Savage Love

Overfished

Comments

1

The first unusual thing about CATFISH's letter is that she fears for her safety. These fears are a reason she gives for not coming clean with her correspondent. Why? Why does she fear? She hasn't given her actual name or age. Has she given her address? Could he find her? Is her PTSD elevating or generalising a fear? If this last thing is it, she should tell herself it's not rational to be afraid this way; and that she can climb down, end it with her friend, without this stymieing her.

The next thing is that she regards the man, the fetishist and Internet correspondent, as her boyfriend, despite never having been with him or touched him. With expressions like 'these two men', she comes close to putting this purely verbal or remote, this nearly-purely-fantasy, relationship on a par with a 20-year plus marriage. This does not say anything about her being a bad person--a liar, a fake, a narcissist. It says something about her marriage and her life. Would she think that her marriage is deficient, in its not giving her opportunities to exercise her creativity, her capacity for make-believe, sexually or non-sexually, as Dan says? How could she rechannel some of the effort and care that goes into her hours' worth of correspondence (presumably also video messages--or not?) with this guy into her life with her partner? How could she start making this effort? What would her husband be open to? I think these are much more promising areas for her therapy, or analysis, to move into, than her flagellating herself. She isn't a bad person, but someone whose imagination has run away with her--in a way that now risks serious damage to three people at the least.

I'm not sure how to take her remark she loves both men. How does her love to her husband show itself, for example? It could be that they've stopped loving each other, or at least stopped making a show of romantic gestures. If she loves the other guy, is it the sort of love that can understand it would be better for her to give up chatting--that he deserves a chance of a relationship with someone available? She says she wants help dropping her 'boyfriend'. She should be honest with herself about whether she can.... No 'help' here can be any good. Being honest with the fetish-site guy, leaving him to find someone 'real', is just something you do when you're ready to do it. So do it. CATFISH has all my sympathy. The hard questions she has to ask herself are about her marriage...--and the answers she finds will not necessarily paint her in the role of the villain, the CPOS....

2

I think NFI dwells too much on her imperfections. She has so much to offer! Companionship, caring, occasional sex (or more than occasional...). And love--why not say it? I know it's a sex column, but why be embarrassed about the possibilities, whatever your age, for love? At age 70, it may not make too much sense to say that your vagina is in shape or bent out of shape. It's still standing, sort of. I wouldn't think you have to imagine you're compromising on exactly the partner you'd like to make up for shortfalls (a wonky vag, as if...) in what you can offer. Go for what you want!

3

Does lying about one's age (name and relationship status are contextual factors, not personal factors) really count as catfishing? I thought that was reserved for sending fake pictures, being a different gender, and otherwise misrepresenting oneself materially. I think that lying about contextual factors is still shitty and ill-advised, but lying about age is so common (according to others - I've not done this nor had anyone do it to me as far as I know) that it makes the term "catfishing" much less useful if that's included.

Also, I still don't understand the concept of an "emotional affair". If you're neglecting a partner to spend time with someone else, your crime is neglect, not having a strong emotional connection with someone. Friendship, even close friendship, with people you aren't fucking isn't a bad thing?

4

Ditto, Joan Price‘s good advice (for all women): “Keep your vagina active!...”
Play a little Bingo with it, take it out for fresh air and a movie every now and then. Sign it up for a pottery class or Pickleball. Maybe teach it a foreign language.

5

" Would it make sense for me to look for a man who may also have some sexual issues and/or be willing to work with/around mine? Someone who enjoys all the other aspects of sexual intimacy besides penis in vagina? How would I find such a man? I'm not necessarily just looking for sex—a compatible companion would be great."

There are many men who would love to meet and spend time with a good mature woman under these circumstances. Just be honest up-front and tell him exactly where your at and be honest. No one is perfect, but honesty is the key here.I could appreciate such an honest admission.

