What could my boyfriend do to help me feel more comfortable and secure?
July 24, 2017 2:13 PM   Subscribe

I've posted a couple of other questions that are focused around the same thing, which basically amounts to my past trauma in an emotionally/sexually abusive LTR, and my insecurities/ongoing anxiety in my current relationship. I've gotten some really helpful responses in my other threads that I still go over when I need them, and my boyfriend even looked over some of them with me. Basically, I feel like I'm always on the defensive and feeling threatened because I'm afraid (of reliving past trauma? being hurt? cheated on?) but I would like to feel more secure and "safe" in our relationship so I can stop feeling insecure and doubting him or his intentions.

I know my question is worded strangely but I'm having trouble coming up with a coherent thought about this ~whole thing I'm going through~ and was hoping to gain some insight/perspectives from others so I can maybe understand things better and talk to my boyfriend in a more efficient manner.

It's not that he doesn't normally make me feel safe or loved, in fact he's extremely thoughtful, kind, loving and receptive when I talk to him. He's wonderful and I feel like I'm ruining a good thing. I'm not the best at communicating in a healthy, gentle way and more often than not I end up getting upset first and then communicating calmly after a fight. Obviously this doesn't help and it's exhausting for us both. It happens because I get extremely anxious and feel physically uncomfortable when I'm put in a situation that "triggers" feelings from past trauma. This has been an ongoing thing. For example we'll be watching something or out somewhere and something will just "trigger" me. I never thought I'd react this way before we met. I met him right after that awful relationship ended and was under the impression that I left it unscathed, and it wasn't until halfway into our relationship that I realized how untrue that is.

I feel bad about it not because I'm wrong to feel this way, but because my reactions are not the best and I end up hurting him and causing a fight, when I'd rather just talk about it and resolve it together. It seems so simple on paper but in reality I struggle with this a lot. I end up holding him accountable for whatever made me feel uncomfortable (e.g. if he was showing me a video or show) or worse, I end up feeling so threatened that I'll be mean, accuse him of doing something (without having a real reason to think so) or I'll dwell on something he did in the past and hold on to it as proof of [whatever I'm feeling insecure about].

We talked about this recently because of Game of Thrones. He holds a viewing night for it and invites friends over. The show makes me uncomfortable and it sucks that I can't seem to look past the things that bother me because I normally love medieval fantasy settings. The nudity and rape and blatant male gaze make me feel extremely anxious and I start feeling weirdly unsafe again, like I did with my ex. I have friends that love the show so I understand it's not some awful misogynistic show, but I have said these things when upset and I want to learn to control that.

I feel bad about this because I want to control my emotions better. I think the show and things like it act as a sort of trigger and make me feel really insecure. It's not that my boyfriend or his friends are doing or saying anything inappropriate about women or anything, in fact it's the opposite - my boyfriend is respectful and kind, but sometimes I have a hard time seeing that when all I feel is the same anxiety and fear I felt in my chest with my ex. It sucks because when I feel threatened like that, I start to lump my boyfriend with my ex and other sexist men and I absolutely do not want to do that because it's hurtful.

GOT is just an example of something that does this to me but it can really be anything with rape/sexist jokes, misogyny or blatant male gaze or non-consent. Rationally I know that my boyfriend doesn't perpetuate these things but I want to feel like it's me and him VS. the shitty world that does perpetuate these things, and I'm at a loss as to what I could ask of him to make me feel this way, because I don't want to overwhelm him. I already feel like I do given how much time we spend talking about these things.

