What should I say to my husband?

It turns out the woman he was cavorting with at Burning Man is a Vegas stripper.

Published September 6, 2006 11:00AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I have a bit of a strange tale to tell you. A year ago my husband and I went to Burning Man, the "great festival in the desert." To make a long story short, amid the 30,000 people, fun and games, I had a terrible week, and he had a wonderful one. While I was off getting myself deeper and deeper into confusion, he met and made friends with a woman, whom he spent every day with. It was Burning Man, this happens.

On returning we talked a lot about things, state of the union, so to say, and are pretty happy. We're pretty open-minded, we've been together through travels, deaths, 10 years of stuff. We're both atheists and pretty fun and easygoing. We get along well. We talk about things.

The trouble is that today, while looking for a ream of paper, I found a photo, yes, of the two of them. But ... not just of the two of them. The two of them dressed to the nines, in a hotel room, wearing masks on their heads as if they had just been to a masquerade or were heading off to one. At first I just took it in: ah, my husband holding another woman, a woman I know, but from where? I slowly tried to place the picture, sure that I had forgotten something as we don't really have a lot of secrets. It dawned on me that I had no idea where and when this was. It was like a made-up photo sent to confuse me. I guess that when you spend so much of your life with someone, you see them as you, your experiences as theirs. I expected me to be in the picture, or off to the side, or taking it.

So ... to make matters worse. I decided to look this woman up on the Net; a little Googling doesn't hurt, right? Here's where things get freaky. She's a stripper from Las Vegas who is part of a movement to encourage sexuality in everyday life. She belongs to a group of "infidels" who promote infidelity as a means to freedom of expression and, yes, sexuality. She believes in aliens.

Truthfully, I'm a little bit freaked out. At least he picked someone interesting. But what do I say to him? Hey, did you forget to tell me about that Vegas trip with the alien stripper?

Paranormal Paranoid

Dear Paranormal Paranoid,

Yes, asking your husband, What are you doing in this photo in the Vegas hotel room with the stripper who believes in aliens? is going to be a little delicate.

But it's one of those questions you have to ask.

You apparently have a pretty good relationship. You say you talk about things. So I think you ought to just sit down and talk about it like two rational beings.

That doesn't mean it won't be emotional. But first you just need to get the facts. Some people couldn't do that. Some people would have to scream and jump up and down first. But I think maybe you can do this. Get the facts. Then scream and jump up and down later.

There are the facts and then there's the way the facts fit your belief system. Maybe she changed his belief system. Maybe Burning Man changed his belief system.

Maybe he now believes that infidelity is a part of fidelity. You know, like yin and yang, like hunger and eating. Or maybe he doesn't believe in marriage at all anymore. Maybe Burning Man made him into a new man.

You just have to find out what's going on and figure out what to do about it.

Maybe your marriage can expand to contain or accommodate whatever this is. Or maybe it cannot. I don't know. All I can say with certainty is that you have to find out the truth.

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