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 caught her husband sending flirty messages to another woman on their wedding anniversary. Two years later, they're in a better place, but she no longer wants to celebrate their anniversary given her associations with it. The big day is fast approaching — what should she do? Here's what she wrote to me via Instagram:
I wish your husband were the one writing to me, because this seems like it should be his problem to solve, not yours. Your husband is the one who violated your marriage, who gave your anniversary this new and unfortunate meaning. And ultimately, he's the one responsible for making it right — which includes figuring out how to salvage a day that was once so special to you until he ruined it. As the anniversary approaches, he should be asking himself — and you — some serious questions about how to best support you through it. I hope he is.
So, let's start here: You are absolutely allowed to sit this anniversary out, if that's what you want to do. By no means should you be forced to fake your way through some big, sappy, romantic celebration just for the sake of sweeping your husband's betrayal under the rug. You can be sad on your anniversary. You can be angry on your anniversary. All that matters is that you're honest and upfront about how you're feeling as the dreaded date approaches. Don't shield your husband from the consequences of his own actions. Let him face them head-on, and reckon with them.
And honestly, I think it would be productive for your husband to know the truth about how you're feeling right now. You two have come a long way in the past two years, but it's clear from your DM that you're not out of the woods yet — you say that you wonder every day whether he's betraying you again, and that you need to have access to his text messages in order to feel safe. Without a doubt, there's more healing that needs to happen here, and your husband should be aware of that. If he's expecting a perfectly normal and blissful anniversary celebration just like any other, then he's missing the point. More importantly, he's missing out on an opportunity to support you, to show up for you, to prove that he's invested in fixing this no matter what it takes.
It's also worth considering the ways you might be able to acknowledge this anniversary, without celebrating it. Clearly, you're both invested in your marriage, or you wouldn't still be here two years later fighting for it. Are there things you can do on your anniversary that affirm your love and commitment to each other, without glossing over the harsh reality of what happened? Here are three ideas for how you might observe this year's anniversary with honesty, authenticity, and no heart-shaped boxes of chocolates:
1) Go to therapy together: Have the two of you ever considered doing couples counseling? If not, maybe this year's anniversary is the perfect opportunity to schedule your first session. A therapist might be able to help you work through some of those lingering trust issues you've described, and open up better lines of communication between the two of you. If both of you are willing to invest the time and money into counseling sessions together, I think that would be a much more meaningful anniversary gift than, say, flowers or jewelry.
2) Write letters to each other: The past two years have undoubtedly been quite a journey for both of you. Maybe you can use this anniversary to reflect on that by writing letters to one another. You can each share what your healing or atonement experience has been like, list the reasons you're still standing here today, and describe your hopes, dreams, and even worries for your future together. Maybe this anniversary can be one of genuine reflection instead of a party.
3) Create a fresh start at home: Is there a big project that the two of you have been putting off for a while now? Perhaps you've been meaning to repaint the bedroom, or reorganize the kitchen, or finally start that garden in your backyard. Maybe your anniversary can be the day you two finally cross that project off your to-do list. You'd get to spend some real time together (and hopefully distract yourself from the day's unpleasant memories) without needing to do the whole song and dance of an anniversary celebration. As a bonus, you'd end the day with some sort of physical reset of your living space — it could be a fresh start, literally and metaphorically.
And if none of the above options appeal to you, it's also perfectly valid to do nothing at all when the anniversary day rolls around. A healthy relationship is not made by having some fancy candlelit dinner one night of the year; it's made by being honest, respectful, and decent to your partner 365 days a year. Let that be your focus — and, more specifically, your husband's focus. Good luck. I'm rooting for both of you.
That's all the advice I've got for today's DM'er, folks. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @stephenlc. And if you happened to miss last week's column, read on!
Last week, we heard from this woman, who can't have sex with her boyfriend unless she's fantasizing about other people — most notably, her coworker. She's worried about what this means for her relationship, especially given her past history of cheating. Here's what she wrote to me via Instagram:
Occasionally, fantasizing about other people when you're in a relationship — even a strictly monogamous relationship — is hardly worth worrying about. But needing to fantasize about other people every time you have sex with your partner, or you won't be able to climax? That's a little more worrisome. There's also the fact that these fantasies have pivoted away from celebrities and onto someone you know in real life. It's not clear from your DM whether you have genuine feelings for this coworker or just think they happen to be hotter than, say, Ryan Gosling or Idris Elba. Without more context, it's hard to know just how much these fantasies violate your relationship, but I think you're right to be questioning them.
So, let's start here: I don't think the fantasies mean you're about to start cheating again. Or, at least, they certainly don't have to mean that. Cheating is 100% within your control. You are not a victim of these fantasies — you are the maker of them, which means you can also set firm boundaries around how far they do and don't go. One such boundary should be keeping your coworker at a healthy distance, both emotionally and physically, whenever you see them at work. Why worry about whether or not you're going to cheat when you can decide for yourself right now not to do it?
