A bit telling that although this ex (apparently) wanted to kiss this guy, he feels like he's screwed her over. What entitlements.
Don't feel too bad LW, based on your description you might not actually have a girlfriend.
If you're really concerned with doing the "decent thing", skip the guilt-assuaging confessional and have that difficult talk with her about your relationship, your sex life, and your need for some confidence-boosting therapy and learning to become the sort of person that's ready to engage in a relationship that will make you and your (future) partner happy and fulfilled. There's nothing decent sounding about how this relationship is currently described.
Might be too much projecting, but I see myself in this guy. Not what he did, but the way his brain is handling it... The spiraling and obsessing really remind me of (my) OCD. I'd recommend seeing a therapist, or at least reading a book or article on it. I still struggle, but it's better to struggle and know WHY, than to feel so overwhelmed you want to jump in front of a bus. (Sorry that you're in that headspace, LW. You can have compassion for yourself without excusing what you did.)
On a different note, I disagree with Dan, and think LW should tell his partner. I wouldn't be able to live with such a secret, personally. I grew up very religious, so even a kiss feels HUGE. (I wonder if this might be a factor for LW?) At the very least, LW should weigh their options... What can they live with?
Yeah. What Dan said. Get the fuck over yourself and your ridiculous notions of ethical purity. You barely did anything wrong. If you tell her, you are really just doing it to get over your own guilt and transfering your bad feelings to her. And that's the ethical thing to do? I guess in internet land. But in the real world, if you dump this shit on your girlfriend to get away from your guilt, that's the shitty thing. Way shittier than a drunken kiss in a sexless (or bad sexful) relationship.
As someone who only does open relationships anymore, the angst and drama over something so... basic, makes me so glad I'm self selecting to avoid all that bs. Seriously, people try to be so monogamous that they aren't allowed to even be human anymore.
I had to double check to make sure this isn't a rerun. This "transgression confession to clear your own guilt and hurt your loved one" has been around Savage Love since "Dear Faggot" days! Please, LW - catch up. But if you really are a newbie, just remember that what you do does affect others, so think about the impact - have the other's feelings take precedence over your desire to absolve yourself.
Actually, I think it was "Hey, Faggot!"...
Reminds me of my ex's husband, a staunch feminist, who went to a strip club on a business trip, didn't get a blow job but thought about it, and was so gripped with guilt about the betrayal of his partner and feminist standards that she caught him coming out of the house with a noose to hang himself. So, while not quite as severe, a mental health issue should definitely be considered.
People who are obviously mentally unwell will have obsessive and dangerous obsessions and actions. That they might also happen to be feminist is beside the point. Unless there is some feminist out there taking them in and teaching that men who consider blow jobs at clubs should kill themselves or that you should feel that you screwed over willing women who want to kiss you by kissing them consensually then I don't know what feminism has to do with anything.
This dude is in a bad relationship. Sure, talk it out, but if he's as young as he sounds, I'd say move on. There's no reason to ever tell the current gf about the kiss at all nor to feel bad about it. He might be in a little bit of a weird place if he led the ex (that he kissed) to believe that he was interested in getting back with her, but that's nothing that can't be cleared up with a "I enjoyed our kiss but I'm in a relationship, sorry I led to you to believe it was more / let me sort that out first" etc. Which is how I interpreted his acted like a dick to this good person stuff- not that he kissed her. But after reading @1 I see that yes maybe he just thinks that a consensual kiss is bad for some reason. Dude seems off in general.
Also I'd take a step back and consider if he has some shame around sex in general or if his current gf has made him feel unworthy of sexual attention or if it's some baggage that he owns- in any case, it's not cool to be months/years lacking sex. Why has he been avoiding this conversation? What is the back story here? THAT is the real issue, not the kiss.
Come clean to your SO. Not because you did anything horribly wrong, but because if your calculations are correct that this little indiscretion "100%... would be the end of the relationship", then she'd be doing you a favor by breaking up with you.
