Boyfriend has fat fetish and monogamy issues - how to deal with it?
March 1, 2010 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Boyfriend has fat fetish and monogamy issues. How to deal with it?

I've been in a serious monogamous relationship with my boyfriend for a couple of years. A number of months ago, several things were revealed to me - he had conducted what amounted to a more-than-friendship/not quite emotional affair with someone, which he later sheepishly admitted was mostly because of her weight. He had alluded to being attracted to heavy girls, thick thighs, etc. previously but had not done anything. I was initially devastated but was reassured throughout that he still loved me; eventually, he admitted that the incident had very little to do with the person in question but had more to do with his attraction to the general figure. (I initially had a hard time believing this, as she is strikingly attractive. Also, they are essentially coworkers, so he still sees her on a regular basis.) However, after some drawn-out confessions, I now believe him. He was very embarrassed when admitting this attraction to me. Additionally, several months earlier he had kissed a friend, a relationship he quickly cut off and which was also somewhat related to her weight.

We have since discussed both of these incidents. He has expressed a lot of regret for his actions and has basically explained it as this: he was so secure in his relationship to me and the security of our future together that he thought it was "okay" for him to pursue these other things, because we would ultimately still be the most important ones in each other's lives. This nearly caused us to break up but because of the ensuing discussions, I think we are stronger for it and more committed to our relationship. He has renounced past behavior and, as part of the renewal process, truly disclosed everything - any e-mails, texts, other contact he has had with these people, something he had a problem doing before. We live together and I have essentially had free rein to his e-mail account, something he encouraged to indicate his change of heart. I do believe he has been completely open to me since and I am not concerned about any sincerity in commitment on his part.

However... he is still sexually attracted to overweight female figures. In the past we had discussed the possibility of an open relationship, but I've realized that although I can rationalize the benefits of it, I still feel emotionally uncomfortable with the idea. The previous incidents clearly confirmed this, as I was very hurt by the idea of him with other women. He has stated that he does not feel the same way about the idea of me with other men; in fact, it's a possibility he finds exciting. I think part of this is because I still have difficulty disengaging sex with emotional attachment, and he does not. However, as someone who reads Savage Love regularly, I want to be open to exploring his fetishes, and since I can't fulfill those personally, I wonder if I should be more open to him fulfilling them with other people. (I am not overweight, btw.) But on a gut level the idea distresses me greatly, and I really do not want it to happen. Currently, he is definitely committed to monogamy, because he knows it is what I want. At the same time - he has confirmed this - it's the kind of fetish that will not go away and although he has used Internet sites and such, it's still a very strong urge. We have tried looking at this kind of porn/material together a couple times and although he is clearly aroused by it, I find myself at a loss and kind of turned off.

How do we reconcile this? Can we? I am concerned this is one of those situations where one partner is committed to monogamy and the other is not, and it means one person has to ultimately compromise. Also, I know there is a stigma associated with his fetish; I don't know if it's the kind of thing I should really try to fulfill or to just say "some things should remain fantasies, especially in the context of a committed long-term relationship where the other partner is not comfortable with an open relationship." However, I have to say, I don't know if it's me who should get over this "hang-up" with monogamy; I think if I explored the boundaries of our relationship first I would be more comfortable with him doing so. We are both fairly young. Also, to clarify: we both want to make this work. He will be reading these responses too.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
But on a gut level the idea distresses me greatly, and I really do not want it to happen.

So...given the information above, why aren't you listening to your gut? I think you're getting his fetish issues confused with his monogamy issues. What's okay with YOU?
posted by mynameisluka at 6:43 PM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

one partner is committed to monogamy and the other is not, and it means one person has to ultimately compromise.

Yeeahhhh. This does not work.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:46 PM on March 1, 2010 [7 favorites]

You are totally in the right here. Your sexual and romantic preferences are just as valid as his; if you're not into looking at naked obese women, don't do it. If you want monogamy (short-term or long-term), or are unsure whether monogamy is the only situation you would enjoy but are not ready to commit to exploring, or just don't want to deal with all that hassle, that's fine. You would probably be happier dating someone else with sexual preferences closer to your own. Your boyfriend would probably be happier dating one or more overweight persons.

There are plenty of ways both of you can pursue your interests, there are few or none that involve remaining a couple. You're young. You have the rest of your lives to find someone with whom to pursue mutual incompatibility and quiet resentment.

Note: that last sentence was in jest. Things will work out just fine, but you may need to meet many new people before that happens.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:47 PM on March 1, 2010 [7 favorites]

My first instinct is to encourage you to try it: after all, you may find that the reality of the situation is not as upsetting or scary as you originally thought & hey, it might be kind of fun after all!

My first instinct is probably wrong, at least right now. I believe you need to think about why monogamy is so important to your emotional well-being, and if that is something that you can find comfort in otherwise. As in, are you afraid that he will become less attracted to you in that situation? Tell him, "[Boyfriend], I need you to know that I'm afraid you'll be less attracted to me in this situation; can you make an effort to reassure me?" and then suggest whatever he could do to reassure you, such as agreeing to have more sex inside than outside the relationship, or for you to have veto power (within reason, of course) over his potential date nights.

