Danny is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat.
Q. Cuckolding relationships: I’m in my 40s, and for my entire adult life, I’ve only been able to (and I only want to) be in relationships in which my significant others very openly cheat on me. Before I came out more openly about my position, I dreamed of them cheating on me and wished for it. When it happened, I found peace in the relationship. Once open, I’ve found a lot of women who admit to cheating in prior relationships, and desire it to continue, especially with consent. The problem: So far, they have all fallen in love with others, and 100 percent of the time, they have left me for men who later dumped them. I’ve refused to take anyone back. So I move forward. Now the issue is my wife of five years is falling in love with her lover. I see it coming. We’ve talked and we both realize our marriage is coming to an end.
There is no dating site for something like this. The stigma is that it’s a fetish, but it’s not. It’s the type of love I find meaningful. I’ve learned years ago there exist hundreds of thousands of men like me (which was a shocking revelation), and millions of spouses cheat. Why is it harder to find full love this way, while dishonest, cheating couples appear to have a better chance at success not doing it the way I’m doing it? Should I just hide it again? Is it possible the lying is actually creating healthier situations? I know cheating ends many marriages. But there appear to be a lot that still make it after affairs. I don’t want to be alone. I feel like this lifestyle needs to come into the light more so it’s less of a taboo thing and more of an acceptable form of love.
A: Most people do not want to be alone! In this desire you have a great deal of company. I wish that the desire not to be alone were always accompanied by a commensurate pool of similarly minded individuals who want the exact same type of not-being-alone as you do, but there’s absolutely no guarantee of that. You’ve been able to identify what you want out of a relationship, and while you’re entitled to have specific—even onerously specific—requirements of your ideal partner, I’m not sure that even with increased awareness and broad support for the practice of cuckolding that you would stop running into the same problem—namely, that a lot of the women you date don’t want exactly the same arrangement that you do, and that some of the women you’re so eager to cheat on you can’t necessarily perfectly control their emotional response to that increased sexual and romantic intimacy with other partners.
I’m not entirely convinced there aren’t any dating sites that make room for people with specific cuckolding interests (and I’m not entirely sure that there’s anything wrong with acknowledging this as a fetish). There may not be a site wholly dedicated to the exact brand of cuckolding that excites you, but that doesn’t mean you’re without recourse. FetLife comes to mind, as does AdultFriendFinder; you can be very clear in your profiles on even the most bland and middle-of-the-road dating apps about what interests you, etc. But the basic problem of “all my previous relationships have ended, and the people my exes went on to date later broke up with them in turn” is one shared by everyone who dates, regardless of what their relationships look like.
The key to your letter, I think, is in this sentence: “Why is it harder to find full love this way, while dishonest, cheating couples appear to have a better chance at success?” It’s because you’re not part of those “dishonest, cheating couples” and you don’t actually know what they feel like from the inside. They appear to be “more successful” than your marriage, which is currently ending, but you’re not in anyone else’s marriage, only your own. It’s hard for anyone to find full love. It’s more difficult when the kind of love you’re looking for involves frequent, sustained sexual relationships with other partners but not emotional involvement. That’s not to say what you’re looking for is impossible, merely challenging, and I don’t think you can force an outcome by becoming dishonest about what you want from a partner. All any of us can do is be honest about what we want and hope for the best.
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Q. Can I date her? I’ve been divorced for about a year and a half now. It was very painful. The woman I thought was the love of my life for the previous 12 years had been cheating on me. I noticed we had been distant and tried to discuss it and asked for counseling, and each time I was told there was nothing wrong or she was just tired or stressed. We hadn’t had sex or even any real intimacy for almost a year. I’m a toucher, so not being touched was an intense alienating experience for me. I felt like such a failure and it felt like she didn’t want to address it. I felt doomed to raise our daughter in a loveless marriage.
