Q: This woman and I were involved 13 years ago, before I met my wife, but she was married then. She got divorced and moved away. We reconnected recently on Facebook, and I discovered she’s now only 20 miles away. I told her I’m happily married and I’ve never cheated on my wife, but I would risk everything for her and want to meet her for an intimate encounter. (She and I had great sex, far better than I have with my wife.) She said she still has feelings for me but is happily married and couldn’t cheat on her husband because she would feel “too guilty.” She says he is her “rock” and has done so much for her, including taking her and her three kids in during the ordeal of her divorce. I’m perplexed. She cheated on her first husband with me, and we had lots of fun. I thought the leopard couldn’t change its spots. How could it be okay for her to cheat then and not now?
A: It’s so annoying when a woman lets a little thing like a lifelong commitment get in the way of providing you with an hour and a half of better-quality sex.
No, a leopard does not wake up in the morning and think, “Maybe I’ll do paisley today.” Humans, on the other hand, have an irritating tendency to fail to conform to pat aphorisms. For example, this woman, who, in the past, has provided you with some seriously excellent adulterous sex, now refuses to run off to Goodwill to get back her leopard-print blouse with the scarlet A on it. Amazingly, she feels it would be wrong to reward a guy who’s “done so much” for her by doing you whenever you can both sneak out for a nooner.
As for why she cheated in the past, maybe she was young and narcissistic and thought being unhappily married was enough of an excuse to be happily adulterous. She’s since picked herself up a set of ethics — maybe after seeing the ravages that conscience-free living can cause on husbands and children. And tempted as she may be, she seems to realize that the best way to avoid going around feeling all queasy with guilt is to avoid sexual multitasking: trying to gaze in one man’s eyes like you love him while trying to remember what time you were supposed to meet the other man at the motel.
Economist Robert H. Frank explains in “Passions Within Reason” that moral behavior seems to be driven by the emotions. Guilt, clearly, has worked for your former cheatums, and Frank sees love as a “commitment device” that bonds people beyond what would be in their sheer self-interest (like running off to the first opportunity for better sex that moves back to town). In other words, if you focus on what you’re grateful for about your wife and engage in little loving touches and gestures, you can reinforce what you have — which seems fairer than rewarding her for making you happy by giving her believable excuses for your disappearances. Remember, they’re called marriage vows, not marriage suggestions — as in, you don’t get to live according to “Till the prospect of really great sex do us part, but only for an afternoon, and I wouldn’t even think of it if she weren’t double-jointed.”
Q: I met a girl online, and we exchanged some email and planned to meet for happy hour. About three hours before, she texted me, “Sorry, have 2 cancel.” That was the last I ever heard from her. I’m not bothered by being texted (since we didn’t have a relationship), but at what point do you owe somebody more than the briefest possible blow-off?
— Prematurely Dumped
A: Sometimes the technology at hand demands that a person send an abbreviated message — like when their chisel breaks just as they’re etching the last letter of “cancel” into the stone tablet. Sometimes, the brevity is the message. For example, in the briefest way, this woman told you everything you need to know about her: “I’m not about to type out eight words of explanation just to preserve some stranger’s dignity.” In Internet dating, because you’re meeting face to online dating profile, the coldly calculating find it easier to treat you like you’re just a bunch of digital information that has the possibility of becoming a boyfriend. Being kind and polite takes very little — just some excuse that suggests you matter enough as a human to put some effort into blowing you off. So, this woman didn’t need to give you the real reason, just some reason — “realizing i'm not over my x so sorry” — instead of simply unsubscribing to you and your offer of a date like you were unwanted email from Lyndon LaRouche or the Pantyliner Of The Month Club.
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