Should I end it with my great companion of a SO?
October 6, 2014 10:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm unsatisfied in the passion and effort in my relationship but love the companionship. We are like best friends. However, it's been so long since I've seen makeup or hair down, or her really initiating to me. Tons of details inside... thanks for your help. My frustration has been building over a long time.

Summary because it was long:

Relationship details: She is 21, I'm 23, she has 3 years left of nursing school, I graduated and work 9-5.

My Complaints: She doesn't wear her hair down or wear makeup, she doesn't initiate physically.

My Accolades: We enjoy relaxing together and watching tv/playing video games and seem to have common interests and similar world views.

When I talked to her about it: She agrees with every point and says that she is too busy/too exhausted/too stressed to take care of her own needs, and that she doesn't think about me when she gets ready for the day really.

My sadness: She knows I really care about these things and I've slowly been bothered with them over time. I just don't know how long I can be supportive without her seeming to worry about anyone but herself.

Tons of snowflake details

I struggle a lot with feeling selfish in my relationship. I don't expect her to work out for me or even wear makeup for me. But around a year ago, she got a ulcer in her eye and so she has been wearing glasses ever since. She now finds contacts very uncomfortable after around 3 hours. So, she will sometimes wear contacts to play soccer or a sport, but never FOR me. She knows she needs to go to the optometrist, but is too busy to schedule the appointment. When we fell in love she wore contacts all the time. She doesn't bother with makeup under her glasses. She never wore makeup before I bought her some mascara "just to try"

I have told her a couple of times the things I care about. We have taken a few love languages tests and the like. It feels like she doesn't care about my needs. I really enjoy makeup, and things like oral sex, and getting dressed up or going shopping. I try to engineer situations where getting dressed up would be necessary... like taking her to nice restaurants for our date night or telling her we will cook a romantic dinner. She always still wears jeans, has her hair up in a ponytail, and hides her eyes behind her glasses. She usually says "Oh, we are just college student age, it's fine to wear jeans" and if I get dressed up it seems like she will accuse me of not preparing her enough. A lot of times she will end up wearing a vneck tee shirt and jeans when we go out, and a unisex tee shirt that we got for free when we stay in.

The thing is, she apologized for all of these things all of the time. She says she hates it too, she wants to get rid of them. But it's starting to feel almost like she doesn't care about me because she doesn't fix these things.

She also has been less confident around me and seems like she is less relaxed around me, taking more care to change out of my sight and more cautious to initiate any form of passion with me. She makes me ask to do anything besides kiss her or hug her normally, and doesn't really like it when I feel her butt/chest because it's not sweet, it's something for me, and that she should offer. This seems totally reasonable, but the amount that she offers FEELS like much less than the amount that I desire.

It almost feels like she knows she "doesn't need to do these things" because she "doesn't want to encourage me" because I already have a much higher sex drive than her.

I feel like the advice I may get is that "Well when was the last time you dressed up/shaved/took care of yourself". I take care of myself and plan a lot of "quality time" for her, and am extremely helpful to her projects/sources of stress by providing working space, relaxing space, help, and all sorts of things. I think I am a pretty supportive boyfriend, and despite my constant complaining in this post, very rarely bring these things up in conversations. We spend every night together playing video games or watching tv.

Our sex is unsatisfying. She doesn't seem to want to learn her own body enough to let herself orgasm, and isn't interested in anything besides PIV missionary sex.

So, it kind of feels like I am giving my half of the deal but not receiving her half. I would really like any impressions you might have, or suggestions. Lately I have been frustrated with these things so much that I am in a funk and I don't know what I can do about it. I am worried about the future and if she will always be this way, and shouldn't I be satisfied with her as she is, and worried about her trying to reign in my sex drive.

Half of me knows that she has shown progress in every area since we've met. We've come a long way. I just feel depressed when I think "maybe it will change as we grow older."

Thank you so much for your help/advice.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (84 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
If you want someone who wears makeup and contacts, you should break up with this nice lady and find someone who wears makeup and contacts. You come off sounding like you care more about how she looks than how comfortable or tired she is. You two obviously are not a good match.
posted by bleep at 10:22 PM on October 6, 2014 [236 favorites]

you're really young... break up so you can find someone you like more and she can find someone who appreciates her for who she is, apparently a person who wears glasses and tshirts and doesn't care about makeup. the world is a big place, you'll be alright.

in your next relationship, consider that "We spend every night together playing video games or watching tv" is not a model for exciting, healthy or stimulating interaction and may not even count as quality time...
posted by zdravo at 10:32 PM on October 6, 2014 [18 favorites]

I feel like the advice I may get is that "Well when was the last time you dressed up/shaved/took care of yourself".

Actually I'm gonna tell you that your girlfriend isn't a prop or an accessory or a doll to be dressed up and presented as you please. Better than half your question is about how you think she owes you more effort put into her appearance. Just because you put in X effort into your appearance doesn't mean she owes you a damn thing on her part. She owes you nothing on that count.

Honestly if you are finding your relationship to be wanting because your 21 year old girlfriend wants to wear jeans, do both of you a favour and let her go. You can find someone who values their appearance to the degree you think is important, and she can find someone who values her to the degree she thinks is important.
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:33 PM on October 6, 2014 [185 favorites]

Let her go for her sake before you degrade her self worth any further. And next time, start with the person you want rather than expecting "progress" and being disappointed that she's not meeting your ridiculous expectations.
posted by cecic at 10:45 PM on October 6, 2014 [48 favorites]

I think your focus on her appearance is controlling and I'm sure you don't realise it or mean to do it, but you'd be damaging her self esteem. I've been your girlfriend and the boyfriend that did that to took me years to recover from.

In the strongest and most supporting and encouraging language I can use, please stop this. This is not what good and kind boy/girlfriends do and you are harming her.

I'm a mum, I get that you're young and inexperienced, and I care about you too. But you've absorbed a lot of Hollywood or porn or something...because these expectations of your girlfriend are unhealthy, unhelpful and bordering on controlling. They're certainly emotionally manipulative.

That is a strong thing to say....and I understand that it's not what you want to hear... Or that you might not listen....but if you care about your girlfriend, yourself and if you care about humanity....don't make demands about another persons appearance...don't judge them as putting enough effort in to please you or not. It demeans women, it demeans you and it's ugly. Your girlfriend is not your possession, and she is not your decoration. She's a human being. Appreciate her for who she is inside and you'll look more attractive on the outside.

These are big lessons, but I reckon if you sit back and read the green for a'll learn. You're in the right place, with an enquiring mind. Keep it open and you'll be fine, I've got faith in your ability to learn. My god, we've all had ridiculous notions in our youth. I'm just lucky mine aren't online.
posted by taff at 10:45 PM on October 6, 2014 [171 favorites]

She doesn't seem to want to learn her own body enough to let herself orgasm
This is incredibly patronizing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her not orgasming or not wanting to orgasm. Only an issue if it's something that she wants to do but can't.

Half of me knows that she has shown progress in every area since we've met.
What do you mean by 'progress'? Life isn't a continuous ascent to the 'top'. With most people, what you see is what you get. Any 'improvements' should be nice surprises. To expect 'progress' is, quite frankly, a recipe for continuous strife.

You two seem incompatible; it's not unreasonable to want a partner who likes to dress up and go out on the town and who enjoys a varied sex life. Differences in sex drives can be significant sources of strife in a relationship, are unlikely to change, and quite frankly at your age you shouldn't be 'damping down' your sex drive to accommodate someone else's unless you are sure that this person is the one.

That being said, you seem to have some problematic attitudes towards coupledom and what's expected and 'owed' to you. Break up with this woman, she sounds very nice and is probably going to make someone else very happy, and it sounds like your expectations are already grinding away at her self esteem. Before you find someone else, take a good hard look at your own expectations, because your current attitudes will be corrosive in any relationship, even with someone who's perfectly compatible.
posted by sid at 10:47 PM on October 6, 2014 [54 favorites]

You say she is"too busy/too exhausted/too stressed to take care of her own needs" -- is there anything you can do to help with that?

Can you clean her house for her? Wash her car for her? Do her laundry for her? Run errands for her?

Can you give her massages and expect nothing in return to let her relax? Can you rub her feet and listen to her talk about her long day?

Can you give her a weekend of bliss and relaxation and expect nothing in return and then offer to take her out to a nice dinner on Sunday evening, while doing everything to make sure she has hours to relax and primp beforehand?

Can you treat her like the princess you expect her to be?
posted by erst at 10:48 PM on October 6, 2014 [28 favorites]

Wow, I'd think you were dating me, except I'm in my thirties and the second you tried to get me to apologize to you for not wearing make-up I'd have kicked you to the curb.

The only two endings I see for this relationship is she ends up severely damaged from your treatment and opinions of her, or she grows a backbone and tells you to shove it.

I've dated men who believe like you do that make-up is expected of women. I do not have fond memories of those men. I've also dated men who just totally don't even notice, or even dislike make-up. Your girlfriend has the option to find one of those men, and then continue to live exactly as she is now, but without the growing self-conciousness about her body and dropping self esteem. She doesn't need to change. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her, and nothing about her that needs to be fixed.

If you end the relationship, you can go on OKC, check yes to "are women obligated to shave their legs", and find someone more suitable for you. If you find yourself dating someone again who doesn't wear make-up, don't buy them mascara and sulk about the house in a funk when they don't wear it. You shouldn't be dating people who aren't want you want while expecting them to twist themselves into knots to change for you because of "love languages".
posted by Dynex at 10:50 PM on October 6, 2014 [61 favorites]

She's made "progress in every area" since you've met? Huh? You aren't dating a project, you're dating a person. You don't get to mold her into the perfect girlfriend just because you think somehow she "owes" it to you.

Also you bought her mascara to try? What? Buying a woman makeup is totally not cool. She can handle her own appearance without your input.

And she's a nursing student? So I'm assuming she's busy, working hard, stressed, tired... And your way of helping with that is giving her suggestions on how she should dress?