6

CATFISH you write: “I've tried multiple times: I've told him that he is better off without me, that I'm a bad person, and that he shouldn't trust me. Each time, he convinces me to stay.” Making vague statements about someone being better off with out you is simply not the same as telling someone you are married and will not leave your husband of 20 years. So it is no wonder your online man offers reasons to convince you otherwise. What is wrong is that you use that as justification for continuing your relationship.

The other thing you need to understand is that you are not in love with this man. You know nothing about him and have never meet him in person.

NFI, given your limited libido, your physical limitations with respect to sex, and the probable limitations of your potential sex partners, you might consider something other than seeking a single sex partner, but look for many with whom your combined interests and limitations allow you to enjoy a full range of experiences that you could not enjoy with just one partner.

7

You're not in love with someone off the internet that you've never met!

8

“I've told him that he is better off without me, that I'm a bad person, and that he shouldn't trust me.”

Ugh, this line is so ostentatiously and disingenuously self-punishing my eyes nearly rolled out of my head when I read it. This is what people say in order to abnegate responsibility, so that when they repeat the same bad behaviors over and over they can just shrug and say, "Well, I TOLD you I was a bad person!" If LW1 really believed her essential badness was as baked in as she suggests in this letter, and if she truly wanted to keep the people she supposedly loves out of harm's way, she'd let them both go. But she doesn't, because she clearly enjoys the drama of the "boyfriend" begging for her to come "back." It's totally understandable to want to feel desirable, but this is such a shitty and manipulative way to go about it.

9

"Some people think it's okay to do terrible things so long as they have the decency to feel terrible about having done them." This makes so much sense, Dan. You were far more compassionate with LW than I would have been. The PTSD issue was hidden way down at the bottom of the letter. I'm glad this woman is in therapy. You're right, wanting to be a better person isn't enough -- and it's not clear to me that she wants to be a better person. Perhaps she was hurt by being a good person, so it makes more sense to her to be a bad one -- "hurt them before they have a chance to hurt me" -- that could be the "defense mechanism" her therapist is talking about. The answer to her question -- how to end the relationship without doing any more damage to her two partners -- is that she can't. There is no way to break up with Mr Online without hurting him. And there is no way to not break up with him without hurting everybody, so she has to do the right, and hurtful, thing. Her mantra should be "he'll get over it," because most of us do. He'll be a bit less naive about trusting who people online say they are, so she can consider that something positive to come out of the relationship. But she should do it soon, definitively, and with a pre-emptive block so he can't talk her out of it. Good luck, CATFISH.

NFI, any quality person will be willing to work with your sexual issues. At her age I assume most of her potential suitors would have some issues of their own and happy to engage in affectionate activities that don't require an erection. I agree that she can keep her vagina in shape by using dildos during masturbation. Good luck to you as well, NFI.

10

Harriet @1: "The first unusual thing about CATFISH's letter is that she fears for her safety. These fears are a reason she gives for not coming clean with her correspondent. Why?" Because she's female and he's male. Fearing for her safety is not at all unusual.
I agree that she seems out of touch with reality with the amount of emotion she expresses toward a man she's never met -- and who doesn't even know who she is. The whole letter screams "get therapy," but as she already is, I don't have much more to add.

John @3: I concur with your understanding of the term "catfishing." I thought that meant deliberately representing oneself online in order to con somebody, which is not what she did. But she's not describing a close friendship; she says she loves him and calls him her boyfriend, and he apparently feels the same way. If you're not present with your (monogamous) partner because your mind is constantly on someone else, that's my understanding of the term emotional affair.

Tits @8: Bingo. She's not saying "I'm breaking up with you because I lied, I'm married, and I'll never leave my husband." She's seeking sympathy from a kind person whose reaction will be "you're not a bad person! With my love you'll grow to see yourself the way I see you." She needs to person up and tell the actual truth.

