Dan Savage on Youtube
September 9, 2009 8:47 AM   Subscribe

"The One is a lie. Every long term relationship is a myth, and myths are built of lies. What's beautiful about a long term relationship is that I pretend that my boyfriend is the lie I met, when I first met him, and he does the same favor to me. You become The One because someone is willing to pretend you are." Dan Savage on The Price of Admission [SLYT].

Dan Savage has been posting clips on his Youtube channel for about six months now. They're much like his advice column, but in general seem to be more in depth, more personal, and less filtered.
posted by PercussivePaul (144 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Glad I'm not trapped in his head.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:01 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dan Savage is really hit or miss for me. I think he has a lot of good things to say about sex, safety, general dramatic ridiculousness, etc. But his "everyone has the right to be sexually fulfilled immediately, even if it means outside of their monogamous relationship/marriage" bothers the heck out of me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:01 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dan Savage is an unrecognized great American writer -- he's done remarkable things with a very constricted literary form whose possibilities I thought had been exhausted. (See also: Judith Martin, or "Miss Manners," whose contribution is even greater than Savage's.)
posted by escabeche at 9:06 AM on September 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't think he says they should be fulfilled immediately. I think the thinks they should be fulfilled. And if your monogamous relationship is not fulfilling those, then he is in favor of getting out.
posted by josher71 at 9:08 AM on September 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


"The One is a lie. is a lie. Or, more accurately, a reflection of Dan Savage's experience and thus true for him. Long term relationships, like long term anything, requires an investment that some can't afford or refuse to make.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:08 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"everyone has the right to be sexually fulfilled immediately, even if it means outside of their monogamous relationship/marriage"

Oh, but it's true! And that is why the good Lord gave us hands.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:12 AM on September 9, 2009 [16 favorites]



"The One is a lie. is a lie. Or, more accurately, a reflection of Dan Savage's experience and thus true for him. Long term relationships, like long term anything, requires an investment that some can't afford or refuse to make.


Yeah, if you'd watched the video that's exactly the point he's making.
posted by Caduceus at 9:13 AM on September 9, 2009 [12 favorites]


I love Dan Savage and I think he gives great advice, no sugar coating, brutal but not mean.

Long term relationships, like long term anything, requires an investment that some can't afford or refuse to make. Isn't that what he just said. Either go with the lie or not.
posted by shoesietart at 9:15 AM on September 9, 2009


If you like this, Laura Kipnis' Against Love: A Polemic is worth reading.
posted by box at 9:19 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This really cheered me up today somehow. Normally I can take or leave Savage, but he makes good sense here.

LTR's are equal parts horse blinders and all-in investment betting. And I love the fact that he starts the whole thing off with "the problem is you."

If more people looked at themselves first and then at their partners, you'd never get to the "he chews with his mouth open - DEALBREAKER!" phase.

Fucking everyone chews with their mouths open. And if you don't, you do something equally nerve-wracking that someone out there in the Wide World once screamed, "DEALBREAKER!" about.

Hopefully over time you realize the Price of Admission seemed steep, but then you realize soon how much of a bargain it was and what a great warrantee it came with.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 9:19 AM on September 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


I think the Dan Savage view of the world is that if people are not sexually fulfilled, and try to bury it rather than become fulfilled, then it will become some kind of mean ingrowing thing that eventually turns you Republican. Everyone knows that's how Teh Gey works anyhow.
posted by Artw at 9:20 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if you'd watched the video that's exactly the point he's making.

True, that. The problem was in the original post. Dan was fine.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:23 AM on September 9, 2009


Lately it's like every post I read is clearly just a thinly disguised reiteration of the conflict between essentialism and existentialism. I don't even like philosophy, I'm really starting to worry about myself.
posted by nanojath at 9:26 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: "his "everyone has the right to be sexually fulfilled immediately, even if it means outside of their monogamous relationship/marriage" bothers the heck out of me."

I think you're putting words in his mouth with "immediately," and when you take that part out, I don't really see what's so controversial about the statement.

I think sex is an important component of most people's lives (maybe not all people, or at all times in life, but I don't think you can look at human culture and say that it's not a Big Deal) and a key component—if not the key component, in terms of differentiating a partner from a very good friend—of most partnered non-Platonic relationships. Therefore, if someone in such a relationship isn't being sexually fulfilled, something is probably wrong.

He at times advocates somewhat non-traditional solutions to the problem that occurs when one problem isn't feeling sexually fulfilled but other aspects of the relationship are going well, and I don't think he'd say those solutions are necessarily for everybody, but they're certainly not unreasonable to put out there as options.

When you really boil most of his advice down to its core, it seems to be mostly telling people not to waste their lives waiting for someone else to change. I find it hard to see that as particularly controversial, given that I used to hear the same thing from my grandmother. (And my grandmother, though she was many things, was certainly no Dan Savage.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:27 AM on September 9, 2009 [12 favorites]


Conversation with Mr. WanKenobi last night:

"I'm so glad you're my soulmate. Even though I don't believe in soulmates."

"Me too."

"You too, what?"

"Both!"

What if you actually sort of like the "lie-self"? Just as much as you do that initial idealized self? Sure, there are prices to admission, but I really like the person I'm with now, seven years into our relationship, more than I do the person I dated two months in. Surely, I can't be alone in this?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:27 AM on September 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


And that is why the good Lord gave us hands.

More to the point, that's why S/He made our arms that long...
posted by JoanArkham at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Lie" is a harsh way to put it. But consider the notion of soul mate as a psychological condition, and that it feels emotionally fulfilling when that condition is met. To that end I think he's got a point. To believe that a soul mate is a spiritually significant other that one unifies with and becomes transformed by on a cosmological plane... that requires a lot more layers of psyche and playacting to prevent things going badly when your soul mate ends up not feeling the same way about your relationship.
posted by ardgedee at 9:36 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


But his "everyone has the right to be sexually fulfilled immediately, even if it means outside of their monogamous relationship/marriage" bothers the heck out of me.

Maybe you don't know what quotes mean, but let me fill you in: you use quotes when you're repeating something that someone said. When you use quotes to make it look like someone said something which is incredibly inflammatory that they didn't actually say, that does not make you look very good at all.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:36 AM on September 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


I have always winced about The One. The idea that you have this soulmate, this one unique person made just for you, whom you will of course find if you just keep at it long enough, raises all kinds of logical problems.

The whole thing breaks down when examined. Suppose I actually do have The One. I'll go all heteronormative, agenormative, everything, and we'll chop the 6-odd billion in half and say three billion people are potentially The One, and the age range probably drops it to half a billion candidates. So, out five hundred million people, The One magically appears nearby?

And this says nothing about accidents. If She is The One for me, and I am The One for Her, if she marries someone else because I gave up, then that means that the guy she marries is actually someone else's The One, thereby dooming him and his potential The One. So, for every person who does not find The One, two people are doomed, and potentially another two if the matching soulmate marries, and most people do. Every time someone makes a mistake, you could have eight people easily doomed to missing out on their soulmates.

The only way to reconcile the myth of The One is to buy fully into predestination: the person you end up with is your soulmate. This does not sound like "settling," but it is, in a way; however, it certainly inflates the expectations you place upon someone and the disappointment is that more crushing if it does not work out.

In an awful fashion, picking the best candidate for your long-term relationship greatly resembles the Secretary Problem. That, I think, is the part nobody enjoys facing up to.
posted by adipocere at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2009 [17 favorites]


TypographicalError - so you're saying "don't use quotes to paraphrase"?
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2009 [16 favorites]


I was paraphrasing, sorry.

But (and this isn't likely to be very MeFi-friendly) I think there are many reasons to be in an LTR/marriage, and while sex is certainly a major one, you don't just get up and leave a relationship/marriage that you have committed to because the sex is bad, or non-existent.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:41 AM on September 9, 2009


JoanArkham: More to the point, that's why S/He made our arms that long...

Kirk Cameron? Is that you?
posted by Theta States at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm a hopeless romantic, so I'm afraid I do believe in soulmates, or something close to that. But I've also been around the block enough to have added a couple of corollaries over the years.

(a) Most people never meet theirs, and settle, which might be okay; and
(b) As it turns out, there's not just One.

I'm not sure which of those two is more frightening, actually.
posted by rokusan at 9:46 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't just get up and leave a relationship/marriage that you have committed to because the sex is bad, or non-existent.

