Savage Love May 25, 2021 at 3:40 pm

Both Barrels






Wow, GUTTED. Sorry that happened to you. Dan is right about dumping the "best friend" and your partner needs to own having an affair with your best friend. That's minus points right there.


Why did Gutted even need to write to an advice column?
I like how Dan cake him out on the word whore.


Just in time to keep the commentariat from cannibalizing itself! Thanks for the heads up o the old thread Fubar, and WAHOOOO and congrats on FIRDKT!


GUTTED, I'm so sorry! In my eyes they have done a terrible thing, in that by betraying your trust it threatens to cause you to lose both of the most important people in your life.

I sense Dan being more dismissing of the best friendship than the partnership. I'm not sure I see one deserving that more than the other.


Where was I when Dan invented "tinglehole"? I think I can now infer what it is, but it still bears stating, since while Dan apparently invented it I've never heard it even here so I'm not sure it's succeeded in entering the language as a word. But maybe it should; I think I like it better than all the alternatives in use.


Good for you GV! Buy her a really great vibrator.


I suppose a burning hole might produce a fountain of frothy lube and fecal matter. What would be the name for that chain reaction?


saxfanatic @6: Ah, the old Santorum Volcano.


Thanks GV for the letter! If only VIBEQ could have taken your solid advice back in the late 1980s.

I really feel for GUTTED, especially since his partner has been cheating on him with his best friend. That's a painful double whammy of betrayal. Absolutely all of Dan's advice is spot-on, with my only quibble being his proclivity for rounding couples up to monogamish when it's clear from the context of the letter that no such agreement was made ("cheating CAN be traumatic..." No, Dan. Cheating is traumatic).

I particularly love Dan's eloquent advice about how avoiding difficult conversations can lead to affairs, which leads to more difficult and impossible to avoid conversations. And that it's difficult and painful to discuss changes in ourselves and our partner(s) over the years, but oh so necessary. Dishonesty, sometimes even in the form of avoiding hard conversations, can create a breeding ground for infidelity. And I'll continue to beat the drum of "the dishonesty hurts more than the sexual stepping out." GUTTED even points out this instance of being lied to by their closest friend. I'm hoping GUTTED is able to have these difficult conversations and potentially move forward in both affected relationships (and if not, to at least let the hurt go and find some peace).

Tone shift: but also! GUTTED says that they knew their friend has become more, ahem, promiscuous in recent years, but that their partner is none the wiser. And GUTTED knew this and said nothing, and I feel they're being at least a wee hypocritical here. I know it's never an awesome decision whether or not to let someone know their partner may be cheating on them, but GUTTED knew their BFF was cheating on their partner, and was fine to stay schtum until it turns out BFF was cheating with GUTTED's partner too.


Curious @5, I'm somewhat baffled by Dan's putting the friend into a higher category of asshole. I mean, that really stings that GUTTED was confiding relationship troubles with his friend and friend played dumb. But is this a bigger betrayal than his monogamous partner sleeping with someone else? This could make a great side argument later in the week when we get bored and testy: who is the bigger asshole in GUTTED's letter and why?!


Gutted- Foursome? Maybe your friend was explaining that he was sleeping around because the sex got stale, and hinting that it was time for you to try sleeping around too? Why did you have a best friend who was an unapologetic cheater, anyway? How could you look his partner in the eye and hide it?

I wasn't aware of the word tinglehole. I would have loved some more usage examples. New words for assholes are always good.

Awesome vibrator psa.


Mrs. Fox @8
I think there's a big difference between not telling someone's partner that they're cheating, and not telling them that you are fucking their partner.

Arguably someone can have more loyalty to their best friend than their best friends partner.

Finding out that their best friend and their partner have both been betraying then is still legitimately hurtful.


Opal @11 - definitely there is a world of difference. That particular detail that GUTTED has been aware of his BFF cheating on his partner just rubbed me the wrong way, but is not unethical like a betrayal. I called him a hypocrite unreasonably.


If I don't talk about it now I might be too busy later cannibalizing myself.

I think I'm particularly interested in why (Dan was more dismissive of the best-friendship) because of the position I previously had which focused on that the 'other person' was the less culpable because they weren't the one who had entered into a verbal contract to be (presumably) monogamous . So I'm used to placing the greater blame in the opposite way.

Of course in this circumstance, the 'other person' presumably couldn't have been deceived as to the nature of the couple's contract. And both parties betrayed GUTTED's trust. But still, the friend wasn't party to the contract.

As I've mentioned before, I've long (as a non-partnered person) imagined that Dan (as a partnered person) is predisposed to support the continuation of partnerships. And as a parent, perhaps tend to infer children.


Fox, "GUTTED knew this and said nothing, and I feel they're being at least a wee hypocritical here."
I agree that it's hypocritical to accept cheating until you're the one being cheated on. Is cheating OK or not? If we only judge it "wrong" when we're the victim, isn't that the definition of hypocrisy?

I don't think it's nice or loyal to accept a friend's unethical behavior. It's nonconfrontational at best, cowardly at worst.

I think the contract to refrain from sleeping with a best friend's partner without their consent is real. It's loyal to refrain from hurting friends. It's maybe worse to break than monogamy because you have to keep sexual distance from billions of people to keep monogamy, while you only have to keep sexual distance from one person to keep the best friend contract. I guess a few people if you have a poly best friend, but they are also more willing to give consent. Anywsy, it seems like a more malicious choice of lover.


@1 WA-HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Congratulations to fubar, who triumphs as this week's new reigning FIRDT! commenter. Bravo and well done! Savor the highly competitive glory of leading this week's thread, and bask in the glow. :)


GUTTED, I am really sorry that happened to you. I agree with Dan, fubar, and others--dump that former best friend.
@9 fantastic_mrs_fox: Agreed and seconded re GUTTED.

Way to GO, GV!


Mrs Fox - Given that Mr Savage expects almost all partners to stray at least once or twice during a partnership of that duration (or at the very least want to stray), it makes sense.

I wouldn't want to say whether this is as true for the L as it often is for the G, but for many of us a best friendship can be more intense/important/complex than a romantic partnership, especially if there might have been possibilities of more at one time. I've had friendships like that, especially with romantic confidences involved. My first thought is that the P1 violated the greater official commitment, but BF1 hurt LW1 more. It's similar to the Simon-Jackie-Linnet triangle from Death on the Nile, where what feels like the most real betrayal was Linnet's taking the initiative in pursuing Simon, despite her telling herself and Poirot that Simon had already wanted out of his engagement to Jackie.


Yes, but how many words is CheeseGraterHole?


Burning This reminds me of a rather frightening experience I had with Encare Oval, a spermicidal vaginal suppository that burned like the floodgates of hell the one and only time I used it. This was way back when I was sexually active, in 1989. I had recently completed my U.S. Navy basic and tech school training in Orlando, Florida and Meridian, Mississippi, and returned to the West Coast, checking onboard what was to be my one and only command assignment during my four year enlistment.
Ortho-Novum-777 proved to be a bad call for me, side-effect wise, as well.


@9: A couple thoughts come to mind.

It's not necessarily so that Dan is putting the friend into a higher category of asshole than the spouse (although Dan may be). There is also a hierarchy of priority: spouse vs. friend. One has a literal as well as emotional investment in a spouse, which one does not have with a friend (unless you're business partners--and even then it's different). One has taken an oath (pledged his/her troth) to a spouse, but not usually to a friend. Etc.

Another factor: a friend should be appropriately supportive of your marriage. A friend should not cheat behind your back with your spouse. I have attended a number of wedding ceremonies in which I, as a member of the congregation/community, also pledge to help support the couple in their marriage. Cheating is the opposite of this. Of course, the spouse also should not cheat, but that leads back to my previous point.


@19: Along with a long medical history of simply being stuck with bad equipment up until the last summer, I have reason to believe that this is a part of what has made me so much more happily asexual nowadays.

