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The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

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The Vine: June 23, 2010

Submitted by on June 23, 2010 – 11:14 AM56 Comments

Dear Sars,

I've been in a committed relationship with someone we'll call "Kim" for 3 years. For the last 2 years of that time, Kim and I have lived in different cities because of various school- and work-related issues.Soon, she is moving back to the city where I live; we have signed a year-long lease for our first apartment together.

Once she moved back everything was supposed to be great. I was excited and happy to have her back in this city and to end the long-distance thing we've been doing for so long.

The problem I'm having is that I met someone this year — I guess we'll call her "Dana" — who has come to mean a lot to me. We got along well from the beginning, and circumstances meant that we ended up spending a good deal of time together and becoming quite close. I should mention at this point that she is also in a long-term relationship, and lives with her partner.

Recently, things came to a point where Dana and I had to admit that we have some pretty intense feelings for each other. We recognized the need to move past these feelings, but things took a turn and we ended up sleeping together. We haven't seen each other since, and neither of us have told our partners what happened.

In a matter of days I am moving in with Kim, and I have no idea what I need to do. I care so deeply for Kim, and value the relationship that we've built over the last 3 years. Nonetheless, I can't stop thinking about Dana, and I'm having trouble making myself even want to. She feels the same way, which just makes it more difficult. I'm terrified and guilty and increasingly desperate.

I'm not asking for sympathy; I know what Dana and I did was wrong. I just need advice on how to move forward because I don't know what to do. I can't see outside of my own feelings at this point.

Guilty and confused

Dear Guilt,

For starters, you say everything came to a head (so to speak) (sorry) recently, so give yourself a little time to process. Yes, you screwed up, but as my dad once said, if you don't know what to do in a given situation, take a minute and do nothing. Sit with it. This isn't to punish yourself, but to figure out why it happened.

"We developed strong feelings for –" Yes, so you said. Why? Because Kim went away and you felt: what? Lonely; abandoned; stuck in a rut; saddled with the responsibilities of a serious relationship, but none of the on-site privileges? None of these things, no combination of them, is a wrong answer, or makes you a bad person — you may have acted on certain feelings in a destructive way, but since you can't undo that, you have to figure out why you did do it and address the underlying issues.

Do not tell Kim anything, at least for the time being. Do not see Dana, or speak to her, unless it's to tell her that, you know, you really can't see her or speak to her until you figure your shit out with your girlfriend. Sit with it. Look at your letter and see what might jump out at a third party vis-à-vis what you saw fit to include — that another transition in the relationship is approaching. That you committed to a year-long lease with Kim. That you may, without fully realizing it, feel aggrieved and/or trapped. That you may have felt out of control in the situation, and you unconsciously did this in order to feel like you existed.

Not to treat Dana like a cipher here; I'm sure she has much to recommend her. I'm just saying, you've told me about the situation with Kim, but not much about Kim herself — you care about her, you value what you've "built," but you don't use the word "love." Do you just not want to start all over with someone else? Again, that isn't wrong, and the prospect of wriggling out of a lease and dealing with the fallout is unattractive at best, but if that's what you would do in a perfect world, you need to deal with that desire.

My dad is wise, so take that minute. Make some lists. Tell yourself the truth about what you would do if you could — if money or courage or pain were no object. Be honest with yourself about who your first call was in the last six months. You can't move forward if you don't know, and sort out, what got you here in the first place.

Hi Sars,

All the recent cat questions made me wonder about your opinion on a cat/boyfriend issue. I've always had cats and dogs growing up, and currently I have one cat but no dog, because cats are easier when you live alone.

I also have a super fantastic boyfriend. We've talked about moving in together in the future. Except he's very allergic to cats and most allergy medicines make him sick.

Now, being so super fantastic, he is willing to endure the allergies and sickness from the medication. But he also feels that once my cat passes away, we won't get another one and just stick with dogs. Of course, that's all reasonable and understandable. But the thought of never having another cat makes me sad.

Would you be okay with never getting a new cat? Is my thinking about something so in the future mean that I'm not ready for this stage of a relationship and all the compromises that go along with it?

Jen

Dear Jen,

On the contrary — I think thinking about that something means you're taking your future with Mr. Super Fantastic seriously and preparing yourself for those compromises down the road.

