Dan Savage

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Dan Savage

Post by eselle28 on Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:43 pm

This is in part for myself, so I can link to it next time people start debating whether Savage is an infidelity apologist in all situations or merely in long term relationships where there is no sex and it would be very difficult to end the relationship. I'm not seeing any of those mitigating factors in this letter, or really any other excuse besides, "I really, really want to."

http://www.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/2016/01/15/23430603/savage-love-letter-of-the-day-i-wanna-fuck-this-guy-i-work-withshould-i-do-it


Last edited by eselle28 on Sun Jan 24, 2016 12:17 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Enail on Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:54 pm

Bleargh. I know he tends that way, but this is way beyond the realm of "a little biased toward monogamish over monogamy" or "tends towards forgiving of infidelity" and right into "sure, why not." Disappointing.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Werel on Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:58 pm

I agree with most of the comments on that one that were like "what the fuck, Dan, don't give bad advice just cause you're tired and burned out." I think this is a case of really bad advice on a topic where I usually find his advice fairly good.

I also agree with his perspective that cheating once or twice over the course of a 30- or 40-year relationship makes you really quite good at monogamy. (I have no apologist dog in that fight, as I am a goddamn superstar MVP at monogamy by any accounting Razz)

I also agree with his perspective that everyone should give some critical thought to whether or not infidelity (or what kinds of infidelity, under what circumstances, etc.) is a hardline dealbreaker for them, personally, regardless of what the received social wisdom says.

For this girl: no. She shouldn't fuck this dude. The penultimate paragraph of his advice, where he says that the best and most ethical thing would be to get as far away from one another as possible and then decide independently whether she wants to remain in a strictly monogamous relationship with her current partner, is the half I'd second.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Caffeinated on Mon Jan 18, 2016 8:00 pm

Maybe even into "really pretty much everyone cheats" territory.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by litterature on Mon Jan 18, 2016 8:53 pm

I guess he only cares about infidelity when he can use it as a pseudo-argument to hate on bi people?

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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Werel on Mon Jan 18, 2016 8:56 pm

Can somebody walk me through the "Dan Savage hates trans and bi people" meme? I feel like I've been reading/listening to dude's columns and podcasts forever and not gotten a shred of that impression, but maybe I don't know what to look for. confused
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by eselle28 on Mon Jan 18, 2016 9:24 pm

Werel wrote:Can somebody walk me through the "Dan Savage hates trans and bi people" meme? I feel like I've been reading/listening to dude's columns and podcasts forever and not gotten a shred of that impression, but maybe I don't know what to look for. confused

He's gotten a great deal better about both those issues over the years. One of the things I find redeeming about him, as someone who leans closer to hate-reading the column than just regular reading it, is that he does seem like someone who's willing to listen and revise his rules.

In the past, he tended to characterize bisexuals as either closet cases hiding in straight relationships or as self-deluding gay teens and as being generally bad partners for both gay and straight people. These days, I think he's modified his views. He points out that many bi people end up in long term relationships with opposite sex partners, but now attributes it to being easier to find a partner for a straight relationship rather than that the bisexual person wants to stay in the closet.

In terms of trans people, he just tends toward being rather insensitive, and he's used the most common slur a number of times. I believe he's stopped doing that as well.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Werel on Mon Jan 18, 2016 11:40 pm

eselle28 wrote:He's gotten a great deal better about both those issues over the years. One of the things I find redeeming about him, as someone who leans closer to hate-reading the column than just regular reading it, is that he does seem like someone who's willing to listen and revise his rules.

In the past, he tended to characterize bisexuals as either closet cases hiding in straight relationships or as self-deluding gay teens and as being generally bad partners for both gay and straight people. These days, I think he's modified his views. He points out that many bi people end up in long term relationships with opposite sex partners, but now attributes it to being easier to find a partner for a straight relationship rather than that the bisexual person wants to stay in the closet.