I understand I need to do the work to be better and heal, and I'm currently seeking counselling and reading books (I got Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski and How To Be An Adult in Relationships by David Burns) because of this, but is there anything he could also do to remedy these things? Would it be reasonable to ask him to read about/educate himself on these things (feminist issues, rape, male gaze etc)? What is a reasonable expectation in this situation? Has anyone been in this situation before (either side)?
posted by hexenkunst to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Instead of or, maybe better yet, in addition to, all of this talking, I would focus on what is happening emotionally and find ways to acknowledge it and ask for support without judgement.
- You want to get better and noticing when you are triggered. When you start to feel that threatened, insecure feeling, instead of starting a fight, stop, take a breath and name (at least internally) what is going on - "I am feeling triggered right now"
- In the that moment, you don't need your bf to understand what triggered you, you need him to offer emotional support. That could be a simple as "I'm feeling triggered right now" "I'm sorry. What can I do to help?"
- Be open to conversation about what is reasonable help. The goal is for you to keep some part of brain in a calm, observer mode and for bf to respond in a way that help you feel is loving, respectful presence. So, if you are watching a show, just the two of you, asking him to switch to something else might be fine. If others came over just to watch, maybe asking him to sit with you for a minute in the other room might be a better compromise. Or maybe just say "I need a hug" and with that hug you will be OK taking care of yourself.
- It really helps if you agree: It is perfect Ok and normal that you get triggered by certain stuff. You don't have to explain or have a logical reason for this. (Sometimes like GOT the reason will be obvious to most people and shared by many but it does't have to be - it is enough that it triggers you.) He doesn't have to understand or agree to care and to want to help you. He is not a bad person because he isn't triggered or may even enjoy experiences that don't work for you. There may be other reason why you might have a problem if he doesn't understand and doesn't care about feminist issues etc but that is separate from the fact that they are related to your triggers.

By the way, mindfulness meditation is a huge help with learning to be more aware of your feelings and not so caught up in them when they happen - it expands that observer part of your brain in ways that can be really helpful.
posted by metahawk at 2:35 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]

First paragraph in I was nervous. Halfway down I was really worried. Then game of thrones and... No. Just no. Okay. This is an unpopular opinion, but I believe game of thrones is violent, rape culture propaganda and misogynistic as hell. Just because it's popular doesnt make it right.

Likewise. Your boyfriend may be gentle and kind but he does not get a free pass. he is a man who grew up in this culture and until he undergoes a complete deprogramming, he is dangerous. The fact that he is holding viewing nights for game of thrones tells me he has not done this work. does he watch porn? I know you want to believe he has come on to your side and it's you and him against the shitty world. You will know this is true when he is appalled by the misogyny and violent rape in game of thrones and doesn't bring that kind of poison into your home. And when he recognizes how this propaganda shapes his own beliefs and behavior and he removes it from his life.

I'm worried because you're trying to find ways to not be scared by your boyfriend. But your reactions are spot on. You are reminded of your previus partner because your boyfriend is doing the same things. It is going to seem like you must be crazy because he is so Normal and so much nicer than the last one and indeed these things are true. It is normal for men to be dangerous. masculinity is rotten to the core. I'm sorry. There's no easy answer. Yes it's 100% reasonable to ask him to be on your side and change. He might do it but it's a hard road ahead.

books for you: Trauma and Recovery; Why Does He Do That. Anything by Andrea Dworkin. (it's not fashionable to say this but I think she was 100% right and I'll stand by that.)

Books for him: Refusing to be a Man.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:47 PM on July 24 [16 favorites]

At the bare minimum, while you're concentrating on how to deal with things in the long term, can you avoid your boyfriend's viewing parties? It'd be nice to not have that in your space, but at minimum, maybe you could find an alternative activity to do during that time that's self-affirming, like scheduling a weekly meet-up with a friend, going on a long walk, or heading out to a quiet coffee shop where you can read a book or plan out your week.

If it's a multiple hour thing where his friends linger after the show, maybe he can alternate hosting with a friend or make sure they keep their conversation to other topics after the show.
posted by mikeh at 2:50 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]

I'm an abuse survivor and a big GOT fan and I think it's crazy problematic with torture and rape. I skip scenes and wait to watch episodes for times when I can handle it. I haven't seen one entire episodes, just read the detailed recap because I knew it would be too much. It is very violent against vulnerable people, mainly women.

Your boyfriend sounds nicer than your ex. That doesn't make him automatically a good person, just not as awful.

If he's telling you that you are needing to stop getting upset over the violence in GOT, he's minimising your valid and truthful reactions. Lots of critics hold GOT for that.

Go somewhere else during his viewing parties and have time to yourself to think. I bet there's more going on.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:06 PM on July 24 [5 favorites]

This is a challenging issue to deal with all on your own. Not to be all standard Mefi-answer, but therapy can really help you here.

