Savage Love Mar 2, 2021 at 1:02 pm







INCEST promised a jaw-drop, and I'm still waiting, dammit. Even if sexting were sex, cousins share a measly 10% or so DNA (siblings share 50%). Still, perhaps hubby didn't fuck his sexting accomplice precisely because she's his cousin.


INCEST also wrote into Dear Prudence and was also published this week. Same main story, slightly different/more details given here.... In case anyone wants to compare letters/advice given.


"I went to my husband and asked if they had ever gotten together physically. He told me no. "

But you chose not to believe him.

"She called him back and he answered on speaker and I said hello and then asked her if she was fucking my husband. She sounded surprised and caught off guard but she said no."

And you're choosing not to believe her.

Why you want to disbelieve them is the problem. And even if they did have sex, it would be better for you, them, and everyone else if you were in a position of 'ignorance is bliss, out of sight out-of-mind' disposition on the matter. Playing the role of the offended party is very depressing in the long run.


@1 WA_HOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Congratulations to fubar on scoring this week's highly coveted SL Devastation FIRDT! honors! Bask in the aura of leading the comment thread and savor your glory. :)


@3 Jealous? There are plenty of Lucky Numbers Game prizes to still shoot for, like the luscious Lucky @69, Big Hunsky @100, etc. :)


@INCEST: Your sign-off should not be "INCEST".

"I’ll give you a moment to recover from that jaw drop.""

Um, Okay. (Don't assume what makes other people's jaws drop.) Honestly what mostly drops my jaw is that you're acting like sexting was fucking.

My guess is that anything that your husband would do to address your libido imbalance would be unacceptable to you. You "came to believe he was content". Did you ask even once? Did you do /anything/ but assume?

Why so damn much assuming?


Greta Scacchi? Oh my. I'm going to have to think long and hard about this revelation.


I was going to mention that an edited version of letter #1 ran in Dear Prudence this week, but nartweag already mentioned that @5.
Danny Lavery focused on a different aspect; here's the link:


My undropped jaw almost feels sorry for LW1.
How nice to hear from LW3 that there are so many kind partners still out there. Very reassuring in these times when we're sinking to new lows in the general opinion.
Perhaps Mr Savage got very caught up on the rebound aspect rather than the First Serious Heartbreak aspect and how we can get that rather later than the different-sexers. I could not make out from the letter how much time LW2 has to give a heartbroken younger brother in the first place. That seems likely to be limited. I find timelines and recommended lines to take much less standardized about heartbreak than about, say, coming out; L2 would be the letter I'd want to be the podcast call about which Mr Savage succeeded in getting the caller on the line to go into greater depth.


First cousins as incest. I must protest, said every first cousin/s who got with each other. Yes @11, I thought of her too. Couldn’t remember the name. Don’t have children, and yes it’s a bit close in.. however lots have gone there.


FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt were first cousins and there was no brouhaha made of that...


The end of March, Dan. You put a time line on heartache?
LW2, never been dumped, your brother, he did get stuck in an abusive relationship and didn’t process his part in this, before jumping into, as Dan says, a rebound relationship. Lucky him he found a good one, now he knows the difference and can be more aware when he’s ready to go back out there.
Heartache is heartache, it feels ike the first time when in them. Keep an eye on him as he now processes the emotional jumble he experienced with these two men.


I agree, @2 WenWino. the letter reeked of “hey, let's see if I can get a letter to Dan published. (After all, it worked with Dear Prudence.)”


@13: ??


I know I'm veering off topic again, and this is in regards to comment actually made in another Stranger thread on SLOG AM-PM but.....In a big shout out to Stranger commenter, Yeshua for the music inspiration, Griz's creative juices once again bubbled over. I now offer this latest of composed song parodies to Dan the Man, fellow SL regulars, and all music lovers in Savage Love Land. If you can stream "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd, sing along and enjoy!

"Aggressively Dumb"*
*sung to "Comfortably Numb", music and original lyrics by Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason, from the 1979 Pink Floyd album, The Wall:

Aggressively Dumb

Oh no!
What the hell is going ON here?
People armed with guns and zip ties,
Crawling around like Pence's flies!
Why are they
Cheering on a con man
and corporate execs?
What the fucking hell is next?

There is no logic to their thinking;
Violent chaos is their only hope.
Vaccines are coming in just so much----
Suppliers move, but just not fast enough!
Now that we finally have a PRESIDENT
We should be rejoicing worldwide.
What to do about Republicans
Obstructing justice like they ALWAYS do
They just get in the way.
They-------have become----aggressively dumb!


They-------have become----aggressively dumb!
No way----!!
And all because "TRUMP SAID SO!"
Militia insurgents raided!
Can we stop them
From ever DOING this again?
This is why we need democracy
And NOT hypocrisy!
There is no logic to their thinking;
Violent chaos is their only hope.
Vaccines are coming in just so much----
Suppliers move, but just not fast enough!
Since the Reagan years, I've had the common sense
To only vote for Democrats.
Republicans just serve themselves---they're hellbent on destroying everything
If we go red, the nation's dead!
For they-----------have become----aggressively dumb!

(instrumental coda and fadeout)


Let's hear it for Yeshua!
Hopefully surviving Pink Floyd band members Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Nick Mason (the late Richard Wright, keyboardist, died in 2008; RIP, Richard!) do not sue me.


Regarding "incest situation": The fast that this woman thinks his sexually deprived husband's sexting is much more of a big deal than attending a family celebration in the middle of a pandemic sez everything about her. This woman is a narcisist.


Standing O for Dan's answer to INCEST. I thought it was cute that this boomer imagined Dan's jaw dropping over this. Jaw drop at the idea of "big family gatherings" during a pandemic, indeed. Stuff this down the memory hole and move on with the rest of your life. And maybe have sex with your husband a bit more often, hmm?

Anyone else detect a bit of contempt in HABIT's letter? "Gee, I've been getting over being dumped since I was 16, why doesn't my brother grow up and quit his whining?" Or am I just seeing too much negativity everywhere these days?

Nartweag @5, thanks for that! The link is here:
Interestingly, here she doesn't mention the "big family gathering" nor the sex disparity throughout the marriage. And Prudie jumped to "of course you'll have to tell everyone and divorce him," rather than "give the poor sex-deprived dude a break, he didn't cheat on you and in the scheme of things, a first cousin is a safe choice of outlet." If INCEST is real, I wonder whose advice she will take. If she's not, I wonder if she tailored the letters to get the response she wanted out of the two columnists. I reckon a real LW would have sent the same letter to everyone.

Wen @13, who's the bigger saddo, someone who sends a fake letter to multiple advice columnists, or someone who makes multiple posts to opine that it's fake? It's a scenario that -could- happen, and in the event that it did, Dan's advice is golden. Prudie's, not so much. I hope for Mr INCEST's sake, INCEST listens to Dan.

Venn @14, I reckon the sex GHOST is having and the sex NNTBHTC is having are quite different. GHOST favours randos while NNTBHTC's "incredibly loving" partners must be pretty committed to him, to work with his flaccid or semi-hard cock. I hope his erections return and they are rewarded for their patience and flexibility.

Turbos @16, I was wondering why I didn't see the Roosevelts mentioned. They seem to have been FIFTH cousins. Probably seem more closely related than that since they shared a last name.


