Uncommon boundaries in relationships
October 26, 2012 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Uncommon boundaries in relationships

My SO and I have been together for four years. Though many men have told me that he is lying to me, at this point I do truly believe him when he tells me, and has been telling me of his own accord, that he has never had any interest in going to strip clubs, looking at porn, fantasizing about others, or checking out other women when in a relationship. I am told that I am pretty by many people and I keep in shape, and he says that I am his ideal type, that he doesn't feel attracted to anyone else. We have discussed this many times and I don't believe that this is simply a matter of interpretation. I frequently point out women who I think are beautiful and even if they possess similar traits as I, he is unimpressed and uninterested. He has a very healthy sex drive and still, four years later, wants only me.

So why is this an issue? Because I feel like we are on the fringes of society. I feel ashamed for being happy about those things (and no, I have never demanded/asked he be this way.) Since day one, he has been like this, and at first I just shrugged it off and figured he was just telling me what he thought I wanted to hear. And now that I have seen that he is truly like this, I feel as if we are freaks. Most people say all of these things are normal and that it's only human nature, etc. Since being with him, my views on sexuality and monogamy have changed at such a fundamental level that I don't think I could ever be with anyone but someone like him (which greatly reduces my dating pool).

I can't help but feel like there is something wrong with me. Or that it is unhealthy. Or worse, that it isn't based in anything but insecurity. Maybe if I were completely secure, I wouldn't care about these things. Maybe if I learned to view sex and sexuality as something completely different, like hunger or thirst, or some other physical state that really doesn't mean anything, I wouldn't have a problem with porn, strip clubs, checking out other people, etc. I don't want to be insecure or feel like I have some kind of relationship crutch. I really, really, want to be okay with these things. But I'm not. And while I have someone who now meets these needs, there is no guarantee of "forever." Break ups and divorces happen for many reasons.

I haven't always been like this. I remember thinking like normal people do regarding these issues. In past relationships I was totally okay with all this stuff because I didn't really think about it. But in my many discussions with my SO, I've changed my thinking. What if we break up and I fall in love with someone who isn't like my SO in this way? I don't know how I will readjust to normal society.

Basically my question is, should I stay with someone who can give me what I feel I now need or try to become okay with these other things so that if this relationship doesn't work out, I can still find happiness? Should I try and discuss with my SO that it is unusual that he doesn't do these things? But even if I did, I doubt I could force him to go to strip clubs, check out other women, etc. We aren't religious at all, so that has nothing to do with it. I also feel alienated from our friends who think we are just lying to each other. Should I bother trying to defend our preferences?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (55 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure why you're talking to other people about how much porn your boyfriend looks at. It is absolutely, positively, not one single tiny bit any of their business.

And there is nothing wrong with you or your relationship. Are you guys happy? Sounds like you are. Don't worry about it. This word "normal" is a whole load of BS. Please don't get hung up on it.
posted by phunniemee at 9:29 AM on October 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think you have an anxiety problem, not a boundaries problem. Try not to worry so much about what-ifs and instead focus on your present relationship.
posted by yarly at 9:29 AM on October 26, 2012 [63 favorites]

Yeah, you should definitely break up with him, because you both like each other so much and are so attracted to each other. Most of us just get married when we feel exactly this way, but it makes a lot of sense to go the completely opposite direction.

(Is there something else going on here? I feel like all you're talking about is his devotion to you. Nothing about yours to him, except a peep about how you'd have to find someone exactly like him next time around. That's odd.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:30 AM on October 26, 2012 [40 favorites]

You are totally over-thinking this. You're in a good, healthy relationship and you want it to be... not as good? You want to make him do things he's not interested in?

Are you positive that *this* is your problem? It seems like you're quite anxious over nothing. It kinda sounds like you're saying, "I am happy, my partner is into me, I trust him. OMFG something is horribly unhealthy about this".
posted by Neekee at 9:30 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

You have my permission to date a guy you like and who has similar ethics/values to you. It sounds very nice and drama-free! Are you honestly considering breaking up with him because he's too perfect for you?

should I stay with someone who can give me what I feel I now need or try to become okay with these other things so that if this relationship doesn't work out, I can still find happiness?

These aren't mutually exclusive. You can be with a guy who makes you feel safe and secure, and ALSO explore why you need a very rigid definition of monogamy to feel safe and secure. It doesn't involve forcing him to do things he doesn't want to do - it usually involves therapy.

