"Ask Dr. Tracy"

8/6/2000 Advice Column

Swinging Gone Bad
Love Online
No Sunshine When She's Gone

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My name is Adam, and have been happily married 1 year, and unhappily married 4. I have two wonderful daughters, and the older has now become aware of the challenges of my unusual marriage.

The problem occurs with how much much wife enjoys sexual exploration with other men. We entered into agreement of marriage for a 1-1 relationship. I work long, and tiresome hours to establish a new business.

While I work, my wife heads out to the bars Friday nights to "pick-up" men for sex. It considerably bothers me, and I have stated so to her.

The confusing part of the story is I've come to enjoy a certain amount of her having sex with other men. When we do have sex, she has been more than before sexually satisfying, and we did negotiate and agree to a 3-some, which was a marvellous affair. I completely enjoyed her having several orgasms from another man whom was much bigger than me, while I was able to service her orally in pleasure.

The dilemma comes in me however how all this came to be. What started off as a 1-1 relationship, for one year, turned into a nightmare of other men being discovered in her life very very sexually, and I believed myself robbed from the initial trust I gave out to her to her lovingly. Had I known from the outset that she enjoyed sex with other men prior to marriage, I sincerely doubt I would have married her.

In a sense, I walk two lives now. What needs sorting out in my head is understanding now how I can enjoy her having sex with other men, in private, or other settings (such as 3-some), yet feel this constant anger of betrayal from the outset of my original trust. Unquestionably, sex is the best I've had in years from her.

A feeling of bitterness comes over me, however, in trying to rationalize how, true enough -- I now enjoy these "alternate styles", but also only discovered such new sex ways almost though a gun were at my head. She'd do it, regardless, without too much consideration for me. Sure enough, despite my feelings, she might stay away from other men for a couple months, and then sneak behind my back again, which is how I ended up negotiating in end -- might as well join in.

My thinking is pretty clear otherwise. My life has no unusual disturbances, and while my drinking habits are higher than average, I don't see myself poorly, or failed in any sense of my life. However, I believe that my wife has failed herself in that the original commitment could not be held, and with much struggle to keep the marriage together for sake of children, I found myself enjoying this other style of life.

Do you have any insights that can help me?

Dear Jealous,

You are in deep trouble. No matter what you call your alternative lifestyle, it's just plain old open marriage, or swinging. Men and women have been trying it for countless generations, and very few are able to live this lifestyle without problems. Those few who do survive swinging truly trust each other, have a deep understanding and communication, and are somehow able to share their mates without jealousy, guilt or recriminations.

You are obviously in over your head, and you're not cut out for an open marriage. You enjoy the sexual thrills you get from seeing your wife with others, and from her increased libido, yet you feel resentful that she hasn't fulfilled her original, monogamous marriage commitment. You can't have it both ways. You can't enjoy the thrills you get from alternative lifestyles if you wind up suffering from unrelenting jealousy, anger and a sense of betrayal.

You're the kind of guy who really belongs in a one-on-one relationship. Your wife is not a one-on-one type of woman. So I'd give your marriage very little chance for long-term survival. Getting into an alternative lifestyle to save your marriage isn't a good idea and almost always fails to either save the marriage or create a couple of happy swingers.

You joined in because you didn't want to be left behind, but you know your heart wasn't in it, and you were mostly participating so your wife's extra-marital sex wouldn't be totally behind your back. If you don't enjoy the alternative lifestyle and your wife won't live a conventional lifestyle, you are doomed to be unhappy. In fact, you've been unhappily married for far too long. Don't waste four more years of unhappiness. Don't stay married just for the sake of your children. You will only make yourself, your wife, and your children unhappy.

You have non-negotiable issues and I doubt if either you or your wife is going to change. It's time to tell your wife, either give up other men, or I'm out of here. If she won't or can't be faithful, then you should separate and give both of you a chance to be happy.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 29 year old single female who has never been married...nor do I have any children. About a month ago I met a man of the same age, same status, in a 30's chat room. We hit it off immediately and have been talking on the phone every day now for a month. I should mention that he lives in Scotland...is originally from Sweden...and I live in NY.

We have exchanged pictures and are mutually attracted to eachother. We are both experiencing deep feelings and we talk about them together and realize it sounds so crazy. He is very commitment minded, very successful in his career, smart and funny. He is very family oriented and calls his sisters and grandparents in Sweden daily. During our first conversation he admitted openly how much he loves his sisters and how he would do anything for them. His parents died when he was 16 and he was responsible for his sisters. As a result he is very nurturing, kind, and generous.

He will be coming to NY for 2 weeks on September 5th...it will be our first in-person meeting. As well, I will be travelling back to Europe with him for a short period, as he wants to take me to Sweden to meet his family.

He initiates talks about the future and building a life together. If things in person go as well as they are right now....I plan to move to Scotland after Christmas. I know this all seems way too much.... too fast, but neither of us have ever felt so strongly in our lives. We are both ready to commit and feel ready to mesh our lives together.

By the way, he insisted on paying for my plane ticket to Sweden as he feels he invited me. He says he is so proud to have met me and wants his family to know me. I also plan to introduce him to my family when he is here. I have also talked with his sister many times...and his co-workers as well. It seems he has a magnetic personality and everyone loves him....including me. He says he loves me too and shows it in so many ways. I honestly have never been happier.

