Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I could really use some smart advice right now! For most of my life, I’ve only been with one man. He’s good-looking, has a great job, my friends and parents like him, and most importantly, he genuinely loves and cares for me. I never questioned being together but quite randomly after many years, I started wondering if there was more to life. I started getting antsy and wondering what dating other men would be like, and I also really wanted to explore kinkier sex like BDSM and toys (to which he is strongly disinclined). So I left… in search of meeting new people who are more sexually open-minded and simultaneously getting some brand new dating experiences under my belt. So far, I’m meeting many nice gentlemen and enjoying the tension flirting a lot, along with exploring this sort of caged sexual energy (this I’m really enjoying).
However, the issue is, it’s difficult not to draw a comparison back to my ex each time. Either I feel lukewarm about these guys, or if I really start to like someone I feel like they would never love me back the way my ex did. I’m scared I made a huge mistake, and that I shouldn’t have tossed years of love and loyalty over monotony and vanilla sex. I think about how we could build a very steady, loving, PG-13 life together which might be better for me than going out in search of adventure and wilding out.
Do you have any advice for me? I’m really not sure what’s the right thing to do.
Sexual satisfaction and sexual compatibility are incredibly important to a relationship’s success, PP and from the sounds of things you weren’t enjoying either. As much as someone may be perfect in every which way but one, that one can very easily be the thing that sinks a relationship… and when that one thing is sex, you can expect a whole lot of cultural push-back. We live in a culture that teaches us that sex is unimportant until it suddenly is… like when someone who is in a relationship is realizing that his or her sexual needs aren’t being met and wants to break up because of it. You’re kinky and wanted to explore that side of you… and your ex didn’t. If you weren’t able to come up with some sort of compromise, then your relationship was going to explode on it’s own at some point. Either you would’ve had an affair – which, let’s be honest, would be the emotional equivalent of slamming your hand down on the Relationship Self-Destruct Button – or you would’ve broken up anyway. I hate to dip into Don Henly songs, but sometimes love just ain’t enough.
(As a total aside: I have a pet-peeve of calling non-kinky sex vanilla. The connotation that standard sex is boring and lesser than kink, which is pretty insulting to people who aren’t kinky. Calling kinksters deviant or freaks isn’t cool; neither is inherently insulting non-kinksters. I’d love to see a new term that isn’t inherently divisive or insulting. Suggestions in the comments.)
Now I think you have two problems here. The first is that you’ve bought into the sex-negative narrative that sex is less important than just about every other aspect of a relationship. As a result, you’re beating yourself up for having ended a relationship for sex – as though this is some minor thing, that your need for sexual fulfillment is unimportant and you’re selfish for wanting it. As though you’re a bad person for being kinky and you’re doing something damaging to yourself As though your sexuality isn’t an important part of your life and identity, but something you can just, I dunno, wish into the fucking cornfield where you’ll never have to deal with it again and enjoy basic missionary sex for the rest of your life like a good little wife.
Bullshit.That’s not how sexuality works. If you weren’t able to find some sort of compromise with your partner… well, yeah, you were basically going to be in a relationship with a loving supporting guy where you were fucking miserable. How, exactly, is this better for you?
The other problem is that you’ve given yourself a false dichotomy, where you can have either a steady, loving relationship or crazy kinky sex. Being in a loving relationship doesn’t mean that it’s strictly boring, PG-13 sex no does having crazy sexy adventures and experimentation means forgoing a significant other. There’s nothing stopping you from being super-kinky adventuress within a monogamous relationship. You can be in a steady and loving relationship that has a compromise allowing you to get your needs met elsewhere – taking part in the BDSM community, for example – if your partner isn’t up for it. You can be in a loving and supportive open relationship, a polyamorous one… honestly, the sky is the limit. You and your partner (or partners) are allowed to make the rules for how your relationship works.
