What I Don't Know About Cuckolding, What Dad Doesn't Know About Camming, And What Everyone Should Know Before Getting Tied Up By a Stranger—Reader Advice Roundup!

Comments

1

Sorry letter writer, you are describing a Hot Wife relationship.

Ugh, BOUND’s wife does not want sex, and BOUND only wants to be tied up. I don’t care how erect he gets when he is tied up, it’s not sex, and you can’t cheat someone out of something they don’t want.

Shall we all guess as to Yahtzee Woman’s kinks? 1. Pony Girl or 2. Furry or 3. Captive / Prisoner

2

Agreed, Dan and @1. That's not cuckolding, of which humiliation is the essential element. LW doesn't even mention that.

My boyfriend has the all-male-cast version of the hotwife fetish (why is a gender-inclusive term so elusive?) and the lure, for him, is the opposite of humiliation. It's all about a bunch of other guys wanting the level of relationship with me that he knows only he can have.

3

"That sort of thing is rare, but it does happen, and advertising "Straight discreet male looking for bondage scene-tie me up!" will be like catnip to a guy like Bruce McArthur."

For those who may have missed it — the excellent CBC podcast "Uncover: The Village" not only chronicled the case of serial killer Bruce McArthur, but played a vital role in cracking it.

4

Isn't a Financially Dependent Spouse (barring something along the line of an advanced degree trade-off now in its second half) often all the more reason to break up sooner rather than later? If we're going into hypotheticals, BOUND's wife could be training to be a hypnotist.

5

Venn @ 4 - "BOUND's wife could be training to be a hypnotis".

She probably did 20 years ago, that's how she got him to marry her.

6

We're also nosy, Dan... what was the kink yahtzee?

7

It's good that WMBHAJ didn't break up with her boyfriend over him wanting a threesome. He needs to know that his ass is dumped because he has failed to launch as an adult human being, is making idiotic "career" choices, and is a selfish and entitled twit. It's not about her.

8

@ 7 Fubar: Hear, hear. Total clear case of DTMFA, due to him being a lazy moron. The threesome thing has nothing to do with it.

9

Allow me to take issue with this statement of Dan's:

"Too many women think falling in love with a jerk is a trap—if you love him, you can't leave him, even if you want radically different things out of life, even he pressures you to do things you don't want to do sexually, even if he's unemployed or unemployable."

I'd make it: Too many women think falling in love with a jerk is a noble calling. The more awful he is, the more self-sacrificing and high minded it is to stick with him devoting yourself to loving even the most unlovable. It's the way mothering is even more worthy especially when the baby is sick and cranky and demanding and thankless and has you up all night with worry.

There's nothing admirable about falling into a trap, but devoting yourself to a lost cause is sure to get you into Heaven.

Now directly to Wishing My Boyfriend Has A Job-- ALMOST broke up? Why almost? What's keeping you back? Why do you say you "guess" you should pull the trigger for real? The best way to show appreciation to Dan for all he does is to kick this asshole to the curb.

10

Um, Dan, love you but your peer-reviewed study was on GAY cuckolding. I agree that the LW seems to be talking about hotwifing rather than cuckolding, but since this has become literally as common as the misuse of the word literally, I think we have to conclude that many if not most people who are using the word cuckolding mean hotwifing. LW's picking up on the wording of "let other men fuck her" instead of "fucking other men" really does support their theory -- and is also a big clue as to why most prospective hotwives balk at this request. Who wants to "let someone fuck them" for another's benefit? Perhaps if prospective cucks phrase their requests as "I would like to watch YOU fucking another man," that would better convey a sense that the wife/girlfriend has some agency, and is not just agreeing to be used in a very intimate way to boost her partner's male ego.

Harriet: Dan himself says, "I'll concede that in almost all instances therapy is going to be a lot more useful than a one-off letter to an advice columnist." Is this enough for you?
"And since I'm constantly encouraging people to seek therapy, I think 'get additional help' could be taken for granted around here." Not by some! Dan, I do think "get additional help" needs to be said slightly more often than you're saying it. Most letter writers (and a certain commenter) seem to think that you have the power to magically fix their lives in a hundred words or less. If therapy had occurred to them, they'd be asking their therapist these questions, not you. (Except for the ones who are in therapy and too embarrassed to ask their therapist about the real issue... clearly the world needs both therapists and Dan.)

11

Fubar @6, seconded!

Roseanne @8, but the threesome thing is just another symptom of the future Ex Mr WMBHAJ's problem: entitlement. He feels entitled to do whatever he wants with his life, without having to actually pay for it; he feels entitled to push for a fantasy scenario that his girlfriend has no interest in. She should cite both these issues in her dumping speech.

Fichu @9, yes. There is this trope of My Love Will Fix Him! that needs to get directly into the bin.

12

“But as I've stated time and time again, there are cases where cheating [...] is the least worst option for all involved. BOUND and his wife could have kids, BOUND's wife could be economically dependent on him, or she could have a chronic illness. Or they might have a decent enough marriage, truly enjoy each other's company, and avoiding the disruption and displacement of divorce would be better for both of them.”

I really really REALLY hate this paternalistic, consent-free notion that Dan keeps repeating.

Person A: “X is a condition of my being married to you. If I don’t have X I would rather end our marriage with dignity and do something different with my life.”

Person B: “Since I have decided that being married to me is the best thing for you even though I can’t/won’t provide X, I will just lie.”

If they have children together, they are presumably both aware of that fact, no? But in Dan’s scenario, only Person B is allowed to take that into account and balance risks and benefits. Dan would deny Person A the right to make their own choices about the conditions of coparenting.

If person A is dependent on Person B, presumably they are aware of that too.

Why does Dan think it’s okay for Person B to deprive Person A of the ability to make an informed choice?

13

@Alison Cummins: We are taking about bondage play, not sex, although Ms. Bound appears to have no interest in sex with BOUND any more than her first husband. But where do you draw the line between something that you get to make an informed choice about and something that is none of your partner’s business? Do you get informed choice of what movies your spouse sees without you? You spouse’s choice of dentist? Whether your spouse can join a book club? Whether you spouse can learn tango?

14

@13 I think the line is where you expect your partner might consider something to be a relationship dealbreaker. And assuming you know them pretty well, this shouldn't be any sort of mystery.

15

Alison @12, I have to agree. That sentence implies that the only two options are cheating or divorce. What happened to having a conversation about opening the marriage? If they have kids, if BOUND's wife is economically dependent on him (or vice versa), if one of them has a chronic illness, if they have a good marriage otherwise, under any of these conditions wouldn't honesty be a preferable option to cheating? If staying together truly is better, surely both partners should know the conditions under which staying together is to happen, ie that there is no expectation of sexual fidelity. In other words, I can think of exceptionally few cases where cheating is a less worse option than demanding a DADT.

Sublime @13, would any spouse realistically do any of these things you gave as examples without telling their spouse? "Where are you going, honey?" "None of your business." No, they would say I'm going to a movie, or I'm going to book club, or I'm going to tango class. They would freely say this because they would know their spouse is not bothered by them going to tango class without them, and that, I would say, is where the line is drawn.

16

@15/Bi: What if Ms. Bound said that dancing tango with another woman was cheating, would you accept drawing the line there? What if she said going to the movies with a member of the opposite sex was cheating, would you accept that definition?

Personally, I have found close embrace tango generally more intimate than bondage in a public space.

Since we may be talking past each other, I am presently only trying to tweeze our whether bondage play in a public space should even be considered cheating. If not, then Ms. Bound is just controlling, and I see no problem in BOUND lying about his whereabouts.

17

First, just to be clear, as Dan said, he did tell BOUND that "if you want to be a man of integrity... you should inform your wife". But I'm thrilled that Allison brought this general issue up.

@15 BiDanFan
"I can think of exceptionally few cases where cheating is a less worse option than demanding a DADT."

That's a lot like I see it. The way I think of my issue with Dan's patented 'cheating is the least worst option...do what you have to do to stay married and stay sane' is how broadly Dan has applied it.

The principle can ethically be applied in some cases, but Dan has in the past applied it in cases that don't at all call for it. I've made this same point a few of those times.

