HELP! I am a huge fan of your column and love your honesty. My husband and me read your column religiously. And as a strong woman, Gender Studies' Major, and reader of yours, I like to think that I was somewhat open and savvy to various sexual crisis, orientations, desires, situations and nuances.
But I recently I had to ask myself "What would Dan do?" when my strict, rule-abiding, honest, loving, trustworthy and forgiving husband left a webcam by our computer. We don't own one so I asked him about it and he confessed that over the last few months he had been secretly engaging in live sex chats with faceless and anonymous men. He told me that he didn't know how to bring it up because he was embarrassed and ashamed. We had been going through a rough couple of months with me losing my job and he was feeling stressed (which is why he said he started these chats) and that he didn't want to upset me even more. I want to believe him and believe that he only had my feelings in mind but apparently that wasn't enough because he continued these chats for months.
Although both of us have known that he is bi-curious (and I like to think I am very forgiving, understanding, and accepting), I didn't realize to what extent. He said that he didn't want a connection with these men but it was simply a way to get off. Why wasn't porn enough?
This incident is completely out of character for his loving and thoughtful personality, Dan, which is also why I am so hurt. I don't mind so much his desires but I am hurt by the lies and the sneaking. He has never lied to me before so I find myself shocked, hurt, confused, and unable to trust him right now. What would you do, Dan? I love him and aside from this our relationship has been solid for the last seven years. I want to keep trying but there is such a lack of trust there. He claims that he feels like he might have a problem (possible addiction) and that he has been very ashamed of his homosexual urges (but he tells me he isn't gay). Your thoughts? Am I setting myself up for sabotage, disappointment, and regret if I stay?
We are currently both going to counseling together and separately but I am just not sure what to do.
Baffled And Betrayed
My response after the jump...
Here are my thoughts, BAB, in no particular order, in a numbered list for ease of reference, and with this caveat: It's been a long, stressful day and I'm brain dread right now.
1. Readers often seize on one tiny detail in a letter and then jump and down screaming, "Fake! Fake! Fake!" I nearly had that reaction when I read this in your letter: "He has never lied to me before." Really? You've been together seven years and your husband has never lied to you before? Not even once? Then your husband is a better man than my husband and my husband's husband, BAB, because those guys sometimes to lie each other in their sleep. So, hey, maybe seven years of complete honesty earns your husband a pass this once?
2. I could use a drink.
3. You ask what I would do. Honestly, BAB, I would tell my husband to drop the "I was so stressed out!" bullshit (stressed out people typically don't run to their computers to masturbate with strangers—although the world would be a far happier place if they did); I would forgive my husband without hesitation; I would resist the urge to pathologize his behavior and not insist on counseling sessions to unpack the "real reasons" this happened (horniness and opportunity are reason enough and very likely the real reasons); and I would grant to him a retroactive blessing for the loads already blown and give him my okay to continue to camming and coming with strange men—but with some conditions. Namely: no hiding it; it stops if it cuts into our intimacy or negatively impacts our sex life; I get to watch and/or participate.
4. You ask: "Am I setting myself up for sabotage, disappointment, and regret if I stay?" You could be. But the risks for sabotage, disappointment, and regret are baked into all relationships, marriages, FWB arrangements, Master/slave contracts, etc. There's no way to sabotage-, disappointment-, or regret-proof any relationship. It may be this issue that destroys your marriage,BAB, or some other issue that you're currently unaware of, or you may be happily married until the day you die. But no relationships—no marriages—are free from risk.
5. You've long known that your husband is bi-curious, BAB, and you should know—what with being both a regular reader and a gender studies major—that many bisexual and/or bi-curious men struggle with feelings of shame and that many bisexual and/or bi-curious guys in opposite-sex relationships fear rejection. Shame and fear can lead otherwise "rule-abiding, honest, loving, trustworthy" guys to make shitty choices. I'm not saying your husband gets a free pass, BAB, but his actions have to be understood in their full social, sexual, and cultural context. (Blah blah blah.) Your man done wrong but a little sympathy and understanding might be in order nevertheless.
6. Why would he lie to you about it? Because it was your rejection he feared most. Make him understand that he has nothing to fear—tell him that you'll happily sign off what amounts to a safe, mutually-acceptable outlet for his same-sex attractions and desires (if you can sign off on it)—and he will never tell you another lie again so long as he lives.
7. I'm going to get a drink.