I myself would not consider not getting another cat. No judgments if that's your decision; I might have thought differently about it 10 or 15 years ago. But I grew up with cats, I've always had cats, and I could try to make it work with just a dog — I really like dogs — but I couldn't resign myself to no more cats ever.

I don't think it's out of line for you to feel sad at the prospect of a cat-less future; compromises don't always mean that everybody wins. Maybe Mr. SF would agree to consider a period of feline-free living, and revisit the issue later, perhaps when air-purifier machines and/or allergy medication has evolved in his favor somewhat. If he won't, you may have to content yourself with visiting friends with cats, and if that's enough for you, that's great. And if that's not enough for you, that's okay too. Just keep an open mind and keep talking about it.

Hi Sars,

As I was reading some of the advice questions in the recent Vines, I was wondering: after ten years of doing this, what would be your favourite points of advice?Do you have any words of wisdom that you think are sort of unifying themes for the Vine? I guess "25 and Over" captures a fair few items, but I think that there are definitely some recurring themes that come up in your general Vine advice, and I'd love to read your thoughts on what they are.

What's your number-one idea or helpful thought about how to conduct friendships, relationships, pet ownership, or wedding plans? What are your best tips on managing anxiety, money, procrastination or boredom? Have your views on things changed over the years?

I realise this is an incredibly broad question, or request for rumination, but if the Anni-Vine-Sary had prompted you to reflect on anything like this, I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I'm sure other readers would too. Alternatively, want to give us a "30 and Over"?!

Thanks again for answering so many of our questions.

Cait

Dear Cait,

…My number-one idea or helpful thought. Yeesh. I stared at this question, walked around a little, dealt with a couple of other chores, and hoped something both broader and more incisive than my first thought would occur to me, but my first thought is the best I can do, so:

"What is actually going on here?" It's what I like to try to figure out in every letter: the root of the problem, the real issue. I give variations on the same advice over and over, it's true — "friendships have a lifespan," "there's what should be, and there's what is," "identify what you can control and let the rest go" — but the only phrase that applies to all the various problems is "what is actually going on here."

And that's various problems, of course. People don't tend to write into The Vine all, "Just lettin' ya know, everything's going great!" (Well, that one time, but: girl, please.) It can apply to general conduct, too — how we treat our animal companions, what we put into our friendships, whether it's important to write thank-you notes — because what's actually going on in each case is, respectively, that pets are not décor, friendship is a two-way street, and courteous behavior is a net gain even if our preferred specifics vary.

My views on things have changed over the years, in the sense that I no longer my feel that my views are awesome by definition, but are merely my views, which make a certain sense to me and which I hope others share. (Excepting, of course, anti-social-conservative views. Shut up, Defense of Marriage Act.) I mentioned this in the comments thread of the "Anni-Vine-sary" entry, that The Vine is (…I hope) more about the shades of grey than when it started. I mean, I like ranting about chain mail and pinko shoplifting as much as the next guy, but everyone has neuroses and everyone fucks things up now and then. A punchline is not that important in context.

Off the top of my head, my favorite thing I ever said, I think, was something along the lines of "Just because somebody hands you a bag of rocks doesn't mean you have to carry it."

And if I could go back and do one thing differently, I would have switched to a comments format years earlier. The column functions so much better with that community feeling (and hand-coding the Ask The Readers responses was a pain in my dupa, I will not lie).

And you're very welcome. Thank you for reading.

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56 Comments »

  • Av0gadro says:

    Jen, it depends how allergic he is, but once I had lived with them a while, I stopped reacting to my husband's cats. If I'm away from them for more than 1-2 weeks, I get all sniffly and headachey again, but when I'm around them all the time I react less and get so used to the minimal reaction that I stop noticing it.

    That doesn't happen for everyone, but it happens for lots of people. So I would agree with Sars that you could agree to compromise on no more cats for now, but once he lives with your cat full time, he may become more willing to compromise too.

  • JF says:

    to Cait — and if you've never read Sars' piece on feminism – Yes, You Are – September 2003, please go find now, read, enjoy

    repeat as necessary.

    yet another example of Sars' Wisdom

  • Sarahnova says:

    Jen,

    Just as a possibility – in future, or while you trial the no-feline policy, perhaps you could look into spending time with felines in other ways? I love dogs, but I can't fit one into my lifestyle currently, and my local shelter uses volunteers to walk and socialise their residents. Yours might need someone to spend time socialising new felines or similar.

