Immediately Cheated on the Woman He Recently Committed To—Should He Tell All or Shut Up?

Savage Love Letter of the Day

Comments

1

No, you idiot. Why not write an op-ed in the NY Times instead?

2

He will cheat again.

3

I second @ 2. If he feels it necessary to write "never" in all caps, it's because he needs to convince himself of something. And if he feels it necessary to convince himsel, it's because he already knows it's not in his nature.

4

It's this approach to human relationships that is driving us into a ditch. There's no way in hell I could share my life and my home, my bedroom and my bed, with someone who doesn't know me. Someone from whom I'm motivated to shield aspects of my life.

I get in the context of current Western Culture that this is what you're supposed to do...but I'll have none of it.

5

I used to work with a woman who was the total opposite of me. She said she wanted to know everything, every last gory detail about her partner's infidelities (and I suspect he had many, but didn't tell her). I am more of a DADT type. DICK needs to find out which type his lady friend is. And then never ever cheat again (haha, yeah, I know, right).

6

I’m with Dan on this one.
Leave it LW, it taught you a valuable lesson and that can only be a plus. What a lot of skeptics you lot are! All caps means he’s gonna cheat again, Ricardo? He’s making the commitment to himself at this point, how is that not to be trusted.
I think you’re doing fine LW.

7

Yes he’s in a ‘committed’ relationship, it’s still early days. Why unburden the guilt when he’s felt remorse and self disgust, these are the emotions he’s learnt from. And they come from genuine love: this guy doesn’t sound like a player.

8

@2, @3 DICK claims he's never cheated before.

Depending on how old he is, how much time he's spent in committed relationships, and more importantly, if he's ever cultivated opportunities to cheat (like he did in the letter) or turned down offers to cheat before, it's not unreasonable to believe this was the sole exception to that rule.

9

He puts way too much blame on circumstance. He feels he shouldn't have allowed himself the opportunity for temptation, but puts the actual action on alcohol and temptation.

Thirding no. 2. He will do it again.

10

Plus, I feel the "early days" comment is a red flag.for excuse making, too.

If it's early days, imagine how tempting stepping out will be when things become routine.

11

I’m sorry but if you are wracked with guilt and hiding a secret it will come out in other ways and your partner will sense there is something wrong. You can only hold something big like that in for so long. And then when it comes out months or years down the road the betrayal of keeping the secret and all of the lies is worse than the infidelity.

12

Lava @ 6 - "All caps means he’s gonna cheat again, Ricardo?"

All caps means emphasis. Such emphasis in such circumstances means what I said @ 3.

Experience has taught me not to believe a man's insistence that he has never done or will never do something that society has taught him is "bad". Such statements are merely the product of the way he's been socialized and have nothing to do with his actual impulses, desires or actions.

If the LW had written "I'll do my utmost best to never cheat again", I would have thought he's realistic enough to understand that he can't predict his whole future and, having already proven he's fallible, he accepts that he may fail again, so there's a good chance he's going to put in the necessary effort. Writing "I will NEVER cheat again" reeks of guilt-induced repentance, which usually only lasts until the repentee comes up with a good enough excuse to sin again (alcohol being the most common, as in this case). Also see: "I will NEVER drink again/I will NEVER hit you again."

And generally speaking - along the lines of Maya Angelou's adage "when someone shows you who they are, believe them" - I'd add that when a man (especially a gay man) tells you something negative about men, you would do well to heed his warning.

13

Repeat after me: Confession is not good for the soul. A confession is a selfish act whose only purpose is to make me feel better but in reality will totally destroy my partner. If I am truly sorry about my transgression, I will promise myself to never make that mistake again and will do my best to behave going forward.

14

@11 Nonsense. If you believe the people in your life tell you everything even major things you are very much mistaken.

15

not only will he cheat again, he'll probably cheat with this same woman 'from his past'.

16

Part of the betrayal of cheating is physical. She’s allowing him inside of her, making decisions about safer sex based on the understanding between them. On that basis, if he cares about her, she deserves to know where his dick has been. Bearing the guilt on your own makes it sound noble. Nope, still selfish af.

17

Ricardo @12; Dan is also a gay man, and I prefer his take.

18

“ .. you would do well to heed his warning.”
Love it when you get all masterful Ricardo, even if we disagree.