Yeah, I disagree. I say play by the rules of your relationship. If your relation is currently a disclose everything serious type, you come clean and accept the consequences. If your partner isn’t mature enough to see that a kiss doesn’t need to be relationship ending, then why be with them? I’m firmly in the corner the deceit is likely to blow back on you in some way. Your partner should get to decide if this is a big deal or not. Hopefully not. But if it is, then it’s done. I guess (earnestly) I don’t understand advocating for dishonesty if the relationship had rules that were broken? We’re does that slippery slope end?
The problem isn’t that you kissed an old girlfriend, the problem is that you get so drunk you do things you wouldn’t normally do. You don’t have a kissing problem, you have a drinking problem.
That should be topic number one you bring up with a qualified counselor/therapist, and then move on to what your self-flaggelating choices are contributing to a long-term unsatisfying relationship.
Drinking removes inhibitions. This is normal and not unhealthy- at least not unhealthier than drinking ever is. If it makes you do reckless or dangerous or abusive things, then yes you have a problem. But if it just makes you sing a little louder, dance with less self-consciousness, chat with people you'd be shy to chat with otherwise, kiss people who want to kiss you but then do nothing else, then this is not a drinking problem but just normal removal of inhibitions that comes with drinking that makes it known as a social lubricant. I mean, we can discuss if that's good or bad in general, but drinking and kissing someone who wants you to kiss them when you probably shouldn't because you are in a monogamous though frustratingly sexless relationship is not an indication of a drinking problem but rather of a relationship problem. If he needs to see a counselor, it's over those self-flaggelating choices and acceptance of a sexless relationship (despite apparently no other restrictions or responsibilities), not because he likes to kiss people who likewise want to kiss him when he drinks.
@12, @13, yes. Maybe that "Why don't we have sex anymore" talk might have something to do with his drinking. There are plenty of couples who are OK with their partner's choices, but this might not be one of them.
@9 EL "...I don't know what feminism has to do with anything."
Only that he was "gripped with guilt about the betrayal of his...feminist standards." Feminism comes into it when he seized upon it as (partial) evidence of his being so shitty he deserved a noose. Feeling one has betrayed one's values is a powerful thing.
ISUCK: Man, are you 16 years old or something? Yes, you were socially lubricated at the time. And he may have been as well. But if you were honest and it was a mutual kiss (you weren't forcing her into a corner and kissing her against her will) then she was a willing partner and not a victim, a former girlfriend who maybe felt like kissing you for old time's sake. It's wonderful that you seem to be developing self-awareness as to how you treat women and recognizing inappropriate behavior on your part. The kiss wasn't the problem; address the one that actually exists regarding your feelings about lack of sex between you and your current girlfriend. And stop beating yourself up, just chalk up the kiss as a life lesson.
Correction to #16: SHE may have been as well, though the same advice would be relevant if you were both of the same sex.
"Feminism comes into it when he seized upon it as (partial) evidence of his being so shitty he deserved a noose"
No, those are his delusions coming into it, his mental illness. Like if I honestly believe that it's possible to turn straw into gold, my subsequent disappointment would have nothing to do with chemistry, no matter how much I say it is.
LW sounds like my narcissistic ex, who would go on about how TERRIBLE he was so that I would have to reassure him. Whenever he did a shitty think, he would avoid genuine contrition by acting over the top contrite like a fucking drama queen.
He definitely needs to see a therapist. There is a lot of self flagellation (the bad kind) and negative self-talk here that needs to be addressed.
That being said, as someone who is actually in recovery, I can tell you that what drove me to it was not "I kissed someone who wanted to kiss me but I shouldn't have", it was more waking up and saying "who are you, and why am I bleeding?"
I am all for awareness of substance abuse, but I see no evidence that that is this particular LW's problem.
I feel for the guy though. I beat myself up unnecessarily as well. This definitely falls under the "more harm than good" category. If he really doesn't intend to do it again, then disclosing MIGHT make him feel better but WILL make her feel worse. It is not worth doing.
