Dear Prudence: I regret becoming a swinger.

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 4 2011 7:24 AM

Take My Wife, Please

I convinced her to bed another man, and now I'm insanely jealous.

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Dear Prudence,
A few months ago, in order to spice up our sex lives, I persuaded my wife of four years to try swinging. I searched online and found an ordinary-looking couple I thought would suit us to begin with. We met, had dinner, went to a hotel, and swapped partners. I am a fit, fairly good-looking, well-endowed man. I was surprised and dismayed when the other man, who is older, somewhat overweight, and balding, undressed. He was way larger than me, and for two hours I had to watch him work my wife into multiple fits, screams, and moans. Since this experience (which we have not repeated), I haven't been able to look at my wife in the same way. I cannot get that night out of my mind. It's affecting my work and ability to be happy. Sometimes I feel I could just punch my wife in the face. I want a divorce. The few friends I have confided in about this say that I am being unfair, but I cannot see how I could possibly be content in my marriage ever again. Is there a way I can overcome this?

—Outgunned Husband

Dear Outgunned,
Next time you consider swinging, choose your new partners more carefully. You're looking for an advertisement that says something like, "She's svelte, stacked, and sexy. He's fat, bald, hung like a gnat, and suffering from erectile dysfunction." How sweet for your wife, whom you coerced into this, that the male member of your "ordinary couple" ended up being an oversized piston. Perhaps you watched her having the best sex of her life while neglecting your own duties. Possibly your wife was putting on something of a show just to yank your chain. Now you want to divorce her, after first giving her a sucker punch. If you feel you're actually a danger to your wife, you need to tell her and move out for her safety. You sound like quite a prize, and since you've obviously been behaving abominably since your encounter, I hope your wife has already tied up the services of the best divorce lawyer in town. However, if both of you want to salvage your marriage, you need the help of a mental health professional. You've fallen into an obsessive spiral that's destroying you. You need medication, or meditation, or some intervention to get your thoughts back on track. Whether or not your wife is willing to rebuild your marriage, you owe her an apology. Tell her that you made a dreadful mistake and you hate that you pressured her to have sex with another man. Then take a look at Aesop's fable about the tortoise and the eagle, which is a nice summary of the consequences of getting what you wished for.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: My Cousin Married My BFF

Dear Prudence,
My fiance, "Zeke," and I have found out we are expecting a child, and we are elated. However, Zeke is nervous because his paternal side of the family has a long history of depression, alcoholism, and suicide. I don't share his worries because I have believed for a long time that Zeke's dad is not his biological father. Zeke doesn't at all resemble him. Both he and Zeke's mother have blue eyes and Zeke's eyes are brown, which is genetically possible but rare. Zeke's mother has been married and divorced almost as many times as Liz Taylor and had quite a reputation. A few years ago, Zeke's mother gave me a bunch of his childhood photos. For the first seven years of Zeke's life a brown-eyed man, a "friend of the family," appeared in many of them, affectionately holding Zeke. The man, who is deceased, is a ringer for Zeke. Zeke's supposed father is an unreliable jerk who's mostly been absent. I don't want to hurt my future mother-in-law, but I do want Zeke to be able to free himself from the worry of a family history that is probably not his. Should I just shut my mouth for all time, or is there any way to speak frankly with my future mother-in-law about Zeke's paternity?

—Ms. Sherlock

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Dear Ms.,
Your sleuthing is intriguing but inconclusive. Resemblances can be powerful, but they can also be deceiving. I've heard from adoptive parents wondering what to say when people note how much their children look like them. But assuming you're right, this is no happy ending—it's just a big hole where his father should be. As for inheriting more promising genes from the mysterious brown-eyed man, sure, he could have been a doctor who died on a humanitarian mission. He could also have been a cad who killed himself while driving drunk. You can't know any of this until you raise this potentially explosive issue and Zeke tries to get an answer from his mother. She might not even be totally sure who Zeke's father is. To rule out his current father, he and Zeke will have to take a paternity test, and both of them might be reluctant. All told, it seems it would be best for you to keep your deductions to yourself. But your tone suggests that this is about to burst out of you, so if you're going to reveal your suspicions, you need to start with Zeke, not his mother. Gather the photos and explain that this has been gnawing at you for years, but now that you're going to be parents, and he's worried about his genetic heritage, you felt you had to speak. Emphasize the word, might when you lay out the evidence. Be prepared that Zeke could be either grateful that his relationship with his "supposed" father finally makes sense or resentful that you've just upended his emotional life.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I have a friend, X, who recently graduated from school and is looking for a job. I work for a company that regularly hires people with X's, qualifications. X was telling me how tough it is to find work, so I suggested that I could put in a referral for him at my employer. Then another friend, Y, told me that she was an intern with him at another company. Y told me X was fired from the unpaid job because of his laziness and terrible work habits. He also alienated everyone else with his superior attitude. I have since heard similar things from others—X has a bad professional reputation. I don't want to jeopardize my own good reputation with my employer by recommending someone whom I believe won't do the job well. Is there a sensitive, tactful way I can tell him that I can't recommend him? And is there some other way I can help him out?

—Can't Recommend

Dear Can't,
You're right that you can't recommend someone who's been convincingly described as incompetent and poisonous by several reliable sources with no axe to grind. If you're a casual friend, you don't have to volunteer anything to him. Wait until he asks about the leads at your company. If X is as lazy as reputed, that may take care of it since he's not too motivated. If he does bring it up, then you have two choices, depending on how close you feel and how involved you want to get. You could say, "I'm afraid it turns out there's nothing at the company now that's right for you." That's not a lie—there is nothing at your company for someone like X. But since he's young and possibly salvageable, you could also be blunt with him. Make a general statement that you heard he's had problems with the quality of his performance at previous jobs. Say there's no way he can get hired these days with less than stellar references, and he needs to do some remedial work. Suggest he get any kind of job in or out of your field and do well there so that his latest employer will give him a good recommendation. If he tries to pump you for where you heard about his problems or what was said, refuse to elaborate or divulge specifics. If you get any sense that he seems more interested in who reported him than in how he can repair his reputation, re-think your friendship.

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