Correct. You should just leave the bad-sex part.
posted by rokusan at 9:47 AM on September 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


But (and this isn't likely to be very MeFi-friendly) I think there are many reasons to be in an LTR/marriage, and while sex is certainly a major one, you don't just get up and leave a relationship/marriage that you have committed to because the sex is bad, or non-existent.

And Savage has never ever suggested that anyone do that.

Seriously.

What he suggests is that sex is important to a lot of people, and people need sex and intimacy. And if your partner is unwilling or unable to meet your needs, you might have to go elsewhere.

But he never says: leave this person because they won't fuck you. He advises people to talk to their partner and attempt to reach a compromise which will either result in 1) more sex in the marriage or 2) sex outside the marriage. And if that compromise can't be reached, then a person has to decide if they can lead their life sexlessly or mostly sexlessly.

The whole point is: sex is not an unimportant thing, and people shouldn't treat it like an unimportant afterthought to monogamy.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:48 AM on September 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


And this says nothing about accidents. If She is The One for me, and I am The One for Her, if she marries someone else because I gave up, then that means that the guy she marries is actually someone else's The One, thereby dooming him and his potential The One. So, for every person who does not find The One, two people are doomed, and potentially another two if the matching soulmate marries, and most people do. Every time someone makes a mistake, you could have eight people easily doomed to missing out on their soulmates.

I have a good friend with whom I've written a lot of letters back and forth with about the meaning of love. He believes in soulmates in the above way. I believe in something like a mix of Jack Handy's views on love ("Love is not something that you can put chains on and throw into a lake. That's called Houdini. Love is liking someone a lot.") with a lot of brain chemicals and hormones mixed in. He disagrees with me--says it's unromantic. But when you've found a person you like a lot (and there are plenty of people you can feasibly like a lot) and your brain and body are doing the whole brain chemical hyperdrive thing, and then when you build years of a relationship on top of that, to the point where your brain and body can't really imagine having that sort of interaction with any other person, is it really, qualitatively, any different? (I would say that it is: it's better, based on shared history and hopefully a deep friendship rather than projecting characteristics on another person, but it lacks the sparkles, I guess.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:53 AM on September 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


One of the subjects of the interesting/hilarious documentary Sherman's March makes a similar argument:

Charleen: This is the way women want to hear men talk to them. Now, you see, Becky knows how to talk. "I love you and I can't help it and I don't care who knows it." What is she saying? "I give you my life and heart." This is the way I want you to talk to Dede. This is what... This is the language women can understand. That's what they believe. They experience it in their own lives.

Ross: Well, not all women, I mean...

Charleen: Well, the only women I know believe that. That's the only way I can... could... understand you...

Ross: Well, I've felt that way about a couple of people. It doesn't solve everything. That's the point.

Charleen: Well, you never solve everything, Ross. You never solve everything. The only thing you've got is a chance for a few passionate hits. You see how foolish it all is. You see what the army comes to. The bunkers, the island, the burned-out house. Hell, it's all a tragedy. It's just a matter of how you get through it. And the most interesting way to get through it is to say, "I can't help it. I'm full of passion and I'm gonna die this moment." It's the only way to pretend you're alive. It's the only way to not be alone and depressed. You've got to kid yourself and you've got to kid her and then you'll both believe it.

posted by burnmp3s at 9:55 AM on September 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Long-term relationships can be kind of tough once your partner learns you've licked a bunch of doorknobs as a form of protest.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:55 AM on September 9, 2009


So - no one mentioning Twilight yet?
posted by Artw at 9:58 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I imagine Terry was in full support of the doorknob licking.
posted by josher71 at 10:03 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The whole thing breaks down when examined. Suppose I actually do have The One. I'll go all heteronormative, agenormative, everything, and we'll chop the 6-odd billion in half and say three billion people are potentially The One, and the age range probably drops it to half a billion candidates. So, out five hundred million people, The One magically appears nearby?

This didn't work last time I tried it, but on this subject I give you Tim Minchin.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:07 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


This man gives the best advice ever. Except when he doesn't. Not to turn this into thread into a Facebook group based joke, but... Dan Savage for President!!! 2016 - 2 birds one stone, atheist and gay!
posted by edbles at 10:08 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I go hot and cold on Savage. When I'm cold on him, I remind myself that his only qualifications as a sex expert are that he has sex, and started an advice column as a running gag of making fun of straights.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:11 AM on September 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


But (and this isn't likely to be very MeFi-friendly) I think there are many reasons to be in an LTR/marriage, and while sex is certainly a major one, you don't just get up and leave a relationship/marriage that you have committed to because the sex is bad, or non-existent.

In real life, commitment is conditional and one partner can't necessarily be the one to determine the conditions for both people. The sexual withholder owes the other person freedom to explore outside sexual relationships, needs to start putting out with enthusiasm or needs to let their partner go. A person withholding sex, for whatever reason, is breaking a central tenant of most adult relationships and that person doesn't get to tell the other person, "you can't have sex anymore and you can't leave me either because we're committed."
posted by shoesietart at 10:12 AM on September 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


Sure, there are prices to admission, but I really like the person I'm with now, seven years into our relationship, more than I do the person I dated two months in. Surely, I can't be alone in this?

No, you're not. I didn't watch any of the videos (reading Dan Savage is a chore enough, no offense), but you make an important point.

Of course there is no One "soulmate" or whatever. You try to choose someone who can become something close to your ideal partner the more time you spend together. I can only imagine what happens in a good relationship over decades. Your partner becomes irreplaceable in every sense.

I had never heard of the Secretary Problem before. The variant math loses me, but the description seems a pretty good analysis of traditional human mating. The stopping rule makes a lot of sense.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:21 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


A person withholding sex, for whatever reason, is breaking a central tenant of most adult relationships and that person doesn't get to tell the other person, "you can't have sex anymore and you can't leave me either because we're committed."

shoesietart, I'll do anything for you but I won't do that.

The all-or-nothing problems seem the "easiest" to solve.

But what happens when one partner feels like he or she is giving as much as possible, and the other person wants more? Or he or she wants something that is unavailable from the partner? A lot of people have a lot of physical injuries and disabilities to consider as well. It's never cut and dry.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:28 AM on September 9, 2009


A better working model of The One is actually "The One Hundred."

There are only 100 types of people in the world. One hundred personalities, if you will. If you walk into a room with 1,000 random people, there should be 10 complete sets of the 100 types.

You are compatible with X percentage of the 100. Some match up better than others. Nos. 3 and 64 get along great, for example, while No. 18 fucking hates No. 54.

Some match up with more than others. Everybody loves 77, and 16-17-18 can match in any combination with each other (or all at the same time), but poor No. 32 is compatible only with No. 96. Unfortunately, 12 and 45 always have No. 96 at "hello," so 32 has a really hard time finding a 96 before she gets scooped up.

In this imaginary room of 1,000 people, your best number match may also be complicated by age and gender. If you're a 3 looking for a 64, it sucks to be you if half the 64s in the room happen to be under 18 or over 80. Better find a new room.

But if you manage to meet your "soulmate," congrats! You've made a match. But there are probably other numbers out there -- even poor Mr. 32 might find a 96, or even a 77, if he's lucky and has a nice haircut.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:33 AM on September 9, 2009 [29 favorites]


/travels through multiverse killing off his parallel selves in an attempt to find love.
posted by Artw at 10:34 AM on September 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


Sure, there are prices to admission, but I really like the person I'm with now, seven years into our relationship, more than I do the person I dated two months in. Surely, I can't be alone in this?

I definitely like him better now (5 years in) because he has proven over and over that the person he was 2 months in is who he really is, and not an act.
posted by desjardins at 10:36 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like Erich Fromm’s writing about this in The Art of Loving, for example:
Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object — and that everything goes by itself afterward. This attitude can be compared to that of the man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he just has to wait for the right object — and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it. If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world, I love life. If I can say to somebody else, “I love you,” I must be able to say, “I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself.”
“Brotherly” love is fundamental; the twosome is a social kludge to hide from jealousy!
posted by mbrock at 10:40 AM on September 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


But (and this isn't likely to be very MeFi-friendly) I think there are many reasons to be in an LTR/marriage, and while sex is certainly a major one, you don't just get up and leave a relationship/marriage that you have committed to because the sex is bad, or non-existent.

Happens every day.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:43 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well I guess this Republican is letting something out.
posted by Artw at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2009


Happens every day.

