Engagement Stories, Cuddling, and Wonderful Boyfriends

by A Married Dude

1. I’ve never met anyone with whom I have half as much in common as my boyfriend of two years. We agree on the big issues — kids, money, life goals — plus most little ones — best dog breed, TV/movie preferences. We attended school together from elementary through high school (different social circles) and then got the same degree. We’re excited about marriage. He accepts my biggest flaws and I accept his. I love him with my entire heart, and I’d do anything for him.

Here’s the BUT: my wonderful boyfriend cheated on me a few months ago. They made out twice, he broke up with me out of guilt, and then slept with her. Within four days he came back and confessed to the post-breakup sex part, while SHE sold him out about the pre-breakup part. Many cries, talks and yells later, I decided to give him another chance.

We were doing really well rebuilding trust until this week. He’s gotten close with a school friend. I got anxious, he offered to stop talking to her, and I said not to do that. Then I found out he’d emailed her, “Is it possible I’m thinking about you too much?” This ENGAGED woman responded “I hope not, I am too.”

Here’s where I don’t know if I’m giving him too much credit: he HAS tried to get a double-date so we could all meet, and he HASN’T hidden the friendship. He admits the email was inappropriate but swears that’s it. Am I stupid? Does it even matter if he wasn’t going to cheat? Should I leave him and risk never finding someone so suited to me again?

I feel like this is a little trite to say, but I get the feeling what where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Something about the sequence of this “wonderful boyfriend” (red flag in any AaMD letter) cheating, breaking up, snogging, and coming back within days rubs me the wrong way. I mean, he certainly escalated the conflict quickly after allegedly breaking up “out of guilt,” which sounds more like he was breaking up so he could go forth and fornicate free on the technicality that you guys were no longer together.

So, he’s got a history of fishy behavior. Now he’s getting all lovey-dovey with an engaged woman in email (and who knows where else). I don’t care about how allegedly up front he’s being about the relationship, he’s got to know that he’s a marked man. Even if he’s just being a complete dope and there’s nothing going on with, you know, an engaged woman, he’s being completely insensitive to how it might affect you. You, the person who gave his cheating ass a second chance. Dude should be acting like a straight arrow out on parole, checking in with his parole officer before leaving the city limits and avoiding any known criminals. Instead he’s trying to force some sort of sit-down with what he admitted was the object of an inappropriate communication. The one that you found, anyway.

Now, I’m not really going to get into how you found that email exchange, but I can bet that there was some snooping involved. So, you don’t really trust him. For legitimate reasons. I don’t really condone the invasion of privacy, even though he has yet to earn your trust. You guys have got to iron that out if you’re going to make any significant progress as a couple. At some point, he may pay his debt to society (you), and be a fine partner. But his behavior and your suspicions are not how to get there. He seems to be able to explain or apologize his way out of behavior that is hurtful to you, and you are giving him daylight to wriggle out of situations where you could legitimately nail his ass to the wall. You are giving him too much leash, and unfortunately it appears that he’s taking advantage of it.

2. This year I gave up on my bachelor’s and launched myself into a cool radio broadcasting program. Early on in one of my courses our class was divided into several groups, and my group included a guy we’ll call Kyle.

Kyle and I quickly became friends as the only two competent people in our group, getting shit done and taking grades. This continued on and soon we were spending time together outside of class and being all friendly. One Friday he came over and stayed later than usual. He missed the last bus home and I invited him to spend the night on the floor of my room.

Now, he’s married. And nine years my senior. He called his wife, and explained to her that he was stuck, but he said he was at his guy friend’s house. We talked about this later and he assured me that he didn’t tell her because he knew she would freak out, but that he does tell her the rest of the time we hangout. Instead of sleeping that night, we talked for eight hours. About four hours in, we both ended up in bed together (in what I felt was a platonic fashion). We did cuddle, but nothing crazy happened.

I feel like this night greatly improved our friendship and we still talk all the time. He’s never slept over again, but I think he would if the opportunity came up, and I don’t think I’d mind.

It also has recently come to light that he has a thing for me. Which freaks me out because, did I say this already? He’s married. I still want to be his friend but he’s getting kind of clingy. What do I do? Will we work past it? Am I abusing our friendship for platonic cuddling from a married man who has a thing for me? Am I an idiot?