I don't think it's at all inappropriate to ask him to try to understand issues that affect you intimately. I do think that there needs to be some disentanglement of your triggers and feminist issues generally. That is, one doesn't necessarily have a traumatic response to a bad thing; people can be triggered by a smell, a phrase, a tactile sensation that reminds them of their trauma. Conversely, one can find a show like GoT unacceptable even if one isn't triggered the least little bit by it. In the former instance, you're asking him to understand trauma response generally, so that he can help avoid inducing it in you and can help you cope when it happens. In the latter, you're asking him to understand four millennia of evil generally and to try to evolve away from a culture saturated in it. They involve, so to speak, different syllabuses. You may find that you need to prioritize the former because of the distress you're feeling. It sounds as if it will incidentally involve the latter, to some degree, because of what your triggers are. But probably reestablishing a sense of safety may require you to carve out some feminist issues to focus on and leave others for when you are more at ease around him.

I'm saying all this on the assumption that he wants to support you, will respect your triggers, and is willing to engage respectfully when you raise feminist issues. That is, I am making the assumption that your feeling unsafe around him really is a result of triggers arising from common scenarios and not because your gut is telling you that he is not a safe person to be around. That's how your narrative reads to me (and often I go the other way). But you should at least keep in the back of your mind the possibility that you don't feel safe around him because he isn't safe. If six months from now you're still contorting yourself to avoid feeling threatened by him, then you may want to revisit it.
posted by praemunire at 3:10 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]

I found EMDR therapy to be extremely extremely useful for this. It does not work for everyone but it can be very useful for the people that it does help, and it's not invasive or anything. I would absolutely recommend looking into EMDR therapy.
posted by sockermom at 3:32 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]

I am an abuse survivor and I have had therapy to the point that I was able to work on a story about child trafficking while raising a toddler and not freak out.

I hate Game of Thrones and I won't watch it. Normally it would be up my alley but the first season, anyway, it just seemed like the penalty for anything was rape. There's rape with a purpose and then there's rape because you are too lazy to come up with more subtle events. Ahem. But whatever my next point is my husband really likes Game of Thrones!

And...we talked about it once. Like this. Me: I don't like it and I think it's both stupid and triggering. Him: I'll watch it on the night you're at wine night.


So...I think less talking more action. "I don't like GOT, let me know when you're having your party and I'll go see Wonder Woman/read in a cafe. You won't feel as upset if you establish good boundaries, I think.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:59 PM on July 24 [15 favorites]

I really loved an adult swim video (one of their "infomercials"), that happens to have very violent imagery (that normally I have no taste for.) I shared it with someone I care about, when I was getting to know them, and they had a very strong negative reaction to it. When they expressed their reaction to me (I did not know them well enough to catch the signs without being told) I turned it off, and I have never shown them anything like it since. I also check in before showing them things I think might provoke similar reactions, even if they aren't similar videos.

They didn't ask me to make these accommodations, but they were easy accommodations to make; all it took was enough communication on their part to help me understand it was an important issue for them.

The point being: as long as you've shared how important this is for you, it is a reasonable expectation to ask that he *at least* hold those viewings when you've got other plans, or hold them at someone else's home for a while as you work through this. If he is not willing to adjust his behavior around you as a means of supporting you while you actively work through it, that might be a red flag. Honestly, even if you are NOT actively working through it, he should be willing to make accommodations. It isn't a big ask.
posted by davejay at 4:10 PM on July 24 [9 favorites]

Yes, therapy would be a great idea. Find a good therapist who can help you with this. Someone outside of your personal relationships will be a better person to work through this with.

As for GoT, opt out of viewing parties. You don't have to be there. In my experience, GoT is either hated or loved by abuse survivors. It's fine to pick a side and stay on it. Find something else to do during the show times and you don't owe anyone an explanation of why you're absent: "I'm busy with other plans that happen to be at the same time. Have fun without me."

It's absolutely fine to ask him to read things that will help shape his POV so that he can be a better partner to you. If he doesn't make your feeling safe and secure a priority, he's not the one for you. He should want to run active interference for you.
posted by quince at 7:03 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]

I'm also a rape survivor and I watch Game of Thrones but at the same time, often find it extremely triggering and given the amount that's been written about the show's handling of rape, I think we're very far from alone on that.

I feel like you're sort of approaching this in the wrong way, maybe? You are not the problem here. You're not at fault for not enjoying a TV show that has tons of graphic scenes of rape and sexual violence. There's nothing about you that needs fixing for not being able to enjoy that. There are lots of methods out there for coping with trauma triggers but from the way you phrase both this question and your earlier ones, I feel like you're approaching it from a lens where you believe there's something wrong with you that you have triggers at all and you seem to sort of perceive it as a character flaw or a weakness, rather than a very normal, natural reaction to having frightening experiences.

