Help me not be Silda Spitzer
March 12, 2014 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Met a guy, been dating him, it turns out (I think) he has a hidden life of promiscuity. Help me figure out what to do next.

TL;DR: He's a great guy in lots of ways so far. I found online fetish / casual sex profiles that are active and indicate a promiscuous lifestyle. Where do I go from here?

I'm a 34F, met a 33M. We're from the same general social group and have lots in common, it was a fairly obvious match for dating. We're attracted to each other. He came on very strong and seems to like me.
He told me about a previous interest in kink, and that plus my gut feeling made me inclined to look for him on FetLife. Found a profile that I think matches him, and profiles under the same name on collarme,, and okc. He is extroverted and effective at work and it seems he brings that to his sex life as well - he leads an anonymous encounters group and seems to have a very active and promiscuous sex life with a lot of women, many younger. He dates outside of our city in the neighboring towns. He's been active (liking photos, commenting, etc.) since the time we've started dating.
Fwiw, he and I have good attraction to each other, and in fact I look like his physical type based on his porn blog and liked photos. Well, at least until I'm old...
Just putting that out there.

He told me he was kinky. That's not the problem. Our kinks are compatible. The problem is that this very active sexuality seems to have overlapped with his past relationships, and his okc questions admit to infidelity. The okc profile and the other say he's looking for NSA casual sex. The recent, active promiscuity makes me think he's not compatible for a long term committed relationship.

This guy and I share a significant part of our history, and are compatible on a number of practical life matters. I don't know how to process and broach what I saw. The profiles might not be his, but my gut feeling is that they are. The unusual features match (hobbies, 6'4'' height, exact weight, age, high income, specific unusual kinks, sports teams he likes obsessively, general tone of the profile).

This guy treats me well, is compatible, and 95% of the day, is an upstanding person. Doesn't drink, has healthy habits, does well at work, exercises, has a clean apartment, volunteers, etc. Outside of this, in day to day ways, I like him a lot on many dimensions. He's someone I'd otherwise consider for marriage.

As to my personality -- I have had some sex addiction problem myself, and sexuality (plus maybe a bit of laziness/sloth) is my one vice. I have spent long periods of time celibate because I can be insatiable and spend a lot of energy/time/money once I get mixed up in sexuality. I've had some casual and anonymous sex, but nothing close to the level of this guy. However, that's in my past. I have lived with some very solid limits on my sexuality for about 5 years... or more. Also I'm a female... I have less general power in the world. I have less capacity to endanger someone, leaving them old, penniless, and humiliated with my promiscuity. I think that a woman's sex addiction problem doesn't really get into the same levels of potential harm as a man's... at least not mine. Not that the comparison matters.

I am looking at this situation and I just don't know what to do with it. We met up Saturday, he didn't contact me until yesterday, and I sent him a "Let's talk" text. He responded with something nice about how he's had a busy week... when I told him last week that things were moving too fast between us physically, he planned an afternoon outing for us to spend some friendship time together. He's healthy, engaged, easy to talk to, etc. Probably the same qualities that would make him able to seduce dozens of women.

A lot of what I fear about his hidden lifestyle is speculation on my part... but historically, my gut feeling has not been wrong. And the writing is there on the wall. These profiles are real and active and I can look through a 3 year history of his activity. I also know what he's like with me physically, and that definitely gives the impression of someone who is super experienced and somewhat more casual about sex than me.

I was recently looking at articles about Silda Spitzer (long suffering wife of lecherous Eliot Spitzer, now divorced) and Huma Abedin (similar). The things that terrify me: Being that woman. Humiliation. Regret. Not having the energy to participate in the rest of my life because I'm putting up with someone else's draining promiscuity. Giving the best years of my life to a self-serving powerful douchebag and ending up alone, divorced, and sad at an inconvenient age like 55 (like the ex Mrs Spitzer). That the writing was on the wall. I feel like I'm at a fork in the road and I want to make the best decision for myself. I am not sure if there is a way for anything positive to come of this, or if the goose is already cooked.

When promiscuity is an issue, polyamory can be an approach. It's something I've thought of for years (partly with my own history) and it terrifies me. I have read "Escape" by Carolyn Jessop and while Mormon polygamy is not polyamory, I have seen so many examples, historic and present, of nightmare situations for women. Regrettable nightmare situations around polyamory. I got away from my own previous alternative sex lifestyle with the hopes of a relationship that's monogamous, real, healthy, stable, as good as possible, and based on love. I met this recent 33M guy at a party and stumbled back into some of the lifestyle I got myself away from. I am looking at the situation now and not knowing what action to take, what conversation to have, etc.