Please do this woman a favour and leave so she can find someone who loves her just the way she is.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 10:51 PM on October 6, 2014 [43 favorites]

she got a ulcer in her eye and so she has been wearing glasses ever since.

Um, do you fucking care that she got an ulcer in her EYE? Where is your compassion and concern for her?

She now finds contacts very uncomfortable after around 3 hours. So, she will sometimes wear contacts to play soccer or a sport, but never FOR me.

Do you realize how insanely selfish and unfeeling this sounds?

When we fell in love she wore contacts all the time.

You didn't fall in love. You fell into something, but love doesn't sound like this.

She never wore makeup before I bought her some mascara "just to try"

omg! Leave her alone! Please break up with her, so she can find someone who doesn't force her to wear makeup.

Don't try to change people. If she didn't wear makeup before she met you, she's a woman who doesn't wear makeup. You know the amazing thing? It's totally okay to be a woman who doesn't wear makeup! It's also totally okay for you to prefer a lady who wears make up. So break up with your girlfriend and go find someone you actually like.

Half of me knows that she has shown progress in every area since we've met.

You're talking about this adult woman the way people talk about children or pets. BREAK UP.
posted by Gray Skies at 10:55 PM on October 6, 2014 [137 favorites]

Started writing this, a lot of people chipped in to say what I was going to say. So I'll just basically agree: it's totally OK if you want to date someone who likes dressing up, wearing makeup, putting a lot of time into their appearance. That's your choice. But you don't have the right to expect someone who isn't like that to act like that, just for you.

I agree with the others, break up and find someone who is closer to what you want, rather than expecting your girlfriend to be something she isn't.
posted by Pink Frost at 10:55 PM on October 6, 2014 [22 favorites]

This question makes me sick the more I look at it.

When I talked to her about it: She agrees with every point and says that she is too busy/too exhausted/too stressed to take care of her own needs...

My sadness:...I just don't know how long I can be supportive without her seeming to worry about anyone but herself.

Um, exactly who is worrying about this woman if it's not you and it's not her?
posted by bleep at 10:55 PM on October 6, 2014 [35 favorites]

Please break up with this poor girl so she can find someone better suited to her. She is working hard in a difficult academic program and you're off buying her MASCARA?!
posted by at 10:56 PM on October 6, 2014 [36 favorites]

Half of me knows that she has shown progress in every area since we've met.

You are not the arbiter of progress in the world. She is not your freaking PET PROJECT to "improve".

And i can understand if feeling like your girlfriend just stopped trying, but it sounds like she was never the dressing up type to begin with. I find it very astonishing that you'd pick on your girlfriend about her glasses. You're pouting when her eye conditions preclude her from contacts? Pleasing you visually doesn't take a higher priority than her comfort, and I am pissed for her that you seem to think it is.
posted by Zelos at 10:57 PM on October 6, 2014 [13 favorites]

Let me direct your attention to the buried lede...

"...and says that she is too busy/too exhausted/too stressed to take care of her own needs..."

It sounds like your girlfriend is going through a lot of demanding life experiences: a big change in her vision due to a medical condition, enrolled in a nursing program that is probably intensive and demanding of time and energy that she used to spend on physically taking care of herself.

I was in a long-term relationship through my early twenties where I was often slouching around the house in a grubby hoodie and jeans, desperately trying to get my schoolwork done while working full-time and unable to take care of myself in every way necessary. My partner gave me all the personal space I needed, but not once did he ever tell me I was pretty for no reason, or compliment me on how hard I was working to improve myself. It's no mystery that our collective lack of care for my state of mind contributed significantly to the profound state of depression I was in for the majority of that relationship's lifespan, and which antagonized every single fight and conflict.

Having a major physical change that makes you feel less pretty than you did before it happened will also contribute a lot of its own emotional weight, and can be a very difficult thing to accept. It has fundamentally changed her body image and physical appearance, no matter how minor it may seem to you.

Go back and read what you wrote. How many times do you refer to what you need or what you want? How many times do you refer to what your girlfriend needs or wants -- not just from you, but what she wants from her life, and what helps her feel more secure in a period of massive life changes and growth?

What have you done lately to make your girlfriend feel secure in her appearance and her state of being just the way she is? Do you still compliment her, regardless of your own observations that she doesn't look as cleaned up and put-together as you want her to? (Do you still think she's pretty regardless of how casual she's dressed?)

I understand you provide her the space to work and the recreation she probably needs very much to off-set a demanding program in medicine, but taking care of your partner physically and taking care of them psychologically are two very different things, and I think this relationship is about to teach you the difference between the two.
posted by Snacks at 11:03 PM on October 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

Jesus Christ you are shallow.

There's this learning concept in poker, it's called "don't learn the wrong lesson." So let's say you're new and you go all-in with this hand that has a 1% chance of winning, and incredibly the one card you need to win with lands on the river. So you keep playing that hand and always win, right? Wrong. Over the long run, you've picked up a bad habit, and you'll lose money. This is because you learned the wrong lesson.

If you walk away from this relationship based on the problems you've shared, be careful because you will eventually get your ass handed to you and regret some of the decisions you made. Your feelings are pretty stupid. "Feel like she.." is a misappropriation of the word "feel." You are simply making demands, and dumb ones at that. You reward superficiality and immediate gratification. You equate your sexual drive with strength. You think because she apologizes, that makes you right.

So your partner sounds like she feeds into your ego. You should probably peace out of that, but be careful of what you bring to the table in future relationships. Because right now it doesn't sound like much, and maybe you'll look back at your current girlfriend one day and wonder what you were thinking.
posted by phaedon at 11:04 PM on October 6, 2014 [37 favorites]

Just so you get an idea of what you're complaining about - do you wear makeup (particularly with vision issues)? For some of us, applying it is fiddly, annoying, itchy and uncomfortable. Try accidentally poking your eye with mascara wand or eye liner? And it's not simple. You need to learn how to do it, so you don't look like a clown, and so it doesn't run down your face unexpectedly, and you even need to learn to take it off.

Next glasses. How awesome that she is taking care of herself by using appropriate eyewear while exercising. Very sensible. Given her studies, I bet she'd wear contacts more often if it was sae or comfortable to do so, because - yeah, contacts can be a lot easier than glasses. So, you want her to risk her eyesight for your idea of attractive?

Next- orgasms. Whoa, dude. Seriously? Do you have any idea how different bodies are? You think it's a question of masturbating more? No, it's not. Some women never orgasm. Some women don't orgasm in their youth. Some women have multiple orgasms but only with vibrators.

My way of thinking, you are in not meeting her halfway. You've decided what women should be like, and expect her to do something she is just not interested in. Please do break up with her, or show her this thread.
posted by b33j at 11:22 PM on October 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

I don't expect her to work out for me or even wear makeup for me...She never wore makeup before I bought her some mascara "just to try"... I have told her a couple of times the things I care about. The thing is, she apologized for all of these things all of the time.

She also has been less confident around me and seems like she is less relaxed around me, taking more care to change out of my sight and more cautious to initiate any form of passion with me.

You didn't realize that these two things are related?? Really???

The reason she's not 'relaxed' around you is that you don't accept her for who she is. Many men I meet at the age of 40 still don't seem to get this: in a long-term relationship, most women can't sustain physical intimacy without emotional intimacy. You have systematically eroded that emotional intimacy by pick-pick-picking at her. She knows you are disappointed in her physical self-presentation and sex drive; the woman's not stupid. And believe me, that knowledge does not make her feel sexy. It does not make her want to get dressed up and go out dancing. It certainly doesn't make her want to get naked and be vulnerable with you. Because that's what great sex requires: vulnerability. Nobody with an ounce of self-preservation is going to make themselves vulnerable to someone they don't trust to treat them (the whole of them, heart and soul as well as body) with love and care. Nobody is going to open up to someone who they sense has judged them lacking.

And that's the crux of it: she doesn't trust you with her self. You're supposed to be her best friend and lover and ally, and you've turned yourself into her judge and jury by focussing on her looks. Looks are just a shell. Why are you hurting someone's essence because they don't have your ideal shell? You don't deserve her.

Look, you're 23. She's 21. Just let it go and move on. You obviously have different priorities at the moment, and you're both so young. But make no mistake, the problem here is you. You can't carry these attitudes into your next relationship, because you will continue to hurt people, including yourself: you will never get a real, intimate, happy relationship if you treat your partner as a work-in-progress that just might make the grade with a bit of tweaking.
posted by Salamander at 11:30 PM on October 6, 2014 [131 favorites]

First off, yes, you should break up with her. You feel unappreciated, and she, based on what I'm reading, feels attacked.

Second off, don't let the people her attacking you for being shallow or superficial. There is nothing wrong with being shallow or superficial, and generally most people are, but then get uptight about other people being shallow or superficial is ways that don't match up with their own shallow or superficial impulses. And currently it's mostly women telling men their superficial, but with little effort you'll find women who won't date anyone who makes less than they do and is shorter than they are. Take it with a grain of salt.

I find it best to think of these "superficial" traits you (again, generic you) have as things that happen to you. You want someone who wears make-up and dresses stereotypical feminine? Won't be happy without that?

Good to know! Plenty of woman in the world want to wear make-up and dress stereotypically feminine. Go find some! There are plenty! And they'll love that you're into it.

Of course, women have the right to be "superficial" too (or, really, I'd say that superficially happens to them too), so you should hope to find a woman who appreciates your "superficial" attributes as well. You'll find dating a woman who wants to change these things about you intensely annoying. It probably won't work out. People won't stop wanting what they want, and people generally won't stop trying to get what they want.

I have tried dating outside my "superficial" preferences before. It didn't work. It was miserable. But I tried because I didn't want to be superficial. And I found I wasn't. I found I was the way I am; and that's worth knowing. There will be plenty of people who try to shame you for that, but those same people won't eat foods they don't like the taste of, won't wear the clothes they don't like the looks of, and won't live in places they don't like if they can avoid it. The superficial goobers.

