From the Archives: His Wife Kissed a Dude and He Doesn't Like It



No one incident described here was unforgivable. The pattern easily could be. The l-dub wasn't comfortable with his wife's behavior. The letter was a little confusing as to whether she was going to alter her behavior or not. If not, this is totally breakup worthy on depending on the non flirtatious spouse's feelings. In this spouse's case, it would be divorceable.

And this would be a GREAT one for an update.


Jesus, Dan, go easy on LW. I agree that he should probably forgive the wife, but taking exception to the kiss in the first place doesn't make him a "fucking douchebag" or "insufferable prick". On the contrary, the omission plus the pattern of flirtation makes infidelity on the wife's part a perfectly reasonable thing to suspect (if far from a certainty).


Perhaps this is more of a semantic argument than a substantive one, but it seems to me that cheating is less of a binary and more of a continuum: violating the rules of the relationship, even those not clearly defined, is cheating.

Sure, this would make basically everyone a cheater, but guilty of venial cheating, acknowledging the common small acts of betrayal that routinely happen in relationships.

So, to the extent that STH is correct that they both acknowledge that a line was crossed, a problem in the relationship is that either the behavior, the rule or the reaction need to change. If they don't both acknowledge that as a line, a problem is they don't agree on the rules.

I do agree that STH seems to be having a huge over-reaction to a violation of what is a pretty stupid line, and really most of your answer though, Dan.


My kingdom (which, admittedly, pretty much consists of the barely functioning computer on which I'm typing and a 1997 Toyota Corolla) for an update! Specifically on this letter, but it'd surely be nice if it were a semi-regular thing. (I assume verifying the authenticity would be difficult, especially after 11 years.)


I'm bi and hang out with a lot of queer folks, including a number of gay men. I once had a bf who saw a picture of me when I was out dancing with them, and this bf became jealous because my gay friend and I were standing with arms around each other and he was shirtless.

I'm not sure how to convince anyone that gay men are GAY, which means they are not attracted to women, which in turn means any physical affection including hand-holding, hugs, and kisses, are just that - acts of affection. This lady kissed her gay friend while she was high, before she was even married, and this husband of hers is so jealous he is thinking of divorce? I'm with Dan - she should run for the hills.

She sounds a lot like me: fun-loving, affectionate, flirty. If she stays with this guy for long he is going to clip her wings and force her into some little box where she isn't allowed to express herself. For WAY TOO LONG men have shamed women and tried to police their sexuality. Asserting that this woman will cheat is a symptom of that - there is no reason to think that kissing a GAY friend means someone is liable to cheat. It's beyond ridiculous. Kissing a friend, out of love and affection, is nowhere near cheating. It's not in the same ballpark, it's not in the same state, it's not even in the same country.


blondegrrl @5: But there was tongue! Tongue!!! (Clutches pearls.)


I disagree with most of Dan's answer. Whether there was any chance of anything coming out of it (obviously she's not going to hook up with or have an extended affair with a gay man), the rules of there monogamous relationship appears (at least from his perspective, and hers if she deliberately kept mum about it) to include that making out is only with each other. And that doesn't appear to have been an isolated incident (which would be a super minor "cheat" that is instantly forgivable), but an incident she kept secret while engaging in behavior that clearly made her husband uncomfortable after telling him not to worry because nothing would ever happen. "Nothing" presumably includes making out with other people (regardless of their sexual orientation).

The actual kiss wouldn't bother me at all (and I'm sure my wife would tell me right away, with little concern I'd be bothered), but I'm not everybody, and my wife's and my relationship has been monogamish with talks of future non-monogamy. People in strictly monogamous relationships might have a "no mouth-kissing, making out, hand jobs, oral, sex, sexting, intense romantically emotional connection or joint bank accounts with anyone but each other" rule. Engaging in that behavior with anyone violates that.

But the biggest thing is he's voiced how much her flirtatiousness while drunk bothers him, and she not only ignored and minimized his concern, she went against her own assurances and hid it. If I were in his position, I would probably wonder how much further she'd gone in secret, and I would absolutely hate having any reason to suspect.

I also feel like if the genders were flipped on this one, the responses would be a bit different.


I’m wondering why if she might simply be an alcoholic/addict. No shaming intended, and I don’t think any of the behaviors on their own seem particularly offensive, just saying she exhibits behaviors of someone who only acts out while drunk or high, causes a “problem”, but continues the behavior. Which means he may just be relating the tip of the iceberg, badly.


I'll content myself with hoping that the gay in the letter was omniflirtatious.


OMG, this is so charmingly pre-Covid-19. Now this would be a potential death sentence exposure event for all involved. Sigh.


While hubby does present some insecurity issues he does not deserve such harsh scolding. The wife should be held accountable to her actions regardless. As TheRob @ 7 and Graffik @ 8 pointed out the repeating patterns while intoxicated may be an issue.


Although I'm pathologically monogamous, I believe there needs to be more physical affection in the world in general. Perhaps I draw the line in a weird and forced place, but everybody's line is in a different place. Compatibility comes partly from being able to recognize and respect each other's limits. And then probably compromise like a mofo. If you don't talk about it, it's not going to happen.


This just strikes me as an incompatibility issue. This woman likes to get drunk and flirt with people, including physical affection. Did STH not know this after dating her for three years? Did he expect she would magically change when they got married? STH isn't a prude or a douchebag for wanting a partner who doesn't flirt with and snog other people when drinking, but he is an idiot for marrying a partner who's like this and expecting her to change. Word to the wise, unless she quits drinking she WON'T tone down the flirtation. Can you accept this, Y/N. (I suspect the answer is N and these two are no longer together.)


Having re-read the letter, this is an incident that took place before they got married. So yeah, I agree now with Dan that he's overreacting and being too judgey, that a snog while high (I'm guessing on ecstasy) does not mean she's a cheater. However, I still think there are compatibility issues. The wife is "very contrite about everything and wishes none of it had happened, and swears she will calm down the flirtation." She has nothing to be contrite about, and I wonder if this is genuine. She likes to party and flirt, and either she's going to stop partying and flirting because her husband doesn't like it and resent him for it, or continue partying and flirting and this will be a recurrent issue. Dude, either accept that you have a fun-loving wife or move on.


I don't usually disagree with Dan this much. Forgiveness is for past actions, not present and future ones. STH should forgive his wife for the flirting and kissing that happened in the past, but this was not a one-off. She continues to get drunk, get crazy, and engage in behavior that he's stated he doesn't like and that he has every reason not to like in the present. Mrs. STH continues to do exactly what she knows her husband doesn't like and what most people would consider inappropriate in a monogamous relationship. That it happened before they were married but dating monogamously is, I think, immaterial.

For me, blaming the alcohol is the worst of it. If you don't trust your behavior when drunk, then don't get drunk. Mrs. STH gets all contrite, then continues drinking. For another thing, she says that she was kissing men who are gay, not bi. Fine, but next time she could be coming on to a man who, surprise, is straight! And the kissing turns to foreplay which turns to sex! Surprise! Gosh, she didn't mean for that to happen, she was drunk, and um, contrite. Let's do the sex-and-contrite thing again. Um,no.


She is probably lying to him, both about things that have happened, and about how contrite she is. People who punish you for telling the truth do get lied to, that's just how this works.

And, yes yes yes, she should just leave him if she can't live by the rules of their relationship, and relationships must be based on honesty, and blah and blah and blah.

But the kind of fortitude and maturity that it takes to squarely face who you are and what you need, and who the other person is and what they need, and state it clearly, and have good boundaries, and draw lines in reasonable places - all of that is something most of us sure as hell don't start off with, and some of us never develop.

Don't really care who's right or who's wrong here, just think he sounds like he would be exhausting to live with.


I love letters like this.
They make me so happy that I'm no longer engaging in thoughtless monogamy.

I love to flirt, I love to dance, I love kissing. In retrospect, all the emotional effort I spent damping that down for my partners was a huge drain on me. I'm just so glad to be with someone who is happy for me to be me.

I'd like to add a huge thank-you to Dan here. Without years of reading your column, I might never have found this place. And (for me, at least) it's SO MUCH BETTER.


@17 ciods
It really would help most people is monogamy were an option to be discussed instead of a default assumption.