19

For once, I disagree with Ricardo — or, at least, with the last paragraph of @12. Men, gay or otherwise, can harbor some pretty fucked-up generalized notions about their own cohort. Angelou's adage is best applied to individuals.

20

it’s a recent commitment. Not year 7 when his wife just gave birth. It’s his first time being unfaithful. He is owning his mistake and learning from it. He should shut up and make that journey alone, unless a test reveals that he picked up a std he needs to disclose to his new woman for her own protection.

And you cynical naysayers should give him the chance to become the better person he wants to be.

21

My favorite part of this letter is where DICK talks about "shouldering the guilt." He cheated and got away with it, and now he's bravely carrying on.

Slow clap.

Once again, Dan comes down on the side of the cheater. Sure, DICK, do what makes you feel good. Your partner doesn't need to know what's going on in her relationship as long as you are committed to not screwing it up again. You should go ahead and make that decision for both of you because what's important here is your happiness.

I notice neither DICK nor Dan asked about an STD test. Just another thing that has the potential to impact the partner adversely; not surprised neither of them is paying attention to it.

Boo, Dan. Boooooo.

22

I am the writer of this letter, not sure how to verify. I informed my partner. Hoping it was the right thing to do. Although I think she appreciates being respected with the truth, she’s also been absolutely devestated and I’m not absolved of any guilt. Hoping to work through this with her, but I completely understand if she can only move forward without me in her life. I’m still going to implement these changes in my life, and I have no desire to cheat again. I’m a good person, but I have character flaws and the ONS wasn’t one of them but rather a symptom.

The past few days have felt like the death of a close family member for me, and I can’t even begin to understand the betrayal she feels. To those who are spiritual, please keep my partner in your prayers, and those who are not, keep her in your thoughts.

Dan, thank you for writing me back, if you’re interested I’d be happy to keep you informed on the outcome of this.

23

Fred @ 19 - "Men, gay or otherwise, can harbor some pretty fucked-up generalized notions about their own cohor"

And those fucked-up generalizations can come from experience, and actually be highly relevant. Just sayin'.

24

@22 - It was the right thing to do. What you do now matters even more. Good luck.

25

First, thanks for checking in @22, DICK. (But honestly this is the first time I wish the letter writer had not done so.)

You dick, DICK. Why did you not follow Dan's advice?

Do the math for you /two/: was the guilt you were "shoulder[ing]" alone worse than the result of your partner's "absolute...devestat[ion]" and wherever you are now that /you/ unburdened yourself? See how this looks selfish?

Before I go on, I'm in no way in favor of monogamy unless that's what people both want. Is it? (Please consider whether it's right for you. There are alternatives: open, poly, etc. relationships.)

Before you ever checked in @22, your letter made me feel bad about you. If you're very young, I'll give you a break on coming off so immature and selfish.

Hopefully with more counseling you'll be a person who wouldn't write a letter without the word "I" in it so damn many times.

And then there's this vibe that you're not really aware and in control of your self/life.

"I set myself up for failure" DICK, admit to yourself you chose it; it did not 'happen to' you.

You awoke "filled with disgust and regret for what I had done". Yeah, who could have guessed.

I suspect that when you say
"she is the only person my life I want to be physically or emotionally intimate with...will NEVER cheat again...one time infidelity"
you just don't know yourself well enough to know if that stuff is true. I suggest you do a lot of growing, and while doing so learn about alternatives to monogamy. Perhaps monogamy isn't for you, and once you do a lot of growing maybe you'll be healthy enough for it's alternatives.

26

@8 I think you're spot on with the creating opportunities to cheat aspect. The people I know who have cheated do it because they put themselves in bad situations and then succumb. They know the guy at work likes them and then linger at the end of happy hour. They go home and hang out one-on-one with their high school ex. So much of cheating is being in a situation where something bad can happen - it's way harder to say no when someone you think is attractive makes a move, a lot easier if you just avoid it from the get go.

The closest I came to cheating was at my college reunion. A girl I'd always had a flirty relationship with asked me to go help her carry some beer from her room out for people. We were walking through a crowd and she grabbed my hand to pull me along in her wake and make sure I kept up. Once we got up towards her room, she went for a kiss. I avoided it and literally ran away but in hindsight, so many ways I could've gotten out of that (asking a buddy to come along too, recognizing the hand hold was kind of weird, etc.) Since then, I've gotten better at just not putting myself in those situations, especially with alcohol.