@20 Musicbiker: I know that this is veering way off-topic, but several weeks and Savage Love columns ago you had expressed an interest in my composed music. I shared with you my website address. I would love to get your feedback if you've had an opportunity to listen to some of my music. I do admit that my latest composed work is not on my website.


I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that Dan waited so long to reveal the gender of GUTTED's partner. Would the advice be the same if the CPOS were a woman? Aside from GUTTED marketing himself online as a "daddy"?
I'm not sure I could forgive someone unilaterally opening a relationship in response to a stalled sex life, rather than having a discussion to propose that both parties be free to have sex with others. Does GUTTED belatedly want an open relationship? Is Mr GUTTED contrite, has he taken an STI test? I think I'd dump both these motherfuckers, if I were GUTTED.

And I now have a new vocabulary word -- thanks, Dan!


Tinglehole it is. Thanks, Dan the Man!


Her partner cheating with her best friend is a massive treason. Unless they have kids together, 3 mortgages and he's a great guy when it comes to the other stuff I would DTMF.


Congrats on the firkt, Fubar!

Fantastic @8: "("cheating CAN be traumatic..." No, Dan. Cheating is traumatic.)" Applause and well caught. Dan, if you are promised monogamy and don't get it, of course that hurts, even if you would be happy in an ethically non-monogamous relationship. You've been denied the opportunity to have one if someone cheats instead. Please take this more seriously!

"the dishonesty hurts more than the sexual stepping out." Exactly. One may not care whether their partner has sex with other people. One still cares whether their partner is lying to them.

"GUTTED says that they knew their friend has become more, ahem, promiscuous in recent years, but that their partner is none the wiser. And GUTTED knew this and said nothing, and I feel they're being at least a wee hypocritical here." Yes, this too. GUTTED may not have known his partner was a CPOS, but he knew ExBFF was and didn't say anything to Mr ExBFF, who was also his close friend. He owes Mr ExBFF an apology when this all comes out.

Fantastic @9, yes, good point. He may or may not want to dump his partner, but he should definitely dump his friend? That doesn't make sense. Mr GUTTED made the decision to cheat; ExBFF also made the decision to cheat, but not to cheat on GUTTED, and he told GUTTED he was sleeping around. Not the person he should have told, but I agree these assholes are equal in size and tingliness.

Phi @14, perhaps the hypocrisy is, if you can accept that your best friend is a CPOS and still keep them as a friend, but can't accept that your partner is a CPOS and keep them as a partner. Obviously it isn't quite the same because the cheating friend has not made a commitment to you, and is not exposing you to STIs (except that in this case, he was). The question of should he have told Mr ExBFF is an interesting one. I think the most ethical thing would have been to encourage ExBFF to come clean himself, to distance himself from the friendship if he refused, and to tell Mr ExBFF why if he asked. Tricky one.

Venn @17, I can see that, but only if it were new partner vs longtime friend. This was longtime partner vs longtime friend. I reckon these two people would hold equal importance in my life; it seems that way for GUTTED.


"Some people don't give a shit who their partners are sleeping with after three decades together so long as they come home." Those people express that to their partners, and therefore, when the partner shags someone else IT ISN'T CHEATING. Apple, orange, Dan.


Me @25: "Obviously it isn't quite the same because the cheating friend has not made a commitment to you, and is not exposing you to STIs (except that in this case, he was)." Actually, he wasn't if the GUTTEDs were no longer sleeping together. Perhaps that made them both think this was OK? ExBFF knew from both sides that the relationship had become sexless. Still no excuse for not being honest about it. There's no indication that opening the relationship honestly or breaking up wouldn't have been options, so they don't pass the do-what-you-gotta-do test in my book.


I am not sure what GUTTED wants to keep from his long relationship. He says that he's 56 and fears being alone. Yes--but might this be a relatively temporary feeling...? When the enormity of what his partner and best friend have done to him sinks in a little more, and he has more time to reflect, he may want to have (next to) nothing to do with either of them; he may consider what he has to offer, decide he can brave singledom for a while--because he won't be single for long--and set out boldly on his own. I would take from his remark that things between him and his partner had gotten stale the idea that it isn't the cheating, or loss of sex, that primarily hurts--but rather the emotional betrayal (from both). More than the sex, or even the day-in, day-out companionship from his partner, he seems to fear the loss of the social life the four of them had together--the Christmases, Thanksgivings, brunches. This is where I really feel for him.

Could he retain those? Could he hold onto his old life, despite the seismic shock of the infidelity? It would be extraordinarily difficult. The only way, I would think, would be for his partner and friend's affair to stop, and for the couples to resume their old formation. Is this likely? If his relationship breaks up, and the affair goes public, the friendship and socialising of the four people is forever sundered (because, almost certainly, his best friend's partner goes). Even if the relationships stay together, they will be racked by guilt; and neither his public nor private life is going to be the same. To my mind, the operative question in this dilemma is, what do GUTTED's partner and best friend want? Do they want to be together? Or do they regret the affair as a lapse, and want to have a shot at reassembling their old lives? Though it may be extraordinarily painful and he has the right to so much more, I think GUTTED should be guided by this consideration. The civilised thing to do is for him to ask whether these two people so close to him want to be together, and to facilitate that if they wish.

In one ultimate sense, GUTTED has more options, and a better shot at a happy future than these two, in that he still has his decency, integrity and a clear conscience.


As a side note, I don't really understand Dan's reference to his dictum 'do what you gotta do to stay married and stay sane'. He seems to be acknowledging that cheaters unethically distort his words to justify their actions. Evidently the 'do what you gotta do...' advice is not applicable here. The usual circumstances to which it pertains concern one person wanting sex their partner cannot, or does not want to, offer. Here the cheating partner turns down sex with the lw, but fucks his best friend. It muddies the issue, for me, for the answer to have such an extensive discussion of ENM, especially in the context of a decades-long relationship. What went down between partner and best friend was only cheating of the ordinary description.


@14. Philophile. The only way their 'choice of lover' would have been OK would have been for friend and partner to have discussed it with GUTTED first. I'm not sure it was malicious. Perhaps the two cheating lovers just spent a lot of time together and allowed themselves to succumb to propinquity--coming to feel 'I'd much rather be with this person than my partner'.

I agree with @8 Fantastic and @25 Bi that it is the betrayal that is painful.


Ms Fan - Oh, the partnership was plenty important - just the partner, not so much. That's very Gentile Country Club Set. A lot of GCCS marriages that ended years later than ought to have been the case remind me of Ophelia drowning - incapable of her own distress, though her clothes spread wide and bore her up awhile. P1 had expressed disinterest in sex, but that seemed to have made only a moderate dent in LW1 - enough to get him to consult BF1 about it, but not enough to get him to make much of an effort, if any. Almost all the expression of personal hurt is directed towards BF1.

I do wonder about LW1's attitude towards BFP1; it seems very hetero-mimicking and GCCS as well, especially the way the couples socialized as a foursome. I wonder whether LW1 and BF1 were both in the same role in the partnerships.

A1 seemed very pat. Mr Savage was on familiar ground, once again expressing some reasonable views about preserving relationships after cheating and mixing in other things. We already knew that his support for monogamy in comparison to his support for nonmonogamy was similar to Miss Brodie's statement that the Modern side of the Senior School was the equal of the Classical. I got the impression that he rather ran on about the possible preservation of the partnership in some form or other in order to contrast with his quick dismissal of the friendship because he took a dislike to LW1 for not thinking positively of the W word.

Mr Savage may be right that LW1 could get plenty of attention by presenting himself as a Daddy (even if we don't specify one of the sweeter variety), but there's no evidence that that's what LW1 wants. The GCCS spouses I encountered growing up whose marriages dissolved far later than they might have done generally didn't want to be out enjoying single freedom.


BiDanFan @22: I whipped up a Venn diagram as I read, and thought that GUTTED's wife was having an affair with his bisexual, married-to-a-man BFF, only to learn that GUTTED himself was gay. But I don't think it changes anything.