The kind of circumstances I think it might ethically be applied could for example involve children, activity that places the partner at absolutely zero risk, and certainty of no other resolution due perhaps to financial circumstances and bigotry, perhaps even to the point of a letter which IIRC included a vegetative state.

But we've seen Dan apply the 'stay married and stay sane' principle for little more than easy harmony, certainly without any compelling circumstances. But honesty and integrity ought not be set aside without very significant cause.

18

Of course he should talk with his wife and tell her who he is and what he wants. Ideally.
I don’t believe he has to or it would be cheating because by her own behaviour, his sexual needs are of no interest to her. Discreetly going off to satisfy his needs, fits with her discreetly withdrawing sexual congress. Lies and deception already abound in this marriage.

19

@16 I think the point is that it doesn't matter what you, I, Dan, or anyone else in this comments section think is cheating. You're right, the line is going to vary for everyone. The only people whose opinions matter (in this situation) on what constitutes cheating are BOUND and Mrs BOUND. And if BOUND loves his wife and respects their relationship then he owes her honesty.

Clearly you have a different, less equal view on relationships if you ever think lying to your partner because their feelings on the subject aren't valid enough is ok. Just fucking break up with them at that point. Staying in a relationship under false pretenses is a shitty thing to do.

20

@19 BabyRae
"if you ever think lying to your partner because their feelings on [cheating] aren't valid enough is ok. Just fucking break up with them at that point. Staying in a relationship under false pretenses is a shitty thing to do."

I like the way BabyRae puts this.

While there are things integrity doesn't demand disclosure of, certainly not among them are actions(1) considered cheating in the eyes of one's partner.

If you can't be honest about such a thing you shouldn't be in a relationship with them "under false pretenses" (as BabyRae says) because you paternalistically decide for them (as Alison said) that their boundaries are not to be respected. (In such a relationship, this would be like breaking one's agreement.)

(1) I used the word "actions" only because, as I've argued in the past, I draw the line at "thoughts", because (while they remain in one's head) thoughts have no practical impact upon reality, so I think the position some hold is wrong that thoughts must be disclosed every bit as much as actions, and can for example constitute cheating and be wrong. Modern people don't think that way; fundamentalists do.

21

You don’t know what you don’t know but know this; we are headed for some hurtful days if Pete Buttigieg gets the Democratic nomination. I can just imagine all of the ignorant homophobic slurs Trump and his supporters will hurl our way. Are we prepared for this?

22

@19/BabyRae: If BOUND were writing about a girlfriend, breaking up would be great advice, but this is a marital relationship, which means divorce, and that is not done so easily.

While I may allow for some degree of subjectivity in deciding what constitutes cheating, there must be a solid core of objectivity. Without that a spouse can simply be controlling, and marriage does not mean the loss of all autonomy, any more than it means it is fine to deny a spouse the right to decide the terms of a relationship. There are zones here, and the idea that relationships typically function on total honesty is a false benchmark on which to answer this question of what right takes precedence and whether a lie is material or irrelevant.

23

@19/BabyRae: If BOUND were writing about a girlfriend, breaking up would be great advice, but this is a marital relationship, which means divorce, and that is not done so easily.

While I may allow for some degree of subjectivity in deciding what constitutes cheating, there must be a solid core of objectivity. Without that a spouse can simply be controlling, and marriage does not mean the loss of all autonomy, any more than it means it is fine to deny a spouse the right to decide the terms of a relationship. There are zones here, and the idea that relationships typically function on total honesty is a false benchmark on which to answer this question of what right takes precedence and whether a lie is material or irrelevant.

24

@10. Bi. I don't have to agree with Dan here! My points would be:

1) Dan is a hit-it-out-the-park agony aunt and there are some very ropey therapists. A therapist as good a therapist as Dan is an agony aunt would, in very many cases, and dependent on the compatibility of individual patients and clinicians, offer more--a more thorough engagement with someone's issues, oriented to their overcoming them--than a single layman's letter could. MUCH more--and this is not in issue.

There is another question, though, as to whether the 'party line' or orthodox approach, of therapy, or rather of different schools of psychiatric counseling, does as well, on average, in identifying someone's problems and best courses of action, as Dan. We have to suppose a counselor of median ability following an understanding of disorders and of sexual types in more or less an averagely sensitive way. I don't think it does.

2) Dan can laugh at people or call them an asshole. It's rare for a therapist to do that. But it can be just what someone needs to hear.

3) Someone could be unable to afford therapy, or it could represent a large financial sacrifice for them. In these circumstances, it's better they get the same advice (if it's the same advice) for free.

4) In many people's minds, there is, implicitly, a threshold over which the severity of their issues have to fall before they see a therapist. So there are people to whom Dan says, in effect, that their life-situation is bad, or that they have sharp problems of psychosocial or -sexual adaption--but that they can sort these out themselves (ie they don't need to see a therapist). Understanding this can reassure or empower a lw (that they can take charge of their life, using their vernacular understanding of psychology).

There should be no presumption that every lw needs to see a therapist /for their problems/ ie apart from the background belief that everyone can benefit from therapy. This idea is clearly ridiculous, in that eg some lw s need, more than anything, to be told what to do; and some need to be given a sense of how they come over (eg 'get over yourself!').

5) In some cases, Dan will say, to the effect of, 'here's my heads-up, but you really need to consult a therapist'. This is an exceptional judgment--and should remain an exceptional judgment--which it's good, we hope, for a lw to hear--ie 'you're in denial!'.

6) Therapists rarely give advice. They are typically about empowering clients to make their own decisions lucidly, sanely and in a 360 way apprised of all the facts. Many counselors, indeed, have codes prohibiting them from direct advice-giving. Dan gives advice eg 'DTMFA!' There would thus necessarily be problems in taking Dan's words as a preliminary sketch of what a therapist might say after fuller exposure to a patient. The two things might be alternatives, not complements.

7) The other shoe to the poverty point is that some people have a choice of writing to Dan or seeing a therapist. They should be respected in their choice of alternative. Maybe they want Dan not to kid-glove them, appreciate his humor or would resist being medicalised by therapy.

25

Sublime @16, BabyRae @19 pretty much answered for me. People have different ideas of what constitutes cheating. You or I might think that dancing with someone else at a class does not constitute cheating. If Mrs BOUND defines dancing as cheating, BOUND has two ethical options: One, try to convince Mrs BOUND that dancing is not cheating, or two, tell her that he can't be with someone whose definition is so restrictive. Not three, decide unilaterally that her definition is invalid and secretly disregard it. Why would you want to stay with someone if you had such a fundamental disagreement over what constitutes cheating? How will BOUND know if his wife considers bondage with men cheating unless they have the conversation? If she denies him permission to get this need fulfilled by men on Recon, which seems to me like the least "threatening" way to go about it, he can decide which is more important to him, bondage or the marriage.

Sublime @22, that's crazy logic to me. The bar for honesty -decreases- once one is married!? Surely if both have made a commitment, it's unlikely a spouse will ask for a divorce just because their spouse ASKS for clarification around what is considered cheating! No, it makes no sense to me to say "breaking up will be too complicated, so just stay in the relationship dishonestly."

Harriet @24, I am sick of this debate. Did I ever say that every LW should be in therapy? No. Many of them do have problems that are easily solved by writing to an advice columnist. But many do not. The difference? Is their problem impairing their ability to function in a relationship? Y/N. For example, the woman dating the deadbeat hypnotist does not need therapy, from what I can see. She needed a kick in the pants to DTMFA, and from her update, that's exactly what she intends to do. However, someone who is plagued in relationships by sudden sexual revulsion to one's partner? That's not a "get over it" scenario. Dan omitted "get therapy" from his advice to this woman, who really needed to hear it, in the opinions of multiple commenters. I am tired of your "but not every therapist does a good job, therefore you shouldn't seek therapy" argument. Not every contractor does a good job, does that mean no one should get repairs to their house? You have deemed Dan all-powerful and "knock it out of the park" with his advice, but he's wrong that most LWs would benefit from therapy? Can you actually take a look at yourself? Yes, people have choices; people can choose to take or disregard a recommendation for therapy, so what is your objection to either Dan or anyone else offering an opinion that in certain cases it is merited? For the last time, "get therapy" is an addendum to the advice I'd like to see Dan continue to give, not a replacement for it.

