Dear Ms. Behavior:
I secretly am sleeping with my friend, Amy, who is in the process of breaking up with her almost-ex girlfriend, Robin. Their relationship has been loveless and sexless for many years, but Amy hasn’t moved out, because Robin’s mother is dying, and Amy feels it would be cruel to finalize their breakup right now.
Our sex is amazing—the best sex ever in my lifetime—and Amy says it’s the best sex of her life, too. (We’re in our 40s, so that’s saying a lot.)
I’ve run into Amy and Robin at events a few times. Robin seems nice, and I feel weird and guilty, mainly because Amy hasn’t told Robin we’re seeing each other. I also feel crappy about sneaking around in hotel rooms and cars.
But I don’t know if I should pressure Amy to tell Robin right now, because it seems like they each are under stress. At the same time, I think life is short, and Amy should get on with it, so that our relationship can be out in the open.
What do you think?
—Amy’s Other Woman
Dear Amy’s Other Woman:
If you ever have gotten shocked by, say, sticking a butter knife into an electric socket, you probably have noticed the shock makes your hand contract around the object that transmits the current, rendering it quite difficult to let go. The “best sex ever” is similar, though in this scenario, the contracting body part is not your hand, but rather what we politely will refer to as your love muscle.
The thing to remember: Your love muscle, which has an IQ even lower than that of an earthworm or a squid, may lure you into circumstances you ordinarily would be smart enough to avoid. This is because the blood that normally feeds your brain rushes to your clit, leaving you with a cognitive deficit, which often happens when you’re first intensely attracted to someone.
Secretive groping and humping in a car or a hotel room is one thing; trying to have a relationship based primarily on pheromones and hormones is another. You’ve revealed things about Amy that make her sound like a suboptimal romantic prospect, but you haven’t even noticed, because you’re all engorged with hope, expectation, and love juice.
Amy doesn’t want to dump Robin while Robin’s mother is dying, but that doesn’t explain why Amy has remained in a loveless and sexless relationship for “many years.” Her comfort with this stagnant relationship suggests that she may be passive and uncommunicative in general, or at the very least, stuck and incapable of moving forward.
If you and Amy stay together for a few years, do you think she instantly will inform you when she’s unhappy, instead of just sticking it out in sexless and loveless misery all over again? What if she lacks the ability to communicate, and would rather move on to someone else’s damp backseat when things get tough? Or, what if she’s actually just an immobilized person who lacks the ambition to floss her teeth, take out the garbage, or leave the girlfriend she no longer loves?
You probably don’t want to think about this, but Amy never may leave Robin—after the dying mother excuse runs out, another one may emerge. (Job stress? Ailing cat? Wandering uterus?) As you must know, some people have serious affairs, but never leave. The hotness of the sex-on-the-side is not correlated with the likelihood that they’ll break off their primary relationship.
Amy has erotic adventures behind Robin’s back, and then withholds information about her slutty hookups. You may hope that your “best sex ever” encounters will keep her enthralled forever, but if they don’t, do you think she’ll send you a news flash before she dredges up another woman to keep her from feeling the pain of a failed relationship?
Instead of demanding that Amy tells Robin about you, try extracting yourself from this drama until after the two truly are done with each other. If it means waiting until Robin’s mother dies, fine. Tell Amy she can ring your bell after she has moved out.
You’ll feel better and lighter if your relationship isn’t all mucked up with the detritus of Amy’s other relationship. And, as a side benefit, if Amy’s not all bogged down with guilt and conflict, she probably will move faster—in whichever direction she’s headed.
© 2008 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.