Auntie SparkNotes: I Think My Parents Are Swingers
I know you've addressed some topics like this before, but I've been very bothered by this problem. My mom and dad divorced when I was very young and now he's been remarried for about 3 years. As I am a technologically savvy and connected girl, I usually use my dad's computer when I'm at his house.
The first thing I discovered was an accident. I went onto e-mail, thinking it was logged into mine and saw mail in the spam folder. I saw explicit pictures of a woman who was not my step-mom and I was rather shocked (as in I ran around the empty house cursing). Obviously I hadn't realized that I was logged into my dad's e-mail account. The next thing I discovered was a collection of *ahem* adult movies in my dad's room. Ack. Finally I went on to his computer again at a later date and the screen that had been left up on the computer was for a swinger site. ACK! Now I'm forced to confront awful questions, such as: does my step-mom know/participate in this, and was this sort of thing the cause for my parents' original break-up? I don't know if I should bring it up, especially if it is a joint lifestyle of my dad and step-mom, but I'm still disturbed and I seriously can't look at them the same anymore.
Ah. Yes. You know how I so often warn you guys that snooping around for the dirty details of your parents' sex lives is a really bad idea? THIS. This is why. I just wish you would believe me!
And Sparkler, I must confess: the fact that you're even considering broaching this subject with your father makes me seriously concerned for your ability to understand and respect the reasonable boundaries of Other People's Affairs—and to recognize that you're already over that line by a mile without having said a word. I also won't even get into the question of what you could possibly be hoping to accomplish by bringing it up; all you need to know is that you won't accomplish anything good.
So don't. Seriously.
Now, with any ideas about confronting your father firmly off the table, let's talk about your problem—which is less about what your dad might or might not be doing in his private life, and more about the fact that you need to find a way, difficult as it may be, to leave that private life alone. Is your dad into pornography? Probably. Was this a factor in your parents' breakup many years ago? Maybe. Are he and your stepmom swingers? Possibly.
Does any of this make even the slightest bit of difference to you, your life, or your relationship with your father?
And it's important you realize that, Sparkler. Because though you haven't said so explicitly, you seem to believe that what you've found says something disturbing about your dad's character—and maybe your stepmom's, too. But, and I can't stress this strongly enough, it doesn't. The truth is, relationships are difficult and complicated, and the people in them have to find whatever way they can to make them work. Sometimes that means pornography. Sometimes that means non-monogamy. Sometimes that means dressing up in crotchless leiderhosen and pelting your spouse with sauerkraut on Sunday afternoons while your neighbors cheer you on. The point is: if it makes them both happy, and keeps the relationship healthy, then there's nothing immoral, gross, or bad about these things—and that's true even when the couple includes one or both of your parents.
Which is why, when you accidentally stumble or intentionally snoop your way into information you'd rather not have known, the correct and decent thing to do is to do your best to forget about it.
The good news, in your case, is that this will be easier than you think. Because in the end, all your "evidence" is nothing but speculation piled on assumption piled on a trail of internet breadcrumbs that could mean anything at all. Even people who've never sought out X-rated material online still get gross spammy porn in their inbox, and even people who don't participate in swinger culture might visit a website out of curiosity, and you should remind yourself of both these things the next time you find yourself thinking about this and going, "Ugghhhhh." Take comfort in the fact that you don't know the whole story—and then, make sure that you don't stumble onto any more of it by making sure your dad knows that you sometimes use his computer when you visit (so he can make sure to clear his history of anything he'd rather you not see), and closing any existing windows and starting a new session whenever you log on (so you can make sure not to "accidentally" snoop in his email, you sneaky minx).
And when you're tempted to be grossed out and disturbed by what you only think you know, remember what you actually know: that your dad loves you and enjoys your company, and that nothing matters more than that.
Have you ever uncovered something squicky about one of your parents? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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