  • Janna says:

    Once your current kitty passes away, and you're ready for a new kitty, perhaps consider one of the "hypo-allergenic" breeds, like the Cornish Rex. Yes, they are a little odd-looking, but my best friend, who is really allergic to cats but loves them anyway, has 2 Cornish Rex (littermates) & she doesn't react to them nearly as badly as "normal" cats.

  • Charity says:

    Jen: For another perspective, I have always been a cat person and have had cats most of my life, pretty constantly until I was 30. I was moving across the country and couldn't take the cat. My grandmother loved my cat and so I left her with my grandmother. It's been more than five years since that point and I haven't had a cat for various reasons. Though there are times when I've really missed it (bad breakups — cats are great comfort then), most of the time I'm just fine without one. I love them and would like to get another someday, but if I never have a cat again, I'll be okay. One adjusts to these things, or I did at least.

  • attica says:

    I will recommend that Mr. Super Fantastic hie himself to a doctor. I've been allergic all my life, and had resigned myself to either never visiting the homes of pet owners or doing so knowing it would make me sick for two days thereafter, even if I frontloaded over-the-counter anti-allergy meds.

    Then I was faced with a week at my dog-owning sister's. Couldn't afford the hotel price, so I thought I'd ask my doc if there wasn't something new I could try to get me through the week without pulumonary embolism. Turns out? Tons of new treatments! After trying a couple with varying levels of happiness, I'm now on a nasal-spray corticosteroid which makes all my allergy miseries a memory. The only thing I have to remember to do is wash my hands after playing with the little furries, and I'm good. Seriously good. I never would've thunk.

    On the other hand, perhaps his 'all the meds make me sick' is his way of ending the discussion he doesn't want to have. It's a neat trump card, because it makes the person who wants cats have to choose between cats and Mr. Super Fantastic. I'm not saying that's what's going on here, but I'd take a hard look at it as a possibility, and proceed accordingly.

  • Bria says:

    Jen – my husband thought he was extremely allergic to cats, but it turned out that he only reacts to clay-based litter. I started using Feline Pine right after we started dating (for unrelated reasons) and suddenly his symptoms went away. When we made the connection between his symptoms and the litter, he thought back to the cats to which he had had significant exposure, and they all used clay-based litter. YMMV, obviously, but it might be worth exploring.

  • Hellcat13 says:

    @Jen – Hee. On my first or second date with my partner-of-five-years, I asked him if he was a cat person. I have always had cats and I always will have cats, and it was a deal-breaker for me if he wasn't a cat person. I lucked out. We (and our two furballs) have been living happily ever after ever since.

    I don't have any sage advice, but I sympathize and wish you luck!

  • Noelie says:

    My friend has a super-allergic boyfriend as well, and was so pet-deprived that he started catching flies for his Venus Flytrap and calling it pet names.
    Then they adopted two adorable furless kittens who don't trigger boyfriend's allergies. They are as unique and lovable as any cat I've had (though the fuzzy texture is a surprise at first, and there's more bathing/caretaking than with a shorthair). I'd suggest looking into this when the day approaches, as a life without cats seems empty.
    As does a life without dogs – thank goodness for neighbors with friendly puppies!

  • AT says:

    @Jen, Sars advice is pretty good, but some people are just beyond modern medical help. My husband experiences respiratory shut-down around cats. It's really scary and there's no "treatment" for this level of allergy. And we've checked because he LOVES cats and had one as a child. I'm an animal lover period. We now have dogs (3!). I just mention this because if his allergy is that severe- well, there's no negotiation or anything. You either want to be with him enough to forsake cats… or you don't. And I will say this, good life-partners are harder to come by than pets.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I like how you don't give advice on what to do, but rather on how to figure out what to do. It's something you've been doing for a long time, and I think it's right up there with "what's really going on here" as part of the Vine, but your response to Guilty is the clearest example thereof I've seen yet. Your dad is wise.

    (did Joe's bitchy sister ever call? I wanna have drinks with her)

  • Amalthea says:

    Jen: As someone who is allergic to cats…your boyfriend is making a huge compromise to live with his allergies while you have your current cat. I really don't think it's fair to ask him to continue that for the rest of his life. Being on medication every day is horrible. Even if you find a cat who sets off his allergies a little less, that's way too much to expect of him. Plus, some allergies get *worse* the longer you have the cat.

