Savage Love

Concessions

Comments

1

'Firked they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.'

2

If you have a time machine handy, go back in time and unscrew the pooch. By which I mean, Dan's standard advice in cases like this to not unburden yourself by burdening your partner by telling her you cheated.

There's nothing wrong with doing drugs. Fuck "illegal". Even if you have kids. There's a right time and place for everything. But if you don't have a time machine and your poor pooch is still screwed...shit man, I'm so sorry.

I guess you need to choose between accepting a partner that can't forgive you for being an imperfect human, and whether you want to lie to her more about, or abstain from, drugs.

My recommendation is to not let her inability to forgive rule your freedom. If you lose her the blame is shared.

Now reading Dan's response: wow, it's infinitely more entertaining than mine! And included the wonderful metaphor about DRUGS' permanent leash. Excellently operated advice machinery!

3

Dan, pain killers or not you should seriously consider Lavagirl’s offer to help you with the editing:
“she would never have found known about “
“maybe it was a good thing you that you told your girlfriend”
“the person the cheated won’t let them out”

4

No one is going to comment on the sneaking a cigarette? Jeeze. Considering we don't know if the illegal drug use was pot, or heroin, or anything in between - and we don't know any past drug history - that's a bit tougher to make a judgement call on. But sneaking a cigarette is a punishable offense too? Dude, if/when you get out of this messed up controlling relationship and start dating a reasonable adult you're going to look back on this "perfect" relationship and wonder what the hell you were ever thinking. It's okay though. You're young. We all did it!

5

I don't understand why people like DRUGS come clean to their partners after cheating and regretting it. They might feel like they want to relieve their guilty conscious, but I think that it is probably usually better to just keep it secret and not do it again. Another commenter here writes that Dan feels the same wand gives that same advice.

When I was 7 my father came clean about his affair. My mom didn't catch him, he just told her. My parents got separated, which at the time I loved. I loved not having my mean ass dad around. I was disappointed when they got back together. but during and after their separation, my mother would constantly berate my father both to his face and behind his back. My parents would constantly loudly scream at each other right in front of my face. She would call him "The man in the apartment" for several years after he moved back in.

This really damaged how I feel about being male and relationships. I never had the most optimistic feelings toward relationships. And as a child I didn't like being a boy because my father made me think that boys/men are bad. Couple this with going to a Catholic school where the female teachers would often say, "There is too much talking, all of the boys must spend recess with their heads down!" I grew up thinking boys are bad, and that women represent scorn and punishment.

Why the hell did my dad admit to his affair? I am sure that during the separation he thought it was the biggest mistake of his life. I wonder if he still does.

6

chandelier@4
I like Jack's comment.

But honestly, I think that tobacco use is far worse than pot use. Cigarettes are vile, disgusting, deadly habit. I would be delighted to be with a pot smoker, but I would not consider being with a cigarette smoker.

7

@1 WA-HOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Congrats, curious2, on once again scoring this week's "firkt" FIRDT! honors! This must now be a record of consecutive FIRDTs for you. Savor your envied glory of leading this week's SL comment thread and bask in the glow. :)

8

Jack @4: I came here to ask the same question, but you beat me to it. So here's my other question: DRUGS ratted himself out about the affair. Did he also rat himself out about the cigarette and the unspecified drug use, or did she smell it on him?

If DRUGS hasn't learned, after four years of having his nuts in a vice, to keep his mouth shut (or shower and gargle with mouthwash), then he's a full-on participant in this D/s dynamic.

9

@6 curious2: I agree. Cigarettes are disgusting. My on-site landlord is still dealing with the lingering odor of cigarettes in his unit several years after his predecessor, and even after a fresh paint job in his apartment.
I have never smoked pot, nicotine, or anything else, myself, being a wind musician (piccolo, C, & alto flutes). Ironically, my first ever flute teacher (back in my high school years) was principal flutist in the local symphony orchestra. She smoked like a chimney to her dying day wondering why she had trouble breathing.

10

Clearly Mr Savage needs regular root canals.

L1 seems tailor made for Ms Erica, who, if memory serves, once reported being upset when she'd learned Msr Erica had resumed smoking.

Having run bridge games before the age of Non-Smoking where the air in the main room turned blue, I got used to cigarette smoke, though encountering pot smoke (fortunately never at the bridge club) tended to make me feel sick. As I've said often enough and many would say even more often, I'm weird.

Skr Curious, I've tried to avoid giving police any quarter-legitimate excuse. For me it was easy, as I never took to or even tried illegal substances.

11

Mr. venn@10
"I've tried to avoid giving police any quarter-legitimate excuse"

I hear you. I loved that in my city, in my twenties, one could walk right past a cop smoking weed.

"I got used to cigarette smoke"

Yes, but could you (or could DRUGS' GF) get used to kissing a smoker. I kisses one once; the experience was so horrifically (literally) distasteful that I would never consider repeating it.

12

"walk right past a cop smoking weed."

Ooops, I meant WHILE smoking weed. Even here the cops don't smoke in uniform in public.

13

Oh, I forgot to add that P1's dumping LW1 seems inconceivable when she can send him to the penalty box whenever she wants, especially as she seems to enjoy that situation so. And if he dumps her, he's easily the villain. His best hope is that she'll get bored with this role in time or that she'll find someone who offers her better sport. She reminds me a little of Mrs Boynton from Appointment with Death, who kept her adult stepchildren so afraid of her that they shrank from doing perfectly normal things, like making new acquaintances when traveling or going sight-seeing without her.

14

Skr Curious - I can't recall ever being much bothered by it; at worst it was mildly unpleasant.

15

Wow, Dan the Man----after emergency dental work and heavy duty painkillers! I am impressed again this week, by your spot on advice to DRUGS, response to JERK, and to meet deadlines despite your working under heavy duty painkillers. I hope you're feeling better soon. It doesn't sound like your trip to the dentist was much fun. Sending cyber elbow bumps, positrons, and VW beeps (I know you're not into hugging). :)

@DRUGS: You cheated, you confessed, you have busted your ass to remain faithfully monogamous, and yet despite your every attempt to make things right again years later, your girlfriend is still keeping you on a tight leash. For god's sake, DON'T marry or have children with her!

@JERK: Thank you for sharing. Congratulations to you and your spouse. :)

16

Alternatively, sign up with FetLife and go F/m officially. He sounds like a brat, not my style at all, but maybe she likes being a brat-tamer.

Making the dynamic overt opens the door to making it fun and playful; it also opens the door to negotiation, limits and consent.

17

RE JERK:

Huh. I usually do it the other way around. I talk to him and play with his tits while he beats himself off.

18

Mr. vennominon @10 - you have an excellent memory! Yes, Mr. P and I had some lies to work through in order to stay together, and some of those lies involved sex and some of the lies involved smoking. He had promised to stop smoking as a condition for us having kids together, so I felt I had justification to feel betrayed. But this list was very helpful in getting me to see that people change as they get older (or get tired of pretending not to be who they are), and having promised in his 20s to stop smoking was not the guarantee I thought it was that he would never smoke again. Nor did starting smoking again make him a monster.

That said -- if I could go back and give myself advice (and I love my husband and my children, so I hope I wouldn't take that advice) -- I would say that someone who wants to raise kids with a non-smoker should marry a non-smoker, rather than marrying and having kids with a former smoker.

So unlike most posters I have a lot of sympathy for Ms. DRUGS, but I think the advice for her is the same as the advice Dan gave to DRUGS. Don't have kids together.

They were 19 and 23 when they got together. Their relationship worked okay for six years, but now is the time to end it. Otherwise DRUGS is totally going to be smoking and having affairs in ten or fifteen years, and then you'll have co-parenting issues to deal with as well.

Venn @13 " And if he dumps her, he's easily the villain" -- nah, no kids, no physical abuse, no villain. Break-ups happen. He can say -- you know, I think I am a smoker after all, and I think I might want to be polyamorous too, and she'll be happy they're breaking up, regardless of who pulls the metaphorical trigger.

19

me @18 - why did I say "this list"? This community is what I meant. Hi all, and thanks!

20

Considering he didn't specify the drugs, I'm guessing he doesn't mean pot, or he means more than just pot. What's Dan's stance on psychedelics?

21

DRUGS: DTMFA. This woman is controlling. You're her partner, not her child; you get to make your own decisions about recreational drug and tobacco use. I think you are tolerating her unreasonableness because you still feel guilty for cheating, but these are two separate issues. I know plenty of good parents who party occasionally. It doesn't sound like you're compatible. If you don't see anything wrong with an occasional cigarette, or joint, or line, and she wants you to seek permission for these things, you are not perfect for each other. Please think of the future kids this woman will end up mothering and don't breed with her.

I disagree with Dan that it was a mistake to come clean about the affair. DRUGS is to be commended for his honesty. Without it, he might not know that his partner is the kind of person who will punish someone for an infraction for the rest of his life.

Run, DRUGS. If this woman does make babies, at least you won't be the one paying for their therapy.

22

I continue surprised at how often questions revolve around who is being unreasonable-- as though that mattered. Let's pretend for a moment that the answer was that DRUGS was being unreasonable. Let's say it's another advice column, some evangelical shit somewhere, where the answer was that DRUGS was wrong to have the affair, wrong to enjoy the illegal whatever-it-was with the buddy, that the fiancee is entirely right, etc. Who the hell cares! Do you want to be married to this lady or not? What kind of difference does it make if someone else thinks she's a catch or if some other guy wouldn't be tempted?

Allow me to quote from the letter: "My problem is that I trapped between a desire to meet the wants of my partner while also maintaining a degree of autonomy." I don't get why you're trapped. Is SHE trapped between a desire to meet YOUR wants? What if your wants were for her to back off?