But while I don't think these fantasies need to be a warning sign of impending infidelity, I do think they're a sign that you're unfulfilled in your relationship in some way — and that's worthy of your attention and concern, too. So, here are five possible ways you might try to get to the root of this issue.
1) To put it bluntly, does your boyfriend actually know how to make you orgasm? This knowledge may include, but is certainly not limited to: where to touch you, how to touch you, what words to say, what positions work best, what toys (if any) to use, what sort of environment to create in the bedroom, how to tell when you're enjoying what's happening, and how to tell when you're not. This is all information you should be communicating to your boyfriend, and he should be putting that information to work. You might discover that your fantasies have actually just been compensating for bad, ineffective, unfulfilling sex. And if the sex can improve, perhaps you'll want to be more mentally and emotionally present for it.
2) Let's say your boyfriend is already perfectly competent at sex. Then the question is, do you need more variety in your sex life together? In long-term relationships like yours, sex can eventually become a routine, and that routine can eventually become a rut. What can you do to shake things up? Are there any fantasies you're having that you actually could bring to life with your boyfriend? Sure, inviting Chris Hemsworth or your coworker into the bedroom might not be in the cards here, but are there any kinks you'd like to explore or new activities you'd like to try? It's possible that your fantasies are less about having feelings for any one particular person, and more about changing up the sexual experience. How can you change things up with your partner?
3) This is not going to be the right solution for everybody, but I'll mention it since it's an obvious one: Have you ever considered opening up the relationship? You frequently find yourself fantasizing about having sex with other people, so maybe there's a way for you to actually have sex with other people — ethically, honestly, and without cheating. You would, of course, need to have extensive conversations with your boyfriend about this before doing anything, and you would need to take great care to ensure that he was really, truly okay with it. But if both members of a couple can enthusiastically consent to opening things up, and if they can agree to a set of rules and boundaries that leave both parties feeling safe, respected, and protected, then it's a valid option to consider.
4) In your DM, you mentioned the possibility of seeing a therapist on your own to discuss this. I agree that this could be productive, especially if you feel like these fantasies are part of a larger pattern in your life, like running away from people who love you, always wanting what you can't have, or, as you yourself mentioned, having a history of cheating. A therapist might be able to offer some new perspectives on why these fantasies are so necessary for you to have sex, and help you navigate them in healthier ways moving forward. Eventually, it might also be worth doing some therapy with your boyfriend — whether it's standard couples counseling or sex therapy — but I agree that one-on-one sessions are the best place to start. There might be more you need to understand about these fantasies yourself, before trying to explain them to your partner.
And last, but certainly not least...
5) It's very possible that these fantasies are a sign that it's time to walk away from your relationship. You write that your boyfriend "can be considered a perfect guy," but absent from that description were any of the ways that he is perfect for you. Is he? Objectively, this guy may have all the "right" boyfriend qualities — he could be kind, loving, loyal, honest, handsome, smart, funny, whatever — but if you're not attracted to him, then that is as good a reason as any to leave him. You don't need "perfect" in your partner. You need someone with whom you share a true and deep connection, even through their inevitable, human flaws. If you're only staying with this man because he's good on paper, it might be time to put that piece of paper away, and focus on what's in your heart.
So, there you have it: Five possible ways to address these fantasies, and not one of them involves cheating on your boyfriend. Try one, try a few — the choice is yours to make. Good luck. I'm rooting for you.
Got a problem you want solved in this column? DM me! My inbox is always open. Just read the fine print below first.
THE FINE PRINT:
All DMs sent to me are for publication on BuzzFeed only. I do not respond to individual messages or provide any advice one-on-one. Please don't submit a question unless you want it published on BuzzFeed. We'll always keep you anonymous. You must be 16 or older to submit. Also, please try to keep your DMs as concise as possible. Instagram has a limit of 1,000 characters per message. Try to fit your whole problem in one message if you can. It will greatly increase your chances of getting picked! If you want, here's a handy character counter you can use to draft your question before DM'ing it to me. Thanks, y'all!
PS: If you've got any advice for today's DM'er, sound off in the comments! I'll be reading...
Want More Advice From Stephen?
My Friend Wants To Cheat On Her Boyfriend As Revenge — Should I Stop Her?Stephen LaConte · Aug. 21, 2022
My Boyfriend Said My Cancer Was "Too Much Drama" — Should I Take Him Back, Now That I'm Healthy?Stephen LaConte · Aug. 12, 2022
My Boyfriend's Been Cheating On Me For 8 Years But Says He'll Stop If I Marry Him — Should I Do It?Stephen LaConte · July 22, 2022
This Woman I Know Is Getting Cheated On, But She's A Big Bully — Does She Deserve To Know The Truth?Stephen LaConte · July 15, 2022