Same logic applies to other reasons why monogamy is what you need--or merely want--right now. Decide which applies, and work from there.
posted by opossumnus at 6:51 PM on March 1, 2010

--Fetishes are okay, but it works best when both partners are into it. That's not what we have here so let's move along.

--There is very little stigma here. Sure, fetishes are weird, that's what makes them fetishes; as far as fetishes go, a fat fetish is kinda like a big breast fetish. Lots of people out there who can fulfill it for him, and it's relatively common. He can go to a normal bar and find a woman who really does it for him. My question is: if it's a fetish, can he get it up with you/get off when you're together? Does he have to fantasize about bigger women? If not, is it more like a familiar fantasy than a fetish? If it is a fetish and he needs it to get off, where do you fit in?

--Some people don't seem to have a monogamy gene. Aren't particularly jealous, don't really "get" monogamy. Maybe that's your boyfriend, maybe not. The best way to handle that situation is a happily open/polyamorus relationship. Meaning, everyone is very happy with non-monogamy, comfortable, able to love and trust each other, good at communicating, secure. His prior actions have really jacked a lot of that up for you, unfortunately for both of you. If you want more info about this memail me.

--You want to go date people before letting him go date people? I'm not sure what the benefit would be unless you really do want to date outside the relationship. It doesn't seem like that would be easy for you from what you write. Emotionally, you find it difficult to detatch emotions from sex, and it seems like you are only able to experience those emotions with one person. What will be the emotional result of you finding someone else? Will you fall for him and if so, will you move on from your current relationship? Nothing wrong with that. Are you hoping that will happen? That's cool, too.

--Just on a practical level, open relationships can be hard work. Remember dating? It's like that, but you have a responsibility to your boyfriend as well, can't bring anyone back to your place, can't schedule dates on Movie Night, can't take him to the restaurant where you and your boyfriend had your first date. Etc.

--Take what you can get from this, because I don't know what your situation is like and it's a complicated question, but here is what I would do in your shoes (although I'm much more like your boyfriend):

I would give him the biggest hug, I would tell him how much I love him and want him to be happy, and I would let him go.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:51 PM on March 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

he was so secure in his relationship to me and the security of our future together that he thought it was "okay" for him to pursue these other things

That is bullshit, and you know it, right? He was so secure in your relationship that rather than talk to you about these things he was sure you'd be ok with, he went behind your back and cheated? Your problem is not that he likes babies who've got back, it's that he's cheated on you twice, made excuses, and wants to keep seeing other people in the future. And past behavior indicates that if you don't "compromise" with an open relationship, he'll go back to cheating. It's not like a new email address is hard to get. Him letting you have access to the one you know about is hardly the mark of probity you seem to think it is.
posted by MsMolly at 6:53 PM on March 1, 2010 [59 favorites]

I don't have specific advice for your situation, but I think you should stop considering monogamy a "hang-up." It's not any more of a hang-up than being non-mongamous; some people are built differently. Some people are different in different relationships. An open relationship is not "better" than a monogamous relationship, which is not "better" than a non-monogamous relationship.

If you do choose - both of you - to explore non-monogamy, it is critical that you talk. I direct this more at him than you, but no more assuming that since your feelings are so strong and secure you can do what you want without talking to the other person first. This is a no-no. Good luck.
posted by rtha at 6:54 PM on March 1, 2010 [7 favorites]

--Just on a practical level, open relationships can be hard work. Remember dating? It's like that, but you have a responsibility to your boyfriend as well, can't bring anyone back to your place, can't schedule dates on Movie Night, can't take him to the restaurant where you and your boyfriend had your first date. Etc.

I can't overstate this enough. What if a mutual friend sees you on a date with someone else? Sees him on a date with someone else? What about your boss? The barista at Starbucks who knows you are dating someone else (it happened to me!)? To them it looks like you're cheating.

In order to counter that perception, are you okay with your open relationship being "out"? Are you okay being the person whose boyfriend dates women on the side, all of whom happen to be a lot bigger than you?

There are a million and one practical difficulties here, depending on your community, social circle, mutual friends, etc. There's a lot more to think about when you're dating in an open relatinoship than there is when you're single.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:57 PM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't know the solution to this. But--

I think it's great that you are a person who cares about her partner's happiness and makes a good-faith effort to satisfy him.

But I think you've gone so far in wanting to be accepting and accommodating and open that you've totally flipped the script here.

It seems like you've done a 180 in a bad way, where now YOUR desires (monogamy, etc.) are simply irrational immature "hang-ups" as you called them that you just have to get over.

No. If you guys are ever going to resolve this well, I think you both have to commit yourselves to the idea that both of your preferences have exactly equal importance. Neither of them deserves to be disparages as something pathological, or a "difficulty" that should just be gotten over. Find a win-win situation. If you can't do that and the only "solution" involves you or him squelching part of yourselves that's really not happy to convince yourselves you're okay with something you think you should be okay with- at that point, you guys just might not be compatible.