11

Harriet @1: I'm going to reverse myself for a change and agree with you that, while it is not at all unusual for women to fear for their safety with men they meet online, this woman has been talking to this man for hours a day for a full year, says she loves him and that he wants to make a life together. It would indeed be unusual to fear for one's safety with someone they knew that well. It probably is the PTSD from whatever happened to her before talking. Either that or she has some reason to fear him, some signs that he's potentially violent; it wouldn't be unheard of for someone like this to be drawn to a violent man. But that's probably overthinking; the most obvious explanation is that previous experience has led her to be more fearful than most would be in her situation.

12

NFI's trouble having PIV could be a case of vaginismus. Joan Price's advice still stands, but if it is vaginismus, be gentle with a dildo or penetrative vibrator. Take it slowly and don't push yourself into anything (including solo) that causes you pain or discomfort. A therapy session or two may also be immensely helpful.

13

@11. Bi. Very graceful reverse! I think the fear is a deflection of her guilt and amplification of her PSTD. I agree that women fear for their safety all the time with men, especially in relationships that engage conventional het dynamics (of the man being strong, masterful, inarticulate, emotionally fragile) in an unclear way (like CATFISH's webchat).

@3. John Horstman. She doesn't say what she does with his boyfriend. The most is getting up in fetish gear and jerking off while watching him do the same. This would go beyond being a 'catfish', but it isn't everyone's definition of cheating. If she wants to repair her relationship with her husband, she can get down off her pole and tell herself she hasn't gone so far as to cheat. If she's only written to him, exploring fetishistic scenarios, that's catfishing, but not cheating.... I would think she's addicted, and hiding behind the self-reprobation to avoid thinking about what she's like (romantically and sexually) and what she wants. Does she wants a kinky love affair--with someone other than her husband? Stop stringing along her correspondent now and address that question after a few months of therapy.

14

For NFI, it would be worth taking to a doctor about estrogen cream. Post menopause the lack of estrogen causes vaginal dryness and makes vaginal skin much more delicate, easily fixed with cream or pessaries.

15

“I've tried multiple times: I've told him that he is better off without me, that I'm a bad person, and that he shouldn't trust me. Each time, he convinces me to stay.”

Well, of course he does - that's why you told him that, right? So he'd convince you to stay?

I was once in a situation where the details were all different, but the underlying "I'm miserable so I'm doing destructive things as an ineffective coping strategy" was the same. For me, what was most useful was taking steps to become less miserable. A lot of time and energy goes into destructive and self destructive behaviour that can instead be funneled into something more fun and healthier.

A counselor who was a little less sympathetic and a little more "So, what are you doing about it?" was very helpful to me. It's so easy and nice to wallow in gentle supportive counseling that I might have stayed there forever if circumstances hadn't forced me to start talking to someone who, while still supportive, expected me to make some choices and do some things.

16

Yawn.

17

....if you want to break up with people, you have to be direct*. Say something like, "I am breaking up with you. Never contact me again." You don't need to come clean and explain yourself to your internet lover. You can even leave out the flowery emotional stuff to get out of the drama swamp that so many people love to get sucked into. Just come clean with yourself and maybe that man you live with. *Actually, if you want anything in life, you need to be direct. Nice can help too but can also be overrated.

18

CATFISH is “in love” with someone with whom she has “not been physical...never even been in the same room (with)...”

She is in love with the fantasy guy she has created in her own head. He is the easy escape, a fiction who never has to share expenses, never has to adjust to annoying habits, never farts in her presence, never has to share or compromise on the thousand little things that we have to do in real life in an actual relationship. These things are a Siren’s song, tempting in their perfectness but ultimately never live up to the dream.

19

CATFISH reeks of undiagnosed Cluster B personality disorder.

20

I feel as if CATFISH is having a midlife crisis. If she's been married for 20 years, then she's about 40. Things are humdrum, so she finds an online kink-buddy whom she elevates in HER MIND to the position of boyfriend ... someone she LOVES (as someone pointed out above, to the same degree she loves her husband).