I just got an evil thought. What if your wants were for her to have sex with you 3x more often than you currently do or for her to have no career, no control over the money, and to raise children and do housework all day? What if your wants were for her to lose 40 pounds or, if she's currently slim, to promise never to become overweight? Does this paint the picture for you more clearly?

But there I am back to figuring out who's being unreasonable when I mean to be hammering home that it's a simple question of whether you want to live like this. Do you? I wouldn't.

23

Jack @4, DRUGS says the sneaking was the bad part. Perhaps he promised his girlfriend that he would quit smoking. I can see both sides here. Cigarettes are pretty awful, worse than most illegal drugs if you ask me, and if one makes a promise one should stick to it, but she's overreacting as well.

Guts @5: "Why the hell did my dad admit to his affair?" Because it was the right thing to do, and therefore, men AREN'T all bad. Try looking at it that way? I'm sorry the experience burdened you with so much baggage. We definitely use our parents' relationship(s) as a template, good or bad, which is why I am opposed to "staying together for the kids." Being a bit poorer is less damaging in most cases than growing up doomed to bad relationships, since that was the only kind one saw. (My question is not why the hell your dad admitted to the affair, but why the hell he didn't leave when refused forgiveness.)

Curious @6, agree. If she didn't object to one cigarette, how long would it be before he was smoking a pack a day? There's definitely justification for her being upset by "one" cigarette. Although she should say, smoking is a dealbreaker for me, rather than insist he get her permission like a five-year-old.

Venn @13, agree, if he dumps her he's the bad guy, but since he's already the bad guy he has little to lose. Let her vent about him while he lives his life.

EricaP @18, I meant to make the point about how young they were when they got together. She wasn't even drinking age. This has been a starter relationship; they might have been good together in the beginning, but they have changed and aren't compatible now. Move on before you make the marriage and kids mistakes, indeed.

24

Clarifying, by "if he dumps her he's the bad guy" I don't mean he IS the bad guy, but that she will see him that way. But for once, he should decide not to care what she thinks, and do what's best for him.

25

Guts @5, thank you for sharing the reason why you have a chip on your shoulder against women, and also why you seem so keen to embody all the negative stereotypes about men. If you're deemed guilty until proven innocent, why not accept that and revel in it? I'm sure, however, that you've already discovered this approach is doing you no favours in your own relationships. Not all women are like this, and not all men are doomed to be self-fulfilling prophesies. Have you had any therapy to deal with this significant trauma?

26

Wow, Dan's drug-enhanced response to LW1 has really set a tone, hasn't it? I agree with him 99% of the time, but I'm sober enough to read between the lines of this letter and I think a lot of people are being suckered.

I think this guy has a serious drug problem, based on my own personal experience with addicts in my family. LW1 explains himself like an addict does when they know they're an addict -- he casually talks about how his partner doesn't want him going out with his friends and getting high, but he doesn't talk about what drugs he's taking or how often he's taking them, and he's very careful to only mention this in a light that makes his partner look controlling. He never just casually talks about his regimen, whereas an occasional user who has themselves under control might say 'I only get high a couple of times a week' or something to that effect.

He goes out of his way to talk about how he only cheated once but says he has to work through "these issues I caused," before he mentions the other stuff, suggesting there's more going on that he's not saying. He emphasizes the two 'recent' instances of breaking her trust, as if absolutely nothing of interest has happened in the last four years between the cheating and the other stuff.

He has a detailed psychoanalysis of his own behavior ("I view both of these as a symptom...") that, in his mind, exonerates him. He emphasizes that he snuck the cigarette on a 'stressful' day, and that when he got caught, he owned up to it. But all that means is that he didn't gaslight her, like he deserves an award for that. He reframes her arguments in his words, rather than actually presenting her arguments.

There's a LOT of passive, manipulative language here, the exact same sort I saw from drug-abusing family members up close. For instance:

"partner is uncomfortable allowing me to have the freedom to go out with my friends and partake in drugs" instead of "partner doesn't want me to go out and get high with my friends."

"trapped between a desire to meet the wants of my partner while also maintaining a degree of autonomy" (which would be a lot more innocuous if not for the previous sentence about agreeing to abstain when they have kids) instead of "I want to keep doing drugs and my partner doesn't want me to."

If he's only ever done these three things wrong and she's kept on him about it this whole time, as he says, then best-case scenario he's as invested in wanting a high-conflict relationship as Dan thinks she is. What's more likely is that she's a source of stability in his life, and given her age (she's 25 and they've been together six years, which means she was 18 or 19 when they got together) this is probably her first serious relationship and she probably thinks that he'll mature and sober up with her influence. In which case they should probably break up for her sake as much as his.

I could be wrong, I know just as much about this guy as anybody else does. But at the very least I don't think he's as forthcoming as he seems.

27

Mythic @26, I did get the sense that this guy might not be the most reliable narrator. How many people smoke just one cigarette? I did suspect that he was talking about the times he got caught, not the times he indulged. I didn't address this because the end result was the same -- they have fundamentally different views toward drug use, and should break up.

28

Also, FYI, I tend to start composing my responses to letters before I read Dan's, revising them if he says anything that changes my mind (or says exactly what I just said). So my response to DRUGS @21 aligned with Dan's, but was not inspired by it. My response to DRUGS was mainly influenced by my own mother's attitude toward my teenage experimentation with drugs and alcohol, and not wanting to see this woman treat DRUGS's future children the way my mother treated me, which is the way she's treating DRUGS. No kid needs that, and unlike a partner, a kid can't leave.

29

The biggest red flag in all of this is he's 29, she's 25, and they've been in this relationship for SIX years. No wonder he needed to step out.
Loved Dan's response. Definitely spot on.

30

Marty @29, trolling? He didn't "NEED" to step out, and he did so two years into their relationship. If you don't want a monogamous relationship, don't commit to one, but "we've been together for six years" is not an entitlement card for cheating. Wow.

31

Ms Erica/Ms Fan - That was basically what I meant, that she could easily paint him as the villain. She'd likely win most of their joint friends. It is valuable to get Ms Erica's perspective from that side.

LW1 is quite likely the sort of person one would have advised P1 to dump. Would P1 have done so? It doesn't look like it.

32

Dan is the wrong person to advise this couple (DRUGS and his gf). There are many people who want, at age nineteen, only to have sex with one person in their life ever again, to have a family with this person, to trust them implicitly--who need, moreover, to trust them implicitly to enjoy any sense of personal security or wellbeing in their love life. There could be cultural reasons for this--but for convenience's sake, I'll ignore these and say that there are bedrock psychological reasons: people like this need a marked, a what-could-be-for-other-people oppressive, degree of sameness, consistency, reliability in their intimate life. And just as these people exist, slightly older people exist who want to be with them, who are happy (for the most part) to do what their partners ask to banish or appease their insecurities.

The lw and his long-term gf are people like this.

The people who should advise them are those who share their cultural and personal values--for the most part, the pastors of religions that stress faithfulness in monogamy as the correct way to conduct intimate sexual relationships.

The lw got more than he bargained for in writing to Dan. His motivations were opportunistic and low-level selfish: he thought Dan would just say that his gf should cut him some slack over a little weed. (At the same time, he may--?--have been writing out of genuine frustration, hurt or perplexity at not being let out the doghouse for his brief affair, despite his honesty and contrition). My advice to him would be different. If he wants to marry / start a family with this woman; if he is prepared to cut out all drugs of any kind within three years, then he should cut them out now. These are essentially the terms he signed up to in having the relationship the way he has.

33

Venn @31, that depends on whether their joint friends are "joint" friends. (Get it?) It's reasonable to speculate, given that they got together when they were 19 and 23, that they both liked to party a bit. In her mid-20s, Ms DRUGS thinks it's time to stop partying, settle down and be serious about life, with an eye to starting a family. DRUGS thinks it's still time to party. Neither of them is wrong. If Ms DRUGS's view is uncommon among the friends group, if the friends group has, like DRUGS, continued to party -- as it seems is the case since she doesn't want him to go out with his friends -- it's likely the friends will see the cause of the breakup as Ms DRUGS being a stick in the mud, and be glad to have DRUGS back in the fold. He's currently painting -her- as the villain, whether this is accurate or not.

I agree that if the letter were on the other foot, if it were "I want to settle down and start a family and my partner wants to keep doing drugs, even though he promised me he'd stop," we'd be telling -her- to DTMFA. But she's not asking, he is, so he needs to be the supposed bad guy and offer up the it's-not-you-it's-me. Better that she spend a few years badmouthing her manchild ex than they remain "trapped" in a relationship that suits neither of them, and end up like Guts's parents.

34

@18. Erica. I think it's more than possible that Mr DRUGS will be having affairs and smoking in ten years, too. His takeaway from the advice and discussion risks being 'don't let your partner in on your cheating' i.e. 'it's kinder not to let her know', 'it will destroy her if she knew', and so on.

The tougher advice is: decide whether you want to be with this person or not; and if the answer's yes, accept that it will be partly on terms you find restrictive. (Of course they can open these terms to negotiation; but what he's said about her, and his having given her reason to doubt him, makes me think that this will be hard).

@22. Fichu. You wouldn't want to be with this person--but in his mid-20s he chose to enter into a monogamous relationship with a 19 year-old. Maybe he does?

@26. Mythic. I was under the impression that he did not smoke or take any illegal recreational drug in all the years of their relationship when he had a routine not disrupted by COVID.

35

@28 Bi. Yes, I also say in my head what I'd say before I read Dan's response.

@33. Bi. "It's reasonable to speculate, given that they got together when they were 19 and 23, that they both liked to party a bit."

No, not really--this is just speculation. It's also reasonable to speculate they're from Bible Belt Hicksville where the only suitable partners for anyone under 25 number in the tens (unless they want to drive for 20 miles plus, and can't necessarily afford the gas). We don't know whether they met in a college town (where it would mean something that a 23yo wanted to be with a teen) or in a close, rural community (where it wouldn't have to mean anything--but it would mean something that he stayed well into his twenties).