P.S. I think a lot of Dan Savage's ideas about sex are extreeeemely male-normative, and to be perfectly frank, I think it's because he has never had to maintain a healthy romantic relationship with a woman and keep a woman sexually&emotionally happy.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:04 PM on March 1, 2010 [27 favorites]

If it were really just a fetish, he could subscribe to magazines and look at web porn that caters to his fetish. He was in a loving, accepting relationship and yet rather than opening up to you about his interests, he went after another woman. And now you seem to feel that you have to change yourself or change what you value in this relationship to measure up.

He needs to regain your trust. And I think that if you push the boundaries first, as you mention, you will be doing it as a kind of revenge, or to force yourself to accept something in him that already has you questioning yourself, namely his inability to be monogamous with you in the first place. Ask yourself if you would have entertained the idea of other guys if this hadn't happened? No, you wouldn't, because you value the monogamous relationship the two of you had.

And if you are thinking that he is just more open-minded than you are because he seems to be okay with you experimenting with other guys, my impression is not that at all. His behavior in general just seems to show that, sorry, he is not as into you as you are into him.

Now, I can see that you have tried working through the issues and you feel that he has done everything you asked. But this: Currently, he is definitely committed to monogamy, because he knows it is what I want. He knew that before, didn't he? And still he cheated.

Did he come to you and tell you what happened, or did you discover it yourself, and THEN he worked on all this with you? In other words, is working on all this his Get Out of Jail Free card? Because it seems like he is telling you what you want to hear (I want to be monogamous, honey, because that's what will make you happy!) while still leaving himself an out (But I do have this fetish that makes it SO HARD for me to do this, and gosh if you were more open-minded we could have an open relationship...).

Sorry, but my gut says, based on all this, DTMFA.
posted by misha at 7:04 PM on March 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

who cares about the fetish? It could be substituted for any other fetish/attraction and you'd still be faced with the same issue: monogamy.
posted by Neekee at 7:09 PM on March 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry you have to go through this. I have to say, though, that I honestly don't think you're going to be able to reconcile this. Because our society is not pro-fat, your boyfriend probably has always felt a lot of shame about his fetish. So, he tried to ignore his feelings and push them down and date women who were thin, but who he wasn't attracted to. Unfortunately, it sounds like you are in this category. And it is very selfish of him to string you along like this.

You deserve to be with someone who is attracted to you. Dump him and move on. Good luck.
posted by kookaburra at 7:13 PM on March 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

If it were really just a fetish, he could subscribe to magazines and look at web porn that caters to his fetish.

I just have to jump in here and disagree with this on a semantic level. If it is really a fetish then he is probably unable to enjoy sex to a maximum level of pleasure without it in some way encompassing said fetish. It is not just an extreme turn-on and the lack of it in his sex life could (and did!) cause him to seek other partners.

NB: That is not, however, a stroke of doom. There are plenty ways of incorporating a fetish into a sex life that do not involve more/different people. I'm not sure how it will work with a physiologically-based fetish, but I'm sure there are ways.
posted by griphus at 7:14 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

i had that boyfriend. slept with a coworker, looked at fat&immobile yahoo groups, complimented me more the heavier i got, used our "security" as an excuse, used my forgiving nature. we tried an open relationship for a while. i tried to stand by him. when his fuck-friend told me that she blew him in front of the dallas aquarium to help my relationship, i was pretty much done.

there's a whole lot of what he wants in your story - not a whole lot of what he gives you. if it's anything like my former relationship, the only thing binding you together is codependency wrapped in words like love.

personally, i think my ex's fat fetish was actually a fetish/preference for girls with low self esteem who would put up with his bullshit.

also: if you're in the dallas area and you boyfriend has a super pronounced brow and big hippie hair, warning, he's probably looking at child porn too.
posted by nadawi at 7:14 PM on March 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Um. Shit. Please do not think I am in some way placing blame on you for his philandering, of course. Like many other comments have stated: this is a monogamy issue first, a sexual issue second.
posted by griphus at 7:15 PM on March 1, 2010

Just on a practical level, open relationships can be hard work.

Yeah, I like to think that my predilection for monogamy is about taking the moral high ground, but maybe I'm just lazy.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:19 PM on March 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

This is, unfortunately, a prime example of why people who have fetishes or who are non-monogamous need to disclose that very early in the relationship. If he had sat you down on the second date and said "Hey, I'm sexually attracted to overweight women and while I want to be with you, I also want to fulfill that fantasy," what would you have said?

Say that now.
posted by desjardins at 7:19 PM on March 1, 2010 [8 favorites]

he was so secure in his relationship to me and the security of our future together that he thought it was "okay" for him to pursue these other things

In other words, you're being taken forgranted.

Don't you know you deserve better? Trust me, ten or fifteen years from now you're going to wish you'd moved on instead of wasting your time trying to please someone who just can't quite manage to muster up the will to keep his dick in his pants.

Just because you wish you could make it work doesn't mean it can (or should) work.
You want monogamy; he doesn't. No harm no foul, but DTMFA.
posted by aquafortis at 7:20 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think part of this is because I still have difficulty disengaging sex with emotional attachment, and he does not.