I am going to guess 24ish. Long enough to have been in the relationship for the long haul, but young enough to not have perspective on this kind of thing yet. My advice is this: Life is short when you are happy and in a wonderful relationship; Life can be very long when you are in an unsatisfying one with no communication.
Go to a therapist for yourself, and go to a sex therapist together.
Unless, and I am only guessing here (I sometimes feel bad when a LW hops into the comments after I say something that isn't founded in the letter), but I wonder if this has less to do with worrying about her and more to do with him NEEDING to feel like he is a good person. If his being steadfast in a near sexless relationship has been a point of misplaced pride about what a decent person he is, it might explain the depth of his negative reaction. He does state that he loves his girlfriend, but the rest of the letter is actually about how shitty he feels (and her potentially negative reaction), not about how he can't believe that he did this to her. I am just wondering if the "good person" ideal is getting in the way of the potential for a happier reality.
Of course I could be totally off base. If I am, then the Drama Queen title fits like a glove.
ISUCK's letter illustrates a degree of confusion about sex and an inability to talk about it frankly. He says that like other people, his relationship 'isn't the most sexually active'. What does this mean? That he and his partner don't have sex? That they have sex infrequently? That it's grudging on one side? Which? His actions and tone seem to suggest that he solicits sex and that his partner withholds it. This is the issue--not some one-time making-out with a former partner. The couple's apparent misalignment on how important sex is to them is what he needs to be tackling--with her, in a loving and honest way.
I would see ISUCK's exaggerated reaction of guilt to his kissing as part and parcel of his reticence about sex with his gf. The 'cheating' is clearly a big thing to him--but it looks like it's a big thing because anything to do with sex takes on a magnified significance, eg as an expression of compatibility, as a sign they'll always be together, as an intensification of closeness, a reward for being loving or acting well, in his relationship with his partner. That is, it doesn't at all seem, for whatever reason, that they fuck as a matter of course. Maybe he'd like this sort of relationship?
It's further interesting he writes to Dan, not to a more mainstream columnist who deals more often with milquetoast topics--as they will seem to some (but are to the people vexed by them painful and urgent problems). This is probably because he shares Dan's values. A thought that occurs to me is that, contrary to the lw's lifestyle, perhaps it's a Savagista value to find out how to have lots of happy sex, maybe with multiple partners (serial or concurrent). It sounds as if ISUCK is a young guy who's only had two serious relationships, with his ex and current partner. That could be too few to find out what you like sexually.
@20. Savage. Yes, that's a compassionate and insightful response. One partial lapse while drunk is comprehensible and forgivable and doesn't make ISUCK a bad person. He needs to talk about his sexual needs and expectations with his gf. He will know why he hasn't--but it isn't in his letter.
elmsyrup @19: Yeah, that's my take on it as well. The whole thing seems less like a genuine anxiety spiral and more of an intentional display of wailing and gnashing of teeth meant to overwhelm the listener and make them go "Jesus, calm down - I guess it's not that big a deal... just calm down." It's manipulative.
Aw, bless. Is this guy 16? It's cute how guilty he's feeling over a drunken snog.
Oh, wait, there's more. Here's the REAL issue: "what I should have done months/years ago is to talk to my girlfriend about our lack of sex rather than get drunk and kiss someone else." YES. Yes, you should have, but you can't go back in time, so have that talk now. And don't open with "I got drunk and kissed my ex." Seriously, a kiss? That's all? Write it off and address the problems in your relationship.
I would also suggest that perhaps you might want to take a look at your drinking. You mention it several times. Are you using alcohol to cope with your guilt over feeling like a "shitty weak person"? Are you staying with someone you're not happy with because you feel like a "shitty weak person"? Which you're not, by the way. You're in a relationship that you're so unhappy with that you kissed someone else -- not that this couldn't have happened if you were happy in your relationship, but you're the one who tied it to the current relationship's lack of sex -- and instead of thinking, "hmm, maybe this is my cue to get out," you want to either grovel to stay in this unhappy relationship or kill yourself. Dude, you're a mess. Get some therapy -- your reaction to this fairly innocuous mishap is seriously concerning.