Doesn't make it right. But I'm a believer in soul-mates, so what do I know? :)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:00 AM on September 9, 2009


Favoriting a bunch of these...

I don't believe in souls or soulmates or "The One" but I think what I have with Mr. Arkham is pretty close. And if there was something (sexually or otherwise) he couldn't live without, and I couldn't give it to him, I'd want him to find someone who could. Because I love him.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:02 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


And if there was something (sexually or otherwise) he couldn't live without, and I couldn't give it to him, I'd want him to find someone who could. Because I love him.

So, to you, sex with your husband doesn't require an emotional attachment? Or, you're just willing to bring a third person into the marriage?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:06 AM on September 9, 2009


So - no one mentioning Twilight yet?

It's in the porn thread.
posted by rokusan at 11:06 AM on September 9, 2009


Forget which book it was from, but Martin Cruz Smith said much the same a while back in one of the Arkady Renko series:

People said that good marriages were built on honesty. Arkady suspected that as many solid relationships were based on a lie shouldered by two.
posted by minimii at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't have the time or ability to read the associated links- at least I'm admitting as much- but does he talk at all about the the value of satisfying a sexual urge vs the value of creating a long-term relationship and how these values would differ wildly from person to person?
posted by xmutex at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2009


sex with your husband doesn't require an emotional attachment

No, I'm saying the emotional attachment is the most important thing to me (YMMV). If something happened to me that made it impossible for us to be physically intimate, he would have my blessing to go elsewhere.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:13 AM on September 9, 2009


I don't even like philosophy, I'm really starting to worry about myself.

Hey, everyone does it. Most of us just don't talk about it in public. Lock the door and wash up when you're done and you'll be fine.

posted by nebulawindphone at 11:13 AM on September 9, 2009


The One is a spiritual/metaphysical/relgious concept. If none of those describe you, then you're going to go with "the person I happened to meet who happened to be a good match for me."

And maybe also recognize that relationships do not have to last forever. If human beings lived to be, say, 500 years old, I doubt that any one relationship would suffice all that time, even if it started out really well. People change their whole lives, and it's not surprising that so many change enough to stop being compatible with their (also changing) partners.
posted by emjaybee at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2009


So, to you, sex with your husband doesn't require an emotional attachment? Or, you're just willing to bring a third person into the marriage?

Sex is enhanced by an emotional attachment sometimes, but by no means is a serious attachment required for sex, even for good sex.

I think you're being glib or disingenuous here when you talk about "bring(ing) a third person into the marriage." Sex is an activity that is shared between people, including married couples. Extramarital sex is no more bringing in a person "into the marriage" than extramarital Scrabble. If Scrabble was important to both members of a married couple, and one lost the interest or ability to play Scrabble, the other should seek other Scrabble partners, with their spouse's blessing.

The only difference here is that a sex life is often more important to (some) people's happiness and self-esteem than Scrabble.
posted by explosion at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


I have always likened a long-term relationship to keeping an old car running and on the road. You have to make decisions what to fix and what to let slide for awhile. You can't have that new car feeling, but you will end up going many miles.

(And I am happily in an LTR.)
posted by Danf at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dan Savage on the Weirdest Letter He's Received
posted by homunculus at 11:18 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Every long term relationship is a myth"

I have such trouble with absolutes. Maybe the majority of LTR involve a fair amount of self deception, and a lot of soulmates becomes roommates tied tied by social status, mutual responsibilities and/or inertia but I do believe some couples do have a special connection that allows them to thrive despite obstacles to their relation because of their faith in each in.

I find the few Savage fans I know really take his GGG theory waay to seriously. To the point where if their partner isn't GGG they always blame the partner instead of communicating and acknowledging that many sexual problems in relationships are the result of other things too (such as the girlfriend that cooks dinner, cleans up, and then walks into the bedroom to find her well-rested boyfriend expecting either marathon sex or a fight about how tired she is). I haven't read Savage closely enough to figure if my main complaint with his philosophy is because of what he writes or how some of his readers interpret him.
posted by saucysault at 11:18 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Part of the problem is, it's hard to tell what Dan Savage's position on sex and monogamy really is.

Sometimes, it sounds like he's saying "Sacrificing part of your sex life is a big deal. You have to think about it seriously, and you can't sweep the consequences under the rug. If you want to stay in your sexless marriage (or whatever), that's totally fine, maybe even noble — just make sure you're really facing the full weight of what that's going to mean." And that's a pretty okay sentiment in my book. I'm all about looking our sacrifices square in the eye.

But other times, it sounds like he's saying "Sacrificing part of your sex life is wrong. Nobody should do it ever for anyone." And that's just dumb. I'm not into the idea that you should live life without making sacrifices, or even that you can.

I like to think that the first version is What Dan Really Thinks, and the second version is an oversimplification that he whips out sometimes when he's in a hurry. But who knows? We all like to imagine that everyone agrees with us deep down, so I don't think my perception here is a reliable one.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"faith in each in" = "faith in each other" gah, nursing baby causes fat fingers.
posted by saucysault at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2009


Maybe I've never understood the concept of "The One" correctly, but I never read it as "soulmate" or any other religious/spiritual concept. It doesn't take a lie to decide your significant other is "the one" you want to be with [lowercase intentional] . I've always thought that when I found "The One," it would simply be the person I'd choose over all others. I think it's that choice that makes it special and unique, not some sort of paranormal connection or mutual delusion.
posted by lunalaguna at 11:22 AM on September 9, 2009


I think you're being glib or disingenuous here when you talk about "bring(ing) a third person into the marriage."

I'm totally not. Sex is not the same thing as Scrabble. Sorry.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:23 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Myth as in mythology, not myth as in lie.
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The amount of times he brings up the third party thing I do wonder if he's got a serious overestimation of the degree to which most couples would be okay with that.

(yes, yes, I know you are all wicked cool poly swingers or whatever)
posted by Artw at 11:26 AM on September 9, 2009


The amount of times he brings up the third party thing I do wonder if he's got a serious overestimation of the degree to which most couples would be okay with that.

Dude gets a lot of letters and calls from people who are interested in such a thing - it's a sampling error.
posted by device55 at 11:30 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I can't stay interested in a guy for longer than two months. What is WRONG with me? I find a flaw and can't get over it. For example, if a guy chews with his mouth open, I could never see him again."

Ummm, YOU are the problem with you. If you have a list of dealbreakers that has more than 5 things on it, then you really need to wait around for a sex-robot.


I mean, yes and no. I think it's not so much that the person who wrote that question is a picky bitch, but rather that she's NOT a picky bitch up front. I think that some people just really don't have like ANY idea what they're looking for in a person (i mean, other than "good-looking" and "fun") and so what happens is they end up just dating whoever, regardless. And that's all fine and good, but then like two months in you realize, "hmmmmm, this is kind of boring because I really didn't pick you based on anything more than a superficial level of attraction." So you want out, and you blame it on something stupid like chewing with their mouth open, because their's not alot that's superawesome about that person to make you overlook that stupid flaw.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:32 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Remember that Dan Savage's own happy long-term committed partnership with the lovely man with whom he has a son is not monogamous. He's someone for whom an open marriage works really well, and I don't think that he always remembers that that approach doesn't work well for many other people.

To me, that's where he tends to alienate people (see also my ongoing impatience with his attitudes toward bisexuality and trans and genderqueer issues, not to mention his projecting of his own candidly self-acknowledged body image issues onto others). On the other hand, the subjectivity of his writing is what I like best--he's not just regurgitating the best-practice consensus like some advice columnists.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:32 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm totally not. Sex is not the same thing as Scrabble. Sorry.

Oh.

Shit.

I guess I'm doing something wrong. I'm just not sure which one.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:33 AM on September 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Well, three- and four-player games are pretty much guaranteed to be uneven. That's why the most serious players stick to one-on-one. (I'm talking about Scrabble.)
posted by box at 11:38 AM on September 9, 2009


He's certainly a useful counterbalance to, say, Dr. Phil.
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pragmatists shouldn't try to talk about love. It's dancing about architecture.
posted by rokusan at 11:41 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dude gets a lot of letters and calls from people who are interested in such a thing - it's a sampling error.

Well, it's not even necessarily an error at that point. His take on the issue is hardly a secret. And as a result, people who aren't receptive to the idea of polyamory don't tend to write him for advice.

It's not like he ever tells anyone, "Yeah, I just bet your wife [who isn't a reader of mine] will go for this." That would be a sampling error. Saying "Hey, I bet that you [as a member of the population of readers I'm sampling from] will go for this" is pretty reasonable.