Oh, okay. Now I kind of get it. That 1999 article is some bullshit from a 2016 perspective (but like you say, people get a lot of brownie points for learning & changing). The 2011 one is certainly inflammatory if read as a personal essay, and probably fanbase-nuking if read as an official position statement. I generally lean towards assuming entertainment personalities will periodically say some insensitive/dumb stuff, because we all do, and not tossing their entertainment value out the window because of it. At the same time, I also generally want to stay the fuck out of how other people police their movements internally (I am not the person to contribute opinions on whether he is or should be a public representative of LGBTQIA* activism, seeing as zero of those letters represent me), so I'll just stick to having opinions on what he says about monogamy. Wink
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Werel on Tue Jan 19, 2016 10:54 pm

Ugh goddamnit, Dan, just as soon as I semi-defend you on cheating advice, you say this dumb crap...

Dan Savage wrote:I'm thinking it killed you to know that Ms. Name was at home complaining to anyone who would listen about what a fucking two-timing piece of shit you are. (Ms. Name most likely neglected to mention the fact that you two hadn't fucked in a year, that she wasn't really that into you or attracted to you, and that you might have grounds to cheat.)

He didn't have grounds to cheat. He had grounds to dump her. C'mon now. innocent
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by eselle28 on Tue Jan 19, 2016 11:32 pm

Werel wrote:Ugh goddamnit, Dan, just as soon as I semi-defend you on cheating advice, you say this dumb crap...

Dan Savage wrote:I'm thinking it killed you to know that Ms. Name was at home complaining to anyone who would listen about what a fucking two-timing piece of shit you are. (Ms. Name most likely neglected to mention the fact that you two hadn't fucked in a year, that she wasn't really that into you or attracted to you, and that you might have grounds to cheat.)

He didn't have grounds to cheat. He had grounds to dump her. C'mon now. innocent

I'm going to note that here the LW mentioned he wasn't feeling particularly sexual during this time period, either, though he mentions it in reference to his secondary partner rather than his primary one. I think it's interesting that he has grounds to cheat. Did his primary girlfriend? His secondary one? He sounds displeased to learn the second woman had other partners, but isn't called out on that.

Anyway, I think Dan's feelings hardened on this during the period when he got so many sexless marriage questions and that he's now getting pretty free rein to people in unhappy or sexually dissatisfying relationships, whether or not they can easily leave them, and that he's inclined to give free passes even in some cases of relatively untroubled relationships. I guess it beats the hemming and hawing over what sexless means and who can and can't leave.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by reboundstudent on Wed Jan 20, 2016 3:39 pm

eselle28 wrote:
Werel wrote:Ugh goddamnit, Dan, just as soon as I semi-defend you on cheating advice, you say this dumb crap...

Dan Savage wrote:I'm thinking it killed you to know that Ms. Name was at home complaining to anyone who would listen about what a fucking two-timing piece of shit you are. (Ms. Name most likely neglected to mention the fact that you two hadn't fucked in a year, that she wasn't really that into you or attracted to you, and that you might have grounds to cheat.)

He didn't have grounds to cheat. He had grounds to dump her. C'mon now. innocent

I'm going to note that here the LW mentioned he wasn't feeling particularly sexual during this time period, either, though he mentions it in reference to his secondary partner rather than his primary one. I think it's interesting that he has grounds to cheat. Did his primary girlfriend? His secondary one? He sounds displeased to learn the second woman had other partners, but isn't called out on that.

Anyway, I think Dan's feelings hardened on this during the period when he got so many sexless marriage questions and that he's now getting pretty free rein to people in unhappy or sexually dissatisfying relationships, whether or not they can easily leave them, and that he's inclined to give free passes even in some cases of relatively untroubled relationships. I guess it beats the hemming and hawing over what sexless means and who can and can't leave.