    Guilt: My advice is tell your girlfriend now, before she's stuck moving in with a cheater. Especially if she's moving back for you. "…things took a turn and we ended up sleeping together"? Really? No, you made a choice to sleep with Dana and betray your girlfriend. She deserves to know, immediately.

  • Dina says:

    I think my favorite Sars-ism is: you can be right or you can be happy. I mostly interpret this literally, as a slowly reforming Wonder Killer, but the phrasing, simple as it is, can clarify all sorts of situations, career and family being the ones that immediately come to mind. As much as the gray is important (and it is totally effing important), this little ditty gets me through when the gray overwhelms.

  • Cath says:

    I'm super allergic to cats (played with a roaming neighborhood kitten for five minutes two nights ago and spent the next five hours sneezing and applying ice cubes to my eyelids), but when I visit with one of my best friends with two cats (one of whom is a crazy-long-haired breed), I have zero symptoms for all two weeks of my stay. Hardwood floors, leather furniture, bedroom doors that fully latch, and a steady stream of swiffer pads all equal a seemingly cat-free home. All I have to do is wash my hands like it's flu season and I'm good.

    I would test drive this type of environment with his allergies, and if he's better that way, make any future cats non-bedroom pets and you might not have to compromise.

  • Lis says:

    Jen I've got to second what Av0gadro said. I'm badly allergic to cats… as in I recently had to leave a friend's house at 3a.m. to go to the hospital for a breathing treatment because I'm a dumbass who forgot my inhaler at home, and yet I have three cats.

    The trick is this: Generally speaking people are allergic to the stuff in cat dander, not the cat. Kittens do not have dander. Kittens gradually get dander as they age. Your immune system will sort of keep up with this process and get used to it as they get more and more. When you have a grown up kitty you're no longer allergic to that specific kitty. All bets are off for other cats, but in general, if you can get a kitten and raise it in your home it shouldn't irritate you. I've done this a total of 6 times, and have never had a reaction to any of my cats. If I go to a friends house though? BAM, allergic.

    On top of that, brushing and bathing your cat regularly and using an anti-allergen shampoo helps a lot too. They also have anti-allergen sprays which I've had success with. A friend of mine breeds Bengal cats and when he knows I'm coming over he sprays them down well and I've never had a problem at his house.

  • Erin in SLC says:

    My husband is another one of those people who are allergic to any new animal for the first couple weeks of acquaintanceship. In the seven years since our first date, he's acclimated to cats wonderfully…and sadly, lost most of his dog-resistance. Mileage may vary, as they say, but there's certainly hope.

  • penguinlady says:

    I have a friend who is allergic to most cats, but not all. He was willing to go to the SPCA with his wife and get his face all up in the feline bidness until he found a cat that didn't trigger his severe asthma. It worked great. So maybe a short-hair calico or part-siamese will work for you!

  • Meltina says:

    @ Jan,

    I second Bria's suggestion to look into whether clay litter is the culprit when it comes to Mr. Super Fantastic's allergies.

    My husband (formerly the World's Best Boyfriend, currently the World's Best Husband) was allergic to cats all throughout his life, or so he thought. We tried getting a dog but things didn't work out (she was too hyper for our lifestyle, we did find her a new home), and deep down I do prefer cats. So one day he just decided we'd try living with a cat, and he would do his best to figure out a way to keep the allergies under control. We saw an allergist, and stocked up on suggested allergy meds.

    We never had to bother with the meds. When we got the first of our two kitties, a shorthair, we decided to keep his litter the same he was used to at his foster home so his transition getting adjusted to living with us would be easier. The husband never even had an allergy attack. Later on we reflected on it, and realized that all the cats he had exposure to throughout his life were the fluffy persian-type, and used clay litter to do their business. Ours didn't. So we reasoned it could be the litter, or it could be that having a shorthair kitty meant less dander.

    Eventually we added a second cat. Her fur is way longer and thicker. She sheds like nobody's business, especially when she's being petted lovingly, and my husband is her favorite person in the world, so it's not uncommon for him to pet her and find himself covered in cat hair. She's also a licker, which is one of the top ways in which cats produce dander (the other ones are licking their fur while cleaning, and rubbing their coat against people and things). Still no problems with his allergies. We concluded it was indeed the litter that caused him problems all those years back.