And telling people "I bet you'll like X; if you do, you should mention it to your wife and see if she likes it," that's solid advice. Even if the odds are that she won't, it's worth having the conversation. The happiest monogamous couples I know are the ones who have made a conscious decision to be monogamous. (And that includes some where A wanted an open relationship, talked it over with B, and consciously chose monogamy instead because B hated the idea. I've been A in this situation, and it's way easier than doing the "we're not gonna talk about it" dance, even if the rules wind up the same either way.)

Pragmatists shouldn't try to talk about love. It's dancing about architecture.

Other way around. It's drafting technical diagrams about ballet.

posted by nebulawindphone at 11:43 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


This thread is funny to me because, at my house, we use "playing Scrabble" as a euphemism for having sex.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 11:45 AM on September 9, 2009


guess I'm doing something wrong. I'm just not sure which one.

Well, it should be pretty easy to sort out. Are you constantly having problems with your letter tiles sticking together? Or do your relationships tend not to last and frequently include fights that end up with a dictionary being thrown at someone?
posted by nanojath at 11:45 AM on September 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


He's certainly a useful counterbalance to, say, Dr. Phil.

I've heard Dr. Phil actually equate the viewing of pornography to cheating. Like watching a dirty MPG is the same as actual cheating on your spouse.

Now, I could easily imagine a scenario where porn viewing or too much porn could hurt your relationship...but to claim it's morally equivalent to cheating is ridiculous.

So. Yeah. Thanks Dan.
posted by device55 at 11:45 AM on September 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


All I know is that I play way more Scrabble than I have sex. And that is a sad, sad state of affairs. (I did spell out 'vulva' in a recent game though. The lines are beginning to blur.)
posted by slimepuppy at 11:45 AM on September 9, 2009


Pragmatists shouldn't try to talk about love. It's dancing about architecture.

oh barf.
posted by device55 at 11:47 AM on September 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm totally not. Sex is not the same thing as Scrabble. Sorry.

Of course not! But sex is not the same as marriage, either. For some people, marriage is some sort of mystical, magical religious thing. For others, it really is "best friend plus sex." Without the sex, all that's left is "best friend."

Granted, "best friend" is still a lot, and it's very important, but if your best friend hadn't gotten laid for months or years, and sex was really important to said best friend, wouldn't you want to see that best friend get laid?

I definitely think that talking to each other, therapy, and counseling should all be considered, but if one part of the couple, for whatever reason, is unwilling/unable to have sex, it is the pinnacle of selfishness to demand the other remains celibate. There's a huge difference between "I want you to only have sex with me," and "I don't want you to have sex."
posted by explosion at 11:48 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dancing about architecture
posted by device55 at 11:50 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


shoesiestart: In real life, commitment is conditional and one partner can't necessarily be the one to determine the conditions for both people. The sexual withholder owes the other person 1) freedom to explore outside sexual relationships, 2) needs to start putting out with enthusiasm or 3) needs to let their partner go. A person withholding sex, for whatever reason, is breaking a central tenant of most adult relationships and that person doesn't get to tell the other person, "you can't have sex anymore and you can't leave me either because we're committed."

Or 4) work out compromises that work within each person's sexual limits and itches.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:51 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


What if you actually sort of like the "lie-self"? Just as much as you do that initial idealized self? Sure, there are prices to admission, but I really like the person I'm with now, seven years into our relationship, more than I do the person I dated two months in. Surely, I can't be alone in this?

Did you watch the video? The whole point was that in a LTR you do the favor of believing in each other's 'lie-self' in order to allow each of you to try to live up to it a bit more every day. So you know one another's faults, but forgive them when you commit to each other - once you decide to stay with a person, you are supporting the lie-self (or to put it less cynically, the idealized self) for the benefit of both of you, rather than pointing out the faults that you are both aware of anyway.
posted by mdn at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2009


explosion: I definitely think that talking to each other, therapy, and counseling should all be considered, but if one part of the couple, for whatever reason, is unwilling/unable to have sex, it is the pinnacle of selfishness to demand the other remains celibate. There's a huge difference between "I want you to only have sex with me," and "I don't want you to have sex."

It always strikes me that this particular argument for non-monogamy sounds like a false dichotomy. There is a huge ground of territory in between that can be explored.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:55 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's dancing about architecture.

What's so wrong with dancing about architecture, anyway?
posted by Bookhouse at 11:56 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those two positions are both reasonable -- that one partner should be able to go outside of the relationship but also that he or she give up some degree of satisfaction in compromise.

The thing that Savage does that I like is that he discusses the first option, little acknowledged by advice columnists for a variety of reasons, as a matter-of-fact possibility. There is great value in this. The unthinkable (but otherwise reasonable) does not become thinkable by not talking about it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:57 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


/makes note not to buy/rent any building from Bookhouse.
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Deploying "dancing about architecture" is like butoh about your mama.
posted by everichon at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2009


As so often happens, we have tons of confusion caused by people (on various sides of the issue) trying to make universal laws of human nature.

Some people have a very hard time finding someone they're compatible with. One guy tries ten different relationships, all of which are unsatisfying. Then the eleventh one clicks. With his eleventh partner, he feels understood, loved, connected... Naturally, he FEELS like he's found The One.

Of course he hasn't really found the only person in the world he could possibly be compatible with. But it is true -- for HIM -- that when he's single, it may take him years to find someone. Maybe if you put him in a room full of 1000 people, all willing to date him, there would only be one of those people with which it would work. Since real life is much messier than that (we're not often in rooms with 1000 sure things), it makes sense that it will take him a very long time to find soulmates.

Say his partner dies. After grieving, he goes looking for companionship. Four years later, he has still failed to find someone who meshes with him on the level of his late lover. It is likely that he'll FEEL that he had his chance and now he's destined to be alone. Sure, the odds are that if he hangs in there, he'll find someone in ... eight years? ten years? fifteen years? But four years can seem like an eternity.

At some point, to simplify his world (and to help him make choices), he'll probably start telling himself and others that each of us has The One. It's emotionally true for him, even though it's not really true.

Meanwhile, another guy has a relatively easy time getting into meaningful relationships. He's not shallow. It's just that he's a people person. He gets along with many different types of people. He is attracted to people who are smart, relatively good looking, ambitious and educated. That narrows things down a little, but not all that much. He has tons of people to choose from. He has the ability to be happy, as long as he's in a relationship with someone he's attracted to, someone who is nice to him, someone who is interesting. (I'm guessing there are some people who would read that and think, "Wouldn't anyone be happy in such a relationship?") To him, "The One" seems absurd.

I'm the first guy. I'm baffled when people say, "Don't waste your time on her. There are many other fish in the sea." No there aren't! Not for me. That doesn't mean that there's only one woman in the world I could ever be happy with. It means that if I'm single, I should be prepared for many years of loneliness. It's possible I'll find someone quickly. But it's unlikely. It's probably that I will find someone if I can hang in there for many years. But it's possible I'll never find anyone.

Most people can't tolerate that sort of ambiguity (I'm not sure I can), so they make up laws. Those laws become really important to them, because they use them to make real life decisions and justifications. So naturally they argue with people who have different laws.
posted by grumblebee at 12:03 PM on September 9, 2009 [23 favorites]


But (and this isn't likely to be very MeFi-friendly) I think there are many reasons to be in an LTR/marriage, and while sex is certainly a major one, you don't just get up and leave a relationship/marriage that you have committed to because the sex is bad, or non-existent.

The problem, however, is that it becomes an issue of X and Y both wanting a sexual relationship at the beginning. Then Y tapers off so only X wants it. Now X is frustrated because X doesn't want to cheat on Y, but doesn't want to force Y into anything either.

And then, because we are so fucked up with regards to how we perceive and understand sex, we see Y as in the right here and X as base, dirty, wrong for wanting sex that their partner does not.

Dan Savage simply makes a reasonable defense for X's side here that maybe the people who tire of sex and then declare for the world that it isn't important don't get to have the final word on this, and don't get to put the Xs of the world into a moral prison as a result of it.

Savage is a guy who cares deeply about LTrs, and when he advises cheating or DTMFAing it's either to keep the part of the relationship that works working, in the former case, and getting people out of hopelessly abusive/manipulative situations in the latter.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:12 PM on September 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


It always strikes me that this particular argument for non-monogamy sounds like a false dichotomy. There is a huge ground of territory in between that can be explored.

