Savage Love

Concessions

Comments

101

I’m gonna advise this guy to issue some ultimatum/ground rules. The affair is never to be mentioned again. I can smoke or take drugs whenever and with whoever I like. If that’s unacceptable for the gf then the door is over there.

102

Ven at 90

I did not know it was a play as well; now I must hunt it down. I’m a fan of the genre, having had roles in Mousetrap, And Then There Were None, and Murder on the Nile.

103

DRUGS is the poster child for why confession is Not good for the soul and is, in reality, an act of selfishness. His only reason for confessing his transgression to his wife was to make himself feel better at the expense of his wife's mental/emotional well-being. It would have been better if DRUGS had taken this particular secret to his grave!

104

Phi @97, not once does DRUGS mention polyamory or pot. He cheated, but not all cheaters do so because they are at their core polyamorous. It's been four years and DRUGS does not mention he wants the freedom to date/fuck other people. You are creating an issue when you bring up monogamy vs non-monogamy. They have enough to worry about with control, communication, guilt and their outlook on substance use; the suggestion that they may have differing views on monogamy seems a red herring. He was 25 when he cheated; "he was young and horny" is enough of an explanation for the cheating without jumping to "he is fundamentally polyamorous." You've also invented anger issues; not once does DRUGS say his girlfriend gets angry or that she deals badly with any anger she is feeling. His words indicate that she is reacting primarily out of fear, not anger. There's also no indication that Ms DRUGS wants non-monogamy, and like I said, their relationship seems to have enough issues as it is without introducing the ENM minefield. A one-time cheater is not destined for a poly life. Oh, and polyamorous people do not "forgive their partners' indiscretions." Having sex with others is not wrong and therefore there is nothing to forgive.

Mrs Fox @99, bogart away -- every comment of yours is pure gold.

Alaskan @100, that's the point of the term doghouse: a dog would rather be in the house with the humans, as dogs are such affectionate creatures, but the humans don't want her there and put her outside in a small house, perhaps even chained up.

FYI, in the UK it is extremely rare for employers to randomly drug test. Like I said before, recreational Class A drug use is far more acceptable than in the US (while paradoxically driving after drinking is far LESS acceptable, in part because most of the UK has public transport alternatives). Any worries that he will get fired or arrested would be unrealistic.

105

I’ll agree with you JodoKast @101, that the affair is never to be mentioned again. Any ciggies/ drugs, that area needs clarity, because she has the right to say she wants a drug free relationship. It’s the way she’s dealing with these issues and how DRUGS responds that are the problems here.
DRUGS, you are both still young & while it appears you two believe the future is together, the way you two are resolving these issues is setting up patterns of communication which are dysfunctional. Adults don’t need to sneak, they clearly make a decision to do whatever.
I’m sure it’s been suggested above, and I’ll say it again. Do some couples counselling so you find the language of equals. You both clarify your boundaries with each other and discuss drug use. As I see it, you are still feeling guilty and you need to forgive yourself. It’s done, over four years ago. And if her trust isn’t restored by now, that’s a problem.
As the song says, growing up is hard to do.

106

Apologies Phi @97, DRUGS does say @54: "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." So she did get angry, but this is one sentence out of everything he has written on the topic so I don't think anger management is the thing they need to be looking at addressing right now.

107

BDF, "He cheated, but not all cheaters do so because they are at their core polyamorous."
OK, instead of conflating polyamory and nonmonogamy, I could say: Some people want to cheat because they don't want monogamy in general, and some people cheat because they only want monogamy for their partner, but I think most people who get serious want (and succeed at) monogamy. He cheated, he was not monogamous, and if something changed and he's revised his judgement of cheating, he should be able to explain the change better than "oops I cheated". For instance, many people cheat because they haven't been able to have the sex they need, or it dies off, and they give up cheating when their partner starts meeting their sex needs (again maybe). Maybe that happened with him and they decided not to live apart anymore? But she's still mad about the affair, there's no other reason to keep bringing it up, so it turns out she should have dumped him and tried to find someone better at monogamy. Since she decided to stay resentful and together, it's his responsibility to leave before he gets resentful too. Not sure why you think he really wants monogamy, I'd bet that he's getting uncomfortable with their relationship because he wants to see other people again.. and he probably didn't really want to quit all drugs either, since he's not changing his drug habit.

It seems to me that her problem is anger from his affair and drug use, and his problem is resentment that he promised more than he wanted when he promised that he'd be monogamous and to phase out drugs. I don't see any separate conflict.

"You are creating an issue when you bring up monogamy vs non-monogamy."
I did not create his affair or force him to break his monogamy. Maybe you think an affair is no big deal, but maybe that's because you're not monogamous.

"You've also invented anger issues"
I did not invent her resentment about the affair, she's still talking about it when she gets mad about drugs and smoking.

Sometimes people are upset about cheating because they are jealous and might like some nonmonogamy too, that seems to be what happened to Erica. It seemed easier for her to forgive her husband when she was nonmonogamous too. I don't know any other stories of monogamous women who stayed with their cheater and rebuilt a very happy marriage. I don't know any monogamous men who created a happy romance with their cheater in this forum.

"polyamorous people do not "forgive their partners' indiscretions." Having sex with others is not wrong and therefore there is nothing to forgive."
Poly/open people can still set rules like don't boink my friends or don't have anal with others or not in our bed, but are more likely to forgive sexual rule breaking imo.

108

Dan's relationship is one where he'd prefer nonmonogamy but tried monogamy for awhile until his partner was ready to try nonmonogamy. I think it was really brave of him to try monogamy and brave of Terry to try nonmonogamy. It's my only example here of men trying out the other side. And succeeding creating a happy romance although they didn't both really want monogamy.

109

Although Mr P also seems to have been monogamous for years although he really wanted nonmonogamy.. although he did cheat on Erica before they became officially open, it still seems impressive to me. And he's better than the sort of man who wants forgiveness for cheating but would dump or harbor resentment if his partner cheated.

110

Phi @107: "Some people want to cheat because they don't want monogamy in general, and some people cheat because they only want monogamy for their partner, but I think most people who get serious want (and succeed at) monogamy."

MOST. You said it yourself. Most people who want monogamy succeed at not cheating, but some people who want monogamy don't succeed at not cheating. The reason I think DRUGS is one of them is because over the course of a six-year relationship, he cheated one time, he saw it then and still sees it as a mistake, he confessed (meaning he does not want the relationship to be dishonestly open on his side only), and of all the issues his letter mentions, "I want to see other people" is not included. So I think you are fabricating a desire on his part to be non-monogamous.

"But she's still mad about the affair, there's no other reason to keep bringing it up, so it turns out she should have dumped him and tried to find someone better at monogamy." I agree there.

"Maybe you think an affair is no big deal, but maybe that's because you're not monogamous." Low blow. Of course an affair is a big deal because it represents dishonesty in a relationship. When did I ever say his affair was no big deal?

"I don't know any other stories of monogamous women who stayed with their cheater and rebuilt a very happy marriage." I do.

111

When letter writers begin with "we are perfect for each other", one thing they are telling us is that they aren't open to seeing that they aren't. I can relate; no one could get through to me about my own messed up relationships until I was finally ready to hear it.

This has admittedly caused me to lose hope that we can help this particular LW, and I've gotten distracted and probably missed something by now. That said I'll just generally observe that the "for each other" part of that quote suggests either an acceptance of the unhealthy dynamic they both have, or an overly optimistic view of how likely it is for that dynamic to change. I try to always expect myself to change (not in the sense that I flatter myself that I'll be able to, just in the sense that I demand full effort from myself to). I try to never expect anyone else to change; because they usually don't (and certainly won't unless they fully want to) and thinking otherwise just sets one up for disappointment.

112

"I think you are fabricating a desire on his part to be non-monogamous."
I think he has some desire to be nonmonogamous because he cheated! Either he wanted them both to be able to have affairs while away, or he wanted to have affairs while he was away and encourage his gf to be monogamous. People cheat because they want to break their monogamy, I'm not sure why this is a sticking point. I see a big difference between someone who wants to stay with their partner and be forgiven while their partner stays monogamous, and those who want to be forgiven because they could forgive a partner who slept with another. Because I strongly dislike hypocrisy.

If you've seen another former cheater create a happy marriage with their partner, the details may help DRUGS.

113

Phi @112, we will have to agree to differ then. Unless DRUGS comes back and clarifies whether he wants a non-monogamous relationship. I don't think he does because the affair happened while he was out of the country, so there was a reasonable explanation for his cheating that wasn't "he wants to be non-monogamous." It's that he couldn't be with the one he loved, so he loved the one he was with. He didn't want non-monogamy; he wanted sex, and sex with his partner was not possible. He felt terrible about it and confessed. And he didn't confess as the opening to a conversation about opening their relationship. He has successfully been monogamous for the four years since. People who want non-monogamy say "I don't want to be monogamous" and he has not said this. He said he wants to take coke once in a while; he didn't say he wants to fuck other women once in a while. So I see no reason to assume he does. People who are monogamous sometimes make mistakes. People who are non-monogamous don't see shagging other people as a mistake; they might describe their mistake as not asking for openness in the first place.

Off the top of my head, I'm thinking of a couple who experienced cheating in their marriage (him) about 25 years ago. Her friends thought she should dump him. She didn't, and they are still together. Beyond that I can't say; whether he cheated again, I'm not party to that knowledge. But they seem as happy as a long-married couple can be.

114

Ack. The trope of "oh, he cheated because he wasn't getting sexed enough" needs to die already. I'm not saying it doesn't happen (and it's not an excuse to skip over an "I'm at my breaking point and need this to be happy" conversation with a partner), but it's a really hurtful and often untrue trope. FWIW, my husband and I were having A LOT of really hot, amazing, adventurous sex while (unbeknownst to me) my husband was sleeping with another woman. This aspect actually super fucked me up when I found out about his affair, had me second-guessing absolutely everything, and it took a lot to work toward feeling safe in intimacy again.