    Funnier even, his mom had always had the same symptoms he had (could be in the same room with kitty, but couldn't pet kitty without triggering an itchy nose and watery eyes), so she had not owned a kitty in nearly 50 years. After noticing how she didn't get sick around ours, and my husband mentioning that he thought it was clay litter he was allergic to and not the cats themselves, she now lives with two cats of her own. Can't say she loves them as much as the dog, but she's pretty fond of them nonetheless. ;)

    Honestly, I would basically talk frankly and figure out exactly what happens when he has contact with cats. Does he get any swelling of his airways that cause him difficulty breathing? Does he break into hives? Does he need an epipen handy around kitty? Because that's the sign of a true, life threatening allergy (we have a friend who is that badly allergic to cats, whose daughter funnily enough asks for a kitten whenever she gets the chance). If none of those things happen, his allergy is probably something that can be alleviated with either using less dusty litter, a kitty with curly or short hair who doesn't shed much, weekly cat grooming and baths (not a picnic, but I'm told that if you get a kitten used to be bathed once a week, they tend to begrudgingly tolerate it, rather than actively fight you for it), or a combination of the above.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Even if you find a cat who sets off his allergies a little less, that's way too much to expect of him.

    …Unless he doesn't feel that way. Feline companionship is important to her; she's not out of line to hope that she can integrate that with her human partner. Maybe she can't, and then she'll have to decide, but I don't think she's "expecting" anything. She asked whether she was wrong to feel sad.

    She deserves to know, immediately.

    Who does that help? Seriously. What good does that do? I'm all for honesty, but if Guilt decides she made one mistake, and it ends up reaffirming her commitment to Kim, who is helped by Kim knowing what happened? Maybe Guilt feels better for having unburdened herself, but why does Kim "deserve" to live with the knowledge? If she actually loves Kim, she will show Kim some compassion and keep it to herself until she decides where she wants the relationship to go. You seem to feel it's important that Guilt confess so that Kim dumps her, and I'm not letting Guilt off the hook for the behavior, but if you're that concerned with justice for Kim…I'm not sure finding out something hurtful and humiliating serves that end.

    Honesty < kindness, sometimes.

    @Dina: Stole that from Dr. Phil.

  • beckyallyn says:

    Jen –

    I'm allergic to cats and have had great success with allergy shots. It's not for everyone, but if it is for your boyfriend, you could combine it with Sars's suggestion for a period of cat-free living. That is, no cats while he goes through the immunotherapy.

    It can definitely be a hassle having to get shots so regularly (I had to do weekly for 6 months, then monthly for another 4 years), and it doesn't work for everyone. Plus there's the cost aspect if insurance doesn't cover it. But it did work for me and I can now be around cats as much as I want so long as I don't touch my eyes. :)

  • Douglas says:

    @Jen, Should you decide to go with alternating cat-less and cat-owning periods, you might consider adopting older animals from a shelter. The cats get some lovin' after being passed over for the cute fuzzy kittens for the nth time, you get to have a cat, at least for a while, and Mr. S. Fantastic only has to deal with, say, 5-8 years of exposure vs 10-15.

    I realize that this is basically a nice way of saying "Get ones that die sooner", but seriously, if you're going to alternate having and not having, it's worth a think.

  • Jo says:

    Jen: I'm a cat lover who currently lives with someone allergic to cats (my mom). (I'm lucky enough to have a boyfriend who loves cats and has one of his own, so when I move in with him, it will be fine.) I have the Dyson animal-hair model vacuum and would highly recommend it. It's expensive but does a great job of picking up the hair (I know people are really allergic to dander, not hair, but the vacuum helps). It might also help to get an air purifier. Keep the cat out of the bedroom your boyfriend will sleep in, keep them off the furniture and vacuum a lot.

  • Amalthea says:

    Sars: Well, my perspective is there's absolutely no way I'd stay with a cheater, so I think Kim deserves to know so that she can make the choice to dump Guilt — or not dump Guilt, if that's her choice.

    Not telling her makes her relationship a lie, and I think it's a genuinely cruel (not kind) think to do to someone. She deserves to make her choices with all of the information at her disposal.

  • Amalthea says:

    Whoops, think = thing. Apparently I can't spell when I'm outraged.

  • Andrea says:

    Agreed with av0gadro. I am allergic to cats. I also happen to be a crazy cat lady. I develop immunities to my own cats (4 currently) with prolonged exposure. I only have allergy flareups when meeting a new cat.

