Q: I'm going to say up front that I know I am a complete and total asshole.
I have been with my current boyfriend for about three years and we are living together. About a year ago, our relationship started to go bad when I found out I was pregnant and ended up having an abortion. Every time I look at him, all I see is this baby I didn't have and I feel horrible to the point where now I don't like him to even touch me anymore. I don't want to hurt him. I just don't see how I can carry on in this relationship anymore.
Compounding all of that, an old flame from Europe is back in my life, and I am still in love with him and I know he still loves me. This guy was my knight in shining armor in college but he had to return to the UK, so we couldn't really have anything. But now the possibility is there because our lives are at a stage where we could move and make it work. I have no idea how to deal with any of this. The old flame looks better and better all the time and I am doing so badly here, but I don't want to hurt anyone. I don't see any route at this point that won't end with at least one person in tears. Please help! —Definitely Out Of My Depth
A: Presumably there was a good reason why you decided against having a child with the boyfriend. Perhaps you told yourselves that it wasn't the right time, DOOMD, but it seems more than likely you realized, consciously or subconsciously, that he wasn't the right person: He wasn't the man with whom you wanted to have children. Or perhaps the boyfriend was so strongly opposed to becoming a father that you decided to have an abortion — an abortion you instantly regretted and resent him for.
Either way, DOOMD, I don't see how your current relationship survives.
And we haven't even addressed the existence of the Euro. You still have strong feelings for your old college flame — clearly — and if you stay with the boyfriend for the rest of your life just to spare his feelings, DOOMD, your resentments will metastasize.
Again, I don't see how this relationship survives.
But none of that answers your question, does it? You've asked me to identify a way out — a route out — that spares everyone's feelings. Sorry, DOOMD, but I can't help you. If you pass on the Euro because you can't stand the thought of hurting the boyfriend, you'll be miserable. And if you stay with the boyfriend, you're only postponing his misery. Your resentments will grow and spread, like so many tumors, until they ultimately kill this relationship. If the Euro has moved on by that point, then all three of you will wind up miserable and alone.
Q: I've been married for 12 years. Six months ago, I separated from my wife, and during that time I had an affair. Ultimately, I figured out that I couldn't make a long-term relationship work with this "other woman," and I am now working to reconcile with my wife. But the sex with the affair partner was incredible — not just because she was new, but because we were highly compatible sexually. The sex was energetic and adventurous in ways that it never was with my wife.
So now I'm worried that though I think my wife and I can rebuild all the other parts of our marriage, I'll always unfavorably be comparing my wife to this other partner. (I should say that I fantasize often about the affair partner.) Sex for my wife and me was OK but not great before our separation, but I know we both want it to be a rewarding part of our marriage going forward. Any thoughts? Will the memories of my affair partner fade with time? Can I somehow use my affair experience to build a better sex life with my wife? —Can't Shake The Other Woman
A: Maybe you and the wife just aren't as sexually compatible as you and this other woman, and never will be. Maybe the only thing you can do, CSTOW, is focus on the other things the wife brings to the table, the emotional if not sexual satisfactions.
Sometimes we feel freer sexually when we're with people we care about less. When we're with someone we're never going to see again (a one-night stand) or someone we probably shouldn't see again (another woman), we're not as concerned about scaring that person off. When we're with someone who has "potential" — someone with long-term prospects — we tend to be a little more cautious. The stakes feel higher, and that can be inhibiting. We're less willing to take risks, we're less open, we're less likely to act on our fantasies.
So it's possible that your problem with the wife isn't sexual incompatibility, CSTOW, but sexual inhibition. Have you tried fucking the wife like you fucked the other woman? Have you ever risked fucking the wife like you've fucked women who you're never going to see again?
Q: Sixteen months is way too soon to be discussing marriage? Really. Really?? How long are we supposed to drag out the courtship, Dan? While I agree with you that three months is much too soon, I'd argue my own personal case: My wife and I married almost a year to the day of our first date, and that was 26 years ago. So while your advice to Lady In A Relationship was sound, your blanket assessment of the relationship landscape overlooks those of us who have a brain. Jussayin'… —Mr. Right
A: Good thing I give advice for a living, MR, and don't do binding arbitration. People are free to disregard my rants if they think I got it wrong. And maybe I went a little overboard: Depending on the couple, 16 months could be the right time, or a right time, to start discussing marriage. Still, a long engagement is always a good idea, regardless of how long you've been dating. If you're positive he or she is "the one" at three months — or eight months, or 16 months — he or she will still be the one at three years.
Q: MY FIANCE AND I — we're a straight couple — are getting married in July. We've lived together for four years, and as such we don't need any more than we already have. We're asking friends and family to make donations to nonprofits that are dear to us in lieu of traditional gifts. We're both grade-school teachers, so the bulk of our requests are related to the needs of our students. (Shameless plug: Refugee Women's Alliance and New Futures are two amazing programs that specifically serve students where we live.) We're including Planned Parenthood on our list, and we would like to include a nonprofit that advocates for marriage equality. Which one would you suggest? —Soon To Be Married
A: Thanks for thinking of us, STBM, which is more than President Obama is willing to do: I would recommend that you put Lambda Legal (they're lawyers, they sue) and Freedom to Marry (they're advocates, they woo) on your list. Unlike most national gay organizations, Lambda Legal and Freedom to Marry do good work and get results. Thanks and congratulations!Download the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage. Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org