You almost write this like your inability is a problem. It's not, it's a perfectly valid and even common way to feel and there's nothing wrong with your world view, or with his for that matter. This isn't a 'hang up', it's just how some of us are built. Please don't let anyone convince you otherwise. I don't read Savage Love but everything I've seen referring to it makes me think he'd never suggest someone try something that distresses them greatly.

So separate the monogamy from the fetish part. Monogamy is off the table, you must have it for the relationship to proceed (and yeah, this means he compromises, there's no way around that when two people want different things). If he can't deal with that in the long term then it might be a deal breaker but for now at least it sounds like he's willing to try.

Then look at what you guys can do about the fetish. I'm sure other people will have better ideas of how to do that specifically but I'd say that good communication and a willingness to try stuff is a good start. What does he think you could do that doesn't involve another person? I think once the monogamy issue is set off limits it will make clearer what actually you guys can and can't do, and again it may end up being a deal breaker but you've got a lot of leeway to work through before you get to that stage.

Lastly it seems kind of like an obvious thing would be for you to gain lots of weight. But again this isn't something you should ever feel pressured to do and choosing to remain the size/shape you are is a totally valid option. Probably not an issue as he loves you for who you are now but it kept popping into my mind.
posted by shelleycat at 7:25 PM on March 1, 2010

Take the fetish totally out of the equation. What are you left with? A man who is not fully emotionally invested in you and your relationship. He's less interested in monogamy than you.

It's up to you to decide if that's something you can live with, but from the sounds of it, the idea that he isn't 100% into you and your body is making you miserable. Is that really something you want to "deal with", possibly for years?
posted by asciident at 7:26 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

he was so secure in his relationship to me and the security of our future together that he thought it was "okay" for him to pursue these other things

Uhg. I do not have experience in these kinds of relationships, but I read that, and read that you stayed with him after that, and thought to myself: Well, there you go. You just rewarded his behavior.
posted by Brittanie at 7:30 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't have some neat, coherent solution for you, but I mainly want to recommend gaining some confidence about your own desires and values.

Reality check: It is very common, and perfectly fine, to be committed to monogamy. It is surely very, very common for women to be uninterested in looking at their partner's porn collection and to not be attracted to obese women.

Yet your tone in talking about these things is distinctly apologetic. You have a monogamy "hang-up." You were "at a loss and kind of turned off" when looking at his porn.

You "still have difficulty disengaging sex with emotional attachment"? Whaa?? This implies that your goal should be to disengage sex from emotional attachment, and that as long as you keep connecting the two, as you're inclined to do, it's some kind of failing of yours. No, no, no.

Based on everything you've told us, you have nothing to apologize for.

It's almost as if you feel the need to treat this issue with kid gloves in order to be absolutely sure that you don't give even a hint of disapproval at the idea of a man being attracted to fat women. That should not be a concern at all. As Neekee suggested above, the problem isn't what types of women he's attracted to. It doesn't matter if his fixation is on women who are fat or skinny, short or tall, black or white or Asian or Hispanic. (I wouldn't call any of these "fetishes," by the way -- just different types -- but that's a semantic point and not especially relevant to what you should do.) The problem is that he has acted on his attraction to other women. It's not about the fact that they're differently shaped than you; it's about the fact that they aren't you.

I'm not saying you definitely can't or shouldn't try to work it out. But if you firmly want monogamy and he firmly wants polygamy (which is what it sounds like), that's a deal-breaker. Maybe one of you can convince the other to change your mind, but I wouldn't bet on it. And please, don't tell yourself that you should be the one to change your mind for the sake of being open-minded. There is such a thing as too much open-mindedness.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:32 PM on March 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

Your boyfriend is trying to make excuses for cheating on you and it sounds like he is trying to manipulate you into being non-monogamous with him. You are uncomfortable with this. Listen to your gut. Would you still be as understanding if his fetish was for giant breasts or blonde hair? Cut him loose so he can pursue his polyamorous, chubby chasing fetish and you can find a partner who you can trust.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:33 PM on March 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

There's so much wrong here it's hard to unravel.

You have access to his email? No one should need to screen their partner's email. And hey, email accounts are free and everywhere. He can have 15 different versions of chubbalover@hotmail and you'd be none the wiser. Do you really want to be checking your partner's phone and email? Or do you want to be secure that he is honest with you? At some point, needing to constantly validate that your partner isn't cheating is demeaning to you.

He was secure in your relationship because he thought you wouldn't leave him even if he cheated? Wow. Either he has a really high opinion of himself or a really low one of you. Maybe both. He wants to make this work with you doing all the work. You're supposed to give up what you want in a relationship.