FWIW my husband sounds very similar to your SO (although he does look at porn). Not all men are alike, and if we look at male preferences for activities, they're going to be a spectrum. So there is more than one man in the entire world like this, and if I needed to I could probably find more.
posted by muddgirl at 9:32 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

So why is this an issue? Because I feel like we are on the fringes of society.

You feel alienated from your friends because everyone you know has a boyfriend who is creating drama in the relationship by looking at porn, going to strip clubs, and being tempted by other women?

I assure you that you are not on the fringes of society, except insofar as you and your boyfriend have a stable, healthy relationship. If you want a shitstorm of betrayal and temptation, then, sure, you can find something else. It sounds like your problem is that in your social circle, dysfunctional romantic relationships are the norm.
posted by deanc at 9:32 AM on October 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

and ALSO explore why you need a very rigid definition of monogamy to feel safe and secure

I should say you can explore this if you want to. Personally I agree that it sounds like your friends might be normalizing dysfunctional relationships.
posted by muddgirl at 9:33 AM on October 26, 2012

I wouldn't know how to make sense of your question if I hadn't dated someone with deep anxiety issues. yarly is absolutely right.
posted by smorange at 9:36 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so sure of themselves, and reasonable people so full of doubts." --Bertrand Russell

Look, a monogamous relationship without porn or strip clubs is considered normal by huge numbers of people. If that's what you guys like, why worry about it??

Do you have someone in your life who is defending THEIR own sexual habits by putting yours down? Because yours sound fine to me.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:37 AM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I am non-monogamous and I say laugh at your friends, or possibly pity them a bit, and stop telling them about this shit like their opinion is relevant. It isn't.

You might also think about whether you're really on the fringes of society as a straight, monogamous couple. Not trying to be a jerk, but a lot of people have it a lot worse and I'm really not sure where the feeling of being strange or some kind of outcast is coming from, when you can make this feeling of strangeness go away by not talking about it anymore.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:38 AM on October 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

You're both invested in the relationship. This is a good thing. This also does not place you on the "fringes" of society, just perhaps on the fringes of your social group (you're friends think you're lying to each other? Who the heck are they to know your relationship better than you do?).

Don't allow other people's neurosis make you anxious about your relationship. If you're happy and trust your partner, that's all that matters. Deal with any problems if they come up, but don't create ones out of nothing.
posted by Sakura3210 at 9:40 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your friends have been indoctrinated into the notion:

- A man can't be normal if he doesn't look at porn.
- A man can't be normal if he doesn't check out women other than his significant other.
- A man can't be normal if he doesn't want to go to strip clubs.

The problem is not you and not your man: it's your friends and the slavish way they have swallowed a twisted perspective of what makes a man normal.

Sounds like you and your man are doing great! Savor it and enjoy the fact that you and he have avoided subscribing to this particular piece of bullshit.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:40 AM on October 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

Though many men have told me that he is lying to me, at this point I do truly believe him when he tells me, and has been telling me of his own accord, that he has never had any interest in going to strip clubs, looking at porn, fantasizing about others, or checking out other women when in a relationship.

This stood out to me, why would "many men" be telling you that he is lying to you? Not just one, but many??
posted by foxhat10 at 9:42 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

What a baffling question. Are you more interested in being "similar" to your friends in the relationship-area than you are in being happy with your SO? If so, WTF?

Dude, Husbunny is as freaky as your SO. No porn, no strip clubs, no gawking at other women (except when I point something out like, "Holy Shit, look at that fake cans on that one.") You know what that means? One less issue for us to hassle over.

Personally, it wouldn't bug me if he wanted to watch porn or go to a strip club, but he doesn't, so whatever.

I don't think of us as freaks. I think of us as LUCKY.

Sheesh. Stop looking for problems where none exist. Don't bring this up, either with your SO or your friends.

If you want something to worry about, how about global warming.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:43 AM on October 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

01. be happy with what you have with a partner who loves and respects you

02. stop catastrophizing unlikely events in the future

03. consider seeking therapy for your anxiety issues
posted by elizardbits at 9:44 AM on October 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

Stop talking to your friends about this stuff.
posted by limeonaire at 9:44 AM on October 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

There are lots of people like you and your boyfriend. In fact, you're not even the most conservative people out there in regards to sexuality. Not by a long shot.

