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'Both Barrels'

Monogamy, flawlessly executed over decades, is not the only way to demonstrate faithfulness 

Savage Love

Dear Dan: I need your advice. My partner of 27 years has been sleeping with my best friend. This has been going on for a year and a half. As far as I knew, we had a monogamous relationship, even if things had gotten stale between us in recent years. And my best friend is everything to me. I confide in him for a lot, including advice on my relationship.

We spoke recently about how my partner wasn't interested in sex. He looked me straight in the eye and said how his partner wasn't interested in sex either. Little did I know that he was doing my partner. What is weird is that my friend isn't even close to my partner's "type." My friend, however, has turned into an absolute whore in recent years. His partner knows nothing about it.

I feel so betrayed by them both. I am gutted. I also fear being alone. I am 56 years old. The four of us did a lot together — Thanksgiving, Christmas, dinners, brunch, everything. I don't see how we can continue now. What should I do? — Going Under Thanks To Extreme Deceit

I don't know what to tell you.

If you find what your partner and best friend did intolerable and unforgivable, GUTTED, then don't tolerate or forgive. Burn it all down. Dump your partner of nearly 30 years and cut your best friend out of your life. Then you get to decide if you're gonna go quietly or if you're gonna let people know why you ended both these relationships. And if you make your reasons public, GUTTED, which you have every right to do, the details will instantly get back your best friend's partner — assuming you don't tell him yourself — and your ex-best-friend's relationship will most likely end. Which means when the dust settles, and new leases are signed, you and your best friend's ex will be alone and your then-former partner and your then-former best friend will be free to go public with their relationship.

But you can't stay with your partner just to prevent that outcome. You can't stay in this relationship out of spite. Which is not to say you can't stay in this relationship. You could stay, if you wanted to — and your partner wants to — but it's going to be a very different relationship going forward.

You don't say much about your relationship other than how long it's gone on, GUTTED, that things went stale some years back, and how upset you were to discover this affair. But if there's still good in this relationship and you have reasons to stay other than (or in addition to) not wanting to be alone, GUTTED, then get into couples counseling with your partner.

Things will never be the same, GUTTED, but you know what? It's deeply irrational for us to expect things to stay the same as the decades grind on. And having to pretend things are the same puts an avoidable — but not easily avoidable — strain on our long-term relationships. Because even as both partners know things have changed, acknowledging that fact feels risky because it often involves renegotiating the terms of the relationship. (Like a monogamous commitment made decades ago.) And the longer you're together, the higher the stakes can seem. So some people don't talk about what has changed, even if both parties know things have changed ... and some people decide to do what they need to in order to stay married (or partnered) and stay sane. (Where do people get that idea?) Ideally this going and doing — contingencies, allowances, carve-outs — are discussed in advance and agreed to by both parties. But just as often as not, GUTTED, difficult conversations are avoided and affairs begin and then much more difficult conversations can't be avoided once affairs are discovered.

Finding out you've been cheated on can be deeply traumatic. I say "can," GUTTED, because it's not true in all cases; some people don't give a shit who their partners are sleeping with after three decades together so long as they come home. It's not that sex and faithfulness (which is not to be confused with monogamy) aren't important. They are. It's just that other things — like a long history together or a deep-if-not-passionate intimacy or both — can become more important over time and monogamy, flawlessly executed over decades and decades, is not the only way a person can demonstrate faithfulness to a partner.

Once you're in couples counseling — assuming your partner is willing to go — I would encourage you to squarely face questions like how important sex is to you as individual now and how important sex and sexual exclusivity are to you as couple now. Sexual passion and sexual exclusivity may have defined your relationship at the start and may have helped you cement your bond. But other things — valuable things like familiarity, intimacy and security — may have overtaken them in importance. Just because your partner may not be interested in sex with you anymore or sex with you exclusively, GUTTED, doesn't mean your partner isn't interested in being your partner anymore. He may still love you and other things — perhaps more important things than sex — cement your bond now.

Or not. Your partner could want out and the affair was his way of blowing it all up. But if he wants to stay in this relationship too, GUTTED, it would, again, be a different kind of partnership going forward. Perhaps a companionate one, perhaps one with a revived sexual connection. There's definitely a path forward if you both want to be together. It's a steep and a rocky path, GUTTED, but it's one countless other couples have walked together. But navigating it would require a huge effort from both of you, sincere contrition from him, and heroic powers of forgiveness from you.

As for your best friend, GUTTED, you should tell that guy to go fuck himself for all eternity.

Dear Dan: I would like you to be the referee in a disagreement. I am going out with a lady who insists that tinglehole is two words, as in "tingle hole." I, on the other hand, believe it is one word. What do you say? Thank you in advance. (P.S. There is some seriously freaky GGG shit riding on your answer.) — Words With Friends With Benefits

A few years back you couldn't watch 30 minutes of basic cable without seeing three ads marketing "tingling" lubes to straight couples. These lubes were touted like they were a revolutionary new way, as one KY ad put it, "to turn up the heat" on your sex life. But while hot lubes do make your hole tingle, it's true, a lousy lay with hot lube on his dick is still a lousy lay. And getting hot lube all over your hole doesn't "enhance the experience," per KY, it only makes more it difficult to move on from it; it's impossible to fall asleep after sex when you've got a bad case of tinglehole. (It's my word, I invented it, and I say it's one word.)

Dear Dan: Longtime reader, first-time writer, love your column. Your question from reader VIBEQ struck a chord with me because I (hetero, cis, basically vanilla, male-shaped person) had the same phobia about my female partners using vibrators. But I overcame it! One day in college, my girlfriend asked me to use her vibrator on her while we were fooling around. My internal monologue went basically like this: "Oh no, I'm doing it wrong and now she wants the vibrator ... hmm, this is almost like having a second cock ... hey, my second cock is also basically a robot ..." And then the bass line from the movie Terminator kicked in. I went to town and I've never looked back. It was very empowering. Another benefit of losing my vibratorphobia was that it gives me a way to be intimate with my partner even when I'm stressed out and not feeling up for intercourse — in the middle of a pandemic, for instance. And I owe this all to a former partner having the guts to make the big ask. If VIBEQ takes the plunge, he may find it more than worthwhile!
Good Vibes

Thanks for sharing, GV!

mail@savagelove.net

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