We separated shortly after the affair and I moved in with a friend. About three months into the separation I was out drinking and met a new woman. She was way out of my league but was so sweet and funny and very compassionate. I ended up not only sleeping with her that night but kind of dating her for about a month. It had been years since I had felt so loved and validated both as a man and as a person. She was so good to me, but I finally confessed to still being married. She really liked me and was devastated when I told her. I ran into her at a coffee shop a short while after this and she actually took the time to ask how I was doing, which lead to me sort of dumping all of my marital and parenting issues on her. And she just quietly and patiently listened to me pour my heart out. I greatly regret doing that to her, but she was so understanding. I think part of her wanted closure on the subject, but it felt good to really talk to someone about my issues who didn’t know my wife. She wished me well and gave me the business card for a local therapist for when I was ready, but told me to please leave her alone. My wife and I divorced officially about a month after this and i started going to therapy to cope. It was the best decision I made during that time. Fast forward to last week. I was at a friend’s party and it turns out that this friend is also a good friend of hers. She actually came up to me and asked how I was and what I was up to. Prudie, I am still so into this woman, and I swear I felt she felt the same way. We’ve been talking again, but not anything serious, and I really want to approach her and try again. I felt that warmth and that love and compassion all over again in these interactions. Am I wrong to want to date the woman I cheated on my wife with? If I do ask her out and she says yes, do I have to tell my ex who she is? My friends? I hid the fact that I continued to see her after that night from everyone and I’m worried they’ll judge me.
A: It’s not an especially auspicious beginning that you dated this woman for a month before telling her you were still married and she gave you a therapist’s card and told you to leave her alone, but the fact that she later sought you out, that you actually pursued therapy, and that you’re currently divorced seems pretty heartening. I’d worry about what your friends might think a little bit later; that strikes me as putting the cart before the horse. Tell this woman that you’re still interested in her but you’d understand if she doesn’t want to go out again, and see what she says. If she really has just been reaching out to you as a concerned friend, she’ll let you know, and you can start to try to move on. If she does want to try again, great! There is nothing wrong with dating someone who wants to date you.
If I’ve understood your timeline correctly, you only started dating this woman after your wife admitted to having an affair and you moved out. I don’t say that to diminish how painful it must have been for your sort-of-girlfriend to learn you’d been keeping something so significant from her, merely that as far as your ex-wife is concerned, whom you’ve dated after you moved out isn’t really any of her business—and if you do tell her, and she gets upset, it’s not really your problem. One of the upsides of getting divorced is getting increased distance from your ex!
Q. Ungrateful: I gained a lot of weight during college and while I am active now, I am never going to be as thin as I was in high school. For Christmas I requested medium/large pajamas and workout clothes from my family. I texted my sizes to my various aunts and uncles. What I woke up to on Christmas morning was present after present of cute clothes that I couldn’t fit in (all smalls). I have never felt more ugly or unwanted. None of the clothes would fit but my mother encouraged us kids to try things on and have a fashion show. I refused and got shamed into trying the clothes on. I looked like a stuffed turkey and I started to cry so hard that I threw up. This gave me an out for the fashion show but I got an earful from my mother, father, and grandmother. I needed to stop being “hysterical,” I was being “ungrateful” because gifts are gifts, and my mother told me to look on this as “encouragement” to lose more weight. All I see is my family hates me. They asked me for exactly what I wanted and deliberately got me the opposite. What am I supposed to say, thank you family for making me feel like a hippo, like the world doesn’t shove down my throat that my self-worth is related to what I weigh? I feel awful now and I have no idea how to talk about it.
A: Your family was deliberately cruel and vicious to you. Of course you feel awful after being called “hysterical” for not wanting to publicly try on clothes they bought knowing they wouldn’t fit you. Do not thank them. Do not keep these “gifts,” and do not let them convince you that you should be “grateful” for being the butt of a brutal, inhumane, familywide joke. Keep your distance and look out for yourself. I’m so sorry they put you through that.
Q. Is my husband lying to me? I found a few explicit SMS messages on my husband’s MacBook between him and another man. I confronted him and he said he did not send these messages under any circumstances. He was adamant. We even contacted the other person and he said he did not recognize my husband’s number nor did he correspond with anyone on those days and times. We have been unable to find a logical reason as to how these messages and replies got there. I am not tech-savvy enough to be aware of some elusive hacking incident where nothing else was compromised except for this one message thread. I want to believe him, but I know enough about technology to know that something like this is extremely rare. My husband has always been honest with me, he is genuinely a lovely person, and we are committed to our marriage and starting a family. He seems sick over this and I don’t know what to believe anymore. Is my marriage doomed?