Something about your question does not add up for me, though. You're asking if you should break up with someone who you reportedly love very much and are completely compatible with in order to train yourself to be with people you will not be as compatible with. I could be way off-base, but in that I read the classic relationship tension -- unhappiness with the relationship, but the inability to admit it because you're worried that this person is as good as you'll ever get. It's possible that this is an attempt to shore up your feelings for him by convincing yourself that everyone else in the world are sexual libertines.
posted by the jam at 9:44 AM on October 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

I wouldn't know how to make sense of your question if I hadn't dated someone with deep anxiety issues.

I have to agree. I'm usually pretty wary of projecting our own experiences as readers onto an AskMe poster's limited-account story, but in this case there are enough clear signs in the details provided. I understand why some people are having trouble making sense of your question, OP, or alternately who others are focusing on your friends, but your question reads pretty clearly to me. If a person has dealt closely with someone who suffers from deep anxiety issues, this question makes perfect sense.

I'm sorry for what you are feeling and I hope you find help.
posted by cribcage at 9:48 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Let me get this straight - you think that it's a problem that you're seeing a man who is being faithful to you?

You do know that this really isn't a problem, yes?

....I am not a psychiatrist, but what you're saying are the kinds of things I would say when I was still thinking, deep down, that somehow I didn't deserve good things. You have a very good thing right now, and I'd instead think about what it is that is causing you to think about the possibility of it going sour; I have a feeling that something else is what's going on and would encourage you to figure out what that may be.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:49 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Plenty of men (and women) are into porn - and that's fine so long as it doesn't create a problem in their relationships.
Plenty of men (and women) are not at all into porn - and that's fine also.

The same goes for strip clubs and fantasizing about people outside the relationship.

What's not so healthy is spending time and energy worrying about the opinions of people outside your relationship who think that all guys are the same or that everyone should want the same things.
posted by tdismukes at 9:53 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Before I go on, quick question - did he date/have sex with anyone else before you? I know that seems irrelevant but it would probably change my answer either way. For now I'm going to answer as if he did, but feel free to message a mod with an update and they'll post it here.

Basically my question is, should I stay with someone who can give me what I feel I now need


or try to become okay with these other things so that if this relationship doesn't work out, I can still find happiness?

Also yes. You can spend some time on introspection and ask yourself if these things would truly be dealbreakers with someone else. It's okay if the answer is yes, mind you. But also bear in mind that it's a continuum - I know couples where porn isn't any kind of issue, but strip clubs would be, and really any combination of the above. People are different, they do different things.

I agree with the above posts that this seems to be more an anxiety thing than anything else.

Maybe if I were completely secure, I wouldn't care about these things.

I think that you should probably expend some energy in the direction of helping yourself become a more secure person, irrespective of whether or not you're ever going to break up with your boyfriend. That is what I think.

Should I try and discuss with my SO that it is unusual that he doesn't do these things?

No. You need to start worrying a whole lot less about what's normal, and stop ascribing positive qualities to the idea of normalcy. It is neither good nor bad. If you're not hurting anyone (and you're not, and neither is he), then normal is completely irrelevant - there is only what works for you.

He's found what works for him. It works for you, too. It's an arrangement in your relationship that's happy. Please try to take yes for an answer.

But even if I did, I doubt I could force him to go to strip clubs, check out other women, etc.

I seconded the anxiety thing because of sentences like this. You should kind of be stopping your thought process well short of the point where you even have to rule this idea out. I don't think it would be a bad idea to maybe look into talking to a therapist now and again.

I also feel alienated from our friends who think we are just lying to each other.

Well, I'm gonna be honest - if I knew a guy, in person and such, and he told me he never ever looked at porn or checked out women other than his girlfriend (just in a "oh wow, look at her" way, not in a way with any actual intentions)...I'd probably think he was lying, too. Know what else? I sure as shit wouldn't say that to him, because that's just my gut reaction and really how the hell do I know? Not only that, but how the hell is it ever any of my business?

That said, just let it go by. You might feel less alienated if it weren't as much of a topic of discussion or contention. If your friends give you shit, just say, "I don't know, we've got something that works for us. Good enough for me."

Should I bother trying to defend our preferences?

No. See above.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:00 AM on October 26, 2012

(Is there something else going on here? I feel like all you're talking about is his devotion to you. Nothing about yours to him, except a peep about how you'd have to find someone exactly like him next time around. That's odd.)