Why do people cheat? Oh this is a huge one, and people do it for all manner of "reasons," but more often than not I think it's often a situation of opportunity mixed with having one's guard down/horribly underestimating the extent to which they may be headed down Bad Decision Road with a person who's not their partner. I think almost no one goes "you know, I think I'll hurt my partner who I love and care about by having an affair today" (and anyone who does think that is a sociopath and shouldn't be with anybody). And did I mention forever is a long time? When you've been with the same person for years and years, and kids and jobs and exhaustion and life and taking one another for granted start getting in the way, and then suddenly some hot young thing thinks you're the bee's knees and you're feeling NRE feels and like a hot young thing yourself for the first time in a long time..... that can be a really heady brew. And if you're unfamiliar with affair narratives (when you start doing research it's almost fucking comical how similarly they all play out - same story, just some names and details have been changed), it's easy to miss warning signs that you're straying into dangerous territory.

115

I think the overwhelming majority of people think that, why of course they would NEVER cheat. And I think most people believe that at the core of themselves. No one wants to cheat or to BE a cheater. But I think this "never would I ever" attitude actually leaves people vulnerable to cheating, because they don't see warning signs for what they are, or they think they're more in control of a situation than they actually are. I'm not saying that this absolves people of their choice to cheat (it's not like, whoopsy-doodle, I just accidentally fell into an affair!). But I think a lot of us are more likely to become cheaters than we'd care to think, if we're not careful or vigilant.

Maybe I haven't done a good enough job of expressing this, but Philo, my husband and I are still happily married three years after the affair discovery. Are things perfect? Of course not. Are we in a better place as individuals and as a couple than we were 3-4 years ago. Ironically, absolutely yes (if you had told me this would be the case 3 years ago when I was raw and angry/devastated I would have told you to fuck right off). The affair forced us to address a lot of problems between us that we were not effectively addressing before. It kicked me in the pants to have unambiguous, difficult conversations about things that were bothering me. (DRUGS, if you're still reading, you strike me as a passive, accommodating person who really dislikes difficult conversations. I am the same way, and I underestimated how many issues my passivity, my stuffing my feelings, and my avoiding difficult conversations had created/contributed to issues in my marriage and to my own feelings of resentment). It presented us with an opportunity to get really open and vulnerable with each other; after dealing with about a year of bald-faced lies and half-truths, I told my husband that I would always prefer to be hurt by his truth than to be hurt by his dishonesty (and that for my part I would work really hard on not reacting emotionally when he shared hard truths with me, to keep those lines of communication open). We've discussed the possibility of non-monogamy (something we've discussed a lot off and on throughout our many years together). We're closer, more honest, and more committed having worked through the affair than we were before. Do I wish we could have gotten to this point without the affair? Of course! But healing is possible, and a strong, happy relationship is possible after an affair. The rub is that both parties have to be committed to healing, and it's this piece that appears to be completely lacking for DRUGS's GF.

116

@84 DRUGS: Wait--whoaaaaa.....slow down. You are 29. Your GF is 25. Dude-your biological clock is NOT ticking. If your wanting kids is about control, don't have kids. If your entire six-year relationship with your GF is about control, end it.

@99 Fantastic_Mrs_Fox: No worries about your multiple comments. You have had a lot to say, and very helpful advice to share with DRUGS.

@100 AlaskanbutnotSeanParnell: WA-HOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Major congratulations on scoring this week's Big Hunsky Award (@100) honors!! Bask in the glory of your newfound good fortune and savor your envied riches! :)

117

@99 Fantastic_Mrs_Fox: Agreed with BiDanFan @104, and seconded. As a matter of fact, I proudly crown thee the Savage Love Bogart Queen. Wear your tiara proudly! :)

118

Fantastic @115

"I told my husband that I would always prefer to be hurt by his truth than to be hurt by his dishonesty"

This sentence really honed in on something I find very uncomfortable about Dan's advice and many of the comments here. This endorsement of not disclosing an affair - of lying by omission - as some sort of kindness towards your partner (aka "sparing them the burden of knowing is the second-most loving thing a person can do"). It just sounds like very self-serving thinking for a cheater (since most people are cowards when it comes to difficult conversations, especially when they are the guilty party), and also very infantilising towards the cheated-on partner. Surely they deserve some agency in this? It depends on the person of course - but they may well prefer to deal with the painful truth to being lied to for all eternity. If they knew their partner cheated, they may decide to leave them. They may decide to negotiate non-monogamy or a "hall pass" for themselves. They may decide to work towards forgiveness. None of these things can happen if the cheating partner makes a unilateral decision to keep the truth from them "for their own good". And it seems like utter hubris to think that this unilateral decision can be made fairly by the person who has already betrayed their relationship agreement and demonstrated poor and selfish judgement.

Besides, I don't see how anyone can ever be reasonably sure that their partner will never find out. People slip up all the time: they say something incriminating without thinking, or when they're drunk, or in their sleep. Material evidence turns up out of the blue. Or they feel burdened by the secret and tell a friend, and the friend tells another friend, and that friend tells the partner. There's just so many ways truth can rise to the surface, and when it does, the sense of betrayal would be way more devastating.

I think couples should really have these discussions early and consider these possibilities seriously while they're simply hypotheticals (but yeah, no one ever thinks they would cheat on a loved one, especially when the relationship is new and everything is amazing). I know for a fact my partner would want to know the unvarnished truth if I ever cheated, because that's the sort of person she is and because she told me so. It wouldn't be a kindness to keep schtum, it would be a huge betrayal, much worse than the cheating. For myself, I'm not sure. I think I could be ok with, and even appreciate, not knowing certain things, and I've been in relationships where DADT was part of the deal.

119

Lost Margarita @118: I agree with you that people should have these conversations in advance, but Dan has been very clear - and the commenters you're referring to mostly agree with him - that the lie of omission is only the least worst option if the affair was a mistake, and won't be repeated or continued.

People who want to have ongoing open relationships need the consent of their partners.

People who confess purely to alleviate their guilt are not being kind. They're being selfish... just as selfish as having an affair (or one night stand) in the first place.

120

I don’t read the gf isn’t committed to healing, Ms Fox @115, it’s her methods of resolving these issues which are problematic. She has been in this relationship since she was 19 yrs old, and both of them sound way too close in, joined at the hip.
Relationships are a dynamic, each dove tailing into the other’s ways, being subject to the others’ expectations of how intimacy works.

121

The most striking energy in this letter is DRUGS’ commitment to making this work, his love for his partner.
Given he is the one asking for advice, then it’s to strengthening his assertiveness that is needed, to start shifting things.
Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Compromise on issues with drug taking. Alcohol onwards. Or if that is a hard No for her, then her line in the sand needs to be clear, not this asking permission bull.
TRUCKS, the affair is done, if here is her sticking point then you have nowhere to go except more new rules so she feels safe. This here is where you draw the line in the sand. It’s a done topic, you’ve paid your sentence and now it’s never to be mentioned again.
You can’t make her safe if she’s not safe in herself. That’s her work to do, to let it go, the affair. And once some general drug rules are agreed upon, that she back off and leave you to run your own show. That you have learnt from these years of penance, and if she can’t trust you then why even keep trying.

122

I miss the energy of youth sometimes, the passion of it.

123

fubar @119

"People who confess purely to alleviate their guilt are not being kind. They're being selfish... just as selfish as having an affair (or one night stand) in the first place"

Yes, perhaps they are being selfish. But surely this exact same argument can also be made about keeping the indiscretion a secret? People who hide the truth from their partner are not being kind - they're being selfish, because keeping quiet means they can have their cake and eat it too. They don't have to have a difficult conversation, don't have to risk losing their partner, don't have to suffer any immediate consequences at all. You don't think there could be any selfish motivation for doing that? And no one would ever rationalise this selfishness by telling themselves they're keeping it quiet so as not to "burden" their partner with the knowledge?

"Dan has been very clear - and the commenters you're referring to mostly agree with him - that the lie of omission is only the least worst option if the affair was a mistake, and won't be repeated or continued"

Yeah, and I think this thinking is pretty damn self-serving. Even if it was a one-off teeny-weeny mistake that won't be repeated, your partner may not want to be with you after that. That choice should ultimately be up to them. If they are truly the sort of person who can't get over an infidelity, they deserve a chance to look for someone who will be 100% faithful to them, - and that's clearly not you, since you have already cheated (general you here obviously, I'm not accusing you of cheating :)). When people find out about secret affairs years down the line (and they often do find out, despite the cheater's best efforts), their feelings of betrayal over the affair are usually compounded by the fact that they've been lied to, for years, by the person they trusted. They often feel that these oblivious years together have been a sham. "I just found out you cheated on me 10 years ago and kept it quiet all this time. Thank you for not burdening me with the knowledge!" said no one ever.

I would also question a cheater's ability to judge, immediately after their indiscretion, whether this really was a one-off mistake which will "never be repeated". Sure, it's a good sign if the person can see that what they did was wrong and they're feeling remorseful. But people are flawed, and often convince themselves that they'll never do something again, when it's pretty obvious to others that they will. Only time will tell, and their partner may have their own ideas on this probability. They deserve to do their own risk assessment.

I just think that when people recommend lying as the "least worst option" in these circumstances, they're not really imagining themselves are the cheated-on person. Can you honestly say that you would rather be lied to by your partner than know the truth? Would you really see it as a kindness, if the truth did come out later? Maybe some people would, but I suspect not that many.

124

@84. Drugs. The questions in your head are, 'can she treat me like an adult?'--meaning, 'can she cut me some slack?' You're going into counselling in the expectation that the person, predominantly, working on their issues will be your partner, and that your therapist will, essentially, be signed up to your view that you majorly fucked up once and, in penitence, have tied yourself to infantilising restrictions ever since. But I just don't think couples therapy works like this. I can't see that it's just one person, with the support of the other, who has to change; or that the therapist is likely to take the view that there's one person who's behind the problems in a relationship, rather than the problems being behaviors that have evolved for two people collaboratively.

You have bound yourself to restrictions you find unbearable--that have you 'at breaking point'--and--what d'ya know?--you can release yourself from these restrictions, just by telling your partner that you're taking it upon yourself to act freely. You will not do anything irresponsible; you will not do anything that impinges on your responsibilities as a partner or (future) father, you will say. But if you want to do a line of coke once in a blue moon when there's no conceivable blowback (a-ha, BiDanFan) on your work...? Sure, you'll do it; and you won't care for your partner a whit less because of it. If you can't commit to this in your mind, and communicate it without sounding unloving to your partner, the issue is not because of your gf--but something that's on you.