Here’s what’s going on: you’re becoming your authentic self. You’ve found a side to yourself that you never knew was there but had been there all that time. You now know who you are and what you need far better and more intimately than you did before. Let go of the guilt that’s telling you you’re a bad person for wanting the sex you want; that’s just the voice of your jerk-brain fucking with you, the sound of a culture that insists that non-standard sex is bad and women aren’t allowed to own their own sexuality. Find yourself a partner (or partners) who is loving and wonderful but is also sexually compatible with you whether he’s GGG in indulging your kinks or lets you fulfill the ones he can’t meet.
Hello, Dr.NerdLove. I’ve been following your website since it’s inception and have been listening to your advice since you started on the LEOG.
But I am emailing about my best friend who is having problems with his relationship. I’ve been trying to give him advice the best I could but I’m lost here so I thought you could help.
Some back story, my friend, let’s call him, Bruno, has been seeing this one girl for a while now. Based on what he’s told me the relationship been going okay.That is until now. The relationship has been causing a strain on him. The girlfriend hasn’t been respecting his feeling about certain things, she’s been sending nearly nude,teasing pictures of herself to her ex-boyfriend,and even admitted to my friend Bruno that she loves both him and her ex.
Basically, she’s been exhibiting behavior that has caused my friend not to trust her and fear that she may be cheating on him with her ex (she assures him she’s not). This has caused Bruno to feel, anxious, stressed, and he could not sleep for a while because of this.
What’s your take on the situation? What should he do? He knows he has to break up with her but he loves her too much. If you happen to read this thank you and keep on helping them nerds get the girl.
Friend Of A Friend
I’m not entirely sure why you’re writing to me about this. The answer is glaringly obvious: to steal a line from Dan Savage, Bruno needs to DTMFA. Like, yesterday. There’s really no question; everything about the way he describes her behavior is telling him that she doesn’t care about him, doesn’t respect him and doesn’t care about the damage she’s doing to somebody she supposedly loves.Even if she’s not actually fucking her ex, she’s still causing Bruno some serious distress by continuing to flirt and send sexy pictures to him; I might not call this cheating per se, but I would call it supremely shitty behavior.
The thing is though: Bruno seems unwilling to actually do something about it. He knows she’s acting like this, but either he’s not said anything to her – which just means it’s going to continue – or he has confronted her and absolutely nothing has changed, which means that she doesn’t care. Either way, Bruno’s showing that he isn’t willing to enforce his boundaries; as a result, he’s stuck in a relationship with an incredibly toxic person who is just riding roughshod over his heart. And one major part of enforcing boundaries is being unwilling to put up with that shit. If she’s not going to change her behavior – and it sounds like she isn’t going to – then the best thing he can do is refuse to be part of it and get the fuck out already.
OK, so he says he loves her. Fine. Then Bruno has to ask himself why he loves someone who is treating him like shit. Time for your buddy to get the fuck out and learn to establish some firm boundaries or he’s going to find himself right back in the same situation with somebody else.
Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I am feeling really stuck in my marriage. I love my husband, and I don’t want to lose him, leave him, or hurt him. He’s a great, sweet guy and I love making my home with him. The problem I’m having is that our sex life is meh. The sex we have is usually pretty good, and we’re not having a frightening lack of it, but I just…need more. I’m a lot kinkier than my husband, and he’s been willing to try a few things, but most of the time I feel a little like I’m settling.
The other thing I’ve been regretting is that I never had a sexual relationship before I met my husband. I was raised by a very conservative family and I was sexually abused by family members, so it took me a long time to trust someone enough to be intimate with them. I wish I had more experience.
My husband and I have talked about me having affairs- I’ve talked to him about wanting the more experience, less the lack of satisfaction with him- and he’s said he’s ok with me having no-emotions-attached sex with girls (I’m bi) but he doesn’t like the idea of me being with guys. Unfortunately I attract more guys, but that all fell by the wayside when, after coming to this decision, my husband and I began fighting a lot and he became very depressed. I told him I was putting off getting with anyone else till things get better. We’re trying to find him a therapist, but we’ve had some insurance issues and having found anyone yet.