Let me say: my interpretations above are what's going through my head. I know there are other perspectives of the same situation. I am feeling fear and anxiety, so I'm expressing it here. You are welcome to take my interpretation or give your own, when answering this question.

Can you advise me how to go forward? Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

There is no inherent incompatibility between someone having had a long and active sexual history, and being open to casual sex, and also being open to and ready for a serious monogamous relationship.

The part where he's admitted to past infidelity? That would give me more pause. But there's really no reason at all that he can't be a guy who likes sex a lot and a potentially good partner.

To put it another way: Promiscuity and infidelity are not the same thing and one does not necessarily predict the other.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:04 AM on March 12, 2014 [8 favorites]

Have you two even talked about what you want from each other? If not, I'd do that first of all.

If he tells you he's dating no one but you, then it's early enough to talk about what you found, and give him an opportunity to come clean and be straightforward with you.
If he tells you he's dating other people, it's up to you to decide how you feel about that and let him know.

I see nothing in your question that indicates that he told you that he wants the two of you to be exclusive. I also see no indication that he's lied to you so far.

Time to have that 'what are we?' talk and see what he says.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:08 AM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

You need to hear it straight from the horse's mouth, rather than doing CSI-level detective work.

Ask him. Ask him what his dating and mating philosophy is. If what he says doesn't sync up with what you want for yourself, then you can decide to continue, or end it now, before you are in balls-deep emotionally, and look elsewhere for someone who wants the same things you do.
posted by nacho fries at 11:09 AM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

That's a HUGE wall of text and you should take a pass on this guy because you're barely dating at this point.

As an about to turn 44 year old woman, I'm going to tell you to relax about the self-judging and the age thing you keep waving around. It's not healthy for you and 99% of it is bullshit unless you want to believe those labels.
posted by jbenben at 11:11 AM on March 12, 2014 [20 favorites]

Nope. Nope. No. Move on.

You said: "I got away from my own previous alternative sex lifestyle with the hopes of a relationship that's monogamous, real, healthy, stable, as good as possible, and based on love."

This guy has cheater written all over him. And cheaters lie, so asking them is pointless. Just take a deep breath and look for something healthier. Even if he's not a cheater...this is not who you want to be.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:18 AM on March 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

You should not date him. That would not be good for him, or for you either.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:19 AM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Silda Spitzer and Huma Abedin are awesome. Read their bios. If you want to skip over all those achievements and contributions, and define them only by their husbands' infidelities, that is sad.

I want to see you as a potential Claire Underwood (from House of Cards), but if you're going to get there, you need to quit freaking out about fears of being "old, penniless, and humiliated" and step into your power. Accept that you will be old someday regardless. Take care of yourself financially. Stop caring what other people think.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:25 AM on March 12, 2014 [15 favorites]

I think you need to reel it back in a bit, and not just because of your sleuthing (although, wow, that's a lot of sleuthing). Here's what worries me: You say you'd consider him for marriage, but you have to dig through Fetlife to maybe find out about him. You use the word "humiliated" twice to describe how you would feel if a man chose to cheat on you and that's a bit strange. You say that you are terrified twice, and that you have fear and anxiety.

Look, that's a lot for a new relationship. Relax! If you want to know if you two are monogamous, ask him and find out what he thinks instead of digging through Fetlife profiles. Don't judge him for being promiscuous when you have been, too. Don't worry about marriage right now. Can you just enjoy spending time with him and getting to know him better without ramping up to "terrified"? If you can't, it's time to end it.
posted by Houstonian at 11:26 AM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

There's a different between a private life and a secret life. Unless he's explicitly lied to you about activities you've asked about or withheld information in order to give you an impression he's not promiscuous, he's not misled you. The two things you're wondering about is whether his past indiscretions had to do with cheating within a situation where it was assumed he was monogamous, and whether he'd be interested in a monogamous relationship if it meant giving this lifestyle up. Obviously, the answer to the former affects the latter.
posted by mikeh at 11:26 AM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

A lot of what I fear about his hidden lifestyle is speculation on my part... but historically, my gut feeling has not been wrong. And the writing is there on the wall.

Listen to that gut feeling! Read the writing on the wall! I myself had that writing in huge bold underlined type on the wall and ignored it, and my gut, several times with my guy!