So now you've learned something about yourself, put it to good use. Leave her and find someone who matches you.
posted by bswinburn at 11:31 PM on October 6, 2014 [10 favorites]

Yes, please end it. She deserves to be with someone who deeply respects her and loves her as she is. She's being chipped away by your criticisms (as evidenced by her feeling less confident and relaxed around you while also apologizing for not being enough for you). You are not a good match for her. You are damaging her. Find someone who better matches your priorities.
posted by quince at 11:37 PM on October 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with having particular sexual preferences, and there's nothing wrong with being attracted to and prioritizing performative femininity. There are totally women out there who love getting dressed up, who are all about the makeup and the heels and the effort, and that's cool! Though you may find that a lot of them aren't doing it for your sake, either, but hey.

The misogyny comes in when you expect someone who doesn't enjoy or prioritize those things to do them for you — as if it's a woman's responsibility, as if her body and how she interacts with it and how she presents herself to the world are there for the sake of your boner. As if she should damage her eyes for the sake of your boner.

But guess what: no one is under any obligation to dress or alter their appearance against their will for the sake of a relationship. Not doing so may end the relationship ("Honey, I'm so turned off by your luscious nose hair, can you trim it?" "NO"), but that's a problem with the match, not with the person. This woman does not do the things you happen to be sexually attracted to (which, by the way, are RANDOM AND ARBITRARY AND NOT SHARED BY EVERYONE), but she isn't failing at some objective standard of being a woman. This woman isn't failing at some objective standard of being a woman. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HER.

She will end up finding one of the many many someones who will love how she looks without makeup, how it takes her five minutes to get out the door in the morning, how she prioritizes her life. Those things aren't the things that are important to you, but instead of realizing that it's just a bad match you're constantly pushing her and picking on her and chipping away at her self-confidence. You're sad that your boner is sad; she's sad that her so-called boyfriend is trying to control her and constantly telling her that she's existing in the world incorrectly.

And that is super extremely totally awfully gross, dude. Cut it the fuck out, apologize to her for getting your gross cultural expectations all over her exhausted and perfectly happy body, and date someone who spends all her time working to look fly for your boner. Apologize for the ways you've been unfair and have hurt her and have reinforced, in a deeply personal and damaging way, cultural messages that she's been fighting her entire goddamn life. Her agreeing sadly with you that she "should" spend more time on her appearance? That's a lifetime of oppressive exposure to gross sexist bullshit talking, not a genuine enjoyment of the aesthetics and joys of fashion-as-art.

(PS: if the nicest thing you can say about your so-called girlfriend is that you enjoy similar ways of relaxing, it's time to break up anyway. Jesus.)
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:38 PM on October 6, 2014 [129 favorites]

Initially I wanted to offer my perspective as someone who has had trouble vocalizing compliments and verbally stating 'you look nice' and other affectionate statements. It's hard to remember to say those thoughts out loud especially if you normally show affection physically or with gifts, but vocalizing affection is something you can work on.

But to be honest that's not the answer you need.

She straight up doesn't have the time for someone to be nagging her at home. Its just going to 'get worse' when she actually starts working as a nurse. Its brutal work, emotionally and physically draining work with long hours and erratic scheduling. She deserves someone at home that makes her feel at home. For most people that means jeans and a sweatshirt and Netflix and trusting their partner isn't judging them. If you're too good for that then break up with her. Think selfishly about it; she isn't going to give you what you want.

For the record what you want is completely unreasonable.
Also, are you really complaining that she wears glasses? What the fuck.
posted by kittensofthenight at 11:40 PM on October 6, 2014 [12 favorites]

Hi. When I was 21 I was dating a boyfriend (older, if it matters) who had a more developed taste in fashion than I did. We once went on a skiing trip that I remember not for the fun (which was had both on the slopes and in the hotel room) but for two comments he made to me. One criticism of my skiing "outfit" which consisted of random mismatched outerwear from my college and high school years. And one compliment that was something like "you look nicer than usual" when I dressed up in a fancy skirt for dinner. The criticism pissed me off because I am a utilitarian and refused to pay money to acquire matching ski pants and parka for one weekend when we lived in California. The compliment, though, is what reduced me to sobbing tears in the hotel lobby. The fact that he had a logbook in his mind of my attractiveness in various outfits. That when he saw me, he didn't think "oh boy we're going to have a tasty meal" but rather "she doesn't embarrass me thank god."

My friendly advice (since there's a lot of exasperation already in this thread) is the following:
1) Is there something she really wants to do (NOT appearance related) that she's been having trouble finding the time or motivation to do? Though I don't think of that boyfriend very fondly because I felt so worn down by his constant assessment of my clothing choices and my insufficient facial care, I do remember how loved I felt when he gave me a book on journalism (my planned career at that point) and helped me copy and collate a zine that I had been dragging my feet on. To know that he was excited about and supported me in an endeavor (writing) that was important to me was immensely important.
2) Are you focusing on your dissatisfaction with your girlfriend as a way of not thinking about something at work or elsewhere in your life that is making you less than happy? A year or two after we broke up, my then ex-bf asked to meet up for lunch and said something like "I'm sorry I criticized so much. I really was just bummed about my own job at the time."
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:20 AM on October 7, 2014 [10 favorites]

This sounds like my boyfriend from when I was 21 came forward in time to write this question. We are now happily broken up for 8 years and fuck I wish we had been smart enough to break up much sooner. You two are just dragging out your life together because oh hey, you like playing video games together. Good news, it's not that hard to find a roommate you can get along with just as well! And doesn't come with weird guilt for being sexually incompatible and not admitting it!
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:30 AM on October 7, 2014 [9 favorites]

But around a year ago, she got a ulcer in her eye and so she has been wearing glasses ever since. She now finds contacts very uncomfortable after around 3 hours.

I've had an ulcer on my eye. It hurt so much all I could do was cry, and when we went to the ER they tried to tell me Vicodin would be good enough and it wasn't; the only thing that really helped were drops that literally numb the cornea and aren't actually safe to keep taking because you can accidentally do major damage without even knowing it, that's how numb we're talking. The next day an ophthalmologist told me he doesn't even bother to prescribe narcotics because of how easy it would be to overdose just trying to stop the pain. So just in case she somehow didn't/hasn't made it clear to you, eye ulcers hurt. An incredible amount. And I've got to tell you, I completely understand how she feels about the contacts. Even though I now have a treatment protocol and regular appointments with an ophthalmologist (i.e., a surgeon; an optometrist isn't even an MD/DO) to check that my cornea is improving and no new ulcers are developing, I haven't been wearing my contacts much either because the time between "somewhat bothersome" and "why, why, why, get it out" can be less than a minute. That you're blithely expecting her to risk re-injuring her eye(s) with a mascara brush or by wearing contacts when she's not ready just to make you happier with her appearance is horrifying. I can only hope you genuinely didn't realize what you've been asking of her, and that going forward you'll seriously reconsider how you value this woman's bodily autonomy versus your personal satisfaction.
posted by teremala at 1:45 AM on October 7, 2014 [84 favorites]

Here's another point: if I was a 23 year old nursing student with medical problems I wouldn't have the money to buy fancy clothes or makeup.

Which is even more reason for this poor hardworking girl to find a guy who has the maturity to understand that she's a whole person with a valid life and valid needs, wants and desires who thinks she's beautiful in a potato sack.

There's nothing wrong with taking an interest in style or fashion, but there's a lot wrong with forcing someone to take an interest in - and spend money on - things they're just not into.
posted by nerdfish at 2:59 AM on October 7, 2014 [11 favorites]

OP, I don't know how new you are to the site, so first off I wanted to let you know that you can come back and add more info or clarify something if you want, and still stay anonymous, by contacting a mod, who will post that update for you in this thread. You would do that by using the contact form, okay?

I felt you might benefit from that info because you're getting a lot of judgment in this thread. Reading what you have chosen to include here, I know I am pretty puzzled myself about some of the issues you're having.

You've talked a lot about what you value here. I think, based on my read of your question, that your love language would probably be acts of service, and that, bluntly, you are sexually aroused primarily by visual stimulation.

So, to you, someone who loves you should want to do little things to show you she cares, like dressing up, wearing makeup, etc. You work all day with other people dressed in nice work clothes, and you want her to dress up at least as nicely for you. To you, dressing up should be the default, even when you are just playing video games, but especially when you go out. Since she loves you, she should be going the extra mile and doing even more to show her love. Kneeling down in high heels, giving you oral sex through lipsticked lips, maybe.

Okay, now try to look at it from your girlfriend's perspective. She spends all day in class, where jeans are pretty much the default dress code. No one is dressing up, no one worries about makeup because everyone is concentrating on their studies all the time. It's getting tough and she can't just phone it in because she knows her future depends on this education. The effort of dressing up after classes are over feels like work to her instead of relaxing, which is what she wants to do when she gets together with you. She has told you that she is too busy and stressed to do anything more than she already is doing. (You heard her say that, but you didn't really process it, I don't think. You feel like she is being selfish, caring only about herself and not you. But to the rest of us answering here, she sounds too exhausted even to take care of herself.) She can't even work up the energy to go see the eye doctor, which may mean she is jeopardizing her own health. She is barely interested in sex any more, let alone initiating it.

Can you understand that you are getting flak here because you're putting more pressure on her to do extra things for you when she is already too stressed and exhausted to do basic things for herself?

Plus, it sounds like she never did some of these things before, including wearing makeup or participating in oral sex. (I am going to assume the best and believe that you want to give AND receive oral sex, and that's what bothers you about the missionary only, PIV sex).

Now, I think it's fine to know what you want, including sexually, and decide whether something is a deal breaker. If you could never fall in love with someone unless she quacked like a duck, I would not judge you for that. I would tell you, hey, whatever floats your boat, you go right ahead and get your kink on.

Here's the problem, though, OP: you say you did fall in love with her back in the beginning when she wore no makeup! And didn't dress up! And she never had oral sex then either! Why, then, does she have to meet these new standards for you, jump over more hurdles, just for her to be enough for you now? Do you see how unfair that is? Can you also see why, knowing you now find her inadequate, she feels self-conscious about your gaze on her, your hands on her body? She feels you are judging her each time, and she's right.