Great parody lyrics as usual, Griz! :D


@20 great job, Griz!

@5 nartweag thanks - I prefer Dan's answer, guess that's why I read savagelove not prudence; I wonder what the odds are of both columnists picking at a similar time the same letter from the thousands they get each week - dan has to finish way in advance as his column is syndicated in "real" newspapers; LW sent to both but still could be real


Delta @25, they're only both real if they were written by two different people, the odds of which are tiny. I'm convinced the letter is fake because it was spun so differently, to appeal to the biases of each columnist. To Dan, she included her sexual neglect of her husband, knowing Dan's "do what you gotta to do stay married and stay sane" ethos, and mentioned a "big family gathering" which anyone who reads Dan knows he'd object to on Covid grounds. To Prudie, neither of these were mentioned -- instead the letter focused on how close this cousin is with other family members, to paint it as a huge betrayal. A real LW might have written different letters to different columnists with their varying biases in mind, but a real LW would have been looking for -the same- conclusion from both. Of course Dan, given this set of facts, was going to conclude the husband's actions were forgivable; of course Prudie, given her set of facts, was going to conclude LW had been betrayed. If real, the letters would either be identical or spun to elicit the same response, ie, "leave him" or "forgive him."

Let's see what Carolyn Hax has to say about it! ;)


It is #so# interesting that the creator of the first letter tailored a similar letter to the other columnist. And that the other columnist did so poorly. Which is why I read Dan, and not (so far even in this case, so thanks to BDF for providing analysis) the other columnist.

I feel bad for Dan to have been the target of this troll, and for the column space they took from someone in genuine distress.

@14 venn
"My undropped jaw"



Ms Fan - True, LW3's situation may not suit the previous LW, although it at least gives him another option if servicing others doesn't ring his bell. Agreed in hoping that everything will soon be to all participants' maximum liking.


I suppose it's possible LW did send the same letter to both columnists, and they edited it to make the answer come out the way they wanted it to? Hmm.


@30 BDF
Oh, also interesting. (Some of us did get a look last year at how a letter looked before Dan rather extensively editing it [including mercifully making them a much better writer].)


Thank you @5 Nartweag for pointing out the Dear Prudence letter! I just read it, and now at last, my jaw is indeed on the floor from the spectacularly terrible advice given by Prudie. INCEST, absolutely do NOT go on blast with this. There will come a time in the future when you're feeling less raw about this, and you will solidly regret dragging other family into this. If you need to talk to someone (and I'm sure you do), neutral third party with no skin in the game is really the best way to go.

I thought Dan's advice for INCEST was pretty bad, too. (Though I am puzzling as to the notable differences between the two letters, I am going to round this letter up to "real" and chalk differences in details/tone up to the LW maybe being more pissed off while writing one and more devastated-feeling when she wrote the other [people fresh off the revelation that their spouse has not been faithful in the ways they thought they were are generally not the most eloquent, rational-minded folks]). Perhaps I'm more sexually conservative than the average SL reader, and I certainly have my own biases around this issue, but I feel like the whole "it was just sexting" rhetoric is pretty dismissive. I'm sure Dan is just fine with his husband sexting other people - they have mutually agreed upon a monogamish relationship that works for them. This woman never signed up for that (agreed with others that she sounds like a boomer, and may not have had a chance to really explore some of these ideas around ethical non-monogamy). At the very least, even if Dan and others don't think the sexting in itself is a big deal, the dishonesty is ultimately what hurts the most in these circumstances.

Once INCEST gets over the initial shock (please, INCEST, for the love of all that's holy and pure, DO NOT go on blast to your family about this!), and if INCEST's husband is willing to communicate openly and honestly, they can find some kind of arrangement that works for both of them to stay married and stay sane. What Curious @10 said - did INCEST ever actually talk to her husband about how he feels about their mismatched libidos and how that's made him feel these past three decades? And maybe she is the type who doesn't want to have a lot sex with her husband, but wouldn't want her husband getting those needs met in any arrangement. If it's the later, she needs to be honest about that with herself and realize that that's a "her problem."

Also, Dan, crying out loud. One moment you're saying "the law says cousin marriage, and by extension, cousin fucking, isn't incest," give a bunch of examples of cousin marriage throughout history, then you tell INCEST that their being cousins is some kind of "insurance" against them fucking?! No, just no.

At the very least, this is an emotional affair, and emotional affairs hurt, too. Dishonesty from a partner hurts. INCEST has a right to feel hurt and horribly confused right now. And "divorce" and "stuff it down the memory hole" both seem bad advice to me. Hopefully this can be a catalyst for INCEST and her husband to talk honestly with one another about what they need and want.

And snooping is awful and bad and wrong... but if INCEST has a nagging feeling that her husband isn't being forthcoming about a physical side to his relationship with his cousin, I will quote a longtime friend of mine and say "trust your gut, witch."


There are countries and communities, especially in the Middle East, where first cousins are still expected to marry each other for traditional/religious reasons as well as a way to secure family ownership of property. Those marriages are often arranged ahead of time.
It has been going on for hundreds of years and as one may assume can create genetic issues.

While my family is not part of those communities an older cousin of mine married her own first cousin in the European country where they were born. Their fathers were brothers and I’m told the families were reluctant to approve but apparently love won.
Their first child has development issues, the second is bright, happily married to a non-related person and have healthy children.


17: Of course Dan puts a timeline on heartache; he puts a timeline on everything. Didn't he say couples who start dating should not move in together until at least X number of months? Like everyone on the planet should follow that schedule?

Also, "As if that wasn’t not bad enough" made me LOL as it has almost as many grammatical errors as it does words!


As for the phone conversation, I wonder if that happened in a car which may explain the speaker mode.
W’s description of cousin as “sounded surprised and caught off guard” made me chuckle.
I think many would have reacted in a similar manner if someone asked them out of the blue if they’re fucking their spouse, whether they do or not.


Mrs Fox @32, thank you for your post. You're absolutely correct that Dan is looking at this situation through his monogamish/gay male glasses. Hetero boomers are far more traditional and this is, indeed, a betrayal of sorts. Dan has answered as if INCEST wrote in asking, "I have a lower drive than my husband, I figured he was fine with less sex, now I've discovered his porn stash and I'm devastated!" A living breathing human one is exchanging sexts with may not be an affair, but she's not a porn stash either. Mr INCEST must have known his wife would not be okay with this, yet carried on behind her back. Other options, less interactive ones, were available to him, and while sexting with a cousin isn't the worst thing he could have done, it's not the most benign either. INCEST does have the right to be upset.

But you're absolutely right that this is between her, her husband and the cousin. Prudie was totally wrong to say that she should involve the rest of the family! If she wants to talk to someone, a trusted friend or a couples counsellor would be a better option. And probably a good approach, given that the cousin isn't going anywhere, so cutting her out of their life isn't an option.