Another impression you're giving is that there's no incentive for your gf to grant you more personal autonomy because there's no jeopardy for her. You may have told us that you're near snapping, but you haven't told her; you're not suggesting at all that things need to change for you to stay in the relationship. You're not saying to your partner anything like, 'is this a relationship of trusting adults or some form of codependency?' And I think if you said that, her response would be that you were being unloving or withdrawing from her. There isn't a shared acknowledgment in your relationship at the moment (as far as I can see; this may change) that it needs to develop beyond closeness and restrictive rule-setting.

I'm not once of those people saying, you're young; start again; find someone who won't tie you to her apron-strings. (Though I understand these people). You may, in fact, have a pattern of choosing people who make heavy demands; and if you leave your partner (whom you love) without self-examination, you might find yourself in a similar set-up. For now, I'd think how I could (in your place) act differently: your affair (or holiday / trip abroad fling) was four years ago--why haven't you made it clear you've done your time in the doghouse and demand to be trusted as an equal?

125

Margarita @123
First, I think your position is a generally reasonable one. As for your arguments:

"Yes, perhaps they are being selfish. But surely this exact same argument..."

What's more important I think everyone would agree is who to be kind to: the one who got cheated on. As for:

"Even if it was a one-off teeny-weeny mistake that won't be repeated"

I agree that if the premise is that it's right "only...if the affair...won't be repeated", I think this calls for the cheater to know the future. Which of course they can't. And do we want to trust a cheater to know something no one can know?

(This reminds me of the retroactive justification for snooping if it turns out to be merited. I think that both of these Dan-isms are somewhat irrational. But that doesn't stop me from liking them both. [I guess there's more to life than logic.])

And now I come to your meatiest argument:
"That choice should ultimately be up to them."

In other words, their right to informed consent. As I said earlier, I think this is a reasonable position. (I just am persuaded of Dan's, even if I don't trust anyone to be able to know when it's right. Maybe that means it's a hypothetical that can't safely be used IRL. Or at least can only be applied in retrospect once we know that, like DRUGS, it was not repeated.)

But someone here once took this to an, I think, crazy degree with me once. I admitted having once /thought/ something that some here claimed I should have disclosed. (Because they--hell, maybe including /you/--would want to know.) It wasn't even an action, it had no reality or effect. Yet someone here couldn't bear thinking that a partner might have had a thought that would hurt them if they knew, and not know to be hurt by it. So I got told that I had done wrong by letting the only one pained by the utterly hopelessly futile thought be me.

I think that was a bit nuts. People have a right to private thoughts. But getting back to the debate at hand: maybe it's also OK to have had a private action if, retroactively, it turns out to be the least worst option.

I don't want people either snooping or cheating because they think they'll later not be to blame or get in trouble.

If a secret cheater doesn't reveal and then it turns out they never repeat it, cool.
If a secret cheater makes a pattern of it, damn them. That wasn't an application of Dan's rule, it turned out. Of this all I can think of to add is, hopefully they'll get caught.

126

Lost @123: I think you're right, in general, about how people would feel. But because I enjoy the occasional counterexample, I'll say one thing about this:

""I just found out you cheated on me 10 years ago and kept it quiet all this time. Thank you for not burdening me with the knowledge!" said no one ever."

I did!

I found out, from a late-night drunken confession, that my (previous) husband had cheated on me several times, about four years before said confession (when we had been dating but not married). I wasn't particularly upset--perhaps because I wasn't particularly surprised. I know many people would feel far differently, but I always thought monogamy was a hard challenge that he (or I, or both) might not be up to for forever, no matter our good intentions. I was happy that he didn't tell me at the time, because I think it would have hurt more at the time.

We split up later, but that was definitely not the cause.

I am now in an ENM relationship, so I'm not claiming to be a reasonable example. Except in so much as I knew that for myself and my husband, monogamy would likely be difficult, and I was mentally prepared for the possibility. (It wasn't until later that I figured out the option existed to just not even claim you were going to try.)

127

All this quibbling over precise rules is sort of fascinating, but I doubt it can ever result in satisfactory guidelines that differ much from Dan's. People are different and so are situations, and what the advice of Dan's amounts to (so far as I can see) is an attempt to minimize the hurt you do someone you care for. There's an implicit assumption here that the cheater is doing that calculation in good faith; that they really are trying to do the right thing (given that a wrong thing has already happened). No rule can promise that, though, and no matter which side we come down on (confess or don't) there will be people who can manipulate that to their advantage. Nor can anyone even be totally sure of their own reasons, because as Lost has pointed out, sometimes "what might not hurt my partner" is highly entangled with "what's easier on me right now." All you can hope is that the cheater does enough serious self-examination to come to the best guess they can about the factors at work: how likely it really is to happen again, how likely their partner is to find out some other way, how likely their particular partner is to be devastated. And then they make the call. But we have to assume they have the best intentions here or the whole conversation is pointless.

Which is not to say I'm not quite interested in everybody's takes :)

128

Skr Curious - Oh, the people who are perfect for each other are surely only so in a CMY way, as if they were playing a two-handed version of a Sartre Award. I would stipulate that the good variety of perfection only exists as a retcon.

xxx

Mr Alan - It's well worth finding. She seemed to derive great enjoyment in removing Poirot from adaptations.

129

@115. Fantastic. Many people would rather fuck someone new, rather than someone familiar.

Having sex with your spouse isn't an escape (in fantasy, even briefly in reality) from your problems in their most mundane and grinding aspect; fucking someone else is.

I think the initial spur to starting an affair is as simple as this. But I don't entirely mean to be so brusque, in that my feeling is also that you and your husband have done the hard yards on your marriage; that you have shown courage in confronting your insecurities and deep-seated preferences, and a deal of forbearance with him.

I tried monogamy once--in a long, marriage-like relationship--and discovered it wasn't for me. Because I understand the 'it's hot to fuck someone hot' motivation or imperative, I've never been hurt by a partner cheating on me, having a sneaky assignation, per se. I've been hurt by lies, by hypocrisy, a double standard; and by a partner using me opportunistically, for security, as an accessory or for social brownie points, for reasons of respectability in a coterie or out of fear of saying what he really wanted.

130

Lost Margarita @118, 123 - you and I seem to be the outliers on this one. I really dislike this notion of "sparing" your partner the "burden of knowing" about your affair, if affair followed x, y, and z parameters. At the very least, I see it as a really slippery slope for one partner to unilaterally decide what the other partner gets to know about the relationship. But I also literally had a conversation with a friend a week ago about how she the guy she's seeing recently "burdened" her by telling her about a one night stand the didn't mean anything to him. My friend's stance was that if it meant nothing, she'd rather not know. I think she'd been upset regardless (if she somehow found out about it later down the line). Idk. Clearly I have my own bias here, but I'd want to know.

Harriet @129 - as I said @114, attention from someone new and NRE feels are going to give someone way more of a zing than the doldrums of day-to-day family life, that it is seriously intoxicating stuff. For me it wasn't even the sex, it was being kept in the dark about it and lied to about it, during and after. We'd discussed the possibility of non-monogamy well before the affair, so I was pissed that he wasn't upfront about his desire to sleep with this woman, and wasn't upfront when I asked when it was painfully obvious that it was the case.

131

People generally are fucked, and when two get together the fucked gets mingled together. Sure some are less fucked than others, most of us are damaged in some way in relation to how we conduct our intimacies.
I was down the beach this beautiful Saturday morning, walking along a path, hearing a child crying, then he, being carried by his mother were upon me. Just as she was passing me, she screeched at her child to shut up. He would have been about three/ four. Vicious energy coming out of her, and if she behaves towards her son in public like that imagine what she puts him thru in private.
These types of parenting moments, added up over years, is how we are formed. Depending on how lucky we were in parents/ caregivers lottery. So we develop dysfunctional patterns in our intimate behaviours. Nuclear families are not the best structures in which to rear children, because they are isolated and too much pressure placed on two /or one/adults.
So yes Harriet, @124, DRUGS has probably chosen a woman who sets off his unresolved childhood patterns, and his dysfunction is involved along with his partner’s.
A healthy relationship is being able to navigate each other’s imperfections, with patience, while both / all are striving to keep evolving past one’s dysfunctional behavioural patterns around intimacy.

132

I would prefer to know my partner(s)'s actions with regard to sex and romance (and drugs, and risky activities generally), rather than not know. (Their thoughts are their own business, per curious2 @125.)

But when lied to, I tend to try to understand my partner's motivations for lying, and try to see how I played a part in making it unappealing to tell me whatever it was. I do think humans are generally prone to screwing up their relationships, so it's sensible to be as easygoing as you can manage to be.

I like Dan's definition: "A successful marriage is an endless cycle of wrongs committed, apologies offered, forgiveness granted—leavened by the occasional orgasm."

Or Gertrude Stein's line: "Go easy, and if you can't go easy, go as easy as you can."

curious2 @111 "I try to never expect anyone else to change; because they usually don't (and certainly won't unless they fully want to)" -- solid wisdom, that.

133

Margarita @118, gold star for that excellent post. This sums up how I feel about it. Banging someone else, or in a poly context breaking an agreement, may be forgivable but lying is a dealbreaker. (This is why Phi was insultingly wrong when she asserted I don't think cheating is a big deal. Of course it is, because honesty is a big deal.)

Fubar @119, I would argue that it is keeping shtum, even if you know cheating was a mistake and you feel too horrible to ever do it again, that is the selfish course of action. Why aren't you telling, because you want to have your cake (to screw up and cheat) and eat it too (to stay in that relationship). Like Margarita says, you're robbing your partner of the information they need to decide whether they want to stay with you. This goes double -- triple -- if unsafe sex was involved. (Note, I wrote the above before reading Margarita's nearly identical comment @123.)
I'd also add to that excellent comment that if you're feeling guilty and hiding a secret, that's going to be obvious in the way you're behaving. Your partner may not know what is up, but they will be able to sense something is up. And if you don't tell them what, they won't understand your behaviour -- they may worry it was something they did, or they may snoop if your behaviour makes it obvious that you're hiding something. I can't see how risking one's relationship by hiding a secret is ever better than risking it by telling one. Telling is more ethical, even if the relationship ends, and it shows your partner that they can trust you to tell the truth no matter what happens, which is a big step toward establishing the trust needed for forgiveness.