36

Harriet @35, your speculation that he didn't smoke or take drugs until the pandemic is no more or less reasonable than my speculation that they both dabbled when they were young and that she got over that phase and he hasn't. "This is just speculation" -- that's exactly what I said. It's reasonable speculation. All this time, until age 29, he didn't take drugs and now, during a pandemic, he suddenly has a new group of drug-taking friends? Unlikely. More likely that he eased off the partying at her request, but the pandemic caused old crutches to resurface.

37

@36. Bi. He says: 'I view both [the smoking and the other drug use] as being a symptom of the lockdown/pandemic prompting me to break with my “normal” behavior'. I take this to mean that his normal behavior is not edging a cigarette or being 520 friendly. My reading was that these two incidents were the first time he's taken drugs while they were together.

This is quite possible. Someone like Dan Savage might believe it's not possible--and further, that he'll need to indulge once he's a father (maybe need to indulge more?)--but there are people who don't smoke, drink or take drugs at all.

He says that he loves her, that she's perfect for him, that they have everything they need for two people to be together.... Does he mean it? Do people who say this sort of thing before introducing a '...but', a problem, mean it? It's hard to tell--maybe impossible without knowing both of them better. It could be that he fears the guilt of breaking up with her, more than he'd be hurt long-term by having broken up with her... It could be that it's unimaginable to him right now that he could be happy with someone else, but that he could, in fact, find a person much more suitable, and in particular less uptight... I don't think we know this, beyond seeing that very clearly he chafes under her restrictions right now.

38

“The doghouse is where the cheated wants the cheater. Forever.” That seems right, Dan. And DRUGS must know this by now. I mean, he’s been in the doghouse for years because of the cheating. So he must have known that his GF would double down when he confessed these other infractions of her own behavioral code. So why does he continue to confess? Maybe he thought he was being a good boyfriend. Or maybe he’d agreed to some sort of arrangement between the two of them that required confessions of these things as soon as they happened as a condition of her “regaining trust.”

Or maybe, just maybe, he likes being in the doghouse? For whatever reason, this might be a dynamic DRUGS understands and is comfortable with? Or perhaps not conformable, exactly, since he did write in for advice. But maybe he doesn’t see any other way a relationship can be. He was young when they started, after all. Dan’s sarcastic qualifier – “Don’t scramble your DNA together with hers, not unless it makes your dick hard to think about begging this woman for permission every time you wanna smoke a little pot with a friend or take a fucking shit for the next forty years” – might be actually what DRUGS wants, or thinks he has to accept?

Either way, Dropthemotherfuckeralready seems appropriate.

39

Harriet @37, yet MythicFox @26 reads it completely opposite to you -- that he's a drug addict in denial. As discussed, I find it highly implausible that a 29-year-old would only smoke a cigarette or snort a line in the pandemic, that this isn't a return to previous behaviour. Perhaps my speculation is completely wrong and he quit all drugs at age 23 when he met her. But he has a group of friends that includes drug takers, and whom she doesn't want him to spend time with. How does that square with your impression of him as having been straightedge for the past six years? If she's freaking out over him doing something he never did before, that seems even more unreasonable than freaking out over a return to previous bad habits. I am more inclined to read the letter MythicFox's way than yours. Because after all, if he had never smoked nor taken drugs before, or at least not in the past six years, why would it represent a hardship for him to just say no? If he's committed to stopping drugs once he's a father, that suggests to me that he has a history with them, or there'd be nothing to quit, right? He's "arguing for the freedom to do an illegal drug." Regardless of past use, he's advocating for future use. Someone who's taken drugs once in his life wouldn't risk a great relationship to strike such a bargain.

40

Ens @38, DRUGS said he "owned up to both straightaway." Straightaway after he was confronted? I don't read the letter as his making a voluntary confession, necessarily. I can read it as, "You smell like cigarettes/weed/your eyes are dilated. Have you been smoking/taking drugs?" "Yes, honey, I have." That would fit the description of owning up straightaway, but not the admittedly foolish concept of volunteering information he knows she won't like.

41

I'm going to have to address L1 and its facets in a few goes. There's deceptively a lot to unpack here, and I think for both their sakes this couple should break up, or at least take a significant break from each other.

Elements of L1 reminded me of this long-term cishet couple I used to spend a lot of time with a decade ago. The man loved craft beer, including brewing his own and coming up with his own recipes (I live in the Pacific Northwest where we are perhaps overly fond of our craft beer culture). Though he drank daily, he rarely got drunk, and was a very happy, jovial drunk on the occassions that he did overembibe. The woman never drank, HATED that her BF drank, was constantly trying to get him to stop. Their relationship baffled me to no end, and I could see how unhappy this source of contention made both of them. My outside-looking-in perspective was: 1, that it was it was ridiculous to hold against your partner something they love to do when you knew this about them when you entered the relationship and 2, that people can define and stand by their relationship deal-breakers.

All of this is to say, this doesn't need to boil down to an argument of reasonableness, but this couple needs to decide what their deal-breakers are, and if they're able/willing to pay one another's price of admission. Harriet's last paragraph @32 took the words right out of my mouth. If LW1 is actually going to commit to marrying and having children with this woman, he needs to cut out the cigarettes and drugs now, and get used to living that way * now *. He runs a very real risk of deeply resenting his future children (and partner) for ruining his fun times otherwise. I also think LW needs to be honest with himself and ask himself if he's making future promises that he's not going to be able to keep. "WE agreed that I'll stop doing drugs when we have kids." I call BS.

42

Married to an alcoholic who sobered up with AA, so we did a bit of socializing with other sober alcoholics. There was one wife - her husband had been sober for ten years when I met them, but every time we saw them (once every couple months), at some point she'd take pains to remind him that his drinking had ruined her life. She made a point of cracking the whip in little ways, too, getting him to run get her things and so on. It was very unpleasant to witness, must have been hell to live.

In my own life, I was once beating my husband over the head about something he had done about a year earlier and he said "I did it, and I'm sorry, but if you're going to hold it over me for the rest of our lives, we can't stay married". I had to agree - my choices were to really forgive him, or throw him out, but this was bullshit.

The doghouse can't be forever. If this pair can have it out and come to an agreement they both can honestly live with, fine, but otherwise better for both of them to break up.

43

Oh, and LW1, if you think your GF is cramping your ability to hang out and do drugs with your buddies now, just wait until dependent children enter the scene.

44

BDF @40: ... Unless he is volunteering information she won't like because he wants to get himself dumped, so that he can go live the child-free party life but not feel guilty for choosing that lifestyle over her. Hmm.

45

I’m also suspicious of LW1. Maybe it’s just that I’m in CA, but I don’t think anyone would use the vague term “use an illegal drug” to mean “smoke pot” unless they were trying to emphasize that pot is illegal where they are.

He’s trying to come off as the good guy, so if it was just pot he would say it was just pot. The fact that he’s vague about it means that the specifics of whatever it is would make him sound worse.

46

My read of the drug use aligns with BDF's musings. I think this is something he's always done, and he and/or his GF have been laboring under the delusion that one magical day LW1 will Grow Up and Get Serious, that he will magically stop partying once marriage and kids. This is not an uncommon delusion, I think especially among young couples, but I agree with BDF that it seems GF is taking a more serious, future-focused perspective on the relationship than the LW. If LW isn't ready to stop being a manboy, he should stop wasting his GF's time and emotional energy. I get the impression that they want very different things and are at very different points in life in terms of maturity.

47

Dan and Carolyn Hax both seem to get so many letters that begin with some version of "My partner and I have a great relationship, we're perfect for each other blah blah blah..." and then get to the reason they're writing which of course throws a bucket of cold water on the "great relationship" claim. Sigh...

48

Oh! And LW's tasty little "I want your 'drug-positive' perspective on how unreasonable my GF is being, Dan!" at the end of the letter is awfully telling as well.

49

I’m DRUGS. apologies for the long reply, I wanted to answer much of what was raised.

@4 & @20 The drug in question was a bit of Coke. Not a whole evenings worth, just a couple of bumps. There’s no history of addiction and it’s not a slippery slope I’m going down.

@5 I came clean about the affair against the advice of my (sensible) friend. I don't know if I'd do anything different in hindsight, but it may have been easier if I hadn't...

@8 She had to ask if I’d done drugs & had a cigarette, but I didn’t hide the fact or lie.

@21 I was in a 5 year controlling relationship before this (I was even younger, yes!) I want to work with her to come to a balance on these issues. Every infraction relates back to the affair so every time I do something ‘out of line’ it comes all the way back to a breakdown in trust stemming from that.

@22 I feel like I’m getting the gist of your comment, but it’s not painting the picture for me clearly enough – sorry. Can you elaborate a bit more?`

@23 I don’t smoke, but we’ve both enjoyed a cigarette every couple of weeks when life stressed build up a bit. & UK so drinking age is 18.

@26 I’m happy to engage you on these points. The letter was written post-heated discussion with my partners about all of this. I appreciate you’re trying to balance the narrative between myself and my partner, I think that’s needed.
- The drug was coke, and for the last year I’ve not done any due to COVID. Prior to that it’d be every couple of months on a night out, not regularly or excessively. I am not a drug addict.
- ‘these issues I caused’ refers to the surrounding situation that was the affair and the subsequent confession. There’s obviously a myriad of things going on in re-developing the trust I lost. Lapses in communication and judgment that appear minor but have deeper implications because of past actions have happened over the last 4 years.
- “He reframes her arguments in his words, rather than actually presenting her arguments.” I tried my best to take ownership over my actions in the letter and not present it as one sided. I may have failed in that.
- Re: manipulative language. I’d attribute how I worded it to my writing style, and your summarising of my phasing is accurate. I hope re-reading it knowing I’m not an addict and really do what to create a balance existence with my partner where I can go get high every once in a while and she feels comfortable for me to do so.
- Finally, yes – her first long-term relationship.