Dan's advice that she should look at this in the context of their relationship as a whole is good. Can she forgive him for needing a sexual outlet and picking someone a bit squicky? She's within her rights to insist that the two of them stop this in order to rebuild trust. And they need to open a better dialogue about each of their sexual needs.


oops, I meant "LW's description" in my previous post, not George's.

fmf @ 32
I agree that this is at least an emotional affair, but I think Dan may have a point that this likely to be a relatively safe outlet for hubby, possibly also for flirtatious cousin.
The way I see it they probably developed some kind of innocent, curious, flirtatious dynamic as children/teens and very possibly have always kept it at bay, yet maintain the ongoing tease.


I would like to know more from NNTBHTC, my husband is on a medication with erectile dysfunction as a side effect and well I don't know what to do to make him come. Our sex life is limited to him making me come with oral, fingering, whatever which I find fulfilling and he finds arousing but frustrating. I'm willing to try new things but honestly don't know where to start. Webpages about ED are always about methods and pills to get your bone back, but I would like to know what we can do with we have.


BiDanFan @36: I'm inclined to give INCEST's husband the benefit of the doubt as far as knowing she would not be okay with this. It's possible, of course, but it's not unlikely that he thought that by taking his libido elsewhere, he was doing her a favour.

As far as sexting goes, I'd put it equidistant between reading porn and wanking to a cam girl. Of course, people get upset when they find their partners are doing these things too, but I'm always surprised that people who don't want sex get upset when their partners do.


If INCEST has any intention of repairing or carrying on in her marriage, she will regret dragging other family into this. She's probably feeling like a confused, skatter-brained mess right now and likely wants other people to understand what's going on with her, but it will only poison the well. And she certainly shouldn't assume that anyone will side with her - this is her husband's family, not hers.

She says she doesn't mind the thought of her husband sexting (she said she would be more understanding if it were any other woman [I somewhat doubt it - it would still hurt like hell, just maybe a different flavor of hurt]). If that is the case, especially in light of the alternative of this years'-long carrying on with his cousin, then maybe they can find some mutually agreeable terms for her husband to be flirty/internet- or text-sexy with others. This cousin sounds like she may be in their day to day life, or close to it, and I could definitely see that as way more threatening than sexting or sharing dirty pictures with someone who lives on the other side of the continent and you don't know or have to interact with IRL.


Fubar @39 - Indeed, the thought occurred to me that INCEST may even be down to relinquish her sexual duties (they may both feel less pressured sexually in their marriage), or at least have them supplemented some way. But they need to be upfront and honest with each other. They may find a really happy medium for the both of them if they can communicate openly about what they really want and need. You know, just not with the cousin.


I don't recommend that INCEST leave her husband, but I recommend that he leave her, because she seems like a total drag.


LW1 has had her control delusions shattered, which is a good thing. She should work on that.


Is that you wayne@ 34? Or a different one. We had a Wayne few yrs back.
I was just having a lend. Timelines can be good, and you complain to me of grammar, spelling ? I’d care less. These are hard times, cause of the pandemic, Dan saving by not employing an editor. Does It Himself.


Oh, BigSteve and rockyboy are here. Now we can get this party started.


In case the TSARY are paying attention, I just noticed another commentary quirk.

When one posts a comment, the page reloads and the comment is scrolled into view. When I posted my previous comment @39, I was redirected to this address:

I came back later and I hit refresh, but I didn't see any more comments. But when I opened a new tab, I saw that Mrs. Fox had commented @40.


@46 fubar
I think the way to bring that to the attention of the site is to email
They are wonderfully responsive (er, I'm not saying they /do/ anything, I'm just saying I've recieved thoughtful replies). I've never brought that exact issue up before but it bugs me: whenever I post a comment I hate that if I want to see any additional comments (for a while it seems to me) I always need to remember to /manually/ delete the "?cb=NNNNNNNNNN" out of the URL.

I don't know why I never complained about that before!

I have complained about that happening #and# presenting me with the wrong page altogether if we're past page one. I didn't get the sense that, even back those years ago, the resources existed to improve on that. Or bugs (like the page change thing) I brought up.

Maybe if you asked? And while you're doing so ask them to include somewhere on every damn page a link to Slogblocker! Maybe they'll be impressed enough, and enough in awe of your skillz, to make the improvement.


NotHard @38 writes: "my husband is on a medication with erectile dysfunction as a side effect and well I don't know what to do to make him come. ...I'm willing to try new things but honestly don't know where to start."

Sending sympathy and some things I've found useful:

Better lube for slow easy handjobs:

Hitachi vibes (or try two at the same time!) - for stimulation along the balls and perineum.

A variety of anal insertables -- can be used with the Hitachi(s) for even more fun!

Best to let him have a lot of control over the speed/depth of insertion and over the Hitachis, until he gets more sense of how those nerve-endings work.

Have fun exploring!


Thanks curious2 @47. I'll give that a try.


Fubar @46, I've noticed that too: When your comment is the last comment, refreshing does not bring up later comments. When someone else's is, it does. When you've posted last, you need to return to the main page and hit refresh to show subsequent comments.


Fubar @39, taking his libido elsewhere, sure. Taking his libido to his cousin!? This may be a gender-divide thing, because I'm with Mrs Fox, I'd prefer it be -any- stranger than someone I knew. Unless of course it was an arrangement I had consented to, but that's clearly not the case here. "If it was any other woman than his cousin I might be able to deal with this!" If it were any other woman, she'd still be upset, but the incest-adjacent aspect is adding additional squick and that's understandable. "Oh, gee, I thought you, a sex-negative, traditionally minded woman, would be fine with me sexting my cousin"-- suuuuure. The most credit I'll give him is that it's likely they've been at this since they were horny teenagers, and it's always been their little secret, and he didn't see it as violating any marriage vows so he kept it up. He owes her an apology, and she owes him one for being so dismissive of his sex drive. Can they start fresh? If not, they should separate with as little fanfare as possible -- at minimum, the cousin's privacy should be respected. Agreeing to a companionate, DADT marriage could be an option too. She doesn't say whether they are having infrequent sex or no sex. If it's no sex -- if she were nonogamous, rather than monogamous -- she forfeits her right to be upset at anything he's done with anyone else, related or not.


Yeah, saw it in Dear Prudence.
Yeah, cousin sex isn't incest in the usual sense.
Yeah, sexting isn't really sex either, and
Yeah, even if it was, his sex drive was higher than hers anyway.

Here's what I can add that might be new-- or helpful to the letter writer.

Finding out that your long-term spouse is cheating is bound to bring up complicated feelings, and those feelings are bound to be even more complicated when there's mitigating ambiguity (like, is it really cheating, and might it be justified). One of the first things anyone would recommend is this situation is to go to what you know, what you're sure of. When you're feeling unsettled, you want to feel grounded. I'd advise to seek love and support from family and friends-- Except, in this case, Husband is having an affair with First Cousin! Surely we can see how unsettling that is. The usual sources of sympathy and support are all mixed up with family. The next recommendation is to seek individual counseling for help. A good counselor would start with listening to some crying and then ask what the letter writer wants.

Here's why I believe the letter is true. (I admit I could be wrong, but I believe the outline of the letter is true.) I know of 2 situations where a long-term married man was having an affair with his wife's best friend. In the situation where I know more of the details, the couple were in couple's therapy. The wife was confiding in her friend about how she wanted her marriage to work and how hard she was trying and how difficult it all was. The friend was listening, being sympathetic, and screwing the husband. The husband was going through all the motions in therapy without ever mentioning the whole best friend screwing thing. Eventually they divorced. The man and the best friend married and carried on. The ex-wife never remarried. The new couple was not shunned. Loyalties were drawn along family lines with the children carrying on the best they could to have relationships with their mother, father, and new step-mother.