Yes, talk to her about the lack of physical affection in your relationship, but I disagree that the kiss should be used to "shock" her into wanting to have sex again. If you say you need to be kissed and she says she doesn't want to do it anymore than just fucking break up.
If you're going to tell her about the kiss do so in a way that isn't going to turn into her comforting you. And definitely don't do it in the middle of a fight or heated discussion. The guilt seems sincere, but even so it comes across as manipulative to make a huge production out of it. Deal with your shit separately from dealing with the relationship shit.
Dan, I’m disappointed your headline says he kissed a “girl.” It’s pretty clear she’s a grown woman, even though he uses the word “ex-girlfriend.”
Philosopher @26, I'm disappointed that you are unfamiliar with the work of Katy Perry.
He should break up with the girlfriend. I think this kiss was an attempt to engineer that. He claims to be drunk and not in control and yet the description of the ex is so glowing . . . clearly this was more than just an available person who wanted to kiss him. ISUCK's girlfriend should DTMFA
ISUCK sounds like he is unhappily coupled (sexually), and alcohol was a social lubricant that allowed him to share a kiss with a woman with whom he shares mutual sexual attraction. His guilt is totally out of proportion to his relationship transgression, which seems borne of sexual frustration. Yes, ISUCK should have spoken to his girlfriend some time ago about their lack of physical intimacy, but he can do so now. If he does, I would definitely not mention this kiss. Frankly, it would do no more than transfer his negative emotions to her.
Why is everyone saying “it was just a kiss”, as if that makes it not a big deal? I personally would be... I dunno... 65% as upset by my wife kissing another guy as I would about a one-night-stand.
Otherwise I agree with Dan and most others... the self-flagellation is unproductive. Whether he discloses or not, it is time to look at the reason it happened, and have a conversation with the girlfriend.
The self-flagellation is totally understandable though. Probably he used to think of himself as someone who was not capable of cheating. He probably also thought there was a bright, shining line which divided the cheaters of the world from the non-cheaters. Now all of a sudden he finds himself on the wrong side of that line, so of course he is freaking out.
This is an example of why the bright-line, cheater/non-cheater, good-person/trash-person worldview is not helpful.
"This is an example of why the bright-line, cheater/non-cheater, good-person/trash-person worldview is not helpful."
No, it's an example of the LW you postulate becoming aware that he's an imperfect human.
"cheater/non-cheater" is a simple matter of the definition of the word. As Dan has justly made famous, some cheating is for the best (though Dan's been too ready recently to say so), but anyone who looks at the definition know that 'good cheating' is 'cheating'. (Cheating is the half the words in the phrase, obviously.)
@32 I don’t mind a bright line definition of “to cheat”. And if you want, you can use that definition to divide the world into people who have never cheated and people who have. Lots of people do this, but I don’t think it’s very useful.
For example, take lying. we can basically agree on the definition. But we all understand there are degrees of lying, that context/frequency matter, etc, etc, and if someone tells a single lie in their life, we don’t write them off as “liars” forevermore.
Not everyone thinks of cheating that way— it doesn’t sound like you do—but a lot of people do, possibly including LW, and it leads to problems.
Or take murder...
When a LW goes to such great lengths to convince me that they are a shitty asshole I'm no longer invested in a healthy resolution to the situation. LW, go ahead and tell your girlfriend what you did.
Joe @30: Because it's nowhere near a big enough deal to react the way ISUCK is reacting, that's why. And really? You'd be 65% as upset by your wife having a drunken kiss with an ex as you would be by her having plenty of opportunities to stop contact but not doing so, and exposing you both to STIs and herself to pregnancy? I'd be no more than 12% as upset, personally. Like you yourself say, there are degrees, and a kiss barely ranks above a fantasy on the cheating scale. If I found out my partner had kissed someone else, I'd be relieved that things had gone no further, and feel that I could trust them to resist temptation. Particularly if they felt even a fraction as guilty about it as ISUCK does.
