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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SL Letter of the Day: Love vs. Being In Love

Posted by Christopher Ryan, PH.D on Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 10:29 AM

Christopher Ryan, co-author of Sex at Dawn, is stepping in for Dan Savage, who is on vacation. Chris will be writing the “Savage Love Letter of the Day” all this week. You can read more from Chris at his blog at Psychology Today, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Sex at Dawn has just been released in paperback.

I am married to a wonderful man. I love him. We get along well. We have pretty good sex. There are no major problems in our relationship. We fight like most couples—sometimes, but never very seriously. Never in a way that would make me consider leaving. My best friend is a man who I've been in love with for about eight years (my husband and I have been together for 12 years, married for 5 of them—I was 18 when we started dating). My BFF and I talk (via e-mail) every day. He lives several states away, so we don't see each other very often—we've gone years without seeing each other in person, but in the past year we've traveled to see each other (and mutual friends) three times. My husband is aware of all of this except that I love him (although I know he suspects—I've never confirmed it). He knows we talk every day. He's read some of our e-mails (which are all very appropriate—we don't really even flirt). He has met my BFF and was present for one of the three trips. I have always tried to be very honest with my husband about my BFF without coming out and saying "I'm in love with him."

My husband and I have discussed non-monogamy. I read "Sex At Dawn" and we talked about it and reasonable expectations for our marriage. My husband has told me that I can sleep with my BFF. He had a few conditions—one of them was "I don't want to know about it" and the other was "as long as you don't leave me."

The rest of the letter, and my response, after the jump...

Anyway, the permission to sleep with my BFF came via a conversation I had with my husband earlier this year, and I recently traveled to visit him. He is currently single, and I told him that I had permission. Honestly, I thought that my attraction to my BFF was unrequited, because there is no flirting and there was no previous expressed interest. As I said—we've always kept things very appropriate. But he was interested—apparently he had not previously expressed interest because I am married and he is a good guy. And we fooled around some. It was fucking amazing and hot. There was no PIV, but if oral sex counts as sex (and I know that you believe it does) then we had sex. I returned home and tried to resume normal life.

It's been about a month, and I feel like I'm going crazy. Before getting physical with my BFF, I was pretty comfortable with the idea that there was room in my heart to love two men. One was my husband and the other was unrequited and would always be that way. I had learned to live in that reality. Now my brain is at war with my gut and my groin. My brain says, "You have a great life with a great man—don't fuck it up." My baser instincts are making me want to leave my husband, move across the country, and try to make things work with my BFF before he slips through my fingers. But I don't want to hurt my husband. He doesn't deserve it. It would be cruel and selfish. But if I stay and have to hear about my BFF dating and falling in love with some other girl—if I have to face a future of never going to bed with him again, I'm afraid I'm going to be miserable. And maybe I deserve that. But it's gotten to the point where I've started to fantasize about my husband falling in love with another woman and leaving me, because that's the only way that I feel like I could be with my BFF guilt-free and my husband and I could both be happy.

Any insight that you can give me on this whole situation would be more than appreciated. Even if you tell me that I'm being a stupid asshole, which I probably am.

Having Her Cake And Fucking It Too

·················

Hi everybody. Before we get to my response, I’d like to just take a line or two to thank Dan for leaving the SLLOTD in my trembling, inexperienced hands this week. The best by-product of publishing Sex at Dawn was getting the chance to meet Dan, Terry, and DJ in person on my visit to Seattle last year. My apologies in advance to you unlucky five whose letters got chosen (great!) but fell into my basket instead of Dan’s (damn!). I’d also like to apologize to those readers who get irritated every time Dan mentions our book. I get it: you don’t understand why he plugs our book so generously. Seriously, I get it. I’m with you. I don’t understand either, but Cacilda and I (and our publisher) sure are grateful!

OK, here we go. I chose your letter to lead off, HHCAFIT because you mention our book and I want to take this opportunity to make one thing very clear: having read Sex at Dawn does not give you an excuse to lie to someone who loves you!

Quite the opposite, in fact.

One of the central points we try to make very clear in S@D is that the key to successful non-traditional arrangements—just like traditional ones—is honesty with yourself and your partner(s). You haven’t been honest with your husband, whom you seem to love and respect. His consent to sleep with your BFF was offered under false pretenses. If he knew you felt so strongly about the other guy, it’s doubtful he’d have agreed to this set-up. So you’re misleading your husband and without knowing it, you’re misleading yourself as well.

[You don’t mention whether there are children mixed up in this impending mess. If there are, multiply the vehemence of what follows by 100 for each child who would get sucked into the whirlpool of confusion and destruction you’re about to let loose, and ask yourself why you didn’t mention them.]

I’d recommend you read a book called The Erotic Mind, by Jack Morin before you make any decisions. It came out in 1995, so it may be a bit dated on some things, but he explains very well the mechanics of passion. One section is called, simply: ATTRACTION + OBSTACLES = EXCITEMENT. A few pages later, he writes, “Because the erotic impulse seeks to bridge the space that separates self from other, among the most effective of all enhancing obstacles is distance—physical, emotional, or geographic.”

See where I’m going with this? The insane attraction you feel for your BFF isn’t real. It’s a product of years of frustration, distance, thinking he wasn’t that into you (which he may not be) … of attraction plus obstacles, in other words. He’s a dream you’re having, and once you wake up—as you surely will a few weeks or months after you ditch your kind, tolerant, loving husband (and kids?) for your dreamy BFF—you’ll realize that you done fucked up, big time!

I think you’re confusing love with being in love. In his novel, Correlli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernières writes, “Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away...”

Love is far more lasting and difficult to find than being in love. I’d advise you to think long and hard before trading the former for the latter.

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