Let’s just re-read those last two sentences out loud, as a class: “Am I abusing our friendship for platonic cuddling from a married man who has a thing for me?” Holy shit, yes. “Am I an idiot?” No, not an idiot, but there’s got to be a word for someone who cuddles with married men and thinks it’s still platonic. Cock-tease? Home-wrecker?

Okay, that was super harsh. But honestly, what’s going on with you that you can’t recognize that 1) this is totally inappropriate activity with a married man, 2) there’s nothing really platonic about a married man seeking intimacy (“cuddling”) from someone who is not his wife while lying to his wife in the process, and 3) his clinginess is kind of your fault, and you are taking advantage of it for some sort of benefit to you. He’s certainly on the ragged edge of infidelity, and acting in a way that is betraying his marriage. But you’re not helping things. Dudes are usually going to take any sort of physical proximity like sharing a bed as some sort of invitation or consent. Do you really feel like Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson were having a platonic relationship in Lost In Translation? That would make for one boring-ass movie, even with a backdrop of Shinjuku.

I’m a little concerned at your inability to recognize some warning signs here. Cuddling is cute — like “kicking ass and taking grades” — but I think you need to ask yourself what you are getting out of this friendship. Attention? Perhaps the danger of hanging out with a married man? Either that, or you’re just equivocating like mad and you really do have a thing for a married guy. That’s a different letter, entirely. End this friendship before someone really gets hurt.

3. Married Dude, can you tell us the story of buying your wife her ring and/or proposing? We hear a lot about this stuff from women, it’d be nice to hear a strange man talk about it on the internet!

Truth be told, I’m sorta proud of how I pulled all of that off. I went full-on Commando — no, I wasn’t naked — and decided to buy her engagement ring in secret, on my own, without asking her what kind of ring she liked (or if she even wanted to get married). I tried polling her friends and select family members in confidence, but they came up empty on any material guidance in terms of what she might have wanted in a ring. In the end, I was on left to my own interpretation.

I’m very lucky in that the woman I married has very simple, elegant, classic tastes that eliminated the notion that she’d want a huge garish Real Housewives rock that she could pick her nose with. This made the ultimate selection of the ring easier, albeit no less nerve-wracking. I have a hard enough time selecting a pair of sneakers to buy, so throw in cut, clarity, color and carat weight, and I might as well have been the proverbial dog with two bones. Suffice to say I got luckier in that she absolutely loves the ring, so apparently I did just fine.

I proposed to her in one of our favorite restaurants — where she first professed her love for me — which sadly no longer exists. The restaurant, not her love. I’d planned ahead: I let the staff know what I was up to, arranged for a bottle of champagne to be standing by, and made plans with the coat check. You know what’s more stressful than boarding a subway train with an engagement ring in your pocket? Handing your life savings over to a total stranger in the coat check. I wanted the classic open-the-clamshell experience when I popped the question, but the box was too big and unwieldy to conceal in my pocket without telegraphing some sort of priapism. So I conspired with the coat check girl that I would leave the ring in my coat pocket, and at some point during the appetizers, I’d excuse myself to use the can, retrieve the ring, and set the wheels of the rest of my life in motion.

Me being me, I arrived at the restaurant a full 25 minutes early and promptly camped out at the bar to steel my nerves. I handed my coat-wrapped-engagement-ring off to the coat check, confirmed my arrangements with the staff, clocked all possible exits, and ordered a stiff drink. And then another. By the time my girlfriend arrived, I was definitely loose and almost forgot why we were there (kidding!). I wanted to propose early, so we could both either enjoy our dinner or figure out who was going to move out of our apartment. I think she was wise when I skipped ordering a bottle of wine, knowing champagne was coming, then high-tailed it to the “bathroom” to collect the ring. The package in hand, I headed back to the table, feigned interest in a phantom dropped napkin under her chair, and awkwardly dropped to a knee. I proposed, she said “No”! (Apparently, as in, “No way!”, an alleged exclamation of disbelief. I still hold this against her.)

No one in the restaurant batted an eye. Ah, to get engaged in the anonymity of a crowded New York.

Later, we went to the Top of the Rock to celebrate. Most expensive bottle of champagne I’ve ever ordered, but hey, they gave us chocolate-covered strawberries. The next day, my newly-minted fiance remarked, through a well-earned hangover: “I’ve never felt so good and so bad at the same time.”

Previously: Drinking, Pets, and Babies.

A Married Dude is one of several rotating married dudes who don’t claim to know everything about marriage. Do you have any questions for A Married Dude? (300-word max, please.)

Photo by Patsy Michaud, via Shutterstock