Ms Fan @27 - If memory serves, it was Jill Sobule. I'm fairly sure I recall the video, which reminded me of Ms Newton-John's video for Physical.
LW gets an absolutely classic Gertrude Award here. It would be tempting to make this letter the textbook example.
@35 there are degrees of kissing too. Your reasons make sense, But I am just thinking about emotional impact,and for me kissing feels as intimate as anything else. And it might fairly be a big deal for gf and for LW.
But, yeah, shouldn’t be THAT big of a deal.
Venn @36: That's a different song called I Kissed A Girl, which I too remember from the 90s. The "And He Liked It" is clearly referring to Perry's non-cover version.
Joe @38: Oh, certainly -- and intent matters! To me kissing is step 1 down the road towards sex, and if they stop there, that means their conscience has kicked in and they've made the decision not to cheat. Temptations exist and people are human. Kissing can be impulsive but taking your clothes off takes intent.
(Looks like I put this as a comment on the wrong column. Sorry.)
For ISUCK-- Let's begin by clearing up some misconceptions.
Alcohol doesn't make you do things you didn't want to do. Alcohol lowers inhibitions. It allows you to do things you want to do but usually keep yourself from doing because you know better.
You know your ex-girlfriend better than I do, but I'd guess you didn't mess her up that badly with one drunken kiss. There's a bit of hubris going on if you think your kisses are that all-powerful.
You also seem to have an idea that first love is one true love. Sometimes it is. More often, it's not. If you drifted apart originally, there likely wasn't too much keeping you together over the long haul anyway.
Then this bit about long term relationships not being sexually active. New relationships often start out with a lot of sex, and it's not unusual for the extremely high levels to die down a little, but many long term relationships are bolstered by frequent good sex. It can be that that makes them long term.
You also seem to be suffering under the misapprehension that feeling bad enough about something is penance enough And that you want to stay in a relationship that's not right for you sexually. Are you sure you want that, or do you think that staying in a bad relationship is fit punishment for being unfaithful (in your own eyes).
You don't come out and spell Christianity, but there seems to be an underpinning of Evangelical guilt going on in everything you say. The idea that you're supposed to stay in sexually unhappy relationships, the idea that kissing is as bad (and it's always bad) as fucking, the fetish-like reverence for sinning, repenting, and being forgiven for sin. (In some brands of Christianity, the people who repeat the sin-repent-be forgiven cycle are far more revered than the boring people who stay out of trouble in the first place. That's why they keep going for bigger and bigger sins. They need really catchy ones to stay on top.)
You can talk to your girlfriend as Dan suggests, but there's another idea too. Break up with her without having the whole unhappy sexlife conversation. Tell her it's you, not her. Tell her you're not feeling it anymore. Tell you're too young to settle down. (Doesn't matter how old you are.) Break her heart. Now go do it.
@46 if he is Christian I don’t think the teachings have all sunk in. Eg God loves you, get over yourself.
My boyfriend’s observation about a similar situation seems apt. “Monogamy is weird.”
@ 19, 23 - yep, that's my take, too. This feels like manipulation.
It may be unconscious manipulation. This might be the way he's been socialized to deal with guilt - to go so over the top that people fall all over themselves to reassure him he's not that bad. But in order to have anything like healthy relationships, he's got to get a handle on this, and I'd say "therapy", if "oh, knock it the hell off, you self-centred asshole" doesn't do it.
I may be wrong, but I read this letter as:
"I have a chance to get back together with my first love and I really want to. My current relationship is basically sexless and I hate that, but I'm too much of a coward to confront my girlfriend about it or just end the relationship.
