Dan Savage Says Cheating Happens. And That's OK.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Occasional infidelity adds excitement to Dan Savage's marriage. He's not afraid of talking about that, he told me. What he doesn’t like discussing is money. Namely, how his husband Terry likes spending it: on shoes, clothes, and records he may never listen to. It’s what they fight about most.
Dan and Terry have been together for nearly twenty years. They married in 2005 in Canada. Dan told me that if you’re in a committed relationship, you should consider this: cheating happens. Studies differ on the rate of cheating, but after writing a sex advice column for decades, he wants us to confront the fact that infidelity touches more monogamous relationships than we like to admit. And sometimes, he says, being with other people is what keeps couples together. It's worked for his marriage.
So that’s part of what he and I talk about in this episode, plus building honest boundaries with your partner, fighting about money, being a gay activist with a conservative father, and missing his mother.
Keeping sex fun after 40:
One of the things that’s kept our sexual connection really intense has been the non-monogamy. We have these adventures together. People have come into our lives as lovers and enriched and enhanced our lives. Taken us into new worlds. And exposed us to new communities. New groups of people, new groups of friends. And that’s been very rewarding, and very rich.
Experiencing the AIDS epidemic as a teenager:
Something that makes straight people sometimes uncomfortable when you talk about gay life, particularly then, is that I came out at 15, 16, 17 years old. And most of my gay friends were older. My first boyfriends were older. Because my peers weren’t out. I didn’t have 15, 16, 17-year-old gay people, lesbians, bi and trans folks to hang out with. Because nobody was out except for me. So I lost people — mentors. I lost first boyfriends.
How the Supreme Court gave Dan and Terry financial security:
One of the things that was so wonderful about the DOMA decision from the Supreme Court was the Sword of Damocles that had been hanging over our heads — it disappeared in an instant. Because I’ve been the sole bread-winner and Terry’s been a stay-at-home parent. If I had died, if somebody killed me, Terry wouldn’t get my Social Security survivor benefits because he has the wrong genitals. He couldn’t inherit my property or keep our house without paying onerous, crushing taxes. So, in addition to losing me, he would’ve been pauperized, and he and D.J. would’ve both been turned out of the house.
The challenge of relating to his father:
We’re in a much better place than we were 20 years ago. We have a difficult relationship, or a relationship complicated by politics. He’s one of those guys, 70-year-old guys who sits in front of his television set in Arizona in retirement watching Fox News. But he’s a good guy, and a fun guy, and I enjoy talking to him when we talk. We’re not the closest, but that’s life, I guess. I don’t even know how to talk about it. I don’t want to disrespect my dad. But we never really clicked.
Here’s a full transcript of the interview.
Dan Savage talked about the death of his mother onstage at This American Life in 2009: