Dear Prudence

Oops! … I Slept With a Stranger

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Dear Prudence,
I am 25, and my husband and I have just moved into a cozy house in Beverly Hills. One afternoon when I was sunning outside, I heard a whistle from across the street. I looked up, and to my surprise it was closer then I thought, and there was an attractive, tanned, probably 19-year-old guy. I felt quite embarrassed about it, but we talked and soon got to know each other. He asked me out for coffee one night, and I accepted. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal since my husband has female social friends. After the coffee, I got so caught up in the moment that the next thing I knew, we were at his house having wild, passionate sex!!! The strange thing is that I felt no guilt—and I am married! I enjoyed it, and when I left, he said, “Let’s keep it our little secret.” I don’t know what to do. Is there something wrong with me for feeling no guilt? I haven’t told my husband because I love him and I am afraid of his reaction. What should I do?


Dear Con,
The next thing you knew, after coffee with the whistler, you were having sex?! Did you just levitate onto the bed? Three things occur to Prudie: 1) You are given to acting with very little thought about your actions; 2) times and mores have really changed since Prudie was 25; or 3) this is a gag. But let’s assume your scenario is on the level. (Which it may be. Prudie knew a woman who left a pretty good marriage because a man said to her at a beach club, “You are gorgeous.”) Obviously, you don’t think this situation is all right, or you wouldn’t be writing about what to do. Guilt is a very individual thing, having to do with many emotional factors; different people have different triggers for guilt. If you think your “little secret” will not complicate your life, then you have no problem. It is interesting that you worry about your husband’s reaction, however. That should tell you something. Perhaps you can make headway with your dilemma by imagining how you would feel if a teen-age neighbor seduced your husband and suggested the relationship be their “little secret.” Life is choices, my dear, and you have a big one to make.

—Prudie, thoughtfully

OK, the story is old, but the question is, how do I write the ending? I just discovered that my wife of eight years has been carrying on an affair for the past 18 months with someone who was allegedly a close friend of mine. He and his family moved (across the country) six months into the affair, but that appears to have only increased the time and energy each put into it. There is plenty of blame and sorrow and forgiveness flying around. My wife says she loves him still—is in love with him still, but that it is over. She says she loves me but is not “in love” with me (!%*%??!!). She says she may be able to be in love with me again, and she knows that would be the best way. (I’m a great guy, good husband, great father—oh, yeah, we have a preschooler—etc., etc.) I, damn myself, still love her and want her back. I am seeing a counselor and taking appropriate medication. Another problem is my needs. I’m 35, quite healthy and well-adjusted, but no nookie since July makes Jack a frustrated boy. And I am deeply monogamous. I know the best thing for me would be to forget about her, but how? And is it the best thing? Aarrgh.

—Just wondering

Dear Just,
It is perhaps cold comfort, but the fact that you still have a sense of humor will serve you well. As for the interloper being a close friend (well, formerly close friend) that is often the way it works. Prudie has said it before, but the easiest affairs to wander into are those with people in one’s circle. As for the love-you-but-not-in-love-with-you business, well, (!%*%??!!) indeed. Truly annoying. From your letter, Prudie divines that you two are separated and your wife is still in her enchanted mode—though the extracurricular romance may no longer be active. The no-sex business, of course, needs some work. You might ask her if, looking into the future, she sees the marriage you once had returning. If your wife wants a total repair, Prudie thinks it can be done. You should not hang around for an unlimited period of time, however, if she loves him but wants to work it out with you from a sense of duty. It would probably be useful if she were to join you in counseling. As for how to forget her … if that becomes necessary, life and time will help you along. Just as an aside, you really do sound like a great guy.

—Prudie, supportively

Dear Prudence,
My love interest and I are still in the afterglow of an intense international affair. We met at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and fell for each other on our last night in Seoul. I am an American/German living in America, and she lives in the Netherlands. After years of not finding what I am looking for in the United States, I have occasionally dated women while traveling overseas on humanitarian and academic missions—but the relationships always fizzled after I returned to the United States. After e-mail and telephone talks with my sweetie in Holland, I decided that even though the odds are against maintaining a long-distance relationship, I had to see her again. So I am flying there in a few weeks for a weeklong visit to continue where we left off in Seoul. The trip is an expression of not wanting to let go of the unprecedented chemistry we feel. But—we both agree that seeing each other again and talking on the phone will make the second goodbye harder and more painful than the first. We’ve decided it’s a worthwhile trade-off, however, for a few more days of passion rarely encountered in this life. Can long-distance relationships ever work?

—Chasing Windmills in D.C.

Dear Chase,
Prudie is thinking, right now, of Bogart and Bergman at the end of Casablanca. Bummer. The romantic instinct would incline one to say, yes, carpe diem whenever a diem is possible. The pragmatic answer would be to figure out who is the more “movable” and able to try living and working in the other’s country. The emotionally protective choice would be to stash the affair in your memory and let it stand as a sparkling, brief encounter. You do not say how old you both are, which would have something to do with your decision. Prudie actually knows an American woman in such an arrangement with a man in Denmark, and they do manage many visits, some of which are a few weeks’ duration. In the end, no one can resolve this question for you. Your hearts and maybe some experimentation will lead you to the answer.

—Prudie, mistily

Dear Prudence,
I need your advice. I am in love with the man of my dreams … we are perfect soul mates, we both share the same values and principles, and yet we are having a hard time meshing our lives together. The problem is that we have both been married for 16 years. We never cheated, and never will, but we know without a doubt that we want to grow old together. Neither of us has dislike or bitter feelings toward our spouses; we are just not happy in these relationships. Communication and sexual problems within both marriages have plagued us from the beginning, yet we are not quitters and want to do the right thing. We both have children and worry what a divorce would do to them. We talk three times a day and are very attuned to each other. We do not know what to do. He wants to marry me and have a child together. We are stuck, and in love.


Dear Sty,

From what you’ve written, it sounds as though you two have played this with as much integrity as is possible, under the circumstances. That you feel you belong together yet have managed a chaste romance speaks well for your level of maturity and your principles. It would be a pity to look back in 15 or 20 years and think of what might have been. Prudie is going to go out on a limb and suggest it would not be the end of the world for your current spouses, or your children, if you two forged ahead. There is nothing quite so sad—or dishonest—as an empty marriage, which children sense, by the way. The fact that there is no dislike or bitterness, but rather an ingrained set of dissatisfactions makes Prudie believe that a civilized and minimally traumatic parting could be achieved. And the ages implied suggest that your current spouses have a good chance of making new lives with new people. The old saw is true: You only live once. Give it your best shot, and proceed with kindness.

—Prudie, forwardly