Dear Rachel,

I resent the term “cougar” for an older woman who dates a younger man. Yes, my boyfriend is younger, but call me crazy for not wanting to be nicknamed after a deadly predator. Men routinely date younger women — it’s almost expected — and do they get a special, derogatory name? No. They’re just called “men” and considered lucky by their friends. Some women think it’s a compliment to be called a cougar, as if it implies that they’re hot for their age or something. I’m sorry, but the title cougar makes me feel insulted, not hot. Do you agree or am I being overly sensitive?

Signed, Don’t Call Me A Cougar

Dear Don’t Call Me A Cougar,

I hear you, sister! Of course it’s a double standard that women get a predatory nickname for behaving as men have for ages. Sexism is still alive and well in our society. How many Hollywood movies depict actors in their 50s romancing 20-something love interests? But since we’re speaking of Hollywood, if you have to be called a cougar, at least you’re in good company with hot actresses like Demi Moore, Eva Longoria Parker and Courteney Cox Arquette. Not too shabby at all. Add to that, you’re on the forefront of dating history, in a time when a significant percentage of young men are evolved enough to value the intelligence and life-experience that come with dating a more mature woman. There may be hope for our society yet!

So, should you correct every person who utters the dreaded term? That’s up to you. I personally wouldn’t waste my time, but if the urge strikes you, politely inform them that you’re not a fan of the word. Overstating your point, however, may send the wrong message — that you’re insecure about your situation, in a “The lady doth protest too much” kind of way. So if being called a cougar bothers you because you fear there’s some truth to it, give yourself a break. It’s completely natural to internalize society’s biases. But remember this — your boyfriend and I agree that you are not a predatory animal, so give yourself time to get used to the idea of dating a younger man. Once you do, you may feel less insulted by other people’s ignorant comments. Unfortunately, there are a lot of insensitive people in the world. Pick your battles and tune out the rest.

Dear Rachel,

I recently found out that my fiancée has been (how can I say this delicately?) “fooling around” with her female friends behind my back. They call it “female love.” I call it cheating. I know some guys would probably be stoked to know that their girl was into other women, but I’m not one of those guys. How would my fiancée feel if I were fooling around with my male buddies? She says she didn’t think she was cheating because it was with women, but she kept it a secret from me because she knew I wouldn’t approve. She says she’ll never do it again. Should I trust her to be faithful in the future?

Signed, Deceived

Dear Deceived,

Infidelity and untrustworthiness are two red flags that indicate incompatibility between you and your fiancée. I recommend putting your wedding plans on ice until you thoroughly investigate these worrisome issues. The two of you appear to have different values, which could be the ultimate deal-breaker for your relationship. If this is the case, thank your lucky stars that you’re finding out now, rather than after you say, “I do.”

You may not know your fiancée as well as you thought you did. So in the interest of getting to know her better, here are some examples of questions to ask her before you resume your relationship:

Since she has already snuck around behind your back once, is she capable of doing it again? Is she capable of a committed, monogamous relationship? What does monogamy mean to her? Is she generally interested in other women, or was this an isolated case of exploring her wild side? Who or what does she plan to explore next?

Basically, you need to determine whether this behavior was an isolated event or if it’s indicative of her nature to do sneaky things behind your back. If it’s the latter, I would definitely end the relationship. Otherwise, it may be “female love” this time and something else the next time. You don’t want to live in a state of suspicion; you want a partner who operates from a moral compass that’s compatible with your own.

One way or another, the bond of trust needs to be repaired between you and your fiancée if you plan to build a healthy relationship. If your fiancée is willing to work with you, could you forgive her without resentment? So far, your fiancée’s behavior does not indicate that she’s ready for a committed, lifelong relationship. Pre-marital counseling may help you decide whether this relationship is worth salvaging.

Rachel Iverson is a freelance writer, dating coach and author, who lives with her husband in Venice Beach. Her book, “Don’t Help A Man Be A Man: How To Avoid 12 Dating Time Bombs,” has been endorsed by Dr. John Gray, author of “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” For more information on Rachel or her book, visit www.rebelgirlpublishing.com. For dating advice, contact: rachel@rebelgirlpublishing.com.

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