleeping together, and he'd have no responsibility for the child. Would it hurt the kid that much to have that sort of absent father? He doesn't have a father as it is. Seems to me that sort of arrangement could work.
To add another voice to the "only one of us wants kids" dilemma: the way my partner and I are resolving this is by hosting international exchange students (once we're financially secure). I sort of wanted kids, but neither of us ever wants to raise small children - so we're going to take care of other peoples' kids, be involved with his niece and nephew, and take comfort in the fact that we can both enjoy being a part of these kids' lives, then *give them back*.
...How would you help a woman who has never experienced an orgasm?...
Dan's suggestion is a good one, but ultimately it's up to her to want to learn how. There are gazillions of web pages/discussions devoted to this. Maybe screen a few that sound like they know what they're talking about & pass it on to her.

...We haven't had sex in 11 years...What do I do?...Seems like you've already decided. It's been 11 years and you're still in the same rut. Paint or get off the ladder...Or get a sheep.

...Is there a way to compromise if one partner wants kids and the other does not?..."There's not really any compromise here. Kids are a lifelong commitment. Be damn sure you want 'em before creating them. Both of you.

...How to explain bruising, scratches, rope marks, etc....Construct a steep moat ringed by a tall, dense hedge of thorn bushes around your house with no gateway. Then everyone will be bruised and scratched, so no one will notice.

...What's the best-case scenario in the wake of an affair?... You win the lottery, move to Bali and spend the rest of your life lying in the sun and fucking the shit out of a succession of beautiful, bronzed Polynesians. That's the best case scenario.
Fichu@28 ~ "Would it hurt the kid that much to have that sort of absent father?
Yes it would hurt the kid(s). Children always know when they're not wanted.
Donny @ 30 - But the question was "...How would YOU help a woman who has never experienced an orgasm?..." He gave a direct answer as to how HE would personally do that.
Fichu @28: Agree with DonnyK @31. I had a father who was much less absent than you describe and it still sucked. If your hypothetical woman wants to be a single mother, I think she should go the sperm donor route and have a completely different man serve as Mommy's Boyfriend.

Ricardo @32: Agree with you too, gold star for reading comprehension there :)
BDF @ 12
Or maybe “nogamy”?

Ricardo @ 19
“Decline” it is and I assumed Quebec it is as well, just mused about the sex appeal that the French language may still carry on US audiences while attempting to articulate it under slightly intoxicated conditions. .
When she said “judo” it sounded like “Jew, dough” which made me think of waiting for the challah bread to rise.
The full movie can, and should be, viewed here:…

Fichu @ 28
I join Donny @ 31 on the single parenthood perspective. Of course single parents can date, but parenting should not be taken lightly nor part-timely.

Fresh @17 "Catching a feeling" for others is a sign that you have not become senile IMHO.
In the relationship I am in with Miss N. I am the "Sail" and she is the "anchor" . In my case a very large and immobile anchor. The result is that I push new people into our social circle and she is passive. I cannot help this habit, and it continues to happen. I seek connections with others, she selects solitude.
Donny @ 30 HA! Love the bromide" paint or get off the ladder" !! This strikes me as a "cleaned-up" version of my mothers version which came form her career in the U.S. Marine Corps circa 1942
@ 25 nocutename: There are lots of reasons someone might not want kids that could be circumvented mostly or entirely by instead providing a home for a teenager who badly needs one. And you're absolutely right: their family might not be a good fit. But since fostering isn't something that necessarily occurs to everyone as they discuss their options for expanding their family, I thought it was at least worth mentioning.
@36: I wish more people would consider fostering. Too many kids need homes and families and too many of the foster parents out there are fostering for the wrong reasons (i.e. to get a check from the state or county) and are not ideal foster parents.
I think it's good that you drew attention to the need, but I just think that the solution to the issue of one person wanting a child and the other one not wanting one is to break up.
CMD @ 34 - I particularly like the "I'd let him hurt me" line by the gay character when the guy who's responsible for the bruises drops by unexpectedly.
Agree nocute, Ricardo and others, the bar for choosing a life partner needs to be around 75-80.
In hindsight I'd have a clear list, top of which would be how he treated and felt about his mother/ significant parent. Then, how soon he responded with anger and how that looked. How was he around babies, small children, etc.
Falling in love shouldn't mean falling in blind, yet it's hard to be pragmatic when the love bug hits.
As a decidedly child-free person who has had a few partners who were not, one part of the appeal to the child wanters seems to be passing along their DNA, which fostering, mentoring etc would do nothing to accomplish. I agree that "break up" is the best solution.
@ 37 - I do, too. And I really wish more LGBT allies would consider it, since LGBT kids get the short end of the stick in foster care -- there are foster families that flat out refuse to care for them. That's why I posted that HRC link when I mentioned it.

Generally speaking, I agree with you that breaking up is usually the best option when people are at odds about having kids. But if, for example, the reason someone doesn't want kids is tied to not wanting to care for young kids but they enjoy older kids, fostering could potentially be a good fit for them. The same could be true if, as you mentioned, they don't want to add more people to the planet. It just depends on the individuals.
Glad everyone is picking up on this rounding up and there is no 'one' nonsense. I feel like I've been calling Dan out on this for a while now.
@28. Fichu. That arrangement (she is a single parent; she remains with a single live-out lover romantically) probably would not hurt the child. It would hurt her or him less than two parents living and squabbling together, one of whom did not want to be part of the family.