    So while your SO is tolerating the current cat until it passes, they might find that their allergies fade with exposure, and then y'all can happily pursue future catdom. Hard to tell.

    I know I personally can't NOT have cats. And for that I am willing to tolerate the transition period from rashes and sneezing to normalcy.

  • jlc12118 says:

    You know what I would love – a Vine follow-up – like – remember that girl who's boyfriend didn't like cats – I wonder how that worked out… how did the conversation go about going to the doctor – I feel so attached to people when reading the Vine – much more so than a regular advice column, I feel the Tomato Nation community is a family – and I want to know how you are doing!

    wow – did i end one of those sentences? Sorry… It's Wednesday, that's my only excuse…

  • KTB says:

    I'm going to second beckyallyn. My former roommate was allergic to cats, but when his girlfriend (now fiancee) moved in with her two cats, he sucked it up and started getting allergy shots. Obviously, nobody loves that option, but it certainly worked for the two of them.

    I also see the humor in the situation as my husband and I are currently administering allergy shots to our dog on a regular basis. Gotta love pets!!

  • Sara says:

    If you want to go the hypoallergenic-but-not-hairless kitty route, supposedly Siberian cats are hypoallergenic for many people, but they're long-haired (and adorable!). Might be worth it to have your boyfriend spend some time with a Siberian to see how he reacts.

  • Erin W says:

    Good question, Cait, and thanks for answering it, Sars. I think your idea of "What is really going on here?" is what separates your work from other advice columns. I read 'em all, and sometimes I get so frustrated that they seem to be taking the shallowest, sound-bitiest view of the problem. You're not afraid to make people question how they might be contributing to their own problems, or to open their eyes to the potential solutions they might be ignoring because they're too hard or whatever. That's why the Vine rocks!

  • Katharine says:

    Sorry, I don't agree that honesty < kindness in the case of cheating, either. Particularly not when it's not a case of drunken one-night chemical attraction, but a long-standing emotional affair that went physical. Were I Kim, I'd want to know, and deal with that (and with the knowledge that my partner is the kind of person who sleeps with people when "things just take a turn") if, as the case might be, I decided to make a go of it anyway.

    You don't do that shit. If you feel that strongly about someone else, you talk to your partner first. I'm pro open relationships, in certain circumstances, but I am absolutely against sneaky cheating – and yeah, Kim deserves to know, so that she can make that call, without Guilty slipping it under the rug, and then maybe later having a similar "turn" and deciding that again, it's kinder not to tell.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I wouldn't stay with a cheater either, but if it's one time, didn't mean anything, and is never repeated, on balance I would rather not know. I'm not sure I see how it's any less cruel to tell her just for the sake of telling her.

    In this particular case, I do think it meant something and I do think it spells problems for the relationship; obviously I do not advocate an across-the-board never-tell policy. But what we tell ourselves is about honesty is often about hoped-for expiation instead, and it's not for the other person's benefit; it's for ours. When it comes to cheating, I think the cheater — having failed to avoid the behavior in the first place — needs to think really hard about the emotional consequences of confessing for the other person.

    You don't do that shit. If you feel that strongly about someone else, you talk to your partner first.

    Oh, I agree, but here we are again at "what should be" versus "what is." Once the horse has cleared the barn, you have to wonder whether telling is about making the cheater feel better.

    Again, in this case, there is more going on here than "got lonely and shagged someone else she'll never see again." And if Guilt does tell the truth, waiting to do so is probably a bad call. It's not a good situation. It's also not a black-and-white situation from where I sit.

  • Grainger says:

    @Katharine: "You don't do that shit. If you feel that strongly about someone else…"

    Well, but there it is–do they feel that strongly about someone else? Obviously Guilt does (or at least they think that they do) but there's a difference between getting involved in multiple Serious Relationships, and merely performing an elaborate multi-participant act of masturbation.

    @Sars: " I do think it meant something and I do think it spells problems for the relationship…"

    Yes, that bit about "[I] value the relationship that we've built over the last 3 years" is kind of telling. That sounds a lot like "I'm trying to dodge the guilt I'd feel for cheating and then breaking up while she was out of town."

  • Sophie says:

    @Jen: My brother and his fiance recently got a Russian Blue…she's terribly allergic to cats. Apparently, they have a pelt, not fur, so they have no dander and are hypoallergenic. Pretty normal looking, very soft, and such a cool color! Bonus, they got the little fella from some rescue group they found online, so they didn't have to pay "designer cat" prices. She has had no reactions to him. Just another option for you!