After a few years of dating the same person, being in love & immersed in their worldview & the way they treat you, sometimes it's easy to think "I have to make this work, because I'll never find anyone else as good as so-and-so again." And by good, your brain means exactly like this person I've grown accustomed to. This can happen whether or not the person is perfect for you, or is an abusive shithead, or is, you know, pretty great but you've just outgrown one another. If there is something else going on here, please please remember that you can meet other folks who are respectful, caring, committed to monogamy in word & deed, not interested in porn, whatever--and who are compatible with you intellectually and emotionally, too. (And, for what it's worth, there are plenty of folks out there who do watch porn, notice attractive women, and are utterly and forever monogamous and committed nonetheless. Porn-watching (or whatever) can feel comfortable and safe with the right partner, even if it doesn't with others. That, in my opinion, is the litmus test: do I feel safe and secure with my partner?)

Should I try and discuss with my SO that it is unusual that he doesn't do these things?

Yes! Not because it's "unusual" or a problem, but because he's your partner. It's good to talk about things in your lives together and know why they have the beliefs, or make the choices, that they do. Open conversation is important.
posted by tapir-whorf at 10:06 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even though it might be unusual that your partner swears he never ever thinks about or is attracted to anyone else aside from you and has zero interest in porn and strip clubs, I think it is much less unusual to find a man who very rarely is attracted to anyone but his partner, and when he is, he keeps the passing fancy to himself and it doesn't become an issue/problem in his relationship at all. And I think it is not unusual to find a man who is uninterested in porn/strip clubs enough that he either partakes in these things rarely or only when with other friends who want to do so, if it's OK with his partner.

I suspect that despite what the soap operas and reality shows (and AskMe human relations questions) tell us, these things are true of many men and aren't very hard to find at all, and that you would not have a difficult time getting used to the idea that your partner does not need to be completely absolute and rejecting in his feelings about anyone else but you and about any other sexual outlet other than you, because for most people this stuff does not come up on a regular basis and they're happy just enjoying a relationship with someone who they trust implicitly and know loves them more than anyone else.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

People who are this securely mated don't talk about it. That's why you never hear about it. Here's why:

1) It would seem like bragging, or if not, could still make hearers feel sad or anxious or weird about their own relationships. This is a huge issue: the amount of relationship anxiety one hears about is evidence of the frequency and intensity of unhappiness in the world around these issues, so any company of people is very likely to contain those who won't benefit from hearing how happy you are.

2) The need to talk about a happy, conventional relationship, if it exists at all, is far less than the need to talk and connect to others if you're in another kind of relationship.

Even if 60-70% of people on, for example, Metafilter were in relationships like yours, that leaves a huge number of people in other kinds of relationships (or no relationships, or thinking about past relationships, or trying to figure out future relationships). This is such a fundamental part of being human that of course those people are going to be insecure about it, have questions, or just want to know they're not alone, enough to talk talk talk whenever they feel safe enough to do so.

You're lucky. You can now, if you like, turn your attention to other things. How are the schools in your community?
posted by amtho at 10:14 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Talking to women about this is, at best, appearing like you are bragging and talking to men about this is just weird and drama-seeking. Stop worrying and enjoy yourself. Trust me, life will give you other things to worry about. And if it doesn't, start worrying about how you can take some of that excess abundance to help others in the world. I'd start by looking at female genital mutilation or sexual trafficking ... the fight against them can always use soldiers.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, I have skipped the comments as I have only anecdotes to relay:

I know two men who to my virtually certain knowledge have been in long-term straight relationships, do not have any interest in porn or strip clubs and are not particularly interested in checking out other women. In both cases, I feel like our friendship is of such long standing and our conversations have been frank enough (I mean, it's not like I say I never look at other people or porn) that I think both would not categorically deny to me that they do or are interested in these things.

I also know another couple of guys who think strip clubs are really, really gross - although they do look at porn and think idly of other women. Both are in committed relationships (one in an open relationship) and have no reason to lie to me.

There's this deeply patriarchal narrative about male sexuality which says that all men hate monogamy, hate talking about feelings, are always on the prowl, always have one foot out the door, are never satisfied with their partners...a narrative that turns into "women are always wanting these boring, stupid, repressive things that men hate to provide, so all men lie and cheat or wish they could, and women should just grin and bear it." And a narrative whose flip side is "women don't want much sex, women only want monogamy and FEELINGS!, women are boring and repressive, women's wishes and needs should be based on men's". And this is terrible!

The patriarchal description of men....doesn't describe actual men. Sure plenty of dudes look at porn or check out other women, etc etc, but "male" sexuality isn't just a constant round of boredom, entitlement and hatred of female repressiveness. That's the patriarchal whiner story that certain dudes like to use when they want to be assholes to women.