Harriet @124: "I can't see that ... the therapist is likely to take the view that there's one person who's behind the problems in a relationship, rather than the problems being behaviors that have evolved for two people collaboratively." Isn't that a good thing? There are, in fact, two people in this relationship, and both of them are contributing to this dynamic where she responds to a perceived threat by taking draconianly controlling measures, and he accepts those measures. Both need to analyse their contribution to the situation. Remember that we only have DRUGS's side; Ms DRUGS may mention things DRUGS has not, either for the sake of conciseness or because he has thus far failed to see her perspective, maybe because she's been unable to express it clearly to him. They do both need to look at themselves, even if one person is more "at fault" than the other.

Curious @125, of course you're correct that any blanket rule is different in theory than in practice. Having read your post, I can think of exceptions. What if, for instance, a husband cheated (instantly regretted etc) while his wife was seven months into a difficult pregnancy? For sure the kindest thing here would be for him to shut his trap about it. Thank you for the reminder that the world is grey.

Erica @132, another good point that the reasons for telling versus not are important as are the reasons for cheating. "I didn't tell you because I knew you'd get upset" is a wimpy cop-out. "I didn't tell you because throwing our marriage into upheaval when you were seven months into a difficult pregnancy seemed a worse thing to do than the cheating itself," justifiable.

134

Hey DRUGS

Banish the shared property from your thinking about whether you want to stay in this relationship. It may he financially and emotionally painful to have to sell up and split the proceeds. But it will be a tenth of the pain of divorce with kids.

135

Also

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

wtaf. Thats nonsense on stilts only explicable by a demand for control.

136

BDF, "When did I ever say his affair was no big deal?"
When you said his affair was forgivable because he was "young and horny". I didn't mean to offend you, but I don't think this is a forgivable reason to cheat, or all young and horny people would be cheating. She should trust him to be monogamous for years at a time, because he has been. She should trust him to cheat when he's out of the country for awhile, or maybe when she's unavailable for a long time, because that's what happened. And maybe that's OK if he doesn't leave the area without her again (especially if she feels she might want to be forgiven for an affair in the future), then maybe she can reasonably trust him not to cheat again (or appreciate a future hall pass) so there's reason for her to forgive. But maybe she can't be happy until she finds a man better at monogamy, which I think is ok too. Staying with DRUGS while she feels resentful is her mistake, that's poor anger management. Either leave, or get therapy if she sincerely wants to forgive but can't yet.. But she didn't write in. He should leave if she doesn't agree to seek therapy to learn to act with compassion and forgiveness, or if he couldn't forgive her if she had an affair (does anyone like hypocrisy?). And be honest that he has trouble with monogamy when he's away for a month or more before starting his next relationship, maybe seek a more open relationship that can handle hall passes.

"People who want non-monogamy say "I don't want to be monogamous""
Or they cheat. This guy cheated before he told her he wanted nonmonogamy. He could have called her and dumped her or demanded an open relationship or hall pass first, but he cheated instead.

"He didn't want non-monogamy; he wanted sex"
Um, people always want nonmonogamy or cheating because they want sex, because their monogamous sex isn't enough. Some people want to be monogamous through illness and separation and libido loss etc, some people want nonmonogamy and may cheat or agree to openness, some people can act monogamous although they would prefer nonmonogamy (like Dan and Mr P).

"she responds to a perceived threat by taking draconianly controlling measures"
Idk, maybe they agreed to only smoke sometimes together, idk why he said he was sneaking or how she expressed her anger, but anger about broken promises seems normal.. Asking him to call her before doing any more drugs, and to stop hanging out with friends to get high, doesn't sound draconian but utterly reasonable.. Demands are poor behavior if that's what happened.. If she objects to drug-free hang outs that's abusive.. Not enough info I think.

And I also personally know of an apparent happy ending after cheating. He was warned before she cheated, but still refused sex until afterward. They appear much happier now, but this was only a couple years ago. The cheating happened during a separation, and he was offered a hall pass too but didn't take it afaik. My undergrad ex's dad had an affair with his secretary and years later the parents told their children they had worked through it, but his mom pulled him aside afterward and said she only 99% forgave.. but they were together for a couple decades more and likely still are, they seemed very happy to me. Another ex started dating before his divorce finalized but while they were still attending couples counseling, and was told that was the final straw and reason she felt sure about leaving him. I knew another married couple who I think both cheated on each other but I think they divorced, didn't seem happy. I mostly hear about cheating here, or when relationships end. Married guys have hit on me and they never seem to have a good marriage.

My personal experience with cheating is as the cheater, before I started seeking honest open relationships. I generally immediately confessed and expected the relationship to end. I've had to deal with jealousy about my partner sleeping with someone else with my permission, but that's not too applicable here.

Mrs Fox, do you think it was easier to forgive Mr Fox because he is the sort of person who could calmly discuss nonmonogamy and presumably work through your potential affair, too? I thought you said you hadn't totally forgiven him yet and were still trying to work through it, so I didn't know if you'd totally get over it or not, sorry if I got something wrong.. I didn't mean to leave you out of my examples but I haven't seen details about your experience before this column. And I agree with you that a lot of people underestimate their desire for nonmonogamy, whether it's about variety or about scarcity or about yearning for a lover who is easier to be intimate with in some way than the spouse.

And ciods, I'm surprised you were happy that you didn't find out about the early cheating until after divorce.. I thought that he fell in love with someone else and that's why you divorced? But maybe if you knew he tended to turn to other women rather than work on his relationship issues you wouldn't have married.. Sorry if I'm misremembering..

To tell our not to tell.. Ideally it seems better to keep having the conversation of whether a partner would want to know throughout the relationship, to talk about the possibility every year or so, and tell if your partner thinks it's important. If one keeps cheating a secret then imo individual therapy should be mandatory to facilitate honest self reflection, to learn better how to prevent any more mistakes in the future, to provide immediate consequences more tangible than guilty feelings. Being honest about the relationship is most intimate and ethical so I think honesty should be the default, but not everyone wants the most intimacy, some people would prefer not to know if it's a single hookup, maybe even with ongoing affairs, and it seems kind to respect a partner's wishes if it's not causing obvious harm.

137

Also Mrs Fox, another woman, futurecatlady, started posting here after her husband's affair, before the pandemic. I miss her. The circumstances seemed very similar to yours. I don't know if they worked it out. I think you'd like her posts, she was cool.

138

ciods@126
"my (previous) husband had cheated on me"

Oh, I quite agree that I'd rather not know if my FORMER monogamous wife cheated on me.
(But during I would have liked to know because she was the only one in that marriage who wanted it to be monogamous.)

ciods@127
Thank you for a clear perspective that helps me understand my own.

"we have to assume they have the best intentions here or the whole conversation is pointless"

I think this gets at why I was so confused by why I like Dan's guideline. And I still like it, even though it seems to me to be somewhat absurd to assume people have the best intentions (particularly given a cheater's conflict of interest).

But then if people wanted to avoid absurd, choosing to be monogamous might not have been the best plan.

//Break//
When I read people's takes, I find it interesting to remember their own preference WRT monogamy. Just for example, I respect that ENM people like EricaP and BDF feel like people who have chosen to be monogamous have a responsibility to deal with it honestly. And I see monogamous people feeling similarly.
Just thinking out loud, I don't have a point, or even really understand why I like Dan's guideline, the whole conversation amounts to a bit of a jumble to me.

139

Howdy Phi!

About this: "And ciods, I'm surprised you were happy that you didn't find out about the early cheating until after divorce.. I thought that he fell in love with someone else and that's why you divorced? But maybe if you knew he tended to turn to other women rather than work on his relationship issues you wouldn't have married.. Sorry if I'm misremembering.."

I found out about the cheating many years after it happened (which was several years into a relationship, but before we got married), but still several years before we divorced. I absolutely would have married him even if I had know about it.

He did fall in love with someone else later, which contributed to our divorce, but without going into too much detail, that was wrapped up in a lot of other larger issues (including addiction) that I consider separate. But I did have the knowledge/expectation that it was possible with him that he would sleep with other people. (I also knew, from my previous history, that it was possible I would.) I didn't think he was likely to fall in love with someone else, that was a surprise. As people have said, the lying was a major issue for me, but in the context of a larger on-going affair, not the handful of one-night stands. Perhaps this is an extreme version of a general principle I have, which is that I want to be involved in/know about things which are important in my partner's life, but I don't think I need to know every little thing they do.

Again, I recognize I may be sufficiently unusual as to not make a good model. But I do think there are (possibly) large sets of people who think they want monogamy but know they might not be great at it. Because, as Harriet says, fucking someone else is sometimes hot. (I'm using this sentence as shorthand for a whole host of possible dynamics that can lead someone in a loving monogamous relationship to cheat.) And perhaps those people are likely to be more understanding of someone else's failures, and not think it has to be a relationship-termination event. As it happens, I think there's a good argument for going ENM if you are in that situation, but there's still a huge amount of cultural pressure to be monogamous, and many people have no idea ENM exists, or if they do, have no working model or idea how to go about it. In which case maybe you can try to go easy on each other, as Erica points out.

140

Ack, I see from curious's post @138 that I was really unclear in my timeline. Maybe I cleared it up at @139, but in case not:
-- around 3-4 years into our relationship, he had several one-night stands (we were long-distance at the time)
-- 6 years in we got married
-- around 8 years in he confessed to prior cheating
-- 10 years in we divorced

I said "previous" because I have since remarried, not to mean that I found out after we were already divorced.

141

ciods@140
Ah, re-reading ciods@126 I see that I wasn't paying close enough attention to the comment, because had I done so I wouldn't have been confused. But at least this way we got the whole timeline!

In my own marriage, the divorce also came after ten years, but after only a couple years of marriage.

142

ciods @139

"But I did have the knowledge/expectation that it was possible with him that he would sleep with other people. (I also knew, from my previous history, that it was possible I would.)"

I can understand that, and I think that, when both people in an ostensibly monogamous relationship have this fairly relaxed attitude to extramarital activities, but don't necessarily want to deal with the associated jealousy, insecurities and drama, maybe a de facto DADT approach is cool and justified. I can kinda relate it to my own experience with DADT which I mentioned upthread. I was in a long distance relationship for several years, which was purposely in a grey area between monogamy and non-monogamy (a sort of Schrodinger's monogamy, haha). We were super into each other and didn't want to be with anyone else, but given the long distance circumstances we agreed that if either of us slipped up it would be ok and we didn't want to know. The intention was to enjoy our time together and make the best of our time apart, and to not be too hard on ourselves or each other (that didn't prevent my partner from having the occasional jealous meltdown and throwing unfounded accusations of cheating at me, but eh, he was Italian ;)).