I think the quitting alcohol and getting counseling is a good sign, though also kind of overkill. Unless he's having this happen regularly, I'm not sure this isn't anything more than a learning moment to adjust behavior.

27

@25 Kind of agree?

I think you're making some wild suppositions. I get that Savage Love is a place where poly is more common but nothing about his letter screams "I can't be monogamous." He's never cheated before, he seems focused on this one person, this wasn't the result of feeling trapped by the commitment - I don't see him as someone who wants to be poly. He was just dumb and young and drunk and did something really stupid. And then did something even stupider.

I think you're right in cringing at his Sir Galahad "I must do the right thing and clear my chest" bullshit. Unless a clear risk of STD is involved, I'm of the opinion that any one-time cheating should be the burden of the cheater. If it's going to happen again, yeah, time to talk and let the other person make an informed decision or talk about what the relationship should be. But if its really just a one-time mistake and you're making some changes to not let it happen again (e.g. moderating alcohol use, not communicating with exes, getting counseling) then shut the fuck up. The burden is on you, shifting it to your partner is just being selfish.

28

@27 larrystone007
You're absolutely right that we can't know monogamy isn't right for this DICK. (I love abbreviations that invite wordplay!) And I didn't say I did now. I just said that I suspect DICK doesn't know either. (But you're right again, that is speculative based on such a short letter.)

Yes, a cheater better have had safe sex and even so be diligent about getting tested.

Oh, I just realized that it's the LW's grammar that makes me think/hope they're young.
"made me reevaluate how she is" THAT she is, not HOW she is.
"I woke" Awoke.

29

Kant would say 'don't cheat'. That horse has bolted. Do whatever you think will cause your partner least pain.

30

DICKant- I think you're really brave.
Resolving this problem may be impossible, this might be a woman who cannot be happy with you again once she believes you have slept with someone else. Do you want to be with that kind of woman? Do you know if you are the kind of man who could forgive his girlfriend or wife if she had an affair? Do you want to be? Anything you prefer is fine just not hypocrisy, please be considerate to others as well as gentle with your own feelings. If you would not want to forgive her please don't ask her to forgive you.

You have opened up and risked vulnerability and know her reflex may be to leave or even worse to hurt you back. But there is also the possibility that the other things you've discovered about each other, and are discovering about each other, are more valuable than a history of monogamy. Hopefully you understand that she probably finds it hard to love you after this and it would be wise to take actions to make it equally easier for her to love you. You are getting an early view of how she deals with pain and she is getting an early view of how you deal with your mistakes. People disappoint each other in many ways, these are important to know.

If she tries to change your standards instead of communicating and following her own standards.. If she tries to make this about you being a bad person instead of identifying the real problem that you have not met her standards/needs, then it is nice in the long run that you have not wasted much of your time with someone so unrealistic. She needs to decide whether she wants to deal with her problem, her pain, with or without you. And you have your own pain to deal with over mispredicting yourself, being unable to keep your word. But maybe you two are awesome together and can heal the breach of trust and support each other through the emotional repercussions.

31

DICK is looking for Dan to recommend confession. If DICK wants a lot of drama in his life then, yes, go ahead and confess. If he wants to become the man his GF thinks he is, he should heed the advice he gets from his therapist and grow. I have family and friends who have aSKED ME FOR ADVICE ON THIS EXACT TOPIC.
Re: Life experience
The thing I have learned about relationships over "lo these many years" is that this stuff builds up. Even if he confesses and gets forgiveness, it is always there. After say 40 years with this woman, she remembers these transgressionS little and big, ALL of them.
He will eventually put the wrong item in the clothes-washer and "BOOM" he is getting a letter from a divorce lawyer. DICK is going to make mistakes often enough in the coming years. My advice is to not load the deck against his chances of success.

32

This "never tell the other" meme is absolutely bullshit. It tries to bypass the reality of human relationships and create the false narrative of monogamy. And once you go down the road of "I shouldn't tell her about the ONE time" completely opens the door to "I shouldn't tell her about the second time..." You lot are absolutely immoral pricks who think that the duped partner should remain thus. There's no courage in "shouldering the blame alone." If you're making a commitment of such grand proportions to another person, that person deserves to know who you are.

The self-justification here is laughable and appalling at the same time. Even from Dan. There was a time when Dan sang a different tune, but that ended about a decade ago.