Have you considered that you expectations may not be based on relality? You know your girlfriend doesn't measure up to your fantasy of what a girlfriend should be--but she never did before and yet you used to be happy. How did that happen? Do you really need to mold her into that fantasy? Is she making you unhappy, or is your insistence on this fantasy the root of your problems?

You are overdue for some introspection, OP. Consider your relationship with your SO carefully. Are the problems you list here deal breakers for you? If they are, then yes, you will need to break up with your SO rather than insisting that she change for you. Otherwise, one of you will always be unhappy, knowing she did not measure up to your standards.
posted by misha at 3:34 AM on October 7, 2014 [44 favorites]

Those "what about YOUR personal grooming" kinds of responses are the ones people give to married couples in their 40s who are mutually discontent but who found each other incredibly attractive when they first settled down, or to guys (usually guys) who complain that the people they find attractive won't give them the time of day to start with. People have addressed why it's totally unreasonable here to expect your girlfriend to risk her vision health for your standards of attractiveness, but fundamentally, you're 23, you're not very happy, and I suspect you'd be less nitpicky if you weren't looking for things to blame your discontent on. Those married couples in their 40s are trying to get back the relationship they had at your age. If you already don't have that relationship, you haven't invested two decades in it, go meet someone who's at least starting at the right point for you. You're seriously jumping the gun on how settled you're supposed to be at this age.

Next time, don't start compiling a laundry list of failings, just break up when you realize you aren't enjoying being with the person.
posted by Sequence at 4:02 AM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Our sex is unsatisfying. She doesn't seem to want to learn her own body enough to let herself orgasm, and isn't interested in anything besides PIV missionary sex.

Ignoring the fact that "doesn't seem to want to learn enough about her own body" line grossed me out an amazing amount for its various values of superlative patronizing and condescension, i think that like a lot of other things this may be related.

As in, maybe your sex life would be more interesting if she was more comfortable with you, and not constantly feeling insecure and generally fearful that you're judging her at every turn. She could be just totally "ok, let's just get through this, and then he'll leave me alone"

And hell, maybe she's just exhausted and is basically just getting a fuck out of the way.

Sex is lame as fuck when it's a chore, and you have an active hand in making it one here.

But ok, dude, even if you are completely repelled by this thread and get all defensive and put your blast shields up. Here's something that is pretty much emphatically true outside of anything you have put in to this:

Being in a relationship with someone who is in an intensive program in secondary education when you are not is hard. You go to work, come home, and you're done. You could just helicopter dick to black metal all night. She likely has a ridiculous tiresome schedule.

I've dated someone who was working on a double major while working two jobs. I on the other hand was working a slightly more than part time job. We still managed to spend a good amount of time together, but a lot of my time at home was either her being at work or asleep. It's not weird that she's tired and doesn't have the energy to put in to doing a lot of these things. You just need to accept that this isn't some personal failing of hers that she isn't an android with infinite energy, mental, and emotional capacity. I stuck it out with my partner and she graduated and then we had way more time for each other.

Here, it sounds like sticking it out won't work for a multitude of reasons(many valid ones of which are listed above). But a totally good, and huge one, is the split of time and energy you have left over after you come home for the day. If you were in her position, you would likely be basically drinking and sleeping. It's totally ok to move on and find someone else who has a similar schedule and amount of free time and energy to spend on the relationship.

I also think you need to shape the fuck up on your expectations here, but even leaving that out, there's a basic incompatibility that is a totally legit reason for a relationship to fail. People break up over this kind of stuff all the time.
posted by emptythought at 4:07 AM on October 7, 2014 [17 favorites]

You probably won't like this, but I think this is just a case of you being young and immature. If you really care if she wears makeup and does her hair, find a girl that likes to always wear makeup and do her hair. You guys are just incompatible, it's totally normal for a girl not to feel like wearing makeup all the time, or dressing up. If I wear makeup and dress up, it's going to be when I feel like it, not because a guy expects me to.

As far as her not initiating, it's an extremely common relationship problem for a couple to have mismatched sex drives, and a very difficult one to overcome. Usually the person with the higher sex drive has to get used to less sex. Especially if she's not onboard with changing the dynamic. Obviously, it's not cool to push her to have more sex if she doesn't want to.

But again, you guys are really young, and just seem incompatible. Break up and date around. You really sound like at this point in your life you'd be happier casually seeing a lot of different girls rather than in a serious relationship.
posted by catatethebird at 4:08 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

She's a student nurse, you say? As in, working 12-hour shifts in a teaching hospital for little to no pay, and having to wear a uniform? And you're upset because when she comes home, she's tired & wants to wear what she feels comfortable in? And you expect this to change when she's older and a full-fledged nurse?

Yeah, do her a favour and break up with her.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 4:32 AM on October 7, 2014 [16 favorites]

I just finished class to be a nursing assistant. While I was doing clinical rotation, I left my house at 5:30 every morning and came home bone-tired in the afternoon. If anyone wanted me to put on mascara during that time, they would have gotten a stern talking-to. Can't do it in the morning, because that's not my first priority before sunrise and nursing home residents don't give a shit about my makeup. End of the day, still tired and my first and highest priority was getting out of my damn scrubs and into something comfy. I personally find dresses comfy, but makeup not worth the effort at all. If you're girlfriend's not comfortable with either of those things give her a break, the last thing she needs after a day of dealing with bureaucracy and bodily fluids is a lecture about her appearance.

I only expect my fatigue and don't-give-a-fuck tendencies to increase when I start full-time nursing school. Even assistant classes were grueling and grinding in a way that my (quite rigorous!) BA never was. If you're girlfriend still has several years of school to go, your "problems" with her are only going to intensify; leave now and let her find someone who appreciates how fucking hectic her life will be when she's working long shifts and studying for the NCLEX constantly.
posted by ActionPopulated at 4:54 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm with everyone else. This girl deserves a lot better. Either you become a LOT better or let her find someone who doesn't put such emphasis on trivial things.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:10 AM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I can't believe this hasn't been mentioned yet but--as someone with sensitive eyes who wears contacts and has to avoid what you would consider an adequate amount of eye makeup--the mascara you "gifted" her may have in fact caused the eye ulcer to begin with.

In terms of her sexuality (with you), the men I've been the most relaxed with have been the men I've felt the most...relaxed with, with regards to knowing they found me attractive in pajamas, with bedhair and glasses, covered in dirt, etc. For women, "relaxed" is often another way of saying, "capable of exploring, and focusing on my own enjoyment as well." Take that for what you will--learn it well before your 30s, and your relationships will only profit.
posted by blue suede stockings at 5:13 AM on October 7, 2014 [22 favorites]

Other people have fully covered the big picture; I just have comments on a few things that jumped out at me:

try to engineer situations where getting dressed up would be necessary... like taking her to nice restaurants for our date night or telling her we will cook a romantic dinner.

As a general rule (meaning, not just in regards to clothes), it works way better to communicate clearly rather than "engineer situations" and hope the other person reads your mind. It's ok to say something like, "I made reservations for dinner on Friday night, and I would like us both to make it an occasion and get dressed up. The reservation is for 8:30, so you should have lots of time after work to relax before getting dressed." There is almost never a downside to being clear and direct, as long as you do it in ways that give the other person full opportunities to express their needs back at you ("Oh, could we change that to Saturday? I'll be wiped out on Friday and getting dressed up and going out will feel like a chore rather than a treat.").

Second, I think a lot of men forget how much time, effort, and money (lots and lots and lots of money) beauty and fashion costs for women. I can get a buzz cut at the barbershop for under $20, but a cut/color/style at a decent salon costs my partner around $200 with tip. Nice evening clothes for women often means makeup (people above have covered the expense and time of this), specialized and/or uncomfortable undergarments, hair removal, etc. And the clothes themselves are expensive and impractical -- men can wear what they would to the office and look fine, but for women it's a separate outfit that isn't going to ever be worn for work. It's not just "are you shaving and getting dressed up also?" -- more importantly, it's "are you helping pay for the costs of this and providing the time and support to make it not just happen but be fun?" An hour spent putting on makeup is an hour not spent resting, doing homework, or cooking, for example, and is only going to seem like fun if she isn't being stretched all week.

Our sex is unsatisfying. She doesn't seem to want to learn her own body enough to let herself orgasm, and isn't interested in anything besides PIV missionary sex.

I'd turn that around, and ask why you are giving her such a mediocre sex life? It doesn't sound like she is enjoying it much or feeling like the situation is one where she can safely explore her sexuality -- I think it's time to look in the mirror and reboot your approach entirely on this front. At the risk of overgeneralizing, no one is going to be super sexual and giving in bed if they aren't feeling unconditionally safe, rested, and supported. Maybe it's the stresses from her life, but my money is that she is feeling judged and criticized by you at every step of the way, so by the time you guys get to the bedroom the chances of her wanting to take risks and give of herself fully are about zero.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:34 AM on October 7, 2014 [41 favorites]

"There is nothing wrong with being shallow or superficial, and generally most people are, but then get uptight about other people being shallow or superficial is ways that don't match up with their own shallow or superficial impulses. And currently it's mostly women telling men their [sic] superficial, but with little effort you'll find women who won't date anyone who makes less than they do and is shorter than they are. Take it with a grain of salt."

I couldn't agree more. You have every right to want what you want. However, it seems clear that this woman, right now, as much as you love her and enjoy her company, is not what you want. You are wonderfully compatible as friends, but you are not really compatible as a romantic couple. If I were you, I would end the relationship and allow both of you to find more compatible partners.
posted by Dolley at 5:52 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Surely after reading all these responses, you are getting the feeling that you're out of line. So I just want to add that even if you're successful in making your girlfriend do what you want her to do with the makeup and the glasses and the clothes (and even the sex), it won't be real, see? She'll be putting on a costume to suit you, rather than being herself. Is that what you want, really?