You don't need to fix yourself so you'll react to triggering, violent sexual material in a 'normal' way. Sometimes, the healthy way of dealing with triggers is avoiding them. You don't need to be comfortable with rape jokes and violent rape scenes to be secure and well-adjusted and healthy. Lots of people who are not traumatized are not comfortable with them either. Have you talked to your boyfriend about why you find Game of Thrones triggering? If he loves you, I don't think he wants to put you in a situation in which you feel threatened and anxious and relive trauma. Have you explained to him that it's more than just an aversion to a TV show? Your feelings matter and they don't need to be fixed.
posted by armadillo1224 at 7:54 PM on July 24 [11 favorites]

I have friends that love the show so I understand it's not some awful misogynistic show,

And they have a friend who is you, so they understand that it is.

No, but I bet they don't understand, I bet the meekness reflex to submit to the opinions of others doesn't apply to them. why not? why don't they realize they're wrong just because other people (you and thousands on thousands of other women, with and without trauma histories, and plenty of men) feel differently? Why are you the one who must be wrong because your friends don't see what you see? you aren't.

I remember your other question and I said basically the same thing then, and it didn't make you change your mind. so if anything that's good -- it's good that you didn't just take my and other people's word for it when we said: the delirious popularity of fantasy rapetime adventure is sick culture, and nice men enjoying it doesn't make it nice for you to watch and doesn't make it a nice thing to have exist in the world. you disagreed, clearly. You can read our opinions and discard them because you think they are not correct. which is great!

but you need to be able to do that to your boyfriend and your other friends, treat their opinions just as lightly as you do ours, because your own is most important, because you know better. you can.

Would it be reasonable to ask him to read about/educate himself on these things (feminist issues, rape, male gaze etc)?

YES. Yes. Not minding that he never thought about it before you asked him to, that's far beyond reasonable into great mercy and kindness.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:23 PM on July 24 [5 favorites]

You don't need to fix yourself so you'll react to triggering, violent sexual material in a 'normal' way. Sometimes, the healthy way of dealing with triggers is avoiding them. You don't need to be comfortable with rape jokes and violent rape scenes to be secure and well-adjusted and healthy. Lots of people who are not traumatized are not comfortable with them either.

This is what I came here to say.

Look, your question reads to me like you're asking how to fix yourself so that certain stuff just doesn't bother you, and while it's true that therapy can be great at helping people move through triggers and develop healthy coping mechanisms, it's also true that you aren't obligated to enjoy or even tolerate a certain kind of input. You are allowed to have boundaries about what you allow in your brain, period. It doesn't even have to be a trauma thing, or a gender war thing, or a relationship thing. You can make those choices for no justifiable reason whatsoever and enforce them at will because your mind is yours.

I don't watch anything that disgusts, scares or upsets me more than I am ok with. Sometimes it's something I can "justify" like gore or rape. Sometimes it's stuff other people think is ridiculous. I don't give a shit if they think it's ridiculous. This is my brain and I'm the one who has to live inside it, I am allowed to decide how to decorate, and I only want to decorate with things that are going to make my space more functional, comfortable or beautiful.

If GOT is upsetting to you, your boyfriend can watch it when you're not around. If he's a reasonable and nice human being he will probably be happy to compromise about that. If rape jokes are upsetting to you, you have every right to shut them down. I wouldn't spend my spare time with the kind of adult who thinks it's acceptable to tell rape jokes.

I think it's fine to ask him to read whatever you want but warn you not to expect him to get the same thing from your literature as you do. There are no guarantees that it will affect him the way that you hope.
posted by windykites at 9:03 PM on July 24 [8 favorites]

Also, tangentially;

I feel like I'm ruining a good thing.

Historically when I have felt like this it has not been a particularly good thing.

I was frequently upset because it was frequently upsetting and I was trying to pressure/contort myself to be ok with stuff that wasn't ok for me or to be in a place mentally that I just wasn't and couldn't force. YMMV.
posted by windykites at 9:09 PM on July 24 [10 favorites]

I...kinda stopped giving a shit how my husband felt sad when I reminded him how sexually aggressive I found his siblings, in a really unfun kind of way.