I'm not judging fetishes or people who live lives of informed non-monogamy. That's not what we have here. He was deceptive and treated you shabbily.
posted by 26.2 at 7:38 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cheating is cheating. Lets reverse everything. Lets say you were overweight, he claimed to love you and still be attracted to you, but cheated on you with skinny girls. Imagine him saying "no no, I just have a thing for people in good shape, so I kissed a friend of mine once, and a co-worker, but I still love you even though you're fat." That's cheating, and it's no good if you thought you were in a serious monogamous relationship.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:42 PM on March 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

This guy abused your trust. Having a fetish and/or being polyamorous does not excuse that kind of behavior. I don't think you need to give him more chances to abuse your trust.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:49 PM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

You have put nothing in your description of him to say what it is about him that makes you love him or want him or need him or appreciate him.

Each thing you say is, individually, a great reason to leave him and find happiness either on your own or with someone else.

If you're going to be involved with a dildo, get one you can chuck in a drawer when you're done. This man is not a companion, he's pathology.
posted by Sallyfur at 7:51 PM on March 1, 2010

A new study associates monogamy in males with higher intelligence. It’s an underrated and noble trait, and I get the feeling that your boyfriend is trying to put it on a plane with his lust for other women.
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 8:39 PM on March 1, 2010

He has expressed a lot of regret for his actions and has basically explained it as this: he was so secure in his relationship to me and the security of our future together that he thought it was "okay" for him to pursue these other things, because we would ultimately still be the most important ones in each other's lives.

this is horseshit. He stopped thinking about your needs then.

I think everyone should ask for what they want. You obviously want monogamy. You deserve to find someone who is comfortable with giving you what you want.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 PM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be monogamous. Don't let your boyfriend or Dan Savage guilt you into feeling otherwise. This is not you being unwilling to try something new; this is fundamentally who you are. And it's something that is fundamentally who your boyfriend is. If he can't or won't be monogamous with you, find one who will.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:09 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

this: he was so secure in his relationship to me and the security of our future together that he thought it was "okay" for him to pursue these other things, because we would ultimately still be the most important ones in each other's lives

that's a big ol pile of poop. The thing is, there are many many ways for people to make a relationship like that work, but the people involved need to be up front, honest, and on the same page about it. None of this "oh, you'd totally be cool with that....right?" BS. You see that it's BS, right?

It's all about communication, not assumptions. I'm not saying that it's wrong, at all. But he assumed what your feelings would be, and he was wrong in his apparent assumptions. You need to decide what your reaction is going to be.

I do have to say that it all sounds very manipulative. His fetish is not your issue, your reaction to his fetish is your issue. If you can't live with it, you're not a bad person.
posted by AlisonM at 9:12 PM on March 1, 2010

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be monogamous.

This. Just because a minority of the non-mono folks like to make snide comments about "less evolved" forms of relationship doesn't make the assertion true; if you aren't wired that way, you aren't wired that way. If you're attracted to men and not women, would you let someone try to pressure you into having sex with women?

You want to go date people before letting him go date people? I'm not sure what the benefit would be unless you really do want to date outside the relationship

If I think back to "open relationships" for folks in my late teens and early twenties, it was very revealing to see how many people wanted open relationships and then suddenly got very upset when they weren't the only one taking advantage of it. This, I guess, may be the sort of thing the poster is trying to gauge with that condition.
posted by rodgerd at 9:45 PM on March 1, 2010

There's a lot of theory floating around in here. Want a practical exercise? Try this: ask him (or I will, because he's reading). See how you feel when you think about these things.

What he would do if this relationship were open right now? What would be his first step? Who would he tell? How would he feel? Who would you tell? Who can you be honest with who can give you support? Or would you go through this alone?

Where would he find women to date? Where would he take them on dates? If he's on a dating website, what precautions will he take to make sure his profile isn't easily findable by googling friends/ family?

How will he communicate with women? Would he need more privacy for his email or are you okay with reading any back-and-forth messages? If not, when will he have the privacy to call/text and set up dates?

Who will pay for him to go out? Who will pay for gas, food, etc? Where will the money come from, and what will you, as a couple, give up so that he can spend that money to date other women?

When will he tell these women that he is in a relationship? Should he? Is it okay if they have the impression that he's single or cheating?

Where would he have sex? Would he be able to keep having sex with you as much as he already does? How will he schedule the sex? What will you have to give up, time-wise, so that he can have sex with these women? Does he plan to have intercourse? What safe sex precautions will he take?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:11 PM on March 1, 2010 [7 favorites]

What would you be doing while he was having sex? What would you be thinking and feeling? Can you focus to study and do laundry and whatever else you'd do on a Saturday? How would you deal with any uncomfortable feelings that might arise? Would you write in a journal? What would you write about? After 45 minutes of that, then what?

Would you talk to someone about it? A current friend? Someone else in the open relationship scene? How do you feel in relationship to them? (Like yourself? Close? Connected? Fake? Superficial?)

Or look on Amazon for a book about dealing with jealousy and discomfort in an open relationship? How much would it cost? Would you put the book on your bookshelf or would you hide it?

What would you be doing if you weren't reading this book and writing in your journal and trying to figure out what to do after that? (Going to grad school? Studying for the bar? Learning watercolor? Training for a triathlon? Going apple-picking with friends or with some future boyfriend?)