I wonder if part of this is that you're out in the world being 23 at a new corporate job and still dating someone in college, and the women you see at work are wearing makeup and dressed up and you think that they represent the Normal Woman, a standard your girlfriend is failing to meet. Guess what? A lot of those women are wearing a costume they feel like they have to wear to be professionally successful, and daydream about being able to wear jeans and glasses and no makeup and be themselves all the time without having to worry about how it will affect their financial security. I know because I am 37 and have been in corporate America for 15 years and fantasize about how I can get a job somehow wearing scrubs even though I don't work in medicine. Fortunately I have a husband who loves me and thinks makeup is bullshit, so I can do whatever I want when I'm not at the office without feeling like the person I share my life with is going to be disappointed in who I am.

Your life partner should not have to wear a costume for you. I think (hope) as you are a grownup for longer, your expectations of what a woman should be will relax and become more realistic. Otherwise you're going to spend your life trying to make people be who they aren't, which is not going to be good for your own self or your partners, either.
posted by something something at 5:56 AM on October 7, 2014 [27 favorites]

Mod note: I appreciate this question brings out some strong feelings. But this should not become a free-for-all. Please try to keep it civil and stick to answers you think might be helpful, thanks.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:05 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Should I end it with my great companion of a SO?

Yes. You have fundamental incompatibilities, not the least of which are your sexual ones.

I just feel depressed when I think "maybe it will change as we grow older."

They will not improve. They will get worse. End it.

I'm a nurse, almost ten years older than your girlfriend. I actually enjoy getting dressed up and wearing makeup. Having said that: there are coworkers of mine who consistently wear makeup to work. I did it once-- in the year I've been at my current job-- and everyone asked me why. All shift long.

When I was in nursing school, I wore t-shirts and yoga pants. Hell, it's what I'm wearing right now to answer your question.

Your girlfriend is not going to progress to the person you want her to be, especially if that includes being confident and relaxed.

Leave her, now, for both your sakes.
posted by RainyJay at 6:10 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I cannot even wrap my head around this post.

I understand wanting your significant other to take care of themselves - absolutely - but you don't seem to be understanding of HER wants and needs. She probably WANTS you to be accepting and understanding while she's in nursing school (which is a HUGE pain in the ass) and if you can't accept and love her, and be attracted to who she is when she is in sweat pants - then break it off.

For her sake.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 6:37 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

You probably won't like this, but I think this is just a case of you being young and immature.

This hits the nail on the head. What are you, at 23, doing talking about a "companion"? I can't tell if you are living together or what, but either way you are not ready. You should date a number of people and try to meet someone who is closer to what you want from the outset.

People are scolding you for the preferences you express and the demands you put on your girlfriend. There are a lot of people twice your age acting more or less the way you do! But at any age, it's not productive. You don't want to spend your life trying to change someone.
posted by BibiRose at 6:56 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's better fit for both of you out there.
My husband genuinely prefers that I don't wear makeup, and doesn't care if I wear glasses.
There are women out there who do not like being in public in glasses or without makeup. It's important to them!
posted by Neekee at 7:00 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

The phrase "taking care of (her needs/myself/etc.)" pops up a few times in your question, and I suspect you mean it in the "pays attention to her appearance" way. Because actually taking care of herself and her needs involves stuff like getting adequate rest and not wearing contacts or mascara with an injured eye. Is her appearance more important to you than your health?

She sounds like she's losing confidence and is starting to worry about being good (looking) enough for you, which is stress she doesn't need. Let go of your expectations for her looks, or let go of her.

Having such high standards for a partner's physical appearance is unlikely to result in a fulfilling long-term relationship. Maybe you don't want the kind of relationship that lasts decades, or maybe you'll be lucky and find an attractive partner who prioritizes her attractiveness. But most people are more comfortable in jeans and t-shirts, and want to be similarly comfortable - physically and emotionally - in a relationship.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:13 AM on October 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

My Complaints: She doesn't wear her hair down or wear makeup...

Get out of this relationship before you hurt someone. You have a lot of growing up to do.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:13 AM on October 7, 2014 [35 favorites]

It is totally okay to have preferences based on appearance and grooming. It is not okay to date someone who does not meet those preferences and try to mold them into someone who does. I have short hair, I will always have short hair, and people who like long hair just should not date me.

Almost everyone is telling you to break up with her, which is absolutely the right answer for both your sakes. Some are suggesting that you find someone who is into makeup and dressing up, and I don't think that's correct - I think you should work on yourself first, because I think you will also find some "flaw" in the next girl you date. The problem is with you and your selfishness, and you know that deep down or you would not have asked this. I don't know why you are like this, but you owe it to your future partners (and yourself!) to figure it out. The only way to have a fulfilling relationship is to accept and respect the other person. Expecting the other person to change leads to resentment and unhappiness.
posted by desjardins at 7:20 AM on October 7, 2014 [22 favorites]

I want to say this as gently as possible: this is emotionally abusive behavior. She appears to be terrified of you and your judgments - changing out of your sight, constantly apologizing when she doesn't meet your strict standards for how she should behave and dress, etc. - please pay attention to these signs that you're actually harming her and (consciously or unconsciously) trying to emotionally dominate. There are also clear boundary issues you're having (i.e., not fully understanding consent with respect to bodily touching.) Frankly I'd actually rather reply to her than to you, because I think she needs to take steps to leave you and feel safe and loved however she can. Since I can't address her, though, I just ask you to consider. That everything you mentioned in your post can be characterized as "abuse", harsh as that word seems.
posted by naju at 7:21 AM on October 7, 2014 [58 favorites]

To be honest when I first read your post I thought you were a troll & it would be deleted.

Do you put effort into your appearance? Do you put effort into trying to understand she may be tired & need some help? Do you help with the workload around the house? Have you tried making sex enjoyable for her, where she feels beautiful & sexy before you even get naked so she wants to try something new? Have you made her so self conscious that of course she doesn't want to have sex with her you have made it apparent to her you only find her pretty enough if she puts make up on & dresses how you like or have you made her feel so pretty & attractive no matter what she looks like that she has the confidence to try new things in the bedroom because she knows you'll be accepting no matter what happens? Because from the few paragraphs you wrote it really doesn't sound like it.

You want an attractive, sexually active woman without giving your partner any of the things she needs to feel like those things. There is nothing wrong with wanting a girly girl that likes make up etc and has the time for them. Your current partner is not that girl. She deserves someone that finds her attractive how she is, and as she sounds like a go getter playing sport & studying she will have no problem moving on & finding that guy. You need to date a range of women, learn a little more about women and grow up a little before settling down again in a long term relationship again.
posted by wwax at 7:25 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you're this young and hearing a little voice inside suggesting maybe you should break up... it's because you should break up. Relationships don't have to detonate horribly to come to an end. Sometimes, basically nice people who get along still aren't right for each other. This is okay.

There's a bit of a pile-on here with people chiding you for the way you have pushed your own expectations. I wouldn't say they're wrong. But I would say that since you're only 23, you're probably less in need of a scolding than a few steps back and a look in the mirror. I doubt you'll feel good about how you're pushing your partner once it dawns on you how you've behaved. But don't take it as some damning personal flaw. Take it as proof you still have growing up to do. And resolve to do better.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:31 AM on October 7, 2014 [10 favorites]

Well when was the last time you dressed up/shaved/took care of yourself

I don't think this is the correct question to be asking. It would be more fair to say, "When was the last time you had to spend time and money and deal with the discomfort of wearing a dress, high heels, and makeup? How much do you suffer in terms of physical discomfort to look good when going out with your SO?"

Look, I say this as a woman who enjoys looking nice and put together. I usually put on makeup even if I'm just running errands. I genuinely enjoy getting dressed up and clothing and everything that goes with it. But this is my choice, and I choose to do it for me.

I also change out of these clothes and put on sweats the minute I'm back home. I never wear heels because I have major problems with my feet, and I suffer for days after even the briefest time spent in heels. If I were with someone who thought I wasn't trying hard enough because I didn't want to hurt myself to suit their specific desires for my appearance, well we wouldn't be together any more. If someone wanted me to walk around the house in fancy lingerie when I was tired and wanted to wear yoga pants, there's no way that would work out.

Maybe part of your problem is that you equate the effort she puts into her appearance and her response to your sexual overtures with her feelings for you. If her appearance and your sex life remained the same, but she were able to make you feel like she's truly invested in the relationship in other ways, would that be good enough for you? If so, then maybe there's a way to make this relationship work.

I feel like if you truly cared about her then you would never want her to put herself through discomfort (like wearing contacts when they hurt her eyes) just to look the way you want her to look. if you only want to be with her if she starts dressing up to meet your arbitrary taste, then you need to break up with her. You should never stay in a relationship hoping for someone else to change.

There are lots of women out there who like to dress up. Go find one of them, and please, stop making comments about your current SO's appearance. She should not be having to apologize to you because she's not making enough "effort" to look the way you want her to look.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:54 AM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

You're 23. Possibly just out of college. There is a whole world of women out there who like to dress up and put on makeup, even if they're tired, because it makes them feel better.

That's not your girlfriend, and in my experience as a 30-year-old woman not at all interested in makeup no matter how I try, it will likely never be your girlfriend.

Your discomfort will not get better. Your girlfriend will never be enough. It's cruel to continue.
posted by muddgirl at 7:56 AM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I had a boyfriend like you. He wanted me to wear a push-up bra at all times, and was particularly insistent on having me dress in embarrassingly revealing clothing when we went out, even to work events. He had a big thing for platform heels and long hair and thong underwear. He also wanted me to "take care of my body" by running a few miles a day and by going on a diet, which he designed for me after my own attempts "failed" (I wasn't losing the weight quickly enough) so I was surviving on 750 or 800 calories a day.

I don't think "becoming anorexic" is part of self-care.

It was so humiliating and degrading. I can't tell you the absolute joy I had when I dumped him and got to discard all of the ridiculous revealing costumes he liked me to wear. Or the joy that I still get every day opening my fridge and seeing food, food, all food I can eat without any fear of judgment.

Once I was taking off my clothes and he turned to me and said, "You look grotesque." I never felt safe naked with him again. I still don't feel safe naked when I'm alone sometimes.