But I kind of feel that this is a very particular situation, where a relaxed attitude to cheating ~on both sides~ makes not-telling an acceptable ethical choice. Where I think it's fundamentally unfair to the cheated-on partner, is when this person really values monogamy, and by not-telling the cheater deceptively keeps them in a relationship under false pretences. Meanwhile, the cheater's partner may well have had their own opportunities to get it on with other people, maybe was even strongly tempted to, but turned them down because they erroneously believed that they were in a monogamous relationship and wanted to do good by their loved one. So the issue I have with not-telling, in most cases, is the same as with the cheating itself (as opposed to seeking ENM): one rule for me, and another rule for thee. And that would be the case regardless of the cheater's intentions.

143

BDF @133 - "...if you're feeling guilty and hiding a secret, that's going to be obvious in the way you're behaving. Your partner may not know what is up, but they will be able to sense something is up." This! My womanly witch guts knew there was something up with my husband and his affair partner - nothing solid proof enough to make accusations without sounding irrational and jealous, but also enough evidence of their friendship straying past its appropriate boundaries to know things were not good. This was the hardest time for me, mentally and emotionally, simultaneously knowing and not knowing, all while being fed the "we're just friends/there's nothing going on" crap. I was an unregulated mess during this time, and I was only able to get my head on straight after learning that, yes he did indeed fuck this other woman, and that indeed I wasn't a crazy jealous asshole. I would not have been able to heal or to let go of my anger at my husband until I had the truth.

Philo @ 136 - I can see how I may have given an impression of not having completely forgiven my husband, or that I'm not completely "over it." "Over it" is a weird term to use - I still get fleeting thoughts of that time in my life, or I get triggered, or I'm dumb and mentally pick at my wounds. But it's increasingly few and far between, and it gets easier and easier to put feelings/thoughts/triggers in their appropriate place. I catch myself when I start trying to play victim in my mind. And maybe that's all we ever really mean by "over it." I know it's something I'm going to carry with me, because it's part of my and my husband's shared story. But the affair has been relegated to an ugly little chapter in our story, our least favorite chapter in our book. It is not our dominant narrative.

Philo, your friend's mom saying she "99% forgives" her husband sounds pretty accurate to me and my situation. Forgiveness is not perfect, and I think it works a lot like love, that it is this verb that you put action into every day. There is part of me that I don't think will ever fully forgive him for lying to me about the affair, but while I may not fully ever be able to "let that aspect go," nor do I lord it over my husband. Nor is it worth trashing our relationship or family over. He knows he fucked up and hurt me deeply. He knows how much not hearing the truth from him was a huge mistake, and he regrets it enormously. It does neither of us any good to keep rehashing this thing that has been done that can't be undone. Part of what made this spectacular fuck up forgivable/move past-able was how very out of character it is for my husband to be dishonest. As Ciods @139 said, I too had spent many years mentally preparing for some day when my husband might want our relationship to be more open. I was not at all prepared to be lied to by my normally almost-brutally honest spouse.

This week's letter and the comment thread has actually led to some really great conversations between me and my husband the last few days (we don't talk about that time super often anymore, but it's a subject that comes up that we're able to talk about matter of factly and healthily). I told him about Dan's notion of "sparing your partner the burden of knowing" and asked him his thoughts on it (he thought it was crap). I also asked him if that line of thinking factored into his lying to me at the time, and he said absolutely (he also said that it was a cowardly and self-serving thing to do) and that it was wrong, that it ultimately made a bad, hurtful situation so much worse.

Philo, yes, my and my husband's ability to have levelheaded conversations about ENM and how each of us might like it work helped be forgiving. As I said previously, he had stepped up his game at home (prior to my finding out about the affair -it wasn't a matter of getting back on the trolly only after getting ratted out), was throwing himself into being the husband and father his family needed him to be. When the truth was out, he owned it 100%, didn't deflect blame, didn't try to pin it on any shortcomings of mine or of our relationship, gave me any and all information I asked for. I really just couldn't stay angry while seeing how genuinely contrite he was (though because of the lies, he had to spend more time being contrite with a raw, pissed, sad wife for longer than would have been necessary otherwise). [I was also really mindful about the info I asked for - there were some questions I had that I never posed, because I knew whatever the answer was would be hurtful and unhelpful, that there were some details that ultimately I really didn't need or want to know]

144

BDF @133 "'I didn't tell you because I knew you'd get upset' is a wimpy cop-out."

To me, it's a useful suggestion to look at my behavior when I'm upset -- is my behavior reasonable (and he's unreasonable for being so conflict-avoidant)? Or am I expressing my feelings in unreasonable ways?

I grew up appeasing my mom's out-of-control anger, so I know that's a real thing.

Philophile @136 "If one keeps cheating a secret then imo individual therapy should be mandatory to facilitate honest self reflection, to learn better how to prevent any more mistakes in the future, to provide immediate consequences more tangible than guilty feelings."

100% this. And you should tell you're partner you're in therapy.

145

Regarding "to tell or not to tell": Leaving the ethics aside, it seems that whether or not it is selfish to hide a regretted affair seems at least partially related to the mindset of the cheater? If the motivation is to avoid unpleasantness, that's a selfish motivation. But if you're tortured with guilt and you feel your silent regret is your penance for your infraction, then it hardly seems selfish?

Or maybe those people only exist in the movies.

146

BFD @133: “"...if you're feeling guilty and hiding a secret, that's going to be obvious in the way you're behaving. Your partner may not know what is up, but they will be able to sense something is up."

Eh, maybe I’ve dated people closer to sociopathic on the spectrum of possibilites, or maybe I’m super naive and trusting—or both—but I think this is not true for plenty of people. Especially if the cheating was a one-off that happened during the course of a trip, like a conference in another city, say, or during a long-distance period in the relationship. I think those are fairly common occasions for cheating, at least, in the data set I have. (Also common occasions for sneaking cigarettes!) I do agree that it’s harder to disguise an ongoing affair—but that, too, can be done.

147

I should qualify my previous comment by saying I agree that there could be special circumstances where not-telling is justified, like BDF's "seven months into difficult pregnancy" example. Though I think even in that case, special circumstances only apply temporarily and the husband should come clean when the circumstances are less perilous.

I don't see any such extenuating circumstances in DRUGS's case, so I don't agree with Dan's and other folks' opinion that he should have kept quiet. I think DRUGS was right to tell his GF, and they can now approach counselling etc from a position of honesty. Good luck to you both, guys!

148

@56, yes, and thank you.

I am a mental health professional (a PMHNP) and I get queasy seeing how much people use the word "trauma" to mean "something unpleasant." Even worse is when people use "PTSD" to mean "something unpleasant happened to me and now I feel uncomfortable or sad when I remember it." It really does a disservice to people who have experienced trauma and/or suffer from PTSD.

149

Heather@148
Wondering if I'd used the word "trauma" in this thread, I see I didn't. I think I understand trauma pretty well.

I noticed that even our ciods@56 watered down trauma more than I would've:
"Trauma absolutely comes with a time limit."

Does it? In my own journey to try to overcome my own PTSD, from what I understand it's one of the most difficult things to treat and resolve. Ever.

Alas, culture likes to water down words so they can be used more. I think people like to use words that they think sound smarter.
Usually I just ignore it and continue myself to use them the more meaningful way. (Except for "literally": now I might clarify and amuse myself by saying "literally literally".

150

Who is hungry for this week's Double Whammy Award (Lucky @69 + Big Hunsky @100 = Double Whammy @169)? Tick...tick...tick...

Griz is set to watch Steel Magnolias (1989) by excellent suggestion of some of my Facebook friends in music and theater arts (if ever cast as a character in the film I would most closely portray Shirley MacClaine's feisty Ouiser Boudeaux if I ever lived in the South). II had a nice lunch with a wonderful neighbor friend after getting my second Pfizer jab today. Griz is vaccinated!

151

Mostly points of agreement:

with Ms Ods that many people have to feel guilty to act guilty

with Ms Erica about the travails of being raised by a terminally angry mother

with Mrs Fox about the evils of deciding not to confess. There are doubtless people for whom or circumstances in which it would be kinder not to tell, but often the greatest danger is to the character of the secret-keeper. It could lead one into the trap of Knowing Better. I'm not sure, though, that womanly guts are required for highly developed intuition. One could reasonably say that they generally receive more training, but that is about all.

152

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.

153

Thanks you all again. There’s been too many comments to reply to directly, but please know I’ve read and tried to process them all!

To answer a few topline questions that have arisen before going into more detail. The sex is good, we communicate well in this area. It’s not necessarily frequent but that is something we speak about and are trying to resolve, but it is great.
I don’t want non-monogamy, I stepped out because I let my guard down, was tempted and made a gluttony of selfish decisions. If she cheated I’d try my hardest to forgive her. I don’t believe I’m a hypocrite.

I alluded to it earlier, but I wouldn’t ever not tell her what happened. I know there are camps on both sides, but even though the fallout has been substantial, telling her was always the right choice. Though, I did think it was going to end the relationship at the time, so there was some other factors at play.

AlaskanbutnotSeanParnell@100 (congrats) - as BDF@104 said, no worry about workplace drug policies.

LavaGirl@121 – condensing down all of what’s been said here, and taking all the amazing pieces of advice on board, I feel you’ve summarised where my thinking is at the moment. I’m going to have these conversations with her, and I’m going to raise them again in therapy, but I’ve compromised right up to my limit.

Harriet_by_the_bulrushes@124 – we’re not going into therapy so I can get someone on my side who’ll say, ‘ he’s right you need to change’ to her. I want to lay it all on the floor and examine each part and solve this bit by bit. I am willing to change in areas she might need me too, I’m asking her to do a lot of changing here so I’m not expecting to not move with her. But I do think a therapist might support me when I say this isn’t working for me.

I’ve introduced the jeopardy you refer in the last week, I have told her ‘I’m at my limit, this is a line for me’ and while she understands this, she’s finding it INCREDIBLY hard to move from her ‘safe’ position. And I really empathise with her, and if she can’t move by herself, then maybe a therapist can help. And if not…

Fantastic_mrs_fox@99 –

154

Sorry I copied and pasted my old comment again instead of my new one.