That is not reality; it is a delusional adolescent fantasy. I'm reminded of the coeds sitting in Indiana Jones's class, gazing at him and drifting off in a daze, imagining what it would be like to be "Professor and Mrs. Jones". But, eventually, coeds grow up and join the real world.

Has she examined with the aid of the therapist how to improve the marriage? Because, otherwise, she can't really cut things off with the so-called boyfriend without leaving an empty hole in her life ... in her daily routine. When she can tell herself, "I'm doing new and exciting things" instead of "I'm a bad bad person," then she should END things decisively with the "BF", never use that email account again, and return to actual living.

21

Dan is right that LW is way too harsh on herself, very likely due to a fairly low self-esteem.
The therapist she went to is also right, at least to some degree, by mentioning a coping mechanism. She’s not happy, and online chats and the like can be reassuring as well as sexy.

Some self-reflection questions to help one determine the nature of a specific contact:
Is this relationship an add-on, or a compensation to what you’re missing at home? How much time do you dedicate to this activity? Is this something that distracts you from other things you should do/enjoy? Are secrecy and forbidden fruit part of the excitement?

It is my experience that exclusively online relations are indeed possible. Be clear, express what you want and negotiate preferences and boundaries as you go along. Quite a few people are open for online chats where they can speak freely while maintaining their assumed anonymity, share stuff they would be reluctant to otherwise, c2c fun, etc.

22

More later, but I want to throw out there, LW, take Dan's advice except DO NOT tell the "boyfriend" you are married or that you lied about your age. I'm assuming your play here involved images and you expressed concern about safety, so you don't want to piss him off. Since he knows nothing about you, just end it for some other reason- you've moved on, you've realized there's no future, lie about something if you want to.

23

Forbidden fruit CMD@21? LW1 did read like a Catholic confessional.
I am lying to my husband of twenty years and lying to this man I chat with on the internet. I am a CPOS, Father.
Not sure a few rounds of the rosary is going to help here.

24

Maybe it's due to the PTSD, but LW1 seems to have no idea that she's the one with the power in both of her relationships. The answer to her question is obvious - use your words to actually break up with your "boyfriend" (if he can talk you out of it then you weren't really trying that hard). Then talk to your therapist and your husband about how to find some excitement in your real life instead of your fantasy one.

Stop thinking of yourself as a horrible person and try to recognize that you're an unhappy person doing a very shitty thing. No one benefits from your pity party but you, because it gives you an excuse to keep doing what you're doing.

25

@Harriet_by_the_bulrushes
That was very insightful. Thank you for sharing.

26

@20 Helenka: She starts her letter by saying she's in her 40s. I agree that it sounds like it could be in the midlife crisis bucket.

27

Re: CATFISH -
"I know the only right thing to do is break things off with my boyfriend. I've tried multiple times: I've told him that he is better off without me, that I'm a bad person, and that he shouldn't trust me. Each time, he convinces me to stay."

What you haven't done here is try to break it off with the boyfriend - you've tried to convince him to break it off with you. This is a not-uncommon pattern, but it's ceding your agency: You're the one who decides if you want to break up or not, not this online guy.

@1, @9 - I got a strong whiff of Borderline Personality, as @19 suspects.

28

L2 reminded me of Mr Savage's citation of Mr Franklin's old advice. Mr S was correct that the comment about gratitude came at the conclusion of the list that was summed up in that little poem in which the last word of each line rhymed with "bell". I'd have thought that people looking retroactively to apply modern standards to pin a scarlet S (or M) on Mr Franklin would have gone after the bit about how women age from the top down, so that one could put a bushel basket over someone's top half and she'd look as good as someone half her age, but I suppose I can see how grating it might be if older women were once grateful for attention. After all, the enforced consensus of the age appears to be that it is right and proper for about 80% of the OS women to have all the sex and attention they want, compared to 20% of the OS men (and I am entirely neutral on that; I'll give that the good old Holmes-Sun-Earth and play the Gay Privilege card to get out of having to waste an opinion there).

