Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

How Do I Talk To My Partner About My Sexual Fantasies?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve got an odd relationship problem that I feel awful about and could really use some guidance. 

I’ve been with my fiancé for a little over 3 years now. He’s my best friend and overall we have a really great relationship. Recently I’ve been finding myself less interested in the sexual aspect of our relationship and I find myself fantasizing  about the earlier part of our relationship. I think it’s because he was a virgin when we meet, and if I’m really being honest with myself I’m pretty sure I have a fetish for that. I should probably mention that I’ve dealt with sexual & emotional abuse in my previous relationship, so I’ve never really thought about what I’m into before because I never thought I could enjoy sex.

I’m afraid to bring this up with him because I don’t want to make him feel bad but I also want to have a healthy attitude towards sex and actually be able to enjoy it. If I do have a fetish is there a healthy way that I can enjoy that? I feel like asking him to role play being a nervous awkward virgin again would just be really uncomfortable for him.

So Confused

DEAR SO CONFUSED: First of all SC, I want to congratulate you on working through the trauma and fears that were inflicted on you from your previous relationship. Having the courage to work through the pain and realizing that you actually can enjoy sex and intimacy with a partner is huge, and you should be rightly proud of how much you’ve done and how far you’ve come.

So let’s talk about sex, fetishes, and how to talk to your partner about what you need.

First and foremost, getting an erotic charge about being the more experienced partner and teaching them about sex is fairly common. More often than not, the thrill comes from the eroticization of the differences in power; the more experienced partner tends to be the dominant role, taking control and guiding the less-experienced partner’s actions. This can hit a number of buttons: the thrill of being in charge of the situation, having control over somebody, being somebody’s first significant sex partner, the thrill of educating or “corrupting” an innocent, even the fantasy of molding someone so that they please you exactly the way that you need. In a lot of ways, this is very much the same dynamic as between a dominant and a submissive in a BDSM scene; one person is in charge and dictating the actions of the other. The difference is that instead of tying somebody up or disciplining them with impact play, it’s emotional and mental. You’re still in charge, but it’s closer to being a teacher/student; the desire to please and be pleased is still there.

And as with doms and subs, there are a number of ways that you can play with this dynamic; there’s the seduction of the innocent, the more experienced woman educating or initiating a shy but eager virgin who came for advice… the possibilities are really limited by your imagination and what gets your motor running.

Part of what can help you talk about this with your fiancé is to really dial into just what it is about the virginity aspect that turns you on. Is it about being in charge? Is it about flipping the (bulls--t) societal script about gender roles surrounding male and female sexuality? Is it an eroticization of the taboo, the idea of “taking advantage” of someone? The more you understand just what it is about this fantasy that works for you, the more you’ll be able to articulate it to your fiancé in ways that won’t sound like you’re telling him that you aren’t as into him now that he’s not a virgin any more. It may help to write it down; both the act of writing it out and seeing the words on paper may help you organize your thoughts in ways that just sitting there pondering it might not. Plus, writing it down serves as a form of rehearsal; this way you’re less likely to be nervous and garble your words, go blank or say it in ways that don’t convey what you actually mean. Having a script to refer to can help cut down on misunderstandings or trying to improvise in the moment and not being able to communicate things as clearly.

Once you feel like you’ve got a pretty good grasp on just what it is you like about those fantasies and how you could see them playing out, then it’s time to have an Awkward Conversation with your fiancé. It’s awkward, not because what you want is strange or outré or bad, but because it’s simply new and unusual for you, and you’re worried about how he might take things. Here’s how you structure it. First: you block out time for the two of you to talk, so that you won’t be interrupted or have to rush through it or leave things incomplete. Tell him: “Hey, I’ve had some ideas I’ve had about our sex-life; can we take a couple hours on Friday to talk about it?” Make it clear: this isn’t anything bad, there’s nothing wrong; quite the opposite really.