A: I don’t know if your marriage is doomed, but I’m pretty sure that your husband sent explicit messages to someone else and is currently lying to you about it. That’s not a great sign, but lots of marriages survive infidelity, and lots of (perhaps most?) people don’t immediately commit to full honesty when their affairs/peccadilloes/dealings come to light. It’s possible that your husband loves you and is a genuinely loving person, and that he’s having an affair and lying to you about it (and the other guy was savvy and self-preserving enough to lie when pressed). But I agree that it is extremely unlikely that your husband’s laptop was hacked only insofar as a single sexual conversation was faked and nothing else was touched or altered in any way. I think you can keep your options open while also insisting upon honesty: “I love you. I also don’t believe that this conversation was the result of an opportunistic, one-time hacker. I believe what I saw, which is that you were having a sexually explicit conversation with someone else. Can we talk about this?”
Q. Birthday dilemma: I have been seeing a married guy for a few months now. I already know, heard, read, and cried over how things never fare well for the other woman. I have rationalized my choices and decided to follow his lead, which is not to “overthink a good thing.” This was after our fourth break-up I initiated. Anyway, his birthday is coming up this month and I want to give him tickets to events for something I’d know he would enjoy going to. It would not matter if he did not take me. Seriously. After all, it his birthday present and he is free to decide what to do with it. But when I gave him a Christmas present after he gave me a very valuable gift, he left the gift I gave him at my house for us to use later and (hopefully) on our road trips we used to take weekly on the weekends in the summer. Do I ask him first if he will actually use the tickets and go to these events? Or should I just surprise him, as he often does with me?
A: I hope you will eventually reexamine your definition of “a good thing” if that includes a relationship that’s weathered four break-ups (all initiated by you!) in “a few” months. Good things are actually better than that. But! You have not asked me for my advice about whether to continue seeing a married man, so I’ll get back to the matter at hand. I think the odds are good that he will ignore or neglect whatever gift you give him. I think part of the reason he has given you expensive and/or extravagant gifts is to assuage his own guilt or make up for the fact that yours is a permanently unequal relationship, that he does not prioritize you in the same way that you prioritize him. If you believe you can give him the tickets and truly divorce yourself from caring whether he ever uses them or lets them sit on a counter until long after the event has passed, sure. But if you think it would make you feel anxious to get closer and closer to the day of the concert or event without hearing him discuss how he plans to make use of the ticket, and that you’d ask in a deceptively casual voice, “I hope you had a great time at ____” the day after, then try to disguise your disappointment when he tells you he couldn’t make it after all, then I think you should save your money.
Q. Mail carrier: A year ago, my best friend moved out of our home into her parents’ house, and then moved to start a new career 2,000-plus miles away. At this time, she cut off most contact with our group of friends in an effort to have some space and clarity. This seems like a great thing for her and I’m glad she’s on a more stable path. Despite a formal change of address, I still get occasional mail for her, including ominous, minimally marked, white envelopes that I know are student loan and credit card bills and collections notices. I kept trying to give them to her, but she often canceled plans. Once I brought them while meeting her for dinner, but when I got home, I realized I still had them in my pocketbook. She sometimes told me to throw the mail away because it is “probably junk,” and if it’s bills she “jokes” that she doesn’t want them. I have never said this out loud to avoid talking smack about her, but unfortunately I know that she tends to displace blame for things that are actually due to her own negligence onto other people (like not getting enough reminders from an admin to register for classes, or her sibling calling when she was about to pay a bill online and distracting her). I am paranoid that if I throw the mail away, she will try to say that part of why the collections were escalated is that I threw away her mail with bills or reminders. We have stopped talking except for holiday texts. I don’t have her current address. Would it be inappropriate or aggressive to send it to her sister’s house in one big envelope? Is it actually OK to throw it away? I refuse to open it because I feel like that is a real violation of trust, but I do not know how to handle this while protecting myself.