Don't make the mistake of ignoring these things that you, yourself, have sensed and pointed out to us!
posted by jgirl at 11:27 AM on March 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

If this is making you uncomfortable now, just imagine how much it will corrode your mental well-being if you marry this man.

I think it's clear that he's not for you.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:30 AM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Okay, first, you're catastrophizing. You've been dating this guy for how long - weeks? months?-and now you're terrified of becoming Silda Spitzer. That's ridiculous. Think about all the steps you'd have to take to end up in her shoes:

1. Keep dating this guy for years
2. Marry him
3. Watch him become a powerful public figure
4. Have him cheat on you
5. Find out he was cheating on you
6. Have his cheating on you become public and transform into a gigantic, career-ruining, salacious scandal that everyone knows about
7. Forgive him for cheating on you
8. Stand by him publicly while he confessed his wrongs, even though it was horribly humiliating
9. Stay married to him, even though you knew he'd probably keep cheating.
(implied number 10: be miserable for the rest of your life)

To become Huma Abedin, you'd have to go through steps 4-9 twice. Why would you do that? You wouldn't. Huma Abedin and Silda Spitzer made their own choices for their own reasons. You don't understand what those reasons are, but no one will ever force you to make them.

And another thing: I don't know much about the Spitzers, but somehow, I highly doubt that early on in the relationship, Silda was like, "Well, this guy Eliot seems a cool dude, but he has a long history of open relationships and casual sex and general kinkiness that he is pretty open about, at least to the extent that it was very easy for me to track down, I wonder if I should marry him?" That's literally the opposite of how it played out, as far as I can tell: the kink itself, in those cases, was secrecy and the rush of transgression and the division between the public and the private spheres. If your greatest fear is becoming Silda Spitzer, you should continue dating bad-reputation kinksters with Fetlife profiles while assiduously avoiding dudes who look lily-white on paper and have espoused the desire to some day run for office.

Okay, so your fear of becoming Silda Spitzer doesn't make any sense. Here is what you are actually afraid of:

1. Being cheated on.

2. Getting old.

Here's the thing, yo. Anyone can cheat on you. Anyone. The guy who seems the nicest. The guy who seems the kinkiest. Anybody. And the truth is, when you enter a relationship, that's a possibility you open yourself to.

The one single factor that maybe, maybe predicts cheating in the future is dishonesty now. So the next time you see your guy, you stop being coy, and you just ask him: "Is this you on these profiles? Are you ready for a monogamous relationship? Do you have the cheating under control?" And you see what he says. Even if he tells the truth to you now, he could still cheat on you later! That's something to meditate on. It is a universal human experience. You cannot control it. All you can do is pick someone who seems honest and kind and aligned with your values, and hope for the best. But it is not entirely clear to me how much this is a 'dishonesty' thing and how much this is 'we haven't talked about it yet' thing, so I think you should figure this out first, especially if kink is something that otherwise appeals to you. Practice honesty instead of snooping and secretly worrying. That's a good plan, regardless of whether this guy is right for you.

As for #2, this is already getting long, but there is a lot to unpack here. It sounds like you equate getting old with being unattractive with being powerless with being unloved. None of those things necessarily go together...unless you are in a place where you think all your power, and all the love you get, stem entirely from your youthful physical attractiveness. If so, that's probably something you need to work on. One thing you might try to do is aim to think a little more kindly, and a little more generously, about the older women in your life. Are they all powerless, unloved nothing-people? Or do they still make good choices, and have something to offer? I was in a similar kind of trance a while ago, having to do with relationships and my future, and it had a lot to do with my feelings towards my mother, and the hand of cards life had dealt her. But her life isn't mine, and her choices aren't my choices. Just something to consider.

Apologies for this wall of text. Good luck.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:35 AM on March 12, 2014 [22 favorites]

Reframe the whole "Silda and Huma were humiliated" into "Eliot and Anthony were so pathetically needy for female attention that they threw away their careers." Their wives had nothing to do with their choices, truly. Lots of 20-something girls are cheated on, lots of women get married in their 40s and 50s (and up) to men of the same age and don't get cheated on. Don't buy into the popular narrative we've all been fed about this; it's merely a symptom of our sexist culture.