I've soured on his relationship advice in stages over the years, but I've always found his definition of "can't leave" pretty bizarre. His primary qualifier seems to be," Have kids? Oh well then absolutely cheat to save the marriage!", as if divorce is this horrible, irrevocable damage to children that they will never get over. And yet somehow the potential of a partner getting caught outside the marriage is less scarring? I have a couple of friends who are divorced with kids, and many of them have glowing opinions of their fellow parent, so long as they divorced before things really got bad and painful. The kids seem to be happy and well-adjusted, the divorced couples seem to co-parent well, and divorce doesn't seem to be this giant Boogeyman. Compare that to couples who divorced after things fell apart (like, they found out their partner cheated), and the family dynamic does seem a lot more fraught and painful.

I just don't get his position that cheating is always preferable to divorce. Though I admit, outside of abusive relationships (where the stance is "I can't leave yet"), I just don't understand this idea that people are just stuck in marriages where cheating is the only way to be sane, especially when there's a decent chance that cheating will lead to the implosion of the relationship anyway.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by InkAndComb on Wed Jan 20, 2016 11:06 pm

I find his opinion on this to be pretty gross Sad and his opinion on being "monogamish".

Being skilled at a task doesn't make mistakes any less impactful when they are made; I liked the commenter who mentioned that you don't encourage a new driver to get in a fender bender because "it's bound to happen eventually, might as well get it out of the way".

The thing is, it's *not* bound to happen eventually. And the things you can do to limit the chances of this happening (openly communicating your needs, sadly recognizing and respecting that if you are violating boundaries and being deceitful you have already broken the agreed upon 'contract' of your relationship) are very key!

If the only reason your relationship stays together is because you are hiding the faulty aspects that would drive your partner away, that feels...false, to me. That doesn't seem "good at being monogamous", it feels "good at hiding your errors", I guess?

I think a lot of couples have different soft and hardlines on what cheating is, but his attitude in this felt so wrong.  And I feel like he is projecting a lot of his own personal preferences, in so much of his advice; like "if you were good for ___ amount of time, then you can be bad once and awhile". No. That's a terrible attitude to take.

Eugh, I don't know. You don't get to decide whether or not your actions are hurtful to another person; that your actions shouldn't have as much of an impact as they do. That's up to the person who is receiving the behavior and affected by it, for better or for worse.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by jcorozza on Thu Jan 21, 2016 10:02 am

InkAndComb wrote: like "if you were good for ___ amount of time, then you can be bad once and awhile". No. That's a terrible attitude to take.

Seriously. I haven't murdered anyone in 29 years - so it's cool if I do it now because of my good track record?
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Werel on Fri Jan 22, 2016 8:40 pm

Aiight y'all, it's finally UP FOR A VOTE:

Would you rather...

-Spend ten years in a monogamous relationship in which your sexual needs are not met or...

-Spend ten years in a supposedly monogamous relationship only to discover that your partner had been unfaithful to you.

I think I know where RBS and eselle fall on this one, and I think for me the answer is roughly the same (would pick unfulfilled needs, because at least that's an informed choice), but I am pondering this point of Dan's. He may have a legit argument, let's ask Peter Singer:

You're [the reader proposing this poll] weighing the pain these people are actually experiencing—the real pain of sexual rejection, the real pain of sexual deprivation—against the pain their "cheated on" partners will experience if the infidelity is discovered and if they're actually annoyed/pained by the infidelity (some don't care, some are relieved). You putting "pain that exists" on the scales with "pain that may never exist" and insisting the latter will outweigh the former in all instances. Yeah, no.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by InkAndComb on Fri Jan 22, 2016 8:56 pm

Those choices seem odd to me though! Like, maybe the solution to years of monogamy without needs being met is ending it because that's an important facet to the relationship (for you) and it's important to come to terms with the fact that neglecting one area of your life is leading you to consider destructive behaviors?

