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.
DEAR PTERRIFIED PTERODACTYL: Sexual satisfaction and sexual compatibility are incredibly important to a relationship’s success, PP. 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 Henley songs, but sometimes love just ain’t enough.
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 damn 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.
Nah, screw that. 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 f
king 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, nor 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 messing 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.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a question 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.
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 feelings 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.
Friend In Need
DEAR FRIEND IN NEED: The answer is glaringly obvious: Bruno needs to dump this woman so hard her grandparents divorce retroactively. 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 sleeping with her ex, she’s still causing Bruno some serious pain by continuing to flirt and send him sexy pictures. It’d be one thing if Bruno was ok with it — hey, some dudes are cool with that — but he’s not. It’s hurting him. Badly. That’s unacceptable, full stop.
The thing is though: Bruno seems unwilling to actually DO something about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming him for her actions. But there comes a point where he needs to quit complaining and actually step up if he wants things to change.
Either he hasn’t 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 inaction is a sign 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.
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 take off like all of hell and half of Hoboken was after him.
OK, so he says he loves her. Fine. Then Bruno has to ask himself WHY he loves someone who is treating him like garbage. Time for your buddy to peace out, cub scout, and learn to establish some firm boundaries or he’s going to find himself right back in the same situation with somebody else.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)