Then, when it’s time, let him know that you’re a little nervous, so you’d like to share your thoughts without being interrupted. Next: you let him know why you’re a bit nervous or hesitant to bring it up; in this case, because you’re worried that he might take it the wrong way or that you’re worried it might make him uncomfortable. Then you explain just what it was about the early days of your sex life that were so great — all of those reasons about why his being a virgin turned you on and why it gives you such a charge. After that you explain how you’d like to really lean into that turn-on: the kinds of fantasy or role-play that you two could do together that capture that dynamic. This wouldn’t be the only way you two have sex any more — even dedicated kinksters have sex the ol’ fashioned way — but it would add spice and excitement to things and keep things from falling into routine.

Now a thing that’s important is that you don’t want to roll this out to him as though it were a deep dark secret, or that this is some horrible thing that you need but you’re deeply ashamed of. You want to present it to him as this incredibly hot, exciting and sexy thing you want to do with him, this awesome new addition to your sex-life.

Then you say “… and how about you?” You give him his turn. Let him ask questions, see how he feels and even encourage him to share fantasies or desires he may have that he hasn’t mentioned yet. By modeling this behavior — talking about your needs, sharing your fantasies and encouraging open and clear communication — you’re encouraging a relationship dynamic that allows the two of you can talk openly and confidently about not just what you need from each other, but what you’d like to try together or things that he‘s fantasized about but may feel a little worried about telling you about.

He may need a little time to think about things — either to decide how he feels, or muster the courage to tell you what he wants. But by keeping the tone of conversation as “and here’s why this will be awesome!” and being open and non-judgmental, you’ll be creating a space for him to feel safe and empowered to share what he might want to try too. And not only will that help lead the two of you to have some awesome sexual adventures together, but it’ll help build the foundation for a long, happy and exciting relationship that will stand the test of time.

Good luck

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Recently I met a young lady through a dating app. We have a lot in common and after a bit of talking and flirting we met up to have a responsible social distance date. It went well and we had a couple more and have hung out a couple of times.

I like her (obviously), but after spending time with her in person I find myself not romantically attracted to her, while she is seems interested in me that way. We haven’t been physical, just good times enjoying each other’s company.

My question is this: how do I let her down easy without killing our friendship?


Trying Not to be Shawn Michaels

DEAR TRYING NOT TO BE SHAWN MICHAELS: Serious question, TNTBSM: has she actually said or done anything to make you think that she’s interested in being more than friends? Has she, for example, talked about the possibility of you two getting physical, or floated the idea of ways that maybe you could have a slightly less distanced get-together? Or is this more of a (completely understandable) free-floating anxiety, a fear of hurting someone who you are coming to like as a friend?

I’m a big fan of not borrowing trouble from the future, especially if there’s no reason to believe that there will be trouble in the future. If the two of you are just having a good time hanging out and nobody has started making comments about being more than friends, then I think having a “So just so you know, I don’t want to date you” sort of conversation is going to feel like it came out of left field.

Now, if she has given indications that she wants more than friendship… well, that’s where things get tricky. As More Adventurous Than He Thinks above can tell you: there really isn’t a way to say “I like you, just not the way you want me to” that doesn’t sting. But at the same time, letting someone believe there’s a chance for more when there isn’t is unnecessarily cruel, even if it’s in the name of trying to avoid causing pain with an awkward conversation.

If you’re legitimately interested in hanging out as friends, I don’t know if there’s a need for a preemptive “let’s just be friends” speech. But if she does decide to call the question, then the answer is to be gentle and be honest. You really like her, you enjoy hanging out with her, you’re glad you two have met and become friends, but you simply don’t feel the same way. I would also suggest that you let her know: you sincerely want to stay friends, but if that doesn’t work for her, you understand. Giving someone permission (as it were) to take care of themselves can sound weird and presumptive, but telling her you want her to prioritize her own emotional well-being is a kindness. Sometimes people — guys, gals and non-binary pals — need to be reminded that it’s ok to take a little time to feel your feels when you’ve been turned down, instead of trying to immediately shift to a platonic friendship without pausing to acknowledge that it kinda sucks.

That is, of course, assuming that the issue ever comes up. It’s entirely possible that she’s on the same page as you and thinks that you are hoping for something more. And while I’m a big fan of using your words… a lot of times, if nobody actually makes a move to take things romantic, things tend to settle into the friendship it was always meant to be. And who knows; maybe down the line, you two will talk about how you all met and laugh about the fact that you were both convinced that the other had a huge crush.

Good luck.

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