If you're unable to remain faithful, which I understand is a large portion of the population, that has a material affect on my relationship with you. Hiding it in one instance merely hides who you are from me, and makes our relationship fraudulent.

These holier-than-thou liars on this thread are propping up a failed system of monogamy and patting themselves on the back for doing so. Pathetic.

33

I don't think the question of whether to tell the girlfriend or not is the most important thing here. @9 has it right. This guy is not owning what he did, just blaming it all on eville alcohol. He's not really examining what made him choose to do this, especially right after entering a committed relationship. Now he's overcompensating by avoiding alcohol (which isn't going to last), and swearing up down and sideways that he will NEVER EVER EVER do thing thing that he has NEVER EVER done before. Sure, dude. Without honestly evaluating his choices, he's entering this relationship full of fear and guilt, which is really unfair to his partner.

34

The only way in which I'd support the letter write not telling is if instead he chose to leave the relationship, recognizing that he is incapable of being in the kind of relationship he's represented to his parter. Want to respect her without upsetting her too much? Leave. Don't prop up the lie...

But if he wants to be human, in a human relationship, then he is honest about this and the 1000 other things that it is to be human in a human relationship. He gives her the option of learning and making choices together. Together they decide if they can really prop up the ideal they carry, whether perhaps they should pursue a different form of relationship, or whether they should part.

35

And I just fell for the same passivity trap. "He's not really examining what made him choose to do this" should be "He isn't examining why he chose to do this". This is something he actively did.

And before people freak out on me, I don't necessarily think a farewell fling with a former flame is awful, or even the business of a new relationship. It's his response to his own actions that are worrisome.

36

@32 Tomothy
"You lot are absolutely immoral pricks who think that the duped partner should remain thus."

"Absolutely" is a bit excessive.

None of us think he should have cheated in the first place. (Maybe because monogamy is wrong for him, which is certainly not me "propping up a failed system of monogamy".)

And none of us think he should keep being someone who cheats.

I just think that IF monogamy is right for him, and IF he can grow to live with integrity, it just helps no one to tell the other person.

OTOH those are big IFs, so I see your point Timothy. (It is hard, once someone screws the pooch, to un-screw it.) Maybe the telling will usher this couple into a journey of pain needed by this relationship and this DICK (to grow).

37

@36 Curious2...

If a cheater lies about it (by omission), there isn't just 1 person who knows the truth about the cheater and his relationship, there's also the ex who now knows more about this woman's relationship than she does. And then there's her friends who she's told about it as well.

The harm of cheating is less about the sex than it is about the dishonesty. And dishonesty will not fix dishonesty. This idea that someone does it once and then never does it again after they've done it once is fantasy.

A moral person takes their lumps. They don't perpetuate the lie in order to deceive the person they claim to love to gain a relationship based in falsehood.

Those of you advocating dishonesty are saying that the myth of monogamy is more important than the knowing who your partner is, understanding what human relationship is, and seeking to build a relationship on the foundation of trust. Building relationships on the myth of monogamy rather than a foundation of trust (which requires honesty) is a terrible way to spend your life.

38

...and cheaters need to know that their dishonesty hurts other people! Sometimes deeply. Cheaters need to understand that there are consequences to their actions. Will honesty hurt the partner? Of course! But it's not the honesty that hurts them, it's the dishonesty.

Avoiding the consequences of our actions in some twisted justification that we're sparing the Other from pain is shortsighted (because a pattern of established dishonesty will repeat itself).

Furthermore, the letter writer needs the opportunity to repent (confess, atone) and seek forgiveness. Otherwise, the idea that he's a "cheater" will forever remain lodged in his consciousness. He'll know that his relationship is founded on fundamental dishonesty. And that will have longterm ramifications on the relationship.

39

I must say admire Timothy. I can't WAIT to hear his answer in a couple years when his wife says: .."Tim, do these tights make my ass look big?"

40

@39 sb53...I've been through all these scenarios. Way ahead of you. And I want no part of the style of relationship you seem to think is ideal. Nor does one need to be a prick about being honest.

...and being gentle in the style of question you pose is a world away from lying about cheating. If you think they're morally equivalent, then we'd need a much longer conversation to unpack that.

41

...but as to the question of "does my ass look big..." Honesty is a two-way street. It requires 1) being honest and 2) allowing others to be honest with you. In the scenario you propose, if the person asking the question will not allow for an honest answer, the fault lies in them, and they're the ones harming the relationship through dishonesty.