Yeah, the "I don't want you to have sex" bit is clearly a straw man — who would say that to someone they didn't hate? Let's give our hypothetical couple the benefit of the doubt and assume they don't flat-out hate each other.

I think for a lot of people the real position is "I definitely don't want sex, and it upsets me to think of you having sex with someone else." Not "I don't want you to have sex," just "I can't find a way to give you sex that won't freak me right the fuck out." In which case, yes, the answer is brainstorming. Look for a way.

I just think it's hard for a lot of people to do that brainstorming, because it's hard for them to get past the resistance to any kind of compromise — any deviation from monogamy, anything "kinky" that might take the place of intercourse in a monogamous relationship, any willingness to "settle" for porn or masturbation or totally-consensual-but-unenthusiastic sex or a high foreplay-to-sex ratio.

And if you're going to do the brainstorming there right, in my book, you've got to be temporarily willing to consider any of those compromises. So you talk about ways of making a sexless relationship bearable for both parties, you talk about substitutes for sex, but you also talk about ways of opening the relationship up. You've got to consider them all in good faith before you give up on the relationship entirely.

Ultimately, I see this as being about the importance of the relationship, not the importance of sex. A committed relationship is such serious business that you have to consider all sorts of compromises before you just bail out of it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:19 PM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised to see that no-one has linked to the This American Life that talks about 'the one'. Somewhat off-topic, but the prologue has a nice little interaction of a girlfriend and boyfriend discussing 'the odds' and how they feel about their conclusions.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 12:19 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm totally disappointed. On the dozen or so occasions I've read his column, I thought he was some kind of macho, stubbly, gravel-voiced type of guy. I now have to choose to either forget about that paragon (lie-self) or miss out on these excellent (so far) videos. It's the voice that's the deal-breaker (in this case and in the rest of my life).

Also, he was clearly being hyperbolic with the stuff about "lie-self" and so on. If you consider that honesty is the only real deal-breaker in a relationship (everything else can be agreed or disagreed on mutually, but if you're lying to me, there is no relationship), there's nothing particularly magical about monogamous sex. Perhaps western societies which entangle sex and love so closely act to the detriment of both.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 12:25 PM on September 9, 2009


Yeah, the "I don't want you to have sex" bit is clearly a straw man — who would say that to someone they didn't hate?

It's not a straw man; it's condensing a very possible conversation into a sentence. The full sentiment, more accurately expressed, is: "I don't want you to have sex with other people, or with me unless I'm into it -- I'll let you know when that is."

I have a short list of movies my spouse refuses to see. Oh, she's up for seeing them. Just not tonight. Not tomorrow night. Not next week. In some cases, it's been years. Eventually, you have to deal with the reality of that situation, and, er, either watch them alone or with someone else.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:27 PM on September 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


And no, they're not porn. Jeez.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:30 PM on September 9, 2009


Did you watch the video? The whole point was that in a LTR you do the favor of believing in each other's 'lie-self' in order to allow each of you to try to live up to it a bit more every day. So you know one another's faults, but forgive them when you commit to each other - once you decide to stay with a person, you are supporting the lie-self (or to put it less cynically, the idealized self) for the benefit of both of you, rather than pointing out the faults that you are both aware of anyway.

Yes, I watched the video--the video where he says that 1. We pay the "price of admission" by putting up with people's faults in order to stay in a relationship (fine) and that 2. The "lie" that we maintain to stay in a relationship is that a person really is who they are at the beginning of a relationship. My answer to that is that the "lie-self" of someone in the beginning of a relationship isn't often that much better than their actual self. Sure, we're people with flaws, but the flaws are parts of the package that I like--and while I agree that you can't harp on every little flaw, I think it's kind of silly to aspire to always be the person you were at the beginning of a relationship, anyway.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:30 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


> And this says nothing about accidents...

Seriously. If my wife hadn't happened to notice a particular apartment-for-rent poster on a particular notice board (this was back in 1999) while walking through her university's student centre one day, we almost certainly would not have met and gone on to get married. You could argue that her glance at this notice board was Fate's Guiding Hand, or that it was complete, 100% chance. Who knows?

I don't buy the idea of The One. My wife and I are a great couple, but I highly doubt I'm the only guy on the planet who could make her happy, nor do I believe that she is the only woman who could make me happy. Stating this doesn't cheapen or devalue our relationship in the slightest. I'm happy, she's happy, we're happy with each other...that's a minor miracle right there, and worrying about anything else would be overthinking it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:32 PM on September 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Navelgazer: And then, because we are so fucked up with regards to how we perceive and understand sex, we see Y as in the right here and X as base, dirty, wrong for wanting sex that their partner does not.

Ohh, I disagree with that. The common wisdom out there is that a person who isn't as sexual in a relationship is being deliberately cruel, repressed, engaged in infidelity, or suffers from a psychological or physical pathology.

nebulawindphone: I just think it's hard for a lot of people to do that brainstorming, because it's hard for them to get past the resistance to any kind of compromise — any deviation from monogamy, anything "kinky" that might take the place of intercourse in a monogamous relationship, any willingness to "settle" for porn or masturbation or totally-consensual-but-unenthusiastic sex or a high foreplay-to-sex ratio.

Yes. I think one thing that Savage does get right is the observation that gays and lesbians end up talking about sex a lot because it's not entirely obvious what exactly is meant by that. It just seems that there is a ton of pressure in the straight world that intercourse will be the end-all and be-all of a sexual relationship. And I suspect that a lot of the problems with relationships in straight relationships would be eased if intercourse was just one option among many on the menu.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:34 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like the way grumblebee put it.

That said, I do feel like Mrs Fleebnork is The One, or however you'd choose to describe someone with whom you're really, really, really well matched. Call it spiritual, call it brain chemistry, whatever makes sense to you.

Having observed some of my friends' relationships, I also agree that many people just settle. I'm not placing any blame in that statement. I honestly don't know what I would do if I were single and trying to meet someone.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:42 PM on September 9, 2009


Ohh, I disagree with that. The common wisdom out there is that a person who isn't as sexual in a relationship is being deliberately cruel, repressed, engaged in infidelity, or suffers from a psychological or physical pathology.

The common wisdom where? The idea that marriage = lack of sex is as integrated as our acceptance of prison rape, in that both are really awful situations that the culture has turned into shorthand jokes.
posted by TypographicalError at 12:46 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]



It's not a straw man; it's condensing a very possible conversation into a sentence. The full sentiment, more accurately expressed, is: "I don't want you to have sex with other people, or with me unless I'm into it -- I'll let you know when that is."

I have a short list of movies my spouse refuses to see. Oh, she's up for seeing them. Just not tonight. Not tomorrow night. Not next week. In some cases, it's been years. Eventually, you have to deal with the reality of that situation, and, er, either watch them alone or with someone else.


Oh, sure. My point is just that there's different intent there — your partner isn't trying to deprive you. It's not the goal, it's a side effect.

This might seem like hair splitting to you. The difference is important to me, though. If I see a partner as trying to deprive me, that sets up "Fuck you, I'll make my own damn self happy" as a reasonable reaction. If I see a partner as trying to make himself happy, then there are lots of possible reactions, including "Gee, honey, let's find something that makes us both at least kinda happy." Which, of course, could include polyamory if that's what fits the bill, but it's an attitude that's more conducive to doing polyamory right and really negotiating it out so it's as mutually fulfilling as possible.

And also, I do feel like the "My partner is trying to deprive me" thing is kind of strawmanny. People (I'm not accusing you of this, mind, but some people — many of them letter writers in to Savage Love) say, essentially, "My partner is trying to starve me — clearly I'm not obligated to help them do that!" Whereas if they framed it differently — "My partner is trying to find happiness and fulfillment" — then, no, actually, it starts to look like they had ought to at least look for ways to help out.

Ohh, I disagree with that. The common wisdom out there is that a person who isn't as sexual in a relationship is being deliberately cruel, repressed, engaged in infidelity, or suffers from a psychological or physical pathology.

The common wisdom where? The idea that marriage = lack of sex is as integrated as our acceptance of prison rape, in that both are really awful situations that the culture has turned into shorthand jokes.


Oh god let's not bring that can of worms into this can of worms. But in my experience, the common wisdom is that spouses with no sex drive are cruel, pathological, and depressingly numerous — ridiculously numerous, such that the whole thing seems like one big cruel joke and the only thing you can do is mock it. No contradiction there. It's a false belief, at least the part about cruelty and pathology, but it's a consistent false belief, and one that a lot of people hold.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:51 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have a magical, long term, and 100% perfectly compatible relationship.