@32 Agreed. I think Dan was in so much of a hurry to restate his generally sensible attitude toward infidelity – that we recalibrate our definitions to make long-term monogamy more feasible for those who value it – that he skipped over the legitimacy of INCEST’s pain. Dan often crafts his advice in the service of a broader theme or worldview, which can serve a good purpose to the culture, but sometimes comes at the expense of offering sound advice to the individual writing in.

Regarding the degree of culpability of INCEST’s hubby, I think a lot of it depends on the degree to which he allowed his wife to think he was OK with a lack of sex. She says she “came to believe he was content too and that he long ago accepted that spending his life with me meant this would be how it was.” How did she come to believe that? Was she ignoring signs and burying her head in the sand? Or was he telling her that the status quo was fine when really it wasn’t? If he misled her about his acceptance of their dead bedroom, that I think is even lousier of him than simply the sexting, because she wasn’t even given the chance to consider changing their setup or challenging her own attitudes/desires.


Liked Dan’s answer much better than Prudie’s, and I like the comments here better too. Many Slate commenters have a puritanical streak.

If Prudie edited out details to make LW look better... scandal! I demand release of the unedited submission!


@24 BiDanFan and @25 delta35: Many thanks! Sadly, I have been unemployed since December 16, 2019, after my last orchestral performance gig with the local community theatre (who would have ever thought we'd be in the middle of a global pandemic now?).
While I am still composing and playing music at home, I am hopeful that writing song parodies can become an additional musical sideline.


Who's hungry for this week's Lucky @69 Award? Tick...tick..tick...


I don't see much "legitimate pain" from INCEST, just a lot of pearl-clutching and exclamation marks.

If you don't have a high libido and your husband does (and lots of low-libido folks who write in are down to "once a month or less"), you've signed on to the new low-sex companionate marriage--but did he? Or did you sign him up for it by assuming he was happy with the way things were?

I get the distinct impression from the injured pearl-clutching and exclamation marks that any outsourcing of the sexual side of the relationship--from erotica to sexting to porn to stripper-level (no touch) sex workers to actual prostitutes to play parties to polyamory to an affair--would be seen in a hierarchy as I have written it here but would in fact all have been considered as varying degrees of betrayal. She does not seem to be aware that if he broke his implicit contract with her for monogamy, she may have broken an implied contract to be in a marriage--as commonly understood, a sexual union. There has always been the possibility of a mariage blanche or asexual union, but unless it's freely entered into by both parties it's not in good faith. The letter reads very much as though any attempts made by her husband to sort out what he had a right to were just blanked. She wasn't going to have any more sex than she was comfortable with, as was her right, so the rest of the conversation should have been how to make sure he got as much sex as he could manage with (not all the sex he would have enjoyed, but enough to stay happy). And if one or other party was too uncomfortable, they should have made arrangements to split.

If she cares a lot about the intimate-but-not-sexual side of the marriage, she needs to start listening to, not just talking at, her husband. Because we've heard an awful lot about things she isn't willing to do, but we haven't even seen a bare minimum mentioned in terms of what she's willing to do for him, nor of what he feels he needs.

Of course, I could be entirely wrong and this could be about a man who has sex with her twice a week while gaslighting her about not fulfilling His Needs Dammit, in which case she's absolutely in the right. But the entire tone screams Submit To Me Absolutely while there's no apparent awareness that she owes anything to him.

If the sex-drive is that incompatible, it's basically fair to give a choice between either splitting or making some sort of "keep the porn out of my way" arrangement.


Sometime 2013-2015 I sent a question for advice to Dan and it was on the website I read then (can't remember if it was Stranger) the next day. Maybe that's the norm for advice columnists or a fluke, only dan and prudence know. I hope they are coordinating, a social experiment.

Someone telling this story like it's jaw dropping seems stupid but really if it happened to you after you knew your spouse and family for so long it would be jaw dropping to you too for most people even if it didn't drop anyone elses jaw. You think you know someone and understand things, then find a surprise.


Hey raindrop, getting into the vibe.
As if any question/ story these days, would see Dan’s jaw drop. He must get some harsh ones.


I guess @13 must have had some Remedial 5th Grade Math homework to catch up on.


Woof @57/Waffles @58, something like this would be, at minimum, a shock. People in shock react first, think calmly later. INCEST is in the shock/reaction phase of learning this news. Once she processes it, she may come to agree it isn't a big deal, but it sure feels like one now. That is valid. Of course her jaw dropped! I agree Dan should have included an acknowledgement that her shock is valid, but I think he did a good job deconstructing all of her (over)reactions and putting them in perspective. When her emotions have had their say and she's able to rationally analyse the situation, hopefully she will consider Dan's points. Woof @57, I don't think you can conclude from her shocked reaction that had Mr INCEST proposed some degree of openness to the relationship to address their differing sexual needs, she would have objected. Polyamorous people are still hurt when their partners cheat by breaking agreements. Monogamy and honesty are two different things; ethical non-monogamy requires the latter, and that was not present here. Yes, Mr INCEST was justified in getting his needs met discreetly elsewhere, but this WAS an emotional affair rather than a private porn stash. There is a fine line between discretion and deception and he's on the wrong side of it.


BiDanFan @61
Fair point, but I can easily imagine "sexting" as what the person thinks of as saucy fun, and according to INCEST the sex is precisely what he feels he's missing. He isn't missing having his emotional needs met, because that's the part of the marriage that appears to work. He can talk to her about the children and about questions with emotional depth, but he can't flirt or snigger or talk dirty, because any attempt to be like that from the high-libido person to the low-libido person is likely to be read as a sexual demand that makes her miserable.

I may be wrong about that, but I've read quite a few letters here that suggest that whatever the high-libido person tries (masturbation, different types of outsourcing, requests for attention from the low-libido person) get treated as unreasonable, because the low-libido person believes perfectly understandably that they've done nothing wrong, therefore the other person must be in the wrong. It was the similarity in tone (whatever the one thing the other person has done is, it's the one thing that's abominable) that I was reacting to.

I might indeed be wrong, of course, but I've seen a similar sort of style written where the low-libido person catches the other person wanking to porn, or going to see a stripper, and they won't shut up about the other person's betrayal.


Danny Lavery (the current "Prudence" of "Dear Prudence") and Dan were given different letters (or edited a longer letter) to focus on different issues, and they each answered only one aspect of it--the aspect that each letter emphasized. I don't think either were wrong, but I don't think either of them got it right, either.

The letter that "Dear Prudence" ran was considerably shorter, left out all the sexual background, and the telephone calls between husband and cousin. Oddly, it didn't include the sentence, "I’ll give you a moment to recover from that jaw drop," which makes me think that both advice columnists got the identical letter and either Dan ran the entire one--there's nothing in "Prudence"'s letter that isn't in Dan's, but there's plenty in Dan's that isn't in Prudence's. It's true that Dan's jaw probably didn't drop (and maybe Prudie's would have, but I doubt it), and lots of people here are making fun of the lw for that attitude, but I know that my jaw would have dropped had I discovered sexually explicit texts between my husband and his cousin that go back years.