@27 we’ve smoked together on occasion, I took it upon myself to sneak a cigarette out with the unspoken parameters of this arrangement.

@32 this comment hits the nail on the head the most I think. For non-religious and cultural reasons, this is exactly the type of person my GF is, and it is mostly the type of person I am. Am I interested in what a non-monogamous, totally flexible and re-structurable relationship could be? Sure, but not nearly enough to give up what I have at with this person. Do I wish she would loosen up a bit on her stance on drugs, yes. Do I think that I should be in the doghouse for the rest of our relationship, no. Do I think her stance on drugs is tied to my past infidelity, yes. It’s this last point that I think I’m fighting for deep down when I push for more personal freedoms in areas that matter to me. I’ve done years of sacrificing, I want a little more slack and the coming child induced abstinence of drugs IS okay with me, I just want to dabble at the moment.

@33 – the second part of this is what scares me. When it’s painted from her perspective, as you’ve done, I sound CRAZY to anyone that isn’t drug-friendly! Of course she should DTMFA. I can’t really console that.

@37 – Normal behaviour was as described above, inconsistent use on my part that was generally accepted on her part. She doesn’t do hard drugs. And I’d say my description of how good we are together don’t translate well into written form where I’m ultimately expressing a trapped feeling. There is SO MUCH GOOD, there’s also this bad thing that’s causing me chafe. Is the good worth the chafe? Yes. Should I argue really really hard to make the chafe less? That’s why I’m here.

@40 – correct summation of that conversation.

@43 - I'm fine with sacrifice for my future kids, If I die from bad coke when they're 5 that's going to fuck them up more than daddy not being able to party like he's 25 again.

FYI - We also own a flat together, so that complicates much of the advice (that I’m resistant to taking) here.

50

DRUGS, thanks for checking in.
One point I'm going to make to the commentariat as a former US, current UK resident is that recreational cocaine use is FAR more socially acceptable here than it is in the States. I was a bit shocked at first. But taking coke at a party every few months isn't considered a sign of addiction the way most Americans would think. I recommend the excellent sitcoms Spaced and Fresh Meat to give an idea of how Brits view casual drug use.

To your comments: I am back to my initial assessment of your situation. She smokes occasionally, but you can't do so without her permission!? You say, "Every infraction relates back to the affair" -- how? How does your smoking a cigarette to relieve stress relate to an affair you had four years ago?

As an ethically non-monogamous person, I cast a side eye toward "I came clean but only after I was asked." This would not pass the sniff test if non-monogamy were the subject matter. If she hadn't asked, you wouldn't have told her, which is why she doesn't trust you. Right? The question is whether you're duty bound to tell her these things. If you haven't promised you won't take drugs, at least while you remain not a parent, and if the drugs didn't affect your behaviour, ie you would have stayed out until 4am with or without coke versus it completely ruined plans you had the next day, then I don't think it's something you're obliged to volunteer. Not lying when asked is a low bar, but it's not nothing.

Is she aware she is still punishing you for this four-year-old affair? What is her response to that?

51

DRUGS@49
Thank you very much for joining us! (It's an opportunity we are rarely afforded.)

My take doesn't change because it was coke. (While it does have much more potential for issues that pot, it is entirely possible to have a healthy relationship with both substances.)

"I was in a 5 year controlling relationship before this"

I just want to state the obvious, that this means you have a pattern (heaven knows we all have patterns) of finding partners who are controlling. One thing you can do now is to practice not accepting it (which is of course your role in the pattern); once you start practicing that, we should quickly find that your relationship will need to be left behind (because a controlling partner will not accept leaving their own pattern behind).

Unless you two can pull of the magic trick of both changing at once. (Which is dependent upon you /both/ wanting to change, and both being able to change.) And even if you do both change, it might need to be for future partners that you have done so. Because once roles are established between two people, they become like deep wagon wheel ruts which are very difficult to get out of, and very easy to slide back into. So honestly the only realistic reason you should both try now is to overcome your patterns for the purpose of your /next/ relationships.

//Break//
I really can't comment on much more (or answer any question that DRUGS might have put to me) because no one remembers who made which comments (that's why good practice is to list username@XX) and I'm way too busy to look 'em up. And probably had no questions put to me, or anything additional to offer anyway.

p.s. I'm surprised to say that, even after now re-reading your articulate letter, I don't have any additional questions (a first for me). Good luck, DRUGS!

52

DRUGS, thanks for writing in and clarifying a lot.

Your situation reminds me of the following one:
I once knew a man who was married to a woman he loved a lot (I assume she also loved him a lot, but my primary relationship was with him, and I only met her a couple of times, so I can't state that unequivocally). The couple had met in college, as freshmen. At the time, they both smoked a little weed and occasionally did a little cocaine. They got married after graduation, and continued these recreational habits--well, he smoked more than just "a little weed," but he was highly functional.

Then, one day, the wife said that they were adults now, holding big-boy jobs, buying a house, etc., and she made the unilateral decision that they'd both stop smoking cannabis and doing coke forever. They were still some years from having children, but she didn't see smoking weed as something "adults" did. It wasn't legal yet, so I suppose if one of her objections stemmed from the possibility of jail or a fine, but he described her attitude to be one of "that's what we did when we were kids, and we're grownups now," rather than "I worry about you getting a police record." And anyway, she didn't reverse the decree once cannabis was legalized in their state.

His reaction was to agree and then to sneak around smoking weed as if he were a teenager and she, his mother (he stopped using cocaine on his own about 5 years after he'd been told by the wife that he couldn't anymore. He just didn't feel good about the cocaine and made the decision for himself to stop).

He was still doing this when I met him more than 20 years later. By this time, they had two teenage sons, both of whom knew their dad smoked weed, because sometimes they smoked with him. It was as if there were three teenagers smoking and conspiring to keep it secret from their mom. It struck me as unhealthy: among other things, he was modeling treating one's mother disrespectfully. (I realize that kids hide stuff from their parents all the time, and that's normal, but having one parent help you hide activities you two are doing together from the other parent doesn't show a lot of respect.)

I think this happens occasionally: one partner--usually a woman--turns into a parental figure in the relationship (only in some ways), and the other assumes the role of the child--in this case a child who sneaks around and hides actions he is perfectly within his rights as an adult to do. For what it's worth, he didn't seem to resent his wife for having imposed the restrictions to begin with, but neither did he seem to think he could ever say, "hey, Hildegard, I'm an adult; I work hard, I pay my taxes, I help the kids with homework, I am responsible. If I want to smoke weed as a way to relax, that's my business."

If that's the kind of relationship model that looks good to you, by all means keep things as they are; but if you want to have some autonomy, you need to have a come to Jesus with the partner--maybe in a couple's counselor's office --in which you say that you aren't willing to pay for your 4-year-old cheating incident by being treated as her irresponsible child for the rest of your life.

53

Nocute @52, not to mention that he was modelling to his kids that it's okay to hide stuff from one's -partner-.

Couples counselling does sound good if they want to stay together.

54

BiDanFan@50 - thanks for that clarification on coke for everyone.

it wasn't having the cigarette that triggers it. it was doing it behind her back, and not telling her about it until confronted. Which breaks her trust, which triggers the feeling relating the affair. So now there exists a situation that she doesn't want me to have a cigarette at all even if I tell her, because if they're in the house, then I might sneak one...

I'd like to take a moment to argue that while I'm not perfect and there's been sporadic minor issues of lack of trust in the intervening 4 years, I don't perceive myself to have committed any further major breaches of trust in that time period (which has been marked by agreed concession on approval and head up's) - until now. So the doghouse that I still seem to be in is a result of significant trauma and breakdown in trust caused by the affair. I REALLY want her to reach a point where not every infraction triggers this - I DON'T know how long this will take.

On the drugs again - It's more the situation around the taking which was suspect and I totally agree with her frustration and anger around it. I did it in our communal back garden after copious amounts of whiskey. It was a monumentally dumb decision but that's why the COVID reasoning was in there, and why I feel it's not my 'normal' behaviour, which would be to take it out of the house and probably into someone else's...

"Is she aware she is still punishing you for this four-year-old affair? What is her response to that?" I don't think she sees a time limit on getting over that trauma and the things that trigger it.

Someone somewhere else said "look for a relationship where you are with someone who has been both the victim and the villain and knows what it’s like to make amends." She's never outright wronged me in the same way I have her. Is there any mending that?

curious2@51 - Thanks, I think we can both change, I've changed a lot over the last 3 years and in many ways to become a much better person, and in other ways only to make her happy. I'm just quite tired... and sitting arguing FOR drug use because its something I feel like I NEED the freedom to do doesn't hold much water when viewed from the outside. As many of the above comments have (not incorrectly) highlighted.

55

I intensely dislike the common relationship pattern where the husband acts, in a bunch of ways, like a kid, or treats his wife like a mom. The wife often exacerbates this with the same sort of nagging she might do with a kid. I think it's a super unhealthy dynamic (for one thing, nobody wants to fuck someone who treats them like a mom, so it's generally awful for their sex life). I think mostly people fall into this dynamic thoughtlessly, and both contribute to it. If you can nip it in the bud--which maybe this LW can--please please do so. Sit down and say "I don't want us to end up like this." You need to be able to treat each other like adults--that means you do what you said you would do (including don't agree to stuff you aren't sure you'll do), and it also means she loosens up about what qualifies as fine behavior. "Adults don't do that" can't be a reason--for one thing, it's blatantly untrue, lots of adults do that stuff. A better metric is a conversation about at what point it would be problematic. Is coke once every couple months okay? Maybe it is, so long as it doesn't affect various other things. Maybe between the two of you, you can untangle what is the real issue, and address than rather than making blanket declarations.