The question is rather whether she could continue to regard her partner with esteem. He would know what a huge part of her life being a mother was, yet want no part of it. In the situation of wanting a child, most women (I guess) have an ideal of looking for a 'husband' who will be committed and involved.
@31. Donny. The mother would love the child. The mostly absent father could still have something positive to offer him or her. Of course, he or she or they could come to resent the father or see him as a waste of space.
@40, @44
Former foster parent here. We were not in this situation, we both wanted a kid and adopted said kid after fostering. However, even at my relatively advanced age I think about fostering again, though I absolutlely DO NOT want another kid on the long-term. And when I think of fostering I think of fostering a bitty baby, who needs cuddles and total care. My son lived with his first foster mother from the time he was born until the time we found him at 8mo. We're very grateful for her loving care!

My point being, is that there are lots of motivations to want kids, and lots of lots of foster kids who need all sorts of different kinds of care for different periods of time. But just like becoming a bio-parent, you have to take a leap of faith that you can and will do it, that you don't have to be perfect because no parent is perfect. And accept the experience and what it might do to you. That absolutely would have to apply to both partners, even though only one might be truly "on call" for parenting.
I don't have a lot to add here, but kudos to all commenters on this week's Savage Love. Excellent points made.
"..move to Bali and spend the rest of your life lying in the sun and fucking the shit out of a succession of beautiful, bronzed Polynesians."

Bali is in Indonesia, not Polynesia.
The Polynesians I live amongst are more likely to vacation in Vegas, rather than Indonesia. ;-)
"Is there a way to compromise if one partner wants kids and the other does not?" Dan's answer is correct. I would add that anyone who thinks "giving in" to children is a good idea, know in advance that children are the official end of you romantic relationship. The rest of your life is indentured servitude to the new addition and you will likely end up hating your spouse. But according to everyone it is worth it (because once you have the kid you are trapped).
Oh Popelick Monster, that's sad. And yes it can look like that for the first few years. Then they grow and go to school. If the romance dies, it's not the children's fault.
Now my children are grown and all seemingly doing ok running their shows, was it all worth it?
It sure felt like being in a hell realm for several yrs there, and nights out very few. Bit like warrior training.
My two cents as far as compromising on the issue of children... so I am 31 years old. I have a younger brother who is 29 years old. My parents have been married for over 35 years. When they got married, the agreement was that they wouldn't have children. My mother was only 21 when they got married, and a few years later, she really, really had baby fever. My dad still didn't really want to do the kid thing, but my mom wore him down. My parents had and still have very different ideas about what it means to be a good parent. Their parenting styles are very different, and I think that my father resented having to share my mom with us kids. I do believe that he loves both of us, but he has always been hard on both of us, though moreso on my brother. Having been the child of someone who didn't want kids, I figured it out at a pretty young age and so did my brother. It wasn't a fair thing to do to us. My father blamed almost all of the problems in the relationship he has with my mom on us. My father has also been quite emotionally distant, especially from my brother, and their relationship is still not good. Knowing that my father didn't want us and his behavior towards us over the years hurt us both a lot. Certainly, my father never intended to behave in hurtful or emotionally abusive ways towards his children, and it wasn't like he beat us or called us names, but both of us knew from a young age that he would have very much preferred it just to be him and my mom. If one person wants kids and the other doesn't... please either do not have children or break up. Don't force anyone to be a parent. It just hurts everyone in the longterm.
@48 Popelick Monster, @49 LavaGirl, and @50 AriasByMoonlight: I don't have any children, so I can't share any parenting experience. But I will say that if one is in an abusive, toxic relationship, adding any kids would only make the nightmare worse. Kids have no say and they're not at fault, but would still be in a tragically unhealthy environment, nonetheless. My one bad marriage would definitely qualify as Dan's textbook definition of 'a child mistake' scenario.
Worse yet, at this point, any daughter or son I might have had would still be a minor under the age of fourteen, and by law I would still be tied to my ex, who would have had full visiting rights. That would have been one ugly, disastrous, irreparable mess.
@50 AriasByMoonlight: "Don't force anyone to be a parent. It just hurts everyone in the longterm." SO spot on! If I had a crisp $100 bill for everyone throughout my adult life (i.e.: my ex, his parents, sisters, his equally clueless male friends, meddlesome old bags, biddies, and self-appointed mother hens--'Ohhh, that old biological clock is're not getting any younger....don't you feel like you're missing something?', etc.---who conspired through bullying, guilt tactics, unfair peer and social pressure, and other assorted bullshit ploys for me to bear a child or a truckload of children against my wishes, I would be filthy, stinking rich.
I had to battle my ass off but it was worth it. I was able to just plain walk away from a bad marriage and start a healthier, saner life anew. Thank heavens my own parents were fully understanding and supportive of my views. It helped that they were already blessed with five grandkids and one great-grandson under better living conditions.

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