42

@Timothy
What I really think is not that dishonesty is OK. But I do think that a single instance of dishonesty (IF one will /really/ not repeat it, perhaps by changing the relationship) might be better than the hurt of 100% honesty.

43

@42 Curious... There are a thousand ways in which humans will be dishonest with each other. That's part of being human. But on foundational aspects of a relationship, there should be no dishonesty.

It's like you're building a house together, and you've decided to pour the foundation using substandard materials. To lie about that is on a whole different scale than, say, lying about the quality of the tiles you choose to use in the bathroom.

44

Thanks for writing in LW @22, and you’ve told your partner. I hope she gets past the hurt:
What is your problem Timothy.. besides being a god almighty bore.

45

The foundation of any relationship is built on many bricks. If this woman is so precious a one off lapse is gonna bring her house down, then the bricks she’s built with are pretty flimsy.

46

Take away lesson is don’t commit too early in a relationship. People do it without really knowing in their heart this is the path I chose with this person. It’s just sex and nobody owns our bodies. We chose to offer it.
This man learnt a valuable lesson about himself, and I hope his gf gets past her hurts and sees that.

47

@43 Timothy
"on foundational aspects of a relationship, there should be no dishonesty"

I know you mean this means sex /acts/...but do you also mean sex /intentions/?

Once upon I time I was simultaneously in love with my GF, and (100% secretly) in love with a friend of ours. Should I have told my GF? What good would that have done? (The friend was not free, and I knew for sure that my GF was 100% committed to monogamy.)(Incidentally, being in love with the friend was 99.99% pain for me both at the time...and thanks to years of that, when years later I did 'see' her for a while, I couldn't help and majorly regret totally f-ing blowing it with the friend.)

I know a guy who would have cheated if the co-worker didn't turn out to have integrity. Should he have told his wife? (The guy who tried and failed to cheat then by that realized that his marriage was fucked, tried everything to fix it, but eventually he had to get divorced.) How would it have helped his wife to know he tried to cheat?

Or is it just /acts/ you feel one must be 100% honest about? (If so that seems somewhat arbitrary to me.)

Timothy, let's say you get divorced after 50 years of monogamy. Or so you thought...your ex tells you she cheated. Would her telling you that make you happier?

48

DICK is asking for forgiveness from strangers. Asking for a strangers forgiveness for something that doesn't personally affect them is how people receive absolution without consequences.

Just like Christianity teaches that God forgives all...you don't have to own up to what you've done or take inventory of who you are as a person, the invisible entity simply told you it was okay.

49

Curious2- when someone is hurt by a particular truth, or aspect of reality, is that pain ethical or unethical? Same with rebreaking a bone in order to set it correctly? I don't believe that causing pain is always unethical, the way that you do. I believe that hurting someone is unethical. Shielding them from harsh realities may be preventing pain but it is hurtful to delude another without consent. If we are talking about a child, or a mentally disabled person, or someone predicted to die next week, there are arguments to delude because they are unable to deal with reality or it simply won't matter very soon. Lying to someone by pretending that 9/11 didn't happen or telling stories about Santa Claus or professing that the world is full of nice people, should be saved for the feeble minded and corrected as children near adulthood, or it's basically hurtful crazy making nonsense. People have no chance to adapt to reality if they are being deceived, and I believe that being realistic is one of the most admirable qualities in people. Also honesty and the ability to support themselves. I also felt nauseous like Timothy to read about how it's good for adults to lie to other adults "for their own good".

And Timothy did say that you can be hurtful with the truth. Deceiving someone for decades before telling them the truth would be an extreme case of being hurtful with the truth.

Mostly people choose not to focus on painful truths, to live with a bit of self delusion, and to lie about some embarrassing things. But I'm not sure how you can defend hiding the things you know are very important to your partner or that you would strongly want to know in their shoes.

Do you think your old girlfriend would fall apart never to fully recover if you had told her you were also crushing on her friend, when y'all started things up? Did you really choose such a weak woman to be with? Or were you just hiding it to make sure she would date you?

50

@34. Timothy. The effect of DICK's infidelity seems to have been to make him commit to his monogamous partner with more earnestness and fervor. (That is, until he was compelled to tell her that he cheated). Why is his renewed commitment to her, his attentions, kindness and attachment, not the reality of their relationship? It is. It was--before he told her--and it is still, if he sustains it and she can believe in it.