Back to Prudence and the advice Lavery gave: in that letter, which was unsigned, as letters to Dear Prudence are, the lw's biggest issue seemed to be how to process the shock. She says she has no one to talk to, and she feels trapped. She begins her letter with a sentence that is missing from the letter that ran in Dan's column: "I want to puke." Lavery responds sympathetically and suggests she find someone other than her children to talk to as she processes this shocking information. Lavery assumes there will be a divorce, although the lw doesn't mention planning to leave. He addresses her sense of being unmoored and doesn't delve into the "why" of the husband's behavior.

Dan's letter has all the sexual background in it--and that's the part that Dan chose to respond to. INCEST is almost certainly a sign-off created by Dan or someone at The Stranger--the tone of it doesn't fit with the rest of the letter. And it shows that to Dan, the fact that these two are cousins is the most salient part of the letter.

So Dan started with the legality of incest. For a paragraph. Which has nothing to do with INCEST's issue, not really. I don't think she'd be less upset if she found these texts between her husband and her best friend, even though she says she'd rather they be from "any other woman." It's easy to say that when that isn't the situation. In reality, if that were the case, she'd probably still say the same thing--that she could handle this if it were any other woman.

This woman is in pain. She has just learned something that is devastating to her. This is brand-new information. She's reeling from:

The shock and the fact that her husband is sexting at all.
The fact that he's sexting with his cousin.
The idea of seeing said cousin and her sisters-in-law at family functions.
The longevity of this texting relationship--she says it's being "going on years."
Concern that they're lying and there has been more going on than sexting.
The sense that she can no longer trust her husband at all. About anything, maybe.
The feeling of being made a fool of, the humiliation that comes from thinking that others have known more about what is supposed to be her private life than she has.

That's a lot; of course she's dropping exclamation points.

And Dan's response didn't offer her a shred of sympathy. He scolded her for everything in her letter. He scolded her for being squicked out at the fact it was his cousin the husband was texting; he scolded her for considering this to be cheating; he blamed this sexting between husband and cousin on INCEST--almost like those women's magazines used to do for women: ("Oh, he was having an affair? That's because you "let yourself go," or "that's because you're a nag." If you want to keep your husband, ladies, make sure to always be wearing lipstick when he comes home. Don't be shrill."); he suggested she be sort of grateful that it was his cousin he was sexting with; he scolded her for considering telling her children--which she didn't say she was contemplating doing. (For what it's worth, she never says she's considering telling her children; she merely says that they'd be disgusted and disappointed IF they ever found out);
He ended by scolding her about having a family gathering during COVID.

Dan didn't offer INCEST one useful or helpful bit of advice. He used her letter to go on a rampage and to advocate for some of his usual hobbyhorses. Dan had a lot to say about incest, about defining cheating narrowly, about people driving their partners to some sexual outlet. His whole response had a modified "oh, come on: lighten up!" feel to it. He advised her to believe her husband and not go looking any deeper into this relationship, to not consider this cheating, to be glad it was his cousin her husband was sexting.

I'm not getting into the issue of one spouse unilaterally declaring a marriage all but sexless and expecting the other to just be fine with it--that's obviously an issue here and this couple need to work this stuff through and out if they stay together. INCEST needs to realize that her husband has sexual needs, needs that will get met one way or the other. It would absolutely be helpful for her to change her definition of cheating. But that advice could have been given in a more sympathetic letter.


BDF @61 - "There is a fine line between discretion and deception and he's on the wrong side of it." Ding, ding, ding! Very succinctly put, and ultimately I think this is the crux of INCEST's issue with her husband. I agree with Fubar upthread where he suggested that Mr. INCEST might have thought that he was being discreet and taking a burden of sorts off of INCEST. Agreed also that while her letter is heavy on the exclamation points and sounds pearl-clutchy to your average SL reader, it's best to read this letter from the perspective of someone who is likely questioning her entire 30 year marriage and raising a family with this man. She is in shock. She is not thinking rationally. She may not even trust her own perceptions right now, questioning how well she really knows her husband and her life with him. While the details may not register as "jaw-dropping," the revelation feels jaw-dropping to the LW, and she's likely wondering what else he's been hiding from her lo these 30 years (even if there's nothing else to hide).

Sometimes in the wake of what feels like a jaw-dropping revelation or betrayal, you can start finding your way to solutions you might not have considered prior to a traumatic event in the relationship (for clarification, I am not talking about abuse in this instance, but referring more generally/vaguely to infidelity in its many incarnations). Maybe INCEST would never have considered any form of ethical non-monogamy before; now that she is dealing with the shock and pain of discovering her husband has been sexting his cousin for years, maybe the sound of him joining some sexy group chat full of anonymous people or visiting a cam-girl's site doesn't sound so bad. Obviously this is a less than ideal way for a couple to healthily discuss opening their relationship, and I'm not advocating cheating/dishonesty in order to kick-start a conversation. But it can be a silver lining in these scenarios sometimes.

Honesty and feeling like you know and can trust your partner are really what get shaken in any instance of infidelity, however people choose to define the specifics of "infidelity." But I think most folks who've experienced infidelity can agree that what hurts more than any specific actions and details, is the feeling of being lied to and deceived by someone you love. It's the dishonesty that hurts more than the sexting, the sex, the diverted attention and affection. And if a couple can agree that they prefer honesty over forbidding certain behaviors and actions, there's a lot of healing and potential for a deeper, more genuine partnership on the other side of all that hurt.


Turning to HABIT for a moment: I too really dislike these timelines, especially as pertains to "getting over" feelings. I think there's a big difference between "it's generally not wise to move in with someone you've been dating for a month" vs "you have one month to be sad about a breakup." I have often beaten myself up for not "being over" certain life events or feelings, and it makes you feel kind of broken to have this notion that there's a timeline on grief or processing strong emotions.

The timeline is hard to follow in HABIT's letter - LW says his brother got out of a bad relationship "six months ago," then says he started seeing the new guy "a month after that." A month after the bad relationship ended? Or a month after six months of being single after the bad relationship ended? Not that it matters much - brother likely got with the new guy before he'd really proceeded the previous relationship and any residual trauma. He probably had rose-colored glasses over the new guy, not seeing it for the rebound it was and getting really serious really quickly (Valentine's Day social media posts with a guy you were with for a week and a half?!). LW is clearly baffled over his brother's reaction, but he's failing to realize that his brother is mourning the loss of two relationships right now. He may only just now be dealing with the first breakup, plus the loss of what "could have been" with the new guy. Brother probably projected a whole bunch of unprocessed emotions onto new guy, and could have been seeking to replicate a level of seriousness or intimacy that he had in the previous relationship. I think HABIT needs to see this less as his brother acting like a lovesick teen over new guy, and treat it like he's finally unpacking his initial relationship.

Maybe Dan meant for HABIT to not feel obligated to be a shoulder to cry on for longer than a month, and perhaps that's fair. But I also hope the LW's brother has someone a bit more emotionally literate in his life to talk to right now.