I feel like if this wasn't sex, but something else that is physically gratifying (say, eating and fitness), and being with your partner meant you couldn't eat/exercise as much as you wanted to the point of you feeling depressed, agitated, physically frustrated and not-at-your-best, the answer would be "This is deterimental to your mental and physical health, you should reconsider and probably leave", but because it's sex it's "stay and have no sex, because it's not *really* a need and everything else is good" or "accept that your partner will seek elsewhere"

Maybe I'm misreading this? :< I don't know. Sexual rejection is painful. I don't know if experiencing rejection *justifies* deceitful action though.

I guess I'd pick the former. Because yeah, it would be my choice; I'm not sure how I'd respond finding they were unfaithful (honestly I've never been in a relationship quite that long, and it would vary on circumstance and individual), but it wouldn't be good and I probably wouldn't be able to trust them the same again. I would take it as the death knoll of a relationship, I guess. That it only survived under misconceptions....

Mulling this over a bit.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Enail on Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:20 pm

I find the choice bizarre too. If your sexual needs cannot or will not be met in your monogamous relationship, there's asking your partner to open things up to get those needs met elsewhere (with a number of potential variations), and there's, as InkandComb points out, ending the relationship. If you don't care about the person enough to not deceive them about the relationship you have with them you should probably leave that relationship whether or not you're getting your needs met.

And sure, there are people who might rather be cheated on and not have to know about it than to be told it's between opening the relationship and ending it, but I think that's unusual enough that unless they've told you that's the case in hypothetical, it would be deceptive and immoral to make that decision for them.

Being in a sexually unsatisfying relationship or feeling ongoingly rejected by your partner are painful for sure, but cheating is in almost every circumstance a cowardly and immoral way to handle that. It's not just the pain of discovery of the infidelity that you would be doing to them (in fact, I think that's the least of it) it's the fact that you are breaking a promise to them, deceiving them in a way many people find a severe betrayal and, most importantly, taking away their ability to choose what kind of relationship they are in. That's not something you do to someone you care about.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Werel on Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:33 am

InkAndComb wrote:I feel like if this wasn't sex, but something else that is physically gratifying (say, eating and fitness), and being with your partner meant you couldn't eat/exercise as much as you wanted to the point of you feeling depressed, agitated, physically frustrated and not-at-your-best, the answer would be "This is deterimental to your mental and physical health, you should reconsider and probably leave", but because it's sex it's "stay and have no sex, because it's not *really* a need and everything else is good" or "accept that your partner will seek elsewhere"
I dunno if the metaphor works with other kinds of gratification, though, because food/exercise isn't a thing your partner has to provide. Sex is tricky because it takes two parties' participation, and giving you food when they're not themselves hungry is not a thing most people would find distressing (whereas some people find sex when they're not in the mood really distressing). Somebody limiting your access to exercise is being unreasonable and pointlessly harming you; somebody limiting your access to their genitals has every right to do so.

I'm in an odd position on this one personally, because I have a super-specific fetish that is by definition not able to be fulfilled within a monogamous relationship, and cheating to meet that need has never crossed my mind as an acceptable option (hall pass, sure, I will probably take one someday, but that is predicated on permission). However, I've been in situations where that specific thing was on offer to me, and it took a great deal of willpower to say no-- I do get how weak the flesh can be, even if I haven't failed that roll yet. It makes sense to me that lots of people would fail that roll once or twice, regardless of how sexually fulfilling their monogamous relationship is or how deep their commitment to their partner.

But: I guess there should also be a line drawn between "monogamous relationship where not all of your sexual needs are met" (which should probably be expected, specific fetish or no: nobody can be all things to someone) and "monogamous relationship where none of your sexual needs are met" (an unacceptable proposal to most folks, and rough on the self-esteem and well-being). When Dan talks about cheating being justified in "can't leave" scenarios (I always got the impression that these were things like "we have a special-needs child together who requires all of our combined financial and energy resources," or "my partner is terminally ill and I am their primary caretaker," where the dissolution of the partnership could actually ruin someone's life), I assume these are also can't-leave scenarios where none of the person's sexual needs are being met. This question doesn't take into account proportions of met:unmet needs, or severity of consequences of breaking up, or whether the discussion of an open arrangement has been had, or all kinds of other stuff that would really tip the scales.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by eselle28 on Sun Jan 24, 2016 12:11 am