I'm just gonna add "objection: irrational bias against therapy" whenever it rears its ugly head, and I think it's now clear that Dan would rule, "Sustained."

26

Harriet: Dan's advice is a thousand times better than therapy.
Dan: Most of the people who ask me for advice would also benefit from therapy.
Harriet: Dan, that advice is terrible.

27

@25. Bi. You're sick of the debate yet you were the one to put me up to it?

I haven't deemed Dan's advice all-powerful. We would need an empirical study to know how effective it is. We'd need another elaborate sociological study, with control groups (maybe one group writing to Dan, one seeing a therapist, a third neither) to have any idea of whether the cohort of people moved to write to an advice columnist derive any greater benefit from psychiatry. I would guess that Dan's advice often sinks in (together with that of the commenters), often painfully. This may be in cases where lw s knew the right thing to do anyway. I'd also guess there are many cases where lw s are unable to take the advice.

The point I make that you don't address is that being in therapy is stigmatised in western societies, and that submitting yourself to therapy exerts a psychic cost (is maybe shaming, disempowering; leads to self-labeling) in a way that writing to a newspaper doesn't.

If Dan thinks what he's doing is easily congruent with psychotherapy, he's mistaken. He frequently says, 'you're being an asshole'. I've yet to meet a therapeutic professional with that method. (A big part of the reason is that the client would disappear and the professional not get paid).

28

@26. Bi. Not what I said. I said he does a thousand times more good. He could reach a thousand times more people than one equally good therapist--and my words would hold on a utilitarian basis. Look what I said up.

29

@25 BiDanFan
"I'm just gonna add "objection: irrational bias against therapy" whenever it rears its ugly head"

I honor and esteem all of BDF's efforts; I certainly lacked the patience to keep futilely repeating myself with Harriet.

I hate to see BDF expend so much effort. If only this forum could add some kind of disclaimer to Harriet's posts. And it needn't have all five of those words, it could just say "Irrational" since Harriet is one of the two very most irrational commenters on this forum.

I have no doubt of, as Harriet wrote in the other thread that jumped here(1), "how uniquely atrocious therapists were in dealing with gender identity 25 years ago".

But I also imagine that trying to help someone as broadly and persistently irrational as Harriet in particular would have been as frustrating for any therapist as it is for our readers.

(1) https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2020/02/04/42757067/the-guy-shes-dating-repulses-her-but-only-sometimes/comments/38

/Break/
When I try to understand why the people who need therapy most are most resistant to it, I imagine the perspective of a bacteria that created an infection; it's gonna see an antibiotic that will cure it as the enemy. As I believe the subconscious' of the most therapy-resistant people see therapy.

30

Harriet @27, okay, I'll address that point. You think people who clearly need therapy shouldn't be advised to seek it because therapy is stigmatised. Being transgender is stigmatised, does that mean trans people shouldn't be advised to come out? How are we as a society going to destigmatise therapy other than to send the message that it's perfectly fine, healthy even, to seek professional help when one is struggling? You are the one who is perpetuating the idea that seeking therapy implies one is "broken." The more we recommend therapy, the more normalised it will become.

And why oh why oh why do you continue to argue against claims no one is making? No one is saying that Dan's advice is not necessary because therapists exist. You are arguing that therapists are not necessary because Dan exists. No one is arguing that people with problems shouldn't write to Dan. I am arguing that Dan cannot solve all problems, that some require ongoing efforts from a trained professional, and/or medication. You had a bad experience in therapy, okay. This does not justify your continued efforts to talk people who need help out of seeking that help. Curious, yes, you're correct, if this is how Harriet responded to their therapist no wonder things didn't work out.

31

And no, you're the one who perpetuates the debate every time you object to commenters who recommend that LWs seek therapy. Just stop.

32

@30 BiDanFan
"efforts to talk people who need help out of seeking that help...if this is how Harriet responded to their therapist no wonder things didn't work out"

It pains me to say it (and it feels futile since the past predicts that saying it will have no effect on Harriet), and it is frustrating to need to, but more importantly real people suffer real harm if they need help and Harriet's efforts talk them out of seeking it. Advice column malpractice more dangerous than any troll.

33

Curious @32, exactly, and this is the reason I keep pushing back against Harriet's anti-advice whenever I see it instead of just rolling and scrolling. It's not just misguided, it may be harmful. It's like telling someone with a mouth full of rotten teeth to not go see the dentist. Like I said on one of the earlier threads, no one needs -discouragement- from seeking therapy for all the reasons Harriet cites: cost, stigma, fear of examining issues they'd rather repress. Dan saying "seek therapy" may or may not motivate someone to go seek it. If commenters second the advice to "seek therapy," the LW may start to think that perhaps their problems DO merit a professional opinion. But if they then read Harriet's counter-viewpoint that "seek therapy" is an insult and they should instead just keep trying to address their issue by changing their attitude WHICH HELLO, HASN'T BEEN WORKING, then that undoes all the good of the "seek therapy" suggestions, and allows the person to think that hey, their completely ineffective coping strategies are Just Fine, and they can continue screwing up their relationships because they're fine, right? Some rando on the internet said so. And they don't seek help, and they continue feeling repulsed by their partners and not knowing why, and this causes their relationships to inevitably fail. But hey, better that than risk that someone might irrationally take offense to "seek therapy," right? - eye roll -

34

I'm usually the first one to defend mental health treatment, but I've learned to stay away from the topic with the commenter at hand for the preservation of my own mental bandwidth.

I'll just say this:

There are many bad phlebotomists who cause inordinate pain when encountered by a patient. Should we no longer recommend regular blood tests?

35

@33 BiDanFan
"no one needs -discouragement- from seeking therapy"

Yes, exactly. People are all too resistant all by themselves. For all those reasons. Then people feel their egos are threatened, and their subconscious' see that their disorders are threatened.

It appears even worse with fundamentalists; they seem to also feel like their supreme being will do whatever they need /for/ them.

I've known a few people so deep in denial they don't believe in growth. One told me that 'every adult is a fully formed human being'. That person's disbelief in growth was of course completely self-fulfilling.

This situation reminds me of a dynamic in my real-life advice gig (which sorry but I'll try to be vague about). A subset of our constituents find it nearly impossible to stop doing something that harms them. That subset of people tends to be seriously harmed when they run across a near-cult that has developed around a quack's message aimed at them which urges them....to keep doing the exact thing that harms them. Which it was already nearly impossible to help them stop doing even without the quack's counterproductive message. The near-cult is not happy that my organization has issues with their effects on people. I've tried to work with them, and they've /promised/ they would properly modulate their approach, but something inside their heads (that reminds me of the cult members I studied in college) just will /not/ let them do it. (Sorry that was so vague, but I'm reluctant to provide the details which make it more clear.)

36

Harriet, there are many different forms of therapy, and Dan by answering a question is in no way a substitute for this. The therapy I did was talking, and it was a powerful relationship of four years I had in my twenties, which I can still recall the heart energy of. Here now, forty odd years later, out of a family of several children, one has died in their fifties, and the others are chronically ill. I’m the only one still standing and moving about and doing things.
I know that’s because therapy, thru the processes of transference and countertransference, helped me understand and slowly change some of the neurotic and emotionally destructive family patterns. Buddhist thought too has helped.
This doesn’t happen in five minutes, it’s a process over time, with a competent and developed therapist.

37

Harriet isn’t irrational curious. They speak intelligent sense a lot of the time. They obviously have a bent against therapy, and with good cause in some ways. Often today it’s straight to the prescription pad, here take a pill.
To say Dan can change how people are, deeply, by answering one letter is fanciful, Harriet. If only. Patterns of intimacy etc take years to learn, during our vulnerable childhoods. They won’t be eradicated by Dan’s answer to a question.

38

Bondage Man, I see you have three options.
One, talk with your wife honestly and forcefully and insist there must be room in the marriage for you to be fully who you are sexually/ kink wise.
Two, go off and secretly do what you want.
Three, ignore what you want, as you have for twenty years, and continue to suffer in silence.
I think options One or Two would blow your marriage up. Option three would blow you up.

39

@37 LavaGirl
"Harriet isn’t irrational curious. They speak intelligent sense a lot of the time."

I'm not saying Harriet is utterly unintelligible. While rarely clear, Harriet does make sense sometimes.