Knowing that your BFF is cheating on their partner is one thing. I've been in that situation, and while it did lead to a souring of the relationship, it wasn't even close to learning what GUTTED did.

But I do think that GUTTED's partner cheating with the BFF, of all people, is on a whole other level than cheating with the tennis instructor. This too may be unforgivable.


Venn @31, yes, it read that way to me too, which is why I was surprised to read they were not two DS couples, both of which included a (de facto) wife who'd gone off sex. I got suckered into reading the letter heteronormatively.

Fubar @32, why did you think ExBFF's partner was a man? I read both as women.

I don't think it changes anything either, other than perhaps making the cheating even less forgivable because in gay male circles it's more socially acceptable to have ethically monogamish relationships, so there's even less excuse for the soon-to-be-former Mr GUTTED to not have brought this up.


Thanks all, I'm happy to read what the genders were in the GUTTED letter. I was feeling tired, and didn't think it mattered, so I didn't bother to think about it for a second to figure it out. Of course as some have pointed out it does matter somewhat, I just wasn't in the mood to complete a tiny puzzle.

"There is also a hierarchy of priority: spouse vs. friend. One has a literal as well as emotional investment in a spouse, which one does not have with a friend (unless you're business partners--and even then it's different)."

I'm not sure I feel like literal (material) investment is a determining factor. (Though children would be.)

There is a perspective that values friendship /above/ romantic partnership, not below. (This is the meaning of that quite unfortunate phrase that beings "Bros before...").

As I understand it (and I know little of this), the Greeks had a list of different types of 'love'. Friendship ("Philia") was valued more than erotic love ("Eros"). It seems to me they considered friendship purer, because it is not influenced by primal sexual desire.

I'm only mentioning this because Dan was more dismissive of the best friendship, when to me their values and betrayals seem quite alike in.


@35 p.s.
There's also a perspective that values friendship more as having more potential to be lasting.


BiDanFan @34: Good catch. There was nothing in the letter. It must have been "assuming you don't tell him yourself" in Dan's reply that started my head spinning.


I find it odd that GUTTED says nothing about when & how he found out, and also nothing about whether he has even discussed this with his partner (we don't even know if the partner knows GUTTED knows about it) and equally odd that Dan doesn't bring up any of these issues in his lengthy response.


I feel like Dan's "do what you gotta do to stay married and stay sane" used to mean something really specific, like one partner suddenly develops a horrible, debilitating, lifelong condition that takes sex completely out of the equation and lands the other partner in a caregiver role. But the phrase seems to have shifted to now mean "do what you gotta do to get laid and avoid talking to your spouse about it."


Fantastic @39, I agree. I think there is too much priority in that phrase on "stay married." Is "stay married" really always the best possible course of action, so much so that it's worth sacrificing one's own ethics? "Stay married" requires the ongoing decision of two people, one of whom might not -want- to stay married to a CPOS. I prefer the concept of "sometimes cheating is the least worst option," which acknowledges that all of the other options must be pretty terrible in order for cheating to be justifiable. If your relationship is sexless and your spouse won't consider opening up, why would you want to "stay married" anyway? Unless said spouse is financially dependent on you, "stay married" should not rank higher than "stay ethical," IMO. (If the spouse is financially dependent on you, staying married may be the most ethical choice -- but the bar for justifying dishonesty has got to be far higher than "my spouse doesn't want to have sex anymore.")


Where indeed, Dan, might someone get the idea that unilaterally opening one's relationship is okay because having a conversation with one's soulmate is too haaaarrrrrrrrddd?


BiDanFan: “ There's no indication that opening the relationship honestly or breaking up wouldn't have been options, so they don't pass the do-what-you-gotta-do test in my book.”


The first time I recall Dan using this line was something along the lines of “I love my wife, we have been married fifty years, she is disabled and in pain, I am NOT going to leave her, but... I haven’t had sex in years and this is a problem. I’m bi-curious, so would it be ok for me to get my dick sucked by strangers every now and then?”

I was open to the do-what-you-gotta-do advice at the time.

Then it migrated to, “I love my wife, we have young children, she is ill and depressed, I am NOT going to leave her, but... I haven’t had sex in years and this is a problem.” Dan’s do-what-you-gotta-do advice for him included a secret affair with another woman.

I didn’t agree. I thought if the situation was truly dire that he could talk to his wife about it and she would understand and possibly feel some relief that her husband wasn’t suffering unduly on her behalf. They’re partners and friends, right? Doesn’t she want to stay married for the same reasons he does? Doesn’t she love him? They should be able to agree that he could step out discreetly.

If she doesn’t—if she’s depressed because she’s dependent on a violent alcoholic and stepping out on her is the excuse she’s been waiting for to finally break free—well, isn’t that her call? If she wouldn’t want to be married to him any more, isn’t she entitled to know?

GUTTED’s situation is not remotely like that. These days Dan seems to be going more snd more with, if someone’s cheating (or wants to) it by definition passes the do-what-you-gotta-do test. I disagree with him even more vigorously than I did before.

GUTTED’s situation smells much more like smashing-the-self-destruct-button. I suspect that GUTTED was tolerating more badness in his relationship than he acknowledges in his letter and I suspect his friend had been asking him to notice.

I do get Dan’s general advice to be prepared for someone to cheat. That advice is typically for people towards the beginning of a monogamous commitment though. “I want to be with you for the next eighty years. That’s a long time. Life is notorious for throwing curve balls. Realistically, it’s possible that one of us will cheat during that time. Let’s think carefully about how we’d want to handle that so that we can stay strong as a couple in the long term.” Fair enough.

Interestingly, Dan stays away from advice for self-care within a relationship. If you both know that both of you are capable of leaving—you both have marketable skills or you are legally married and have significant assets to split; you both have strong friend networks—then you’re both well-placed to negotiate for yourselves within the relationship, which is a good thing.

Disclosure: I’ve never been particularly monogamous and have never been particularly shy about saying so. For me, cheating would signal the end of a relationship. If you’re lying to me you’ve already disengaged from the relationship. If you’re lying to me then we can’t be partners, end of.



In the thread we had about this about 14 months ago there were some interesting theories for this drift. Some thought it based on opposition to monogamy's default position. One thought that it had something to do with that so many of the great things Dan stood for originally were then radical but are standards now, and one of the things a column is is entertainment, so new horizons of radical were called for.


^ “If you’re lying to me you’ve already disengaged from the relationship. If you’re lying to me then we can’t be partners, end of.”

Part of my commitment to a relationship is being open to hearing bad and uncomfortable things without punishing someone for sharing. I can’t be mad at someone for lying to me if I can be counted on to go into denial or have a meltdown when I hear the truth.


Harriet @28 - really excellent points all around. I get the impression that GUTTED has only very recently discovered the affair (side note: how? Did someone come clean? Or did GUTTED find out The Hard Way?) and hasn't had a chance to think much about what he wants. I like that you bring up the issue of what the affair partners may want. Usually, if a partner cheats with someone who otherwise doesn't play a role in the couple's shared lives, that affair partner is cut completely out of the picture so the couple can work on healing and moving forward together. This situation is clearly more complex, with BFF and Mr. BFF practically being family (or an extremely close couple-friendship, à la Gentile Country Club Set as so nicely described by Venn @31). And it hinges a lot on whether affair = regretted mistake or affair = fulfilling relationship unto itself that the two parties would like to move forward with. This is a really difficult situation to be sure; I sympathize with GUTTED feeling the twin desires to Make It Work or to set it all on fire. I sympathize also with GUTTED possibly/probably having zero interest to dive back into the dating pool after such a long relationship that, affair notwithstanding, he wouldn't be considering ending.


curious2 @43,

I think I missed that one. The entertainment theory could be restated as “I don’t give a fuck any more,” which might mean it’s time to bow out and pass a baton.