Oh, RedTube, you complete me.
posted by Brosef K at 1:01 PM on September 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


18-Year-Old Miraculously Finds Soulmate in Hometown
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:02 PM on September 9, 2009


I don't think Dan Savage has perfect prescriptions, but he does right by pop culture by continually and plainly restating the essential premise that satisfying relationships of all types work because those involved are ongoingly honest with themselves about what they truly need from a partner and are not afraid to ask and negotiate for it.

And, intuitively, I suspect that his elegant distillation of the three G qualities as everyone's entitlement and responsibility has had an enlightening, net positive effect on the collective even getting a taste of what finding The One, real or no, is like. Personally, I'm happy having found A One.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 1:03 PM on September 9, 2009


Metafilter: GGG
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 1:07 PM on September 9, 2009


What interests me about this conversation is that it is so universally depressing. If you are with someone already, questions about "is this The One" or "is there such thing as The One" have really disturbing implications no matter which side you are currently committed to. If you are not with anyone, well it is a talk about relationships, and even talks about the crappy parts of relationships bring up things like sex
which I have gone without for years
runs out of the room weeping
slams the door.

posted by idiopath at 1:07 PM on September 9, 2009


I have a short list of movies my spouse refuses to see. Oh, she's up for seeing them. Just not tonight. Not tomorrow night. Not next week. In some cases, it's been years. Eventually, you have to deal with the reality of that situation, and, er, either watch them alone or with someone else.

that right there, minus metaphors for anything, is a tale of woe I can totally sympathize with. Me and my The Wire box set. Oh why could you not have robots and lasers in you The Wire? She's have no interest in you then.
posted by Artw at 1:10 PM on September 9, 2009


I married my soulmate. That doesn't mean it's always been a bed of roses (unless you count the occasional thorn) but I did literally marry "my other half." 26 years in, take that, Dan Savage.

(And as for Dr Phil and pornography=adultery? He got that from Jesus who said plainly that if a man looks at a woman to lust after her he has already committed adultery in his heart. Some of you might remember Jimmy Carter mentioning that back in the 70's....)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:11 PM on September 9, 2009


I have a short list of movies my spouse refuses to see. Oh, she's up for seeing them. Just not tonight. Not tomorrow night. Not next week. In some cases, it's been years. Eventually, you have to deal with the reality of that situation, and, er, either watch them alone or with someone else.

A person can be your soulmate and still not like the kind of movies you do....my husband shares your pain ;-)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:13 PM on September 9, 2009


Alia- Savage might not be your cup of tea but fyi the "take that" business is misplaced... he'd probably bless your LTR and wish you lots of good, enthusiastic, uh, stuff.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 1:21 PM on September 9, 2009


And as for Dr Phil and pornography=adultery? He got that from Jesus who said plainly that if a man looks at a woman to lust after her he has already committed adultery in his heart. Some of you might remember Jimmy Carter mentioning that back in the 70's....

Yeah, he also said to rip out your eye and cut off your arm in that same passage, right? This is why you shouldn't read the Bible "plainly".

I did literally marry "my other half." 26 years in, take that, Dan Savage.

I have no idea what this means — "literally"? — but I doubt Dan Savage would begrudge you it.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:23 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


What interests me about this conversation is that it is so universally depressing. If you are with someone already, questions about "is this The One" or "is there such thing as The One" have really disturbing implications no matter which side you are currently committed to.

Well, yeah, if you're in a relationship and you're questioning whether your partner is the one for you, of course it's going to be depressing. If you're not questioning it, there are no disturbing implications. There's nothing to even think about.
posted by desjardins at 1:27 PM on September 9, 2009


I did literally marry "my other half." 26 years in, take that, Dan Savage.

I have no idea what this means — "literally"?


St. Alia of the Bunnies is one of a set of conjoined twins. She petitioned her state government for a special exception to the ban on marrying a sibling 26 years ago, and was permitted to marry her "other half."

This sort of thing happens so rarely, you really do have to treasure it.
posted by explosion at 1:29 PM on September 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Cite, please. ;-)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:32 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm going to sleep well tonight knowing that in some universe, I'm a 77, and everyone will want to play scrabble with me one on one.

I don't think that universe is this one, so all I will be doing is sleeping
posted by Calloused_Foot at 1:39 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh why could you not have robots and lasers in you The Wire?

Do you know where liars go? To the movies!
posted by slimepuppy at 1:46 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


We pay the "price of admission" by putting up with people's faults in order to stay in a relationship

To me, this is interesting, because it evokes some kind continual inner discussion like this: "God, it drives me crazy when she does that... is it worth putting up with? Should I just get out of the relationship and look for someone who doesn't do that? No, I think I'll stay. She's annoying, but she has plenty of great qualities..."

I'm sure there are plenty of people who talk to themselves this way, but it's alien to me. I'm not saying I'm married to Ms. Perfect. She has her faults, as do I. But as corny as it sounds, I love her faults because they are part of her.

In any case, I just never find myself feeling that I'm paying a price for admission. I made the choice and paid a long time ago. I know it was a good bargain. My life with her is about taking out the trash, telling jokes, riding the subway together, making dinner and sometimes fighting. But I guess I'm just not that introspective about it. There's too much life to be living.

I also think there's a huge difference between a new relationship -- even one that is a few years old -- and a partnership that's lasted for years or decades. Assuming it's generally a good partnership, you settle into it. My wife seems like a part of me. I don't think about my arm as something I put up with despite its faults. It's just my arm.
posted by grumblebee at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is the best thing ever. I'm so glad you posted this, I really can't get enough of Dan's brutal honesty. Maybe he's not always right, but he's never saying what he's supposed to say.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:56 PM on September 9, 2009


I don't have a problem with enjoying Dan Savage's generous sharing of his personal views within his advice practice, and I don't have a problem with accepting the contradictions I perceive in them, which are few, because I'm a fan, overall.

Basically, I keep the lie Dan in mind even when the chews with his foot in his mouth Dan is on the screen. He does good work, from the heart, and that's wonderful.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:57 PM on September 9, 2009


We pay the "price of admission" by putting up with people's faults in order to stay in a relationship

Dan's metaphors and hyperbole illuminate his own ongoing struggle with adjusting to the ongoing act of will it takes to live your life committed to someone. I think it repeatedly takes some of us by surprise because the infatuation stage, whatever length it is, fools us into thinking all we have to do is sit back and let the love wash over us.

I don't think he's particularly negative, just honest and cranky at times about all the work it takes. It was so easy in the beginning, but now I have to put up with your this and that and occasionally I secretly hate you. And this leap of faith I have to take to believe it's worth it sometimes feels like I'm lying to myself. That's at least my interpretation.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 2:10 PM on September 9, 2009 [5 favorites]




Or 4) work out compromises that work within each person's sexual limits and itches.

It always strikes me that this particular argument for non-monogamy sounds like a false dichotomy. There is a huge ground of territory in between that can be explored.


I agree that your sentiments. My earlier point was that the person withholding sex doesn't get to highjack the relationship by playing the 'we're committed' card and then take the supposed high road to try and force the other partner to stay.

Both people have to be willing to come to an agreeable compromise that doesn't leave one party feeling put upon and the other feeling short changed and frustrated. Otherwise, you can end up with a cheating spouse who feels either justified and/or like a heel. And I think even without cheating, if the issue isn't dealt with, anger and resentment result and it's hard to compromise when you're mad especially if previous conversations have included "stop badgering me to have sex" and "what the hell is wrong with you, we haven't had sex in two years."
posted by shoesietart at 2:27 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


He is attracted to people who are smart, relatively good looking, ambitious and educated. That narrows things down a little, but not all that much.

Where the hell does he live?
posted by kersplunk at 2:37 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I see a bunch of these people at every MeFi meetup.
posted by grumblebee at 2:41 PM on September 9, 2009


I don't think he's particularly negative, just honest and cranky at times about all the work it takes. It was so easy in the beginning, but now I have to put up with your this and that and occasionally I secretly hate you. And this leap of faith I have to take to believe it's worth it sometimes feels like I'm lying to myself. That's at least my interpretation.

When I was a kid I saw an episode of, of all things, All in the Family that really stuck with me.