With that in mind, I am tempted to advise LW2 to seek an older man. This ought to please Ms Lava, who seems personally offended if any man over the age of forty can still spontaneously point to the object of his desire without using a hand or foot and unassisted by Viagra. (I am taking the high road here and not making the obvious follow-up.) LW2 ought to have little difficulty finding a man of a certain age who dislikes having to use Viagra with other partners (she is not yet at the age where the population of men drops off drastically, leaving the few OS men still alive in assisted living homes sitting in as much of the catbird seat as straight Brian Hawkins was in in Tales of the City's San Francisco). And we can come up with a counterpart rhyme in which all the last words rhyme with "will".

29

@ 27. Sportlandia. Idk--I got a sense that CATFISH does not believe in her own lovability. The suggestion would be for me that she's staying with her husband because she fears loss--she doesn't state any strong reasons why she loves him. She's perhaps stringing her internet bf along because his interest is affirming. But--my reaction is--of course she's lovable! Of course, at some level (now perhaps buried), her marriage was based on something substantial.

@25. Wednesday. Thank you.

30

Catfish LW- on the off chance that you dive into the comments... I was in a remarkably similar situation as you a number of years ago. Husband I loved of ten years (an imperfect but good relationship)- and a passionate online affair where the disclosed details were the same as yours.

I NEVER listened when people told me I couldn’t be in love with online dude. They just didn’t understand, we had a multi year serious emotional affair. It was impactful on who I was and who I became as a person. He was a good guy. I pined for him and was sure I was in love with him. We talked for hundreds on hours on the phone, wrote each other novels— etc. I tried to end it a couple times. One time for more than a year.

Ultimately I left my husband, and within a month took the big step of meeting Mr online. Confessed on the real name ( Told him I had obfuscated small details for online safety).. I learned a lot.

I learned that by falling in love with this man who wasn’t my husband I wasn’t as in love with my husband as I had convinced myself I was. It was a devastating personal admission- I had been lying to myself. It was hard, but I left him and left him before meeting Mr online because that seemed too much like real cheating.
It was the right choice to leave him. You need to deeply self reflect on your feelings about your husband - or whether you just want a “safety net”

So, I met Mr online. And it’s anticlimactic, but everyone else was right. Our sexual chemistry was frighteningly absent. I could barely fake it, but did out of guilt. His in person quirks and things that made him a real person drove me nuts and I couldn’t stand the ideal of sleeping with him or being his partner.

I know it’s hard to hear, but you aren’t in love with this guy in real life. Maybe you could be, but it also might not translate. You may be in love with the versions of yourself you’ve both created, but it isn’t real and is unlikely to translate.

I think you need to meet him to believe this though. I had to, I was in too deep. Whether or not you do this before or after you leave your husband, is up to you. Good luck. Comment to me if you want to talk and need more support.

31

Anonpostt @30, thanks for sharing your own bad experience to help LW1. You acted honorably by leaving your husband before meeting Online Guy IRL, and I'm sorry it didn't work out the way you'd hoped. But you now realize that settling for your ex was not your best life either, so you are on your way to a new and mutually fulfilling relationship. Maybe you're already there!

Lava @23, as a fellow lapsed Catholic I had the same flashback! You crack me up sometimes. We may leave the Church, but somehow the Church never leaves us.

Venn @28, some of your literary allusions went over my head as usual, but I did relish this phrase: "...if any man over the age of forty can still spontaneously point to the object of his desire without using a hand or foot and unassisted by Viagra." Well done!

32

Thank you, Dan and Joan Price, for your helpful advice--particularly to NFI. It's very reassuring for me, too. 5 years after a uterine ablation I still have really tender tissues. Good luck to both of you, CATFISH and NFI.

@31 Welcome back, Capricornius! Long time, no hear from.