I meant to type at the end there - mrs-fox@ I will share your comments with her. They've been really enlightening to a bit of the other side of the dyad in our dynamic.

155

@131. Lava. I agree with everything you've said about this young couple--joined 'at the hip'. Inevitably, in a couple, one person will want to do things not involving the other--they will have friends the other doesn't like; hobbies or interests they don't see the point of--and in a strong relationship, each person can pursue separate interests without being subject to close control.

@130. Fantastic. If you had the conversation about nonmonogamy and your husband still cheated, then, without knowing all the circumstances, I would have to think he Did a Bad Thing.

156

DRUGS @153: "I let my guard down, was tempted and made a gluttony of selfish decisions."

In other words, you got lucky.

It's easy to be monogamous and "faithful" when there's no temptation, and no doubt Covid-19 has helped many people with their monogamy. But I do wonder when I read "I left my guard down"... I think that fully owning the thing would sound more like "I waned to fuck another woman, so I did."

157

@139. ciods. I think I feel more like you than like someone who wants the know the worst--i.e. know they've been cheated on--whatever the emotional effect of the lapse on their partner and relationship.

Of course when the cheating has happened because of, or brings about, a change in the emotional character of a marriage / ltr, the right thing for the cheater to do is to fess up and to give their wife/husband a shot at informed consent over whether they wish the relationship to continue. The situation I've been put in, of being used as a security blanket, while my partner found someone else more thrilling, more lovable or less burdensome is an unconscionable one--and it's an asshole move to put someone in that position, without laying your cards on the table.

I understand the 'spare your partner the burden of knowing' in contexts where what the cheating partner feels about the cheatee is unchanged--or they even value them more, because they're brought up sharp against what they've risked losing.

158

@153. Drugs. I wish you and your partner well in your therapy. She's made a commitment to you in a real sense by agreeing to go. I'd expect that she will have to be doing some digging into why she needs to exercise control, and you into why--after four years of probation--you go on tolerating it. The last area is the one you find it hard to discuss.

As soon as you got back into the country, after your two-week holiday or work/study trip fling, you decided whom you wanted to be with, and you've never wavered in that. The affair might have been selfish; but it was a different order of bad to cheating on your gf by lying to her when you were with her, e.g. saying you were working late when you were enjoying a cinq-à-sept behind her back.

I think, ultimately, your mind is open to your gf needing to feel safe more than she needs to be with you--to its mattering more to her that she feels safe, than whom she feels safe with. Ironically, she is more likely to commit to you and, at some psychic cost to herself, cut you some slack if she feels you're prepared to walk away. If your relationship ends for that reason, my sense is that all the older (than you) commenters on here would take the view that you'd be the one who had the escape. You do not need to have a relationship where you're held on a short leash.

159

fubar@156
"In other words, you got lucky."

+1

160

@143. Fantastic. Why did your usually honest husband not say something to the effect of: 'you can see I'm attracted to [my female friend]. Do I have your permission to open up our marriage so I can have a secondary sexual relationship with her?'

161

DRUGS @154 - if you've told your gf your letter was published by Dan Savage, good for you! Why not show her the whole discussion thread?

162

Harriet @160 - I can only really give vague and oversimplified answers to that (and I have already blabbed my personal shit more than I am typically inclined to, given the opportunity to potentially help DRUGS and his gf if only very peripherally/anecdotally). Oversimplified answers to your question include: my husband (by his own admission) being in deep denial about the the extent that he was attracted TO this person (as opposed to simply finding someone objectively attractive), my husband being in deep denial about their mutual attraction TO each other, failed to notice ways that their friendship was straying into dangerous/boundary-crossing territory, me playing The Cool Girl and not pointing out issues I was seeing or expressing sufficiently my discomfort with where their relationship seemed to be headed. My husband thought he was more in control of the situation than he was until it was well out of hand (I realize I'm using ishy language here - that is my writing style choice and not the way my husband describes it. He owns his bad choices in no uncertain terms). He was lying to himself in a lot of ways, long story short.

163

DRUGS
Either way you look at it the overwhelming majority of us commenters, regardless of gender, orientation, age and experience have almost unanimously suggested you split and move on BECAUSE THIS SEEMS TO BE THE BEST FOR BOTH OF YOU.
Take this into account before embarking on long, painful, and very possibly pricy therapy and consultations.

I’m not sure what all your motives are in pursuing this. I understand you want the best for both of you, but I also sense some eagerness to "get my point across” and lots of guilt for dating a young and vulnerable person, worrying of further hurting them. Guilt and “sacrifice” will not make you a better partner and bitterness will eventually rise to the surface. We all have our own heartbreaks and failures, it’s an inevitable part of life and valuable learning experiences.

164

While all along I've said separating would be the best for both of them, I don't think they should be dissuaded from therapy by that therapy will be painful or costly. (Though I don't think they should prolong it.)

And as I later wrote, I can relate to his unwillingness to take good advice to let go.

Growth is always painful. And priceless. And without it, they'll both end up with partners in their next relationships with which they repeat the pattern they've co-created anyway. But it would be a realistic and healthy view to accept that improving their future relationships is the realistic the goal, not expecting that people with their unfortunately matched issues will ever avoid the pain sliding back into those wagon-wheel ruts(1) while together. Of course, a lot of couples spend their whole lives in their wagon-wheel ruts; they're attached; it they're not going to grow the next relationships wouldn't be any healthier anyway.

(1) This references my 'wagon-wheel rut metaphor for relationship roles' mentioned @51

165

@156 fubar, @159 curious2, and @163 CMDwannabe re DRUGS: All three of you +1. Agreed, seconded, thirded, and fourthed. DRUGS, you certainly did get lucky.

@164 curious2: I think you also nailed why I am so much happier now, single and asexual. I consider myself a work still in progress, and lately I have been reviewing my own past life's misfortunes that I hope to not ever again repeat. Under the given circumstances there is not a lot to my ugly past that I could have changed, avoided, or made better. All I can suffice is that I have since survived what unpleasantness jeopardized the quality of my life, and I am dealing with the outcome now as best I know how.

166

@162 Fantastic_mrs_fox: My awarding you on your consistently golden comments was sincere back at @117. :)

167

DRUGS, I'm glad you're hanging in there with us. My comments @162 and Fubar's @156 highlight why I strongly recommend that you look into some kind of (non-religious) flavored infidelity articles and look into the how/why's of affairs. Knowing the warning signs is empowering stuff.

Also, DRUGS, my last bit of advice for your gf is this: regardless of what happens with your relationship, she owes it to herself to heal and to let the anger go. To pin her feelings of safety to another person (it's no one's job/responsibility to make us feel anything -that is forfeiting every passing feeling onto another instead of owning your own stuff). One thing that came out of my healing process is knowing I can be strong without my husband, that I could make it on my own if need be. Your gf owes herself healing and forgiveness regardless of what happens between the two of you. That being said, I'm glad she sounds GGG to therapy and looking at her side of things that are within her control to change it she so chooses. I wish the two of you good luck.

Venn @151 - indeed, one's guts need be neither womanly nor witchy to ascertain that something is "off" with their SO. I was referring only specifically to my own guts.

Curious @ 164 - what you said x100.

Ens @ 145 - I think the silent regret/penance was definitely an aspect that factored into things in my situation.

Philo @137 - I vaguely remember futurecatlady and enjoying her comments (I've been lurking around for a while before I jumped into commenting).

Griz @ 117 - and I get a tiara, too?! WAHOOOO!!! I shall treasure it indeed. * adjusts crown, princess waves *

168

@167 Fantastic_mrs._fox: My challenge is how to get a crown to you. But do indeed savor the honors and bask in the glow. :)

And this week's Double Whammy winner IS.......

169

.....double shots?

170

DRUGS, I think there's real reason for hope for you and your girlfriend, but you both need to let go of some roles. She has got the lock on virtue and victimhood; you've got the monopoly on guilt mixed with resentment. This doesn't make for a relationship of equals. Unless you two WANT a female-led relationship of inequality, there is no way that this can be healthy: she will ultimately view you as the potential enemy she has to always be vigilant against and you will slowly grow to be very resentful that you aren't treated with respect and that you aren't afforded any autonomy.

Neither of you seems to trust you to be an autonomous adult, but you're chafing (as I think most any of us would) after spending four years on what appears to be a never-ending probation.

The thing is that although lying is a big problem and sneaking a serious issue, there is still a world of difference between a two-week affair with another person and sneaking a cigarette or even doing a bump of cocaine. Yes, sneaking is problematic, but why did you sneak the smoke and the bump in the first place? I get the sense that for the past 4 years, your every action has had to be subject to scrutiny so as to reassure your girlfriend of your trustworthiness.

I believe that your gf meant it when she said that the lying is the problem, but I also see a pattern that's been established in which you are guilty of something nefarious at all times unless you submit your every desire or action to her pre-approval.

I would suggest individual therapy for both of you and couples therapy as well. You have the right to be treated like an autonomous adult and to have your judgement respected. This secret affair lasted for 2 weeks and took place 4 years ago when the relationship was 2 years old. This is more math than my stupid brain can handle, but even I can see that you've been faithful, contrite, and honest for twice as long as you'd known your gf when you initially cheated. You shouldn't be expected to pay for this endlessly and forever. I can't force your girlfriend to get over it (nor can you), but I would echo the Fantastic One's point that holding onto suspicion, anger, and hurt isn't healthy, not only for your gf in general, but for the relationship. Your gf needs to figure out--probably with the help of a good therapist--how to not "get over" the pain, but how to heal from it. This healing can't consist of you being treated as a guilty felon all the time.

I understand that you may have thought that you needed to sneak a smoke or a bump because you considered both to be no big deal but you knew or had good reason to think that she wouldn't approve either one. But this is a bad tactic: it solidifies the imbalance between you wherein she is the adult, and you the irresponsible child. Even if she hates your smoking, you shouldn't sneak a cigarette. Either she finds the smoking to be a bridge too far or she finds a way to resign herself to it. You owe it to yourself (and your sense of honesty and integrity), your girlfriend, and your relationship to not lie or sneak--but neither do you need to ask permission (unless this is the dynamic you both WANT) to do things that adults get to decide for themselves.

171

DRUGS: Another following my comment @156: your lack of ownership, at least in the language you've employed here, implies that the affair was something that happened to you ("I let my guard down, and my dick escaped"), rather than something you did.