So I stopped seeing them, stopped making everything so easy for him, and whaddya know, shit got exponentially easier for me, the survivor with PTSD. I won't watch certain shows, I get triggered sometimes, and I have stopped putting myself in a position to be hurt or triggered by people who may mean well but essentially don't get it.

It took rephrasing the idea of being 'better' as being 'unphased by triggering things' because that is unrealistic and also it's rape, not, like, going outside. More people ought to be phased by rape. So when we - as a couple - reframed my therapy as something I was doing to make me better inside, not make me better at humaning around others so they aren't bothered by the crazy lady. I mean there are parts that are that, but mostly? Mostly it was about prioritising my healing, and things like 'watching a TV show' is pretty damn low on the scale of things, and adversely impacts every other bit of my recovery.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:11 AM on July 25 [6 favorites]

This stuff is triggering you because it IS misogynistic. You aren't wrong to feel uncomfortable with these things and to be upset by it and by people who are participating in that culture. And your boyfriend IS perpetuating it by participating; he is complicit in it and he presumably enjoys it if he's holding viewing nights or showing videos of that nature, particularly when he knows it triggers you. He's either very naive/unaware or doesn't care. The problem is not that rape/sexist jokes, misogyny or blatant male gaze or non-consent bothers you to the point of triggering you, but that these things do not bother him. You will not feel safe and secure in a relationship until you are with someone who shares those values with you.
posted by Polychrome at 3:31 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]

I feel like I'm ruining a good thing.

Windykites' response to this is important. Please pay attention to it: your relationship can't be that great if it's ruinable through innocent, intelligent analysis of a TV show. Not everyone here dislikes Game of Thrones vehemently or considers it outside of their comfort zone. Yet everyone is responding with enthusiasm to this question you have posed. Nobody considers it trivial. Everyone is quite comfortable applying feminist analysis to media and personal relationships and does not consider it optional. Ok, the collection of responders here may not represent attitudes in mainstream society around trauma, but your reaction to the show has rung true to many people and has contributed an interesting discussion to our day which nobody would be doing if we didn't find it valid and useful (and I say this as someone who likes the show!). Every person here is "on your side," to quote your "me and him versus the world" comment on how ideal relationships handle oppression. So you can see it is not that big an ask, even from strangers. You may feel guilty like, man, all these internet strangers are tearing my innocent boyfriend apart, but really, we're not. He can be a decent kind person and want to help women and viscerally not understand the problems with Game of Thrones, but you are very right to want him to, and your desire for a partnership like that is meaningful plus for society in general.
posted by benadryl at 4:12 AM on July 25 [4 favorites]

Nthing make alternate plans on GOT viewing nights.

Yes to therapy.

As far as communicating - what helps you when you feel triggered? Can you take a walk or get a little time alone and do some grounding exercises or journaling?

I find I communicate better through writing than speaking when something is complicated or my emotions are strong. There are times when I write my perspective out to give to someone so they can read it and then we can discuss it together.
posted by bunderful at 5:47 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]

I love game of thrones. It's one of the best shows ever made, in my opinion.

That said, I totally understand why people dislike it and that is also a totally valid opinion.

You shouldn't let other people's opinion of the show somehow make you think that your feelings about it are wrong!

I think maybe you should work on how you react to things that trigger anxiety, but maybe you should also have a conversation with your boyfriend and say: "I know this is inconvenient for you, but I really need you to be careful about the kinds of media that you watch around me."

If he can't do that, then maybe you should consider moving on to someone who pays more attention to your feelings.
posted by empath at 5:49 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]

I don't like most violent or horror-filled media, and am sensitive to sexual assault depictions in particular, I close my eyes through some parts of GOT.

I think it's reasonable for your boyfriend to really listen to you when you talk about your fears and reactions and feelings (doing the talking while you're triggered isn't likely the best time though), and for him to not watch this stuff around you.

I have told boyfriends how certain media affects me and they will ask me if a certain show/movie is ok and refrain completely while I'm around if it's not. They also empathize with me when I describe how it affects me and what's it's like to be a woman in our society and not try to justify or rationalize the other side, or get defensive. It's never turned into anything close to a fight. In these relationships any early triggered fears from the past/questions about whether I can really trust them have gone away with time as they show they are on my side and good people. Consider whether you already know that this guy is not truly for you even though he's better than your ex.
posted by lafemma at 8:39 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]

A) Move through "seeking" and start therapy. You know you need more tools to deal with the things you've experienced and what you're processing now.