I find myself, especially with the added pressure taking care of my husband, desperately wanting to start an affair. There’s a guy at my school who seems interested in a no strings attached thing…I know that would mess so much up, but I can’t keep going the way I am. There’s too much going on and I can’t figure out the next step and I just want to forget myself. Do you have any help you can give me? I feel like I can’t talk about any of this to friends.
Desperate Housewife, meet Pterrified Pterodactyl. I think the two of you have a lot in common.
First of all: you need to forgive yourself for having not had more experience. You’ve had an incredibly hard life growing up and it’s taken you a long time to heal and learn to trust again. The fact that you did is something to be proud of; you’ve shown that you’re an incredibly strong person. Recognize that you had to come a long damn way to get where you are today and you weren’t in a position to have happy, healthy relationships until now.
Now, here’s my first question for you: when you say your husband is willing to try a few things, is he actually going into this with actual enthusiasm and a willingness to try something new because he knows you’re super-into it and he wants to please you? Or is he giving a half-assed attempt that signals he’s totally not into this and he’d rather be doing anything else? The former is the sign of a loving and supportive husband; the latter is actually surprisingly damaging. Having someone who supposedly loves you and cares about you treating your desires and needs like an inconvenience and giving the bare minimum effort can feel like a kick in the guts and leave you feeling like you’re a horrible person for wanting the things that turn your crank.
This answer is going to make a big difference in what I tell you to do. There is a certain level of settling in any relationship; nobody gets everything you want, so settling down usually means settling for. You get the 75% and round it up to 100% because the 75% you get is just worth the price of entry of missing out on the other 25%. But sometimes you end up giving up the wrong 25%… and that sounds like some of what’s going on here.
It’s good that you and your husband are talking about possibly opening things up. People in relationships should always be able to talk about options, even if sometimes they’re options that just won’t work out; letting your partner know that you’re acknowledging his or her wants and desires and trying to find some sort of compromise is a huge part of satisfaction in a relationship. If he’s legitimately OK with a more monogamish relationship, then I’d suggest you both read Tristan Tamorino’s Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. It focuses primarily on polyamorous relationships, but it has a lot of advice for the more monogamish options as well.
That being said… I’m not entirely sure he’s actually cool about it. I think he tossed out the possibility of your hooking up with women as a sop to you with the idea that you’ll never actually do it. It’d be one thing if this was a compromise he could live with – he clearly feels that women would be less threatening to the relationship – but I suspect he did so under the assumption that you weren’t actually going to be able to fulfill the requirements. Moreover, I suspect that if you ever did arrange something with a woman, he’d freak out. As it is: as soon as you’ve made this arrangement, the conflict has only increased and now he’s feeling depressed… correlation isn’t causation, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I think that the two are connected. I’m not saying he’s faking it, but I do think this is a sign that he’s not actually cool with opening things up at all… which means you’re going to have to have some more conversations about the matter.
If we give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s not agreeing in bad faith, then it’s good that you’re putting things on hold. If you’re trying to make this relationship work, then it has to be your priority, and putting your exploration on hold until your relationship is on stronger footing is the best thing you can do. Regardless, I think besides helping him find a therapist, you should try finding a sex-positive, kink-aware relationship counselor to see if there’s some way of finding a compromise that works for both of you; the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom has a list of kink-aware professionals and your local Planned Parenthood might also be able to give you a referral.
All that being said: don’t sleep with this classmate of yours. I don’t think that all affairs are relationship-ending events but under the circumstances, this one definitely will be. And it will be ugly, causing your marriage to blow up in a spectacular and messy fashion, hurting you both far more than either of you deserve and leaving you feeling even more like shit. It may well come down to realizing that, like Pterrified, there’s no future to this relationship, and you’ll have to end it. If so, then it’s better to end it cleanly and calmly, instead of injecting needless drama. Fucking this guy right now is going to be slamming your fist down on the self-destruct button, and if you’ve decided you want to end things then there are less painful, less dramatic ways of doing it that won’t cause undue harm all around.
You’re in a tough place right now, DH, and I wish I had some easy answers for you, but unfortunately I don’t. All I can say is that you’ve show you’re incredibly strong; you’ve got the power to get through this, no matter what you ultimately decide is the right course for you.