“A Bintel Brief,” the Forward’s signature advice column, is now a podcast hosted by Ginna Green and Lynn Harris. Listen to the latest episode here (or wherever you get your podcasts), and click here to sign up for a weekly newsletter with backstories from the hosts. Need advice? Email email@example.com, or leave a voicemail at (201-) 540-9728.
A single friend of mine is on a Jewish dating site. He matched with my cousin’s wife. If they lived in San Francisco and had an open relationship — like some of my friends there do — that would be one thing. But this definitely feels off.
I’m very close to my cousin. Do I tell him that his wife is on a Jewish dating site, or do I assume he knows? Or does it not matter? Or should I keep my mouth shut?
And though my cousin, his wife, and my friend are all vaccinated, should COVID play any role in my decision-making?
Dear Family Affair,
There are a few layers in this letter. There is the super-macro layer of COVID, and then there is the issue of the wife’s apparent cheating playing out in public, for the world to see. And then there’s the actual affair itself — though what is at play for that marital relationship, you actually don’t know. Maybe they do have an open relationship and you just don’t know about it.
Honesty is important. Sitting on a secret can corrode a relationship. But we also have to consider privacy, which is somewhere in between — related, overlaid, or underneath the concepts of secrecy and honesty. So what are we entitled to within the realm of privacy? What does it mean to have a private life? And when does it become OK for someone to take information another person might have thought was private and share it with others?
Wrestling with this question means wrestling with not just monogamy and sex and fidelity — and we actually don’t know if any of those things are truly going on here. We actually don’t know if this is an experience that the couple is going through together, if this is just a digital flirtation, if the cousin’s wife ever acts on any of the matches or the dates or the possibilities — we don’t know exactly what’s happening.
But we do know that you feel a sense of obligation and feel as if it is important enough to ask the question to “A Bintel Brief.”
You’re probably concerned not only about whether your cousin knows what his wife is doing, but also, since the wife has a public-facing singles profile, you’re concerned on your cousin’s behalf about what other people might think. Maybe we should live in a world where everyone assumes the best of every relationship and every style of relationship. But we don’t live in that world right now.The fact that this is playing out publicly is what opens the opportunity for you to have a conversation, Family Affair.
You didn’t go sneak and read someone’s journal. You didn’t overhear a conversation that you shouldn’t have. You weren’t snooping; you came across this freely. It’s literally public information.
We suggest you start by talking to the wife. The cousin might already be aware — if this is their kink or something they’ve agreed upon, or if it’s something that they’re both into — but we don’t know that he knows. We know that the wife knows.
Get the facts from the wife first, and then decide from there whether to take it to your cousin.
You have feelings for your cousin; you love him, want him to be happy. You’re asking these questions out of love and affection.
You’re asking us about seeing your cousin’s wife on a Jewish dating site, but it’s way bigger than that. At the end of the day, at the bottom of this question is: What do we owe people? And do we owe different people different things? And how do we navigate what’s owed, what isn’t, what’s expected, what isn’t, and what we need from others to live in civil society? That’s what is really at the crux of this.
Tell the wife; respond further once you’ve given her a chance to react. Let us know how it goes.
To hear more of our advice to Family Affair, download the latest episode of “A Bintel Brief: The Jewish advice podcast” here or on any podcast platform. Send your dilemmas about Jewish-American life, identity, culture, politics or your personal hopes and dreams to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a voicemail at (201-) 540-9728.
Ginna Green is a co-host of the Forward’s “A Bintel Brief” podcast. “Born, raised and returned to South Carolina,” she is also a strategist, writer, movement-builder, and consultant at Uprise. She also sits on the boards of Bend the Arc, Women’s March, Political Research Associates, the Jews of Color Initiative, Jewish Story Partners and the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. Email: email@example.com.
Lynn Harris is co-host of the Forward’s “A Bintel Brief” podcast. A writer, activist and teacher, she founded GOLD Comedy, a school and community for girls and non-binary folks, and previously wrote advice columns for Breakup Girl, Glamour and several other print magazines of blessed memory. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My friend matched with my cousin’s wife on a dating app. Do I tell?