33

@23 LavaGirl: I'm sorry this response is so late (re: your comment @106 from two weeks ago).
I would love to send you a CD of my composed work! I'm glad you loved what you heard from the mp3 recordings. I would first need assistance from my local tech friend in order to burn a CD off my computer.

34

Great comments this week. Thank you for sharing your story, Anon @30. I agree with Sporty @27 that CATFISH is trying to get her "boyfriend" to break up with her, so that she can continue her pity party (cheers to BabyRae @24, that's exactly what she's throwing herself here). Lava, indeed, this letter reads as a confession. Forgive my sins, Dan, oh and also wave your magic wand and make the drama I've caused go away. Too bad life doesn't work like that.

35

Capri @31, I couldn’t remember the preamble. Then it came back to me;
Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I accuse myself of......
Once I started messing with boys, I knew it was over for me with that confessional bs.

36

Great Grizelda. I’ll email you.

38

Welcome back, Cap @31! I've missed you.

39

As the cartoon in the New Yorker from 1998 said (two dogs in neighboring cubicles chatting) ..."On the internet nobody knows you're a dog"

40

BDF @ 10 and 11, I agreed with your take in 10 more than your retraction in 11. You said she fears for her safety "Because she's female and he's male. Fearing for her safety is not at all unusual." That sounds pretty smart to me. I've never engaged in any sort of violence against a partner, but I live in a body that has the levels of testosterone that male bodies tend to have. I know for a fact that I have (and I believe almost any other man also has) the potential for great violence when hurt enough, possibly including hunting someone down and killing them. Fearing what men have the potential to do is smart. Social norms that are a great idea rein almost all of us in almost all of the time, but we are predisposed to violence.

41

Ms Cute - I just came up with something on the spur of the moment that you might be able to refine. Someone in a livestream a few minutes ago called the left "welcoming", to which I commented on the spur of the moment that the left has at least an image problem in that it appears to be about as welcoming as Fanny Price, at least appearing to have nothing to offer anyone but a walking sermon (with the exception of the Oppressed Flavour of the Day). The right, or at least those true to the Reaganesque vision, acts rather like Mary Crawford, letting people say what they like and basically paying it not the slightest mind, in much the way Mr R called the GOP a big tent, with the example of welcoming pro-choice Reps who agreed with them on other things and saying they'd be quite happy and could say their peace, but they needed to realize that the party wasn't going to change for them. I wonder if I'll get any use out of this with those people I keep encountering who present with a sentiment along the lines of, "I was skeptical about engaging with the right wing, but all the right-wing people I've met so far have all been really nice to me."

It may not be worth much in the end, but it's been a while since I got anything out of Fanny.

42

dcp123 @40. All humans have the potential
for violence. Saying it’s only men is a cop out and gives room for them to act out, without self control, which all humans also have.
LW1 is indulging herself and needs to ditch the pretend bf and come clean with her husband.

43

DCP123 @40: I agree with myself as a general principle, to the question of why would a woman online fear for her safety. I disagreed with myself as to why THIS woman would fear for her safety. She's had quite a long time to get to know this man. Of course, you're right that he -- that any person, of any gender, but men are indeed more likely statistically and more dangerous due to their greater strength etc -- could snap, even after a year, even after ten years. But that would still be statistically very unusual. After this much interaction, one would have an educated guess as to whether someone is violently inclined -- does he respect boundaries, has he alluded to losing his temper in disproportionate ways. So yes, I agree that women do need to have a baseline level of safety consciousness, but in this specific case if she's afraid of him that's either because he's shown some red flags or because she sees higher levels of threat due to past trauma.