Also, she needs to get over the affair. It's been long enough. And you're allowed to say so.

56

I will also take this moment to bitch about one thing in DRUGS @54, which is the watering-down of the word "trauma" these days. Losing a child is a trauma. Almost dying in a car crash is a trauma. Finding out your partner had an affair is awful, and maybe it's even a bit traumatic at the time, although I think that's pushing it. Claiming you're still dealing with the trauma from it four years later is playing the victim for personal convenience. Trauma absolutely comes with a time limit. People get over the worst parts of a /death/ of a spouse in about a year. She's way past her window.

57

DRUGS @54, so she doesn't think she can trust you to tell the truth because you had an affair... in spite of the fact that you DID tell the truth and confess, when you didn't need to. Did that count for nothing? Or was that another case of you told but only after she asked?

If you're telling her things but only after she asks, then I can see her point in finding it difficult to trust you. I don't know whether keeping you on this tight a leash is the answer to that, though. How do you think she would have reacted if you'd mentioned the coke without her having to ask?

I can see your perspective in offering a "let me do coke now in exchange for not doing it after we have a kid" compromise. But I doubt your -- anyone's -- resolve. If you enjoy coke, and you're out with friends, with a kid at home, and someone offers you coke, what are you going to say? Be real. Like I said initially, I have a number of friends who are good parents and who do coke/ecstasy at parties. Not every few months, maybe a couple times a year, and I suspect that may be a natural progression for you, rather than quitting entirely which I suspect you don't really want to do. In reality, though, you're not arguing for the right to do coke. You're arguing for the right to be treated like an adult, correct?

Have you suggested couples counselling? What did she say?

58

Well, DRUGS, it might help to know that my wife told me at the very beginning of our relationship that if I ever started smoking dope again (I had a problem when I was younger but had stopped smoking for years by then) she'd leave me. That was 28 years ago.
It helps a lot that I've never had any desire to smoke dope again, although I've informed her I reserve the right to do so when I reach 75.
But you really do need to get her to stop making you pay for your young stupidity. If she can't let it go, then you'll just have to accept that you'll be paying for that for the rest of your life.

59

DRUGS, thanks for chiming in!

What is stopping you from maintaining the degree of autonomy you say you want? Just tell her up front -- "I am going to partake in drugs without asking your permission ahead of time, and I'll only let you know if you ask directly or if I decide you should know" -- and let her make her own decisions on that honest basis.

Be aware that you currently believe that future you will have no problem sacrificing coke for the sake of your future kids ("If I die from bad coke when they're 5 that's going to fuck them up more than daddy not being able to party like he's 25 again") but let me advise you that it won't feel that way day in and day out for all those years of raising kids.

You will be tempted to do many things you thought you would never do as a parent. For instance, in the early days I would have to put the screaming baby down in the crib and walk away so I didn't throw the baby out the window. There are all sorts of temptations in your future which it is easy to think you'll be able to dismiss in the future, but which will actually be hard to dismiss, and a little part of your brain will eat at you and eat at you until you sometimes do the things you now think you would never do. (Not throw the baby out the window, probably. But some coke from time to time, yes, probably. And an affair or two, yes, probably) Go into this with your eyes open.

Be yourself. Be honest with her about who you are. Encourage her to be honest about who she is too. I promise you she has secrets you just don't know about yet.

And see what happens.

60

Thank you, thank you, EricaP @59 for pointing out that parenthood isn't a period where you morph from your normal, occasional-coke-enjoying self into some Platonic-ideal parent, and in fact, that it puts whole new varieties of stress on people.

I was just sent this link:
https://www.macleans.ca/regretful-mothers/?fbclid=IwAR2yBy48pOJdcK3jezhI9RtAxka02DdWSLy9dvTWzxrATGqPG4BY1TSLyro

and, yeah, people should read it (or something like it) before they reproduce. Too often we tell everyone it's all roses and love and sure, it's work, but it's worth it. Maybe. Maybe not. But either way it's not going to make DRUNK suddenly a perfect version of himself.

61

DRUGS- As painful as it may be in the short run, I don’t think you are compatible at this point and it’s better to end the relationship or mutually agree to take a designated few months break and see how you both feel about it afterwards. The mutual mistrust and anger may be too deep to attempt bridging at this point.
To be fair, I don’t think you are the only one who has issues here. The GF is likely to have her own baggage and insecurities which may stem from the way she was raised and treated. This should not be held against her, but rather acknowledge and move on. Same goes to your own habits and feelings.

As others have already pointed out, don’t expect any dramatic attitude and consumption changes from either one of you once you get married and/or having children. Those vows will render meaningless as times goes by and challenges amount. Things will only get worse, and all involved will feel even more trapped in a situation they wish they could have avoided in the first place.

I must admit that I do see some repeating patterns in your relationship that resemble D/s dynamics, despite neither one of you being aware of it nor enjoying it. I also see yourself, consciously or not, positioning yourself into being wacked time and again.
Alison Cummins @ 16 had a point, though her advice may not be for rookies. Acknowledging your submissive side may take some time, and plenty trial and error.
And it may not be your thing at all, you may just want to be with a more laid-back person to begin with.

62

DRUGS @54: The important thing for you to realize at this point is that it is your partner who has the problem, and there is nothing you can do about it. Either she does the work to solve (or manage) the problem, or it persists. You cannot change that.

It is not healthy or happy (for either of you) for you to be obliged to confess transgressions of the rules she laid down, even if you agreed to them.

"Your behaviour made me do it" is thin ice. And in this case, a cigarette and a bump with a friend, by a grown-ass man, is a giant zero.

Good luck.

63

DRUGS: Do you think she'd be this way if she had truly forgiven you for the affair? Or is this just a issue that triggers her over the affair? It is not easy for many people to truly get beyond infidelity, but I wonder if she might let up on the cannabis issue if she makes peace with the decision to stay together after your cheating. Maybe she can't.

64

No people don’t ciods, @56, get over the death of an intimate in a year: grief has no time limit, it depends on the person involved.

65

DRUGS, you letting this woman control you? Over a ciggie.. oh sorry, the sneaking part.
People do change, patterns of control are hard to shift though and here you are getting gone mad on by mum.

66

Lava @64: I don't mean "get over it" in the sense that a loss never hurts again--I don't think that ever happens. I mean that in that time, most people return to a functional state, are able to experience joy, enjoy the things in their life that they did previously, etc. I thought this was pretty well-established--that it was related to the old custom of wearing black for a year, etc.--but maybe I'm wrong. It's matched the experiences of people I know who have lost parents and spouses and children, but I admit my sample set is pretty small, and it hasn't yet happened to me.

67

DRUGS, I'm so glad you wrote in and provided us more context. Your comment arrived before I had a chance to get around to addressing the cheating/forgiveness issue.

Once a person has discovered their partner has cheated and decides to stay in the relationship, the betrayed partner needs to work on genuinely forgiving their partner for that transgression. They don't get to keep hurling the affair back in their partner's face. Are there going to be trust issues in the wake of an affair? You bet (in my personal experience of being cheated on, it was the dishonesty, the lies, the omitted information that I had a right to, that broke my heart and hurt me the most, way more than the sex and ooey-gooey lurv talk). However, that doesn't get to become a weapon that the injured party gets to wield for the rest of the relationship; the injured party does not get to refuse to let their partner live it down, especially if that person has genuinely apologized, owned the mistake, and made active strides to make amends. A certain amount of being in the doghouse and to be "kept on a short leash" in the wake of an affair discovery is normal and to be expected. However, the purpose of this period is to help in restoring trust, to show the betrayed that they have nothing left to hide. And at some point, the betrayed has to take that leap of faith and trust again. If they truly cannot forgive, can't let it go, can't control their triggers, then they need to let their partner go.

After getting the full truth about my husband's affair (this was three years ago, DRUGS, so I'm roughly the same distance out from your disclosure to your GF), and after I decided to stay and to work on our relationship, I had to do my own healing work. My husband did everything "right" post-affair, and it was difficult to shake a feeling of waiting for another shoe to drop. I stumbled upon a not religious-flavored infidelity recovery blog and it was extremely normalizing and helpful to me. Up to a point. I felt I had gleaned all the insights and healing from this source that I could. The big rub for me though was reading post after post written by betrayed partners who were still so raw with anger and brimming with resentment and mistrust for their partners 8, 10, 20 years after the fact. I decided that I absolutely did not want to be that person, and that I had to manage my own triggers, to allow my husband autonomy and trust. Or that I had to end it. I chose the former.

DRUGS, I sympathize with where your GF's mind is likely going when you "hide" things from her (it's not about the cigarette or the bump of coke, it's about trust). However, it is long past her responsibility to manage her triggers and to really work on actually forgiving you. It doesn't mean that it stops hurting. And being cheated on can give a person all kind of cognitive distortions about people's intentions. I don't know what kind of work your GF has done for herself, but just because you fucked up one time years ago doesn't mean she get to continue to hold it against you like this. If her trust issues are so severe that trying to have a cigarette on the DL triggers "OMG, you're cheating on me" feelings four years after the fact, then I don't think she's in good enough order to continue this relationship with you. It's unfair to you both.

68

@ Dan, You’ve done more than your part to improve society and your other projects get more attention, but bringing the world more handjobs is some of your best work. Well deserved praise from JERK.

69

Also, re my comment @67, I'm not saying I manage every trigger perfectly, or that there is a right/wrong amount of time to feel sad, hurt, or betrayed. I still feel some of the above every single day. But it doesn't occupy every waking thought, and I can usually rationally talk/think my way through "I'm feeling triggered right now" without making it anyone else's problem. And I don't hold it against my husband, or bring it up during unrelated conversations.

DRUGS, I also want to echo the sentiments of those who are pointing out your history of controlling relationships. A lot of us have a "type" and our type may not necessarily be what's best or healthiest for us.