B) Speaking of tools, if this is the same boyfriend who used his real-life women acquaintances as his masturbation fodder, his problems are bigger than holding GoT viewing parties and having a general inability to see matters from your perspective.

C) This is your third question involving him in as many months, and I think your gut is desperately trying to signal you. I feel like I'm ruining a good thing. Just because he's less abusive than your ex doesn't make him a good person or a great boyfriend.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:22 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]

You mention you're about to start therapy soon each question, but then don't say anything about it any more. Have you started therapy? Your boyfriend can't do much to soothe you; this is your own job, and is what therapy is there for. It's the best tool you will have to free yourself of the ruminations of your mind, and your insecurities that loom over both of you. You really need to start therapy, not for him-- but for you.

As for the way he can help, have you talked about feminist principles with him? How does he feel about things like rape culture, misogyny, victim blaming, etc. You don't mention this. Do you see eye to eye with him about things like this? Is he on your side? I discuss things like this with my fiance, and if he doesn't get it, I explain my point of view to him. Sometimes I point out gratuity in a video game and how things bother me. I feel safe in both bringing up these topics with him, and knowing he also thinks these things are bullshit also. Because of this, I don't feel threatened if he plays a game or watches a show that is misogynist, because I know his views and I know it doesn't reflect him as a person. I feel like you don't have this security with him.

As for GoT in particular, It may help to reframe your thinking somewhat about the show, or shows with ugly misogynistic themes in general.

I am a woman and a feminist, and I watch GoT, and I enjoy it somewhat, but I don't love it. Yes it is problematic. I do have some issue with the gratuitous nature of it. I don't think it's rape culture propaganda though. That would mean it's somehow propagating rape or promoting violence to women. I don't agree with that. To say that would presume people watch it and are either actively enjoying those scenes and/or feel that those actions are somehow justified, or are desensitized to them. I don't know ONE person that watches GoT and either enjoys those scenes, think they are good things, or are indifferent because of them. If anything, it actually has quite the opposite effect. Everyone hated Joffrey. Everyone hated Ramsay. Everyone was upset when various characters were raped or killed. Extremely upset; they still are. It ushered a dialogue about just how awful this was; it made people, even men, empathize with the victims, not the perpetrators. I remember when I was on a long-haul flight a couple of years ago, there was a guy, maybe 26-30 sitting a few seats ahead of me, watching GoT on his laptop. It was a season I had already seen, and I knew there was a pretty brutal rape coming up. When the episode was over, I saw him slam his laptop shut, I glanced over to him, and he was legit crying. This is 100% true; I was actually surprised because the effect on me wasn't as profound when I saw it. So, I mean, don't know one single person that gets their actual jollies off to the show, or that thinks the rape is meaningless or stupid and ignores it; I'm sure there are some, but, the point is, the majority of people watching the show aren't this. They get upset about the ugly things that happen in the show, they feel squicked out, and they don't want them to happen in real life, ever. They can be feminist men, or women, abuse victims, etc.

And also, I personally feel that these are things that happen in society and it does no one any favors to shy away from them in media or write them out of stories. I understand not everyone is like this, though, and nor should you be, but for me, I understand that even now, today, there are places in the world where GoT violence is the norm, where things like this are a daily occurrence. All the major traumatic events in the show are supposed to make us feel bad and uncomfortable, and reminds us why they're unacceptable and should never happen. It's always fostered dialogue, it forces us to confront these ugly parts of reality, and to me that's a good thing, more than bad. When you have never really watched the show at length, and you hear about the things that happen, it can be easy to think that people are watching it and don't care, that they somehow enjoy the gratuitous nature of it. But in my experience, with many people who watch it, this is not the case at all. Perhaps thinking of it this way, will help you not judge everyone who watches the show and 'enjoys' it (you can enjoy something that contains rape without condoning rape) the same. I don't think the show is for you, and that's fine-- but I do think that having a knee-jerk sentiment or judgment towards people who like the show isn't really fair, and isn't doing you any favors.

*But despite the above, I do agree that the show is problematic. The male gaze is definitely a thing, although it does have less sexualized strong females characters also. But lately, at least, I feel they use these awful things as a shocking plot point, in a bid to make their show talked about or popular. Sometimes, these gratuitous parts have no bearing on the plot, nor rhyme or reason and are there just to be brutal, or shocking, and that to me is really problematic. It's one thing to show the ugly reality of trauma-- it's another to want to trauma or brutality to market and sell a product. That is icky, and I think they are toeing that line recently, because of the popularity of the show. It's one of the reasons I think the books are better. I am digressing a bunch, sorry.