Woof @62, sure -- this woman comes from a more traditional generation, and you may well be right that INCEST would have been hurt if it was indeed a porn stash or a receipt from a strip club she'd discovered. But we'll never know, so I feel we should give her the benefit of the doubt. She's the one who's had a nasty surprise, let's not make her any more the bad guy than she already is. Certainly, this couple should have communicated more about their sexual needs, but they're not from a generation that felt comfortable doing that. So the natural result is that they both make assumptions, and there is a gender divide here: Men view sexting as innocent, "saucy fun," while women view it as cheating-adjacent, because for women anything sex-adjacent involves some level of feelings for the other person, and that's why this sext-affair feels like more of a betrayal than cam girls or strippers would. Does that make sense? For him it may not be "emotional," but for her -- and potentially for the cousin, ahem -- it is. Now that it's out in the open, they can have a long-overdue chat about what each of them considers cheating. And if she is as unreasonable as you're assuming, if she indeed thinks even porn is cheating, he'll have the opportunity to DTMFA.

Nocute @63: "INCEST is almost certainly a sign-off created by Dan or someone at The Stranger--the tone of it doesn't fit with the rest of the letter. And it shows that to Dan, the fact that these two are cousins is the most salient part of the letter."
I don't know about that. The first point Dan makes is that this isn't incest. The word "incest" does not appear in the letter. It seems odd that Dan would fabricate a signoff that spells "incest" just to write a paragraph reassuring OP that this isn't incest. OP opens with the fact of the sext affair, and says "if that wasn't [sic] bad enough," it was with his cousin. She might have used identical language if the other woman were, say, their neighbour or a colleague -- the part that makes this scenario worse could be her being a person close to him, not a person related to him. We'll never know.

Good analysis of all the things about this situation which are, rightly, upsetting her. I think Dan's sympathy went out the window for two reasons: (1) Her admitted sexual neglect of her husband, and (2) The "big family gathering" during the pandemic. He did completely disregard that INCEST and her husband come from a subculture -- hetero boomers -- that did not in fact talk about sex the way we all "should," and that this represents a failing of their subculture, not of Mr and Mrs INCEST personally. A couples therapist should be able to help them navigate what neither of them has any experience or comfort talking about.

I am now hoping Carolyn Hax got this letter too. She may be the one capable of offering both sympathy and sense.


Mrs Fox - The current Prudence has struck me as highly uneven, but then I disliked him both before and after transition. Ms Cute, if memory serves, did not.
Ms Cute - That seems a fair assessment of L1. A1 made me think of the egregious moment in Persuasion when the narratorial voice ridiculed Mrs Musgrove's "large, fat sighings" over her dead son who'd chanced to serve under Captain Wentworth, whom she met just long enough after "poor Richard's" death for her memory to have blurred what a stupid and unprofitable child Dick had always been.


Mrs Fox @63, the timeline seemed clear to me: about six months ago (August/September) he gets out of the bad relationship; less than a month after that (late September) he gets together with new guy; by Valentine's Day, they've been together for four and a half months. Actually, this is more or less bang on schedule for New Guy to hit the 90-day money-back-guarantee period, except that oops, Valentine's Day is coming up and he doesn't want to be the asshole who dumps someone on or just before V-Day, so he waits until afterwards.

Good point that Brother hasn't processed the bad relationship less than a month post mortem. Though depending on who did the dumping, it's possible Brother had already done all the processing by the time he cut the cord, so I'm not necessarily concluding he jumped into the new relationship too soon. Indeed, if he seems more upset than he should be over a four-month relationship, there may be residual baggage from the previous one. The important thing indeed is for HABIT to be supportive and not get sidetracked by how he thinks his brother "should" be feeling or acting.


BDF @70, thank you for the clarification. I somehow read the rebound relationship as being only 10 days long. Four months makes a lot more sense. Long enough for one person to start feeling like things might start to get serious and for the other to realize they don't want to take things to that next level. And ten days after Valentine's Day to boot! I think this guy's devastation is well-justified.

I wonder how many relationships conveniently end either right before or right after Valentine's Day? That would make for a fun sociological experiment.


Mr. Ven: While I preferred Daniel Lavery's pre-transition humor pieces to anything he's done as an advice columnist, he doesn't usually rub me the wrong way as Prudence. I agree that he's been uneven as Prudence, but sometimes he's very good in my opinion. I recall you disliked Emily Yoffe's pun-slinging Prudence, as well, and I rather liked her, too. Lavery gets considerably more letters about trans and transitioning issues, but that's to be expected: it's always nice to know that the person giving you advice on a topic has actually dealt with the subject themself.

But that bit from "Persuasion" has always bothered me, if only for the fact that it's such a blatant authorial intrusion. And it's more vicious, and less deftly-executed than her usual barbs. It's reminiscent of part of a surviving letter she wrote to her sister in which she observed, pretty coldly: "Mrs. Hall of Sherbourn was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, oweing to a fright--I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband."

Generally, I appreciate Austen's acerbicness, but these attacks go a bit too far. Mrs, Musgrove is a very nice, utterly conventional woman who's sentimental and a bit dim--she doesn't deserve to have her grief mocked by the author and readers that way. The attack on Rev. Hall was at least only supposed to be read by Cassandra.


@71: Dadddy, I'm kind of with 10-year-old you: there's not much that's more fun than "skipping rocks across the river, building damns, and sharpening sticks and stuff."

@ fantastic_mrs_fox, I'm really enjoying your contributions to the section. I hope you'll stick around.


Oh my Venn, congratulations on scoring @69. Not sure I’ve seen you score such luck before.


Mr Venn. I meant. Although if I’d put a comma after oh my, it would have worked. Commas do matter.


Heteroboomers not talk about sex? Since when. Sure we didn’t talk about it in as many categories, genders etc. We had no devices, so we read books. And talked about them. And we sure let people say their piece, not close them down because, ohh they might say something I don’t like or you know. Might upset me.


@69:WA-HOOOOOOOOO!!! Hearty congratulations to vennominon on scoring this week's Lucky @69 Award honors!! Bask in the delectably luscious glory and sevor your newfound riches found only here in Savage Love Land. :)


Yeah Grizelda, except it’s a broken SL land. A watered down one. Where a few think they so interesting they dominate and write essays! And block those not of their liking.


And piss offer with this baby boomers put downs. So reductionists, some of you.


That’s ‘ piss off ‘. Like Dan, I do my own editing.


@LavaGirl, I agree that tarring all Boomers with the same brush (that of "they don't like to talk about sex") is too slick and reductionist. Plenty of Boomers talk about sex. The couple in INCEST's letter doesn't seem to be one of them.
By the way, I'm not blocking anyone and if people don't want to read my essays they can either block me using fubar's tool, or just scroll by when they see my avatar.


Sure nocute, it’s just this is a public thread. For a conversation. I enjoy skimming your posts, I don’t wade thru essays.


Lava @ 77
Not sure I qualify as a boomer, likely too young, but as someone who knew they’re different from an early age I also knew I should keep it a secret. So yes, we talked about plenty things, but it was always in the hetero-normative realm.
We knew there are different people out there, hardly ever in person, and that was often associated with jokes and ridicule and always fell in the binary straight or gay, single or strictly devoted marriage realm (and the roles of such marriage clearly defined and expected by all.)