51

@48, zev423: I don’t read the LW’s asking for forgiveness, and it sure is not on us to grant it.
He fucked up, he sees he set himself up to fuck the other woman; he makes no excuse there, and he felt full on remorse at his deceit. Caught whether to tell or not, he asks Dan’s advice.
I applaud his honesty and truthful self reflection. If the price of his transgression is he loses this relationship, it would mean, to me, he dodged a bullet. A woman going into a relationship with a man can’t be blind to the fact that he will stumble and be a prick and be lazy and selfish. As she will also be. It’s how we learn from our stumbles and how we forgive each other for same, that’s the real bedrock of a decent intimacy.

52

I enjoy reading Dan savages column. But I am with Timothy, that once you start lying to your committed partner about deep foundational things like fidelity, and being honest, even if u don't tell the partner and keep it a secret, the relationship is no longer an equal one. Its not a basis for real relationship, and you are keeping that other person in that relationship, under false pretenses. I'm assuming that the op didn't have a conversation prior with his gf and his gf said "I'm cool with don't ask, don't tell regarding sex with other people." There are many people on here, that have a basic confusion, that cheating in an exclusive, monogamous relationship, is equal to a polyamorous relationship. They are two different things.

53

@51 Blaming the girlfriend for bailing in this situation is ridiculous. Framed another way- if someone can't even remain monogamous for the first month of a relationship, why would someone who wants monogamy waste any more time on him? What I would consider forgiving at 1 month and at ten years (at which point I would have a much deeper understanding of his character) are not the same.

54

That’s where we differ then @53; I would be less forgiving of a cheating partner ten years in than a month or so in. I’m not blaming the gf for leaving, if that’s what she chooses to do. I’m saying it would indicate to me that her feelings of ownership over his body, after such a short time, were more important to her than seeing he’d come to significant insights about himself and his feelings for her. And if her connection to him can’t bridge the gap, then she wasn’t really that into him. Rather it was her fantasy about him.

55

rafibomb @53; The real man fucked another woman and has now told his gf about it, that’s who this man is. Flawed and stupid, testing the boundaries and realising he wants those boundaries.
Hello. Not sure what men you’ve been around, as I see it, this man is solid. Not because he lied and cheated, because he felt the remorse, he felt his deceit hurting him.

56

@54 Why is it about "ownership" of his body and her "fantasy" of him, and not her simply acknowledging that this is a huge red flag very early in a relationship? It wouldn't necessarily mean that she wasn't that into him- she was just getting to know him. To use an analogy other than infidelity, if a guy needed to go to rehab less than a month into our relationship, I would be out of there so fast there would be a me-shaped hole in the wall. If my husband of 10 years needed rehab, I would do my best to support him and keep our marriage intact.

It just sounds like you're blaming her for being too shallow or disinterested to trust in his sudden epiphany, when the fact is, she may simply not know him well enough for the good to outweigh the bad.

57

@49 Philophile
"Did you really choose such a weak woman to be with?"

The embarrassing answer is yes. I wouldn't do that now, but I was very young and pretty messed up at the time a long time ago.

58

p.s Oh, and (even more embarrassing) calling her "weak" would be a huge understatement.

59

@49 Philophile
"I don't believe that causing pain is always unethical, the way that you do. I believe that hurting someone is unethical."

Oh and please forgive me for not being able to comment further because I don't understand (though I suspect it might not matter if I did) what distinction you are drawing between "causing pain" and "hurting someone".

60

Curious2- breaking a bone to set it correctly is causing pain, but we call this healing not hurting and train doctors to do this. Painful but not hurtful in fact helpful. You can apply the same argument to breaking someone's comfortable delusions. When people are deluded about the things they care about they can have a lot of trouble maintaining happiness.

You can hurt someone by taking away their pain by drugging them or lying to them. Pain is an indication of a problem in a healthy body. Without it, people can't maintain their happiness, they may take risks that appear crazy when sober when they can't assess their own pain. You can take action so that another comes to very unrealistic conclusions, and it may make them feel better for a moment, but they will not make the best choices in the future with incorrect assumptions.

Pain is part of life because it serves a function. No one can escape pain unless they are dead or overdosing - soon - to - be - dead. You should be grateful for your pain if you have a healthy brain.

