Advice

Miss Information: Help! Facebook is ruining my marriage.

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Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

Dear Miss Information,

My wife and I have been married for almost a year. We’re in our thirties and are very happy together. But when we were first dating, my wife attended school in another state, and I happened to meet an amazing woman through a friend. She was gorgeous, smart and way out of my league. She liked me, too, but we never did anything more than talk. At one point, she made a pass at me. It took everything I had to turn her down, but I knew I had a good thing going with the woman who would eventually be my wife. Friends who saw my temptation told me to avoid her, so I did. I haven’t seen her around in more than a year. For the most part, I’d forgotten about her.

The other night I was on Facebook, and her name and picture showed up on a mutual friend’s page. I was crestfallen to find that her info wasn’t public. I spent another half-hour looking for pictures of her on friends’ pages, and I thought about her when I fell asleep that night. The next day, I ached. I resolved to stop it right there. I am now trying to forget her all over again.

Is this just me missing my single days? Am I projecting what might have been onto her? I’m happily married. Life is good. Most days, I feel complete and well-adjusted. Is this just what married guys (or people) do? Worse yet, do other married people NOT do this, making me a pretty awful married guy? Is infidelity only a physical thing? — Help, I’ve Been Upset by Facebook

Dear Help I’ve Been Upset by Facebook,

If what you’re doing constitutes cheating, then I’m the world’s biggest dime-store floozy. I constantly look up exes. I pore over every detail of their social-networking profiles. I comb through Flickr accounts, do Google image searches, and read blog entries.

Like you, I don’t know exactly why I do it. I moved a lot when I was growing up, and never found out what happened to people. Now I can, via the magic of the internet. I’m sure another reason has to do with insecurity: is his new girlfriend better looking than me? Did his band get signed? Does he have a mansion and two adorable kids? I’m also searching for answers: did we break up because we were incompatible, or is he now one half of a gay couple living in Iowa and breeding Samoyeds?

My shrink says I do this to create drama. (Apparently a happy relationship isn’t enough for someone who grew up with argumentative parents.) Online, I get my emotional highs and lows, conspiracy theories, and intrigue. And I’m fine with this. Know why? Because I’m not in contact with any of these gentlemen, and never plan to be. I still have feelings for a few — not romantic, just unresolved — and others I could give a bright-pink monkey rear about.

To answer your question: no, infidelity isn’t only physical. And while “emotional infidelity” is a term used far too often, for everything from fantasizing about your neighbor to looking at porn — you can go too far without ever being in the same room together. Initiating an ongoing, online relationship with someone who has put you in Kenny Loggins’ zone in the past is, as my college stoner-friend Tracy used to say, a “baaaaaad scene.”

You can Facebook-stalk this woman as much as you want, as long as you exercise the same self-discipline you did the first time she became a threat. Observe from afar. Do not add her to your friend’s list or contact her. If she contacts you, accidentally “lose” the invite. Keep that shit under quarantine.

As far as why you do this, I’d chalk it up to part horniness, part restlessness and depression, and part curiosity. In other words, being a normal, fallible human with feelings. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t wonder why. Use it as motivation to get your ass away from the computer. I find that I ex-stalk much less when I make sure my life keeps me fabulously busy.

Dear Miss Information,

My wife and I have great sex. Our only problem being when we have it. I’m a nighttime guy who likes to get the day’s troubles taken care of, and when that’s off my mind I find myself in the mood. My wife is the opposite. Once she gets the day’s tasks finished, she’s tired and starts worrying and planning for tomorrow until she falls asleep. However, she loves to start the day with a bang. Mid-day is a great option for us, but it can be hard to give life the beat-down long enough to make that a real solution. How should we settle the night-owl versus early-bird dilemma? — Night Owl

Dear Night Owl,

Changing your body clock to match hers (or vice versa) seems the most obvious answer. Set a new bedtime to match hers and stick to it, even if you’re lying there bored off your ass or arriving at work half-conscious and cranky. It’s like dieting: if you want to do it right, you have to be consistent and avoid quick fixes. Neither the maple-syrup diet nor sleeping pills will work in the long-run, and you can undo weeks of work with a sleeping-in binge. You could also meet in the middle on a new bedtime; then you both go into nighttime training. Suffering’s always more fun when shared!

Don’t make it about sex at first. Changing a sleep pattern is stressful enough. Make a joke out of it. Buy a book of naughty bedtime stories and put up a gold-star reward chart on your refrigerator.

Of course, I say this, but would I actually do it? I’m going to go with a big fat never on that one, Mr. Sajak. I like my weird body clock, and more and more studies like this one are showing that it’s not a simple matter of preference. The differences are hardwired in our brains. With that in mind, here are some fixes that have nothing to do with resetting your internal alarm clock:

Take a “class”: The “class” being naked adult-time every Saturday from four to five p.m. (You can take turns being the professor.) What about a long lunch at work? Tell your boss you’ve got weekly allergy shots on Thursdays. Yes, scheduled sex is awkward and a bit of a drag. But if you make a real commitment and lie about it to everyone you know, you’re much more likely to follow through. It’s hot to share secrets, and sneaky is only a half-step away from horny.

Take turns being the slacker: When she wants it in the morning, give it to her, but let her know that she’s got to go down on you like she’s being graded. When you want it in the evening, she can be a lazybones and lie there. There’s a mindset out there that sex is a team effort and both partners have to give their all, all the time. Why? Who says? Give your partner permission to be a shitty lay when you want something outside normal business hours. It’s like ordering off the late-night menu — you may have wanted the chicken dinner, but if you’re hungry enough chicken fingers are also damn tasty.

Establish D-days, as in “Do It To Me and Quit Yer Complaining”: You get one day a week when you can solicit her for night sex. She gets the same, for mornings. You’re allowed to say no to the actual act if you’re not feeling it, but you have to engage in some sort of physical contact: a back-rub, spooning, kissing, fondling, etc. The goal is to get used to being sexual at off-peak hours, and it’s okay to take baby steps.

While it may be annoying in the boudoir, couples with mismatched body clocks can get along really well when cohabitating. Those extra hours while she’s in bed and you’re still up (or vice versa) are a great way to get in some alone time. It also comes in handy if you have a puppy or a baby.

Readers, how do you get busy with birds of a different feather? Has anyone ever been a committed morning or night person and then changed to keep the peace — or just get a piece?