And I stand by giving up (insert "no, never after children" substance of choice here) well before you decide to have kids, if you decide to have kids. Given the present level of trust issues with low stakes, I strongly recommend against marriage and kids until this issue is addressed in a real, meaningful way. Children have a way of laying bare your and your partner's unresolved trauma in a very visceral way (the one tidbit of pre-baby advice absolutely no one gave me).

70

Also, also, DRUGS, I may be wrong, but I wonder too if your GF has created this impossible situation where she wants you to be absolutely honest about every. Single. Little. Thing. But is going to fly off the handle and cry "triggered" when you do so? An impossible situation where you want to be honest and open with her, but you're worried you're going to hurt her with every little perceived infraction? I ask because I think this can be a common, albeit shooting-oneself-in-the-foot, response that almost begs for the be-doghoused partner to feel they need to hide things from their partner. Which then feeds the betrayed's paranoia about being lied to, wash, rinse, repeat.

71

Mrs. Fox: Excellent post @67, and major points for "bedoghoused" @70.

72

@49. Drugs. I'm pleased that my comment seemed apt in some ways to you. Is the issue at hand the drugs or the bigger one of your gf having you on a short leash? You're trying to make out that it's the first, but it would seem to me that the drugs question (i.e. you just want her to cut you some slack once in a while) is acting as a placeholder for larger issues of autonomy, control and trust. I feel I have to agree with curious @51: your significant relationships seem to be with people who are controlling. I get that your current partner may be much less controlling than your last, e.g. she may be more thoughtful, less judgmental, more personally tractable and easier to deal with; and that you could in fact have given her more reason to want to exercise control. But then at some level you may have done that deliberately (cheated and confessed) because you had some need to come under your partner's thumb.

I think you should park the drugs issue in the very short term and reflect on whether you need to be with someone who has to know what you're doing (when, where, with whom), who finds it easy to issue edicts and prescriptions as to your behavior. Do you need to feel surveilled in order to feel needed and loved? Might this go back to your relationship with your parents and early caregivers? The purpose of this reflection is absolutely not to feel you can outgrow your gf, to get to a stage where you don't need someone's constant supervision. It's to understand yourself, the better to understand what you need, and what you will accept because of what you need, when you marry, move in together (if you haven't already) and have kids.

Couples therapy might also be a good idea. If your gf can't trust you, that's a problem, that's not good, for her. It's not healthy when one of a couple can't go off and see old university friends, or go on a business trip abroad, say, without having to give a blow-by-blow account of their movements. After your time in the doghouse, you deserve more latitude, and your partner would benefit in her own peace of mind by being more trusting. She says that you have to follow her rules to feel 'safe'. It's a defensive and unsatisfactory mindset, as she should be able to see. Feeling safe is good, is necessary even for intimate relationships; but prioritising what is safe above all can bar us from meaningful and valuable experiences.

73

Great comments Mrs Fox. Really echos what I said above - after about a year of holding it over his head, I had to either forgive him or leave him, as living like this the rest of our lives was bullshit. It wasn't good for him and it wasn't good for me.

It feels all self righteous and smug to have the moral high ground, to be the victim in the marriage while the other person is the villain. But it poisons everything. For her own sake she needs to let this go - it's hurting her. After going a little way down that road it was clear to me that having a little boy that I could punish was not as good as having a husband I could love.

74

Agony @73, thank you, your previous comment resonated with some of my experiences also and I meant to give you a shout out! My husband definitely did some time in the doghouse and there was a minute when I was angry, unkind, and absolutely letting him have it. And he took it in contrite stride and owned his fuck up every step of the way. But I quickly realized that if I was going to give an honest go of working on our relationship and moving past the infidelity, I had to put my hurt feelings in their place and work on genuinely forgiving him. And for me, I couldn't help but come to feel like a jerk for refusing the forgiveness he was asking for, while staying with him. If we're not careful, we can become attached to the victim narratives we weave about ourselves in the face of betrayal.

I also want to say a humongous THANK YOU to the entire SL commentariat. After turning away from the infidelity recovery blog after getting all I could from it, the SL comments board became my happy distraction. I have learned so much from you all and you have all been a secret part of my infidelity recovery process for over two years now. I'm grateful for you all out there somewhere in Savage Love Land.

75

@74: Aw, Mrs. Fantastic, you are giving way more to us than you're getting.

I have really appreciated your, agony's, and EricaP's comments and perspectives.

76

And here's a question for DRUG's GF: why do you want to have children and start a family with a man you trust so little? Besides hitting your mid-twenties and hearing that biological imperative screaming irrationally in your ear. Answer this before making new humans, please and thank you.

77

Nocute @75, thank you! Your and EricaP's comments are consistent favorites of mine, and I've gleaned a lot from you two in particular. I'm glad to see EricaP having jumped back into the fray recently. And I'm grateful to BDF's insights into polyamory and ENM, how it's done well (and not).

SL comments board = less expensive/more entertaining than therapy.

78

f_m_f
I feel for you and admire your ability to recognize the patterns ahead and move on once you found out you were cheated on. From what I gather you have been married for some time now, and there are probably kids involved. Despite the breach of trust in this long road together, the intimacy and trust you’ve built over the years, you still managed to go on with your lives.

I’m aware that you only know what you know when you know it, lack of experience may be a factor, and other behaviors and issues are likely in play, it is telling that this is not where DRUGS and gf seem to be heading to.

79

Ven @ 13

Thank you for the Mrs. Boynton reference. I’m a great fan of her murder, even if a certain punctilious Belgian disapproves. She may have been an extreme example, but her type is not uncommon.

80

@49 DRUGS: Thank you for joining us and checking in! As curious2 said, this is a rare treat when a LW joins the comment thread. I appreciate your elaborating further on your letter to Dan. I had read in your update that you and your girlfriend of six years also own a flat together.
Do you both want children, or is it that one of you wants kids more than the other one does? After six years (you are age 29 and she is 25, now, right?).
I agree with what a good number of commenters are saying here. DRUGS, it really sounds like you and your girlfriend need to address your trust issues with each other first before having children.
I hope all works out for both of you.

@69 Fantastic_mrs_fox: WA_HOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Congratulationa on scoring this week's luscious Lucky @69 Award honors! Savor in the delectable glory and savor the highly envied riches. :)

@76 Fantastic_mrs_fox:"Why do you want to have children and start a family with a man you trust so little?"
Fantastic_mrs_fox for the WIN re DRUGS (and girlfriend)! Agreed and seconded, and kudos for beating me to it. That is the first question I would ask DRUGS's GF of six years. My second question is why would they also currently own a flat together if there is such a lack of trust?

My one toxic marriage was the most horrifying example of being in a relationship where there was no trust. This worsened exponentially as my became more imperiled. DRUGS is about half my age and have been together for six years. My bad marriage was nine years too long, added to three initial years of dating and living with him through isolation, manipulation and abuse.
It was an ugly fight, physically, mentally, psychologically, and legally but what really saved my ass was that I never had children with him. I feel genuinely sorry for his second and third wives, and any kids they might have had with him.
When I could no longer sleep in the same queen size bed I knew I had to leave.

All right. WHo's hungry for this week's Big Hunsky honors (@100)? Tick...tick...tick...

81

Harriet @72, I just want to applaud your probably inadvertent (given not knowing the code number for a marijuana offense) pun, "blow-by-blow." Bwahahaha!

Mrs Fox @74, I'm sorry you had to go through that heartbreaking experience and glad we were here to help and to distract you.

#

This situation reminds me of the cliché: Women go into marriage expecting things to change, men expect them to stay the same, both are disappointed. Ms DRUGS clearly expects that the party-loving twentysomething man she fell in love with will magically morph into a straightedge dad. That's not how things work. Ms DRUGS, this is the man you fell in love with. He does coke sometimes. Can you accept that, Y/N. If the answer is N, move on while you still have plenty of years on your biological clock.

I am, however, going to potentially defend Ms DRUGS in "not having forgiven DRUGS for an affair." This may not be the issue. If in fact he only disclosed the affair when confronted, then his apology is worthless because he hasn't, in fact, changed. He is still not owning up to stuff until she asks. No wonder she can't trust him. Not telling until asked is horrible, it puts the partner in the shitty position of always having to be the paranoid person who asks what their partner has been up to. If they've agreed that he will tell her when he does coke, he needs to tell her, "Honey, I took some coke last night" before she asks. (Agree, if she punishes him for disclosing innocuous things, she only has herself to blame for his not being forthcoming.) There may be a way out of this: The two of them agree on what needs to be disclosed -- smoking a cigarette can't be on the list, sheesh -- and once agreed, DRUGS discloses without prompting, and Ms DRUGS accepts the information without getting upset.

The drugs issue is secondary to the communication issue, but still important. I agree that the time to quit drugs is now, not when a kid arrives. If DRUGS struggles with temptation, better to know that now. I would also ask Ms DRUGS why coke is a dealbreaker after kids but it is not now. She should expect him to slip up in future, as he has done on these two recent occasions. She needs to learn forgiveness. She's going to need it, if she has kids.

There is a lot to unpack here, and it really should be done in a therapist's office. Or they could cut their losses, sell their flat, and work on some of these issues on their own before getting involved with their next partner.

82

@81. Bi. I will claim to be English and a frequent cokehead, rather than a ganga'd-up Seattleite.

I think they are together because they both need a partner prepared to give up a large margin of personal autonomy in a relationship. He got out of his first long (presumably) and controlling relationship, and has found a relationship that has some more bearable elements of that. At 19, she wanted to be with someone who could pledge commitment to her, conceivably for ever, and could tolerate her needing to know what he was doing almost all the time. I don't think that a young person is like this out of native timidity; rather, their formative experiences ('her', here) have to be such that they find it hard to trust and need a lot of reassurance they won't be cheated on or abandoned. His fear, at bottom, is that if she gets better at trusting, she won't want to be with him--so he puts off, or is tempted to put off, any investigation of their issues, and is tempted (again) to deflect onto side-issues, onto the themes of her exercising control like his very occasional drug use. This is the sense in which he also fears abandonment.