As for your guy, talk to him. "I've explored polyamory in the past, and it's just not for me. I'm looking for a monogamous relationship, are you?" You have nothing to lose by asking, and it is always empowering to state what you want.
posted by chowflap at 12:01 PM on March 12, 2014 [20 favorites]

You need to view yourself as a whole, powerful person with agency, and not, I have less general power in the world. I have less capacity to endanger someone, leaving them old, penniless, and humiliated with my promiscuity.

You have as much power as you choose to take. So take more. For example, in this 'relationship'.

Sit down with your fella and say, "I want to be in a monogamous relationship. Is that something you want too?" He may say, "Yes, I've been active in the scene for a while, but it's getting old and I want to make a life with someone." In which case, procede. It still may not work out for other reasons, but if he's on board with your main objective, it's cool."

If he says, "You are? I thought you were like me. No, no, I'm not monogamous." Then move on, no hard feelings.

You are Judgy McJudgerton about this guy's 'promiscuity.' His is worse than yours and all of that. You know what? It doesn't matter, at all. All that matters is how you treat each other in the confines of a mutually defined relationship.

Be prepared to stop seeing this guy though. Your core values are different and eventually you will both be unhappy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:08 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a long and active sexual history. I am also very happily in a monogamous relationship.

The differences between me and your guy are:

1) My now-boyfriend knew from very early on about my history and current, well not exactly activities, but looking for them. (Realizing I wasn't so much interested in looking anymore was a big clue I was seriously into him. YMMV.)

2) Since we decided to be monogamous, the profiles I had on dating/hookup sites have either been suspended, or have been rewritten to very clearly state that I am in an exclusive relationship, I am only looking for friends, and that if something else were to happen my boyfriend would be involved or would know about it ahead of time.

Here's the thing: it is totally possible and totally okay to be promiscuous while in a relationship, as long as everyone involved knows what is going on.

He is being dishonest with you--lies of omission are still lies--and that is a serious problem. If nothing else, him having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of STI transmission, and where does that leave you?

You want a monogamous, honest, and stable relationship. You now have three choices:

1) Ignore this and hope it gets better. Bad idea.

2) Decide that this simply isn't going to work for you, and break up with him. Use Miko's script, it's in the archives here somewhere.

3) Sit him down and have a frank and honest discussion. If he's not being honest, see #2.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:11 PM on March 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

You said: "I got away from my own previous alternative sex lifestyle with the hopes of a relationship that's monogamous, real, healthy, stable, as good as possible, and based on love."

An alternative sex lifestyle is not mutually exclusive from a relationship that's monogamous, real, healthy, stable and based on love.

If he's not right for you, he isn't. And that's ok. Walk away until you find who you're looking for.
posted by bibliogrrl at 12:23 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's not like guy-who-isn't-right-for-you-will-suddenly-be-right-someday-after-y'all-talk-enough. Guy is either right or not right.

He ain't right for you. You know it. Move on.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 12:28 PM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think you should back this right up and ask yourself what you want in your life.

It sounds like you have very intentionally stepped away from the sex life you had in the past, and intentionally want something different.

It sounds like this man might have fit well into your past, and I think he will bring you back to the old habits you had left behind.

Maybe that's ok. Maybe you want to go back there.

But ask yourself what it is you want, and if you don't want to go back to your old life, and you are looking for someone more monogamous, I think you should move on.

It's interesting... normally I don't think it's wrong to just date someone for a while and try it out, but I do think this man will drag you back to old habits quickly, and if that isn't what you want, then get out sooner than later.

Take care of yourself, and learn to know your heart.
posted by littlewater at 12:45 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Talk to him, imo.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:44 PM on March 12, 2014

I've been in a very similar situation.

I am an extremely sex-positive person, but having a partner who is active or was active on Fetlife-type sites just isn't for me.

In my case, as I became closer to my guy, I also became more obsessed and jealous of his Fetlife activity (which he hadn't told me about - but at that point we weren't exclusive). I not only felt terrible for "spying" but constantly felt insecure and jealous.

This bothering you isn't going to change. It's not worth wasting any more time on this guy.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 2:18 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Firstly, I do not believe this guy's alleged sexual activity, as you have presented it, is necessarily unhealthy or unsafe. Having a higher number of sexual partners of course is more risky than none or one, and anonymous encounters can of course be undertaken recklessly and without proper physical/emotional health precautions. He may be a perfectly caring and responsible sex partner, just with lots of people. I also believe that willing adults can have NON-monogamous relationships which are "real, healthy, stable, as good as possible, and based on love."