This comments section couldn't be a better example of how outside the norm the savage love readership is. 99% of humanity would not be ok with their spouse behaving the way this guy's wife is. But on here, he's the one who's unreasonable. Ok. Sure.


@18 @curious: Agreed. I feel this way about all sorts of societal defaults: monogamy, marriage, having kids, careers, how couples divide chores, etc. It's not that one way is more likely right than any other--it's that doing something by default without measuring it against your own needs and desires is asking for trouble.

@19 @dropout: True! But the more relevant question is: are those 99% of people happier in their romantic relationships, on average, than we are? Without that data, it's all just the logical fallacy "appeal to popularity."

I recall reading that Eskimos, for instance, consistently rate extremely high in happiness and contentment surveys. They also don't practice strict monogamy. Correlation isn't causation, of course. Except when it is ;)


Philosophy @19, the question isn't strictly whether what the wife did was OK, it's whether it's unforgivable. Snogging someone when you were high, before you were married, and he wants to dump her for that now? It's in the past. That's what is unreasonable; if she had done this last night, I think many more would side with him. But, thinking about it, you're right, in LW's shoes I would use a transgression like that to loosen my own boundaries and have a little fun, not dump somebody, so I guess your point is proven!


@20 ciods
Yes, exactly what I was thinking about. Even the monogamous would benefit from reflecting upon and discussing (rather than assuming) whether they are both the stereotyped puzzle pieces everyone now assumes as a default. Because the default is so complex and multifaceted, and people are individuals. Individuals that may change or want to, but be constrained from that simply by never thinking about it.

I would draw an analogy to the way Dan has discussed that gay people benefit from having PIV not be an assumed default.


@curious @22: I also think, quite often, about something I once read from Dan about how Terry leaves out sandwich fixin's on the counter--how, if Dan were female, he might think: "He expects me to clean this up since I'm the woman!" But he's not, so instead it's just a question of (opposing) individual preferences, and not an occasion to fall back on the assumption of historical gender stereotypes. (Dan, I apologize if I'm totally messing up your argument.) As someone with a primary partner who is far messier than I am, it helps me to remember that that is not necessarily a gender thing; that's just how he is, I deal with it, it doesn't have to be a battle-of-the-sexes.

I read an article in the NYTimes recently about how gay couples are often happier (self-rated) than straights, and one of the arguments was exactly this: they had to work out who should do what, how sex should work, how childcare should work, rather than rely on age-old assumptions. Even if the ultimate result looks a lot like a traditional marriage, they get there by working it out together, increasing both partner's "buy-in" and therefore their happiness with the result.


So the guy who was mad that his wife was working too hard is justified in divorce, and this guy who is mad about his wife kissing a gay guy before the wedding should hang in there and forgive her. At least I agree with Dan that if you can't forgive easily, make yourself happy enough to slog through the mud, then you're probably not cut out for long relationships in general. I do wish he'd be consistent, is simply being unhappy and wanting a divorce enough reason to get a divorce, or are certain reasons like this LW's invalid?


Dan's answer to this letter has one of my all-time favorite of his quotes "A successful marriage is basically an endless cycle of wrongs committed, apologies offered, and forgivenesses granted, ATH, all leavened by the occasional orgasm."

Parsing the forgivability of the behavior the LW complains about is concentrating on petty details and not looking at the real issue, which is of incompatibility of this married couple in behavior and expectations thereof. And at least on one side (the LW's) the inability to work through and get over things. It takes two to negotiate a healthy relationship; it only takes one to sicken it.

Mind you, in my opinion & some of the other commenters', the wife's behavior is more along the lines of petty trespasses rather than gasp END OF MARRIAGE CHEATIN'. But, the LW has his feelings - and they're as unlikely to change as his wife's behavior is unlikely to change. They are who they are.

The real problem in this relationship is - these two have no ability to work through something as innocuous as a drunken/high kiss a year before the marriage & the wife's general personality/social behavior. Or find ways to live with each other's differing behaviors & responses to them. Which means they will not be able to work through either a more substantial incident or other regular daily life irritations that build up (differing money handling styles, trumpy in-laws, etc).

So, in fairness to both, I hope they separated. I suppose, here's to hoping the LW found a doormat/wallflower more to his tastes.