I hear you on this. Frankly, the capitalist patriarchy narrative of heterosexuality is one of the reasons I'm not into guys anymore - it just gets exhausting to try to talk yourself down from all the messaging, and since I am perfectly happy dating women and gender non-conforming people, that's what I do instead. I can absolutely see how, if you're an anxious person, all the pervasive messages that our culture sends about straight sexuality can be panic-inducing and can really mess with your head - especially if your subculture is (as it sounds) juvenile, naive, etc. Are these men who tell you that your boyfriend is lying trying to break you up, by any chance? Are they either after you or else routinely awful to the women they date? Because in my experience the most likely reason for them to trot this line out is that they are deeply, deeply threatened by the idea that a woman can be in a happy, respectful relationship with a guy who isn't like them - this messes with their sexist entitlement crap ("in my mind, I can have any woman I want!") and probably scares them because they know that if there are good, kind men out there then women will eventually wise up to their asshole ways and have options.

Your friends who trot out the "he is just lying, all men are dogs" nonsense are not being very good friends to you. Don't talk to them about this intimate stuff. And jeez, try to find some feminist friends! Read some feminist books!

Anyway - this relationship may raise your standards for other dudes, if you get used to being treated respectfully, not compared to other women, not constantly having to compete with porn and the strip club and not constantly deal with misogyny. But there are lots of dudes out there who look at some porn, discreetly look at girls in sort of a passtime-style way and are also kind, respectful, egalitarian non-creepers - with those dudes, you'll date them and even live with them and they're happy to keep the porn/girl-watching so discreet that you really won't think twice about it.
posted by Frowner at 10:23 AM on October 26, 2012 [15 favorites]

Part of the trick to finding happiness is that when you find it, you need to stop looking.
posted by echo target at 10:28 AM on October 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

Don't know why you are talking to your friends about this stuff. Why is it their business if your SO does or doesn't enjoy porn. Here's a tip: DO NOT EVER discuss details of your sex life, preferences, or details of an intimate relationship with your friends.

Don't know why you are pointing out women to your SO.

Don't know why you are worrying about things that you have no control over and haven't happened.

Don't know why you think you and are a SO are an exception and are on the "fringe" and are "freaks". There are millions of men who don't watch porn and who do not enjoy strip clubs.

Don't know why you think if your SO found another person attractive that would me a minus. I find plenty of people attractive. That doesn't mean I want to have sex with them or would leave my spouse for them.

Everybody has insecurities at times. It's normal. Try to deal with your insecurities about this stuff on your own or with a therapist. Pointing out woman and asking your SO about who and what he finds attractive, and constantly asking for his reassurance gets old and annoying.
posted by Fairchild at 10:45 AM on October 26, 2012

Are you scared by his devotion to you and your relationship? It sounds like it to me.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

This might be something it would be helpful to talk with a counsellor about. This reads to me as much more about your anxieties than about any kind of "problematic" relationship or dynamic. Quite the opposite -- it's a wonderful thing! You absolutely shouldn't throw it away because you have some issues accepting something so good. Instead, you should work on those issues.
posted by Drexen at 10:52 AM on October 26, 2012

You feel like your "wants" are a little odd but you've found someone who totally meets them? Um, sounds perfect. I think my whole 22-year relationship works so well because there's so much "fitting perfectly around one another's unconventional wants and quirks." Who cares what's weird to outsiders? Being weird in the same way is so important!
posted by Occula at 10:53 AM on October 26, 2012

If what makes you abnormal is that you really like something about your SO that may not be common, is that really so bad?
posted by desertface at 10:54 AM on October 26, 2012

(Also, with strip clubs, really indiscreet and obnoxious porn consumption and pinup-calendar-at-the-desk level objectification of women, it's very very subcultural. All those things would be not only politically kind of gross but also just very hick and tasteless in my social circles. I think some friends of mine occasionally went to visit another friend who does sex work at the bar where she was dancing, but that was because she asked them to show up so that she saw someone besides creepy dudes all night. And I know that there are varying levels of porn consumption among my friends, ranging from "never ever" to "multiple nights a week" but I've never actually seen anyone's porn - even my extremely sex positive friends who will tell you about floggers until you're absolutely dying of boredom don't exactly trot out the porn. So the thing is, if it seems to you like all the guys you know do something, that has more to do with your particular subculture than "all guys everywhere", and you can always find another subculture...it sounds like the one you have is a bit of a drag, frankly.)
posted by Frowner at 10:54 AM on October 26, 2012

You cannot control most of the things you are concerned about. You can only deal with them when they come up. Therefore, if your relationship is giving you what you want, stick with it.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:01 AM on October 26, 2012

I'm trying to shake the feeling that this entire question is a humblebrag, but I can't. Everyone who highlighted the fact that many men have told you this is unusual has a point. Why are you so hung up on your own attractiveness, why are you talking about your personal and private sex life with other men, why are you thoughts about your significant other not focused on him, as a person, but on his sexual devotion to you?