I think their challenge as a couple is to grow separately as people--people who have made the decision to be with each other--rather than to persist in a codependency, in which each has a stake in the other not confronting their personal history and relationship needs.

@74. Fantastic. I also think the way you worked on forgiving your husband is estimable. Your guidance for DRUGS's gf about coming to trust is surely spot-on.

83

At 21, it should take less than 4 years to move on from being cheated on. If it hasn't happened, it sounds like gf has deeper seated trust issues and it didn't seem like that's being worked on at all. Move on. You're both still young.

84

Thank you all for your comments - truly - I really appreciate the discussion.

I’ll try to address as many of the questions raised. But first of all; fantastic_mrs_fox and Harriet_by_the_bulrushes Your comments, while containing some assumptive leaps, are particularly helpful.

Secondly, I find it challenging to be the person to have broken her trust and also be the one telling her it’s time to get over it. We did start dating when she was 19, and to have such a fundamental break in trust at 21 has caused deep issues that extend further than just our relationship. She also brings with her some mild abandonment issues from her parents that I’m sure my actions have exacerbated. All of this is what leads me to counselling.

Thirdly, many of you have raised that children won’t solve these problems, or that my wants won’t change when kids come along. I’m fully aware of this, I don’t want kids ‘to save our relationship’.

BDF@57 – I offered up the affair info voluntarily, and since then there have been occasions where I’ve offered up info, and (recently) times when I’ve only done so when prompted.
“In reality, though, you're not arguing for the right to do coke. You're arguing for the right to be treated like an adult, correct?” Correct.
“Have you suggested couples counselling? What did she say?” She’s game and we’re looking into people now.

EricaP@59 – I see much of the situation we’re in as needing warmed or massaged into changing shape. Sudden assertations of my needs will only make me seen unreasonable after lengthy stretches of acquiescence, so I’m approaching the fact I’m at a breaking point carefully.

fubar@62 – There is where I see counselling is an opportunity to, within a neutral space, communicate to here that the status-quo I’ve participating in establishing is no longer working for me.

Ens.Pulver@63 – Maybe she can’t…

fantastic_mrs_fox@67, 69, 70, 74, 76 – thank you for sharing your experience. I’d like to communicate this to her, and again I think within a counsellors office is the place to do this. And @67 last paragraph, this is a great characterisation of what it’s like. @70 is also quite accurate, when I’m honest about things I want (cig, bump, less restrictions) it’s not always taken well. Not to say it’s taken badly at all, but it’s not a guilt/stress free process. So yes, that describes the situation that’s been created. @76 is a good question, and one that hasn’t been posed so explicitly to her, it’s one we will raise in counselling.

Harriet_by_the_bulrushes@72, 82 – yes the former is a symptom of the latter, there are larger issues of autonomy, control and trust.
I also thing you’ve accurately described the differences between my past and present partner, and while I don’t think that I cheated and confessed on purpose on any level (sub/consciously), I have a history of agreeing to restriction for what seem like my partners benefit and then never being released from them…
I don’t for a second fear her development of trust in me will result in her leaving me – it might, don’t get me wrong – but I wouldn’t inhibit that process through purposeful actions.
I’ve tried to approach her with the reality that I’m human, flawed and will likely do things in the future that break her trust on varying levels! I’ve no plans to, but I feel I’ve a practical approach to life and relationships and so these things happen to everyone. She won’t even entertain the thought and sees this as me telling her that I don’t love her if I can’t commit to never, ever, doing anything that could come close to breaking her trust again. It’s just an unobtainable standard to meet.

auntie grizelda@80 – We both want kids, I want them marginally sooner than her as my biological clock is ticking for some reason. But yes I think this last year has highlighted that there’s important things to work through before we make that step.

BiDanFan@81 – The reason these most recent incident are issues is because I didn’t come clean first, she had to ask (mere seconds difference between these two interactions can have such a devastating effect). I told her about the affair before she had to ask though.

85

DRUGS @84 "Sudden assertations of my needs will only make me seen unreasonable"

Baby steps are great when making changes. But I think hiding the destination is a bad idea. I would be frank that in the long run you want to be the person deciding if/when you smoke, do coke, masturbate, etc. (You didn't mention your sex life but I'm curious if she's relaxed or controlling about any porn use.)

Re counseling - it's great that you're both open to it. Consider also getting personal counseling for each of you. Sometimes joint counseling leads to a 2-on-1 situation, and you are vulnerable to being the one ganged up on if you pick a therapist who thinks like your gf.

86

"She won’t even entertain the thought and sees this as me telling her that I don’t love her" -

Can you accept that she might prefer someone who will make her those airtight promises? Or are you determined to change her? She won't change unless she personally wants to change.

"she had to ask (mere seconds difference" -- you might consider texting her when you pick up the cigarettes / head to meet the woman/ see your friend unpacking the coke. The time crunch is looser if you're willing to text her as soon as you make the decision instead of waiting to tell her in person. Of course that requires being clear in your own head about making these decisions.

87

No, really, split up. You’re young. You have growing to do. If you marry a great teammate while young, you can do your growing together.

Right now it seems like you are grappling for dominance within your relationship instead of growing. So cut yourselves loose and let yourselves grow ffs.

DRUGS, it really looks like you’re aiming for control. You want to manage the information your partner has access to in order to control her behaviour. You want her to stick around long so that you can plant your babies in her and then she’ll really be tied to you. You’re planning to enlist the help of a couples therapist to direct her thoughts in ways that suit you. You’re running your script by other audiences first to be sure it’s convincing.

You are not making yourself look good at all. You need to learn to become your own person before you can be s good partner and parent. Go bugger off and have an adventure.

Really, this is not the time and place. Your biological clock is NOT ticking.

88

It's fascinating to me how everyone brings their own experiences and biases to a conversation like this. To some of us, DRUGS looks reasonable and his woman less so. To others, the opposite. Arguments can (and will, and have been) made both ways. Perhaps the takeaway here is that things are easier if you pair up with someone who has the same approximate feelings about what qualifies as reasonable. If you can develop those feelings together by ongoing, active communication throughout your relationship, that's great. But changing the defaults several years in is difficult.

Pro-tip: next time you start a relationship, make sure active, friendly, meta-level conversations about issues like this are present from the start--even when you're in the bliss of NRE and everything seems great--so that you have a chance of developing similar ideas as you progress, and so that you have the tools already developed for when situations arise and you need them.

89

"I find it challenging to be the person to have broken her trust and also be the one telling her it’s time to get over it."

To be clear -- you don't get to tell her she has to get over it. You get to say words like: "it's important to me to have a partner who is resilient enough to get over my occasional screw-ups. And to co-parent with someone who will be able to accept that kids sometimes screw up too."

90

Mr Alan - Poirot did think there were people who, it could be argued, deserved to be murdered; he just knew the detrimental effect the killing would have on the character of the murderer. Have you ever seen or read the play? The altered ending seems much more clever than for either And Then There Were None or Witness for the Prosecution.

xxx

Mrs Fox - Well done for not going the Marigold Featherstone route (after Guthrie goes dancing with a group including the new Chambers typist Dot Clapton, then tells Rumpole and Claude Erskine Brown before lunch at the Sheridan Club an outrageous story hinting that it was not just a bop but a boink, which gets overheard by an earwigger who tells Hilda all about it during a game of bridge, only for Hilda to tell Marigold) as she first tells Guthrie she isn't going to leave him, "That would make things far too easy for you," only to snuff his hope of forgiveness in the next sentence, "I'm going to stay here and not forgive you."

91

Many thanks to everyone who shared such kind words. I want to iterate that this process has not been perfect and I'm not always perfectly gracious. CMD was correct that my husband and I have been married for a really long time and have a couple of young children, and a lot of my decision-making boiled down to not wanting to tank my entire family over my husband's regretted and out of character mistake. He was less than forthcoming, and this is really the one piece that sticks in my craw the most (and it only sticks in my craw when I unhealthily ruminate and fixate on it in my brain). Still, he did absolutely everything right once the full truth came out, he stepped up his husband and parenting game big time. And he finally started addressing lot of issues (please pay attention here, DRUGS) that had long been festering, seething issues in my mind that I only brought up to him in wish-washy, vague, not-getting-across-what-a-huge-problem-this-is-for-me ways. Suddenly with the proverbial straw of the affair, I let him know in no uncertain terms, and he finally realized what he stood to lose by not addressing these issues. If a partner's behavior is a deal breaker, it has to be expressed as such. And DRUGS, just because you had an affair and fucked up badly one time does not mean you lose your agency in the relationship forever. That's a hostage situation, not a relationship, and when you get married, forever is a looooong time.

DRUGS, please feel free to share any of my comments with your GF. For me, hearing the stories of others who've been through it was exceptionally normalizing and healing during a time when I needed it most. I also have to say, while I think it's great that you two are looking into therapy and you seem really genuinely committed to making this work, I'm seriously concerned about where your GF seems to be four years out. Again, there is no right timeline on healing, BUT.... you describe "every infraction being tied back to the affair" and that she is asking for an impossible thing (promising a partner that you'll absolutely never hurt them or let them down over the course of FOREVER?! I cannot commend you enough for being realistic DRUGS and not promising your GF this very impossible thing).