All that said, though, I agree with Iris Gambol. The GoT is a red herring for something else that isn't sitting right with you in your relationship. I remember your past questions, although I didn't comment-- masturbating to real-life people is subjective and varies from person to person. For me, it never sat right with me because of the whole lack of consent thing, and the objectification of people you know. Porn, I can understand. Looking up friends you know for sexual gratification is squicky to me, and I'd have a problem with it if my fiance did it. Not everyone thinks this way though, I don't think there's a right or wrong answer.

But I think this guy may not be for you. I think that you're sticking with it because he's 'good' in the ways your ex was bad. But just because someone is not abusive to you, doesn't mean they are the right person for you, or that their views align with yours. He doesn't have to have something glaringly 'wrong' for him to not be 'right' and not for you. I feel like you are forgetting this, perhaps because you're so relieved to be out of that awful abusive relationship.

However, therapy will help you work through stuff like that and be in a healthier mindset. Good luck.
posted by Dimes at 1:28 AM on July 26

Thank you for all the answers. About therapy: it's been really hard to actually get in anywhere. All the sliding scale/community services have long wait lists and getting on the wait list is like calling in to a radio station to win concert tickets. There are therapists I can book an appointment with immediately but that would involve paying anywhere between $115-230 per session and I can't really afford to do that and my work benefits don't cover it, which is why I say "seeking"

I agree that my knee-jerk reaction to GOT (and other things) isn't really fair. I spoke to my boyfriend about it and we agreed about the problematic parts. He sees those things in it too, but it's not enough to make him not want to watch it whereas for me those things, especially if gratuitous, tend to ruin shows for me. It's okay that we're not alike in that way but a huge part of feeling safe involves knowing that we are on the same page. He said that he didn't feel the need to say those things out loud with me or his friends, because it's like an unspoken thing that we all agree on those things, but I'm the type of person that likes to have that affirmation. So talking about those things together would help a lot with my feeling more secure, I think.

I appreciate the comments about whether he is right for me and I obviously I am defensive against those because I don't see him that way at all. I genuinely don't think he is an abusive person. If anything, I've been the one with the abusive behaviour, which I'm very ashamed of and which is where I think therapy would help. I think a huge part of it is being afraid that he'll somehow end up being like my ex and I'm constantly on high alert and looking for a confirmation of those things. Also self-sabotage... I keep drawing comparisons to my ex in an effort to assure myself that it's not the same situation, but I think it'd be more helpful if I stopped doing that because he IS a different person and I need to act on that alone.
posted by hexenkunst at 7:58 AM on July 26

I agree that my knee-jerk reaction to GOT (and other things) isn't really fair.

Could you clarify what you mean by this? I can't really imagine a reaction to a graphic rape scene that is "unfair".

Look, it drives my dad and brother crazy that I will get up and leave if a show has gratuitous rape scenes, or that I will refuse to watch a movie if I am warned in advance about gross rape culture content. They think it's "unfair", but you know what? What they don't understand is that the thing that is ACTUALLY unfair is that I am put in that position so often, by a mass media culture that tells me those narratives are what female bodies are good for. They might agree with me that treating women that way in the real world is bad, but they simply cannot understand that seeing that treatment reified in show after show after show and movie after movie after movie has an actual cost, and that I am one of the people paying it.

Just because GoT is popular doesn't mean you have to be okay with it. The goal of therapy isn't to make you able to sit through graphic rape scenes. The goal of therapy is to help you get to a healthier place. Some of us might argue that a life where you don't have to watch eroticized and male-gazey sexual assault on a weekly basis is actually healthier than the alternative, regardless of what your friends think.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:54 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]

To clarify: I tend to associate him liking GOT with negative traits (this is probably due to his past actions re: objectifying women/porn (other post) and my past experiences with my ex?) and I end up blowing up at him when something like GOT triggers me. I just start judging his character for liking it and having doubts about our compatibility, despite all the good stuff about him/our relationship! This is understandably hurtful to him. I just think "this makes me feel so uncomfortable and awful, why does my boyfriend enjoy it? How can the rape not put him off?" etc. It sounds extreme but that's the knee-jerk reaction and it's how my brain has been working lately, and I think it relates to "trying to find flaws" and always being on high-alert.

