Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Open and Shut: Must I Admit to Dating a Married Woman?

Dear Viny,

I'm in a relationship with a woman who is in an open marriage. Of course I'm fine with that (otherwise I wouldn't have started the relationship). But I don't see the need to advertise the fact that she's someone else's wife, so when I've introduced her to certain people in my life I've kind of implied that she's not married. Now she says this makes her uncomfortable. But it seems like by not divulging the nature of our relationship I'm saving those other people from being uncomfortable. We seem to be at an impasse about this.


Dear M.E.,

What exactly do you mean, you have “kind of implied” your married lover isn't married? And who, exactly, are the people you have introduced her to? I don't think context is everything, but it certainly helps most people distinguish between behavior that's reasonable and behavior that's totally uncool.

Let's say your Great Aunt Gertrude calls you up and querulously inquires, once again, whether you are ever going to find yourself a nice girl and settle down. You reply that you're actually dating someone wonderful, but you neglect to mention that settling down with this particular girl would mean also settling down with the nice boy she married. This is called glossing over inconvenient facts.

Let's say you and your honey check into a Bed and Breakfast, and the nauseatingly cheerful folks who run the place want to know every blooming thing about you – how long you've been together, where you live, whether you have any children, what you think of the deplorable lack of morality among our country's young people today, etc. You make up something plausible just to get them off your back. This is called none of their beeswax.

Let's say the two of you run into a group of your friends at the local karaoke bar, and they're all excited because they finally get to meet the girlfriend they've heard so much about: “So this is the famous Pookie!” You expect her to spend the next three hours pretending she doesn't have a husband. You also expect her to keep up the ruse in future social situations with these people, and to avoid accepting any friend requests from them because her Facebook relationship status contradicts what you've implied about her. This is called being a dick.

You say you don't have a problem with your lover's open marriage, but I'm not sure I believe you. You claim to be primarily concerned about avoiding discomfort for other people, but it seems that your real concern is avoiding your own feelings of discomfort. I have to ask: are you really cut out for the relationship you're in?

Listen, I don't think you need to get into the nitty-gritty details with everyone who might be scandalized by them. However, I do think you ought to be aware of the potential difficulties you and your lover may run into if you give other people an inaccurate impression of the nature of your relationship. I also think you should attempt to understand where she is coming from: if you're always presenting her to others as someone she's not, you inadvertently give her the message that you are ashamed of the person she actually is.

Your situation reminds me of something that happened to me a few years back. My then-boyfriend had been invited to dinner at the home of an elderly couple he knew, and they had told him he was welcome to bring a date. So he brought me. He felt that it would be best if we just didn't mention the fact that I had a husband and two kids, and I willingly agreed to play “suitably single” for the evening. I enjoy a good acting challenge, and I'm not opposed to a bit of intrigue. In reality, though, it was a far more difficult role than I had anticipated. I found it almost impossible to carry on a semi-normal conversation without telling outright lies about myself. I spent the whole evening dodging questions, cleverly obfuscating, and chewing vigorously. I was so relieved when that dinner was over!

Unfortunately, the end of the evening was only the beginning of the awkwardness. A few months later, relatives of my husband's came to town, and they wanted me and my husband to meet some dear old friends of theirs, who happened to be – you guessed it! – the same sweet couple I'd already met with my boyfriend.

Yeah. It was quite the comedy of errors, and I vowed I would appear as no one but myself in future productions.

All things considered, M.E., I'm going to have to side with your lover on this one. Please give her my regards.

Creampuffs & Confetti,

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