You may long for the old times when things were supposedly simple and clearly defined, but that wasn’t always the case for others. So while there are seemingly more egg shells one could step on nowadays, others may feel safe and included.


CMD @84: Best just to ignore her. There's an app for that.

That said, who amongst us has an app written to force us to STFU? Not me!


Nocute @ 74, thanks! :)

Lava @ 79, 80, not sure if these comments are directed at me (at least in part). I can see how I made reductionist statements about boomers, and I apologize. I was painting with a broad brush that seemed to cover LW1 based on some of the things she says in her letter. I have boomer aged family who could have gone the free love, sex, drugs, and rock n' roll route in life, but they stayed entirely in the milquetoast mainstream. I sought only to see things from LW1's perspective; she didn't strike me as the "have a proactive conversation about higher-libido spouse getting his sexual needs outside the marriage" type, but that certainly doesn't need to be tied up with the generation she happened to be born in.

I too have no intention of blocking anyone. Scrolling works just fine.


Mrs. Fox @86: As I said to CMD @84: Best just to ignore her. And as I also said, there's an app, specifically motivated by her and designed, for that.

If scrolling becomes too tiresome which, eventually, it will, because she's relentless in her puffery, join those of use who've blocked the old bag.


INCEST could be Gen X. Not sure why being a boomer was brought up, seems irrelevant. A 30 year old woman in an eight year marriage could feel similarly if discovering the same type of texts. Are Gen X, millennials and Gen Z more accepting of cousin sexting whilst married?


f_m_f @ 86
I don't think the comment was directed at you, and I'd like to repeat what others have already stated: welcome to the conversation/s.

Fubar- I don't see a need to block anyone, would rather use my ad hoc judgement however flawed it may be. Lava's position is not that uncommon and I thought I'll address it in this forum in a way that may resonate for her and others.


People are being righteous and a bit harsh to INCEST. She is in shock; she can't think straight and feels she can't talk to anyone. Perhaps the family gathering was long ago, and she is only beginning to process her husband's cheating now, in a flurry and a bit headlessly, by writing to two well-known advice columnists. That's plausible to me, just as it's plausible that the letter's a fake.

She has to get out her head and maybe a little into her husband's. It is just inconceivable to her that her husband chose a sext (or sex) partner for whom he was very unlikely to leave her--because there was a social prohibition against cousins being together (which was my thought), or because her husband would incur a swingeing social cost if it ever got out, as Dan explained very articulately. Her words are maybe more shocked, numb, blocked and aversive, rather than narcissistic. Obviously the jaw drop comment was unfortunate, as @4 fubar, @10 curious, @14 venn and so on picked up. Given the picture of her marriage she implicitly draws, I would not think her troubles, in terms of her husband straying, at an end: they are a couple who don't discuss sex: he has been busted and falls into line for a while, then quite probably, even more shamed, he reverts to his shameful behavior with his cousin and to whatever else he's been doing.

Emotionally they've been separated for the time he's been doing this, maybe from when their sex life started to be unsatisfactory for him, maybe always. As well as seeking an apology, I think INCEST should try to close their breach by, when she can, talking to her husband. What has he been doing, first of all? And what has he felt about it? About her, about their marriage? Has he felt justified? Ashamed? They need to understand each other better if they are to stay together in spirit, not just in fact, through their retirement. Since these will be difficult, not habitual conversations for them to have, perhaps it would be better for them to be taken through them in a guided way, by a trained couples therapist.


@88. Zinaida. Yes, there's no need to scapegoat a whole generation. There's a practical need for INCEST to address how she wants her retirement to be.

@24. Bi. Dan's advice is better than Dear Prudence's. But the problem with the 'stuff it in the memory hole' advice is that the texts, once seen, cannot be unseen; things haven't really been stuffed in the memory hole; the couple haven't had a conversation, haven't gotten to the bottom of their differences over sex, and his behavior, while he has more time on his hands in retirement, will likely resume.


Mrs Fox @72, in my experience it's a lot! And I've actually come to see that aspect of Valentine's Day as the one thing that makes that Hallmark holiday worthwhile. It spurs couples who are just cruising along on autoplay to consider how they really feel about each other, and end relationships that aren't making them happy. Which may make for dramatic sob stories but in the end puts those people back out there so that they can find better matches. Happy V-Day from this seasoned cynic! :)

Nocute @82, of course not-all-boomers in the same way that it's never all-anything. Hell, Dan is technically on the cusp of being a boomer. What I'm saying is that the culture is not to talk about sex as openly as subsequent generations have come to do -- and even subsequent generations, especially those who aren't queer and/or kinky, find it difficult. Indeed, -this- couple fits that stereotype, which is why I recommended talking with a facilitator.

Mrs Fox @86, I don't even have to read the comments in question to know whom they're directed at. You're fine.

Zinaida @88, INCEST has been married for almost 30 years, has children in their 20s and is about to retire. Do the math, she's a boomer. I brought up her age/generation to note that she is behaving in line with those mores, and shouldn't be chastised for not having had more detailed talks with her spouse about their varying sex drives, whether sexting is cheating, etc, because that just wasn't really the done thing for people in her age cohort. She shouldn't be judged through a millennial lens which would show her in a negative light.

Harriet @90, INCEST says she "just found out" about the sext affair, which would rule out this "big family gathering" having happened last summer. Either she's fake or she's Covid careless. I'm glad to see you agreeing that a couples therapist is a good approach for these two. She definitely needs to listen to her husband with an open mind.

And I kind of wish Sporty were here to see that indeed, it's a writer's tone, not their gender, that determines in large part how much sympathy they get. INCEST comes across as a pearl-clutching, sex-withholding Covid denier, so she got no sympathy from Dan, and commenters either saying she is fake or that she's the MF who needs dumping.


@32. Fantastic. Of course INCEST has a right to feel hurt and confused. You're the first person I see making that basic point. I think it's the right thing, whatever the grounds for doubt, to chalk the letter up to being real, since there will be at least some people in INCEST's situation: women in their late 50s and early 60s on the verge of retiring with partners they supposed monogamous, only to discover they have been cheating on them actually or emotionally.


Harriet @91, yes, you are correct. "Stuff it down the memory hole" is inpractical advice. "Work this all out with a pro" is much better.


Harriet @93: "women in their late 50s and early 60s on the verge of retiring"
Wouldn't a shorter term for that be "boomers"?


@90. Bi. The letter could be fake. Or she could have written before COVID or in a hiatus, sat on it, then impulsively or as part of her starting to 'work through', sent it off to two or multiple advice columnists.

Let's assume it's real. The only people INCEST has talked to about the sexting are her husband, when she caught him red-handed, and coz, when she angrily confronted her. I don't think she's confided in anyone else. I don't think she's had an open-hearted conversation with her husband. The working assumption between the two of them is that sex is not something you talk about it: you either accept what you get as a condition of being married (her view), or you resist this and find a workaround on the sly (his). If he's anything like her, he will feel guilty and not be in a position, not feel able, to suggest he had some justification in enjoying very limited side action with his cousin. In these circumstances, I'd think it almost imperative they have a conversation about what they want and believe in with the mediation of someone who can ask them to open their minds.