Perhaps this is why your girlfriend is so jumpy?

I started the week thinking she was controlling and this was ultimately her problem, but now I'm wondering if she's a scared young woman looking for something solid to believe in. Obviously, I have no idea, and I'm not going to draw any conclusions, but integrity is an important thing in relationships.

172

@169: I could not help myself, folks. I just got my second Pfizer vaccine yesterday (thus my little joke about double shots") through the VA. We celebrated afterward at the local Red Robin for gluten free burgers, fries, and iced tea.
I have been moving my left arm around to avoid possible stiffness or soreness. So far, so good. Otherwise I'mm taking it easy this weekend,, and humbly accept the Double Whammy honors. WA-HOOOOOOOOOO!!! :)

@170 nocutename: Excellent recommendations for DRUGS and his girlfriend.

@171 fubar: Good cal!. And I fully agree that if trust is such an issue between DRUGS and his GF of six years, their having children is unwise.

173

@172: Remember--the Double Hunsky and further Lucky Numbers awards beyond @200 are still up for grabs. :)

174

F.M.Fox@167
"Curious @ 164 - what you said x100"

Aww. I'm no math wiz, but it seems to me that's quite a bit kinder than a "+1". (And if what I said had a value > 1, I'm thinking more than just a hundred times kinder than +1.)

Here's something I should have said. Despite my being a bit distracted, even I could see that you've really shined on this thread. Thank you for going so deep and sharing the wisdom of your own journey. It's too bad that you can't talk directly with DRUGS' GF.
But we get no shortage of letters from people who have been cheated on: you could save yourself some effort when it comes time to do them such a service by copy-and-pasting your insights upthread to save for when they come along.

175

nocute @ 170
Yes, DRUGS situation does have FLR or D/s flavor to it, but I don’t think the participants are aware of this nor enjoying any of it. Rather, it is a mix of insecurity and guilt, and both seem to perpetuate the situation in a vicious cycle of some sort, a pattern that is usually very hard to get out of, which is why I think calling this one off and starting anew is likely the most beneficial move for both despite the initial, imminent hardship.

I may have been a bit harsh on LW but I see in him some patterns I experienced myself. I think that beyond guilt his reluctance to move on is an indication of fear and insecurity on his side and I want to assure him that he is still young and there’s no need to stress over biological day light saving time at this point in his life. Him choosing to date a younger, vulnerable person in a time when the four-year age gap can be very pronounced, may also indicate a reluctance to date more experienced people around his age when they first met.
But by now both are more experienced, can better define what is it they want and don’t, and move on. I wish there was an “It’s Getting Better” for this one as well.

fubar @ 171
You may have not contradicted yourself, a need to control is often a byproduct of insecurity.

176

@175 CMDwannabe: BINGO.

177

Phi @136: "When you said his affair was forgivable because he was "young and horny".
I DID NOT SAY THAT.
You said the only possible reason he cheated is because he wants to be non-monogamous. I said, no, he may have cheated because he was young and horny. I never implied that made it forgivable. (Although, she did forgive, didn't she? In word if not in deed.) I agree that even young, horny people who make monogamous commitments should stick to them.
She should not "trust him to cheat" if he's ever out of the country again in similar circumstances. She should trust him NOT to cheat because he realised it was a mistake and confessed.
"Um, people always want nonmonogamy or cheating because they want sex, because their monogamous sex isn't enough." That is also wrong. Many people cheat even if they are getting plenty of sex. And many people stay faithful even when sex has dried up or is not possible, as in the case of a physical separation. He was not getting sex; an opportunity for sex presented itself; the little devil on his shoulder (which may have had a few drinks) convinced him it was ok because his girlfriend would never know; his conscience disagreed and he came clean.
"My personal experience with cheating is as the cheater, before I started seeking honest open relationships." Aha! So you think DRUGS is you. Just because your cheating was evidence that open relationships are better for you does not mean this applies to everyone who cheats.

Anyway, DRUGS @153 has spoken for himself. I love the taste of vindication with my morning coffee.

Fubar @156, how is cheating lucky? Sex might be lucky when it happens to a single man. It's not so lucky when it's a huge mistake that could end your relationship.

178

BiDanFan @177: I was paraphrasing "I let my guard down, was tempted and made a gluttony of selfish decisions.”

Sex is rarely something that falls from the sky and “happens” to a man, single or not. In most cases, the man puts some work into bringing it to fruition. (The obvious disclaimers apply.)

179

Ciods @140, I find "my then-husband" is the best way to express that you're talking about someone you were married to at the time of the story but whom you aren't married to now. I was also confused but I figured it out.

Mrs Fox @143 re Phi @136, I think 99% forgiveness is the best anyone can hope to get. Cheating causes pain and pain leaves scars. Even if you work through a betrayal, it's still a betrayal and can't be forgotten. Even if you forgive someone, memories of that thing can come back to haunt you. In the end when something like this happens you are faced with two choices, neither of which is ideal: stay with someone and forgive them, knowing that this will be hard work and that part of you will always feel hurt, or end a relationship which has otherwise been good. The less bad option isn't perfect, and it takes time for that forgiveness to be earned by that behaviour not being repeated.

EricaP @144, I'm not talking about someone who has an actual reason to fear an irrational reaction, rather that anyone is naturally going to be upset when they hear they've been betrayed, right? The betrayer needs to take their lumps like a grownup, they can't justify "I didn't want to upset you" as a reason to be dishonest. Someone like your mother is a different issue, but if one has a partner like that, the ethical way to proceed is to encourage them to work on their anger issues or leave, not cheat on them and not tell because "you'd get upset."

Ciods @146, yes, I realised while typing that there are exceptions to everything and that some people are sociopaths and/or good actors. And that some partners are naive and round niggling doubts down to nothing. I'll rephrase is as there's a strong enough chance that someone with a guilty conscience will out themself through their behaviour that it's better to disclose and get the points for jumping before one is pushed.

180

CMD @163, my hope is that they will discover through therapy that they are indeed fundamentally incompatible, and be able to cordially make an exit plan that avoids the most pain. If you have to jointly sell a home, you don't want to be a situation where you hate each other's guts. Also, if they go to therapy and discover that way that they can't find a middle ground, at least they can both say they made every effort. It says something for these two young people that they are willing to try. And ideally they will learn valuable lessons to bring to their next relationships.

Fubar @171, I agree that DRUGS's explanation for why he cheated is a bit mealy mouthed. If cheating was something that "happened to" him rather than a decision he made, how is she to be confident it won't "happen to" him again if he should get so "lucky" to have another woman express a sexual interest in him? He does admit to his "gluttony of selfish decisions" so it's not quite a HTH (how'd that happen?) but DRUGS, if you're reading, being more definitive in the role you played in this affair may help her trust that you won't make the same mistake in future.

Griz @169/@172, congrats on the double whammy and the double jabby! (We call them jabs in the UK, which has a nice ring to it.)

181

BDF @179 - your second paragraph really nicely sums up the situation the betrayed partner finds themselves in. I like your description of a "least bad option." Each person gets to weigh in the various factors against the relationship as a whole and decide what that least bad option is.

I agree with you too that often "I didn't want to hurt you (with the truth of this hurtful thing I did)" is one side of a coin. The other side consists of "I'm scared to have a difficult conversation with you that might end our relationship." It's cowardly and avoidant (understandable, but unethical).

Speaking of this last point, I have a question for DRUGS @153, you said "...telling her was always the right choice. Though, I did think it was going to end the relationship at the time, so there was some other factors at play." This last bit has been stuck in my head since I first read it, and I wondered if part of you was maybe hoping your GF would break up with you? That the affair in part may have been an unconcious attempt to slam the proverbial "self destruct" button on the relationship? This is a concept Dan brings up pretty frequently, that sometimes one partner will cheat, or act like an asshole, or engage in some other kind of terrible behavior in order to "force" their partners to break up with them, rather than having the difficult conversation of wanting to end the relationship. You don't have to answer here, and it may not at all apply to you, but it's something I think is worth marinating on.

And a sincere thank you to everyone who had a kind word to share as I spilled by guts this week. I appreciate everyone's kindness and respect so much, and the varied insights, opinions, and experiences you all have to share. Gleaning good relationship advice from Dan and the commentariat has helped in part to me get to the point in healing that I'm at today.

182

Also re: some people are good liars, have a good poker face, etc. Yes, and I will say that even though I * knew * my husband was having an affair and he was not at all acting like himself, my initial reaction was still one of being blindsided, because I really wanted to hope against reality. Also, it was my husband's enormous, palpable guilt and shame and intense desire to redeem himself that softened my heart enough to want to forgive him. If he had been deflective and had not done his own deep internal work on himself and why he made his choices, I might be sharing a very different story here.

183

BDF @180 - I think your first paragraph may be one of their least bad options, too. It also nicely captures the first step in healing after infidelity. Best case scenario is a chance to grow and change, to let go of unhealthy and self-sabotaging behaviors and coping mechanisms, for their own benefit as individuals as well as for their present and/or future relationships.

184

Why do commenters think he should lie or not reveal the truth. Why go into marriage and childrearing with someone under false pretenses? Just means you're going to sneak around forever. Who cares who's right or wrong about the drugs and cigarettes? They are not on the same page. I have a friend with a wife aggainst sugar, said it rotted kids brains. Husband sneaked the kids slice of cake from time to time, they had a big blow out when she discovered he'd walked the kids to the store and bought them a slurpee. What a life! Irrelevant if the gf is overreacting, if you are in a position to lie or "get in trouble" then you shouldn't get married. Take another vacation, have another short lived affair only break up with your partner first this time. Probably should've done then. By my math she's been with you since she's a teenager right? Maybe time you both moved on.

185

Wow at the overthinking here. Why'd he cheat? Who knows but I can bet it was because he was like 25, in another country, had the opportunity with someone he found hot. I dont see why there has to he more to it, likely what most guys his age will do. Have his cake and eat it too when he probably won't be found out. Why'd he reveal? Who knows again but my guess is felt bad, bad at lying, worried about her finding out later, all possibilities. Doesn't mean he's poly, does mean he wasn't ready then for monogamous relationships, says nothing about if he'd be ok with his wife getting out her own dancing shoes. Does sound like he has a problem with agreeing to act a certain way then not acting that way then feeling guilty about it then this becomes a thing they discuss in their pillow talk, sounds tiresome to me. Lots of possible solutions, I'd say dont agree to things unless you want to in the first place and no one is sure how their feelings on stuff changes over time- marriage is a long time and you can be sure it will change again and again - so dont marry someone who has what you think is a strict outlook. Easy to say the girlfriend is controlling or overreacting but seems also like the boyfriend wants to be in a relationship like that or else what's he doing all these years.