I get the sense that you're seeking validation, here--to be told that this is possible and normal, which would then confirm that you really are that pretty and sexually desirable. But I can't. Relationships are different. People are different. But such a clear need for physical and sexual validation--from your significant other, from other men, from metafilter--makes it difficult to say what's really going on here. Massive anxieties about appearance and sexual desirability make it more likely that this partner, and future partners, will have to lie to you about behaviors within the normal bounds of human monogamy simply that you won't get upset. Do I know for sure that this is what's going on? Of course not. But heck, I feel some pressure to reassure you, and I don't know you from Eve. I'm sure these anxieties and insecurities are very clear to those who know you in real life, too.

Nthing suggestions for therapy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:02 AM on October 26, 2012 [16 favorites]

Though many men have told me that he is lying to me, at this point I do truly believe him when he tells me, and has been telling me of his own accord, that he has never had any interest in going to strip clubs, looking at porn, fantasizing about others, or checking out other women when in a relationship.

This stood out to me, why would "many men" be telling you that he is lying to you? Not just one, but many??
posted by foxhat10 at 9:42 AM on October 26 [2 favorites +][!]

Actually, I just realized what I believe you may mean with this comment. Are you simply saying that you've brought this up to several different guys and their perspectives have been "oh, he's lying if he says he doesn't look at porn.." etc etc. because I can see that being the case. If so, then you can disregard my original curiosity of your comment!
posted by foxhat10 at 11:02 AM on October 26, 2012

Is your tiara too heavy?

Sorry, but this is a humblebrag. PhoBWanKenobi hits the nail on the head.

One way to stop alienating your friends is to not bring this stuff up. I can't imagine that your friends are all dying to know that your boyfriend doesn't look at porn, you know? Stop baiting your boyfriend by pointing out other attractive women. He is probably well aware of your insecurity and might be massaging the truth because he loves you and wants to make you happpy, but jeeze! Give the guy a break.

If you're having obsessive thoughts about ANYTHING, talking to a therapist is probably a good idea.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:25 AM on October 26, 2012

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
"Many men" is an exaggeration. In my social circle, we are all very open about sex and sexual preferences, and the "many men" refers to the four or five mutual guy friends with whom SO and I have talked about this topic (in the presence of SO).

I also wanted to clarify that I only briefly mentioned my "attractiveness" because I try to look good for my SO. I know that many people probably don't think I am their cup of tea and that is fine with me. My mention of that is probably irrelevant.

I also am surprised at the mentions of bragging, because I tend to feel ashamed of my insecurity and desire for SO (not other men or women) to think I'm the most attractive. I am only clarifying this because like I said, I have never demanded that he hide anything from me, but rather that he be honest, and from day one he's been as he is today. I also point out other women because I actually love to look at beautiful women, and have art of women in my home, and simply point out when I see a woman who I think is beautiful.

Thank you for your responses.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:28 AM on October 26, 2012

Not a betting man...but this one is hard to ignore:

You are on the road to breaking up with this man. Everything else is just the bulid-up and an upside down "grass-is-greener" fantasy bliss.

Once you do end this relationship, do yourself a gift, and get a competent therapist you trust and get their assistance before any future relationships.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:38 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just want to jump back in and say that I don't think this reads as humblebrag. I think it reads as "I have conflicting feelings about this situation - happy! anxious! shame! - and I get a lot of messages from my culture that my relationship is either weird or based on lies, and I don't know how to feel about that.

I say this because I have definitely felt like you! I used to have a lot of trouble accepting two things:

1. Good treatment from a partner; and
2. That my wishes did not have to match what society told me

So if I read a lot of stuff about how all men "need" lots of porn and lots of partners or whatever, my emotional response wasn't "huh, I guess I'll see how this plays out in my relationships" or "maybe there's something to this 'porn' business" or "but there are many men out there, I can find a guy who is right for me". My emotional response was "I hate this but society says it has to be that way, so I must be wrong and bad".