The way you are treating your girlfriend could do her serious damage, both physically and psychologically.

I am so glad I left him, which is a sad thing to feel about someone you once loved. But I realized that one day I would get old, and that I didn't want to be parading around town with my chest hanging out of my shirt, nibbling on vegetables and steamed chicken for the rest of my life. And even if I did want to do that? Well, I was going to age. My body will change. There will come a point in time when my fat redistributes and my ass becomes irretrievably flat, a time when gravity just takes its toll and my chest will sag. My hair will thin. My skin will become wrinkled. And he would not be kind about it, even though those things have nothing to do with my worth as a human. And I didn't want to yoke myself to someone who was unkind to me.

I wish that my boyfriend had realized he was massively out of line. And then I wish he had gotten himself into therapy to work some of his issues out. Therapy would have done him a world of good. You might consider it as well.

Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 7:57 AM on October 7, 2014 [46 favorites]

Our sex is unsatisfying. She doesn't seem to want to learn her own body enough to let herself orgasm, and isn't interested in anything besides PIV missionary sex.

I think other people have the rest of your question covered pretty well, so I will address this part.

I didn't have an orgasm until I was 22 or 23, after I broke up with my first college boyfriend of over 2 years. He put pressure on me to come, because he thought my lack of ability to do so meant that he was doing something wrong- but his constant insistence on that point only made me feel worse.

Long before I met him I had feared that my body was broken and I would never be able to come. I'd tried lots of things before I ever slept with him, it wasn't that I didn't WANT to come- I wanted it so desperately, I can hardly explain it. But, far from giving me an incentive to come, his pressuring me made me feel totally unsexy. I wish he had made an effort to understand that and had tried to please me without expecting an orgasm at the end, but whatever, we were both young and I didn't know what was wrong either. I don't blame him for anything.

But I only came once we broke up and I realized that an orgasm was something for ME- not for him to give me or for him to enjoy, but for me to give to myself. Ironically, the intense pressure I felt from him to have an orgasm probably kept it from ever happening, because I wasn't focusing on my own body, but on HIS needs.

Bottom line: do you care about this girl? Do you want her to be satisfied? Then lay off the pressure, have PIV sex if that's what she wants, and break up if that's not what YOU want- but stop trying to 'make' her have an orgasm. It just doesn't work that way.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:00 AM on October 7, 2014 [20 favorites]

Others have covered a lot of what I would say. Just wanted to add: When your girlfriend apologizes for not dressing up, wearing makeup, and so on, and "says she hates it too" it's possible that she's just saying that to get you to stop criticizing her, and does not necessarily actually want to change her behavior.

Also, I would not call the desire to not wear makeup, contacts, go shopping, go out for fancy occasions, etc. things to "fix." They're just different preferences; she's allowed to have them, even if they're not your preferences.
posted by ferret branca at 8:02 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

My new rule for AskMe relationship questions is that if I read "she's 21 and I'm 23" and then there's a novel about all the relationship problems, I'm going to skip reading the novel and just come down here and tell you to break up. You're going to be a different person in two years and a different person two years after that and a different person two years after that and this person isn't going to be able to change with you when you're working so hard just to maintain in the present.
posted by Kwine at 8:07 AM on October 7, 2014 [42 favorites]

I don't think this is the correct question to be asking. It would be more fair to say, "When was the last time you had to spend time and money and deal with the discomfort of wearing a dress, high heels, and makeup? How much do you suffer in terms of physical discomfort to look good when going out with your SO?"

This is a very important point, and I think it is one you need to really focus on. I bet you're a little surprised by a lot of the anger in this thread, and, if so, I bet it's for this reason: I doubt you really have any idea how much you are asking/requiring of your girlfriend. Others have tried to explain how much what you're asking/requiring really is -- but it's one of those things where an explanation will always really fail to capture its true nature.

So, here's something you may want to try. It sounds silly, and it will probably feel silly, but try it sometime: try dressing up the way you want your girlfriend to.

Go all out. Put on a bra, fancy undies, nice dress. Do your hair. (You might not have as much hair to 'do'... But you can find guides online to making even short hair look femininely fancy. Make sure some curling irons or similar items are involved.) Put on make-up. All of it--mascara, lipstick, foundation, etc. Put on high heels. Do this, after a long day of work. Do this, every day, after work, for a week.

You can do it in total secrecy. No one has to know. Again, you will likely feel silly... but silliness is valuable for the sake of learning what another's lived experience is like. When you do this, in the evenings, don't just immediately undo it, either. Sit with it for a while, maybe an hour. Feel what it's like to have mascara on your eye lashes. Check to make sure that the lipstick stays bright. Notice how often you want to scratch your head, but how you can't do so without threatening the stability of your 'do'. Walk around in the high heels. Pay attention how often the undies creep up your butt.

Again, it'll be silly. But, think of it this way: if you do this for a week, you'll be in a better position to understand what it is you're asking for. You'll be able to know how much of a sacrifice it is to her time, comfort, and well-being. You'll be in a better position to empathize, and a better position to negotiate. You'll have a chance to empathize and become a better partner.
posted by meese at 8:08 AM on October 7, 2014 [44 favorites]

When I was 21 I had a boyfriend who would get whiny about my schlubby hair and clothes and general lack of fanciness. Want to know what happened? I cut all my hair off. We broke up shortly afterward.

A few years later I felt like shaving my head and this happened. At the time I was dating a dude who thought I was super duper fucking hot with no hair and no makeup and that hoodie I'm wearing in that picture belonged to my mom in college and is 40 years old and full of holes.

My point is, this is a terrible match for you and yes you should break up with your girlfriend. It's the right choice for both of you.
posted by phunniemee at 8:27 AM on October 7, 2014 [18 favorites]

I'll just answer the questions. Yes break up. This is what you say:

Caroline, I'm just not feeling it anymore. I cherish the time we were together, but it's time that we went our separate ways. I wish you all the best.

That's it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:38 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

All the very serious issues aside, you're 23 and she's 21. There's almost no chance that this is even the long-term relationship of your 20s, much less your life.

End it. Tell her it's not working out. As a parting gift, be kind to her. Do not laundry-list the hundreds of things that are unspeakably horrible about her. Tell her she needs to focus on school and her career because it is and should be the most important thing in her life, and that you know that your presence in that life is unproductive for both of you.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:57 AM on October 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

Please break up with this poor girl immediately and let her live her life free of your demands and insecurities.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:03 AM on October 7, 2014 [13 favorites]

Every single thing you have described is emotional abuse, perpetrated by you. So in answer to your question about how to more effectively manipulate her into doing the things you want, the answer is that you don't get those 'nice' things. You break up with her, and then immediately start working on your flagrantly abusive, manipulating behavior.

There is no need to treat you with kid gloves here, and it is inappropriate to gently skirt the issue. You are being abusive.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:06 AM on October 7, 2014 [20 favorites]

Let's say you read this whole thread and you got all the way down here and thought, "screw you all, I'm going to save this relationship!" How would you go about this?

1. Give her space to be herself. Nursing school is a lot of work and she needs some time to recharge. If that's sitting around in yoga pants and a pony tail, great. She needs this.

2. (AskMetafilter standard answer) Get therapy. I'm not suggesting that the two of you get couples therapy, I'm saying you should go see one to investigate some of the stuff going on in this thread. None of us are born fully formed and sometimes we do dumb things and have bad relationships and some of us learn from them. If you want to save this one, you need to work with someone to help you understand what lessons you should be learning from this one. A lot of it has been said above, but I really think a dialogue with a therapist would help you tremendously.
posted by advicepig at 10:18 AM on October 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

Boy howdy, what a mess.

I'm sure you're feeling a bit angry and defensive about why everybody is so upset with you - you sound like you've internalized Hollywood-type societal standards hook, line, and sinker (you are certainly not alone here). Since this stuff bombards us all the time from all directions, I'm willing to bet that you haven't ever really encountered a different perspective on this stuff before.

Here's the thing - that "women should put lots time and effort into their appearance no matter what else is going on in their lives solely to please the men around them" standard is incredibly damaging to both of you. She's left emotionally damaged and you're left frustrated and angry. Nobody is winning here.

As several other posters have said, it's okay to want to date somebody who is into dressing up and makeup and exercise and whatnot. It is not okay to try to force that on somebody who is not naturally into those things, and it's not okay to think that women who don't do these things are somehow inferior to women who do.

Some of the things you're doing are really abusive. I don't get the sense that you ever thought of it as abusive, but it is - trying to control other people to this degree is abusive and it harms them. Your girlfriend is going to carry some of the awful things you've said to her for years after this relationship is over, and it's going to make her life difficult and miserable.

The kindest thing you can do for her is to leave, gently. Don't tell her that anything is wrong with her, don't list the things you're unhappy with, just tell her you love her but it isn't working out. And then think long and hard about the fact that you don't consider women full human beings with equal hopes and desires and right as you. Feminist 101 stuff on female objectification can probably help you in this regard.
posted by zug at 10:19 AM on October 7, 2014 [24 favorites]

I LOVE make up. I wear it almost every day. I dress up, wear high heels, do my hair and take a whole hour to get ready to go to work. I get up at 5am so I have time to put my make up on with patience and when I am done putting it on I am sad that make up time is over.

That said, if I discovered that a boyfriend of mine expects, demands, whines or "engineers situations" to make me comply with some imaginary duty to do all these things that I love doing, I would find that insulting beyond words and would break up on the spot and with no regrets.

You don't get to dictate how your girlfriend does anything. She doesn't owe you anything. You get to like her or not like her as a partner and continue or stop the relationship based on said likes or dislikes. What you are doing is treating her like she is not an equal and like she has "duties" to you.
posted by Tarumba at 10:21 AM on October 7, 2014 [29 favorites]

God, you're so young. I mean just so young.

My boyfriend hates it whe I wear makeup. He tells me I'm beautiful all the time and that I don't need it. He loves how I look in sweatpants and I'm really, truly seriously not flattering myself or joking. When I spend a lot of time getting ready, he tells me I look gorgeous but that I really don't need to.