186

@180 BiDanFan: Many thanks! I like the sound of "double jabby"--it really does have a nice ring to it. To safeguard, I had the completed VA card with the dates of my jabs laminated, made a xerox copy of the card both sides, and keep on file with my important VA papers.
Now if only mammogram screenings could possibly be as simple and minimally painful---my long overdue (due to the COVID pandemic, having had a hysterectomy, and physical therapy for my right upper arm, shoulder and back, all over the last year) appointment is tomorrow---ugh! Sometimes I wish I was breastless.
But--the sun is finally here, along with warmer weather at last, and Griz is picking up her beloved Love Beetle again later this week! :)

187

@184. Waffles. Because the underlying emotional dynamic between them has not changed because of his fling; he values her more than ever, he is at less risk of leaving her than he was before, and knowing would only saddle her with worry and torment.

I'm not endorsing this view--which is effectively Dan's--just explaining it and saying why it could be thought rational and humanely motivated.

@162. Fantastic. I think your husband is lucky to have you. Now, it could be that your compassion is programmatic and wisdom hard-won, meaning by these things that you are more difficult to get on with than you appear in the comments ... but actually I don't think so; I'd think you are unusually flexible, imaginative, open-minded, and would have been more able to deal with a poly or erring husband than he would have been to have two avowed lovers. Getting in too deep with a family friend and lapsing once is one thing, but turning it into an affair (when the opportunity is there to make a clean breast of it) another. Actually I suspect he fucked up so badly because you were exemplary in his mind (in one part of his mind), and he wanted to appear to be up to your level.

188

As this week's commentary winds to a close, I've come to the conclusion that DRUGS' girlfriend must be beside herself with his inability to keep his word. Monogamy was implied, but pussy happened to him whilst his guard was down, and he jumped right in. Non-smoking and no drugs were mandated (benchmarks for trust), but not rejected by him, and he got caught.

Being an adult -- having integrity -- means speaking up, saying things, and then doing those thing; keeping your word. That includes dealing with the fallout when you fuck up. Also speaking up when you're not going to agree to something (like monogamy, or occasional smoking).

I was once in my 20s, and could have used some advice on this stuff.

189

Who is still up for the next upcoming Lucky Numbers prize: the celebrated Double Hunsky (@200)? Griz is disqualifying herself from eligibility for further prizes in this week's comment thread after scoring the Double Whammy honors (@169).
Anyone feeling hungry? Tick...tick...tick...

190

@188 fubar: Agreed and seconded, Well said and summarized.
I certainly could have used advice when I was in my roaring 20s.

191

Harriet @ 187 - I'm not quite sure that I follow your last sentence. Obviously I'm not a perfect person to get along with and I have my own issues, sure. If I were half as eloquent verbally as I am when I write, I'd make my life a bit easier. I can't tell if you're making jabs (the non-vaccine kind) at me, and I get the sense that my choice to stay in my relationship rubs you the wrong way. For me, it was the least bad option, and that's fine if others are baffled by that. My comments here have been an edited highlight reel for sure, to be vague enough to afford myself some amount of privacy as I talk about this intensely private experience. I skipped over a lot of the raw, angry, despondent, unregulated emotional trainwreck piece because 1 - blah, gross, I don't like reliving that stage at all and 2 - this is the phase where the LW's gf seems stuck, and I'm trying to show what potentially lies on the other side when you work on letting that shit go.

FWIW, this was not a family friend, and that would have been an entirely different flavor of hurt. I never actually met this person, but the attraction was obvious in the way a lovesick teen might get all starry-eyed at the family dinner table, talking about how * amazing and wonderful * so-and-so at school is. And in the long run things wouldn't have shaken out with this particular person in an ENM context, as she was ultimately after the whole pie and was thoroughly discontented with the thought of only getting a slice. But again, open and honest communication would have gotten us all to a better place much sooner, possibly avoided a lot of bad decisions if everyone had laid their cards on the table from the get-go.

Fubar @188 - very nicely and succinctly put. 20 y.o. me would have benefited from this advice as well, particularly the "speak up!" piece.

192

Drugs, I'm glad that you're not asking for more forgiveness than you would give. Hopefully you've decided that it's better to break up than to cheat when your relationship doesn't feel good. If you do cheat again, please consider ethical non monogamy rather than continuing to cheat. And please try to calm down and stop yourself from agreeing to things you don't want to do. If you show great respect to someone who can't return the gesture, I think it's kind to try to teach them if y'all want a relationship together. And I hope you both try to work through your own resentment, it's an important skill on the journey of self awareness imo.

Mrs Fox, thanks for answering my question. You're right, there's many levels of getting over something very upsetting or physically traumatic. I guess I mean that you've stopped feeling surprised about it and wishing things were different, and have incorporated it into a happy life.. It sounds like this when you say it's not your dominant narrative.

Ciods, thanks for explaining, and for clearing up the timeline. It's interesting that you appreciated lies about cheating.

194

@193: cockyballsup, I don't know if I have any advice for you, but I want to offer you my supportive shoulder, if you want it.
I do understand; And hard as it is, I think it's commendable that you are prioritizing your own sanity and mental health.

Anyway, I'm sorry you're grieving and I hope that things get better.

If you want to take this off the Savage Love comments section, you can email me at nocutename2020@yahoo.com

195

cbu@193
I'm so sorry this happened to you, man.

Is the toxic-ness his disappearance when he's on benders? (Or is he sometimes also present and actively toxic at such times?)

Either way that sucks, and when he's on a bender he might be no good to anyone.

If his toxic-ness isn't when he's present, I guess you're saying that what you cherish when he's there isn't worth not being able to count on him /at/all/ to be there, because he's only there when he is. Is it so hard when he's not there and you need him, that you can't stand to have him be in your life at all (including the times he's present and is then always so good)?

OTOH, if he's also toxic when present, then wow that's much worse (I just didn't see you saying that).

In either case, could you tell him where you're at first instead of just disappearing without a word? There's potential for that to be beneficial for one or both of you.

If you need to ghost him, I understand. I just had to ask because if people don't need to ghost someone I'm very much against it in general. Unless it's what you need to do.

curious784523@gmail.com

196

CBU @193 - I have no advice, just sympathy and cyber hugs. That sounds tumultuous and awful, and I think you've done the best thing for your mental health (though it hurts). I would echo Curious's sentiment @195, that it may be beneficial to let this person know why you're ghosting, only if it's not going to cause more pain to you by reaching out. If their hurtful behavior while on substances is a conversation you've already hashed out time and again, then ghost away.

197

Hey cockyballsup @193: I have a close relative who's an addict. My advice to you is to take care of your own mental health. "Put on your own mask first", as the instructions on airplanes say. And you're doing that.

You cannot save an addict. You can be there to help when they're ready for help, but even then, you cannot help them if you're not on solid ground yourself. It's a mistake for you to hope an addict is there for you when you need them, unless they're well into recovery.

ahoyfubar@gmail.com

198

@193 cockyballsup: I am so sorry to read about what is happening to you. It is always heartbreaking to see someone one really cares about on benders and battling addiction. I'm afraid I don't have much to add other than also offering cyber hugs, positrons, VW beeps and care along with nocutename @194 and fantastic_mre_fox @196 & agreeing with curious2's @195 and fubar's @197 spot on advice, that I will echo here a little bit. Address your mental health first. This strongly got me out of a dangerously toxic relationship. Sometimes the only one you can save is yourself.

199

Cocky @193, I guess you already knew the answer to your question -- the time was now. You drew your boundaries where you needed to. Yes, of course it hurts, and you're grieving. You're grieving the good parts of your relationship, but alas those didn't come on their own. Perhaps this will be a wake-up call for him. Sending virtual hugs.

200

@191. Fantastic. I'm not making jabs at you at all! I sympathise with you for going through that difficult experience. It was your decision, and not anybody else's, whether you stayed in that relationship. Your young children (maybe most of all), your home, marriage and long relationship with your husband would all have been considerations. I misunderstood when you said that @162 you played 'the Cool Girl' and didn't raise stuff you were seeing. You would have meant, I'm now supposing, stuff in your husband's behavior and in his frame of mind, whereas I took you to be referring to stuff you were seeing literally, i.e. how your husband interacted with this other woman in front of you.

Fwiw, I used to walk away without even listening to partners' (or psuedo-partners') explanations and justifications until I was in my mid-to-late-thirties, when I stayed, downgrading the romantic relationship in my mind, for the sake of other people involved. I don't think either resolution ('going' or 'staying, but with internal exile or alienation') is as good or as tough-minded in principle as what you worked out.

I think lots of wives (and partnered people, period) dread and are tempted to revile others who want 'the whole pie'--'husband snatchers', etc. What you've said is admirably temperate. You're now giving me the sense that the reason your husband did not approach you saying, in effect, that he had gotten in too deep, that he thought he was being flirty (e.g.), reliving his youth (e.g.), but he now wanted ENM-ly to fuck another woman, was that he understood that, at bottom, the other woman was not interested in nonmonogamy.

Switching contexts, it's conceivable to me that the woman that the young man here, DRUGS, had an affair with actually had in view a relationship, and that, back in the UK, he chose between his holiday romance and long-term gf.

@193. cocky. This friend cannot be your go-to guy when you need help. You know that--right? You need other people who will pick up in that position. When you are sufficiently distant from his letting you down and not being there for you, and when (or if) you're more inoculated against the damage he's inflicting on himself, maybe your friendship can resume less intensely ... but until that point, you have to practise self-care and not expose yourself to any behavior of his that's wildly inconsistent and corrosive (meaning ghosting him if you have to). Maybe you could drop a single line saying that you're ghosting him because you can't trust him not to be on a bender. As Bi says @199, your message could be a wake-up call to him.

202

@200 Harriet_by_the_Bulrushes: WA_HOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Major congrats on scoring this week's Double Hunsky Award! Savor your newfound riches and bask in the envied spotlight. :)