I find that Dan’s advice has gone downhill since he got into weed in a significant way. Possibly a causative relationship, possibly just that he’s unhappy which leads independently to both not giving a fuck and smoking weed.

Possibly also around the time that Terry got an official steady boyfriend? I wonder if Dan is kind of wishing this was taking place behind the scenes so he wouldn’t have to think about it. If he’s a workaholic then the extra burden of having to negotiate complicated relationships at home and not getting Terry’s undivided attention might be more than he wants to deal with.


While we're somewhat on the topic of Savage Love and Savagisms having been increasingly folded into the mainstream, I think this makes it extra special unethical to cheat nowadays. The concept of ENM or being "monogamish" is way more mainstream than 20 years ago. Ester Perel and folks like her have also done a lot to promote and normalize ENM. I feel like this is something that should just be standard couple talk at this point, or at the very least, it's a conversation couples should quit pretending is so hard and tricky (a hell of a lot less hard and tricky than having to come clean about an affair, let me tell you).


Also! Who the fuck are these people that they're managing to have the time, energy, and wherewithal to conduct an 18 month long affair IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS FLIPPIN PANDEMIC?!


Re: Tinglehole.

Hahaha. I too tried some hot lube back in the 1980s. Once. Who the hell thought that was a good idea? Seriously. WTF. Why would you intentionally want a burning asshole? I can't imagine a burning vag would be any better. Lube is supposed to make things slide easier, not make your ass feel like it's on fire. Hot lube has to be one of the dumbest sexual aids ever invented.

Do. Not. Recommend.
(Unless burning pain is your kink.)


fantastic_mrs_fox @48,
Inorite! My boyfriend has visited me in my back yard a couple of times for socially-distanced tea, but we haven’t had a proper date since 2019. (I checked and he’s still my boyfriend.)

fantastic_mrs_fox @39,
You are my Teal Deer!


"I think I missed that one."

I think I was referring to

I know I've seen Alison write on this before, but I see it must have been on a different thread.


Also fantastic_mrs_fox @49,



Going back to the "stay married" emphasis. I know a lot of folks on this board take issue with this, sometimes even seeing it as something of a metaphorical "vestigial tail" of Dan's Catholic upbringing (and I don't at all think that's an incorrect theory). Usually, but not always, Dan evokes "stay married" (or "together" in the case of unmarried LTRs) when all other things in the relationship besides sex (usually either lack thereof or an affair discovery) are wonderful and amazing and strong. I appreciate how Dan illustrates in his advice to GUTTED that other things may become more important/meaningful in an LTR over time than sexual exclusivity. I like that Dan at least encourages people to consider that an * otherwise awesome, strong LTR * is worth preserving after an infidelity. The idea that cheating should always result in throwing the baby out with the bathwater gets plenty of promotion in our society.


Alison @50 - I had to consult the Urban Dictionary to look up "teal deer" because I'm a woefully un-hip elderly millennial. And thanks! I feel like I'm usually long-winded in my comments, so I shall savor being the teal deer for a change.

And I'm glad you and your boyfriend are still officially a couple! Good on you both for making the sacrifice to take the pandemic seriously, and I hope you'll be able to have many make-up IRL dates in the near future!


First time commenter, longtime reader and lover of the frequently wise, delightfully idiosyncratic collection of personalities that is this section. Anyway. I'm gutted for GUTTED, his hurt and loneliness and fear for the future is palpable in his letter. It's a double betrayal, and no matter how stale things may have gotten, his partner and his best friend showed an extreme and long-sustained lack of respect for him. If you call someone your best friend and then can sit there and look them in the eye as they share intimate details and concerns about their partner- the partner you're clandestinely fucking- , if you can do that and proceed to offer advice to them, knowing all the while that you're actively contributing to the reason these concerns exist, well, you've got a busted conscience and a brass set, never a good combination. GUTTED, I know this situation is fraught and complicated and yes, potentially very lonely for a time, but is avoiding that worth staying in relationships where you have been so poorly treated by those you trusted and loved? Whatever you choose, I wish you full healing. And if you find yourself in another friendship where your buddy is gleefully cheating on their partner, follow Bi Dan Fan's advice and let your friend know that they need to come clean to their partner. It's the ethical thing to do. As you now know, turning a blind eye to that sort of thing only makes the situation much worse for everyone.


Alison @42, very well said. I especially agree with your closing paragraph. Dan seems to have embraced an ENM relationship, then concluded that monogamy is silly and nobody should be bothered by their partner shagging other people, so from then on his advice has more or less been "get over it." You and I, otoh, share the view that if you don't want to be monogamous, don't commit to monogamy -- but if you do commit to monogamy, honour that commitment! And whichever you choose, be honest. Some people ARE bothered by their partners shagging other people, and that's valid -- they just need to choose partners who feel the same.

Fantastic @48, amen! If nothing else these motherfuckers should be dumped due to their lax attitude to Covid. (Unless these four were in a "bubble," which is still pushing what was allowed and safe.)

Curious @51, I see I've already said everything I could have said in that thread, may be a quiet week for me! :)


BiDanFan @56,

Sometimes people make a monogamous commitment in good faith but renegotiate later. That’s fair. Not always pretty though.

I had an affair with a married guy once. DADT. She was not pleased but was realistic.

They split up after the last kid was out of high school. I think they were heading in that direction anyway but the DADT, however unwilling, allowed them to tough out the last few years and fledge their kids.

That was honest enough for me. If I hadn’t thought he’d been explicit with her though, it would have been a nonstarter. YMMV.


morganatic @55: Welcome to the melee.

I thought that GUTTED's partner is worse that most of the other cheating partners out there, due to the BFF connection. but that BFF is a complete failure as a friend and human being. How could he have justified it to himself? I suppose he must have been saving the relationship.

Now that I think about it, GUTTED's partner has also been spending all the holidays with BFF's partner, so he's an equally reprehensible participant.


@48 fantastic_mrs_fox: I was wondering the exact same thing! I'm glad you caught that.

@55 morganatic: Welcome to our Savage Love comment thread! Your comments are so beautifully well said re GUTTED's situation.

Dan the Man, and everyone--I'm sorry of I'm not all here. I have nbeen reading the comments, and responding when I feel there is more I can add, but Griz confesses--her mind is on her current music. Another short orchestrated piece based on Stephen King's book, Joyland, is in the works. More soon.
Musicbiker, I haven't heard from you. I hope I haven't outstepped my boundaries.
Who is hungry for our next Savage Love Land numerical prize--the luscious, Lucky @69 Award honors? Tick...tick...tick....


Alison @57, oh, of course. I'm not saying one must honour a monogamous commitment for life -- just like divorce is possible, renegotiation is possible. But one must continue to honour the monogamy until the terms of the relationship are changed, with the knowledge and agreement of both sides (however enthusiastic or grudging). Your married man was not cheating. I, too, would turn someone down if I thought they were.

Griz @59, no need to apologise! Great to see people here getting lives. ;) By all means focus on more rewarding hobbies! I should take a page from your book. Good luck with the music, can't wait to hear it when it's finished.

Back to the genders topic, I wonder how Dan knew all the participants in this saga were male. The letter gives no hints to that, and even a male name would have revealed LW's gender but not either of the partners'. So either information was cut out of the letter or Dan read it homonormatively. (Advice wouldn't have changed, but it might have been easier to track the various participants if two different pronouns were involved.)

And another question regarding his P.S. Dan advised a potentially newly single GUTTED to describe himself as a "daddy." Would that not imply that either he is a Dominant or that he is looking for much younger men -- neither of which may be the case? Does "daddy" just mean "gay man of a certain age"? I'm wondering why he couldn't just say "gay man, 56" and let any interested parties approach.