Someday I am going to be bloated and pregnant, or have just given birth, and I am going to look flat-out ugly, tired and worn out. And my SO is going to tell me he thinks I look beautiful, and even though he may logically know on some level that I can look better when I'm done up, part of him is going to really mean it, too.

Young guys and girls care a lot about measuring up, and part of me thinks maybe you want to show off your girlfriend and keep up appearances.

Honestly I don't even blame you or think you're necessarily in the wrong like a lot of posters. Your attitude is common and understandable. You are a youn man with a young man's concerns.

Nothing really wrong with that. Break up with her, find that make-up wearing sexually adventurous girl, and experience that for a while. If you still feel exactly the same as you do in this question when you're 25 or 30, maybe then re-examine yourself.
posted by quincunx at 10:25 AM on October 7, 2014 [10 favorites]

Your girlfriend is in self-preservation mode. Though she is probably not completely conscious of the degree to which she is shutting herself off from you to protect what's left of her tenuous self-esteem, rest assured that her actions are all about marshaling whatever energy she has for the task of completing her nursing program, rather than reassuring you constantly about your masculinity.

Once your girlfriend finishes her nursing program and enjoys the feeling of accomplishment that will invariably come with that true milestone, her self-esteem will improve. Once she gets a job and sees that all of her grueling hard work and commitment and grit are finally starting to pay off, that, too, will raise her self-esteem. And once she truly hears the things that you're saying to her - like, you would prefer that she risk damaging her eyes for the sake of your ego - she will take off like a rocket, hopefully right out of warped, abusive relationships like the one she's currently in with you.

I hope, though, that she gets emotionally and psychologically healthier long before this three year program is done.

You're laboring under the misapprehension that you're a nice guy. Put charitably, you've bought a laughably outmoded bill of chauvinistic indoctrination horse manure and it would be nicest of you to step out of relationships for a good long while and get some help. Women are not toys.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 10:26 AM on October 7, 2014 [31 favorites]

You're young and selfish. I've been married 20 years and there a lot of things hubby and I would like each other to do, but understand when and if we don't (which is a lot of the time). Move on to someone else who fits your bill.
posted by harrietthespy at 10:40 AM on October 7, 2014

Move on to someone else who fits your bill.

No, because the problem is not the appearance of the woman, so trading in this no-makeup woman for someone who does wear makeup does not solve the problem. The problem is the selfishness and controlling behavior, which will continue no matter what the woman looks like.
posted by desjardins at 11:02 AM on October 7, 2014 [27 favorites]

i wear makeup sometimes because i feel like there is external pressure from my family to perform femininity. one time my eyelashes started itching and the next morning i had a huge cyst on my eyelid. it lasted for over a year. luckily my husband likes my face without makeup and would beg me to not wear any even if i was visiting my family. while i hated the bump on my eyelid and thought it made me look bad he never reinforced this fear.

you are asking your girlfriend to harm herself further and somehow you've come out of this thinking she's the selfish one. you need to take a long hard look at yourself and be a better person. the first act of kindness you can perform is to break up with your girlfriend. she has a difficult few years ahead of her and she doesn't need you tearing her down the entire time.
posted by nadawi at 11:09 AM on October 7, 2014 [10 favorites]

And just to clarify.

If you find another girlfriend who does all the things you want her to do, you also need to respect her personhood, just as with your current gf. This new gf might change. She might get depressed, her interests might evolve as her career changes or if she chooses to have children. She might be lucky and live to be 80 years old and look like an 80 year old woman.

And this is why you need to internalize the fact that nobody in this life owes it to you to conform to your standards. Nobody has to obey you or modify their identity to satisfy your taste or expectations. You cannot control other people. You can try to, and even if you were able to do it, it would be unethical, cruel, and abusive. I am not even talking about romantic relationships only. A lot of parents make the mistake of thinking they own their children, for example.

And this is also the reason why with age you will learn to value things that are not as unstable as a person's appearance. You will feel attracted to people because of who they are, the things they say and the things they do, and this attraction will turn into the kind of love that will overcome disease, weight gain, mental illness and age.

If what you need is a decorative pet, then you may find someone who will sacrifice her identity to look good for you, but this will not be a romantic relationship. It will be a shallow or abusive partnership that will not last long, either because she will stop looking good, or she will find someone better looking than you, or simply because she will leave a relationship full of vacuous expectations for a truly intimate one or just to be by herself without your demands.

Your approach to relationships is a recipe for unhappiness. You will never have a truly loving relationship unless you see what we are trying to tell you. Without mentioning the damage you will do to the self esteem of any future girlfriend, YOU will not be happy, either.
posted by Tarumba at 11:19 AM on October 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

>"But it's starting to feel almost like she doesn't care about me because she doesn't fix these things."

>"She also has been less confident around me and seems like she is less relaxed around me [...]"

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Of course she's pulling away from you and feeling ashamed in front of you, because you are inadvertently shaming her. It is incredibly painful when one's own partner points out superficial flaws that you already saw in yourself.

There are some other weird shame points in your description. She wears glasses due to a medical condition. You have no right to criticize someone for things outside their control. Sameover with the weird shame about her not orgasming. Most young women have trouble orgasming.

These issues are common and you two are new to living with significant others. Dan Savage talks about the price of admission: some things are dealbreakers and some things just need to be the part and parcel acceptance of someone you love.

It's okay to have dealbreakers, even selfish or shallow ones, so long as you walk away. It's not okay to put pressure on things that don't harm you and that are part of your partners' identity, like appearance and dress.

Criticizing your partners' appearance is bad. Telling them to do it "for me," is indeed selfish and, moreover, it's counterproductive. You've been tearing your SO down when you want to build her up.

I appreciate that you tried to do "build up," encouragement, like fancy dates. You can leverage those times by using "I statements," instead of "you statements." For instance, "When I plan a fancy date and let you know ahead of time that we will need to dress up and you wear jeans, *I* feel unappreciated for the effort and planning." Do you see the difference between that statement and a statement like, "*you* aren't dressing up enough..."?

The second statement is a statement about who she is. Research has shown that language matters. If you imply that a person has bad qualities, they will internalize those qualities and give up on doing better. If you communicate about a person's actions, but reenforce that they have good qualities, then they will internalize the good and act accordingly. Consider: "When we go to FancyPlace and you wear that red dress, it accentuates your beauty. I want to go there and light up the room together!"

I've been around the block long enough to have a good skill set for communication and confidence-building in relationships and I've seen partners transform in confidence in my relationships and in other couples.

I had a recent relationship with a woman around your age. We were very much in love and I had hoped that she would take my cues about confidence building. She only criticized my dress style a handful of times, but some of those times were after I had clearly communicated (and confirmed understanding) that I wanted only positive reenforcement about dress and never negative.

It only came up a handful of times over several years, but that's a dealbreaker for me. I need my partner to see me through a lovers' forgiving eyes when it comes to something as integral to my identity as dress. Sometimes we bite our tongue for small stuff and that's okay, too.

When we think about our own self, we forgive ourselves all kinds of flaws. We allow ourselves our flaws, even if we are trying to become better. Loving someone means bringing that person into your circle of self-forgiveness. If you can't do that, then you owe it to your partner to leave.

But before you do anything, you need to make amends and tell her that you were totally wrong. Criticism from an intimate partner is a deep, deep scar that will cause distrust in her future relationships.
posted by Skwirl at 11:44 AM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Since I can't address her, though, I just ask you to consider. That everything you mentioned in your post can be characterized as "abuse", harsh as that word seems."

Yo, this bears repeating.

Look, you keep asking her to live for you and not actually regarding her as a person with her own narrative. And that's leading you to treat her as less than a person with agency, and to contribute to undermining her self-esteem, making her feel overwhelmed and not supported.

I'm going to assume that you don't realize this, and that you hadn't really thought about it. And I can say that I've certainly been guilty of not thinking through the needs of my partner — especially when she was in grad school (and working full time and also doing a significant portion of the housework). It's super easy to default to norms that are actually pretty harmful for everyone involved, including you.

This relationship might already be scuttled. It doesn't sound that healthy. But assuming it's not, or that you want your next relationship to go better, recognize that her apologizing to you for not living up to your expectations in this way is a sign of a pretty toxic dynamic. You want to nip that in the bud by making it clear that you're not criticizing her, you're looking for ways to help. Want more sexy times? Well, first make sure it's something that she's actually into, and then come up with ways to remove the obstacles that are currently hemming her in. If she feels stressed all the time, she's not going to want to add your needs on top of hers — she's going to resent you. So what can you do to actually make things easier on her? Some folks upthread mentioned communicating more (rather than covertly "engineering" situations). That's important — it allows you to both discuss what you want and need, as well as making compromises. She's in nursing school, man, she's gonna be fucking wrecked most of the time. That means that she's already making a huge effort without you appreciating it, and it doesn't sound like you're putting an equal amount of work in. (And not just financial — a lot of dudes mistake contributing cash for doing the work of relationships, but while cash helps smooth some labor, it doesn't substitute.)

You say you struggle a lot with feeling selfish in the relationship. As people have pretty clearly pointed out, you are being wicked selfish by not thinking about her as a person but as a means to an end of your relationship satisfaction. Why is that? I mean, it's fine to not be satisfied by someone, but generally that level of concern comes from you feeling insecure about something. It happens — it's not like you're history's greatest monster because of it — but it's something that is your problem and you're making it her problem. As you give more of yourself and learn to communicate better, a lot of your needs will either be satisfied or won't seem nearly as pressing.
posted by klangklangston at 11:50 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

She doesn't bother with makeup under her glasses. She never wore makeup before I bought her some mascara "just to try"... I really enjoy makeup

Well, if you enjoy makeup wear some yourself!

Or if you enjoy seeing someone you are in a relationship with wearing makeup, you should have been dating people who wore makeup.

You've chosen to get into a relationship with someone who doesn't wear makeup, and you are trying to change them, and you are acting like this is somehow unfair to you.

It should have been obvious to you that this woman did not wear makeup, quit expecting them to be a different person to please you.

