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I have been in a long-term relationship with a wonderful woman who doesn’t have a lot of people she socializes with in her daily life. She is a Burning Man person and converses online with other “burners.” I confronted her when I realized she was discussing the ups and downs of our relationship in a public online forum. She still hung out on that forum, but her presence diminished. I assumed she was socializing in private emails. A few months later, I discovered that she was actually moderating a different forum. I deleted the site from my history and decided to avoid it. Last week, while she was at Burning Man, I checked out the forum she moderates, even though I knew I shouldn’t have. What I found was that she never mentions having a boyfriend, even when it might be relevant to a discussion. I was never mentioned, not even in passing. I don’t mind that guys compliment her, and I understand the benefits of positive attention from the opposite sex. If she came to me and told me that is what she was seeking and that it was chaste, I would be fine with it as long as she made that clear to other forum members.
We are both attractive, and I get attention at times from other women. I often mention that I have a girlfriend to avoid someone getting the wrong idea. I also feel like she saves the spontaneous, uninhibited, and adventurous part of herself for these people at Burning Man. Does it sound like she is cheating emotionally? How can I bring this subject up in a way that doesn’t make me seem like just more of a depressing part of her life? I don’t want her to lose her outlet, but I feel like she is not showing me the respect one should show a partner of 10-plus years. —Her Burning Man
I don’t want to alarm you unnecessarily, HBM, but partnered people who go to Burning Man sans partner are typically planning to cheat-cheat, not cheat-emote. Casual straight sex, like sandy ass cracks and seeing my friend Eric naked, is a huge part of the Burning Man “experience.”
But the kind of straight guy who goes to Burning Man for casual sex—and the art and the experience and the transcendence—doesn’t give a shit if the girls he fucks have boyfriends back home. Or in the next tent. Your girlfriend could post your picture to Burning Man forums, mention you in every face-to-face conversation she has, and wear a shirt with your picture on it everywhere she goes on the playa, HBM, and she’d still find plenty of guys willing to fuck her brains out.
Mentioning you in online forums, not mentioning you in online forums—neither action is proof that she plans to cheat or not cheat. So I’m sitting here racking my brain trying to come up with some other reason why your girlfriend might not have mentioned you in an online Burning Man forum that she moderates.
Thinking, thinking, thinking.
Hey! Maybe it’s because the last time you caught her talking about you and your relationship in a public online forum, you blew the fuck up at her. Remember? You were angry then because she was talking about you on the interwebs. And you’re angry now that she isn’t talking about you on the interwebs.
If you’re looking for a reason why your girlfriend feels inhibited around you, HBM, maybe it’s the mixed signals. She gets in trouble for talking about you; she gets in trouble for not talking about you. If your girlfriend feels like she’s going to be in trouble with you no matter what she does, HBM, then she’s going to feel inhibited around you. And she’s going to err on the side of sharing less of what she does with you.
When your girlfriend gets back from Burning Man, HBM, here’s what I think you should say: “I realize this makes me sound crazy, and maybe I am crazy. But remember when I was upset about you talking about me—about us—in that public online forum? Well, I stumbled on another online forum and you weren’t talking about me. And that upset me, too.”
Acknowledge your insecurities, HBM, take some responsibility for the impact they may have on her behavior, and then have a long talk about how you can both enjoy a little attention from members of the opposite sex without making the other person feel like shit. —Dan
I’ve been dating someone for a little more than two months. After the second week, he was saying things like “We need a word between ‘like’ and ‘love’ because ‘I like you’ doesn’t seem sufficient.” After weeks of telling him to slow his roll, I agreed to make it official and stop dating and sleeping with other guys because he wanted to “lock it down.” It’s been a week, and he’s still on Scruff and Growlr. I’m a little put off because he was the one who pushed for exclusivity and the title of boyfriend. Should I be concerned? Can hookup apps be part of a healthy, monogamous relationship? Obviously a talk is needed. —Sick of Scruff
Maybe your boyfriend wants to cheat but doesn’t want to be cheated on—he wants his boyfriend locked down, but doesn’t want to be locked down himself—or maybe he thinks it’s too soon to delete his online personal profiles. Or maybe, like a lot of gay men, he treats hookup apps like a virtual gay bar, i.e., a place where he can hang out and socialize with friends and exes and, perhaps, get his flirt on now and then.
But if lurking on Scruff and Growlr makes his newly locked-down boyfriend feel insecure, he should stay off hookup apps. Or, if he simply can’t give ’em up, your new boyfriend should allow you to look at his chats whenever you care to so you can see for yourself that they’re either wholly innocent (just talking with friends) or wholly innocent flirting (swapping photos and compliments with hot guys but not making plans to hook up). —Dan
I’m a gay man who gained 30 pounds after I met my current boyfriend. I started dieting about a week before you ran a letter from a woman who was wondering about withholding sex until her husband lost some weight. I told my boyfriend not to have sex with me until I lost 15 pounds. It took me three and a half weeks to lose the weight, but it really strengthened our relationship. He was supportive of my weight-loss goals, he had an incentive to help me make healthier choices, and it brought an erotic tension to the process that we both dug. My only suggestion for the woman who wrote you: Don’t tell people about it! The people we told were angry at my boyfriend for “withholding” sex unless I lost weight. But, hey, it worked! —Lighter In Loafers
As I said in my response to Like Boys Slimmer, if a couple can make the withholding of sex into an erotic game that they’re both playing and both enjoying—and not an asshole move one partner is pulling—I could maybe see this sort of arrangement working. And I’m pleased to hear that at least one couple out there was able to successfully eroticize a diet by combining it with chastity play. —Dan Savage
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