Dear Queer Abby,
About a year ago, I, a young lesbian of 23, had an affair with a married straight woman of 34. It was hot, loving, intimate in ways I’ve never experienced before. I had developed a crush that I never imagined would be realized and when it was we both fell, hard.
About two weeks into the affair my partner’s husband found out, and ultimately invited me into their marriage as his wife’s partner. I moved in with them, shortly afterwards.
My partner — we’ll call her Becky — had warned me in not so many words that her husband was not a good man. She warned me and worried about me experiencing what she did within her marriage, but she also clearly wanted me to stay. I was in love, and I did. Things went south quickly. I witnessed abuse, both emotional and some physical, regularly. Abuse I felt responsible for, and abuse that had nothing to do with me. As I grew more and more fired up and unhappy in our situation, Becky somehow grew more timid and scared to leave. She had two small children, and I think the guilt of our affair now made her feel like the abuse was somehow justified even though if speaking to her in moments of rationality, she knew this was a bad man doing bad things.
Things eventually got so bad that I was depressed, unhappy and therefore Becky and I were unhappy. We fought regularly, I cried a lot, she cried. I came to blows with her husband and he physically hurt me and destroyed my laptop and phone. I left, while Becky watched.
What happened next has been the hardest of all. Becky hasn’t left her husband. And she even has placed some of the blame for what happened on me. She takes no responsibility (she has no responsibility for her own abuse of course, but she seems to play the victim even within our relationship which is hard) and has pushed me far far away despite my willingness to be close to her and her girls as a friend, even with all that’s happened. I am the only one that knows the intimate details of her life, and I find myself worrying for them, being angry with Becky, missing her, and hating her all at once.
How do I begin to let go of this situation and relationship? How do I offer my friendship in a way that doesn’t remind Becky of the guilt that she feels or anger towards me? I know I shouldn’t have to feel sorry for being depressed in such an awful situation, but I can’t help but feel bad that Becky has been hurt now not just by a terrible husband, but by me as well.
Lesbian in the Middle
Dear Lesbian in the Middle,
First of all, I’m so sorry you got tangled in this very challenging situation.
Secondly, fuck Becky’s husband.
(Get it together, sir.)
Thirdly, everyone needs to stop blaming the 23-year-old whom they invited into their marriage.
Have you heard of the campfire rule? It is a wise Dan Savage stand-by. Essentially, the older person in an intergenerational romance is responsible to leave the younger person better than they found them.
The onus is on them, not you, to take good care.
I feel that this couple not only didn’t leave you better than they found you, but they trashed your camp-site! They threw all their shit around like a couple of LITTERBUGS, left it there, and then blamed you for their mess!
No way, Jose.
Park Ranger Georges is here to call bullshit on their bad behavior.
Some Notes On RESPONSIBILITY:
Becky and her husband were responsible for how they treated you.
You are not responsible for how Becky’s husband treated her.
You are not responsible for how Becky is treating herself.
You can only control yourself and what you choose to put up with.
You can’t choose that for Becky.
You did not have vows with Mr. B. Becky is the one who made a decision to cheat.
Mr. B is the one who invited you into their home. Becky agreed.
Mr. B is responsible for his anger and how he treats his wife and kids, and how he treats you. His rage-aholism is not a reflection on you. He did it before you got there, and he will do it after you’re gone. You, Lesbian in the Middle, just happened to be there at the time. It has less than nothing to do with you.
You made a good choice in leaving this bad situation.
I think it’s profoundly sad that your first love is lost in a sea of abuse.
That said, you cannot let Becky and Mr. Becky manipulate you or attempt to make you a scapegoat for what is happening in their marriage, and so (if that continues to be the tone of things) you must turn the page.
You are only 23, dear lesbian. There are so many girls who would love to cause you much more low-stakes/age-appropriate joy, drama & heartache.
You don’t have to feed into any drama. If you’d like to say something kind and supportive to Becky before you step away (to nourish your own sanity), I say do it, but do not let her rope you into feeling bad for taking care of yourself. Say something nice, and then let go of the situation. It’s out of your hands and you did the very best you could.
Take care and good luck. May gay elders light your path and offer you support from the cosmos.
P.S. Of course, since you wrote to a lesbian advice column, I am obligated, per sapphic code, to recommend some kind of codependency support group. Any place where there are other people who had to come to the realization they cannot push their loved ones into doing what they think is right for them. Detaching with love ain’t easy, and this situation sounds very very emotionally challenging. Get help if you need it. There are people out there who have a lot in common with you and are available for support with open arms and ears.
P.P.S. The only place I think your moral ticker should be ticking is around the kids. They are the only ones with zero choice in this situation. If you witnessed them being abused, or suspect something is amiss, I think you should strongly consider reporting it to someone with authority.
Even if nothing happens immediately, it will be on the record in case more incidents come up in their future.
Speaking as a former kid who grew up with an abusive parental figure, it would have been nice to have known someone cared enough to see & reflect back what was going on to people in charge.
Even if authority figures intervening made my parents mad at the time — guess what? They were going to get mad over something anyway. It may as well have been the fact that adults cared and were trying to help.