Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared in 2003.
Dear Carolyn: I just got married to my girlfriend of 11 years (high school sweetheart). Over the past two or so years her sex drive has all but disappeared. Two weeks ago, I met a girl at a bar and slept with her that same night. I had no feelings for the girl, it was purely physical. It was a mistake in judgment and I feel awful and will never do it again (although it did feel great at the time). Should I consider telling my wife about it, or is it likely that telling will cause more problems than remaining silent?
The good news is, there are worse things than having an adulterous fling with a chick you picked up in a bar. The bad news is, you’re guilty of one of those, too. When you married your girlfriend despite having a massive, unresolved, possibly irreparable, long-standing and therefore totally foreseeable problem in your relationship, you made a much bigger mistake. That makes this much more than a tell-or-not-to-tell question. In fact, we can put that side issue to rest: You had sex with a stranger, which means, condom or no, you can’t be sure that you didn’t pick up a virus, and that you won’t someday – next month/summer/year that’s divisible by 7 – pass it along to your wife. She has to know what you did.
As for the possibility a confession will cause bigger problems, um, you’re already unhappy enough to be prowling and you’re harboring two major lies (I’m counting the marriage as one). She, meanwhile, has lost her libido, be it to boredom, stress, sickness or sickness of you. Preserving the status quo doesn’t strike me as a worthy goal to pursue. Besides, inertia is what got you into this marital mess. And even though the task of getting out of it got harder when you married and herculean when you cheated, the essence of it hasn’t changed: Love your wife, take her hand, and look the beast in the eye together – and this time, please, don’t flinch.
Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend is having a friendly relationship with his ex-girlfriend that he won’t admit to me. I had evidence, confronted him about it, he indicated he was in touch (but did not admit being in touch as much as they actually are based on my 100 percent evidence, some of which I couldn’t tell him, so he doesn’t know I had it). I know he doesn’t want romantic interest. He read me the riot act a year ago about no relationships with exes. What is a girl to do?
Develop higher standards. You distrust him to the point of inexcusable spying. He distrusts you to the point of withholding the truth on his ex. You don’t respect yourself enough to call him on his double standards. He doesn’t respect you enough to equate your behavior with his.
What’s wrong with this picture? That you don’t immediately see how wrong a picture this is.
Trust and respect just aren’t that complicated: Find someone who treats you as well as he treats himself, and then show the same kindness to him. Ta-da. Both of you will make mistakes, but that’s OK, as long as they’re infrequent, unintended and remedied quickly, with care.
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