Werel wrote:
But: I guess there should also be a line drawn between "monogamous relationship where not all of your sexual needs are met" (which should probably be expected, specific fetish or no: nobody can be all things to someone) and "monogamous relationship where none of your sexual needs are met" (an unacceptable proposal to most folks, and rough on the self-esteem and well-being). When Dan talks about cheating being justified in "can't leave" scenarios (I always got the impression that these were things like "we have a special-needs child together who requires all of our combined financial and energy resources," or "my partner is terminally ill and I am their primary caretaker," where the dissolution of the partnership could actually ruin someone's life), I assume these are also can't-leave scenarios where none of the person's sexual needs are being met. This question doesn't take into account proportions of met:unmet needs, or severity of consequences of breaking up, or whether the discussion of an open arrangement has been had, or all kinds of other stuff that would really tip the scales.

I do think Dan tends to think about the issue in that way, but I have a couple of objections. The first is that, in practice, he frequently moves the line from the more extreme situations you describe to any relationship of long duration in which there are children. The second is a larger one, and it's that this analysis essentially assumes that the partner who doesn't want sex is completely irrational, which is in keeping on Dan's negative views toward people who can't or don't want to have sex and who aren't willing to agree to non-monogamy (and, honestly, I think his view toward anyone who anyone who expects monogamy from a partner).

A couple with a special needs child might work out an arrangement to house share but end the romantic part of a relationship. A terminally ill partner might decide to find an alternate caretaker, change their will, ask that their partner not attend their funeral, but agree to maintain any legal relationship for the sake of health insurance (I'll admit that I would be just livid if I couldn't have sex with my partner because I was dying and one of his top concerns was finding a substitute sex partner for however long I was going to hang around in the world). Or, perhaps each person might consider their situation and agree to some rules for their partner's non-monogamy. Perhaps they even seek out their own sex partners, since not every couple with a sexual relationship that's ended includes someone with no desire for sex with anyone. Perhaps they don't, but find an activity or cultivate a friendship to take up some of the space when their partner is gone. Or, maybe they make a decision that has severe consequences, but that ultimately leads to results that they prefer. Dan tends to take prospective cheaters on good faith as being rational people who are honestly describing the state of their sex lives. I wish he'd extend the same charity when considering the partners and their likely reactions.

If someone's partner is so incapacitated that they don't actually have any agency, then fair enough, I think their partners should consider themselves free to find others. Though, in those cases, I think the romantic relationship should be considered effectively over and to have transitioned to a caretaking one. Beyond that, I think people should get to have meaningful choices about whether they accept non-monogamous relationships, transition relationships to platonic ones, or make some set of compromises that fall into both camps.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Werel on Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:23 am

I did like this bit in today's letter:
Dan Savage wrote:The moment someone's insecurities become weaponized—the moment they become tools used to dominate and control a partner, not emotional vulnerabilities requiring understanding and compassion from a partner—is the right moment to call that someone's bluff.

Buuuut the rest of it? Feels like it's pushing a lot of the prime buttons that have been making people mad at him lately re: cheating apologism. I'd think the correct and obvious and "get a grip" move in that situation would be ending the marriage because you can't accept your spouse's behavior, not taking it as carte blanche to go do all the behaviors your spouse can't accept in you because GETTING EVEN.

I know he said "salt shaker," but yeesh, that's some vindictive advice for just being sleep-deprived-grumpy at your husband.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by eselle28 on Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:45 am

Werel wrote:
Buuuut the rest of it? Feels like it's pushing a lot of the prime buttons that have been making people mad at him lately re: cheating apologism. I'd think the correct and obvious and "get a grip" move in that situation would be ending the marriage because you can't accept your spouse's behavior, not taking it as carte blanche to go do all the behaviors your spouse can't accept in you because GETTING EVEN.