Hurting someone is damaging their overall health and happiness. Realism is healthy, but it can be painful. Like exercise. I believe people should treat each other with consideration, minimizing pain but mostly maximizing health (and happiness). I think "wellness" is used in place of health and happiness now.

And I would stop feeling so gushy lovey dovey if I had been dating DICKant. I might not want to be monogamous for a while after the disclosure. But I'd consider him a strong choice of mate and good friend material and want to keep him around at the very least.

And I agree if this woman throws away men for this sort of mistake I think he can do better.

61

@60 Philophile
Thank you very much for that excellent and laudable articulation of your distinction between the two.

(However I don't think it changes my position on what goes into which category.)

62

Maybe all the lies are for our own good!

Maybe the official suppression of global warming and other environmental problems is done as a FAVOR for the citizens, we don't have to feel so bad!
Pay no attention to the money exchange from auto and oil based industries.. And don't worry radioactive water is AWESOME to play in.

63

Curious2- health is an opinion yes. What is officially considered healthy changes constantly. The best argument against realism being healthy imo is depression. But when people need delusions about other people or the world to be happy, and not just some faith in something magical like God, the delusions appear to have worse effects.

64

"people who have different skin color to me are inferior or fair to try to use for profit." is a delusion that makes many people feel better. Much more harmful than a Cristian.

65

@62 Philophile
What you're telling me reminds me of the concept of thought-crime. (And our society thankfully holds people accountable for their actions, not their thoughts.)

By keeping some of my thoughts secret (at immense cost to myself then and in the future.), I saved 3 other people needless pain. (In hindsight I'd have been vastly better off to leave my GF but it wasn't right for me then, I wasn't healthy enough to be that person.)

Ever imagine the hypothetical of everyone being able to read everyone's thoughts at all times? That sounds like quite a nightmare, right?

I don't think it's just me, everyone keeps /most/ of their thoughts private. And I'm not comfortable being told I shouldn't have kept my thoughts private.

Or are you just saying that if you have romantic thoughts that will hurt a partner, THOSE thoughts specifically must be shared? (If so, forgive me, but that sounds so nuts to me I wonder where it comes from? Many possibilities: Maybe you (unlike me at the time) are in such a perfect relationship and space that sharing everything works. Maybe you got hurt by some lying scumbag's actions and anything but sharing every thought is a trigger for you?)

66

@56, I agree with you re rehab, I’d be out the door if he was an addict. This guy, no worries. If I was into him. Then I’m probably a lot older than you, the men I was with were much more unreconstructed.
My husband to be and I had a week off early in our ‘committed’ relationship, and during that week he visited a sex worker. He told me straight away, and though it upset me, I used that hall pass years later.
Now given our marriage was very fraught, maybe I should have walked way back then. We have five beautiful children, so I’m happy with the outcome.
And yes, the whole carry on about cheating is because we assume ownership over another’s body. Yes, that person has made a verbal commitment, it is still a choice. Always a choice.
I think the message I took from my partner’s behaviour is his sex is his sex. Except for the time I fucked a guy I was keen on, once, using my hall pass, we were faithful to each other for thirty years.

67

Curious2- my original comment to you was 'But I'm not sure how you can defend hiding the things you know are very important to your partner or that you would strongly want to know in their shoes'.

And I never said you should have told her.

I do not advocate invasion of privacy or thought crimes so I can't argue with you about that.

68

@67 Philophile
I need to admit I know I'm being overly sensitive about this, apologies. (It was/remains traumatic.)

"'But I'm not sure how you can defend hiding the things you know are very important to your partner or that you would strongly want to know in their shoes'"

You're right, I "'would strongly want to know in their shoes'" that which I withheld. But maybe that wish on my part would be dysfunctional?

Usually I believe in being more guided by the heart that the mind, but in this case:

While I do FEEL I'd want to know if my SO was "in love with" (1) someone else also, I THINK differently. I think everyone has secrets (I wish I could write as well as we've seen Dan write on this theme). I think my desire to know might come from something in the territory of insecurity or possessiveness. Because my GF lost nothing (but needless hurt) for not knowing what I FEEL I'd want to know.

(1) Incidentally, I did not agree with you redefining this for me @49 as "crushing on". (I understand that many or most including Dan consider being "in love with" to be a process with steps, but I don't buy into that. [Oh, and on an unrelated tangent, it seems nuts to me when people retroactively redefine themselves as not having been "in love with" a LTR in light of subsequent context.)

