Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Should She Confess Her Bisexual History?

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: I'm 34 and will be getting married this coming October. "Scott" and I have been with each other for four years and we've told each other about our previous lovers---not all the details necessarily, but who they were in a general sense---and it hasn't been upsetting to either of us. However, I haven't told Scott about a gay female roommate I had in college. She made no secret of the fact that she found me attractive, and I found her attractive, too. For a few months we were lovers. She graduated before I did and I haven't seen her since, nor have I had a sexual relationship with any other women. I do enjoy looking at women's bodies, but I have no desire to ever go beyond that again. My question is, should I tell Scott, or would that be just asking for trouble? ("Nicole" in the Pacific Northwest)

DEAR NICOLE: I don't always recommend full disclosure about prior sexual partners. A while back [8/11/09], I advised a woman who had had a one-week affair not to confess the affair to her husband. I felt that a confession was unnecessary, partly because there was virtually no chance the husband would ever find out otherwise. (The woman met her lover at an out-of-town conference; no one other than her lover knows about the affair, and he's also married and lives halfway across the country). More importantly, a confession would almost certainly have hurt her husband and jeopardized her marriage. Whatever relief she might have felt from coming clean would have been temporary, whereas the repercussions could have been long-term.

In your case, though, I think you should tell Scott. Unlike the situation with the woman who had the short-term affair, there is a chance that Scott might find out inadvertently about your bisexual past. My guess is that most of your friends from college knew about it when it was going on, and in this Facebook age you never know who might post something that could find its way to Scott. And the woman herself may pop up again in some fashion. Obviously, you don't owe Scott any apologies for what you did before you met him, but you have given him the impression that you've told him at least something about all your prior sexual partners.

Chances are, though, Scott won't be bothered by any information you give him. For one thing, he wasn't bothered by your disclosures about your male lovers. Yes, this is different, but, unless a man's girlfriend or wife is about to leave him for another woman, he's usually not disturbed by her bisexual fantasies or prior bisexual relationships. In fact, a lot of men are turned on by the thought of their wife and another woman. Scott may see your story as evidence that you're a woman with a strong sex drive in general, and most men would see that as a positive. (And if Scott is threatened by your sex drive, you're better off learning that now than after you're married).

However, I think that, before you tell Scott, you might want to seek some counseling from a therapist with experience in sexual identity issues. I've seen enough cases of married people---male and female---who have suppressed their sexual identities for many years, and then leave their spouses for another man or another woman. And those cases are usually a tragedy for everyone involved. Even if you've already resolved any sexual orientation issues you might have had, an experienced therapist may help you come up with the best way to tell your story to Scott.

Good luck Nicole, and please let me know what happens.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Getting Her Boyfriend's Eyes Off the Computer Screen

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: My boyfriend and I have been living together for six months. He's a wonderful guy but he has one habit that annoys me: he often doesn't look at me when I speak to him. He'll be working on the computer or watching TV, and he'll answer me without looking up from what he's doing. I'm not bothering him just for the sake of bothering him. I'm usually asking him something that I need to know right then, such as when he would like dinner to be ready, or, if I'm on my way out to the store, if there's anything he needs. I hate to make a big deal out of it, but sometimes I feel invisible. ("Rachel" in Virginia)

DEAR RACHEL: You have a right to feel annoyed. Your boyfriend may not be aware that he's being rude, but he is. When two people are sharing a home---or sharing any space, really---each person has the obligation to acknowledge the other person's presence. In my opinion, answering questions without looking up from the TV or computer is insulting. It's as if he's saying that you're not as important at that moment as what he's looking at on the screen.

The fact that he's not trying to be insulting is an explanation, but not an excuse. It's a bad habit that will get only worse if it's not broken.

I suggest that the next time it happens, you say to him something like, "If this isn't a good time to talk, you can come and see me when you're done with what you're doing." Say it it a calm tone of voice, without any sarcasm. Chances are, he'll be a bit confused: "What do you mean? I can talk now." This gives you the chance to say, "Well, when I see you so engrossed in something you're looking at, I figured that was the most important thing for you right now. I'd appreciate it if you would just look up at me if you really want to talk."

It may take a while before your boyfriend completely breaks the habit, but if you're consistent in not allowing yourself to be invisible, and he understands why this isn't a trivial matter, I think it should work. Good luck, Sarah, and let me know what happens.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why is Husband "Overtipping" the Waitress?

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: I'm 36, my husband is 40, and we have two daughters, 12 and 9. The four of us go out twice a month to an Applebee's nearby, and we've been doing that for over a year. The past couple of months, I've noticed that when we have a particular waitress, "Kim", my husband gives her at least a 30% tip---once it was close to 50%---whereas he never tips anyone else more than 15 to 20 percent. Kim is nice, and always talks sweetly to the girls, but she's not that much better than anyone else there. I should mention that Kim is about 22 and extremely cute. I'm starting to feel that this is my husband's way of flirting with her. Am I right to feel annoyed? And is this how some guys try to soften women up for an affair? ("Maria" in Orlando)

DEAR MARIA: Yes, you're probably right about the "flirting-by-overtipping" behavior. But, to put it in perspective, probably ninety percent of men---including ninety percent of happily-married men---are guilty of it. And that's why it's a well-known fact in the restaurant business that the cuter the waitress (or bartender), the bigger the tips.

Unless you have seen signs that your husband is seeing Kim anywhere other than at the restaurant, or has been phoning, e-mailing, or texting her, I wouldn't be concerned that he's giving her big tips as a way of trying to seduce her. Your husband has undoubtedly noticed how cute Kim is, but he'd have to be a total fool to think that a 22 year old waitress is going to want to get involved with a forty year old married man who comes in with his wife and daughters. Trust me: Kim gets hit on by customers ten times a day, and a lot of them are single and closer to her age (and may tip a lot bigger than your husband does).

I think what often happens with any server is that once you give her (or him) a big tip, it becomes hard not to keep overtipping. If you've been giving someone thirty to forty percent, and then give twenty percent, the server will think something is wrong, even though twenty percent is a perfectly good tip in most restaurants. It's a vicious circle, and by definition vicious circles are hard to break.

Look at it this way: assuming your pre-tip check twice a month is $100.00 (which, for Applebee's, is probably on the high side), and assuming that Kim is the only waitress you ever have (which is apparently not the case), and assuming that the tip your husband gives her is $40.00 each time instead of $20.00, in an entire year the difference would come to $480.00 ($20.00 x 24). As I suggested, the actual amount may be quite a bit less. I'm not saying you couldn't find a more pressing use for that $480.00 (or whatever the amount may be), but if that's your husband's biggest financial indulgence, and there's no hint of any extracurricular conduct with Kim, I would consider it a relatively harmless one.

By the way, Maria, I didn't suggest one obvious "solution"---having you be the one who pays the check and thus decides what the tip will be---because your husband would probably take that as a blow to his ego, especially when he's well-known by the staff at a particular restaurant. You'd be risking too much for too little reward.

I'm not sure if this is what you wanted to hear, Maria, but I hope it helps. Good luck.