A: There’s nothing aggressive about trying to forward someone’s mail to them via a relative. You could also mark these bills and envelopes “NO LONGER AT THIS ADDRESS” or “RETURN TO SENDER” and hand them to your postal carrier or put them back in your mailbox and let USPS sort it out. And it’s great that you’re not opening her mail, but that’s less because I’m worried about the trust aspect of your nonexistent relationship and more because that may be a crime. Same with throwing it away. As much of a hassle as this may be for you, it’s best to notify the post office and ask for its help in rerouting these bills, rather than continually throwing them away or letting them pile up.
Q. Spelling mistakes: My stepmother has begun misspelling my sister’s name. In texts and emails to my sister, my stepmother now spells the name in a way that’s vastly less common than the way my sister’s name is really spelled. Only a Swedish speaker would even think to spell the name this way. My sister thinks it’s funny and forwards me these communications. And for the first few times I thought it was funny too. But now, even though it’s not my name she’s misspelling, I’m starting to feel like I should do something about it. My stepmother has been married to my father for 25 years and there’s no reasonable explanation for this change. I wonder if she’s OK. Also, I think it may secretly hurt my sister’s feelings. Should I say something about it, either to my dad or to my stepmother? Or is this something only my sister can bring up, since she is the recipient of all of these messages and hers is the name being misspelled?
A: This is fine! If it’s bothering you, mention it casually to your stepmother; this is not a contentious issue that needs to be broached with delicacy. If you’re worried your sister is more upset than she’s letting on, tell her she should correct your stepmother. It could be an autocorrect error, or a simple slip that she’s failed to catch, but it doesn’t sound like she’s doing this on purpose, so there’s no reason not to say, “Oh, it’s spelled Lauren, not Laren.” It’s a 30-second conversation and a very quick fix.
Q. Re: Is my husband lying to me? I don’t know if the husband and the other person are lying about the SMS messages, but I work in tech and know that in general, the internet is not secure. People can spoof email addresses, text messages, and pages, posts and threads from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I have gotten explicit emails and text messages from people I have never heard of (and who are probably hiding behind false identities or names). If this is the only time it has happened, I would look into getting better internet security and try to forget about it. If there are other reasons to think that he is cheating, then by all means, continue to question him and your marriage. But don’t blame him for what was originally a feature, and now is a huge bug, in the internet.
A: I’m not quite sure what “getting better internet security” would entail when it comes to “My husband claims he didn’t write a single sexually explicit series of text messages on his account.” While that scenario is possible, I think the most likely explanation by far is that he wrote them, that he’s embarrassed and reluctant to cop to an affair (not many people leap at the chance to announce they’ve been cheating on their spouse!), and that he’s lying.
Q. Re: Spelling mistakes: I got married in 1988 and changed my name. When I got divorced I kept that name. My big sister just sent out “I’ve Moved!” cards and she addressed it to my pre-1988 name! I sent her a text with a little smiley and said, “I haven’t had that name since 1988!” She sent a smiley back and we both laughed. It could just be a weird mistake the stepmom made and never noticed.
A: That is my guess too! Absent any other change in behavior, I think it’s fair to assume it’s just an error she’s totally blanked on. Sometimes I’ve made a spelling error repeatedly because my brain has automatically corrected it whenever I read it back and needed someone else to point it out for me. There’s no reason to be anxious or tentative about bringing this up.
Danny M. Lavery: Thanks, everyone, and see you next week.
If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat, click here to read it.
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From Care and Feeding
Q. May my child pee in the park? What is the current policy on allowing young children to urinate in public parks? I let my 3-year-old son pee in a park recently, in a secluded spot among some bushes, and another adult said, “That’s disgusting!” (to her partner, but really for me to overhear). I used to pee in urban parks all the time as a child, but it seems to have gone out of fashion. Plus, this park is overrun by dogs every morning and evening, all of whom urinate wherever they see fit. What’s the difference? Read what Nicole Cliffe had to say.