It's not as though this is something you can't tell about someone right away!
posted by yohko at 1:05 PM on October 7, 2014 [17 favorites]

Lots of other people have done an awesome job of explaining why it's absolutely not okay for you to shame your girlfriend because you want to change the way she dresses or her self-care regimen. Absolutely not okay. Stop immediately, and never do it again, with her or any other person you care about, ever again.

But I want to address this:

She makes me ask to do anything besides kiss her or hug her normally, and doesn't really like it when I feel her butt/chest because it's not sweet, it's something for me, and that she should offer.

Are you saying that you're upset because you're not allowed to grab her breasts or butt without her permission? Because I realize that not every physical contact between two people is going to be the result of an explicit pre-contact conversation about how it's going to occur, but this isn't a "yes means yes," non-explicit consent, gray area sort of situation. This is that your girlfriend has said no--she has said she doesn't like it when you grab her butt or her chest--and you're doing it anyway. She has told you that she doesn't want you to touch her in certain ways unless she gives you explicit permission for that specific contact in advance, unless she offers it at that time and in that way. And you're apparently having trouble respecting that. If you know she doesn't like it, and you do it anyway, that is wrong. That's sexual assault.

You have every right to date someone who likes and welcomes the type of physical contact you want, in the way and in the amounts that you want it. I hope you find that person after you and this woman break up. What you don't have the right to do is force physical contact on someone who has told you she doesn't like or welcome it. That's not okay, ever. Not with this woman, or with any other human being on the planet, no matter what your relationship with them. She has said no, and you need to immediately stop touching her without her consent.
posted by decathecting at 1:46 PM on October 7, 2014 [59 favorites]

She always still wears jeans, has her hair up in a ponytail, and hides her eyes behind her glasses.

Yo for the record, glasses are a thing that some people need in order to move safely and competently through the world, not an optional fashion accessory that women use to "hide their eyes" out of spite or some shit.

I call this out because it is the clearest example of how thoroughly you dislike your girlfriend. You're giving her malicious motives for everything she does, instead of the TOTALLY OBVIOUS AND RATIONAL REASONS a person would have for doing these things.

And as a result you should dump her three weeks ago last Tuesday.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:56 PM on October 7, 2014 [41 favorites]

I'm not sure you love her, honestly. It seems like you value the things she gives/can give, but there isn't much about her as a person that jumps out. I think you are well meaning and frustrated. I suspect you are young and maybe having a hard time with the relationship. But, yeah. Shes exhausted and feeling insecure. You, honestly, are not helping much. Sometimes relationships are a weird mix of 'be really supportive and together for me here, BUT NOT on X. Just leave me alone on X till I feel ready for X'

In your equation, X is physical touch and sex, and especially the intimacy that comes with it. She doesn't have the time, energy, desire or, probably, trust for it right now, and pressuring her can only end poorly. Same with the clothing.

So, what do you do about it? Do you work on the relationship, maybe lowering some of your expectations about the sex/physical touch? And almost certainly lowering your expectations for her dress code? Or do you move on? We, the internet people, can't make that decision for you. But I agree that if you don't change, you are likely to hurt her. Probably deeply.

I kinda want to tell you to break up, wait 6months/a year, and find you a nice submissive girl, and discuss the expectations you have. Might go better :)
posted by Jacen at 2:11 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

The OP already has a submissive (personality-wise) partner that he's treating badly to the point of abuse. It's unconscionable to recommend a lifestyle submissive.
posted by vers at 6:23 PM on October 7, 2014 [16 favorites]

Since it hasn't been mentioned explicitly yet that I saw: unless she's an idiot, she knows damn well you're "engineering" these situations. Way to take any bit of fun she might have had away. You might as well just say outright, "I know you don't want to dress up, but I'm going to make you anyway." How's that sound? Cause I guarantee that's what it feels like.
posted by ctmf at 7:15 PM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

"She makes me ask to do anything besides kiss her or hug her normally, and doesn't really like it when I feel her butt/chest because it's not sweet, it's something for me, and that she should offer. "

Fuck me how did I miss this? Are you seriously complaining about her having agency over her own body?

She does not want you to touch her without her consent. Do not fucking touch her without her consent. You should have known this but now ignorance is no longer an excuse. If you continue to insist, guiltrip or in any way try to impose your will over her sexual and physical agency, you are knowingly assaulting this poor young woman.

How I wish we had her email address. This is so sad.
posted by Tarumba at 7:46 PM on October 7, 2014 [35 favorites]

Yes. I am kicking myself for missing that as well. My ex did this to me. He was constantly grabbing and fondling me and did not hear "no." It made me feel like an object. And it was very frustrating and demeaning and then at some point just humiliating to be washing dishes or working on my computer or folding laundry - just existing - and then to suddenly become a sexual object expected to literally drop everything and feel turned on and excited.

Man, I don't know how to say this, but for me that was the slippery slope that led to me just shutting down during sex and wishing I was anywhere else. And now I look back on having sex with that guy and in the very pit of my stomach I feel like it was not consensual. I said no a lot at first and it didn't matter, so after awhile I just let it happen. He also had a problem with my orgasms and claimed they were not real and that I was unable to have a "normal" orgasm. He was upset that I didn't "try harder" to "learn my body".

I don't think you mean to hurt this woman but this kind of stuff that you're doing is so hurtful.

This stuff damaged me a lot. Please think about these three things:
1. Break up with her.
2. Do it kindly and say "I think I have some stuff to learn about myself and I can't do it while I'm in a relationship. You are wonderful and this isn't about you." Look to Miko's script for guidance. This needs to be a compassionate breakup. That is a great parting gift to give her.
3. Get some therapy to work on this stuff or at least read the book How to be an Adult in Relationships.

Please don't stay with this to this woman that you say is your best companion. This is no way to treat a friend or a lover or anybody.
posted by sockermom at 8:31 PM on October 7, 2014 [19 favorites]

Despite the way you've framed this question, I think that the point you were trying to make is that you feel rejected and like you need to suppress who you are in this relationship. Which, funnily enough, seems to be how she feels.

A lot of people (me included) have been in "best buds, not enough sexual chemistry" relationships like this one. And yeah, it can veer into the emotionally abusive, with both people being pretty self-absorbed jerks about negotiating their mismatched sexual needs. It's tough to talk about sex, because there's both cultural (gender roles, commonly accepted indicators of sexiness and desire being misaligned with actual indicators of sexiness and desire) and emotional baggage (say, being a nerdy girl who never really felt pretty) that complicate everything being discussed. This is all extremely confusing stuff to work through, especially when you're still relatively new to the world of sex and dating. It can feel very threatening, which can lead to rocky and unproductive conversations. It's a lot easier to navigate this discussion when you're actually able to compromise and listen and feel like you both win. You can only work through the problem when the person you're talking to is already on your side and wanting to work it out as a team.

It doesn't really sound like you're ready to compromise or listen, given that you're still trying to find ways to get her to dress up for you, even though it clearly makes her scared and upset. It also sounds like she's not able to do more for you than she already is. And, look, if it makes you so unhappy to compromise, you really don't have to. And neither does she. There are better relationships out there for both of you.

So, yes, break up with her.
posted by rhythm and booze at 9:02 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Break up with her. Then focus on personal growth a whole lot before dating again.
posted by ead at 7:54 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

You know, the whole "not making an effort" (in your opinion) could just be her unconscious way of wanting you to break up with her. At that age, it's not uncommon for women to not have the heart to break up with someone so they (consciously or not) start doing little things that would grate on partner's nerves in the hopes that partner gets fed or sees the light and does the breaking up.
The sex thing really does seem point to that, IMHO.
posted by Neekee at 7:30 AM on October 10, 2014

I'm surprised that I couldn't find any replies here supportive of you. I don't know the precise details of your situation, but in general it's not wrong or shallow to want your SO to occasionally dress to please you, and it's not wrong to want your SO to be enthusastic about sex. This doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your girlfriend either, but it does seem that the two of you are incompatible.
posted by barracuda at 11:18 AM on October 23, 2014

Barracuda, this is not an issue of compatibility. It is an issue of lack of respect for one's partner.

If he found someone perfectly compatible, all the advice here stands.

-He needs to respect his partner's consent or non-consent to things like being touched at random.
-He needs to not engineer situations to manipulate his partner, and rather choose to communicate with them directly and without guilt trips or mental games.
-He needs to not impose his own views of sexual satisfaction on other people (like shaming a partner for not reaching climax as often as he wants her to)
- He also needs to understand that women do not have a duty to wear make up and dress up. He may find a woman who does, but he should not expect her to do it out of duty, and should not feel cheated if she stops.

And related to that last point, you say that it's not wrong to want your SO to occasionally dress to please you, but that is a red herring.

At no point did the OP say he wanted his SO to do it occasionally. He made it clear that he expects her to do it regularly and not as a bonus to please him, but to comply with an imaginary duty women have. That is what we are objecting to.

He is also not just "wanting his SO to be enthusiastic about sex". He is harassing her, shaming her and trying to control her in order to mold her sexual behavior to his own liking, and that is abuse.

These are not small issues that may be solved by changing partners. These are very serious problems that signify a lack of understanding of the fact that women are people and not objects, and of the fact that attempting to manipulate people to modify their behavior is abusive. They also show a lack of respect for other people's boundaries. These issues will color every romantic relationship he has in the future, regardless of compatibility and whether his next girlfriend wears make up or not.

So what should he do?

He should try to modify his perception of women and practice more empathy in his interactions with them, hopefully to realize that they are as worthy of respect as he is. He should also try to assess the value of his romantic relationships in terms different than how his partners modify their appearances to satisfy unfair standards (based on beauty for example) that reinforce the idea that women are as valuable as they are beautiful and little more.

In practical terms, he should apologize to his girlfriend, tell her he understands how pushy and disrespectful he has been, and he should start respecting her boundaries and her refusal to consent.

Then he could break up with her if they are not compatible, or he could continue the relationship applying everything he has learnt about his partner and the need to communicate with her without playing games.
posted by Tarumba at 8:57 AM on November 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

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