I'm utterly unprepared to try to imagine what exactly the deal is with Harriet, but I do think that (as I wrote @29) "Harriet is one of the two very most irrational commenters". I don't have time to provide examples and no one needs them since we see them all the time.

But when one tries to engage with Harriet, the interaction quickly spirals down into twisted illogic. Therapy is by no means the only topic on which this is true. As I said, it's true of Harriet "broadly and persistently".

OK just one example. Remember when Harriet called y'all battleaxes but was convinced everyone was wrong to think it was an insult because Harriet has a secret personal definitions of that word? How is it that to Harriet language is not a shared thing?

The conclusions Harriet comes to are often mind-boggling.

40

Did Harriet call us that? I didn’t see that one. Language, as we have found a few times here, curious, is a little malleable. Not the best example.
Harriet’s position around therapy and thinking Dan can magically alter a whole person with a response to a letter.. don’t need more examples of wrong thinking than that.
Wrong thinking Harriet and yes, dangerous. Because for some people therapy of some sort may be their only way forward. Stigma around it? Not that I’ve noticed, not anymore.

41

Curious, BDF, Lava - The problem with Harriet is that they live in an alternate reality of their own making which doesn't coincide with ours on a regular basis. This could be quite enjoyable for us all (especially when they come to mind-boggling conclusions!) if Harriet didn't, as BDF pointed out @ 33, give advice that can cause so much harm.

And this from someone (me) who generally doubts the value of most therapists (not therapy).

42

Lava @ 38 - This is why I love you.

43

I'm with SublimeAfterglow.

If an activity might cause your partner significant harm, then you can't ethically lie about it.

But if it just deprives them of control they think they're entitled to (over your thoughts, your confidants, your fantasies, your masturbation habits, your taste in food, friends, politics or entertainment, etc.), then I personally think it's fine to keep one's secrets and let the chips fall where they may if the secret comes out.

44

Erica @ 43 - I'd say that if "they think they're entitled to" such control "(over your thoughts, your confidants, your fantasies, your masturbation habits, your taste in food, friends, politics or entertainment, etc.)", they don't deserve to have a partner.

45

@29. curious. What did you keep saying that I failed adequately to respond to? Please put it in a sentence. I'll put my reply in a sentence, and others can judge whether I'm rising to your point.

@34. Calliope. My ideas are 1) that people's psychologies are not amenable to being the object of a science in the same way that the bloodstream is; and 2) that the institutionalisation of psychiatry tends, on average, to make psychiatric treatment worse.

You would be taking my words the wrong way if you were in any way discouraged from engaging with effective therapeutic treatment for your anxiety. There may be a set of marked problems, mental illnesses, that require exceptional medical intervention. And, in any event, I don't want to discourage anyone from seeking a good therapist with whom they can engage and work and from whom they can learn.

@33. Bi. My advice isn't 'shun therapy'--or, if it came over that way, I take it back or make clear it wasn't what I was saying. It's 'don't prostrate yourself before therapy'. 'Don't go in thinking there's an expert who can solve your problems where you can't. Don't accept unthinkingly there's a cadre of experts who have a better line on ordinary human complexity than anyone else. Find a therapist you feel you're working with, rather than who's working on you; whom you trust, but not blindly; whom you respect ('like' is a plus); who speaks a language you understand, and whose suggestions you feel are accessible and actionable'.

46

@37. Lava. Thank you for weighing in!

I never said Dan's letter-replies can immediately put people right. That was Bi's invention. I said that I guessed his advice, along with that of commenters, often takes a while painfully to sink in (see my comment 29). But we can't know.

47

@36. Lava. In your view, was this an experience of slow growth and self-understanding you couldn't have had in discussions with a trusted older person or just close friend?

@41. Ricardo. You agree with me, yet we live in alternate realities? It sounds as if we live in the same reality...

48

Ricardo, sigh. I love you too.

49

No Harriet, because in therapy it’s not a friendship like in the real world, though one develops feelings for each other.. transference and countetransference..because the focus is on one, and ideally the therapist doesn’t bring their life into the room, too much. It’s about the client.
It’s the emotional connection, the therapists skill and time for stuff to come up and be looked at. Dreams are often an aid. I’ve never had a relationship with anyone like I had with my therapist. He was a true blessing on my journey. Still had many dysfunctional ways, after it, less though. And I had tools to keep working thru the sludge. Which I’m still working thru.. my mother did some damage.
Dealing with members of my ‘family of origin’, to sort her Estate, it’s like split off parts of her are coming back thru others.
Interesting to find myself standing up to them in ways I couldn’t with my mother. Might be healing some very old patterns at last.

50

Harriet, It’s not about being an expert, it’s about a person ( skilled therapist) prepared to enter your world and stay in there with you for a certain time each week and not abandon you mid excavation. One who has courage, compassion and skill.
It would be so much easier if as children we weren’t reared in dysfunctional isolated nuclear families, and loopy patterns of behaviour don’t get learnt.
Rather rear our kids communally, with no room for hidden emotional abuse. Physical abuse is obvious, it’s the drip drip over years of emotional abuse that can cause similar damage. My mother was loved by her many friends and others. Yet she was a psycho in the family. Like a Patrick White character. Famous Australian author. A gay man too.

51

Ricardo @44: Exactly. Control freaks don't belong in relationships. Unless that's someone's kink, I suppose.

Harriet @45: "I don't want to discourage anyone from seeking a good therapist with whom they can engage and work and from whom they can learn."
I'm going to bookmark this and refer you to it every time you do. Harriet, you can take it as read that anytime Dan, or I, or anyone else in this forum says "seek therapy" we mean "seek a good therapist," just as we'd urge anyone to seek a good dentist or a good building contractor or a good plastic surgeon, not a bad one. If one visits a therapist and there is not a sense of a good fit, or that one is making progress, one should visit a different one. All that should be taken for granted as part and parcel of the summation "seek therapy." In other words, everything you say in your last paragraph is exactly what we mean, so there is no need for you to pooh-pooh the "seek therapy" suggestions. Can we finally come to an agreement on this?

52

@45 Harriet
As I've said clearly, it's not one thing, it's most things. And you should avoid asking people to judge, you're better off if they don't read let alone examine and remember how illogically you interact with those who try to discuss points with you.

@51 BiDanFDan
"Can we finally come to an agreement on this?"

That sure would be wonderful, but Harriet mostly backs off an untenable position in one discussion only to appear in it anyway the next time. (Which is why I used the word 'futile' above.)

53

@ p.s.
It's like a game you play just to fuck with people. Like all the stuff you habitually made up, then claimed you thought people would know it was a joke, not caring you were wasting their time trying to figure out where you came up with all the stuff you made up. Of course I have no idea if your behavior is a malevolence or a brain dysfunction, And it really doesn't matter, whatever it is I find it maddening unless I don't read it. I admire that Ricardo@41 can find your

"alternate reality of their own making which doesn't coincide with ours on a regular basis...quite enjoyable for us all (especially when they come to mind-boggling conclusions"

One reason I lean towards thinking this is a game you play is that I recall you once admitting that you 'used to' take positions to enjoy just being argumentative. May others who have the time for that enjoy it.

54

Lava @40, the reference to "transphobic battleaxes" is heree: https://www.thestranger.com/savage-love/2019/07/30/40901143/savage-love/comments/142

55

And "battleaxes" was just one example of Harriet feeling words don't have collective meanings, but are instead something Harriet has secret private definitions of.

56

@BiDanFan: Of course the bar changes after marriage because the risks and investment change. Simply put, breaking up with someone after a few weeks of dating is a very different matter than 15 years of marriage. As @Dan says, no relationship of any length would last with total honesty.

As a separate matter, I would like to think that as we all discuss questions over years that we reach a consensus on various issues. With respect to this question, I am having a hard time squaring how the female resident dating an established physician could lie about sex work through omission, but BOUND would not be permitted to lie through omission about the non-sexual activity of bondage play. Also, Ms. Bound is controlling, and we usually frown on that behavior.

57

I haven’t been following the Harriet vs Therapy battle, but I personally am cautious about recommending therapy.

It’s all very well to say that people need to be smart and proactive about choosing good therapists, but there are many reasons this isn’t always meaningful advice.