@45. Fantastic. My sense of the situation isn't unlike Venn's--that it's what he calls a Gentile Country Club Set exhausted marriage, but while he seems to deprecate that social group (maybe because, in being gay, they're accommodationist qua GCCS), I have nothing to say against the group as such. To me it goes beyond the lw being very socially comfortable with his life as it stood. The two relationships are somewhat akin to a family. They spend Christmas and Thanksgiving together (or have done); they have brunches. Transposing the affair to a heterosexual setting, it's something like a same-sex relative being discovered having an affair with your wife. This is what makes the situation not just especially painful but hard for GUTTED to blow up.

I also wondered, like you, when GUTTED found out about the cheating (and how). I would think he's found out recently that it's been going on for a year plus, and from his partner. In his mind, then, the truly and wretchedly deceptive person will be his friend, who looked him in the eye when he (GUTTED) told him his relationship was sexless, and did not confess the cheating. The one-and-a-half years is a very difficult length of time for the affair to have been going on in terms of its precipitating just one response from GUTTED. If it had happened once or twice, it might have been a lapse--and he would stand more of a chance of getting his longterm relationship on an even keel. If it had been going on for all the time the couples had been socialising closely--which will be a lot longer than eighteen months--then he would have to feel that he was systemically deceived, systematically taken for a fool, by partner and best friend; and he would get out (get out or have less problem in accepting being a 'mark', a cuckold in the non-kink sense). Perhaps he feels, with its being eighteen months, that he had one chance to scream at his partner, cry, rage, get on the phone to his friend and shout 'you complete piece of shit' down the line--with the effect that the situation was out in the open, and that it was everyone's responsibility to clean it up. Maybe that actually happened; but I'm not sure that it did, partly because there is no anger in his description of the affair (sadness but no anger). Maybe GUTTED was too shocked to do that. Whatever way, it seems he has now gotten himself into a situation where he feels the onus is on him to decide what to do.

I think I would say to him that he should follow his feelings, and that, like you, I sympathise both with wanting to put it all together again and his disinclination to jump back into the dating pool. More pressingly than 'follow your feelings', I'd say, 'think of all you have to offer--and understand you won't be single for long'.

It so happens that after reading the letter I supposed all those involved were gay, because GUTTED is in the second part of his 50s and spends Christmas and Thanksgivings with friends, not relatives. This also involves an assumption--that heterosexuals procreate, which is false across the board, and at least accepts as possible set-ups where gays are cut out by extended families. I'm not sure whether being heteronormative or homonormative in one's assumptions leads one into bigger or harder-to-reverse-out-of misconceptions. Here, to me, the relationships being both gay (I think both are gay?) makes them harder to blow up.

Apropos Bi's @60, this is a good point. What if GUTTED is not looking to date a much younger man? This would make him something other than a 'daddy'. My explanation here is that the letter gives the cheating partner's age, which will perhaps be younger than GUTTED's (plausible in that it does say something about 'type', which isn't too far from its saying something about partners' relative ages). There would then be grounds for Dan to say that the lw could advertise himself as a 'Daddy', and not just as a 'single gay man, 56'.


M?? Harriet - I'm severe on the GCCS because they're My People. The only thing I'd criticize in the general setup here would be if C1 happened to have picked up the habit from straight people of doing all their coupled socializing exclusively with other couples. That hetero habit we don't need to adopt.

An aspect about L1 that strikes me as especially GCCS is the timing. C1 has been a couple for 27 years, and the affair is about eighteen months old. Ooh, is that ever a classic. I could think back to my youth and reel off a list of perhaps a dozen GCCS marriages that ended in the 26-29 year range. Things finally exploded after the Silver Wedding Anniversary - usually with the party held actually AT the country club.


Venn @62, so if you survive the seven-year itch, beware the 25-year itch?


It’s interesting to read the consensus opinion here that Dan is becoming less tolerant of monogamy and more explicitly espousing of ENM as the preferred standard. While that may be true of his recent patterns, over the long arc of his career (at least as long as I’ve been reading) what always struck me about Dan was the willingness of this gay monogamish man to be empathetic toward so many straight, monogamous people. True, he almost always counsels such folk to examine their assumptions and challenge established cultural narratives about sexual relationships. But I’ve always been impressed by his ability to reach out to people where they are. I’ve read many other writers in the sex-advice industry who are much less tolerant than Dan of traditional relationships. If this wasn’t true, I know one straight monogamous person who wouldn’t have read and learned so much from Dan over the years.


As someone who has been partnered to the same person for a couple rounds of seven-year-itches, I can attest that it's a very real phenomenon. It can strike panic in the heart, for sure, but I feel experience has taught me that these should be seen as excellent times to have those real, painful, "neither of us is the person we used to be/what's the next phase of our relationship" conversations. I imagine these types of conversations and renegotiations are probably damn near impossible for the appearances-obsessed GCCS and their ilk.

So, this hetero totally read GUTTED as a gay man, albeit through stretches and assumptions (GUTTED's partner is male, GUTTED's BFF is male, BFF's partner is male, Mr. GUTTED and BFF have had a long-standing affair. So I concluded GUTTED was likely a gay male). Also, I felt like Dan was a lot gentler and sympathetic in his advice to GUTTED than is typical from Dan when he's advising a heterosexual LW who's grappling with an infidelity discovery (though this might also be because Real Sex occurred between BFF and Mr. GUTTED [I could go on an epic rant opinions of Dan's advice when an affair doesn't include his definition of Real Sex]).

I don't think the orientation of the couples involved changes the advice a whole heck of a lot, but I also can't ignore that there are aspects of gay culture that inform aspects of this affair. I hear Dan and Mr. Venn placing a lot of importance on the friendship and the nature/intensity thereof, and will absolutely defer to their impression on this. And I can't remember who brought this up initially, but I know many gay men are less likely to default to sexually exclusive romantic relationships (which almost makes the cheating and dishonesty worse in this culture? [Compared with a heteronormative default expectation of sexual monogamy and probable increased squigginess of bringing up a desire for a more open arrangement]). I'm not really sure what point I was trying to make now, just something I've been turning over in my head.


Ens @64 - I see our posts crossed somewhat re: Dan, his attitude toward monogamy, and the nature of his advice to heterosexual people and their relationships. I agree with your sentiments; my views have been very broadened by reading Dan's column (since high school! Omfg!), challenged me to reevaluate some of my own default positions/assumptions, and made me more aware of the myriad possibilities within relationships.

What dismays me about Dan's advice to betrayed partners recently (as in the last two years, at least) is his default monogamish-y. So, when I first came across this concept put forward by Dan, it was like, oh my gosh, yes, this! It sounded like a perfect encapsulation of what my partner and I might like to pursue (and gave us a great vocabulary for voicing what we'd like). But recently, Dan's flavor of advice to people who have found out they've been cheating on is this super dismissive "well, if you were monogamish, you wouldn't have been cheated on because you would have been okay with it." Which misses so many pertinent points that it winds up coming across as spectacularly bad advice, especially from someone who has been doing it so well for so long. Dan assumes that people are monogamish when it is * exceptionally clear from the letter * that the couple in question do not have that arrangement. Secondly, even if the LWs and their partners were monogamish, they can still be cheated on; infidelity can happen in any relationship arrangement, because infidelity is ultimately about deception and dishonesty, which are poison for any relationship. It bothers me to no end to see Dan be so dismissive of these people who are coming to him with their pain, just for Dan to be like "yeah, but were you really cheated on, though? Wouldn't have happened if you were so enlightened and monogamish." I have my own personal bias on this topic, but I've seen Dan do it a lot lately (especially to heterosexual female LWs) where he is completely dismissive of the LW's very painful and traumatic experience, and it really pisses me off.


I think most of us here are fans of Dan. I think that's what's caused us to speculate on how the pattern in question has evolved. (One speculation being that Dan is hoping to do good by getting people to question monogamy as a default assumption.)