Ideally I'd like to relax and enjoy things together without questioning if the things he likes reflect on him as a person. E.g. I really like hip-hop/rap and a lot my favourite artists have horrible lyrics about women, but I still enjoy the music and don't take those things to heart. My boyfriend enjoys the same type of music as me, yet somehow I'm unable to extend that same logic for things like GOT.
posted by hexenkunst at 11:18 AM on July 26

I just start judging his character for liking it and having doubts about our compatibility, despite all the good stuff about him/our relationship! This is understandably hurtful to him. I just think "this makes me feel so uncomfortable and awful, why does my boyfriend enjoy it? How can the rape not put him off?" etc. It sounds extreme but that's the knee-jerk reaction and it's how my brain has been working lately, and I think it relates to "trying to find flaws" and always being on high-alert.

This doesn't sound particularly unfair, and it certainly doesn't sound abusive. It may simply mean that the two of you are not compatible.

"My experiences mean that I cannot feel safe with a significant other who casually and uncritically enjoys & consumes mainstream pornography or misogyny" is not an inherently unreasonable position. It makes it harder to date a heterosexual man, yes. It is not an extremely popular position, yes. But it isn't unreasonable, and it is definitely not abusive.

Has he told you that this position is abusive? Has he had a discussion with you about why and how he enjoys these things? Has he talked with you about why it is so important to you that you watch this show with him? Has he asked you for more insight into what you are going through? I know and respect men who watch GoT, and there are plenty of people here on MF who can offer thoughtful discussion points about how they can watch the show and enjoy it despite its problematic elements, but I'm not getting the sense that your bf has offered much about his perspective on this issue.

If you were dating a man with PTSD from combat, would you expect him to sit and watch an action movie full of explosions every week, and get upset with him if he wasn't able to do so? If not, then what is different here? Why is your hypervigilance as a result of trauma being treated as a character flaw instead of a symptom?
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:52 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]

I just think "this makes me feel so uncomfortable and awful, why does my boyfriend enjoy it? How can the rape not put him off?" etc. It sounds extreme but that's the knee-jerk reaction and it's how my brain has been working lately, and I think it relates to "trying to find flaws" and always being on high-alert.

Your behavior really doesn't sound remotely abusive to me. Nor does it sound at all extreme. From the way you write, I feel like you're really self-critical and judgmental towards your own emotions and reactions to things and try to dismiss them as irrational or knee-jerk. Emotions aren't rational. Your emotions and reactions are fine! You go on high alert around scenes of sexual violence and misogyny because your body and brain are trying to keep you safe. It's not something to deny or argue with or try to crush away. Be kinder to yourself and try to accept your reactions as perfectly reasonable within context.
posted by armadillo1224 at 12:33 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

We're all telling you that your reactions are ok and you're telling us that they aren't. We can't give you a secret trick that will suddenly make you feel ok about someone liking something that triggers your PTSD. We just can't. I'm sorry.

Your reactions might not be what you want but until the trauma is dealt with the response is probably not going away. If you can't get into therapy, try looking for some good books and/or workbooks on PTSD and overcoming trauma.

Your brain is seeing him as a threat because it's witnessing him enjoying something dangerous to you; your amygdala doesn't understand that those rape scenes aren't real right now. It just tries to protect you. It's not something that you can talk yourself out of. I'm sorry, I know that this is hard stuff. I've been there. As far as your nervous system is concerned, you are witnessing him watching women get raped, and enjoying it. Of course your system will see him as a threat! It can take literally years of hard work to retrain your system. You're smart, your system learns survival lessons really really well.

it sounds extreme but that's the knee-jerk reaction and it's how my brain has been working lately, and I think it relates to "trying to find flaws" and always being on high-alert.

It doesn't sound extreme or knee jerky. It sounds like you're havingvalid, legitimate concerns about your boyfriend's character and behavior and you are trying to force yourself to ignore it. It sounds like you are distressed for good reasons and you don't want to believe they are good reasons and so you're invalidating your concerns instead of exploring them. Listen, believe me, I have been there. I'm not saying that the worst things you think are true, I'm saying the worst things you think are important. You can't just get rid of them, you have to work through them.
posted by windykites at 2:59 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]

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