I have been in a long-term relationship with a wonderful woman who doesn't have a lot of people she socializes with in her daily life. She is a Burning Man person and converses online with other "burners." I confronted her when I realized she was discussing the ups and downs of our relationship in a public online forum. She still hung out on that forum, but her presence diminished. I assumed she was socializing in private e-mails. A few months later, I discovered that she was actually moderating a different forum. I deleted the site from my history and decided to avoid it. Last week, while she was at Burning Man, I checked out the forum she moderates, even though I knew I shouldn't have. What I found was that she never mentions having a boyfriend, even when it might be relevant to a discussion. I was never mentioned, not even in passing. I don't mind that guys compliment her, and I understand the benefits of positive attention from the opposite sex. If she came to me and told me that is what she was seeking and that it was chaste, I would be fine with it as long as she made that clear to other forum members.
We are both attractive, and I get attention at times from other women. I often mention that I have a girlfriend to avoid someone getting the wrong idea. I also feel like she saves the spontaneous, uninhibited, and adventurous part of herself for these people at Burning Man. Does it sound like she is cheating emotionally? How can I bring this subject up in a way that doesn't make me seem like just more of a depressing part of her life? I don't want her to lose her outlet, but I feel like she is not showing me the respect one should show a partner of 10-plus years.
Her Burning Man
I don't want to alarm you unnecessarily, HBM, but partnered people who go to Burning Man sans partner are typically planning to cheat cheat, not cheat emote. Casual straight sex, like sandy ass cracks and seeing my friend Eric naked, is a huge part of the Burning Man "experience."
But the kind of straight guy who goes to Burning Man for casual sex — and the art and the experience and the transcendence — doesn't give a shit if the girls he fucks have boyfriends back home. Or in the next tent. Your girlfriend could post your picture to Burning Man forums, mention you in every face-to-face conversation she has, and wear a shirt with your picture on it everywhere she goes on the playa, HBM, and she'd still find plenty of guys willing to fuck her brains out.
Mentioning you in online forums, not mentioning you in online forums — neither action is proof that she plans to cheat or not cheat. So I'm sitting here racking my brain trying to come up with some other reason why your girlfriend might not have mentioned you in an online Burning Man forum that she moderates.
Thinking, thinking, thinking.
Hey! Maybe it's because the last time you caught her talking about you and your relationship in a public online forum, YOU BLEW THE FUCK UP AT HER. Remember? You were angry then because she was talking about you on the interwebs. And you're angry now that she isn't talking about you on the interwebs.
If you're looking for a reason why your girlfriend feels inhibited around you, HBM, maybe it's the mixed signals. She gets in trouble for talking about you; she gets in trouble for not talking about you. If your girlfriend feels like she's going to be in trouble with you no matter what she does, HBM, then she's going to feel inhibited around you. And she's going to err on the side of sharing less of what she does with you.
When your girlfriend gets back from Burning Man, HBM, here's what I think you should say: "I realize this makes me sound crazy, and maybe I am crazy. But remember when I was upset about you talking about me — about us — in that public online forum? Well, I stumbled on another online forum and you weren't talking about me. And that upset me, too."
Acknowledge your insecurities, HBM, take some responsibility for the impact they may have on her behavior, and then have a long talk about how you can both enjoy a little attention from members of the opposite sex without making the other person feel like shit.
TO MY READERS: The deadline for HUMP! — my annual amateur porn contest — is just a few weeks away! All submissions are due no later than Friday, Oct. 5. Details about entering HUMP!, and about the prizes (grand prize is $5,000!), can be found at www.humpseattle.com.