69

I think the main point the "don't tell her" crowd has missed is that there is a better than average chance that this will come out. It's too juicy of a secret to stay buried forever. Maybe not next week or next month, but sometime, and then, as REO Speedwagon would say it's, "Heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another you've been messing around." THEN it's no longer, "You lied to me" it's "you've been lying to me for years" and the damage is multiplied. Better to rip the band-aid off and face the music now.

70

Ahhh. I don't smoke, but for some weird reason I feel like having a cigarette now.

71

Curious2- I don't want you to feel bad even if we may disagree. I'm not sure how to engage with your example because I think we use different language to describe the same concepts. I use crushing to mean any fantasy or simple lust or romantic attraction to another. I call caring about someone else's happiness "love", and if I love someone and I also think we would be good life partners together I would call that feeling being "in love" . Personally I would want to know if my partner was crushing on another because, if they are appropriate and not say my boss, it would be nice if they could hook up. If they were crushing on my boss I'd want to talk about that and their expectations. I would want to know if my partner were in love with someone else because I would want to understand as soon as possible that my partner was thinking about leaving me or asking me to accept another person into our life, and figure out what I wanted to do about that. If my partner had sex with someone else I'd prefer to know but I don't think I'd be too bothered if I found out they hid it and if the consequences weren't serious. But that is me, I think a lot of people just cheat on each other sometimes and hide it, or stay monogamous, and they assume they match with someone like minded, and that works best for them. (tbh I was in the former category before I decided? monogamy in general didn't agree with me.)

So.. maybe it would have been wrong for me to do but it was the right decision for you..

72

@71 Philophile
"if I love someone and I also think we would be good life partners together I would call that feeling being "in love""

I think that's a very healthy definition. And I like that it suggests people make a good determination of whether they'll work, together. I wasn't always (as I think is pretty common) so good at that determination as I think I am now...but I still think it was "in love" when I was bad at it. (Because I think "in love" is a I-know-it-when-I-see-it thing that dysfunctional people get to have too.)

As such, when I got better at it, part of what I got better at was keeping my head in the determination, reigning in my heart until my head decided.

74

My then boyfriend now husband cheated on me early in our gf/bf stage after he asked for a monogamous commitment and I found out right after a bizarre set of circumstances. I cheated on him in our just married let's be monogamous for now stage. He found out right away in a bizarre set of circumstances. It's like the universe was trying to tell us it's OK to fuck up but please stop lying about it. The chances that the gf would find out about it may seem slim but were they? I know @22 she knows now but maybe it's better she heard from him and maybe it's better for him to know that his gf can love the real him. I hope they can continue being honest and build a relationship on the realism of who they are and not just the optimism of who they want to be.

75

@49: I certainly prefer the miserable truth, and think all people should face it, but then I'm classified as mentally ill, in large part because my ability to lie to myself is limited. It turns out that not being depressed requires a certain degree of delusional optimism and narcissism, because human beings are all kinds of fucked up. This is why religion, ethnicity/culture, ancestry/heritage/family, the concept of a personal legacy, vicarious identification, etc. are such popular sources of meaning for people, despite being completely fabricated social fictions. Almost everyone prefers comforting fictions and creates an ex post facto personal narrative that serves zir ego and is mostly false. In all seriousness, the question is whether it's preferable to strip all hope and joy from someone in favor of the bleak prospect of meaningless existence, which leads nearly everyone to depression, or participate in comforting lies. Once you accept the latter, as nearly everyone does (and as literally everyone who wishes to maintain any sort of relationship with other humans, who will protectively reject anyone who doesn't collaborate on their comforting delusional narratives, does), you're left with a consequentialist evaluation per curious2.

76

Curious2, I have felt completely heartbroken over not seeing someone, and still decided I should not see him.. I called that a crush.. Maybe your feeling was different or maybe similar, you are certainly free to call it whatever you like and I'm certainly not going to assume anything about it again..

John Horstman, I don't think that coping mechanisms need be delusional or maladaptive... There are some fucking horrible awful ugly truths. And indescribably wonderful things to discover. I think the trick is concentrating on the latter, although it probably slows research on the former..

Or as my grandmother likes to say, stay busy..

I certainly don't feel the need to solve every problem, just the interesting ones, or ones I think are most important for me. I have to stare at the ugly side of life in small doses like everyone. I'm usually focusing on my interests and generally happy.. I really value realism though...

77

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