  • H., says:

    Wow. Thoughts galore on the kitty thing. I'm highly allergic to cats, but not deathly so, and can't imagine life without cats (we currently have 3 cats and 1 dog, all peculiar). If the fantastic boyfriend is deathly allergic, all my thoughts need to be ignored, because, as already stated, that's non-negotiable. But since he's willing to give it a go with current kitty, that would seem to not be the case. I've had good luck with many of the above strategies: I've never, ever had a problem with a cat acquired as a kitten (but never knew why; thanks!); I've had several adult cats that I've developed a tolerance to over time (the first couple months have been hellish, but after that, pretty darned tolerable; it was easiest with our Siamesey boy); and most recently, out of sheer dumb luck, an adult stray adopted us and I had NO problems at all. But then, I really think he may have been divinely sent (he showed up in our driveway the same month we learned our previously mentioned Siamesey boy cat was diagnosed with terminal cancer) and refused to leave. And just calmly strolled in the house the same day we had a vacancy. ANYWAY, I've also learned that many folks who think they're allergic to cats are really allergic (or also allergic) to pollen (which outdoor cats drag in with them). So indoor cats are sometimes easier for the highly allergic to tolerate. And, as pointed out, allergy medicines are improving all the time, so by the time your current kitty has moved on and you're thinking about kitty 2.0, it may all be a moot point. In other words, if he's really a fantastic boyfriend, and he's willing to deal with current kitty: wing it and I'll bet the solution comes to you when you need it. Sars' advice to wait applies to this situation, too.

  • Chrissi says:

    Another allergen-lite cat is the Ragdoll, so I've heard. They're kind of long-haired, usually white (with various colored spots/patches)and blue eyes. The two that I know are both super sweet and gorgeous.

  • Amalthea says:

    I do get what you're saying with shades of grey, Sars. In fact that's why I love reading your advice. I just think that when it comes to cheating, some people are black and white about it–I am, personally. Some people are more forgiving, and capable of working through that. But we don't know which one Kim is. I think she deserves the knowledge to make that choice and decide if it's a dealbreaker for her or not.

    Katharine explained it a little better than I did my first go around, I think. And yes I should point out, I mean cheating with in a monogamous relationship–open relationships where both parties know are completely different.

    It's funny because in the past 10 years or so that I've been reading the Vine, I almost always find myself nodding along with your advice, until we get to questions about cheating. It's a really divisive topic. And I certainly think your point of view is valid, but I also think Kim should have the agency to choose based on full knowledge of the situation.

  • Cait says:

    Thanks, Sars! Much appreciated, and I really enjoyed your take on how your approach has changed over the years. "Just because somebody hands you a bag of rocks doesn't mean you have to carry it." – is a favourite of mine, too.

    @JF: Thanks- yep, I love 'Yes You Are'.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Guilt's a funny emotion, Guilt. It's among the slipperiest, clingiest ones we have, and the trickiest. You did something wrong, but figuring out how/if/when to tell your partner is the hard part. What is honesty, what is self-flagellation, what is self-indulgent?

    A long distance relationship is a hard thing to manage, obviously, and I think one of the reasons is that no matter how adult and committed you are (not a sixteen year old pledging herself to the boy she met on vacation, but two adults trying to keep something they both want), a long distance relationship becomes its own thing.

    We're group animals, and a big part of bonding is seeing your partner constantly. Without that day-to-day reasurance, The Entity Called Relationship starts carrying the can for the rubs, irritations, and small joys you normally can diffuse and infuse between the two of you. No matter how much you text, call, Skype, whatever, the Relationship starts becoming where you store all the stuff you'd regularly just have, and becomes kind of a fetish object substitute. This can lead to any realtime companionship you have to spiral a lot more than it would have; "I have Relationship, so this other bond is by definition COMPLETELY innocent."

    It's not though, and now you have to face the facts that 1)you cheated, and 2) Kim and you are about to have to dismantle your altar and build an actual, daily thing. The latter may have scared you into the former, or you're really ready to break off with Kim, or you truly feel for Dana, or don't.

    Whatever you do decide, don't lie. If you're going to tell Kim, tell her. If you want to be with Dana, or not, tell her. Try to come out of this knowing that you salvaged some diginity for the three of you out of a mistake, not that you created a trail of damage that all three now have the job of living with.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    On a separate note, my favorite Vine advice:

    "Be your own everybody else. Life's too short."