The alternative is trying the memory hole--and this could work. But I'm not sure it would resolve their underlying difference, which is that hubby will feel justified (he was driven to the sexting by her prison rations, and did it in a way that preserved the marriage) and she will also feel justified in any anger or aloofness she shows him if they stay together (he betrayed her).


@93. Bi. I would say she's a Boomer (a young Boomer). Maybe I missed some of the discussion, but I thought Zinaida's point--which I agreed with--was that the letter, and INCEST's shocked reaction, form too slender a basis to infer any big difference in how open different generations are in talking about sex.

It has emerged that we think the same about the letter :) -- if of course real :|


@37. CMD. What you say about its having started innocent and flirty with his cousin is plausible; but it's also possible that any kind of extramarital sex for him is intensely verboten, and he's chosen the most transgressive means of having it (while not quite having it, maybe).

@39. Fubar. I would think hubby understands he's cheating in some sense.

@52. Fichu. You make a very good point that her usual outlets for sympathy are closed.

@53. Ensign. Couples can have a pact of silence. And they can each interpret silence in a way that suits their priors: in a case like this, 'he' can think, 'well, silence gives consent'; and 'she' can think, 'I laid off on expressing how degrading, how offensive it was that you just wanted to treat me like a bit of meat' (admittedly, this is hyperbolic) 'and the price in return was that you were faithful and that I made an effort to do it occasionally'. We could know just what they said to each other about sex (type and frequency) and still not understand how far he made clear that he had an intractable need she was not fulfilling.


BDF: Your tone @92 is quite different than first paragraph @23.


Zinaida @99, yes, it is, because I have read other people's comments and seen their points.


BDF @ 92 “I brought up her age/generation to note that she is behaving in line with those mores, and shouldn't be chastised...shouldn't be judged.”

No, that’s not how/why you brought it up.


Zinaida @101, OK, boomer.


@63. Nocute. This is all very helpful contextualisation, and your indignation that Dan seems to have scolded her, rather than providing support and valuable practical orientation, is quite due and powerfully stated.

At the risk of coming over as a naif, I do not know who Danny Lavery is--a journalist or a psychologist, a man or a woman.

It seems now that neither Savage nor 'Prudence' gave immediately helpful advice. This advice would be to find someone relatively independent to talk to--someone who will not take your husband's side (maybe because he's a family member), and who will not castigate you merely for having a low sex-drive. Further--not someone for whom the revelation, given unguardedly and while still present and hurting, will have a possibly uncontrollable fallout, for example one of the couple's sons. A possible answer is a friend, another a psychiatric professional. As Fichu very correctly said, the first thing a professional will do will to be attend to and 'hold' INCEST's pain. Then, given how INCEST is at present unable to put herself in her husband's position, a professional may choose to lead her to a different understanding of the long-term dynamics and 'implicit contract' of her marriage.

And it's also possible that her husband will grant their problem and the effects of their prolonged miscommunication, and of his cheating, and will join her in therapy.

I didn't think from the letter that she necessarily wanted a divorce. It's not impossible; but I thought that there were prudential reasons for the couple to have remained together, understood just as much or more by her husband as by her, and that she would be pleased to find a way of healing the breach (or being able to pretend none of it ever happened).

It's not exactly clear to me that Dan and Danny Lavery saw word-for-word the same words. Maybe a staffer edited the letter for Dan and supplied the handle 'INCEST'? Is there pre-editing before the advice-giver sees a letter, or no pre-editing at all? I would have been more sympathetic when reading the letter had the first sentence been 'I want to puke' and the obvious inference being that this--the sexts to the cousin--was something the lw had found out, to her shock, very recently--like in the last twenty-four hours.


Couldn't resist.

I include myself among the people who reacted unsympathetically to INCEST due to her tone. That she expected Dan's jaw to drop, after how many decades of advising people in far more shocking situations than these. That she just expected her husband to will his libido away as a price of admission to be with her. That she's attending a "big family gathering" in a pandemic. Not much in her letter that caused me to sympathise with her plight. After reading Fantastic Mrs Fox and Nocutename's comments, though, I saw her side. That despite reacting in a somewhat comical way, her pain is real, and she did deserve more understanding than Dan or I gave her. I referred to her as a boomer simply because she is one, and because her attitude is old-fashioned. But Mrs Fox and Nocute are right that she is due some slack for not effectively communicating with her husband about these issues in a way that might have come more naturally to someone younger. Her letter indicates that they may be able to see the role this lack of communication played in their present situation. I have more sympathy for her after reading other viewpoints, though I remain judgemental of this "big family gathering" misstep.


Oh, I’m not a boomer. One of the reasons I was sure about the math is those numbers fit me and I’m Gen X. In your posts, you come across as ageist.


@67. Bi. As regards her 'admitted sexual neglect of her husband', this might just have been in her mind part of the deal they struck. It was one of the lemons of marriage, or, in Savagese, 'once-a-month and jerking off in the shower' was the price of admission of her being a wife, mother to his children, cook, home manager, whatever she did (or, rather, whatever her share of what they both did as parents and co-habitants).

@69. venn. I am dimly getting the idea that Daniel Lavery is the person who was formerly Mallory Ortberg. I apologise for bringing up Lavery's dead name. I am so out of it.

Lavery's response seems to me a partly-deliberate effort to approximate to, or to inhabit fully, the characteristic response of one gender. (I find this in myself all the time, and I try to stop doing it--as if I could know what the normative female response to anything is, or as if there is only one possible female response). This could be an entire blind alley and something only I (or someone in a similar position) could bring up. Sorry if so.


I have wanted to ask Dan for about 20 years now how one stuffs things down the memory hole. It sounds a blessed ability to have.

So here's an issue that comes up time and again in these letters: mismatched libidos, and who's supposed to meet who halfway (and how much is that supposed to be exactly?). When is it that the higher-libido partner is being pushy for sex? When is it that the lower-libido partner is neglecting the other's sexual needs? Is the concept of maintenance sex a good thing or a bad thing (I've seen this both advocated for, and heard commenters express dismay at the idea)? INCEST admits that sex was "one of their main problems," but she also mentions couples counseling in their past. Maybe they have discussed their sex problems, or at least the LW may have believed her husband had the opportunity to express how much of a problem it was. Of course, their "meh" sex life could be an entirely separate issue altogether - INCEST may be falling victim to the fallacy that she somehow caused her husband to make the choices he did by not putting out enough (when oh when will we stop torturing people with this patently untrue idea?).


I have not yet recovered from understanding that Dear Prudence, or Daniel Lavery, was once called Daniel Mallory Ortberg and before that Mallory Ortberg. Journalists and young people can do this. I cannot do this--I would have no continuity in my career; the briefs and opinions and office literature I have filed have one name on them, and it would be difficult to retro-change them to a very different name. (This is of course transphobic; but it's not different from the structural barrier and prejudice that faces female authors when they marry). @86 Fantastic, you were not the person arguably being ageist. In fact I think Fantastic and Nocute made the most salutary interventions, and Ensign also tried kindly to be helpful.

The occasions on when we don't know how we come over--when we appear the most ridiculous--are those in which we are in the most butt pain, the blindest pain, and thus those where we stand in greatest need of sympathy. People should give this woman a break for thinking Dan's jaw is lying limply on the carpet.

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