In this episode, Gloria is sure she and Michael made a mistake in getting married because his bad habits are really getting to her. And Edith is very matter-of-fact about the whole thing, basically saying, "Well, we all go through that. Some days I can't stand your father." And Gloria is shocked, but Edith goes on to explain that if she just gets through that rough patch, Archie will inevitably do something that reminds her how much in love with him she really is.

All through the show, we see Gloria half-ignoring Michael until something very mundane he does at the end has her face just lighting up, and we know she's through that rough patch. At the end of the episode, she ends up thanking her mother.

Now, maybe the "some days I can't stand your father" part is a bit much, but I think there's some wisdom there.

Nowadays, you don't see that portrayed as much in the media, that idea that sometimes in a marriage you run into a rough spot and have to re-group and then go on from there.

Instead, what we do get are the marital stereotypes--the sex-crazed newlyweds, the exhausted parents, the sexless couple, the affair, the bitter divorce--and it seems as if we are always watching this same progression. We see people taking sides, and we hear the all-or-nothing debate--he never talks to me, she never wants to have sex, etc. Divorce is always the inevitable end.

In any LTR, there's choices made, and compromises agreed to. When I hear that someone has met their "other half", I hope that what they mean is they are both equally committed, rather than that they agree on everything, because the latter relationship has never really been tested.

I'm glad to see that Savage, at least, is talking about this issue in a way that makes sense, rather than feeding into those all-or-nothing stereotypes too.
posted by misha at 2:52 PM on September 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


grumblebee, I agree with your perspective: there are certainly things Mr. Sidhedevil does that bug me, but I don't think of that as a "compromise" or whatever.

But Dan Savage and his partner Terry (whom he describes as "boyfriend", although I think they did get married in Canada, but they get to pick what they call themselves) have been together for something like 15 years, so his divergence from you on this bit:

I also think there's a huge difference between a new relationship -- even one that is a few years old -- and a partnership that's lasted for years or decades. Assuming it's generally a good partnership, you settle into it. My wife seems like a part of me. I don't think about my arm as something I put up with despite its faults. It's just my arm.

isn't because of the longevity of his relationship. Dan Savage has a life partnership that works for him and his partner and their child, even though it wouldn't work for me or my husband, or for you and mrs. grumblebee.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:06 PM on September 9, 2009


Sure, we're people with flaws, but the flaws are parts of the package that I like--and while I agree that you can't harp on every little flaw, I think it's kind of silly to aspire to always be the person you were at the beginning of a relationship, anyway.

I guess my response would be that you're taking it a bit too literally - I don't think the point is to be who you were at the beginning of the relationship! It's just that notion of idealization that comes with the intensity of falling in love - the idea of not losing the sense that this person really is as awesome as you thought they were, even though now you know they chew with their mouth open.

As for flaws being things you like, well, then those aren't exactly flaws - there have to be some flaws that you actually dislike about your partner (and vice versa), and that's the point of this advice.

I like what grumblebee wrote above, except that I can't understand believing in "the One" or thinking there are many fish in the sea. There are just percentages of how well I can relate to various people, and I will never be 100% compatible with anyone on everything, like Dan Savage said. You have to make compromises, find close fits, grow together, and do the best you can. So it's not so much that there's only One as that there are different people who I would make different compromises with, and therefore choose a different sort of life, and it's hard enough to find someone just to get things off the ground with, so giving up something that's workable is a big decision since it will result in at least some period of loneliness before you find another person who you can work with. (but maybe I'm just a 32...)
posted by mdn at 3:13 PM on September 9, 2009


I think he's usually pretty sensible but I think he generally glosses over compromise too much and goes straight to DTMF - AskMe does the same thing, it's pretty much the only thing to say with limited information, all of it negative.

Also - I really really want a webpage with a detailed explaination of the 100 personality types. I love that stuff.
posted by fermezporte at 3:39 PM on September 9, 2009


I think he's usually pretty sensible but I think he generally glosses over compromise too much and goes straight to DTMF


He swiftly goes to DTMF when he detects a situation in which either the complainant or the disappointer or both aren't clear enough about what they want and/ or don't exhibit the motivation/ caring/ competence to honestly work things through or admit to a bad match. Savage's specialty is no-nonsense, sexual negotiation, which overlaps with all relationship functions, he doesn't want to waste his, or our, time with coddling and hand-holding quickly loses patience with people who either create false kink expectations in their partner or complainwhen their partners aren't mind readers.

And anyway, he's an entertainer/ commentator, not really a therapist.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 4:14 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dancing about architecture.

It's just lazy shorthand. Like... well, like all language.

Personally, the closest anyone's come to nailing my perspective is The One Hundred theory first mentioned here by CBP. I sometimes explain this as "Yes, there is The One out there. And if that fails, there is Another One, too." and that's not sarcasm. There ain't many, and most people don't actually end up with one, but it's not a one-to-one relationship either. (God is a cruel bastard, but not that cruel.)

On the meta-topic: some things just won't get better from any amount of beanplating from any angle.

Some people believe in settling or compromising or "learning to love" their partners: whether they decide this before or after entering a relationship might change their motive a bit, and might even color their credibility, but so what. It's a valid perspective, and I believe they can be happy and I believe them when they say they're happy.

On the other hand, some people need that lightning bolt, and need to believe in it, and whether they come to that realization after entering a relationship or in advance doesn't change anything, either, in terms of the validity of their perspective.

Most pointedly (I hope), neither school of thought is ever going to convince the other to stab themselves in the heart (or in the brain) and "accept" the other way as somehow superior. We might as well switch directly to a science-vs-religion debate, or maybe even closer, biography vs novel: which is the better kind of book?

Now, those people who are are really one way but force themselves to enter into and handle relationships the other way... they might be in some trouble.
posted by rokusan at 4:47 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


hellboundforcheddar: And anyway, he's an entertainer/ commentator, not really a therapist.

I think a lot of people forget that he's just a cranky gay entertainer with a running joke of pointing out that heterosexuality is not all it's cracked up to be.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:59 PM on September 9, 2009


Is Doctor Phil even a real doctor?
posted by Artw at 5:03 PM on September 9, 2009


Is Doctor Phil even a real doctor?

Yes, in the PhD sense of the word rather than the medical doctor sense of the word. He has a PhD in psychology from University of North Texas.
posted by Justinian at 5:14 PM on September 9, 2009


I am not one, Herbert.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:38 PM on September 9, 2009


Savage is funny and has clever, enlightened columns, but I'm not listening to much he says about the real meat of human relationships. This has little to do with anything he's written about men or women.

He once answered a letter from a woman who was complaining* that her dog chewed up her thong underwear, and how could she make her underwear less attractive to the dog? He suggested that you "deal with this problem by having the dog destroyed."

I knew then that Savage may understand the mechanics of sex, the etiquette of subcultures, and the politics of today, but he does not really comprehend the breadth and depth of human emotions. To me, it's helped explain a lot of his answers regarding the level of dedication one should have to relationships and to the failings of other individuals. Not functioning? Bang it on the counter once or twice, throw it out, get a new one. That's Savage.

-----
*To be fair, this was probably either a gag letter or a creepy, creepy individual.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:56 PM on September 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


*To be fair, this was probably either a gag letter or a creepy, creepy individual.

Having had a dog that ate underwear regularly, I don't think it's a creepy question at all--but it's not one I'd think Dan Savage really capable of addressing. He's a human trainer, not a dog trainer.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:13 PM on September 9, 2009


“Long-term relationships can be kind of tough once your partner learns you've licked a bunch of doorknobs as a form of protest.”
37?

“More to the point, that's why S/He made our arms that long...”
Man….god REALLY hated Tyrannasaurs.

“there's nothing particularly magical about monogamous sex”
Like Jazz…if you have to explain it….

I dunno, longer I dance with a partner, better we can predict each other’s moves and know what each other likes. But that’s to taste really. I’ve been in other situations. I like the augmentation of the complexity and intensity of the relationship. One can say ‘why not this one as another’ – but then – why not that one?

