I really hope you can help me, because I'm starting to feel totally crazy. I have a boyfriend who is an all-star flirt. I know what you're thinking: flirting is healthy and fun. And if you are thinking that, I totally agree with you. I love a playful rapport in my relationships, and being bisexual, it does excite me to be involved in these connections or watch them go down. It's nice to have a partner whom people find sexy and attractive and it's fun to be part of a flirty couple.
The problem is, a lot of the time I feel my boyfriend goes too far. It almost seems like a compulsion for him, to have everyone think that maybe, just maybe, he's going to fuck them.
At a social gatherings, often several ladies are giving me massive shade because, presumably, I'm the one standing in the way of them and Mr. Hot Action Jackson. He's someone who has a lot of female friends, and while this was something I respected so much about him when we met, it has become a source of conflict because they always seem to have to have some flirtatious quality.
To be honest, I would almost prefer they actually did have sex and got it over with than to be perceived as this mopey slag standing in the way of their smouldering chemistry. The worst part of all is that I'm actually a pretty social, friendly and flirty person myself. Now I'm feeling like a shrew all the time.
I've talked to my boyfriend about this, and he always shuts me down, tells me I'm jealous and that he can't go anywhere with me without my ruining the fun and making people uncomfortable. I'm feeling really low. What should I do?
Can I first suggest that you not address this problem by getting very, very drunk and doing lots and lots of drugs to make sharing space with your boyfriend while he's fostering these emotionally precarious dynamics tolerable? Because that always ends miserably, doesn't it, with you saying things that make you feel so small and stupid, by extension providing your boyfriend with legitimate reason to carry on with his chicanery (as in of course he's flirting with everyone - he needs some respite, also known as Gena Rowlands in Opening Night, for chrisssake)?
I know it's tempting, but try to resist upping the ante. You don't want to go careening down that slippery slope with a broken heel, smeared lipstick and a skid mark up the back of your panties, let me tell you. If you haven't seen Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf yet, I suggest you do so for an unembroidered look at how this game can end. Or more appropriately, not end. Ever.
The real and truly hurtful problem with all this is that you never actually end up having a relationship because the needle is always skipping at this point in the record. You are forever apologizing for/making up for your own pathetic and repugnant behaviour because you are always reacting to situations that are emotionally charged for you. You dread going out with your boyfriend because you know that every social exchange might end in hostility.
You dread seeing certain people your boyfriend has been toying with, and you are often forced to prostrate yourself to these people because of your ostensibly unreasonable behaviour. Everyone becomes a possible nemesis. The once fun, flirty and open you has become a trembling, cross-eyed harridan.
Ask yourself this: am I in this relationship because I love this person or because I'm trying to recover my dignity and prove that I'm worth being with? Whatever the case (and probably it's a little of both), you do have some agency and responsibility in all of this. And you may end up simply acknowledging that this fellow may not be the partner for you. Maybe you're just not meant to be the fall girl for someone who enjoys this kind of attention and drama.
My wife of 17 years has recently opened up to the possibility that she might be interested in sleeping with women. Before you start judging me for being a horndog, let me tell you that I am one of the three men in the world who doesn't find this possibility exciting. I am not turned on by girl-on-girl exchanges in porn; in fact, despite my clear heterosexuality in my "real" life, I spend some time jacking off to male-on-male porn. I've been reading your column for years and have noted you often talk about lesbians who like to watch gay male porn. Perhaps I'm a lesbian trapped in a man's body, and I don't like the idea of my wife being with other women because it threatens me.
Still, we've been together long enough that the idea of any sex, even if I'm not there to witness or participate, feels like a good idea. We've reached something of a crossroads with each other, though we are fairly generous when the need comes up. Louis CK's World's Saddest Handjob doesn't seem to be looming on our horizon, but our sex doesn't set the sheets on fire like it used to. The commitment we once made to each other seems a charming and idealistic notion, though we are still great companions. Nobody makes me laugh like she does, and vice versa. So what now?
When we don't like the idea of our partners being with someone else, what are the feelings that are speaking to us directly? On my end, I find the crisp technicolour, Dolby and smellovision mental images of my lover engaged in the same can't-keep-my-hands-off-you bodice-ripping em-braces I once shared with them utterly demoralizing.
We understand that our relationship has changed, but actually confronting that reality is an adventure in ego-bashing we did not anticipate or, frankly, feel that we deserved. Being with someone we're supposed to be fucking who now wants to fuck other people the way they fucked us? And still being in a relationship with them and supporting them through this exciting personal change? Fucking amazing!
The books on non-monogamy call this phase NRE, new relationship energy. I like to call it "no real esteem" (for anyone but them). You know how annoying it is when one of your friends gets involved with someone and has to make out and practically screw in front of everyone all the time? Bad enough, but now it's your partner. Suddenly, there's a teen-ager in your house swanning around singing off-key selections from Alicia Keys's Songs In A Minor and, oh my god, did they trim their bush? When was the last time they did that for you?
Asking someone to be respectful during this time is a little like trying to get a 14-year old boy to stop touching his penis. But there it is, Augustine, the beautiful, horrible truth: you got involved with someone, and now things have changed. Brace yourselves. Be humble. Prepare to be even more humble. Remember your sense of humour. It will often be your greatest ally.