Dear Prudence: My boyfriend is a reformed swinger.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 12 2011 3:30 PM

Am I Dating a Swinger?

Dear Prudence advises a woman who craves a monogamous relationship but can't seem to find one—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.

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Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. ( Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie's Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at prudence@slate.com.)

Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. Let's get to it.

Q. Swinger Boyfriend: My boyfriend of six months is an ex-swinger. He is not currently participating in the lifestyle, and I have no desire to enter into it. I don't have any reason to believe that he is cheating, but I do notice occasionally that he gets wall posts on Facebook from women who I am fairly certain are actively swinging, suggesting they hang out soon. He also maintains his accounts on some swinger online forums and checks local personal ads daily. His explanation of why he does this is he finds it humorous. Should I let this go as something he still likes to see, if not do, or should I be concerned that he has no intention of truly becoming a one-woman man? I've already been married to a closeted swinger once, and I really would rather not go down that road again!

A: I can't get the image out of my head of your boyfriend looking like Frank Sinatra, drink in hand, fedora cocked, as he peruses the swinger websites saying, "Ringa Ding Ding." Where did you meet this guy, at a support group for exes of swingers, or of ex swingers? I think the definition of someone who's still a swinger is a person who remains signed up on swinger websites because they're "humorous." If you'd been married to an alcoholic and found yourself dating someone whose couch cushions were stuffed with empty bottles, you might conclude you're part of the problem and are attracted to men who are going to keep making you miserable in the same oh-so-familiar way. I think you should look to date someone for whom the idea of a swinger website makes him want to slather himself in sanitizing gel.

Dear Prudence: Hands Off My Long Hair!

Q. Husband Doesn't Feel Sad About 9/11: I have been married for 2-plus years to a man who is wonderful in many ways. However, with all the 9/11 hoopla lately, it's been on my mind a lot and I asked him yesterday if he was thinking about it. He told me that he doesn't allow himself to feel bad about what happened because that doesn't help anything and it would be disrespectful to those who lost their lives that day and in the war since. I don't get his logic and am left wondering if this is normal, or should I be concerned? It bothers me that he doesn't feel what most everyone else feels when they think/talk about 9/11.

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A: It sounds as if your husband does feel profound sadness about all the lives lost. But his decision to push the thoughts out of his mind—a luxury that family members don't have, of course—is a perfectly normal one that I'm sure many people made. You asked your husband a question about his emotional life, and he answered you honestly and openly. His answer is reasonable and he's entitled to his own reaction and is not required to feel what you think "everyone else" does.

Q. A Demise of a Friendship: I have a group of friends I've known since childhood. One in particular ("Sara") was my best friend for almost 20 years. Two years ago she tried to initiate an affair with my husband. I spent the next 18 months wanting to forgive her, in denial about the seriousness of her breach of trust, and trying to make up with her. She has repeatedly lied to me and has zero understanding of the wrong she's done—in fact, she thinks she is the victim here somehow. Although it was hard to accept that Sara is not the person I once thought she was, I've decided to break off the friendship. I still see her in social functions but I deliberately have minimal contact with her. Our mutual friends have no idea what happened, and this isn't something I want to share. They know Sara and I are not friends anymore and have been trying hard to help us be friends again. A couple of them are even angry at me for cold shouldering Sara "for no apparent reason." I know they are well-meaning but it is driving me crazy. What can I say to them?

A: Are you sure you're not the crazy one here? I wish you had enumerated how she tried to start the affair. Did she say to your husband, "I know it's wrong, but I can't get you out of my mind and I want to have sex with you!" Or were you just overinterpreting some harmless flirtation? It is rather odd to find out your closest friend of 20 years is a cheat, liar, and pseudo-victim, and that no one else in your circle has realized that Sara is rather disturbed. Also odd is your spending so much time trying to forgive a friend for making a serious attempt to bust up your marriage. However, if what you describe really is the case, then you should tell the rest of your circle that sadly your friendship with Sara has come undone because of an unforgivable breach of trust on her part, one that's painful and the details of which you don't want to discuss.

Q. Gay Ex-BF Getting Married to Religious Girl Who Doesn't Know!: Yesterday I found out through a mutual friend that my (gay) ex-boyfriend is engaged. Eighteen months into our heterosexual relationship, I caught him red-handed, browsing gay classifieds when I came home early one day. He confessed everything, telling me how he'd been confused since adolescence, felt religious/family/social pressures to be straight, that he had strategically thrown himself into athletics for the "macho" mask it would provide him, etc. His fiancee knows absolutely none of this. She's a nice girl, works for a charity, writes a blog about her religious faith, etc., but it's precisely because of her religiousness (shared with his parents) that he would never tell her. He continues to have promiscuous gay sex, unbeknownst to her. Is it right to let this girl marry someone just because he can't bring himself to tell her the truth? Just to be clear about me, I am not the bitter/jealous/angry/stalker ex-girlfriend. Do I write to him and encourage him to tell her, or to re-think what he's doing? Is there any option that does not automatically paint me as a psycho ex-girlfriend trying to ruin their happiness?

A: Let's say you were the happy young woman engaged to the man of your dreams. Would you want his ex to come along and ruin everything by telling you that he is a closeted gay man who is secretly having promiscuous sex? I sure would! It's always easier in cases like this to just let adults make their own decisions and find out (or not) what's really going on. But your ex has the potential to endanger this young woman's life if he's having unprotected sex. And someone who is so conflicted about his sexuality and sneaking around on the side is the kind of person who tends to engage in the riskiest behaviors. I'm wondering, however, since you don't know this woman, whether the best course might be to have your mutual friend make an approach. She could tell the woman that she knows important information about her fiance, and perhaps she could suggest the three of you get together. Sure, the fiancee will likely tell your ex that something is up. But if he then blurts out that she shouldn't believe anyone who tells her he's gay, that's going to be awfully suspicious.

Last week, in my column I counseled a 75-year-old married, bi-sexual man who was having a gay affair and was not having sex with his wife to continue his secret life because that seemed like the kindest thing to do. But a young woman embarking on married life, hoping to start a family with her husband, needs to at least know he's already living a double life.

Q. Swinger Boyfriend: Thank you for the laugh! I needed it! I actually met this guy online, and I was upfront about my ex-husband's past. He waited a few months before telling me about his own swinger history, due to fear I would run screaming from the similarities. Now I'm wondering if I should have!

A: It's not too late to run, so do it. Screaming is optional.

Q. Husband Eavesdropping: My husband came home last night and heard me gabbing on the phone to one of my girlfriends. Frankly, I was bitching about our division of labor—namely the garbage that was piling up, waiting for him to take it out. My husband sneakily stood and listened at the door and when he finally came in, he acted all angry and sullen. He says I've backstabbed him and he can't trust me. I think he's a) a jerk for eavesdropping and b) way overreacting. Am I way out of line here? I was just blowing off some steam ... isn't that what best friends are for?

A: Yes, that is part of what best friends are for, and let this be a warning to husbands that you listen in on these conversations at your own peril. But of course it's never pleasant to hear yourself being disparaged, even if you earned it. Instead of the two of retreating into your corners, see this as an opportunity to bring the subject into the open. Apologize to your husband for having to overhear your rather hyperbolic complaints. But say you're actually glad he did, because this topic is a recurring source of conflict between the two of you and you'd like you both to handle it better. Say you feel burdened by being responsible for the bulk of the household chores, and you need a better system for dividing them up. Maybe a check list on the refrigerator would work. Ask him for his suggestions for how to make this more fair. Then when he eavesdrops he will just have to listen to you going on about Ryan Gosling.