You are completely entitled to your own beliefs, sexual/relationship preferences and desires informed by your own past experiences and sexual history, but it might help you gain some clarity (and reduce the extreme fear/anxiety reaction) if you refrain from harshly judging this guy for HIS personal preferences and building up these horrible Eliot Spitzer/Fundamentalist Mormon characterizations and worst-case-scenarios for your future. Take it easy on yourself: you'll be OK and you'll find a guy you can build a great monogamous partnership with (maybe 33M, maybe not) even if (it sounds like) you're harboring some shame and hurt from your past choices.

All that said, I'm guessing you two may not be compatible in this regard, especially if you're having such a strong negative reaction already (if he commits to being exclusive and monogamous with you and shuts down the profiles, will you still judge him for his past choices?). It's probably worth it to have an open conversation with this guy about your relationship expectations and specifically talk about monogamy and exclusivity. Maybe he'll be open and on-board with you. Don't imply that he's a bad person if your expectations don't match but be prepared to amicably call it quits sooner than later. Don't do polyamory or continue a casual relationship with him if it causes you this much pain and makes you feel like you're compromising yourself/your values. Compromises are required in partnerships, but you do get a say in choosing what to compromise on.
posted by dahliachewswell at 3:14 PM on March 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're really overthinking this. Being promiscuous in the past is not incompatible with monogamy. Being kinky is not incompatible with monogamy. Having a porn blog is not incompatible with monogamy (if so, a lot of kids with Tumblrs are going to totally disrupt monogamy forever!) Casual sex and alternative lifestyles are not terrible things you get "mixed up in," like heroin addiction or the Mafia, nor are they synonymous with cheating (Spitzer and Weiner's issues weren't about sex, they were about lying!) or turning women into penniless fallen things. The fact that you can see three years of his sexual history says more about technology than it does about promiscuity. Whatever the fuck(s) he did in the past are not incompatible on their own with current monogamy, and this is likely the source of your overthinking, which comes off as some weird omnidirectional slut-shaming.

However, this isn't about the past, he is not the Allegory for Promiscuity, and you are not the Allegory for Monogamy. He is a person who is looking for something right now, and you are a person who is looking for something right now, and those may or may not be the same thing. This is why the "state of the union" talk exists. Ask him what he's looking for. If it's what you're looking for, proceed. (He could be lying! But you'd be looking for the lying red flags, not the sex red flags, which are actually the sex red herrings.) If it's not, which it probably isn't, get out. It doesn't necessarily mean he's a bad person, it just means you two should not date.
posted by dekathelon at 9:18 PM on March 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

You're waaaaay too much in your head here. Just talk to him.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:01 AM on March 13, 2014

I guess there is some small chance that someone who:

1) runs an anonymous encounters group
2) is super into NSA sex
3) specifically seeks NSA partners in other areas
4) admits to past infidelity
5) has kinks he isn't open about with OP
6) has multiple active profiles on hookup sites
7) is good at charming people
8) has the income to cover his tracks

Would happily settle down into monogamy, but it seems ridiculously unlikely to me and the stakes are extremely high.

If he travels for work, he has the perfect cover.

For the record, I'm kinky and strongly prefer non-monogamy, so this isn't some kind of alternative sex hating perspective. It's just blatantly obvious to me that he is highly motivated to cheat, has a history of cheating, and has the means to cheat. Pretending like he's a blank slate and like we have no information about his inclinations or trustworthiness is super naive.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:29 AM on March 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

The profiles might not be his

It sounds like the OP has not yet positively ID'd this guy as being the owner of those dating profiles and other sex-related online presences. If he is indeed the same guy, and puts himself out there so widely, perhaps he'll be equally open with the OP once the subject is broached.

alone, divorced, and sad at an inconvenient age like 55

I am rather conveniently approaching that inconvenient age, and I would just like to reassure you, OP, that there is still plenty of love and good living to be had. And youth is no protection against being alone, sad, and/or divorced (AskMe has many stories to tell along those lines), so you might be mindful of your age biases perhaps clouding your judgment.
posted by nacho fries at 1:53 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You two are on the same road travelling opposite directions. Keep going, and look for someone else who's actually going your way.
posted by ead at 11:19 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't worry about being alone at 55...those of us who have made that age find that you can still date and have sex and all those good things. You have Mr.Big (sex and the city) before he decides to you want to go through all that asking those questions you seem to say you don't trust that in the long run you want to put up with all this. Face it, he is a short time diversion...
posted by OhSusannah at 9:50 PM on March 16, 2014

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