When he comes home, then what? Is he in the mood to talk? If not, how do you feel? If so, what do you talk about? Do you hear about his day? Do you talk about your thoughts and journaling? How does he react? Is this something you can explore together? Or is he impatient? Non-responsive? How do you feel then? Or, do you keep it to yourself? What is your relationship like now? Over time, how does it change?

[I'm making a lot of assumptions, I realize. I just encourage you to think it all through for yourself based on what you would do, and how you would feel about that, and what you would do as a result of those feelings, and so forth.]
posted by salvia at 10:55 PM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think a lot of the people urging anonymous to think about how it would go if the relationship were open missed this part:

But on a gut level the idea distresses me greatly, and I really do not want it to happen.

That's really strong wording. Why should anonymous even consider doing something that causes such a visceral negative reaction? What a horrible exercise to go through, and for no good reason that I see. Feeling like this about relationships is perfectly normal and anonymous doesn't need to be talked out of having the kind of monogamous relationship they clearly need, which is why I suggested that the option be flat out removed from further discussion.

What the boyfriend did was cheating regardless of the fetish excuse so a line needs to be drawn, no more cheating. If he can't deal with that then game over for the relationship. Then the actual fetish stuff can be dealt with separately giving anonymous and boyfriend time to explore how much it can be accommodated or if it's also a deal breaker.
posted by shelleycat at 11:26 PM on March 1, 2010

he was so secure in his relationship to me and the security of our future together that he thought it was "okay" for him to pursue these other things

No. He was secure in his certainty that you could be guilted and manipulated into acquiescence.

Secure in the relationship my ass. Men (or rather, people) who are secure in their relationships and in the security of their futures don't go running around behind your back and acting in hurtful ways.

Bottom line is that you don't like the idea of him fucking other women, and his past actions suggest that even if you guys agree on monogamy, you probably won't be able to fully trust him not to. Fetishes are really powerful things -- if his like for bigger women is really a full-blown fetish, then he needs to do some soul searching about whether or not he can be happy and satisfied in your current relationship.
posted by Forktine at 1:49 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm afraid you have to choose, not compromise. The four options are:

You remain mutually monogamous.
He goes outside the relationship, you don't, because it's not your thing. (theoretically you could, but)
Both of you go outside the relationship.
You end the relationship.

Option 4 is always the release valve- either of you can say "this isn't working for me" at any time. IF YOU WANT TO, you can give option 3 a go, most likely it will not work, but maybe you'll really like it. I think for a lot of people, "open relationship" is really just a gradual break up, and that's ok.

For my money, you're young and will have no trouble finding someone who is honest with you- it doesn't matter how you arrange your personal life, as long as you enter the arrangement willingly, and both partners keep to the arrangement honestly. To be quite honest, it seems like neither criterion is being met here.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:15 AM on March 2, 2010

Stop reading his email. That's not trust, that's babysitting. If you can't trust him when he's out of your sight, then you can't trust him. Period.

I don't see any concern for you in this question. I realise you wrote it, but he just cheated on you twice. Where's the need to rebuild trust with you? (and, as above, allowing you to monitor him is NOT the same as trust) How does that goal fit with a) insisting that he's most turned on by [people you'll never be] and b) urging you to let him do the thing that just upset you so much? Letting you read his email and simultaneously pushing for an open relationship is equivalent to "but I'll let you watch!" It doesn't look like repairing the relationship is one of the goals in this discussion at all.

Look, we all want to fuck other people. We're mammals. He's not a special snowflake.

If he was really concerned for you, an open relationship would not even be discussed right now. You're upset, you're vulnerable, you're hurt, and rightfully so. Why is his dick more important than his partner's heart?
posted by heatherann at 5:53 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

He's totally finding an excuse to cheat.

For me, I have a "lady fetish." That is to say, I'm bisexual and primarily sexually attracted to women. I never view "straight" porn, or anything with a real penis in it. Any fantasies I have are about women. My partner is a man. Obviously, he can't become a woman.

And I absolutely 100% do NOT use this as an excuse to go out and find some lady to sleep with and justify it with "I have this fetish that you can't fulfill." This is just an example of how some people have fantasies that can't be expressed in the relationship that they're in and that's TOTALLY OK and it's still possible to be committed and monogamous in the relationship. I'm totally committed to my partner and would never dream of using my sexuality as an excuse to cheat on him - it would be an ultimately shitty thing to do.

So, the real issue here is not that your partner has a fetish. Lots of people have them and have ways to express them privately (via porn/masturbation/whatever) without breaking the trust of a relationship. The real issue is that he's not monogamous and is (intentionally or not) using the fetish as a cover for that.

Some people aren't "built" for monogamy and that's fine, but to use a fetish as a cover for that is totally dishonest. He doesn't need an "excuse" to come out and say "Look, I can't commit to having a completely monogamous sexual relationship." He can own his fat fetish, he needs to own that as well. Polyamory is a totally normal and legitimate lifestyle, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it - EXCEPT - when you're deceiving a partner who believed that you had an exclusive relationship.