I know he said "salt shaker," but yeesh, that's some vindictive advice for just being sleep-deprived-grumpy at your husband.

My reaction here is actually very different from yours. I'm not seeing a desire for revenge in the LW. He says he considers himself poly. He also says that he's not happy with how much sex and affection he's been getting. I read it as someone who genuinely felt rejected and lonely asking if there were ways other than divorce to get out of an unsatisfactory mono-poly setup. He also sounds angry, but I'm not seeing him threatening to do something directly equivalent to his wife by moving in a new partner of his own. He just wants to be poly too.

Here, for whatever reason, Dan actually gave advice that I'd regard as at least meeting the basic standards of ethics. He's not advising cheating. He told the LW to say he was going to date and then do so. That's the better option that he sometimes goes to when someone writes in to complain about a sexless marriage as well (I still haven't figured out what criteria he applies when he gives people a lying pass and tells them to do what they need to do to stay married). Now, I would say that while I think saying what you're going to do and letting your partner sort it out is within ethical constraints in this sort of situation, I don't know if it would be wise here. It probably would lead to a more peaceful separation if the LW just ended the relationship, especially since it sounds like his wife has already started the process of moving on. But I do think this advice is, while cranky, less troubling to me than some of the other advice he's given about getting sexual needs met outside of marriage.

I don't get Dan's crankiness about the alarm clock, either! Frankly, I also don't get him going back to this topic that seems to upset him on some occasions so often. He must get other types of letters!
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Werel on Sun Mar 06, 2016 4:03 pm

Okay, he's officially lowered the bar for acceptable cheating conditions to "cause you just wanna."

I'm with the SLOG commentariat here: terrible, terrible advice. First post nails it:
"I want to have sex with people who aren't my husband. He hasn't done anything wrong and it's for no particular reason except, eh, while I like him I don't like like him anymore. I don't want to talk about it with him or give him options or anything, this is a strictly unilateral plan to be a CPOS. That's fine, right?"
"Sure is!"
Like, damn, is all his advice from now on going to just be "do what thou wilt"? All the Run in circles flail about his supposed war on monogamy now actually seems to be sort of correct.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Enail on Sun Mar 06, 2016 4:11 pm

Wowwww. It's the lackadaisical quality of it all that really bugs me, how casually he waves permission on something that he cannot possibly be unaware that many people consider a really awful betrayal, with no caveats or due diligence for the partner's decision-making rights, for no reason other than one party's opinion is that it was good for their sex life. His underlying belief is apparently now "whatever feels right to you is right." Disapproving
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Werel on Sun Mar 06, 2016 5:52 pm

And she wasn't even really of the opinion that it made their sex life better! Just that she was less averse to grudgingly closing her eyes and thinking of England/the other dude. Dan seemed hellbent on slotting her into a scenario where the affair had a positive impact on her married sex life, where that's not what I was reading at all ("my husband got scared and desperate for intimacy, and I felt guilty enough to not reject him constantly" does not even sound like a good status quo, much less one worth cheating/risking blowing up your family in order to attain). Even from a cold, amoral, pragmatic standpoint, this advice sucks.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by Enail on Sun Mar 06, 2016 5:58 pm

Yeah, it really did read like he was trying to shoehorn the letter into something that would make his point for him.
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Re: Dan Savage

Post by eselle28 on Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:26 pm

The OP has now shown up in the comments and has said she's done with cheating, that there's more wrong in the marriage than pure lack of physical attraction (she describes her husband as a "depressed alcoholic"), and that she's going to keep going to therapy to figure out whether she should leave, whether an open relationship is a possibility, or whether there's some way for her to regain her attraction to her husband.

So, yeah, especially in light of the other information, this one was shoe horned. I wish Dan would really take a break from this subject. He's decent about many others, and it seems like he's at a point where he's backed into a more extreme position than his current one. It doesn't really sound like he likes answering some of these letters, either.
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Re: Dan Savage

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