Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.
Today, we've got this woman, who's unsatisfied with her current relationship and has started flirting with another man to fill the void. They're planning to meet up, but first, she wants to know: Should she ask her boyfriend for an open relationship so that this won't be considered cheating? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
There's no "wrong" reason to open up your relationship — except this one. Non-monogamy is a valid option when both partners come to a mutual agreement (like, together) that seeing other people would be okay. It is not so valid an option when one partner has made secret plans to have sex with someone else and needs to find some sort of way to justify it. You've been flirting with this guy behind your boyfriend's back, sexting with him, and trying to hook up with him, despite the fact that your relationship is monogamous. That behavior constitutes cheating. You can't reverse-engineer your relationship into an open one just to lessen the severity of those actions.
Now, if you'd broached this topic with your boyfriend before stepping outside of your relationship, that would've been a totally different story. If you'd recognized that you were not sexually fulfilled in your relationship, but were otherwise content to stay in it, then you'd have been well within your rights to sit your partner down and ask for a remedy — whether it came in the form of a renewed commitment to intimacy together, couples counseling, or yes, a non-monogamous relationship. You certainly don't have to stay in a situation that makes you unhappy, but you do need to transition out of it in a way that is honest, communicative, and fair to your partner.
There's also the fact that your "ask" here wouldn't actually be much of an ask, would it? You say that you plan to meet up with this guy whether or not your boyfriend consents to it. So really, framing this conversation as "asking" him for an open relationship would just add another layer of deceit to the whole situation. You're not actually interested in gauging your boyfriend's feelings about an open relationship; you're interested in having sex with someone else regardless of how he feels about it. You should not present this to your boyfriend as something he has a say in when you've already decided he doesn't. That would be a lie.
As for what you should do, well, I think you should break up with your boyfriend. You're unfulfilled in your relationship with him. Your incompatibilities are significant enough that they have you actively pursuing an affair (and by the way, if the disparity between your respective sex drives has anything to do with the fact that he is 22 years your senior, that problem is likely to get worse with time, not better). Notably, your DM doesn't mention anything you particularly love about your boyfriend or any positive aspect of your relationship together that would make it worth fighting for. And frankly, it's clear that you don't have much respect for this man, given how ready and willing you are to cheat on him. So cut him free. You'll both be better off in the long run.
One last thing I should point out: the question in your DM technically wasn't about whether or not you should ask your boyfriend for an open relationship. It was: "Would asking him cause suspicions if he says no and I continue the affair?" Hopefully, I don't need to explain why that is the wrong question to be asking here. (And I certainly hope it would cause him suspicions because that would be the correct instinct for him to have!) But suffice it to say, if you really thought the dilemma before you was how to best hide your upcoming affair, then I think you desperately need some clarity on the situation you've put yourself in. Take ten steps back from this. View it as an outside, objective observer. What do you see? What would you tell the woman in your shoes to do?
Many couples in open relationships use the term "ethical non-monogamy" to describe their arrangement. Clearly, you've got the non-monogamous part down pat, but the ethical part needs some work. And until you're willing to address that, with genuine introspection and honesty on your part, I don't think you're ready for a relationship of any kind — open, closed, or otherwise. Focusing on yourself isn't such a bad thing. See where it leads you. Good luck.
Last week, we heard from this woman, who recently took a DNA test and stumbled upon a shocking family secret: she has an aunt she's never heard of before and has deduced that her grandfather likely had an affair. Should she tell her family what she's discovered, or keep it a secret? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
Y'know, I'll occasionally see a commenter on this column claim that a question I've chosen is too easy — that there's a clear right and wrong to the situation at hand, and the DM'er shouldn't need anyone's help to see the answer. So, this one's for all of those readers out there who want a REAL sticky problem to solve. This one's complicated. There's nuance. There's a gray area. There's subjectivity. Are ya happy now, commenters?!
And because there really isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, I won't try to give you one. I think that would be unfair of me; I don't have nearly enough information about your family to foresee the possible consequences of speaking out versus staying silent. Much of this will depend on your family's unique dynamics and circumstances, and your relationships with the key players involved. So, instead of giving you one singular path forward, let's make this a choose-your-own-adventure advice column! I'm going to ask you four key questions that I think should unlock the answer that's right for you. Ready? Here we go.
Question #1: How certain are you of the information you've uncovered? Do you have concrete evidence that this woman is definitely, indisputably, unquestionably your aunt? Mail-in DNA tests like 23andMe can connect you to people who are likely a close relative, but usually, more testing would need to be done in order to establish an exact relationship. Is it possible this woman could actually be a cousin of some sort? If there's any ambiguity as to how this woman is related to you, don't jump to conclusions just yet. Instead, you might choose to present all the information you do have to your family, and try to solve this mystery together. If there is shocking news to break here, let science do it instead of you.
Question #2: What's your relationship like with your father? He would presumably be the first person you'd bring this information to if anyone. Let's say the two of you have a talk-every-day, tell-each-other-everything kind of dynamic. Well, then I think it would be difficult for you to withhold something this major from him — it would likely weigh heavily on you, driving a wedge in an otherwise healthy, trusting relationship. But on the other hand, maybe you two aren't particularly close. Moreover, maybe there are reasons you're not close — maybe he's the kind of person you need to keep at a healthy distance for your own well-being. If that's the case here, silence is a valid option. Your personal comfort in revealing this information matters a lot; can you have tough conversations with your dad, safely?
Question #3: Have you spoken to this woman? And if not, what would you do if she reached out to you tomorrow? I'm assuming she has access to the same information that you do, and if she is indeed your aunt, it's possible she'll contact you in hopes of learning more about her paternal side of the family. If you think there's any chance you're going to communicate with this person — or if you already are messaging with her — that's a solid point in the direction of telling your family. It's one thing to withhold from them that you got a strange result from 23andMe and decided not to pursue it further. It's quite another thing to withhold from them that you're chatting with the half-sister they don't even know exists.
And finally, question #4: Do you think your grandfather would want to know about this? In your DM, you only mention the possibility of telling your family this news after he passes. Is there a reason for that? Based on the limited information that you have, your grandfather might not even know that he has this other daughter out there. Would he want the opportunity to reach out to her? If so, maybe it's worth making this connection sooner rather than later. Perhaps you have good reason to wait — maybe he has a serious health issue going on, or a history of abusive behavior that you're trying to keep at bay, etc. — but just remember that once your grandfather is gone, so, too, will be the opportunity to get answers from him. Your family (and especially this possible aunt of yours) may wish to gain some clarity on this situation, which of course, will not be possible if you decide to wait.
So, there you have it: Four key questions to unlock your next move, and they can only be answered by you. Make the call that's right for you, for your relationships, and for your family at large. And if you're so inclined, please write back when you have an update to share — I'm sure our readers will be curious to hear from you. I will be, too. Good luck.
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THE FINE PRINT:
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