“but I do believe some couples do have a special connection that allows them to thrive despite obstacles to their relation because of their faith in each (other).”
*raises hand *
Hi there. I really don’t want sex with someone else. It’s not, for us, an add on. It’s a core feature. It’s integrated. So for all intents and purposes my wife is sex. As am I to her. …no we don’t catch a lot of t.v. Just part of life. Drink morning o.j. Toast. Pleasure each other. Leave for work. Etc.
But if my wife couldn’t have sex anymore I could live with it (also, I’m ambidexterous). Although…I mean, what, she’s paralyzed? Seems like taking care of her would take up a lot of my time too.
Something I thought of a while back when I was dead for a few minutes – what else is there to do with your time? We got stuck waiting for a plane once so we went and made out. What, I’m gonna read? A blowjob? Oh, no thanks, I really got to finish this chapter. C’mon.
Some folks yeah, don’t get that. But it’s a trust thing. You can build it up. There’s a freedom in giving yourself utterly to someone. And I have to say, it’s nice not having to worry about it.
Although I’ve worked on those kinds of relationships for most of my life. Buddy of mine stopped by my house a bit back. Grabbed a fistful of cash from my wallet and left. One of my in-laws (staying over) mentioned it. Took me aside ‘Hey, smed, that’s your buddy? I have to tell you I saw him steal from you.’ And I said ‘No, he can’t steal from me. Because there’s nothing I wouldn’t give him.’ Sure I was wondering where my money had gone, but he’d told me about it a bit later by phone and it was an emergency, etc.
And it gave me a lot of pride and pleasure to know that not only did he come to me, but that I could help. Doesn't bother me if he borrows money from someone else. But it's nice that it's me.
I dunno. I think jealousy is something that’s not only physical. ‘Anything, anytime’ – for some people it’s for real. Once you draw boundaries… ‘this’ but not ‘that’ – you lose that. That love is conditional. There are friends I would have sex with. As it is neither of us want to, since we’re not wired that way. But we’ve shared everything else so that kind of boundary doesn’t exist, so why would it exist in a physical relationship (other than, y’know, not being into hairy asses – no offense to folks who are).

And it strikes me how far away some folks are from that (hell, so much so they want to deprive others of it based on the nature of the physical relationship). Just a shame. Lot of people all fucked up about love. And it’s the last thing anyone should be goofy over.

Still, lot of money in making people miserable, insecure, all that. You don't want to go to church Sunday morning if you're still dehydrated from Saturday.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:20 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Destroy The Motherfucking Beast!
posted by Artw at 6:30 PM on September 9, 2009


I were in a bar with him and he was telling me all of this I would say 'Yeah, obviously'.

Except for the bit about no two people being perfect for each other or 100% sexually compatible. This is not knowable.

He sticks on lables like 'The price of admission' and 'the lie you' and presents them like they are new insights.
posted by therubettes at 1:22 AM on September 10, 2009


He is attracted to people who are smart, relatively good looking, ambitious and educated.

What about people who are educated, smart, not too unattractive, and lazy as sin?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:30 AM on September 10, 2009


Wow. That could be my bio.
posted by grumblebee at 10:43 AM on September 10, 2009


And if there was something (sexually or otherwise) he couldn't live without, and I couldn't give it to him, I'd want him to find someone who could. Because I love him.

So, to you, sex with your husband doesn't require an emotional attachment? Or, you're just willing to bring a third person into the marriage?


I think you're misreading "couldn't live without" for something way less serious, like "fantasized about" or "is interested in trying" or whatever.
posted by ODiV at 2:16 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


So loving the 100 theory and what grumblebee said. I'm so a 32 and people just don't get it when you have few/no options for years on end :P Not that I think there's a "The One" either, but there are very, very few options out there so it might sure as fuck look like it at times.

Anyhoo, back to Dan Savage, I think if it was his choice and Terry didn't want to put out or compromise about it any more, he would leave, but he does acknowledge that some people in a no-sex situation may have their reasons for staying, and it's their choice to bite that particular bullet. I do admire that Dan actually says that if you can't stand that sort of situation and your partner refuses to help you out in any way, you aren't obligated to just go without sex forever and ever, amen.

Of course, if your partner wishes they could put out, but can't due to illness and wants monogamy, well...shoot, who the hell knows.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:08 PM on September 10, 2009


>> "If you don't pay the price of admission, you will never have a relationship that lasts longer than two months."

And...?
posted by Brosef K at 5:55 PM on September 10, 2009


There was a question a few months ago asking for statistics on how many of the askers kind of fish were in the sea. There wasn't a definitive answer but it was interesting to see how large the dating pool really is. Take heart Mr 32!
posted by saucysault at 6:46 AM on September 11, 2009


The tough thing is "chemistry" -- and I'm not just talking about sexual chemistry. (And this applies to platonic friendships, too.)

Bob likes baseball, video games and sailing. If you find him someone who likes all those things, will that person be a good match (friend-wise or romance-wise) for Bob?

It's hard to say. It depends on what sort of person Bob is. Some people can easily connect to anyone who shares their interests and values; for others, it's not enough. For those of us unlucky enough to be in the second category, it's very hard to say what else is needed -- or at least it is for me. Which is why I fall back on the lame word "chemistry."

In the 13 years I've been married, I haven't met even ONE other woman that I've fantasized about being in a relationship with (though I've met plenty that I've fantasized about sleeping with). Before I got married, I rarely met women I would want to marry. But when I met my wife, I knew very quickly that she was "the one." Why?

I've met plenty of interesting women who share many of my passions and values. Why isn't that enough? Maybe my standards are too high, but what are those standards exactly? They certainly aren't intellectual. I feel something or I don't. With my wife I feel it; with other women -- even when I'm single -- I rarely do.

My wife is beautiful, smart, talented, etc. Maybe the sea isn't full of people like that, but I do run into them. But they don't have that extra X factor that clicks so well with me.

I envy people who have a list of things they want in a mate (or a friend) and when they find someone who meets all (or most) of their criteria, they're set. For such people, there ARE a lot of fish in the sea.
posted by grumblebee at 10:47 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there is something enviable about people whose proverbial sea is chock full of fish. But I also envy people like you who have what's essentially a one-fish sea (even if you acknowledge that there must be other fish in it somewhere). Meeting a lot of people who you fantasize about dating isn't exactly a recipe for contentment, you know.

I think for some of us, the idea of The One isn't a reflection of our dating experience. It's wishful thinking, a reaction against our dating experience. "Man, for every relationship I'm in, there's a dozen others I wish I was in. I can't pursue all of them — hell, even if I got everyone's permission and was so insanely charismatic that nobody ever turned me down, I wouldn't have the time to pursue all of them — and that's just frustrating. Maybe someday I'll meet someone extra-awesome, and then I'll be able to focus on that one person and stop having all these unattainable fantasies about everyone else."
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2009


grumblebee - the X factor, to me, is the feeling of being free to completely be oneself in the relationship. The rarest thing on earth is finding someone who understands you on a deeply intimate level (and still sticks around). I think you "just know" when you've met someone like that. Shared hobbies and musical tastes don't matter at all when you have that kind of intimacy. It's hard to find The One because while you can list your favorite bands on a dating site, you can't possibly know your comfort level with another person from reading a profile.
posted by desjardins at 2:58 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks, desjardins. That's a huge part of it! And it's a two-way street. It's also when you find someone else and you want them to just be themselves, warts and all. I think that's why I can't relate to "putting up with" stuff. Yes, my wife can do things that irritate me (and vice versa). But there's a deeper level at which I'm always aware that I want her to be herself. That what I like best about her is the fact that she's herself when she's around me.

In the moment, I might get cranky when my wife does X, Y and Z. But if I do a little thought experiment in which I get to push a button that stops her doing those things -- but otherwise she's exactly the same -- I know I wouldn't press it. And that's not just because it would be unethical to change someone against their will. It's also because, as much as X, Y and Z drive me crazy, they also charm me. Because they are part of her.
posted by grumblebee at 4:43 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I, like others, have the impression from what I've read of Dan Savage's columns that he jumps too readily to the "dump or fuck outside the relationship" answer to the "my partner won't have sex with me anymore" problem. Whatever happened to trying to come up with ideas for sexual activity, done in a way that the reticent partner enjoys? I haven't seen evidence of people willing to meet their partners halfway, or even ask them what they'd be into. It's all about painting the other partner as unreasonable from the get-go. Maybe the partner who wants sex more often doesn't put a fair amount of effort into getting their partner turned on in the first place. Obviously this is not true in all cases, but sheesh.

I can't be the only one who's been in relationships where sex devolved into "ok, just roll over, it's time. I want sex". Surely a person who doesn't want sex on those terms isn't always a raging harpy out to deprive their partner of something that is needed in order to go on living.
posted by marble at 12:01 AM on September 12, 2009


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