The perplexing pattern is:

Only a few years ago, Dan had a far higher bar for cheating. It needed to be the (quoting BDF@40) ""...least worst option"...[of] pretty terrible" options (classic examples involved a spouse becoming a caregiver). And now (as I've been outraged about for a couple years) it can be that someone just doesn't want to have a conversation. (For all we know there are no complicating circumstances such as kids.)

In terms of "do what you gotta do to stay married and stay sane", it's like people are no longer expected to be able to stay sane while being honest and ethical. I had already gotten really sick of saying this by the time that thread a year ago rolled around.

We all respect Dan way too much not to find this incongruous.


Continuing a bit with my @66 and picking up on Alison's points @46 - Alison, I think you're connecting some very interesting, important dots. I have had the sad thought recently that it may be time for Dan to pass the torch (or focus on book-writing, or whatever else makes him feel a spark). His advice has had a very "meh" attitude for a while, and I've been wondering a bit what may be going on behind the scenes for him. Your point about his husband getting a steady BF is particularly interesting. Is Mr. Savage in a more begrudgingly monogamish arrangement than he'd care to admit? Does this subject hit too close to home and is impacting the quality of advice around this topic? One wonders, but his advice to betrayed partners has (with the exception of 90% of his advice to GUTTED) been pretty awful and dismissive lately.


Curious @67 - "In terms of "do what you gotta do to stay married and stay sane", it's like people are no longer expected to be able to stay sane while being honest and ethical." Yes, thank you! Incongruity is the perfect word for this weird shift from Dan and the quality of his advice. He used to be all about how to do alternative-to-the-mainstream relationships with ethics and integrity. Now he's adopted this really bizarre "ehh, what your partner doesn't know won't hurt 'em (and actually it's unethical of you to come clean about your unethical behavior because you might hurt your partner's feels)." And it makes me want to rage.


Fantastic @65: "GUTTED's partner is male, GUTTED's BFF is male, BFF's partner is male, Mr. GUTTED and BFF have had a long-standing affair." But the letter doesn't say any of that. The only person whose gender is referenced in the letter is the BFF. Only Dan's answer used "he" pronouns for everybody else. Either Dan is privy to inside information or he just decided to answer as if everyone involved were a gay man, perhaps to give the column some variety? But from the letter itself, it could be two straight couples, or as Fubar suggested, some combination of bisexuals. (I'm now picturing the GUTTEDs as a lesbian couple, which lends new meaning to "What is weird is that my friend isn't even close to my partner's "type."") Now I'm even more curious as to what the genders really are!

I agree with your @66 that the advice tends to be, "Just get rid of your expectations of monogamy, then you won't care if your partner sleeps with someone else, and your life will be free of problems." And that non-monogamous people can still be hurt and betrayed. Non-monogamy isn't as easy as Dan makes out -- logistically or emotionally. I think even a polyamorous person would be gutted to learn their partner had been banging their best friend behind their back for a year and a half. Nor is non-monogamy a decision that can be made retroactively. Advising couples going forward that they may want to anticipate attraction to others and negotiate realistic approaches, good advice. Advising people who've been cheated on that it's not a big deal, not so much.


Foxy@69 Congrats!
"And it makes me want to rage."

I did rage at some point (maybe months before that column a year ago) at Dan about this. Now I've vented that.

Another thing that happened in that column a year ago is some angry jerk attacked Dan @1.

At some point around the same time I marveled at Dan's ability to not let criticism get to him.

Within a couple months, we never got another SLLOTD.

The pandemic was stressful for everyone. Maybe Dan just got better things to do. But after getting angry with Dan about this, now I'm just telling myself that everyone is an individual, and no one is what I see as right about everything.

(And if someone was, maybe they couldn't produce a successful syndicated column that many people depend on for their livelihood.)

I wish Dan had explained his reasoning on the cheating drift. Or on the cessation of the SLLOTD. But I respect that he doesn't have to if he doesn't want to.


BDF @70 - good catch! I re-read the letter and see that my brain inserted a few more hes/hims than actually appeared. I still maintain that I read the situation as two gay couples. I think if one of the couples were opposite sex, GUTTED would have had a few more words to say other than their BFF not being Mr. GUTTED's "type."

Curious @71 - I thought the SLLOTD was a casualty of COVID-related budget cuts? And I have nothing against Dan and have been enjoying his column for two decades now, but his weird dismissiveness of people who've been cheated on really blows. BDF's last paragraph @70 sums it up nicely - telling someone who's going through something traumatic that it's NBD actually is unbelievably hurtful and borderline gaslight-y, IMO.


"I thought the SLLOTD was a casualty of COVID-related budget cuts?"

I've discussed this with others here and none of us have any idea what happened to the SLLOTD.

For all I know it could have been mentioned on the Lovecast (which I stopped listening to when I started participating here, preferring the ability to respond/participate.)


No one has been more angry at Dan than me about Dan's cheating principles drift. I'm just done bothering to feel angry about it; I'm resigned.

As for the NBD thing, I think one can see that as Dan attempting to move them to heal via a shift in perspective to seeing it as NBD:

"If you have every right to...It's deeply irrational for us to expect things to stay the same...can be deeply traumatic...some people don't give a shit who their partners are sleeping with..."

We all know that Dan was throwing a Hail Mary, in case thinking of it like "some people" would help the LW. Not a high-probability of success, and as has been noted it has a high probability of missing the mark. But I hope GUTTED can feel less hurt by it by seeing Dan's plan as we understand it.

It is with disappointment that I simply see it as consistent with Dan's overall focus on non-monogamy, but as we're all saying a tangent WRT GUTTED. And we're all feeling that Dan's cheating-related tune has gotten way too one-note. I just can't stand to blow my top about it again; I only did it the first time because who knows what will work. Now I know it didn't.


@74 p.s.
"But I hope GUTTED can feel less hurt by it by seeing Dan's plan as we understand it."

The "it" I hope GUTTED can feel less hurt by, is Dan's Hail Mary.


Curious @74 - I'm letting Dan's stance bother me more than I should because I'm taking it more personally than I should, TBH.

I am forever grateful to Dan for coining the term monogamish (gosh, my phone's autocorrect does not care for that word no matter how many times I write it) and for his overall, general promotion of monogamish-y, ENM, and valuing these other very important aspects of LTRs that over time may mean more to a person than sexual exclusivity. And I found his advice this week to be a lot more sympathetic than he's been to similar LWs recently. One of the pitfalls of the advice column is that you have to be relatively short and pithy. I guess what sticks in my craw ultimately us Dan's kind of fast-forwarding the healing process, and given the model of a syndicated advice column, there may not be a lot of working around that. The advice to come to a place of renegotiating terms of the relationship, to stop worrying and learn to love the ENM bomb isn't awful per se. But someone who's in relationship crisis mode isn't going to be very receptive to that advice. And sometimes Dan is less than sensitive about the way he packages his message.

I wonder too if Dan has gotten so many letters from people who've clearly twisted his own maxims of "do what you gotta do to stay married and stay sane" and "sometimes the (second) most loving thing you can do is to not fess up to an affair" that he himself has given up on these maxims having any ground rules or boundaries anymore. Both of these notions had "if the situation follows x, y, z contingencies" once upon a time, and now it just seems like this weird free-for-all where you should expect your partner to cheat, and actually maybe you should cheat too, as long as you don't do it too much and lie to your partner about it."

grump * I am admittedly letting this make me act like a grumpy asshole.


Curious, correct me please if I'm remembering incorrectly, but aren't you a fan of Dan's ultimate Schrodinger's Cat that is his stance on snooping being retroactively okay in certain circumstances? I have Schrodinger's feelings about that one, it's so wrong yet so not wrong.


Ms Fan - I rather like the idea of there being exactly one non-man in the quartet. It would rather push the thin edge of the vocabulary wedge, but it would open up possible explanations for a couple of points, though not nice ones.


fantastic_mrs_fox @77 - I see Dan's advice on snooping as both practical and wise:

Don't snoop. But if your gut tells you something is wrong and you have to snoop to figure out what's going on, then understand that's likely to have some serious consequences.

