Sunday, December 15, 2013

Love Is Not a Game

Dear Viny,

My significant other, Connor, and I are in an open relationship. Connor has an ex-girlfriend named Shanna. The two of them dated for about a year, during the same time that Connor and I were first getting together. Shanna knew Connor was also dating me, but wasn't interested in getting to know me and rejected any effort on my part to become friends with her. But about a year after she and Connor broke up, Shanna started writing me through Facebook. A couple weeks ago, she invited me to dinner. Now she is expressing interest in possibly having a sexual relationship with me. However, she's ignoring Connor, and is actually being quite rude at any effort on his part to be friendly with her. I have no idea why Shanna is interested in being with me all of a sudden, when she never expressed any interest in me during the time she and Connor were a couple. Is she just doing this as some weird power play? Is it appropriate for me to even consider her offer?

--Suspicious of Her Motives


Dear Suspicious,

When my siblings and I were kids, my father would sometimes entertain us by reading aloud from Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. I remember being impressed by Judith Martin's ability to deliver a painful put-down with just the right balance of primness and aplomb. If only I were better at channeling that Miss Manners 'tude, I could help you rehearse polite ways to tell Shanna to go fuck herself.

I confess I'm wondering why you are even considering considering Shanna's offer. Why aren't you simply thanking your plucky stellar orbs, in all their shining luminosity, that Connor is no longer involved with this woman, and that you are therefore no longer under any obligation to interact with her, even vicariously?

Clearly, you must be tempted by her sexual advances, or you wouldn't be writing me.

Maybe you're really attracted to Shanna. Maybe you feel like Shanna owes you something – an apology, for starters – and this is a roundabout way of getting your needs met. Maybe, given that Connor was involved with her in the past, you are intrigued by this opportunity because it provides a window into his experiences. Maybe you're crazy-curious: Do Shanna's stories match Connor's stories? Why did the two of them break up anyway? What did Connor tell her about you? And, above all, what is she like in bed?

Or maybe it just feels good to be desired, even if it's for the “wrong” reason.

If you want to give Shanna the benefit of the doubt – just in case she is actually a very sweet person with a small smidgin of growing up to do – you could counter her sophomoric game-playing with some straight-up communication. You might try asking her why she wasn't willing to get to know you until after she and Connor broke up, for example, or why she is currently giving Connor the cold shoulder.

However, I really think you'd be better off just steering clear of Shanna. Why? Because love is not a game. My advice is to kindly – but firmly! – decline her sexual advances.

In other words, fancy it up however you like, but tell her no.

No, thank you.

(All together, now: En Oh / spells NO / out you go / with a ho-ho-ho....)

Kumquats and Cartwheels,


  1. Seems to me that just the question being asked makes the answer clear: if you find her attractive, go for it. How can you possibly resist (1) finding out what the boyfriend saw in her and (2) having a great story to tell years later? Nothing is more depressing than a temptation successfully resisted. Naturally, if you think this is going to screw up your current relationship the rules change.

    1. I can sympathize with this point of view. One of my personal philosophies is that I'd rather regret doing something than regret *not* doing it. However, in this case, Suspicious and Shanna would basically be using each other to spy on Connor. It's tricky. I think it's fine to engage in sex as a kind of game, so long as everyone understands and consents to the rules. Love, however, requires that we respect one another enough not to gratify our egos at other people's expense. That's why I said that love is not a game.