The main one is that if you’re seeking therapy because you have concerns that your judgement isn’t good, how are you supposed to fire a therapist you think is barking up the wrong tree? If you were confident about what the therapist should be interested in, you might not be seeking therapy to begin with.

There are certain kinds of thjngs that therapists are good at — helping you accept that you have a right to be sad or angry for instance — but beyond those core skills a therapist is as likely to harm as to hurt and if the client were able to effectively self-advocate when things aren’t going well it’s likely they wouldn’t be a client.

Yes, I have a therapist I see from time to time when I need a boost.

I’m also on meds, which are far less problematic and take much less skill and effort on my part to benefit from. If I had to choose between them I’d go with meds, hands-down. Meds enable me to do things. Therapists make me feel bad about not doing things and try to talk me out of taking my meds.

So I’m thoughtful and specific about my recommendations for therapy, especially when people don’t have the luxury of paying for the therapist of their choosing but need subsidized or charity services. ”Get therapy, dude!” is far too vague to be helpful.

58

Harriet @ 47 - Since you generally don't read exactly what is written (but you do read a lot of stuff that isn't in the text), I'm assuming that's the reason for your misinterpretation of my comment. The subtleties probably got lost in translation between your universe and ours.

59

Alison. Therapists should not talk you out of taking meds. Find another therapist.
It means seek out some professional help, that these issues raised can’t be covered by chatting to friends etc.
Therapy is individual or group. Reading can also bring insights. We don’t know what a letter writer can afford. Saying seek therapy means do something solid re patterns of intimacy etc., find professional help, because by info in the letter, these patterns either seem to be on a repeated loop or the writer is hurting others or themselves by how they are dealing with things.
I think everybody can benefit from some form of therapy. Looking at our childhoods etc. we’re all fucked up in the West, some luckily less so than others. Understanding is the first step towards change.
/ Harriet. I did at first point out some wild inconsistencies in your story.. then I just accepted that’s you and I’ve grown fond of you. Truth is I don’t wade thru all your comments, because elaboration of letters does seem to be an issue with you. The trying to make us all one gender does seem to have dropped off, which is a plus.

60

Alison Cummins @57 Speaking of dumping therapists -- if you have a therapist who ever encouraged you to stop taking your meds, you should move on to a different treatment provider. That's absolutely unacceptable, and no therapist I've ever had has ever suggested anything like that to me (and I've seen a lot of therapists). If they did, they would no longer have me as a patient (or client, whatever you prefer). Now, if you were indicating that your meds weren't working and the therapist suggested trying different meds, that would be another thing. But that doesn't seem to be what you're referring to. The idea of a therapist telling a patient they don't need their meds is baffling to me and makes me angry.

About the rest of your comment... It can be extremely hard to stop seeing a therapist (or psychiatrist) who isn't working out, especially if it's just a case of a bad fit and not anything specific they're doing wrong. I had to do it once or twice when I first started therapy (and twice with psychiatrists to find the right one), but I was in high school and not directly handling the transition from one provider to another, so it wasn't as hard as I imagine it would be now. And when your functioning is being impacted by a mental illness or other type of personal crisis, it can indeed be hard to trust your judgement. That's why when I've started seeing a new therapist (including twice in residential treatment), I've always had someone to talk about therapy (it's my mom). Not about the specifics, but about the experience. I need therapy as much as I need meds, but having someone to run things by and talk to about whether you're getting what you need to out of treatment is very valuable.

But the difficulties don't erase the immense benefits for many people when they find a therapist (and type of therapy) that works for them.

Human behavior can indeed be scientifically approached, and evidence-based types of therapy like CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, of which there are many sub-types) and DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which is actually a type of CBT) that have been developed in recent decades have excellent evidence supporting them for different kinds of psychiatric disorders. These types of therapy are often designed to last a limited amount of time to give the patient the skills they need to manage their own condition, though many people with severe disorders also need continued treatment. DBT is very skills-based, and includes group work as well as individual sessions. CBT is closer to traditional talk therapy and is specifically guided by the patients' own goals for themselves. I've done a lot of work in both, and each has helped me in different ways. My therapist (who I've been seeing for seven years and is great) is trained in both. It's still important to find good providers who are a good fit, of course. But therapy has advanced a lot since the days of psychoanalysis ("And how does that make you feel?"). And treatment with both medication and evidence-based therapy has been shown to be more effective in most cases than treatment with one or the other by themselves.

It's true (in the U.S. at least) that not everyone has access to high-quality therapy, and it's a real fucking problem. But the fact that people lack access doesn't mean it's not a good idea to suggest it. Most women in Sierra Leone lack access to any sort of medical treatment during pregnancy and childbirth (1 in 17 women die in pregnancy or childbirth in Sierra Leone -- the highest maternal mortality rate in the world -- it's an atrocity), but that doesn't mean prenatal treatment or emergency C-sections shouldn't be recommended when warranted (and prenatal treatment is always warranted). It means we need to do what we can to improve the infrastructure and expand access. For mental health in the U.S., that means voting for representatives who prioritize expanding mental health treatment and health coverage in general, and supporting organizations that do work in communities without access.

The truth is therapy saves lives. It saved mine, well before I ever found meds that worked. Antidepressants on average only work for two-thirds of patients, and they work better in conjunction with evidence-based therapy than without it.

...

(If you're interested in making an impact on the situation for women and children in Sierra Leone, Partners In Health, a highly effective, efficient, and consistently highly-rated charity, is raising money to build a center for maternal and infant care in the only functioning hospital for the entire province of Kono. With a strong commitment from the government, PIH has already done so much to improve health outcomes across Sierra Leone since they were called in during the 2014 ebola outbreak. You can learn more and donate at this link: https://www.pih.org/country/sierra-leone)

61

Sorry about the monster post. I'm a little sensitive about mental health issues right now. My brother is going back into the hospital tonight, and he's either going to be getting a ketamine infusion treatment or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

As for the Sierra Leone thing, I just learned about the PIH project there and made a donation, but since I can't afford to make an ongoing monthly donation like I'd like to, I thought I could spread the word where I can. If you want to really make an impact on directly saving lives, PIH is a great way to do that.

62

Here's a link to the specific maternal health project I mentioned: https://www.pih.org/vlogbrothers-support-maternal-health

63

Sorry to hear about your brother, Muse. Psychoanysis still goes on I’m sure. Psychotherapy sure does, and though I hear you re the other forms being helpful for you, the insights of Freud( was it he or Jung or others ? Can’t remember) re transference / countertransference, are very important aspects of any therapy. It’s this emotional
connection between a therapist and their client, that’s where a lot of the healing occurs, imo.
Yes these last decades have seen brain chemicals be focused on as if we are not a whole unit. Feelings, thoughts and behaviours do influence brain chemicals, and vice versa. Behaviour in humans is too complex to see only scientifically. We can’t be reduced like that.

64

Thanks, CalliopeMuse. I hope things go well for your brother.

Yes, evidence-based therapies practiced appropriately are a good thing for people who can benefit from them. But ”get therapy, dude” doesn’t direct anyone to an appropriate therapy. It does the opposite: it suggests that ”therapy” is some universal thing that can be dispensed by anyone calling themselves a therapist. Before I recommend ”therapy” to someone I think about what the goal of therapy would be and why I think a therapist would help.

Appropriate prenatal care is good. Prenatal care offered by a poorly-trained midwife who thinks that death is preferable to a c-section is not what I’m thinking of. (Yes, this type of “midwife” can be officially licenced to practice in many states in the US.) If I were recommending someone seek out prenatal care, I’d specify that they should be seeing a doctor or a nurse who works in collaboration with doctors or a medical facility. If someone needs to be told to look for prenatal care, they presumably also need to be told what to look for in a prenatal care provider.

