Dear Ms. Behavior:
My boyfriend, Derek, didn’t tell me that he also has a girlfriend, even though we’ve been dating for three months. Finally, he told me last night. When I asked why he hadn’t mentioned her sooner, Derek said he didn’t think it mattered, because we’d agreed to date other people.
I knew Derek probably was seeing one specific person—he’s not the type to hook up with random strangers—but the fact that his other person is female freaks me out. Derek says his girlfriend, “Crystal,” knows about me, and doesn’t mind. For some reason that makes it worse.
But if we’ve agreed to see other people, why should it matter that he has a girlfriend, and not a boyfriend? Am I just unhip?
The fact that Derek’s girlfriend knew about you, but you didn’t know about her, implies that Derek’s relationship with the girlfriend is the more intimate one. Perhaps it’s just because he has known Crystal for a longer time, but it does sound like he’s sharing more information with her than with you. If this is true, your relationship isn’t the primary one. Your position, “the other lover,” never feels good.
The fact that she’s a woman bothers you, because it’s unfamiliar terrain. It takes all the air out of your competitive impulses. You can’t ask the usual jealous questions—like,” “Who has a better body?”; or “Is his basket bigger than mine?”
Also, some part of you probably worries about whether Derek is truly bisexual, or if he actually likes women better. That probably comes from your urge to compete, coupled with the fear that you’ll lose.
Luckily for you, based on Ms. Behavior’s unofficial surveys, most men who date both men and women actually seem to like men better. This may be because men are more skilled in performing fellatio. It doesn’t guarantee, of course, that Derek’s taste for women won’t continue to grow.
Unfortunately, your worries are a bit unhip, but that’s OK. Please try to accept yourself. Finding another person to date simultaneously may dull the pain.
The good thing about your dilemma is that it’s a perfect topic for you to address if you wish to write a snappy self-help book: My Boyfriend’s Other Boyfriend Is a Woman.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
I have a complicated dilemma. I was using the cell phone of my partner, Max, this morning when he received a voice mail from his ex. I wouldn’t have listened to the voicemail, but Jeff called four times in a row, so I listened to the voicemails.
Jeff said that he missed Max; was depressed and miserable; and didn’t feel like living if he had to live without Max. He said he was still in love with Max, and that he would wait to hear if Max would come back to him, etc.
I was so horrified that I automatically deleted the messages. I didn’t decide to get rid of them—my finger just did it. But now, I don’t know if I should mention anything to Max.
Is it selfish of me to keep the information to myself, to protect our relationship?
Honestly, I’m hoping that Max’s nonresponse to Jeff’s intense voicemails might be enough to discourage further contact. But I also feel guilty for listening to them, and for not telling Max about them.
Part of me says, “What if Jeff kills himself?” The other part says, “Why should I care?”
What should I do?
If Jeff only had said that he was in love with Max, you could probably ignore the messages. But unfortunately, Jeff played the suicide card, which complicates things.
Now, you have to tell Max that you listened to his messages, and tell him what Jeff said. Max isn’t responsible for Jeff’s life, but he at least should know that Jeff is unstable right now, in case Jeff reaches out to him again (when you’re not there secretly to intercept the phone messages), or in case Jeff has someone else in his life who can help. If Max is angry that you listened to his messages, you just will have to deal with it.
You can’t control the situation by keeping secrets. Anyway, that you feel threatened by a desperate, suicidal ex means you’re insecure about your relationship with Max. You should try to get to the root of that, and strengthen the relationship. As a bonus, you may be freed of the compulsion to spy, or engage in other secret-agent activities.
© 2009 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.