If I pretend to be pathologically guilt-ridden about a little making out with my ex, will you grant your blessing to my plan to sabotage my current relationship in the name of honesty so I can get back together with my ex without ever having to tell my girlfriend that I want to break up?
Will you also nominate me for sainthood for doing exactly what I want to end my relationship, get back with my ex and avoid admitting to anyone that this is my plan?"
@39 would you believe it, both Sobule and Perry had the same producers and ghostwriters on their respective versions of 'kissed a girl', even thought Katy Perry claims to have written it herself?
Fundies believe that merely lusting is as bad as fucking, way before the kissing begins. Makes me wonder whether the lack of sex might be self-imposed as a sort of penance (or yet another misconception about sexual frequency), but there's too much drama to try to diagnose ISUCK correctly.
In any case, the starkly polar choices he believes he has (disclose or kill himself) are completely unhealthy. So therapy should be in his immediate future.
I remember feeling this strongly about kissing being cheating when I was 17. Now it doesn't seem like such a big deal. shrug
@11: "[Where] does that slippery slope end?"
In a relationship that both people want to last the rest of their lives, it ideally ends with one person eventually dying after a long life together, slipping all the way down that slope together. Ethically, there's a bright line where one's actions have a material impact on the other person: material effects apply to you whether you know something or not, while social/psychological effects are a function of knowing about something, which means that harm can actually be prevented by effective lying in a way that it cannot be (and can even be amplified) by lying about behavior with material impacts. So the slope may be slippery, but I see a big barrier fence at the bottom that will stop me from sliding into traffic or over the edge of the gorge or whatever is supposed to be bad about sliding to the bottom of a slope in the metaphor.
Humans lie because it's NECESSARY for social harmony; at the very least, lies of omission, which this would be, are necessary - going around telling everyone that you think their facial hair is ridiculous, their outfits are ugly, their opinions are shitty, etc. makes you an asshole more than it makes you scrupulously honest. For an example of what honest expression with few filters omitting true-but-unpleasent information looks like, check out internet comments sections or a radical honesty group, then decide whether it would really be better if all of society - let alone our intimate relationships - worked like that. I personally think things would be better, but I know for a fact that most people (allistic peiple, at any rate) do not, after 30-odd years of not automagically internalizing normative social filters and having to learn them by rote, with lots of missteps telling people exactly what I actually think and volunteering information they find upsetting.
On a society-wide level, we have cases where not lying by omission is considered a social crisis e.g. men pervasively - and inappropriately - not "lying" by omission about their sexual desires regarding the people around them. If you care about people, you lie to them, or at least censor yourself to not note things they might find unpleasant, unless concealing them does more harm. Personally, I would not lie if Girlfriend asked me a direct question that implicates the kissing e.g. "Have you done anything sexual with another person since we started dating?" because she asked, which indicates that she thought it was important and wanted to know, but I wouldn't volunteer that information unless directly asked (pro-tip: don't ask questions to which you don't want honest answers). DADT is an excellent policy in plenty of contexts; the problem with its application regarding homosexuality among American troops was that queer soldiers shouldn't have had to hide at all (and even then, it WAS an improvement on the do-ask-and-prosecute policy it replaced; Clinton was/is an asshole, friend-and-defender of a notorious and recently deceased - whacked? - pedophile/sex trafficker/finance capitalist, accused rapist, admitted workplace sexual harasser, and neoliberal capitalist, but DADT was actually a pro-social move in context).
I've gone off the rails, landing on Bill Clinton and Jeffrey Epstein, so I'll end with saying that I think lying has been evolutionarily selected for still-functional reasons, and pro-social, harm-reducing lies are a moral good (though I would still prefer a society in which we could all tell the whole truth all the time and people wouldn't have unreasonable reactions to it, but experience tells me that's not a realistic request of most people).
Though most of the time the Talmud is highly problematic (sometimes laughably so), I like the example given by one of the rebbes on how sometimes a white lie can actually be a mitzvah: even if you have to lie, you should always tell a bride she looks beautiful on her wedding day.
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