  • Katharine says:

    Yes, @Amalthea nails it, I think. Guilty isn't the only one making a serious life change here, after all. Before Kim goes innocently into a deeper financial and emotional commitment with someone, in a city she may no longer have as strong ties to, as well, she deserves to be in full possession of the facts.

    @Grainger, multiple serious relationships or multiple flings, whichever, an open relationship is not cheating. Either way, the parameters are mutually negotiated. And it's perfectly possible to cheat in open relationships, anyhow; for some people, it's not even about "I can't commit to just the one person!", it's about the thrill of deceit.

  • Guilt says:

    Hey, all. I just wanted to stop in to thank Sars for her amazing advice. I kind of expected to get eviscerated if my question did get answered, so to have you treat it so thoughtfully and kindly means a lot.

    I also wanted to give an update. I wrote the question about 2 months ago. Soon after I sent it in, both Dana and I told our partners about our infidelity. Dana's partner ended their relationship; Kim was obviously upset about what had happened but wanted to try to work through it, as did I. We both tried to make things work, but as time went on I had to admit to both of us that I'd fallen in love with Dana, and that I couldn't stay in the relationship with Kim anymore.

    Sars and her dad are both wise…the advice you gave today was what I eventually, messily fumbled towards myself.

    Also, you guys are so right for calling me out on the "took a turn" phrasing, which is far too glib. "Took a turn" actually means "were both so nervous that we drank too much and subsequently made a terrible decision."

  • Honey Wheeler says:

    Jen: To follow up on what Lis said re anti-allergen shampoos/sprays: I would HIGHLY recommend you and Mr. S-F try Aller-pet to help him acclimate to living with cat dander. I was wildly allergic to kitties too when I first got my cat (I would turn bright red, my eyes would itch and water nonstop and of course the incessant sneezing) and this stuff helped me out tremendously until I developed a tolerance to kitty dander. As Lis mentioned, what people are allergic to is a specific protein in cat's saliva – it is a very strong protein because it deodorizes/kills bacteria; this is why cats won't smell if you don't bathe them, unlike dogs. Anyway, when the cat grooms itself, the saliva dries out and turns into tiny particles containing this protein. When humans come into contact with it through the air (breathe it, etc.) that is when the allergies kick in. Aller-pet works by neutralizing enough of the protein to minimize if not block entirely the human's allergic response. You simply put some (it is a liquid) on a washcloth and wipe the cat down once a day or so, if I remember correctly. I used Allerpet in conjunction with non-drowsy Claritin for about 3-4 months and then developed a tolerance for the protein – most people will, from what I've read/heard, if they give their bodies time to adjust. I hope this helps!

  • Jen M. says:

    Ah, I'd forgotten how much I loved "25 and Over" until I reread it again just now. I want "Be civil or be elsewhere" on a t-shirt.

  • ferretrick says:

    My personal favorite vine line…"until "your shit" and "together" have something resembling a speaking relationship." There's been a lot of great bon mots in all the years of Vine, but that one really takes the cake for me.

    http://tomatonation.com/vine/the-vine-april-15-2004/

  • Eliza says:

    Guilt: So are you and Dana together now?

  • Cyntada says:

    "Just because somebody hands you a bag of rocks doesn't mean you have to carry it."

    Please, please, please, tell me that's coming on a T-shirt!

    Sarah's other thought reminds me of a pastor who noted, "There is a difference between what's happening and what's going on." His corollary to that was "attitude and motivation".

  • Troy says:

    One bit of Vine wisdom I loved at the time (told to someone who wanted to end a relationship but worried about devastating their partner) went something like, "All you can do is tell them how things are… you can't deal with it for them, too."

    Or something like that.

  • LaSalleUGirl says:

    RE: favorite Vine advice

    I've always been partial to the variations on "It's not wrong to feel whatever you're feeling (although it may be wrong to ACT on those feelings." Very useful advice that has stood me in good stead over the years.

  • Dina says:

    @Sars lalalalalalalala I can't hear you and thus am not indirectly taking advice from Dr. Phil

  • Sarahnova says:

    Re: favourite Vine advice – the most useful phrase I ever got from here was "I'm sorry you feel that way."

    I have used it and shared its wisdom with others many a time.

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