Dear Dan: When I first started dating my girlfriend, I asked her about past boyfriends and she said she hadn’t met the right guy yet. After dating for nine years, I found out about a past boyfriend and looked through her e-mails. I found out she dated her married boss for three years. She broke up with me for looking and for judging her. I feel like she lied, and she thinks it was none of my business. We’ve been broken up for five months. She’s reached out, but I can’t get over my anger or disgust that she was someone’s mistress. Am I a bad person?
—Still Angry And Disgusted
Dear SAAD: Yup.
“Haven’t met the right guy yet” ≠ “Haven’t met any guys ever.”
Almost everyone has done something and/or someone they regret doing—although it’s possible your ex-girlfriend doesn’t regret fucking her married boss for three years, SAAD, and it’s possible there’s no need for regret. Sometimes people have affairs for all the right reasons. Sometimes abandoning a spouse and/or breaking up a home with kids in it, aka “doing the right thing” and divorcing, is the worse choice. Life is long and complicated, and it’s possible for a person to demonstrate loyalty and commitment with something other than their genitals. Sometimes people do what they must to stay married and stay sane, and their affair partners are doing good by being “bad.”
It’s also possible — and perhaps likelier — that your ex-girlfriend made an impulsive, shitty, selfish choice to fuck someone else’s husband. It’s possible he’s a serial philanderer, a cheating piece of shit, and then, after fucking him that one time, your girlfriend felt pressured to keep fucking him and wound up having a years-long affair with her married boss. And then, when it was all over, she stuffed it down the memory hole because she wasn’t proud of it and wanted to forget it.
It’s also possible she didn’t tell you about this relationship when you asked because she intuited — correctly, as it turned out — that you are, in your own words, a bad person, i.e., the kind of guy who would punish his girlfriend for having a sexual history, for making her fair share of mistakes, and for deciding to keep some things private. (Not secret, SAAD. Private.) In other words, she correctly intuited that you would punish her for being human.
Finding out about a past boyfriend doesn’t give you the right to invade your partner’s privacy and dig through their ancient e-mails. Your girlfriend was right to break up with you for snooping through her e-mails and judging her so harshly. And she didn’t even lie to you, dude! Her boss clearly wasn’t “the right guy,” seeing as he was married and her boss, and the relationship ended before you two even first laid thighs on each other nine years ago.
And from where I’m sitting, SAAD, it looks like she still hasn’t met the right guy.
To be perfectly frank, I don’t want to help you get over your anger and disgust — not that you asked me to help you get past those feelings. It kind of sounds like you want your anger and disgust affirmed… and I’m going to go with that and affirm the shit out of those feelings: Stay angry! Stay disgusted! Not because those feeling are valid — they’re not — but because those feelings prevented you from taking your ex back when she reached out. She may not know it yet, but she’s better off without you, SAAD, and here’s hoping you stay angry and disgusted long enough for her to realize it.
Dear Dan: I’m a few months into OkCupid dating, and it’s going well! I’ve stuck to two “automatic pass” rules: anyone who mentions my looks and nothing else in the first message and anyone with no face pic. It’s worked out great so far. But I’ve noticed that most kinksters on OKC don’t post face pics. I can understand this. I once came across a coworker on the site — didn’t look, passed immediately — and I can imagine nobody wants their boss or coworkers to know they’re looking for puppy play and CBT. Not everyone has the luxury of taking a risk like that. So I’m tempted to drop my “no face pic = pass” rule for kinksters. But then I imagine how that would go: “Chat, chat, chat. ‘Hey, can I see a face pic?’ Oh no, I’m not physically attracted to this person!” Then I have to awkwardly un-match and feel terribly shallow and guilty for a while. So do I keep my rule and pass on some very promising profiles without face pics to avoid hurting someone’s feelings? Or do I bend the rules? I’m just not looking to hurt anyone in a bad way.
—Not That Kind Of Sadist
Dear NTKOS: Lead with your truth, NTKOS: “Hey, we share a lot of common interests — BDSM, CBT, TT — but I usually require face pics before I chat. I understand why you may not be able to post your pics and why you would want to chat for a bit and establish trust before sharing pics with me privately. So I’m happy to chat so long as you’re OK with the risk that I might pass after seeing your face pic. Still, even if we’re not ultimately a sexual or romantic match, every kinkster needs some kinky friends!”
Dear Dan: So I’ve fallen in love with one of my good friends. I am in grad school, and we met because we are in the same intensive program and we spend a lot of time together. When we first met, I had no interest in this person. And for the majority of the first year we worked together, that feeling maintained. However, over the past few months, I’ve found myself falling in love with this person. Their intelligence and beauty is simply intoxicating. I love our friendship, but at times it is a bit overwhelming being in their company because I’ve developed strong feelings for them. I don’t think they share these feelings. Or at least I haven’t been given any indication that they share the same feelings. How do I go about telling them? I’d like them to know this is how I feel, but I also don’t want to lay the weight of my feelings on them or ruin our friendship.
—Growing Romantic Attachment Disrupts Studies
Dear GRADS: You have two options: You can be honest with this person or you can be that unsettling “friend” with an ulterior motive. Personally, GRADS, I think fessing up is better than shutting up — sublimated/unexpressed desire has a way of souring a friendship — but if your grad program is ending soon, I’d encourage you to wait. Most graduate programs are two years (some are less!), and you’ve been working together for more than a year. So there should already be a light at the end of that intensive tunnel. In the meantime, savor the agony and “pray on it,” as Mike Pence would say. (Only you should swap out prayer for masturbation.) And, hey, you didn’t have feelings for them until recently. So who knows? They may develop feelings for you by the time your intensive grad program ends.
And, yes, telling a friend you have a crush on them is always a risk — it could ruin the friendship or make things awkward for a while. Just be honest, direct, and unambiguous (“I would like to date you,” not “I hope we can hang out sometime”), and explicitly invite your crush to say no if the answer is no.
On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow: savagelovecast.com.