Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Step This Way and Play the Field

Dear Prudence (Mallory Ortberg) again addressed a topic relevant to this blog.
Q. In love with my stepbrother: When I was 18, my mom remarried a guy with a son my age. My stepbrother and I didn’t know each other well back then, but after returning from college, I’ve realized that I have a huge crush on him.
This is very common. We've discussed the issue of stepsiblings before.
He’s single, funny, mensch-y, smart, and very good-looking. I think he feels the same way about me, and we totally flirt. If he weren’t my stepbrother, I would definitely ask him out, but I see that there are infinite potential problems here. First off, if we break up it will be insanely awkward, but it’s also kind of weird and incestuous. (On the flip side, we’ve barely known each other five years, so he’s not REALLY like my brother.) Prudie, please tell me not to date my stepbrother so I don’t keep thinking about it!
Those really aren't compelling reasons to avoid exploring the relationship possibilities.
From the answer...
As you point out, if things don’t work out between the two of you, it will certainly complicate your family get-togethers. That said, there’s nothing inherently wrong with your feelings for him.
Not at all.
You’ve never lived together, you weren’t raised together—in no way is this situation incestuous.
And why would having lived together or being raised together in any way make a dating relationship wrong? If they find they like having a romantic and/or sexual relationship, they should be free to pursue that without being harassed by anyone.

Actually, the column had more than one topic relevant to this blog...
Q. Wife wants to re-explore bisexual feelings: When my wife and I met, we were both busy professionals who didn’t want children. We were a great match sexually—we’re both experienced and adventurous and very open about our paths. We became exclusively monogamous before we married and have been so ever since. Twenty-two years later and we still have a great life together and have sex regularly.
But recently, my wife told me she would like to re-explore her bisexual feelings. She said she wanted to stay married but wanted to have relations with “any woman, at any time without recrimination or consequences from me.” I, on the other hand, was to honor our monogamous vows.
Oh. I wonder if he has some clear reason other than a feeling? Feelings can be enough, but other things ("I worry about STIs") can be worked through and negotiated.
I love her and I do understand that sex with me is different than sex with a woman, but I see this as infidelity. She does not believe we need couples counseling, as this is just about exploring something I was aware she had done in the past. I asked whether I could think for a few days and then give her an answer. My answer at this point is to give her complete freedom and a divorce.
What are the real options here? He knows her feelings and she presumably knows his. His desire for strict monogamy is incompatible with her desire to also see women. I'm polyamorous myself, but I don't think either of these spouses is right or wrong. It's just a matter of what they each feel they need at this point in their life.

He said they have a "great life together." She wants to keep that going, except for the monogamy. She said, according to him, that "she would like to..." start seeing women again. That doesn't make it clear whether she is willing to defer to his desires or if she's informing him she is no longer going to be monogamous with him. If she defers to his desire for monogamy, she might be resentful. If she's going to start seeing women again, he can stay (in which case he might be resentful) or leave. He already knows what he has with her. If he leaves, there is less certainty. He might be on his own for the rest of his life (which he might like) or he might find a new woman with whom he can have a monogamous relationship. That might be even better than what he has with her, or it might not be as good. Would losing him be "worth it" to her to see other women and, if she wants, look for another man?

From the answer...
Bisexuality does not entitle a person to demand an open marriage without warning or discussion.
She has provided warning and discussed it.
If you’re not interested in a marriage where she’s free to sleep with any woman she likes but you’re required to be monogamous, tell her so.
I didn't see where he said that his wife was saying he had to monogamous. He's indicated that's what he wants. Or, at least, he wants the relationship to be monogamous more than he'd like to be with others.It's quite possible he's wanted to be with others but didn't want his wife to be with anyone else and he decided it was only fair that he be monogamous if he wanted his wife to be.

It's not an easy situation.
— — —


  1. I did read where he said *any woman, at any time without recrimination or consequences from me.” I, on the other hand, was to honor our monogamous vows.*

    If he doesn't want to abide by her rules, a divorce may be his only option.

  2. As you say it is not an easy situation, even without children and the couple's parents involved. If the marriage contract specifically allowed for either or both parties to opt for a polyamorous association on the side, that would be one thing, but if they both agreed to monogamy at the start ( usually implicit in most western marriage contracts) then a whole new contract might need to be negotiated. But if one person breaks the contract, depending on the law of the state concerned, one person breaking the contract may be liable for breach of contract and causing emotional pain an suffering. And what of the pain and suffering of children and relatives who might have to witness an unhappy divorce. Still not many people go to jail for adultery these days. In an ideal world where sex and emotional security was always available for everyone regardless of age or beauty or economic status, jealousy anger and mental breakdowns, and gun violence might not be something to worry about. However the real world is not ideal. One has to be careful to always be discreet careful not to hurt others and follow the Golden Rule.As they say 'what goes around, comes around.' There are hard decisions to make. It is nice if people can find a happy compromise and negotiate successfully, but that is not always easy or possible.

  3. Marry me, Anonymous! But also, do whatever makes you happy! Still fighting the good fight for that ideal world! :-)


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