But, personally, I also find my sympathies lay with the wife. Here's to hoping she's now with someone that enjoys her sociability rather than polices & judges it.


Was there ever any follow up to the letter. While I was reading the letter I was reminded of a letter from June 16, 2016 Two Dicks, One Girl (Who Happens To Be Engaged to Someone Else) about how easily things can get out of hand with possibly catastrophic consequences. since LW was racked with guilt, Unless there was some follow up we will never know. Maybe DS could ask the LW for an update. It was just a thought.


"A successful marriage is basically an endless cycle of wrongs committed, apologies offered, and forgivenesses granted, ATH, all leavened by the occasional orgasm"

Yeah. Everytime I read that quote I'm glad that I am single. Who wants to live like that? The majority of the people, apparently. Weird.


Philo @24, I don't see these two issues as analogous. The man with the workaholic wife had expressed his need for more time with her and she'd blown him off. There seems no further step he could take to fix that marriage. Whereas this woman likes to have a good time, but seems to understand that she crossed what (in his mind at least) was a line, and is willing to tone down her flirtation in future. So there is a further step that this LW can take to fix the marriage, namely forgiving her for what is in the scheme of things a minor transgression which happened before they were even married. To your question though, no, I don't think there are any invalid reasons for getting divorced (if that is what this guy chooses); there are reasonable and unreasonable ones, but "invalid" would imply that if a bar for unreasonable behaviour is not reached, the unhappy party must stay married, and whom would that benefit? (Of course it could be counter argued that unhappiness might be temporary, and people who've made vows should give it some time to see if things change. But if the other party is not willing to change, that seems pointless to me.)


BDF, the letters were similar in that an unhappy husband was asking Dan if he should act on his desire for divorce.

Valid/invalid, justified/unjustified, reasonable/unreasonable, good/bad.. It's all a judgement call, opinion. Either there exist bad divorce desires, or all divorce desires are ok.

Seeing no choice to try to improve a marriage rather than end it is usually a failure of imagination. Imo important questions are: can you work on it safely, do you want to work on it? There's always something else to try, if you are motivated.

The pyramid scheme husband had the option of working more himself or finding a job that involved travel, or asking to open the relationship, or talking to his wife about why she wanted the extra money or the particular work she chose, etc.. Possible solutions would require them to think further about why she likes being a workaholic and what he'd want to do with his wife if he had more of her attention, if he can do it himself or find something fun they would want to do together.. If he wanted to work on his marriage..

Choosing to forgive is difficult if you don't appreciate the person you're trying to forgive. Can you choose to love or appreciate someone when you don't feel like it, or just choose to fake it? Does telling her that she's forgiven help, if he doesn't feel OK about it? It sounds dishonest. I'd say he could work on it by asking for some small change and watching if his wife is willing to make him feel better, no kisses on the lips would fit here, unless it's family practice. She felt bad about the French kiss and maybe fixed it, but maybe they can help him feel better if she can commit to only getting high on that drug in his presence or something. Talking about what they would do if bigger mistakes happened, like a marital affair, or if someone caused a financial or health disaster like buying a lemon or starting to smoke.

Both letters were missing the reason that they fell in love with their wives or would want to stay married.


I was working crazy hours at a job when my wife turned 28. Like home at eleven thirty pm and back to work at 5am. She went out with some new work friends for her birthday which was great, I felt less bad for working on her birthday. She came back at 3am and was in tears as she told me that she was sorry, while drinking and dancing at a club she'd kissed two of her coworkers, Maddie and this gay guy Sean. I was livid. Why had she woken me up at 3am to tell me such drivel? I needed sleep!

P.S. Later I did tell her that I had one other major issue. If you're a straight woman and you're going to ring in your birthday with a very PG first-same-sex experience, the lady in question should either be incredibly attractive or super awesome. Maddie was neither, she was just an awful and vain person. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that Maddie got some new job soon after and disappeared from my life. Imagine if my wife wanted to explore things further with Maddie? I would've had to turn down a threesome.


Ms Ods - Just a bit of SS privilege. In this case, I imagine that particular is amply balanced by Mr Miller's thoughts about Mr Savage's wardrobe.