It's my first time writing this letter to your website after I saw your ad on FurAffinity a couple of months ago while I was working at home for a company I don't want to name here.
The thing is I have two dilemmas which I'm dealing this moment. The first one is with the family in which my old brother (mid-30s) finally moved out to a new apartment and live there after we had to put up with so much toxicity for everything, even when I had that job the first 3 months of this year. It was so frustrating to live together when he judges from the food that my mom serves (who was a lawyer) to the dirt of this apartment. He pretends to be a rich, entitled dude but he goes to the fancy places (so he works as a sound engineer for live events for some artists) wanting to be part of that society. Also he's kinda narcissistic, specially with his previous ex-girlfriends. I tried to understand him about his past when he decided to go and live with his dad (a lawyer, too) after my mom divorced him; and then realize that the wasn't the ideal home to live, amid of the problems are having with the other family, including their finances. It was an everyday conversation with my mom when she mentions that part and that's why my brother has an inferiority complex due to these problems. But it was a relief to leave the nest and face the reality to live alone and not depending from my mother and I all the time. Leaving that aside, I doubt I could talk with him after he treated and scolded me so badly for being a shy guy and being dependent for my mom. But that's not the way to treat a person like that, even when I'm jobless/unemployed.
What should I do in this case? Should I ignore it or try to forgive him?
The second issue is more personal. As I'm introvert guy and a degree holder with a little experience in Film and Television, I always wanted to be a full-time content creator and live from it, even though I already tried to write posts on my blog and uploaded videos on my YouTube channel; besides of monetizing and earned a few cents. The problem with this one is I feel remorse of getting late to the party and the constant perfectionism of each content I'm creating. Besides that, I have a lot of insecurities and a lot of episodes of anxiety and depression ending to postpone the main project. I told my mom about how these creators earn money from it and I'm aware that it's not easy to get enough followers in order to monetize the content. And almost always get demotivated (mentally and creative) for this reason, until I wrote a script for a podcast I'm going to make this week. Being a loner has both advantages and disadvantages, so I tried to talk with other furs about the project and some of them was amazed and left some thumbs up, but they never asked me for a feedback or some moral support to keep going and staying afloat. And even I talked with some psychologists and some friends as well.
And I also want to learn to draw again and offer some commissions. So, I decided to undertake this path without leaving aside other projects that I have in mind, staring with the screenplays I'm writing. Do you know if there's a way to be more confident with the people I surrond it and myself? I want to overcome this weakness.
I'm sorry that this letter is so extensive or long, but I hope this will be helpful for me, Papabear.
Gabbo The Fox (Colombia, age 28)
* * *
Your letter is a little difficult to decipher, I fear, probably because English is your second language, but I think I get your meaning. So, the questions seem to be, in summary: 1) How do I deal with my brother? and 2) How do I gain confidence to become a better podcaster and online personality?
Your brother is trying to be a big shot as a way to compensate for his own lack of self-confidence, which probably arose from growing up in a dysfunctional family. In my opinion, he's getting involved with a very shallow, money-grubbing crowd and will likely regret it, eventually. I would not recommend following his lead, and you don't have to accept his criticism of you or your life choices. Whenever he criticizes you, just smile and say, "Thank you for your advice. I will take it under consideration." Then, ignore him and do your own thing. He is a damaged person, and you would be wise not to worry about his opinions.
Your second question is slightly related to your first because one of the best things you can do to boost your self-confidence is avoid toxic people like your brother and surround yourself with supportive, loving people. This is not to say you only want to have "yes men" around you (people who just agree with everything you say to make you feel better), but you do want people who care about you and try to support what you are doing in life and career.
Another thing you should do, you are already doing: pursue your dream. In this case, you are seeking to develop audio and video content online using what you have learned from your film degree (and congrats to you for completing your degree!). Don't worry if you are struggling at first. Everyone struggles at first! You are finding out that doing stuff for a college class is very different from real-world experience. You are going to have some failures, but the thing is to learn from your failures, grow, and improve. You won't have an instantly huge audience. Audiences take time to build. Be patient and keep at it! If you can do what you love for a living, you will be truly blessed throughout your entire life!