You can decide if your relationship with this partner is worth pursuing a polyamorous lifestyle or not, but it sounds like it will ultimately make you miserable. This isn't your partner's fault - his sexual preferences simply include having encounters with more than one partner. This is often stigmatized, but you're obviously savvy enough to know that in and of itself, it's not a bad thing. What's bad is that he's being dishonest about it. You need to pick up the slack on this end and really be honest with both him and yourself about what your needs are. If you absolutely need to have a partner who is only sleeping with you, you need to find that in someone else because he's not going to be able to do that at this point.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:54 AM on March 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Though I already answered, here's a random suggestion that occurred to me, on the off-chance that you still think the relationship is worth salvaging: check out the book One to One by Theodore Isaac Rubin, M.D. Brilliant book, much more thoughtful than the usual self-help book. Anyway, he lists different types of people with respect to how they act in interpersonal relationships (lovers or friends or anyone). I have no idea if this will be helpful, but here it is: using his labels, you are a "person who moves toward people," and he is a "person who moves away from people." Something to think about.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:24 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

shelleycat: "That's really strong wording. Why should anonymous even consider doing something that causes such a visceral negative reaction? What a horrible exercise to go through, and for no good reason that I see. "

I have practical experience with this; many on this thread do not. You and your boyfriend are seriously considering this as an option because, although you have reservations about it, you both think that it would make things easier and that you might eventually feel comfortable with it. I want you to make that choice with your eyes open.

I understand and support you both completely in whatever decision you make. You seem thoughtful and loving, and I hope that things work out for you.

If you want to memail me or post an anonymous email address I will be happy to answer any other questions you might have about my personal experience with this dynamic.

If you do decide to go your separate ways, I hope you see it like this: the love, happiness, affection, and friendship that you have shared with one another make your relationship a success. You should be proud of yourselves, proud of each other, and move on knowing you have done the best that you could do.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:57 AM on March 2, 2010

I am a big fan of "making it work." Because I believe love is what you decide to do, not dictated by how you feel. You can indeed "make this work" if you are willing to, um, work.

If you both want to "make this work," you need to both agree on what that means. Where do you want your relationship to be in 5, 10, 20 years if you both "make it work?"

It seems that monogamy would be a foundation of most people's version of "make this work." Kind of a non-starter if you don't agree. Respect your feelings on this.

And now respect his feelings. He's attracted to a certain type, but he's decided to be with you. Monogamy means forsaking all others for your beloved and he most certainly needs to "man up" and put you over the desires of his flesh. But you also need to accept that he's a man, he will have these desires , and he's chosen to forsake them because he chooses you. Call him on his behavior in the future, but you can't hold his feelings against him.

Choosing to love someone in a commited way is a path, ultimately, of self-denial. Choosing one among thousands of others that have and will cross your path means having some bad-ass level of personal discipline and control over your animal passions. It helps for you and your partner to focus on your core values together and support each other with compassionate behavior. The marriage/relationship material at Dr. Stephen Stosny's Compassion Power website would be a good read for you and your boyfriend (scroll down to the part called "When Anger and Abuse is Not The Problem.) Or for anybody, actually.

I hope the two of you do well together.
posted by cross_impact at 8:05 AM on March 2, 2010

I know there is a stigma associated with his fetish
Isn’t there a stigma associated with every fetish (except maybe feet)? I’m not sure how this fetish having a stigma factors into the discussion here. I personally don’t think it’s shameful to have a fat fetish.

So the bf has a fat fetish, but what exactly does he want? What does he want to do with it: have sex with fat women, just go on dates, what?

But all that is moot if you, OP, only want monogamy. It is not a “hang up.” You are entitled to that. However, if your bf cannot or does not meet that need, and he does so at the expense of meeting his need (i.e. indulging his fat fetish), then this relationship has to end, because it’s unfair to both of you. The wants and desires for the both of you are valid. But they may just be mutually exclusive.

Lots of commenters have already suggested breaking up based on his cheating behaviour, but ok, you want to make this work. Here's my suggestion:
But on a gut level the idea distresses me greatly, and I really do not want it to happen.
I think if I explored the boundaries of our relationship first I would be more comfortable with him doing so.

It sounds like you’re saying the idea of him being with others is scary and gut wrenching, but maybe it won’t be after you try being with others first. If that’s the case, why not give it a whirl? Make sure you do all your reading and homework first before engaging in it! I would make this agreement with your bf: You try exploring with others, but he doesn’t, while you get comfortable with the idea of you being with others. Check in on how you feel at the end of that trial period. Decide how to proceed then. (I have no idea if this will work, btw. It’s just an idea!) But do NOT do something that you are really uncomfortable with just to stay in a relationship with someone. It’s not worth it.

In sum, I think this has more to do with monogamy/non-monogamy than it has to do with a fetish.

he was so secure in his relationship to me and the security of our future together that he thought it was "okay" for him to pursue these other things, because we would ultimately still be the most important ones in each other's lives.
I just want to point out that I think this thinking is very uncool. I feel it means that he thought that he could get away with indulging his fetish and that you would just be ok with it, because hey! He’s still the most important person to you. He was taking advantage of you and your relationship, big time. I’ll just chalk this up to being youthful and making a mistake (we all make mistakes), but I would just watch out for that in the future.

