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The long game 

People change. Plus: Why gaslighting your partner is a bad move.

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Q I'm a 30-year-old bi male. I've been with my wife for five years, married nine months. A month into our relationship, I let her know that watching partners with other men has always been something I wanted and that sharing this had caused all my previous relationships to collapse. Her reaction was the opposite of what I was used to. She said she respected my kink, and we both agreed we wanted to solidify our relationship before venturing down the cuckold road. Fast-forward a couple of years, and we are in a healthy relationship, living together, regularly visiting sex clubs (though playing only with each other) and beginning to add some cuckold dirty talk to our sex play. After I proposed, sex and experimentation were set aside. Life has settled down now, and when I bring up my desire to see her with other men, she tells me she's willing, but the conversation quickly ends. I have suggested making profiles on various websites, but it doesn't happen. Am I doing something wrong? I fear that saying "Let's make a profile right now!" is pushy, and I absolutely do NOT want to be the whiny and pushy husband. Any advice you might have would be amazing.
—Wannabe Cuckold Growing Frustrated

A Look, WCGF, some people mean it when they say, "We can have threesomes/ go to BDSM parties/ try cuckolding once our relationship is solid." But some people don't mean it. They tell their kinky and/or non-monogamous partner what they want to hear in the hopes that after the wedding and the house and the kids, their husband and the father of their children (or their wife and the mother of their children) isn't going to leave them over something as "trivial" as a threesome, a public spanking or cuckolding. Complicating matters further, some people say it and mean it and then change their mind.

To figure out what's going on you're going to have to risk being a little pushy—not about putting up a profile, but about having a conversation. If she does want it to happen, what steps can you take together to make it happen? If she doesn't want it to happen you need her to level with you.

Remember, WCGF, that she's the one being asked to take the risks here—it's her picture you want to put on a profile, not yours; she's the one who's going to potentially be meeting up with strangers for sex, not you; she's the one who is risking exposure to STIs, not you. She also might worry that you're going to want her to fuck other guys way more often than she's comfortable with. There are a lot of solid reasons why she might have developed cold feet, and by addressing her concerns constructively—no face pics, no strangers, no cream pies, it can be a very occasional thing—you might make some progress.

click image On the Lovecast, erotic hypnosis with Michal Daveed.
  • On the Lovecast, erotic hypnosis with Michal Daveed.

But if it turns out this isn't something she wants to do—because she never did or because she changed her mind—then you have to decide whether going without being cuckolded is a price of admission you're willing to pay to stay in this marriage.

Q I did one of the things you always say is bad, immature and hurtful. I was a jerk to my girlfriend for weeks because I wanted her to break up with me. I know it was cowardly. I think she is a great woman, but I just wasn't into the relationship and I let it go longer than I should have. I felt terrible that she loved me and I didn't love her back, and I didn't want to hurt her. My question is this: Why do you think sabotaging a relationship in this way is so bad? I'm glad she hates me now. She can feel anger instead of sadness. I want her to think I'm awful so she can move on with her life. If I said all the right things, that makes me more attractive and a loss. I've had women do that to me—break up with me the "right" way—and I respected them more and felt more in love with them. I still think about them because they were so kind and respectful when they dumped me. I prefer the relationships I've had that ended with hatred, because at least I knew we weren't good for each other. Isn't it better this way? (I've got no sign-off that creates a clever acronym. Make one up.)
—Annoying Shittiness Should Help Outraged Lovers Escape

A Being a jerk to someone you're not interested in seeing anymore in the hopes that they'll dump you is never OK. It's certainly not a favour you're doing them, ASSHOLE, if for no other reason than they're unlikely to call it quits at the first sign of your assholery. When someone's actions (jerkishness, assholery) conflict with their words ("I love you, too, sweetheart"), the person on the receiving end of mixed messages rarely bolts immediately. They seek reassurance. They ask the person who's being an asshole to them if everything's OK, if they're still in love.

Those aren't questions the person being an asshole can answer honestly, ASSHOLE, because honest answers would end the relationship. The asshole doesn't want to honestly end things themselves; the asshole wants to dishonestly force the other person to end the relationship. So the asshole says we're good, everything's OK, I still love you, et cetera, and then dials the assholery up a little more. The other person asks all those same questions again, the asshole offers up the same lying assurances, and the other person asks again and is fed more lies.

Gaslighting isn't a term I throw around often or loosely, ASSHOLE, but what you describe doing—and what you're attempting to rationalize as a gift of some sort—may be the most common form of gaslighting. Nothing about being gaslighted in this manner makes it easier to bounce back after a relationship ends. It makes it harder. Yeah, yeah, your ex "gets" to be mad at you, but she's going to have a much harder time trusting anyone after dating you because your assholery will likely cause her to doubt her own judgment.

These brand-new insecurities may cause her to end or sabotage relationships that could have been great. As for your worry that a person may wind up carrying a torch for an ex who ends things with kindness and respect, well, torches have a way of burning out over time, and it's even possible to will yourself to set a torch down and walk away from it. But the kind of emotional damage done by actions likes yours, ASSHOLE? That shit can last a lifetime.

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Have a question about sex, sexuality or relationships? Email it to Dan Savage, it could get answered in the column some week soon.

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Vol 27, No 43
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