Even if you don't find evidence of cheating, you're likely to see something you'll wish you hadn't seen. And then you'll have to pretend forever that you didn't see it, or admit to the snooping. And if you did find evidence of cheating, you'll end up admitting the snooping and your partner will learn how insecure and jealous you are, whether or not the relationship ends.

So only snoop if you feel you have no other choice -- but really think through whether you'd rather just go ahead and end the relationship instead (since you don't trust your partner), and keep your self-respect.


"letting Dan's stance bother me more than I should"

I dunno. I remember ranting about the cheating drift to the point where it's 'talking is hard so go ahead'. I said stuff about the way it lacked honor and integrity so being wrong for a public figure to encourage. I compared it's effect on members of the culture to that of Trump. (So yes, I have been quite pissed about it.)

"sometimes Dan is less than sensitive"

When Dan talks about how he gets over heartbreak, I find it inspiring precisely because it shows strength I don't have but can aspire to because Dan models it. So I think Dan's "less than sensitive" can also be his best trait.

You aren't remembering incorrectly. I remember being delighted by it (and another similar Dan stance) despite the ethical impossibility of using it in practice (since one can never know when it will become justified). I think I was feeling like supporting it in part because it was illogical.

But I'm thinking differently on it today.

(I have sometimes amused myself by arguing both sides of something. Back in college when I was way more of a jerk than I became, I had a roommate I toyed with by convincing him back and forth between positions. He must not have been a person of great conviction.)

Today I'm feeling like it's a tautology. Saying snooping is justified when snooping is justified isn't really saying anything.

I'd argue that in reality, the snooping was still wrong. It's just that the end it served ended up being a so much more important result than how wrong the snooping was, that we just feel like forgetting that wrong.

But it is very seductive to say that snooping that, for hypothetical example prevented the extinguishment of all life in the Universe was justified. When it was really still wrong, but not nearly as wrong a wrong as the right that was achieved.


ENM is ethical non-monogamy. Ethical. ETHICAL.

Cheating on and lying to a partner who reasonably believed they were in a monogamous relationship with you, then gaslighting them that they were in a polyamorous relationship with you but just didn’t know so it’s all okay... is not ethical.

So no, the complaint is not that Dan is promoting ENM too much. It’s that he’s promoting being an unethical CPoS too much. Which is just a different thing.


Fantastic @72: "I still maintain that I read the situation as two gay couples." Oh, sure -- I'm not saying you shouldn't have! I went back and read it that way too after Dan answered it that way, and saw that it could indeed just as easily be a gay man as two male BFFs kvetching to each other about their female partners. That everyone involved -but- BFF is female wasn't an entirely serious suggestion; my point was that the letter didn't specify and therefore didn't rule any possibility out. As for whether GUTTED would have said more about the "not his partner's type" factor if the partner were female, I agree with Wayne @38 et al that GUTTED leaves out a lot of information I'd expect to see included -- and which perhaps Dan did edit out. How did GUTTED find out? Has he confronted his partner and/or his friend? How did they react? I think I'd have liked to see more from GUTTED and less from Dan.

As for the SLLOTD, my entirely unofficial impression is that Savage Love was Dan's full-time job, then he was promoted to editor-in-chief or some other higher position at the Stranger and had to spend time on political stories, leaving him less time for SL. Good on him if that's where his interest and ambition lies (and I'm sure it came with a well earned pay rise). But that did leave less for us SL fans, and we've had to make do with this comments section for our sex-and-relationships advice fix.

Curious @74, I think I'm okay with a "not all cheating is unforgivable" position. But a year and a half? With one's best friend? Dan, some cheating IS unforgivable, and I would put this into that category.
Perhaps Dan is short on letters and wanted to give two options (or needed to fill column inches), which is why this wasn't a run-of-the-mill DTMFA. (I do wonder if he'd have told a DS-partnered man to DTMFA.) He could, however, have focused on GUTTED's fear of being alone at 56 and how he could rebuild his life, enjoy singledom, and find love. He could have proposed reaching out to Mr Ex-BFF and forming a two-person victim support group. GUTTED clearly knows this guy well, and this guy is in the same boat as he is. So GUTTED won't be alone, he'll have a friend to help him get through this.

Another catch on re-re-read: GUTTED said his sex life has gotten "stale" and that his partner wasn't interested in sex, not that they weren't having sex. The letter could be read as they had a going-through-the-motions sex life, which would of course make the cheating even worse.

Fantastic @76: "I'm letting Dan's stance bother me more than I should because I'm taking it more personally than I should, TBH." I wouldn't say that. I have not had your experience and I think his stance is dismissive and offensive. You're not wrong to take it personally, because you're exactly the sort of person it's dismissive of.

Venn @78, it's only Friday - would you care to identify the hypothetical woman in the group and speculate on how it would change matters? Just for fun -- I'm willing to accept Dan has evidence they're all male and just trimmed it from the letter to save space.

EricaP @79, great summation of the snooping issue.

Curious @80, we want to see things in terms of rights and wrongs. But sometimes, there isn't a right and a wrong. There is only a wrong and a far greater wrong. This strikes me as also a good characterisation of the snooping dilemma. Snooping is wrong, but if someone is engaging in the greater wrongs of cheating and gaslighting, they deserve the wrong of snooping being done to them.

Alison @81, exactly.


Amending @82 re Curious @74, I am definitely okay with a "not all cheating is unforgivable" position, and I'm glad Dan pioneered it when the standard attitude, among heteros particularly, was that if someone cheats on you, regardless of the reasons or circumstances, the relationship is irreparably ruined and you must DTMFA. Such absolutism could only result in the shaming of people who chose to forgive and needed to go into the bin.


There's a side thread I want to comment on that @Fox @Curious @Allison and @Bi in particular have been discussing. It started I think with Fox pushing back against the "Cheating CAN be traumatic" phrasing.

Specifically, I wanted to talk about that. I didn't read his phrasing to be dismissive, although I can see that you heard that, Fox and Bi. What I saw was a public figure that gets argued with a lot when he says what things feel like, trying to avoid being yelled at by somebody who happens to feel differently. In other words, I don't think that "can" vs "is" wording was there to dismiss the feelings of those for who it is traumatic, but to include the feelings of those for who it wasn't and would feel the need to call him on it if they were left out. I'm not sure how likely that was to come up, and I don't think it was calculated. I just see this sort of thing in public writers all the time now. I see it in my favorite food bloggers (especially on controversial topics like I dunno salad nicoise. Apparently, if you are talking about nicoise, people have a lot of things to say about it.) It strikes me as a defensive mechanism... along the lines of... how can I thread this needle, talk about this topic, and get yelled at the least, with a side of trying to be inclusive of as many people's experiences as possible.
So, yeah, clearly it's traumatic for you, Fox. You feel strongly about it, and that's fair. And I think the thread dissecting cheating vs ENM is also fair commentary. And I even agree, that for Gutted specifically, it's not necessary to remind him that people react differently to things. But I think also that Dan as a public writer has intuitively absorbed that he's talking to a crowded room, and not only to the one person who asked the question, and has picked up the habit of trying to avoid being called out for ignoring a whole segment of people.

So anyway, that's my take on that, fwiw.


I'm with Luluisme @84. "Cheating CAN be traumatic" is ambiguous, and can be read as "Cheating absolutely can be traumatic" or "Cheating can possibly be traumatic". I personally don't think that cheating is necessarily traumatic, but I don't think Dan was putting a NBD spin on it.

If Dan has moved on from his "least worse option" position on cheating, I missed it.


"a public figure...trying to avoid being yelled at by somebody who happens to feel differently"

Interesting take; I very much think that Dan does exactly that sometimes. IIRC I think he does that when treading in non-male areas.

But in this case I think the /pattern/ of alternate perspective he put forth to GUTTED was (as I said @74) about getting GUTTED to try the alternative perspective on for size to see it it could help monogamist GUTTED navigate their way out of their present trauma.