And to the bf of the OP: don’t do this cheating shit again. If you have needs, communicate them, ok?
posted by foxjacket at 11:54 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have practical experience in this sort of thing as well (well, minus the fat fetish). I started dating someone who is polyamorous; the idea of an open relationship didn't bother me as much as it bothers you, so I was willing to give it a shot.

Over a period of one year, my partner steadily eroded the boundaries we had set at the outset of our relationship, manipulating me so that I felt that my emotional and sexual needs were the primary problem in our relationship (in retrospect, my partner's monumental selfishness and inability to honor even the loosest of commitments were more of a problem.) Over a period of one year, I steadily lost my sense of myself as a real person with real and valid requirements in a relationship, grew steadily more depressed and mentally unstable, and ended up nearly killing myself (mostly by accident). The damage that relationship did to my emotional well-being took literally years to recover from.

I am now happily and monogamously married to a very different sort of person.

I know plenty of fine and upstanding poly people in happy, consensual, open relationships. Those relationships are built on insane levels of communication, hard work, and compromise (which is a two-way street, unlike the situation you're describing). Your boyfriend is not acting like a fine and upstanding poly person. If he were, he would have been honest with you at the beginning.

Dump him now, don't cave (by which I mean don't apologize for the way you're wired, which is the way most people are wired, and don't agree to anything that you aren't 100% comfortable with), and don't think or act like you're the one to blame for any of this. People who act as your boyfriend has acted towards you are committing emotional abuse, whether they realize it or not. Your boyfriend is unlikely to be able to change this pattern of behavior in his relationship with you, since it has been firmly established; hopefully, he will be able to have an honest relationship with future partners, but every instinct in my body is saying that you should run for the hills before your future therapy bills start piling up.
posted by kataclysm at 2:26 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dan Savage has said on many occassions that GGG is often misconstrued. GGG means being open minded and non-judgemental towards your intimate partners' needs and being willing to consider and discuss trying new things. GGG does not mean doing things that your gut tells you are not right for you. Anonymous has already well met the bar for being a GGG partner.

Between cheating, couched judgemental language ("monogamy hang up") and self-serving rationalizations to avoid difficult conversations, boyfriend has a lot of work to do before he can become GGG certified.

Boyfriend, I suggest you man up, do Anonymous the favor of giving her the chance to move forward (break up, no "let's be friends" communication for several months, no booty calls ever) and work on your GGG relationship skills in the relationships that you actually want to be in: poly, BBW ones. Cheaters and liars have earned their stigmas. Dating BBW women, being honest with them and making them happy will actually make you a hero in most quarters. Now's the time to decide whether you're going to be a hero or a douche, because it's pretty clear to me that you don't intend to be honorable in this current relationship.
posted by Skwirl at 3:26 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

shelleycat: "That's really strong wording. Why should anonymous even consider doing something that causes such a visceral negative reaction? What a horrible exercise to go through, and for no good reason that I see."

While it might be a horrible exercise to go through, imagining unpleasant scenarios is much less horrible than spending, say, 18 months actually physically testing these scenarios. The emphasis on "making it work" makes me worry the OP and her boyfriend might be on the verge of doing that.

What I didn't post is that I actually did what the OP asked for and tried to write a comment explaining what I thought it would take to make it work. I didn't finish, because I kept getting derailed by asides like ("this is so much work!") and ("this could feel pointless in retrospect!"). But I didn't want to post a conclusive comment like "you don't want to try this -- it will be a lot of work, and it will ultimately be pointless." Dozens of those of comments were already written.

I suspect it's a question the OPs have to figure out for themselves. It's a big U-turn from where they're at. They're probably not going to break up just because I type, "it's hopeless, give up." Maybe they can make it work, as they think, and maybe they cannot, as most of us think. But rather than taking our word for it, debating theoretical concepts, or spending months to years testing out uncomfortable options in search of a workable compromise, I agree with the internet detective squad that they should accelerate this process by thinking through scenarios in extreme detail.

For example, she says she thinks she might be okay with polyamory if she dated someone else first. Really? Well, she doesn't have to spend 4-6 weeks finding and dating someone else to figure this out. She can just imagine in extreme detail what it would be like to go date someone else, and see if that feels like a good idea for her, and then see if in that situation, she'd likely feel okay about him dating someone else.

You, shelleycat, have what you consider to be the right answer for them, and while I don't disagree with your suggestion that she completely remove polyamory from the table, I think they're going to be working on figuring out the answer for themselves. As a way of figuring it out, I suggest they think through some future scenarios in minute detail until they find one that works for them both.
posted by salvia at 6:32 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Based on the experiences of a few close friends of mine, I'd say be prepared for him to start trying to groom you towards becoming a feedee. He's already let you know that your relationship can become unstable because you're not fat. His ideal woman is fat & you are not, but he wants to keep you tied to him. So, do you want to get really fat to satisfy his sexual desires? He can't change what turns him on. I'd tell him he needs to find his perfect woman, say goodbye, and then go find your perfect guy, because you haven't found him yet.
posted by zarah at 6:25 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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