Women and men

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Photo credit: Rachel Robinson
Rachel Robinson

Dear Dan: I’m a woman in an open relationship of four years. I adore my partner. When we were first dating, it was casual and there were no ground rules. During that time, I slept with a guy without condoms after he cornered me in a motel room. One of the biggest rules in my current relationship is to use condoms with other partners. My current partner has made it clear that he would consider exchanging fluids with someone else cheating. I’m worried he’ll somehow find out about that night in the motel room, and I feel bad keeping it a secret. If I tell him, there’s a chance that our relationship will end and I’ll be living in my car. What should I do?

—Burdensome Unbearable Guilt Sucks

Dear BUGS: This thing happened — or this thing was done to you — before you made a commitment to your current partner, BUGS, and before ground rules were established. I’m assuming you got tested at some point over the last four years; failing that, I’m assuming neither of you has developed symptoms of an STI over the last four years. (And condoms don’t protect us from all the STIs out there, so even if you did come down with something, your partner could have passed it to you.) So cut yourself some slack, BUGS: You had unprotected sex under a sadly common form of duress. Fearing something much worse, you “agreed” to unprotected sex — you agreed but didn’t freely consent to unprotected sex. Too many men don’t understand that kind of fear or the de-escalation techniques women are forced to employ when they find themselves cornered by threatening men — de-escalation techniques that can include “agreeing” to but not freely consenting to sex, unprotected or otherwise. You’re under no obligation to tell your current partner about that night, as it took place before you established your ground rules, so it’s not really any of his fucking business. And if homelessness is a potential consequence of telling your partner how you were pressured into sex you did not want, then you’re lying to him now for the same reason you went bare with that asshole back then: duress.

Dear Dan: I’m a man in love with a woman half my age. We met shortly after I had to leave the city I was living in to escape a toxic relationship. I know this girl has feelings for me. My gut screams it. We also share a strange connection. It’s something I know she feels. She simply can’t help being tied to the energy I’m feeling. A while back, I hurt her. Unintentionally, but it hurt just the same. I was still not over my ex and very leery of ever experiencing that kind of pain in my heart again. The problem now is that this young woman won’t acknowledge her feelings for me. She swears she never had feelings for me. We found ourselves alone one day, and her actions were clearly indicating that she wanted to have sex with me but her words prevented me from taking the opportunity. How can I reach this girl? She knows I love her. I know I’m not wrong. She wants what I want. This love is not something I chose and I’m beginning to resent it.

—In Lasting Love

Dear ILL: You are wrong. She does not want what you want. Your gut is lying to you. She is not in love with you. You do not share a connection. You need to listen to her words. She is not tied to the “energy” you are feeling. You have got to stop thinking with your dick. She was probably scared out of her wits when you managed to “find” her alone. You cannot reach this woman. She can sense your resentment and she’s afraid of you. In all honesty, ILL, I’m afraid of you. Just as this poor woman most likely fears becoming one of the many women murdered every year by men they’ve rejected, I fear being the messenger who got shot. But you asked for my advice, ILL, and here it is: Get into therapy. You need help. And my advice for her, if she sees this, is to do whatever you must to protect yourself — up to and including moving away.

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