The first time I went on meds, I had been trying to get them for two years. Because I “present well” this was not as easy as everyone claims. I told my therapist that I was trying to think of a way to make a failed suicide attempt because that seemed to be what it would take to be taken seriously. She said that wasn’t the way to go because I would be treated very badly. Why didn’t I just walk up to a doctor and ask for medication? (This was hugely ironic, because I had met her through an evidence-based CBT clinic with psychiatrists. I had selected that clinic because I would have access to a full range of appropriate interventions, and she had taken me out of that program.) I gritted my teeth and went to an ER. I waited for hours, saw a psychiatrist who was puzzled that someone who was functional enough to be employed was showing up in his ER, and fled in tears. I next went to a walk-in clinic and saw a GP who didn’t know me from Eve, told him that my PhD licenced clinical psychologist wanted me on meds, so he handed me a couple of packets of pills he had as a pharmaceutical sample and wrote me a script. Great. A month or two later I observed to my therapist that now that I was on meds I wasn’t engaging as much in therapy as before. She suggested I stop taking them.

I eventually fired that therapist, got appropriate meds and appropriate therapy (both from the same psychiatrist), but it was a struggle. I took a six-week workshop for people at risk for depression and learned what all those therapists had been trying to get at (why didn’t they just tell me?) and finally felt empowered to advocate for myself.

A few years later I was fully-employed (thank you, meds!) in a corporate job that I loved and could pay for private psychotherapy. I saw a therapist who outlined all the great things that therapy and meditation could do for me, “and then you can get off your meds!” She got a stern talking-to and I trusted her much less after that.

These days when I see a therapist I’m explicit about what I want from them. I want them to be nice to me. I’m seeing them because I’ve forgotten how to be nice to myself and I need that model. After a few weeks I’ve figured it out and can manage on my own again.

I’m not anti-therapy. I just don’t think of it as a magic wand, and don’t think that “get therapy, dude!” is sufficiently specific to be helpful, given the risk that the wrong therapist can seriously fuck you up.

65

LavaGirl @63 "Feelings, thoughts and behaviours..." It's funny that you say that, because one of the central ideas in CBT (and DBT), called the cognitive triangle, is that what we think affects how we feel and act, how we feel affects what we think and do, and what we do affects how we think and feel. So, because thoughts, feelings, and behavior all influence each other, by taking control of our behavior, we can reduce unwanted thoughts and feelings, and by taking control of our thoughts we can reduce unwanted behavior and feelings (https://rb.gy/vsefii).

Another key idea in CBT (and DBT) is the idea of three states of mind: rational mind, emotion mind, and wise mind. Emotion mind is defined by your feelings, and acting out of pure emotion mind leads to impulsive and poorly-thought-out behavior. Rational mind is based on logic and facts, and acting out of pure rational mind is often unrealistic because it doesn't take into account how you feel. Wise mind is the intersection of these two states, where you consider the facts logically, but also take into account your intuition and emotions (see this diagram: https://rb.gy/fxpvf1).

CBT (and DBT) is actually highly influenced by Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies, especially in their focus on mindfulness. Mindfulness based on Buddhist practices is a huge part of CBT and DBT, and Buddhism has an even bigger role in DBT, which focuses less on changing your thoughts and feelings and more on skills to tolerate and accept you as you are and the world as it is.

The human mind is more complex than anything else we know exists in the universe, but that doesn't make it beyond our ability to study. It's not a perfect system, but evidence-based therapies like CBT and DBT certainly don't try to reduce human behavior to analyzing neurotransmitters. That's an entirely different field (and a completely valid one, if I do say so myself). CBT and DBT use modern evidence combined with some ancient ideas to instill patterns of thought and behavior that reduce suffering and increase happiness and quality of life in a way that really works for many people and in a way that more traditional therapies often do not. The type of therapy where you analyze your psyche works for some people and is certainly still practiced (and is useful to many people who may not suffer from clinical disorders but could still benefit from looking inside of themselves, like you), but the evidence is mounting (over 500 studies have been done that support the treatment of various conditions with CBT, for example) that these treatments work for mental illnesses, and new innovations are being made all the time.

66

Alison Cummins @64 I appreciate your response. I'm so sorry you had such a hard time getting the help you needed. I'm very glad you're on your feet now and that you were able to find meds that do what you need them to.

It took me almost ten years to find the right cocktail of meds (and I might have to figure out substitutions when I lose my parents' insurance in a little over a year, which is very scary), so I relied a lot more on therapy for a long time than it sounds like you needed to. When you have treatment-resistant depression, things often feel hopeless, and the support of my therapist was essential to me for many, many years. I've gotten extremely lucky in finding providers who take me seriously and give me good advice, and who aren't afraid of using medication when it's needed. So I'm a little biased in favor of seeking therapy because it's been so important for me. It's also true that many people have trouble finding the right fit and many people also don't need therapy on an ongoing basis (citation: you).

68

Thanks Muse, interesting. Though in Buddhism one does train to change thoughts. Mind training is a big part of the Buddhist Path, simultaneously happening besides behaving ethically. The monkey mind, one which darts from
Thought to thought feeling to feeling, that’s what Buddhism aims to get rid of, so a person is always in charge of how their mind works, and when a disturbing emotion/ thought arises, one doesn’t attach to it.. just watch it move on thru. In Buddhism the aim is to train the mind so nothing destabilises a peaceful mind. It’s the negative emotions and thoughts which cause our bodies harm over time.
I agree re neurotransmitters being an interesting area of study.
What do you mean by mental
Illness though? You talking psychosis.. then yes, talking therapy may not help a lot here. Too much damage to be alleviated by just talking. This is an area of magic around medications. Amazing how meds can stabilise a schizophrenic and they can still lead meaningful lives. Not like the old days where the meds left psychotic people in a state of near catotonia.

69

@56 lying by omission about doing sex work to a serious partner is also not ok. Lying by omission to someone you're having a one night stand with is generally fine unless it puts them at risk. Lying by omission to your spouse about something you think might be a deal breaker but aren't sure because you haven't brought it up is cowardly and manipulative.

I guess I just don't see why honesty is considered such a monumental ask. Sure, I don't disclose every thought that pops in my head, but if my partner asks where I'm going, or what I'm doing, or who I'm hanging out with that doesn't read as controlling, just that he's interested in my life when he's not around. If your partner is using that information against you to control you it's an entirely separate issue.

70

I'm shaking my head at WMBHAJ who seems to be the unmarried version of a Stepford Wife. It's not that she should dump him over the nagging for a threesome. It's over the body of evidence accumulated, of which I'm sure we haven't heard everything. Sooooo, maybe he did hypnotise her - just a little, enough to put up with his whining, until he could really zap her with the mindwipe.

I hope she takes some time to consider the comments (except for the single troll IIRC).

As a reversed example, let's pretend he's responsible, well-employed, respectful boyfriend and supportive of her profession, etc., they would still be fundamentally incompatible: she wants marriage and kids; he does not.

71

Sublime @56, I would argue that you're looking at the wrong bar: the bar for commitment, not the bar for honesty. Sure, if you've only been dating a few weeks and someone asks more questions about what you're doing this weekend than you're comfortable with, you can drop them with little fanfare. But shouldn't you NOT marry someone until you've thoroughly compared your comfort levels around privacy, notions of cheating, etc. If you're arguing that most relationships wouldn't last with "total" honesty, I would counter that relationships that can't withstand "total" honesty shouldn't last. (The line I draw is things that are only in someone's head. No, someone shouldn't have the right to demand to know what porn their partner watches or what they think about when masturbating. Actions, however, spouses do have a reasonable claim over a right to know. In other words, if someone you're dating asks more questions about your personal life than you want to share, you don't hide the answers; you break up with them, and find someone whose views of privacy line up more with your own.)

Is Ms BOUND controlling? I don't see that from the evidence. Being vanilla is not being controlling. Being asexual is not being controlling. Declining to participate in kinks one finds disturbing is not being controlling. Remember, she gave BOUND permission to get tied up and photographed; she just didn't want to look at the photographs afterwards. I don't think we can conclude from the information in the letter that Mrs BOUND would refuse permission for BOUND to meet up with bondage daddies on Recon if he asked her. Therefore he should ask her.

But for argument's sake, if we agree that she is controlling, why would your approach be for him to stay in the marriage? He offered no compelling reason such as children or dependency. He's not getting any sex, let alone bondage. Surely he would be better off single. And by not telling her, he's depriving her of making an informed decision as to whether she would be better off married to a man who's off getting tied up by others versus single. Yes, we usually frown on controlling partners, and advise people who are with those partners to DTMFA.

