My first semi-legit boyfriend was a year older than me and leaving for college while I was still a lowly high school senior. It was essentially over when he boarded the plane to Connecticut, but the first few school breaks bore strikingly few signs that anything had changed. Where I expected stilted awkwardness there was a normalcy that almost made me forget that I’d been kissing other boys and he’d probably been screwing everything that walked slow enough to be caught. We’d unwittingly invoked the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy, beloved by oft-separated couples everywhere: do what you like while apart and then act as though nothing happened when together.
Eventually, of course, we broke up because we were too far apart, I had grown taller than him and and we’d both moved on. But for a few months, Don’t Ask, Don’t tell was surprisingly useful and believable. Peripherally, we both knew that everything was different and a bit sloppier, but it didn’t so much matter as long as we neglected to say anything about it. I called it selective memory, my friends called it “deluded” and opinion on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell remains sharply divided. It worked out for me but it’s been suggested that’s only the case because I have “the emotional range of a snail.” (Thanks Mom.)
In an effort to put together slightly more empirical data on the merits and pit falls of extracurricular action while the boyfriend’s away, I’ve hit up some people who’ve had their way with others and then gone about their girlfriend/boyfriend business to see how it worked for them. Check out their answers after the jump and let us know if it’s worked–or failed miserably–for you in the comments.
“My college boyfriend and I tried the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy last summer. When we came back for the school year, I was all excited and he was all holding hands with another girl.” —Sarah
“‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the best thing I’ve ever done. I was totally free to do what I wanted while we were apart for a couple of months but never had to explain any of it when we got back together after the summer. That’s called a win-win situation.” —Laura
“My ex and I tried ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ while I was away in Italy for the summer. I think we were both just looking for an easy way out of a boring relationship. We broke up a couple weeks after I got back.” —Dan
“Ah yes, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ I’m participating in that right now. I love it.” —Sam
“I thought I could do ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, but I spent all of my time wondering what–and who–he was doing. I couldn’t get over it and it ruined the relationship.” —Jackie
“If you want to do things with other people in the first place, you’re probably screwed, no?” —Schruti