Ms Fan - I said "non-man", not "woman". Less than 100% overlap. I'm still working out the possibilities.


Even if we are a monogamous couple, I won’t lose my shit if I learn that my partner has had sexual encounters while working on a six-month contract overseas.

Even if we are a non-monogamous couple, I will totally lose my shit if I discover that my partner and my best friend have been having an affair and lying to me about it for the past year and a half.

“Cheating can be traumatic.” That’s not a very informative statement when “cheating” is such a broad term. Being specific helps.


If I were advising GUTTED I would not try to reframe his experience as one acceptable to him. I would acknowledge that his reality isn’t what he thought it was and +of course+ he’s feeling like shit. Discovering that your perceptions don’t overlap with reality in such a significant way +should+ be traumatizing.

I would point out that this is a moment of transition and therefore opportunity. Meet with a few different therapists. Find someone who offers him hope without trying to minimize the trauma. With or without the support of a therapist, do new things. Meet new people. Change jobs. Adopt a tiger. Join a knitting circle. Something. What he was doing before wasn’t working, correct? So now is a really good time to reimagine himself, at least a little.

The boyfriend and the best friend aren’t really the point right now. They can come along for the ride, or not. But this is GUTTED’s ride.


@81 @Alison Completely agree. I’d go so far as to say validating or at least minimizing long-term cheating for a very vague “stay sane” reason undermines efforts to normalize ENM and to normalize having conversations about it so partners have the agency to opt in or out, and if opting in, everyone can enjoy the same freedom.

I’m also wondering why “staying sane” would require cheating with that one particular person who is the partner’s BFF. If the goal was to “stay married” it was an especially dumb choice.


Good alternative read, Lulu @84. Dan was acknowledging that cheating can be traumatic -- I'm not sold on the idea that cheating can be non-traumatic, though Alison @89 gives a good example of when it might not be. Still though, in that situation, it would be more ethical to discuss with one's partner beforehand that exclusivity (ie celibacy) is not expected and that while you are apart, DADT principles apply. Because even in that situation, some people WOULD lose their shit if their partner had sex with somebody else.


@BiDanFan Regarding pronouns and genders, I always assume Dan has a bit more context than we do. In this case, he also says the cheating partner and best friend (who has numerous sex partners according to letter writer) would be free to make their relationship public in the event of divorce, though the published version of the letter does not suggest a formal relationship is desired by either of them. Perhaps the letter was edited down to essentials.


@62. venn. The GCCS are also my people--at least by my parents' wealth bracket. They were also unthinkingly Republican--or maybe 'Gaullist' would be a better descriptor. When I went to college as someone with strong, or more usually indignant, liberal views, I understood that I was socialising with people much poorer than me--but actually so were very many upper-class liberals, leftists, vanguardists etc. I've done comparatively less well financially than my father (never working in the private sector apart from about six months abortively), so now my friends are usually people who have come up the hard way and succeeded professionally.

I didn't know that people like the lw (or who you assume the letter writer to be) often have marriages that petered out after the silver wedding anniversary. Why is that? The couple in the letter (the first one, lw and cheater) may be at an age when their social circle is drawing in. I would agree that gayness (and kink) both ordinarily tend to counteract this happening.


"Finding out you've been cheated can be deeply traumatic. I say "can," GUTTED, because it's not true in all cases; some people don't give a shit who their partners are sleeping with after three decades together so long as they come home."

...Yeah but this only works if you've already had some kind of ENM/monogamish discussion, agreed to that arrangement and laid down some ground rules. GUTTED clearly gives a shit. It comes across as dismissive, like "oh well SOME people don't care if their partners sleep around and those people don't get traumatized or get their feelings hurt." It's a line that probably wouldn't fly in the face of an affair discovery: "sorry honey, it's just some people don't mind if their LT partners fuck other people as long as they come home at the end of the day, so I dickfully/clitfully thought you'd be down for me to fuck other people sans a conversation about the matter."

Futurecatlady @91 - excellent points, especially your concerns raised in your first paragraph.

BDF @92 - I'm struggling to see how cheating could be non-traumatic in any context. Dan's doing this weird apples and oranges thing where he effectively equates cheating with ENM and.... just no.


Alison @90 - really valuable advice, and probably way more helpful that "have you considered retroactively being okay with your partner's cheating?" Poor GUTTED is probably questioning the majority of his adult life right now, reeling from feeling like he doesn't really know his partner or his closest confidant. These are some seriously heavy blows. Who does GUTTED have to talk to or lean on right now? Your advice to focus on himself and creating the kind of life he wants for himself is spot-on and will serve him well in the long run.

Agreed with others who've brought up that the details are strangely sparse in this letter. Another detail that's been rattling around in my head is what's going to happen to GUTTED's friendship with Mr. BFF when it comes out that GUTTED knew BFF was sleeping around (for years!) but said nothing. I wonder if Mr. BFF will see it as a loving thing to do, to be kept in the dark.


In somewhat related other news:
I’m glad there is a relatively wide acceptance as well as research and marketing geared towards female genitalia pleasure.
I wish the situation was the same for penis-havers and I’m afraid it’s mostly our fault that the stuff out there is so lame. Masturbation is still shameful and a subject for ridicule, available penis-oriented “marital aid” devices are mostly about penetration, decent research and honest reviews are hard to come by.

As for me, I’d like to see some sort of a condom-like thingy only looser that can be wrapped around the tip with an option of being rolled further down to cater to different preferences, able to provide different sensations one can adjust in a simple manner, and accommodating a happy ending combined with an easy way to clean up afterwards.
Another one will be a cup of some sort covering the testicles that can also provide adjustable sensations. This one should also have the capability to stay there on its own while users are engaged with others. Or sitting in a boring meeting.

Please let me know if I'm missing anything and such devises already exist. I promise an honest review.
Good weekend to all.



You know OJST, right? Reviews and education.


"our fault that the stuff out there is so lame"

Female pleasure probably called for more effective devices because it's less easily achieved.

Regarding a "condom-like thingy", while a Fleshlight sleeve isn't adjustable, they don't suck. The non-adjustability of the shell the sleeve goes into is pretty lame come to think of cumming with it. (Ditto that it doesn't literally suck.)

As for solo testicle sensation delivery, I don't know of (or thankfully, personally desire) anything I would use in a meeting. All I can think of is a joke about peanut butter and training one's dog.


CMD @97 "As for me, I’d like to see some sort of a condom-like thingy only looser that can be wrapped around the tip with an option of being rolled further down to cater to different preferences, able to provide different sensations one can adjust in a simple manner, and accommodating a happy ending combined with an easy way to clean up afterwards."

I once had a sex worker use something on my that looked like a small plastic bag, quite loose, it felt somewhat cold and pretty nice. When I asked her afterwards what it was, she said "that is my secret". I tried to find it later on sex toys sites (in the Fleshlight and similar category), but couldn't find anything like it.

Not much help, sorry ... but at least it looks like something like you describe actually exists. Of course, it could also have been some none-sex-toy household object that she repurposed.


Lulu, "to include the feelings of those for who it wasn't and would feel the need to call him on it if they were left out."
I don't think I've ever heard one single comment from a person who has been cheated on who thought that Dan was too hard on cheaters. Those who stay together after their partner cheats, who only seem to be women judging by Savage Love commenters, seem to do so because their partner felt bad about cheating and tried to work out a different way to be happy, whether ENM or monogamy. I've also heard about people staying with nonrepentant cheaters on other sections of the internet, but they seem to stay because they are used to complaining about it and see no choice but to stay in a miserable relationship and keep complaining, not because they don't mind.

Trying to be inclusive about people who don't mind their spouse cheating seems about as appropriate as trying to include people who don't mind their spouse stealing or committing fraud. Why try to be inclusive of people who don't mind unethical behavior, anyway, it's an uncommon attitude for good reason.

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