Alison @57, good points, but this is a sex and relationships advice column, not a how-to-choose-a-therapist column. Perhaps Dan (or we peanuts) could find a good one of those, and link to it when we make our "seek therapy" suggestions?

Calliope @60, don't apologise! Your monster posts are more relevant to discussions about mental health than probably anybody else's here, due to your intensive experiences. Please feel more than welcome to contribute your expertise whenever you are inclined. I agree 100% that there needs to be better funding for mental health, not just in the US but elsewhere. In the UK budgets for mental health care have been slashed, wait times have increased, paperwork is getting lost in the shuffle, and it just makes things worse for people who are fragile to begin with.

Alison @64, this is why we say "seek therapy" not "get therapy." Seek implies that what one is looking for may be found in a variety of different ways, as Lava says.

Helenka @70, how does she seem to be the unmarried version of a Stepford Wife? These are women who are married to rich men who shower them with money and neglect them emotionally, correct?

72

Sublime @56, I edited out a point that should have stayed. If BOUND decides that divorce would be too messy and therefore he'll cheat instead, does he not risk discovery, which will then lead to an even messier divorce? His options really are an amicable divorce resulting from conversations that reveal they are incompatible, versus being taken to the cleaners by a lawyer who could expose his kinks and embarrass him. No, I don't see either any ethical justification or practical consideration that would render cheating preferable to honesty in this case.

73

Ms Fan - Stepford Wives are, from the novel, women of fully autonomous character with their own interests who, some months after moving to Stepford with their husbands and families, are either turned into or replaced by (I don't recall if it's specified) June Cleaveresque robots. If anything, there's a hint that their husbands find them neglectful as wives - at least of the JC Wife Role.

If memory serves, the original protagonist, Joanna, is a photographer. She's disappointed that the women she meets shortly after moving in are all such tradcon wives, and is shocked to discover that Stepford once had thriving women's groups that have all been given up. Her husband Walter joins the Men's Association, the leader of which convinces Joanna to record a series of tapes for him on which she talks about her past. Joanna befriends Bobbi, a bit of a slob but very real, and then the slightly self-absorbed and well-off Charmaine, who's been there the longest and is the first to transform into a perfect wifie, cheerfully agreeing to pull up her clay tennis court because her husband wants a putting green. This concerns her friends, but things get really sinister when Bobbi becomes the perfect housewife. Joanna starts to panic, and her relations with Walter have become strained. She tries to escape but is caught. The novel ends from the perspective of Joanna's last normal friend, a more recently arrived author who'd thought race the cause of people's weirdness, who meets the transformed Joanna with some surprise and disappointment, then wonders why her own husband is spending so many evenings at the Men's Association...

That's probably close enough (I haven't seen the novel in well over three decades). I think the first film was basically faithful to the novel, while the more recent work with Ms Kidman and Mr Broderick was a bit like House of Cards in reverse (the author originally had Francis Urquhart jump to his death from the roof of the House of Commons when confronted by Mattie Storin with proof of his villainy, but when it came time to televise they had him throw her off the roof instead in order to get sequels), with Walter turning on the Men's Association and the wives triumphant. I recall not being sure what to make of how they replaced Charmaine and her husband Ed with an MM couple in which the transformed partner was a flamboyant flamer who turned very preppy and sedate.

74

@64 Alison Cummins
An "ER...GP...handed me a couple of packets of pills he had as a pharmaceutical sample and wrote me a script."

Wow. I thought that in the US only psychiatrists prescribed such meds, and even then only in the context of ongoing visits.

"the risk that the wrong therapist can seriously fuck you up"

It's true that from /letters/ we have a much better chance of seeing whether people have psychological issues that they have psychiatric ones. And we can get a sense that the psychological issues are likely to take time and effort and assistance. I might not know what type of psychotherapy modality is right for someone, but I usually say something about the goals.

I think a mention of psychotherapy can be useful merely because people tend to (as I went on about above) be resistant to it and/or not see any call for it. I once mentioned how grateful I was to someone who as they broke up with me (though continuing to sit in the next desk at work, BTW) suggested I had an unconscious issue I only realized they were right that I had when I went to a therapist who specialized in it.

/Break/
So it seems to me that a psycho-therapist is practicing medicine without a license to tell someone to stop such meds.

But I can imagine that it might make sense for them to ask clients about the plan their psychiatrist has for their meds, if the client is one that has issues that might get in the way of their thinking about it unprompted.

@66 Calli
I trust you will find the right med substitutes. I know how important that is. I was astonished and deeply concerned by the night & day change in a friend when she decided to go off hers (/off/ meds she was not far from the "near catatonia" of LG@68).

And yes, you are our therapy Jedi Master!

@73 vennominon
Wow, I actually am familiar with (and interested to hear the change from the novel of) the original UK House of Cards (whose lead actor was spectacular, much better even than Kevin Spacey).

Yes, I'll venture that the colloquial insult of 'Stepford Wives' means a woman who has no identity or agency outside of servile devotion to her husband.

75

A spectacular triumph by BiDanFan some weeks ago might shed light on my theory @53 that Harriet's broad MO here is to play games just to fuck with people.

(Again, I admire those like Ricardo@41 who find this amusing. I envy others who aren't impacted because they just forget or don't pay close enough attention to notice the lack of logical consistencies "between [Harriet's] universe and ours"[quoting Ricardo@58] which are dramatically highlighted when one engages in discussion with Harriet.) But as I was saying...

Some weeks ago, in a historic feat of dedicated persistence and logical engagement, BiDanFan engaged Harriet's practice of making stuff up (which fucked with people by making them waste all kinds of time re-reading the letter and whole comments thread to try to figure out where the bleep the invented facts came from).

For long patience-rending iterations of back-and-forth with our noble BiDanFan, Harriet contended that Harriet's fabrications were necessary and sound extrapolations common to all commenters. Finally Harriet conceded to BiDanFan's proofs that Harriet was actually just making things up; Harriet then immediately pivoted to justify this as 'humor' meant to entertain our (note: actually infuriated) readers.

Shortly thereafter I praised Harriet's implementation of a punctuation convention to signal things made up to be comic. (IIRC Harriet put a made-up name in brackets like this: [Tiffany].)

However
(and please correct me if I'm wrong, I can't claim to read all of Harriet's posts completely let alone with great care)
suddenly there was no need for Harriet's new convention, since Harriet simply stopped making things up about letter-writers' stories.

Why? Wouldn't people still be entertained by Harriet's 'humor' when placed in brackets so as to not confuse everyone?

My answer is that it was Harriet who was amused: amused by fucking with people by wasting big chunks of their time. Once that purpose was undermined by our hero BiDanFan, it longer amused Harriet to be air-quotes 'funny' without fucking with people.

(Of course I don't know whether Harriet consciously fucks with us. After all this is the Internet, where no-one-knows-you're-a-dog. I wouldn't be surprised at all to know that it's Harriet's subconscious that has the disorder that is fucking with us. In other words, all I know is that we're being fucked with by Harriet and that Harriet is responsible even if Harriet isn't consciously aware that Harriet is doing it.)

Some may recall that Harriet resists using an avatar here, because Harriet says Harriet wants to keep people from avoiding Harriet's posts. It follows from my theory that what Harriet /actually/ feels is that an avatar will get in the way of Harriet's desire to fuck with us.

In case Harriet wonders how I feel about being fucked with: I value my time. I don't fucking appreciate being fucking fucked with. Doing so you've been a fucking asshole.

And even with all that, one shouldn't be surprised to find that on the Internet. But as I wrote @32 "real people suffer real harm if they need help and Harriet's efforts talk them out of seeking it". In other words it's one thing to be a crazy fucking asshole, it's another thing to be a DANGEROUS crazy fucking asshole.

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BabyRae @69 - congrats on the 69!

If someone is tempted to lie when asked what they had for lunch or who they were texting with, it's probably because they think their partner won't like the truth and will punish them (with a scowl, a fight, a sulk, whatever). That's controlling, when it's something that doesn't significantly affect them.

BiDanFan @71 -- "if we agree that she is controlling, why would your approach be for him to stay in the marriage?"

People stay in imperfect relationships for many reasons. In the abstract, it's better to not be lying to one's partner. In the abstract, it's also better to not think one gets to determine one's partner's diet, friends, politics, fantasies, etc.