Do you have trouble with knowing what you feel in other areas of your life? Do you have trouble setting boundaries? What was your childhood like? I feel like I had a lot of trouble with this stuff because I was brought up to bury my own "unacceptable" wishes and feelings so deeply that I often could not identify when I was feeling or wanting something, so if I did feel or want something, any old social message at all could make me feel that I must be wrong. And also bad! So even though I, like you, have been lucky enough to date some awesome people, I kept feeling really weird about liking that fact. It was as though I was thinking "hm, everything I want is wrong and bad, so if I want this relationship it must also be wrong and bad".

Also, be careful about talking yourself into breaking up. I used to think that whole "I don't believe I deserve nice things so I flee from close relationships and love" thing was just fake emo movie plot crap, but then I realized that I actually had a habit of freaking out and abandoning friendships or projects when I was happy in them, because I really did feel like I did not deserve them and that therefore something must be wrong and I should go.
posted by Frowner at 11:47 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Dear OP,

Upon reading your followup, here are the things you should do, in no particular order.

1. Accept that what you have with your boyfriend works. Try very hard to do less second-guessing of yourself or of him.
2. Don't let people give you shit about your relationship and don't go defending it, either. You're an adult and you have a dynamic that works. If that isn't enough for others, that is their problem, not yours. Learn to say, "It works for us."
3. Talk to a therapist about the anxieties and insecurities being discussed here. This one is probably the most important, so if you don't do anything else, do this.

Thank you, and good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:49 AM on October 26, 2012

There is no such thing as normal between two people. None. It doesn't exist.

there is respect, friendship, lust, love, lots of other stuff that makes you feel good.

does it make you feel good?

then that is your normal. No-one else's. just yours. what works for you two.

please stop comparing and enjoy
posted by Wilder at 12:17 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is kind of like saying "I found a type of pizza that I LOVE, it has just the right ingredients" but then being concerned because other people don't have that exact same pizza, so that means the pizza must be lying to you or that you like the wrong type of pizza. It just doesn't make sense.

I understand the desire to be normal but I think you really just need to work on letting this go. You have a relationship that works for you, right now. That's awesome. Enjoy it. Stop worrying about abstract things you have absolutely no control over (and really no reason to control).
posted by buteo at 12:32 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

This question makes me so sad. Do you seriously think there's something wrong with you because you now have standards? Are you seriously ashamed because you can't force yourself to go back to the days when you accepted less because you didn't know there was more out there? It's true that the dating pool is smaller if you will only date people who treat you the way you want to be treated. But the solution is to fully explore that pool, not to try and make yourself swim in pools that gross you out / make you feel bad.
posted by january at 12:52 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am pretty unclear on what your question really is.

Oh, wait: I don't think I could ever be with anyone but someone like him (which greatly reduces my dating pool).

So, let me guess - your anxiety is not so much that there is anything wrong with your relationship, but that you realize you don't want to be in it for the long-term, yet are afraid that you will DIE ALONE (or whatever) if you actually end it.

This is what this sounds like to me. That's okay. But, really, this question probably should be changed to something like, "I am slowly realizing that I want to end my relationship, but am scared about going back into the dating pool. How do I deal with these anxieties so I can let this relationship end well, while preparing myself to figure out what I want in the future?" Or something.

Frankly, this sounds like displaced or projected angst, and is not about whether he is honest, or whether your relationship is unusual, at all.
posted by vivid postcard at 1:15 PM on October 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

It seems to me that the porn-fiends are a more vocal group than the non-porn-fiends. The men I have been in serious relationships have all reported not being interested in porn/strip clubs and they didn't appear to check out other women.

Funny anecdote, but when my parents were first married and very young, my mom thought that all men liked porn, so she bought my dad a subscription to Playboy. So, these magazines start arriving and my dad was very confused and finally asked if she knew why he was suddenly getting these magazines and was shocked to discover my mom bought the subscription for him. It's a funny joke between them to this day.
posted by parakeetdog at 2:14 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your question reads to me as though you are in your twenties and still sort of on the newer end of relationships maybe. The idea of giving up something that is mostly working for you because it might spoil you for future relationships reads to me as fairly young. (fwiw, I'm in my early forties.)

Life is long, and relationships are, I think, like babies; they all need some of the same general sorts of things to thrive but beyond that they are all so different, and rules for one don't necessarily carry over to another. Stay with this guy as long as you love him and don't worry about protecting yourself for your next relationship. Maybe if there is a next guy he will love porn and show you why and it is something you will like together, or maybe he won't like porn either, or maybe he will only like funny porn about cartoon characters and you will find that charming, or maybe he will like porn but mostly in secret and it won't bother you because you won't see it and your life together is otherwise full.

