When you’re the “other” (wo)man
I’ve noticed you give good advice to people in thorny situations, so here’s another one: I went to a party and met this guy, “Tom”. He was really cute and I liked him and we flirted and kissed and before I knew it we were at my house fucking like bunnies. So far, so good, right? Well…here comes trouble. Tom and I got together twice more and it was great fun, but he wouldn’t plan ahead, he’d call me right before he came over and he couldn’t stay long.
Can you see what’s coming? Right, he has a partner, “Roman”, who doesn’t know Tom is sleeping with me. In fact, Tom told me that he and Roman have an agreement to be monogamous because Roman doesn’t trust him (gee, I wonder why?) So now I am the “other” man, and I don’t like it. Tom said that if he told Roman that he was sleeping with me, that Roman would divorce him. I think Tom is a kept boy with a big lie.
What should I do? Keep sleeping with Tom on the sly (it’s really good sex) knowing he is lying to his partner? I enjoyed it at first but now all the sneaking around is getting me down and I feel bad about this. Or should I just enjoy myself and say that this isn’t my problem, it’s theirs?
Sleeping with Tom in North Park
I’ve received several emails like this over the past few months. Your letter encapsulates the debate on this topic quite nicely: whose problem is this? Is it yours because you knowingly contribute to deceiving Roman? Or is it Tom and Roman’s problem because Tom lies to tell Roman?
I think it’s a matter of your own personal integrity. What matters is how all this makes you feel about yourself. You say you “feel bad about this” and “the sneaking around is getting me down”. Your integrity is speaking loud and clear. There is little in life worth doing that leaves us feeling really bad about ourselves.
You said you and Tom are having “really good sex”, but is it really? My definition of good sex is sex that leaves both (or all) people involved feeling good about themselves, each other, and life in general. No matter how glowingly you portray it, sex with Tom is not good sex because it’s dragging down your self-esteem by all the lies and deceptions involved in “sneaking around” with Tom.
Not all of this is your problem, however. A big piece of this is about Tom and Roman, their integrity and that of their relationship. Your responsibility is to look at YOUR part of the picture and do what you think is skillful and helpful for all concerned. It ain’t good karma to be contributing to the deception of poor Roman. After all, how would you feel if you were in his shoes? Laugh if you will dear Readers, but eventually we all end up playing all the parts in life’s soap opera.
Just for the hell of it, suppose Tom was asking me for advice. If he was, I’d recommend that he look at why he sleeps around on Roman in violation of their agreement to be monogamous. If Tom stays with Roman primarily for his money, he may lose it (the money and the wealthy lifestyle) by sleeping with you. Maybe he really wants his integrity back, but this is conjecture.
It sounds to me like Roman has good reason not to trust Tom (don’t you think Tom has done this before?) and maybe Roman is really a great guy and Tom is a manipulative tramp.
Let’s take this one step further and imagine that Roman emails me, also asking for advice. If so, I’d ask him why he continues his relationship with Tom if he knows or suspects Tom is not honoring their agreement to be monogamous. Maybe Roman knows but pretends he doesn’t, and Tom thinks Roman knows but thinks Roman doesn’t have the backbone to confront Tom with his sleeping around.
Is this too much for you Dear Reader? If so, ask yourself what you would do in this situation. To make it even more interesting, take this column to a party this weekend and ask each person in the room to say what they would do if they were (a) the letter writer, (b) Tom, or (c) Roman. Since this scenario is more common than you may suspect (you should see my email!), it may be a useful exercise. Who knows when any of us may find ourselves in these situations? You know, all that stuff about stones and glass houses…