But in the real world, if a relationship works as long as the controlling individual falsely believes they have the control they want... I'm tolerant of the lies that make that possible. Like Dan's suggestion: "you pretend not to look at porn, and she pretends to believe you."

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@Calliope Muse: Please don't apologize for your long posts relating to mental illness. I find them informative and interesting. I also find your forthrightness to talk about things that still carry a stigma to be refreshing and helpful in possibly reducing that stigma and treating mental illnesses as matter-of-factly as if they were physical ones.

@curious2: I find that skipping posts from people whom I know will set my teeth on edge saves me both time and irritation. While some of us have avatars, some of us have such distinctive writing styles that they are easily identifiable within a sentence or two, often earlier. Sometimes if I can't tell who is writing, and I want to stay calm, I scroll down to the bottom of an avatar-less comment before reading. Maybe that would help you to avoid reading comments by individuals who annoy you.

Re: Stepford wives: Mr. Ven has a good synopsis of the book's plot (the book, btw, is remarkably short), at the end of which, the Bobbi-robot clearly stabs Johanna to death after Johanna and her husband Walter come back from their weekend away, at which point the Johanna-robot takes her place. The 1970s movie had the Johanna-robot, who had pupil-less eyes, presumably kill the real woman whose identity she assumes. I didn't watch the remake; don't know what changes were made. Ira Levin was inordinately good at putting his finger on the pulse of American culture and seeing what was making people nervous, and then exploiting that nervousness through a combination of satire and horror/thriller techniques. "The Stepdford Wives" came out in 1972, as the "Women's Lib" movement was unsettling a lot of people about the roles of women in marriage. "Rosemary's Baby" took on the changes in society brought about by the number of people who had abandoned religion (Time magazine had the iconic cover that asked "Is God Dead?" in 1966; "Rosemary's Baby" was published in 1967). "The Boys from Brazi"l: cloning! "This Perfect Day": computers!

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@77 nocutename
I do do exactly that (a lot of scrolling before reading). Which means that usually the only time Harriet succeeds in fucking with me personally is when Harriet addresses one of my comments (which I'm not great at ignoring).

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@78: Fair enough. I don't usually see it if they address one of my comments, so much as I see others interacting with them, and if the issue seems intriguing enough, I'll go back and read the comment that inspired the interaction. That's certainly how the "battlexe" debacle went down. But that's when I learned that they think I control the discourse here, which still makes me laugh, so it was worth something.

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@79 nocutename
"they think I control the discourse here"

Wait; if it's not you controlling the discourse here, who /is/ operating the strings that control my fingers like a puppet when I type?

But seriously, my take on that assertion was that it might be something like misplacing blame onto a highly respected member, for that person's feeling they didn't get all the respect they feel they deserve. (Which to me suggests that the 'fucking with us' that I'm theorizing is subconscious, not conscious. Which makes me nervous; IRL I've learned that people's subconscious' strike out aggressively when their covert behavioral disorders are challenged.)

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@76 how on Earth could a relationship where you have to lie your way into making your partner think they're controlling you be worth saving? That's not an equal partnership it's a hostage situation. If there are kids involved they will 100% be better off if they don't internalize that this is a normal and healthy way to be married. The only context where that makes sense is if you would be in danger for trying to leave.

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@76 EricaP
"...in the real world, if a relationship works as long as the controlling individual falsely believes they have the control they want... I'm tolerant of the lies that make that possible."

While I'm not saying I've changed my mind...I do think it's a very interesting and well-articulated position.

And it does have me thinking. I mean, it doesn't sound like a relationship I aspire to, or wish for anyone to, be in...but the truth is that we've got a world full of people with significant issues; I don't know how it would make sense, say, for all of them to have to not be in relationships just because their issues require the violation of ethical principles for all them not to be alone. I think practical considerations absolutely have a place in ethics.

Respect, EricaP.

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BabyRae @81 -- the simplest approach is to let them think you (not you -- the generic you) agree with them, while doing your own thing in private. If you know your partner is anti-meat, or anti-porn, or wants to believe you're thinking about them during every orgasm, it's simple to indulge without them knowing. Even if you get caught a few times, you can probably persuade them you've now seen the light.

You ask: "how on Earth could a relationship where you have to lie your way into making your partner think they're controlling you be worth saving?"

People choose to stay in all kinds of relationships, for reasons you might not approve of. Are you stunned to learn that many men hide their use of porn because they believe their partner will disapprove?

curious2 @82 - thanks for the kind words. I'm not convinced it's unethical to lie about something that doesn't harm the other person and isn't their business in the first place.

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@49. Lava. I think transference in therapy can work--and it seems to have done in your case. Often a patient can be ready to inquire, 'what does my therapist think of my issues?', without being in the place where they can open their mind to, 'what's the best thing for me to do?' (or rather, to a good answer to that question).

You need the right fit of therapist and patient, though (something I never had).

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@51. Bi. My boilerplate would be 'seek a good therapist who you are sure will not disempower you through medicalising your issues'. If my read of the psychology of the lw is that they would do as badly with therapy as they are doing with their life--or rather they're running into persistent, hard-to-rationally-address problems in their life--then I reserve the option of saying a person might not do well attending therapy.

In principle, I would think that counseling, ideally lay counseling or that of ordinary medical clinicians, alongside that of psychiatric specialists, should be available frequently and regularly for free on a National Health Service. (I've never had it for free in England or Germany).

@52. curious. My understanding of your taking the 'it's not one thing, it's everything' line is that you can't find one thing. What I've said about psychiatry and the psychiatric profession is consistent; and people have forced me into a summary statement of it, which can be used for further reference.

@53. curious. Well, if you feel I'm just jerking your string, stop being jerked. I would say nothing to someone who said to me, 'oooh, you're a typical Scorpio'.

@54. Bi. When I called Lava a transphobe, she was under the impression I was Hunter. Her saying (thinking I was Hunter), to the effect, 'find another forum and leave this one to the people more suited to it' was one of the things I found transphobic. Presuming she no longer thinks I'm Hunter, I 100% take the word back.

As I remember, I said I used the word I meant and not synonyms with different associations.

@75. curious. You're saying you don't like irony and can't tell a central matter from embellishment. Your post was what the French might call a 'Tombeau' for irony--appropriately, since it was weighty and voluminous.

@57. Alison Cummins. One of my points has been that the same behaviors (like evasiveness, saying one thing and doing another) might crop up in therapy, just as they have done in a person's life. But maybe a good therapist could forestall them.

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@60. Calliope. I don't think the constructs of CBT are things, as it were, in the way that corpuscles are things. But (without eating into to your bandwidth ;) ), I never meant to cast doubt on the benefit therapy is bringing you and brings many.

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Harriet true aversion to therapy stems from that Harriet's unconscious personality disorder sees therapy as it's death. And sees people talking about it as undermining it's effectiveness in fucking with readers to fill Harriet's unconscious needs.

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@83 shocked is not the right word, just disappointment that the best someone could hope for is a comforting lie. If you (general you) think your partner would have an issue with something so you just never talk about it, that's insulting to the intelligence and compassion of your partner.

Is a desire to be loved for who you are and not who you pretend to be so strange? Is that really such a high bar to set?

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Ms Fan - Thank you for filling out the hazy bits; I'll take that for something I haven't read for over forty-five years. I think the one thing that stuck with me the most over time - besides the monumental task of pulling up a clay tennis court - was how Joanna's and Walter's relationship gradually declined, and how open-ended the interpretation was between the relationship deterioration and the pernicious influence of the Men's Association as to how much one was driving the other - unless I've forgotten something that made it clear.

I know over the years I've seen parts of at least three related (probably made-for-television) films - Revenge of the Stepford Wives as a sequel and parallels The Stepford Husbands and The Stepford Children. The enduring point of interest may be that the Stepfordized Husband was the kind of "man" whom nobody today would say is what women would be at all likely to want.

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Sorry, Ms Cute, not Ms Fan.

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@87. curious. Please start passing over my comments and just reading those of the commenters you like (who, very heavily, say just the same thing I do. (You'll be missing nothing.))

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@91 Harriet
" Please start passing over my comments"

A favor from you consistent with your requesting it, would be your employing an avatar so that me and the rest of the commentariat that also avoids your comments actually can.