Life is long, and there are many things to worry about, but I don't think you should worry about this. Love your guy with a full heart and try not to let other people's relationships make you less happy. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 5:05 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah I hate the idea that "normal" heterosexual men go to strip clubs. I'm happy to have found a feminist partner who is against strip clubs from a social justice perspective. We all know it's a tricky topic, but in my neck of the woods, a lot of women in sex work are immigrants or Aboriginals, and there's a lot of icky dynamics of the white hetero men paying for sex work from poorer women of colour.. I'd be down for strip clubs though if they were feminist sex-positive, queer-friendly, had male sex workers, and had workers who saw themselves as equals with their clientele and were roughly of similar class and ethnic backgrounds as their clientele. This is my strip club in heaven.
posted by Hawk V at 6:39 PM on October 26, 2012

Frankly, I think you have some crappy friends if they would alienate you based on this. As many people before me have said, forget about what you think to be normal. If you both are comfortable with something in your relationship and come to agreement after discussion, then that is normal for your relationship and its none of anyone else's business. Take your partner at his word and actions that he is being truthful about this and acting with integrity for you and your relationship.

That being said, I don't think this is as unusual as you think it is. My (male) partner and I (female) have no interest in strip clubs, porn or otherwise. Its not apart of our relationship, and frankly I would be upset with him if he went to strip club (as he would with me). We come to this boundaries based on what we were both comfortable with and lots of discussion.
posted by snowysoul at 7:09 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is not unusual for people to be as you describe. Feel good about yourself and your partner will match that. Be happy and feel lucky you met eachother. If you're thinking about the break up and not enjoying your present day relationship, then you may end up breaking up in the end. Again, it is not unusual for people to not be into porn, strip clubs, objectification and gawking. My partner is that way and has been from the start. In spite of that I had some insecurities and worked through them with him.
posted by i_wear_boots at 9:50 PM on October 26, 2012

If the question is simply "should I continue to be happy, or try to be normal", I think you'll be reassured a bit by knowing that many people normally aren't happy. You may be unusual, but that isn't inherently bad; you can have a relationship that is unusually good. And it sounds like you do.

Also, at a certain point in my life, I had a large pool of friends, all of whom drank beer and listened to heavy metal and did incredibly stupid things, and ogled women and went to strip clubs and watched porn, but I wasn't like that, and they all thought I was weird. After an extended period of outgrowing these friends, three of them came back from a trip to Tijuana to sleep with prostitutes, and I decided to get different friends. Turns out there are a lot of people like me out there.

However: I will say that it is possible for your boyfriend to be attracted to other women, but smart and polite enough to show you respect by not pointing it out and not engaging with other women in that way. He might also not be attracted to other women. Either way is good and healthy.

So yeah, you're in good shape, actually...and realizing that being with your partner gives you a smaller dating pool is, well, good, because two people who are committed to each other should have the smallest dating pool possible: their partner.
posted by davejay at 10:15 PM on October 26, 2012

having said that: if you're worried about the dating pool reduction because you plan to go back into it, and you're worried that being in this current relationship is ruining you for returning to dating, then you're not really into it and you should probably think about that.
posted by davejay at 10:17 PM on October 26, 2012

Many men are quite annoyed by the cultural story pressed on us about our sexuality, fwiw. As with women, we vary.
posted by ead at 11:26 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't need a new boyfriend; you need new friends. The friends you have now sound immature and jealous of your relationship. You don't need toxic people like that in your life.
posted by MexicanYenta at 4:34 AM on October 27, 2012

Also take into account where your friends' comments are coming from. Maybe they feel threatened, annoyed that your boyfriend doesn't accept theirs standards, or surreptitiously criticized.

Even in social circled where sex isn't a taboo. The smart thing to do, especially when your relationship starts getting serious, is to stop sharing certain aspects of your sexual life (and finances). Sure, be open to listening to your friends, give general opinions and participate in harmless sex-related conversation, but learn that the more you share about yourself (and your SO), they more you are exposing yourself (and the people you love!) to judgement. This works with family in general.

PS I know how you feel about the pool reduction. I have felt like that after my marriage, like my standards have gone so high I could never ever find anyone else if I ended up alone. Try not to think about this, and if the relationship ends, then you'll realize there's nothing wrong with being picky. I also see that this fear doesn't mean you are planning to dump him. It's more like winning the lottery and thinking "shit, I could never handle being poor again!"
posted by Tarumba at 8:44 AM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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