That said, she's been deceiving him for a year. Perhaps he's been deceiving her too, and he actually is a violent criminal who's a good actor. OK, you've convinced me I was right the first time! :)

44

Don’t scare the woman. Does he sound violent, LW? If you do this ending with some care, something you don’t seem too good at, Trust he won’t get violent. Or cut him off and ditch that phone.
An emotional affair is not a physical one. LW1 has been married for twenty years, she’s a little bored. Another man chats lovingly to her for hours a day/ maybe she should get a job or a hobby/ we can all see the attractiveness of this. After twenty years of marriage, she doesn’t mention children, she is bored. A non seen non smelled man has charmed her with his mind. It happens.
If she stops now, after coming clean with her pretend bf with the whole truth and nothing but the truth, not her private details, and lets him be hurt and they grieve together, then she faces her husband with who she really is, and let the cards fall where they may. Twenty years is a long time, and she says she still loves him. See how solid is his love, see what they can do to make their marriage a little less boring.

45

LW2, I’ve been avoiding your letter because there is no way I would give up orgasms. So any meds that got in the way of that, would go. I see no reason to be depressed. The world’s been a fuck up in different ways all my life. Beautiful too.

46

Depression is real, and anti depressants help a lot of people in times of stress. I’m talking as a woman a few years shy of seventy. Orgasms as well as being orgasms help maintain vaginal health. I don’t let myself get depressed, by thinking positive thoughts and reading great books. Or looking at Art books, or doing Art. Listening to music too. Fuck em, I’m staying happy till the end.
I hope others here have been able to help you, LW2. Chill and enjoy the ride.

47

Friends and family LW2, people who keep the heart warm.
No point in expecting a man to go for you when you have such a down opinion of yourself. Be proud of making Seventy, with all the scars of those years. With or without orgasm, touch yourself, keep the blood flowing. If you love yourself, a man will sniff that out. Stop thinking of yourself as broken, and look into what is being suggested here.

48

Alert; I’m not suggesting people stop their anti depressants. Which never should be done suddenly. It must always be done gradually, with the Dr.
This is why I was not keen to jump in here.
Good luck, LW2. Self love goes a long way.

50

Wish Dan would have addressed the part where she pretends to have tried to end the relationship. I know there was a lot to address in there, but this one struck me as particularly important. She hasn't tried to end the relationship. At all. Telling someone vaguely that you're a "bad person" without giving them the truth as to why you feel this way or why you think they'd be "better off without you" is a classic "tell me I'm worth staying around for" move.

So no, the LW hasn't tried to end the relationship. She's repeatedly used it to feel better about herself. This doesn't make her a bad person, just a person who isn't honest with themselves. Reminds me of the AA adage: "We're only as sick as our secrets".

As for ending things with the 'boyfriend': first off, he's a pen pal. She needs to stop calling him her boyfriend. Coming completely clean to him isn't necessary to end the relationship if it makes her fear for her safety. She can be honest without risking herself by saying something like: "I've been working with a therapist on some PTSD issues and other mental health issues that I have been struggling with. I know this will be hard for you to understand since I haven't been very open about these issues, but that's the nature of these things. I am convinced that I need to step away from our relationship in order to properly deal with my issues. I don't want to string you along and call it a break - things really need to end. I think you're a wonderful person and I hope you find happiness with someone. That someone won't be me, however, and while I will miss our relationship, I won't be changing my mind about ending it."

The advice Dan gave about finding an honest way to incorporate play into her life is spot on though. I hope she can manage to do it. Reminds me of something he's said in the past about people with double-lives (usually in regards to closeted individuals) - the extent to which who we want to be, who we are, and who we portray ourselves as are out of alignment is an excellent predictor for how insane our secret lives will become.

51

@39 sb53: I'll have to check out that New Yorker Magazine cartoon. Great to hear from you as well. I hope all is well your way.

52

I thought that the LW feared for her safety from a jealous spurned husband.

53

DC270 @52: Nope, I don't see that at all. "I have thought about telling him the truth, but I am worried about my safety." The "him" referred to is the online boyfriend, who gets several "hims" in the preceding six sentences. How would confessing to the online boyfriend that she is married risk her husband getting violent? She said she has no interest in leaving/"spurning" her husband. Strangers on the internet are scary. If she thought she were at risk from the husband, surely she'd be doing everything she could to flee him to be with this other man?