My husband and I have been together for ten years and married for six of them. We have a four-year-old daughter who is the center of our lives. Everything seemed fine. Sex seemed especially fine. But now he tells me that he has just discovered (or rediscovered, but he thought that stuff in college was only experimentation) that he is bisexual. He says that he loves me as much as ever and wants to stay together, but that he hopes I will look into my heart and understand that as a bisexual man he also needs to have what he calls “man to man contact.” I have looked into my heart, and that is not what I see at all. I really don’t think I have a problem with his being bisexual—I’m a writer, and I have always thought that most imaginative people have some bisexual fantasies or even urges. And I am willing to work very hard to keep our relationship and our family intact. But I can’t accept extramarital sex. Is that wrong?
—Devastated in Dedham
Of course it is not wrong. From what you tell me, your husband seems to have glossed over the big leap here—from being bisexual to acting on it. It is as if he thinks that just declaring himself bisexual at this late date gives him some sort of entitlement to a twofer. And his request that you “look into your heart” makes it sound as if he believes that he is appealing to your finer self, even trying to rid you of some sort of bigotry, when he asks you to countenance his violating his vows and your trust. Logically and ethically, all of that is self-serving nonsense. True, I can see why it would be bitter for him to reflect that, with this recently acquired self-knowledge, continued monogamy with you means that he will miss out on a whole category of lovers with delightful and new, yet strangely familiar, body parts. And perhaps that he will miss out on a whole new culture. But how different is that from the sacrifices monogamy exacts in monosexual unions? Most people have various longings and fantasies about all kinds of taboo partners; either they deal with it, or they don’t, but nobody gets a special status. And as for your finding it in your heart to accept his “man to man contacts,” I find it hard to see how — as a matter of emotion, morality, or health—this is relevantly different from your being willing to accept his taking other female lovers.
But I am very afraid that your real dilemma does not have much to do with ethics or logic. Take away the rationalizations, and what your husband seems to be saying is that his new sense of identity compels him to have sex with men, and that he hopes you can live with this. He may also be saying that, if you can’t, the marriage is over. (Or he may be willing to keep working on a monogamous marriage with you: I did not hear that in your letter, but it was a short letter.) I strongly urge you to find a therapist or counselor. If you can afford it, I suggest a therapist of your own – someone you can be sure will help you think about this in your own terms – as well as a family therapist.
Best of luck to you, your husband, and your daughter. It sounds as if there is still a lot of love in your family.
I am a professional artist and have cultivated a presence on Facebook and other social media that is a careful blend of my professional, artistic, and personal life. I try to be supportive of colleagues, as well as family members and friends who dabble in the arts. Often I receive requests to “like” Facebook pages for businesses or endeavors that are not a good fit with my own professional and artistic aesthetic. And sometimes I get requests to “like” pages for services that I’d rather not endorse. For example, recently my kind neighbor has repeatedly requested that I “like” the page she made for her photography and videography business. I am familiar with her work and I don’t think it’s very good, so I don’t want to promote it for obvious reasons, but neither do I want to hurt her feelings. What do you suggest?
—Ferdrayt in Fort Lauderdale
There is no need to be all fertummelt about this if you just use some saykhel.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that simply hitting the “like” button on Facebook can mean almost anything, from expressing sincere affection or approval, to currying favor, to not wanting to offend, to automatically liking everything while scrolling on your phone at 3 a.m. during an insomnia attack after having learned that your aura is purple and you know more than you thought you did about cheese and Johnny Depp. Few if any Facebook users will take a simple thumbs-up “like” icon as a wholehearted endorsement—so there’s not much risk in being generous with your Facebook “likes” when you might otherwise hurt somebody’s feelings or create an awkward social situation. I think it is also generally understood in the art world that a Facebook “like” is not always, or even usually, a testimonial for the creation or performance in question, but can simply be a courtesy or salute—a simple acknowledgement that a book or concert or exhibit is currently happening in the world.
Be much more sparing with the Love icon, or any of the other new Facebook reactions. (I think they have been introduced to respond to posts, not pages, at least so far.) I tend to take them slightly more seriously than a plain old “like”, and I suspect that other people do, too – at least for now, until the Love icon or the Wow emoji become the norm.
I do see that there are some situations where even a like is too much. The quality of the work may be very poor, or totally unknown to you, and the community you and the requesters share may be small and ingrown enough for your like to carry some weight. If so, you might not want to mislead the community, tarnish your reputation, or dilute your brand—even at the risk of upsetting the requesters.
In such a case, I would start by trying to put the requesters off until they get the message or, better, lose interest and move on to the next thing. But what if they persist, “like” your neighbor? And what if they see you regularly in real life, or even make the request in person? If the request concerns an area you have nothing to do with, or a service or product you have never used and can’t evaluate—say you’re a cellist, they install siding, and you live in a brick house—I think that you can and should be able to tell them that your social media presence is part of your profession, and that you have a policy of not endorsing anything unless you have personal knowledge of it. They may be a bit vexed, but they probably won’t take it personally.
It sounds as if you and your neighbor are both in the arts, broadly speaking, and you write that you are familiar with her work. This is trickier. What I would do here – unless the work is absolutely appalling, or offensive—is go ahead and like the page, but only if you can also comment on it. That way you can make clear that this person is a friend and neighbor—in other words, that this is not what lawyers call an arms-length transaction. Most people will understand. You can then add some faint praise, if you think it will help clarify the situation.
This tactic also works for relatives. I remember going to a movie opening where an actor cousin continually referred to me as her “out-of-town relation,” thereby making it clear that I was not a voluntary acquaintance and absolving herself of all responsibility for my London Fog trench coat and ignorance of VIP-rope etiquette. When you make it clear that the guy you’re commending for his “charming” memoir is your Uncle Fred, people will know to discount your comments because of possible family bias, loyalty, or extortion — and they will sympathize.
You do not mention which other social media you use, or whether they have created other problems, but the issues are similar. You need to think about each medium’s customs and conventions. (For example, who sees LinkedIn endorsements as actual endorsements and not quid-pro-quos?) At any rate, I do not think that you should worry too much about your Facebook and similar social media likes. If I knew the Yiddish for “grain of salt,” I would reassure you again that this is what almost everyone takes them with. Your aesthetic should be safe.
Cleaver’s in-house advice columnist opines on matters punctuational, interpersonal, and philosophical, spinning wit and literary wisdom in response to your ethical quandaries. Write to her at [email protected]. Find more columns by June in her attic.