Do you think we are foolish to think that this could really work? Do you think we are caught up in intrigue as we are from different parts of the world?

Dear Cyber Romantic,

Whoa! You've only been chatting a month and it sounds like you're head over heels in love, ready to throw caution to the wind, and give your all to this man you haven't even met yet. Slow down.

Instead of giving your all, give 75% and save 25% to fall back on, just in case. There are so many problems that could come up between cyberspace and the altar that it's worth a little restraint.

Meeting and falling in love online isn't impossible. As a matter of fact, it happens all the time. But your case is a different. Usually people who meet and fall in love online live close to one another or at least in the same country. But you've fallen for someone who lives in Scotland, which is a long way and a lot different from New York.

Your guy sounds wonderful. Almost too good to be true. Makes you wonder why some Scottish lass hasn't snapped him up. Before you schedule a permanent move to Scotland, plan to spend a month or so visiting, just to make sure everything is as it appears or as he says it is.

Also, it's important to see how you like Scotland, how you'll feel in a country so far north and so different from the U.S.. Even the biggest cities are a far cry from Manhattan and life is quite simple and unsophisticated there.

On my Scottish book tours, one of the most frequently asked questions was, "Did you sleep with your husband before you married him," which of course never came up in the United States. Scotland doesn't have all the conspicuous consumption or the endless availability of goods that we're used to, either. Also, you'd be leaving your friends and family, so you'd have to make new friends and build a whole new life, which could be a real challenge.

That said, why not go for this. You have very little to lose. You're single with no kids, and this is the time in your life to experiment. Even if this relationship doesn't work out to be a lifelong commitment, you will have had a great romantic adventure and learned a lot about yourself, men and life.

There are lots of good signs about your Mr. Wonderful. He is paying for your plane ticket to Sweden and he's coming to see you. Also you've checked with his family and co-workers and their good reports are encouraging.

But real love takes time to build. Right now, you're in a romantic fantasy, because you really don't know this man that well, even if you think you do. So far, you've only seen the best side of each other. You really won't know him until you see how he acts under stress. Anyone can be terrific when there are no problems.

You're a little carried away right now, caught up in this romantic intrigue which is why I suggest a month in Scotland before you make any final decisions.

I hope he's as wonderful as he seems so far and that you continue to be happier than you've ever been before. Write again and let me know how your visit went.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm going through a major loss in my life and I didn't see anything like this on your site, so I am writing for some straight talk & direction.

I am a 48 year-old single man who had a 6 year affair with a married co-worker--she is 52. Without going into the details, please believe me when I say that this was the most profound love & passion that I have ever felt in my life. It was enough to keep me happily filling those "secret lover" shoes for 6 years. Sure, there was a bit of company gossip but we ignored it. And truth be told, I suppose I was truly waiting for her to come to her "senses" and leave her 20-year marriage for me.

However, just about a year ago we had a falling out over the time we were spending together and that resulted in her completely closing me out of her life.

Okay, so I might not be worthy of any sympathy, but I am still grieving & hurting over this break-up and I'm in need of some direction. Even in a relationship that is not viewed as "right," 6 years is a long time to have to get over.

Here are my questions:

1--I can't believe that I am still sad after a year. I know that I played the "maybe she'll come back" game for many months, but what's up with this sense of sadness a full year later?

2--Any tips for getting by at work? Although I can bob-and-weave for several weeks, sometimes we pass each other & look the other way, which really sux!

I just don't feel like myself most of the time, and this on-going sadness is zapping my being.

Dear "Secret Lover,"

Six years is a long time to be in a relationship, especially a secret one. There's nothing sexier than sneaking to be together, hiding your love, having a lusty secret that you cherish. Now that that's gone, you are missing even more than the woman you were having the affair with. You are missing your focus, the excitement in your life, the secret you lived for.

Even though your lover never left her husband to be with you (most never do, so don't take it personally), you felt as if your life revolved around the time you had together. You looked forward to it and thought about it afterwards. Now you have nothing to look forward to and nothing to do but dwell on what you had that you don't have anymore.

Interestingly, men suffer more when a relationship is over than do women. Women have their friends and talk it out endlessly using their female support system. Men feel they have to go it alone, especially in a case like yours where you really can't talk to anyone about your pain. You're right, there aren't a lot of pity points you can rack up for messing with another man's wife for six years, but you are in pain and that's what counts. You are suffering from a loss that can't be recovered and you'll just have to complete the "letting go" process. Eventually you'll find someone new. But unless you take steps to rebuild your life and replace your lost love, you could continue to obsess and suffer for a long time.

Now that you are ready to accept that you will never have this woman and to give up hope of getting her back, you are ready to move on. Don't delay. You've already spent some very important years in a relationship that wasn't to be. I recommend my book, "Letting Go," which will give you some techniques for getting over your sadness. I also recommend a new hobby, a new girlfriend, and a therapist.

At work, you'll have to get over acting like you have a problem with her. Stop avoiding her. Begin to treat her like any other co-worker. Say hello, smile politely, and act as if you're fine. Acting like it's okay will be the first step toward making it okay, just as acting happy can actually help you feel happy.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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