Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
April 4 2002 2:54 PM

Swinging or Single?

Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click hereto sign up.Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

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Dear Prudence,

I am just about to start the third year of a great relationship with my boyfriend. We believe that we are highly compatible on all fronts except one. He has a different sexual preference than I do. As far as one on one, we enjoy nearly all the same things, but he would like to include "swinging" in our relationship. I am not interested in this but have tried it twice just to be open-minded. However, I did not enjoy it. He thanked me for being open-minded, said he thought these experiences brought us closer as a couple, and also thanked me for this "gift" of sharing and trust. I let him know that I did not feel any closer to him, and I did not feel like I gave him any "gift"—that actually I thought the activity was just something to do—no big magical, revealing bonding experience for me at all and not even a turn-on. So now what? This is something he likes, something I do not. He could give up this desire, or I could just go along. If he gives it up, I feel like he will be frustrated and unhappy. All his past relationships involved swinging, although I did not realize this until I had already fallen in love with him and we had been together for one year. We went to therapy but got nowhere. He is an amazing friend and boyfriend—my greatest support on everything from family stuff to career struggles, etc., and I love him very much. What do you think?

—Perfect ... Almost

Dear Perf,

Prudie thinks you've been plenty open-minded. If therapy didn't clarify the issue, you might point out to God's gift to everybody that all his past relationships are just that: past. What you two need to figure out is if the swinging is a deal-breaker. If he feels he won't have a satisfactory sex life without it, then you cannot sacrifice yourself on the altar of strange bed partners. Given the, uh, intricacies of the situation, he will have to be the one to make the adjustment. Otherwise, Prudie does not see smooth sailing.

—Prudie, monogamously

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Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend convinced me to go with him and a mutual friend to a strip club for his birthday. I have led a very sheltered life, but I agreed to go. Everything was going fine. I had no problems with him looking at the dancers, but then he called one of them over. He proceeded to flirt with her for almost an hour, then got a lap dance. All of this in front of me. Maybe I am just old-fashioned, but the sight of the man I love with his head between another woman's breasts upset me!! I love this man very much, but I don't know if I can trust him anymore. If he pays a woman to do this to him in front of me, what is he doing behind my back? Am I wrong for being upset?

—Desperate

Dear Des,

Let's put it this way. Were Prudie in your shoes ... well, your seat, and Mr. Wonderful got a lap dance in her presence, she would have left the club middance. (And "lap dance" is really a misnomer, but we will leave it at that.) Flirting with strippers is tacky enough at a stag party, but in front of one's beloved it is downright tasteless and offensive. Bid this sleaze bucket adieu, and try to meet a better class of people.

—Prudie, properly

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Dear Prudence,

I have worked at the same company for over 10 years, and during all of that time I have worked closely with a guy around my same age. We are friendly and generally interested in each other's well-being, but I would not go so far as to say that we are "best friends." Very rarely do we do anything outside of work. I have noticed a change in his behavior, however, which concerns me. If I could put my finger on it, I would say he has developed an obsessive/compulsive disorder. He is constantly washing his hands in the company kitchen; if he drops something on the floor, he will not pick it up; he opens doors with paper towels ... and goes as far as not to use the company bathroom anymore. I have seen him come to work in the morning, and once in the parking lot, he checks to make sure his car doors are locked—this takes approximately 15 minutes and is a whole routine. Can somebody with this condition be approached and reasoned with? I am truly concerned about his well-being and wonder what can I do to help.

—Concerned

Dear Con,

You seem to have correctly diagnosed your colleague. Prudie's favorite therapist, Dr. Shari Thurer, agrees that he has O.C.D. She says this is often treatable by medication alone or medication combined with behavior modification techniques. Sometimes psychotherapy can be helpful as well, especially if an exacerbation of symptoms correlates with a situational trigger. (This may be conscious, like job stress, or unconscious, like approaching the age at which one's father had a heart attack.) There really is no way you can reason him out of his neurosis. It doesn't work. The choice you have now is whether to recommend treatment or not; you have to decide if the relationship can tolerate the intrusiveness. Prudie thinks it's worth taking the chance.

—Prudie, helpfully

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Dear Prudie,

I'm a youngish guy who dates frequently, and I've come to discover something disturbing over the course of my last several dates—namely, that I'm too weird for all the normal women I meet and too normal for all the weird women I meet. What on earth do I do? I feel if I don't resolve this dilemma, I'm going to wind up like Steve Buscemi in
Ghost World, except I won't be sleeping with Thora Birch.

—Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuc,

The fact that you are "youngish" tells Prudie that time will integrate your weird/normal quotient or that fate will bring you to a young lady with a weirdness/normalcy ratio compatible with your own. It happens all the time.

—Prudie, assuredly