I really don't think there's a lot here you can do, DRUGS. Your GF is hurting herself (and you) in a lot of ways by remaining so raw this long after the fact (your descriptions remind me of me the first several months after I found out). I 100% understand feeling this visceral need to Know Your Partner Will Never Betray You Again, and ultimately it's a promise no one can make with certainty. And the injured party has to make some amount of peace with that. When you're committing to be with someone forever, you're committing to all kinds of unforeseens that life is going to throw your way, to growing and changing and committing to being a team. Both parties have to do their share. And it feels (and is) unfair to be the wronged one and put effort into healing yourself and your relationship. There have been times where I was completely pissed off about it. But it's what you have to do when you're an adult-ass person who's made an adult-ass commitment.

Sometimes the well has been poisoned and that's just it. If this is the case for your GF, DRUGS, if she can't/won't work on herself or the relationship, then it's only hurting you both to stay together. And it sounds like you've done just about everything in your power on your end, DRUGS, besides making impossible promises (seriously, so much kudos to you for not doing that), so I think you should take some solace that you really did try to make this better.

92

And DRUGS, while your GF's abandonment issues from childhood may give context to her reactions, this is also another trauma she needs to address and heal from. You don't get to bully your partner with your unhealed trauma. And raising kids, I repeat, will lay bare all manner of unresolved shit from your past. You will find yourself and your partner playing out toxic family cycles subconsciously and unwittingly in your children.

93

Sorry, I could write a novel about this, but DRUGS, it may be worth looking into articles about infidelity, how/why it happens, how they typically play out, patterns to look for, etc. I know it's easy to say you'll never cheat again (and I'm not at all saying you will!), but every person who's ever had a hangover swears they'll never drink again. Learning about affairs from a psychological standpoint was really empowering for me and helped me get over a lot of narratives I was telling myself about my husband and his intentions during that time. And it may help you be better prepared for when you may be tempted in the future.

94

And now I'm going to play armchair psychologist for just a moment (Disclaimer! The Fantastic Mrs. Fox is not a mental health professional! This is not meant to diagnose anyone! This is for layperson's relationship musings based on purely anecdotal evidence and penchant for watching too many mental health-related YouTube videos!)

Do you think your GF may be weaponizing the affair against you as a sort of "insurance" against you leaving her as a result of undealt with abandonment issues? (Even though it's having the opposite of its intended effect) Or that she may driving you away to subconsciously relive these experiences of abandonment that, although hurtful and traumatic, are the relationship patterns that your GF is used to?

95

DRUGS @84, thank you for coming back to check in. Let me say you're brave for exposing yourself to the often less than tactful comments of strangers on the internet, and I hope you can bring that courage with you to therapy. I wish you the best of luck!

So it sounds like the issue is indeed more on her side than yours, if it's not a case of a pattern of your not being forthcoming with information that started with the affair. The evidence suggests she CAN trust you to be truthful, so there are two other possibilities I see: 1) This has more to do with trust issues she brought into this relationship as unresolved baggage, and/or 2) She was too hurt by this at a young age to get over it -- it should have spelled the end of her first serious relationship, with lessons she would bring into her next one -- and she needs to belatedly end things with you and move on. Instead, she stayed with you but put up a wall between you that you haven't been able to overcome.

"I’ve tried to approach her with the reality that I’m human ... It’s just an unobtainable standard to meet." This is the reddest flag I've seen so far. NOBODY is perfect! Everyone will screw up from time to time. This is an impossible standard and I think it's the first thing you need to address. This had my "Run, Forest, run!" alarm bells going off, so please don't put too much faith in therapy fixing such a rigid view.

EricaP @85, seconding the recommendation of solo counselling in addition to couples counselling. The couples therapist may have the agenda of keeping you together, while a solo therapist may help you see that it's in YOUR best interest to leave.

EricaP @89, agree with this too. DRUGS, you can't demand that she get over it. You can, however, say that you can't be with someone who doesn't trust you and is not capable of forgiveness. You DESERVE someone who trusts you and is capable of forgiveness.

Good luck!

96

@ 84 You might want to take a good hard look at the reality that you are not comfortable asking for a reasonable amount of adult autonomy without the help of a counsellor.
Yes, very difficult and fraught conversations may be best handled in counselling, but "these reins are too tight and I'm feeling resentful" should not be difficult and fraught, with the person you are planning on spending the only life you have with.

You need to be able to talk to each other.

And "I'm starting to really resent this" is a conversation that needs to happen soon, and comes up often, in marriage. Ideally, it should happen at the "I'm OK now, but if it keeps up I think I'm going to start feeling resentful" stage, one which you are far past already.

I hope you think very seriously about making some of your needs known now, before counselling. Something like "I'm not going to tell you, anymore, every time I have a cigarette. You know that I agree with you that taking up smoking as an everyday thing is a bad idea, and that will have to be enough". If saying something like that seems impossible, then forget about counselling and just leave - it's not a relationship, it's a hostage situation, as Dan would say.

97

DRUGS - Your girlfriend didn't know that she needed a monogamous man free from coke and pot, that's why she fell for you. But does she really, is she willing to stop smoking everything and learn to manage her anger better and distance herself when angry, to improve her chances? You didn't know that you needed some polyamory and coke and pot, that's why you fell for someone who expected monogamy and to phase out drugs. But do you really, can you persuade her that you'd forgive her affair so she should forgive yours, have you offered to let her step out or take a break and risk that she may fall for someone else because you know deep in your heart that y'all belong together, although you really like that she's been faithful so far? And can you prove for 3 years that you like to quit drugs and make friends who don't do drugs? Because no one has pulled the plug yet, someone might be willing to change?

She will have to learn to manage her anger better and create distance instead, and you will have to learn to balance compassion with assertiveness and work on your honesty/integrity in order to grow into great relationships imo. Affairs and Addiction are tough to deal with.. It seems like there is no Abuse and she doesn't want to keep you from friends, just wants you to phase out drugs and keep your promise. But you phrase this oddly like she is forcing you to go along. And she is still bringing up the affair when you make a mistake now. I agree with the consensus, if she can't learn to forgive and you can't stop feeling resentful and controlled while together, then both should try to find someone better to work through these issues. There are polyamorous people like Dan who really like to hook up and can forgive their partners indiscretions too, and hypocrites who want to cheat their partner sometimes, but I think there are more people who truly prefer monogamy and would find it very dishonorable to cheat or be cheated on, and a couple of mixed preference has to be great at communication as well as have important shared goals to be stable and learn to appreciate each other's perspective, it seems like many polyamorous and monogamous people are afraid of trying the other side.

Jerk, it could even count as sex if he jerked himself while you rubbed your tits in his face. Even if no one came.

98

DRUGS; this affair was four years ago, sounds like you’ve made & are still making amends. Even the Catholics forgive if you say your HailMarys. She’s gotten a lot of millage out of that transgression. And now, the noose is getting tighter & you speak of having children?
Her trust issues are her problem, neither of you are children & healthy adult relationships don’t involve such machinations & manipulations as you are falling for. Which will only become more oppressive if you have kids together. Hen pecked husband is an old phrase, no doubt sexist, though I’ve seen couples in supermarkets snd she’s nagging him & he’s putting up with it. It’s an ugly sight & an ugly sound.

99

Griz @80 - WAHOOOO, my first SL numbers game award! I shall savor it and bask in its glory, though I feel I won it somewhat unfairly as I'm Bogarting the hell out of the comments board this week (I just have entirely too much to say in this matter, especially given the rare opportunity to offer potentially helpful advice to the LW). And beep-beep to you, Griz!

DRUGS, I want to walk back some of my statements and assumptions made prior to my comment @67 (this is why we love when LW's write in! Context is rad!). Your letter didn't paint the most generous picture of you initially, and it makes a world of sense that you fired it off while still heated from yet another discussion/argument with your GF. Getting to do drugs was the red herring in your letter - your actual question and issue is about your right to autonomy in your relationship. I walk back calling you a man boy and suggesting that your GF was more serious and future-focused than you. If nothing else, the opposite may be true. You seem like you're being the serious and realistic party here. Take the advice of internet strangers with all the appropriate grains of salt because you know your GF and relationship best. But I think a generous read is that your GF is not presently in good enough working order, is not thinking realistically enough about her expectations for relationships or her partners, to be with you. Her expectations are impossible standards for any partner, to a point that I'm frankly surprised a woman her age is asking a partner to promise to never hurt her feelings in order to feel "safe." It is unreasonable (I have been super reluctant to use this word so far, but there it is) and untenable. Your GF needs to be a confident, put-together, working-on-her-shit adult who feels safe within herself. You've been in the doghouse for two-thirds of your relationship over a two-week-long affair that ended four years ago, ffs. It is long past time for your GF to process her shit, or to let you go.

DRUGS, if you haven't already, I really hope you work on forgiving yourself as well (I'm sure that's damn near impossible with a partner who can't stop reminding you that you hurt them that one time). You deserve forgiveness, and it will help you keep from repeating any more mistakes of overly giving up your autonomy to your romantic partners.

100

I do wonder if DRUGS uses "passive voice" as much in his interactions with his partner as he does in this letter- it's possible that his tendency to describes his infidelity and his substance use as things that happened to him, as opposed to things he actually DID, plays a major role in his partner's unwillingness to move on and let him out of "the doghouse"(btw, I've always wondered how dogs feel about that particular human euphemism for being in disgrace- do they consider it speciesist, given that for them "the doghouse" is simply where they live?) and if she might be more willing to forgive and forget if he spoke of these past events in a way that recognized them as things he was actively responsible for, rather than random occurrences he was powerless to prevent?

Another question worth addressing on this is: is the partner in a job which has a "zero tolerance" policy on substances? If that is the case, it would explain why she is this inflexible, since it could mean she fears that his use of substance- and this could particularly be the case with pot- could inadvertently cause her to fail a random UA through no fault of her own.

That said, it could also be the case that she simply enjoys having the extra power in the relationship his past actions and his confession of his infidelity have awarded her, and simply doesn't want to let go of that power, as Dan implies in the last paragraph of his response. Who knows what she may have got out of him as "compensation" for his past screw-ups.