Next, don't compare yourself to others. Everyone has different experiences in their career and life paths. Some will be more successful than you, but you are not competing with them. Work on being unique unto yourself, providing people with something that has your own spin, your own personality, your own content. Be an individual and focus on what you are doing now, in the present. If you work hard now and develop your skills, eventually there will be a payoff.
Learn what you are best at, where your strengths are, and develop those. Meanwhile, keep an eye open for opportunities. You never know when something might develop that will open doors for you and your career. Also, keep learning new things. The industry you are in is constantly changing and developing. If you can keep up with all these changes, you will be doing better than a lot of your peers.
The more you learn, the more skills you develop, and the better you get at your job, the more confidence you will get. One day, you will realize, "Damn! I really know what I'm talking about, and I'm good at it, too!" At that point, you will have arrived.
When I found your ad and checked your website I felt this strange comforting feeling just imagining a kind old bear (no offense if you aren't actually old) giving out advice to those who ask. That's why I'm writing this letter despite not knowing what to ask about. Well, it's more like I have so many things I could ask about that I don't know which! I guess I could ask about how to deal with failure or the lack of success. Sometimes I'll try new things or put all my effort into trying to achieve something and I just can't. I've heard plenty of people say that if you never quit and work hard you can achieve anything. It's hard to believe when the fruits of your labor show little to no results. So how do I keep myself from being disheartened?
* * *
Depending on your definition of "old," I'm 55, so I guess that if I'm not already there, I am getting close. I am currently working on my dissertation for my Ph.D. in Grumpy Old Bear. Soon, I will have to defend my paper in front of a committee of old codgers to get their approval to join their ranks. Wish me luck.
As for your goals and achievements, you are still young and growing as a person. Now is the time for you to explore your options and interests. Failures and dead-ends will be the norm, not the exception. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to succeed right out of the gate. You should do what you're doing right now: try a lot of different things and see what clicks with you.
Meanwhile, remember that everything you "fail" at, or, at least, don't get "measurable success" at is a learning experience. After you have an experience where you fail to achieve something or a project goes awry, take a step back and evaluate what happened, what you did wrong (and also anything you did right but just didn't pay off), and how you might fix it in the future.
The important thing is to find something you love to do, and then, whether or not you "succeed" at it is a matter of your point of view. Say your big dream is to be an artist, but you never end up making much money at it, so you find "regular" work and paint or draw on the side. If you love your art, and you love doing it, then you are still a success. Would you call Van Gogh a failure as an artist? He never sold a single painting when he was alive, but he loved painting. He was a success. If you are an artist but people say your art is bad even though you have tried and tried, but you love doing it, then you are a success because you have found something that makes you happy.
Heck, take this column. I don't make any money at it. It doesn't win any prizes. But I love doing it, so it is a success to me. Another even more profound example for me is my late husband, Jim. Toward the end of his career, he was laid off as a news director and spent his last years with me trying to succeed as an entertainment podcaster. You know what happened? He never made a dime, but he adored what he was doing. He loved recording interviews and editing soundtracks until the day he died. And he was loved. Oh, how he was loved! Now, THAT was a successful life.
Living life is not about achievement or money or recognition or fame. It's about being alive and experiencing life. Hey, that reminds me, that's kind of the message of Disney's recent movie Soul, which is about a piano teacher who wants to make it big but dies before doing so. He learns the very lesson I'm telling you right now: LIVE. This life is for you. Take time to enjoy the sensations, the friendships, the fun of it all, and stop worrying about being a success. If things happen for you and you become rich and famous, then great; if they don't but you had a nice ride, that's just as great.
Step back and ask yourself this: "What am I trying to achieve?" If it is fame or fortune, then reevaluate what you are doing. It isn't about "success" as defined by our capitalistic society. It's about loving life and finding something you love to do.
I hope that helps.
Big Bear Hugs,
I wrote this in the hopes of getting your advice regarding a person I know.
This person is called Kevin, and he is autistic. I've known him since late middle school, but I wouldn't call him a friend. You see, Kevin didn't really have friends, and because my mom knew his mom, he essentially latched onto me and would follow me around in and outside of school.
Other people didn't particularly like him, and because he always followed me around, my highschool friend group was small. Kevin had a tendency to talk a lot about things he really liked, and would often interrupt me in conversation (and the things he liked were video games and cartoon TV shows, which he very regularly derailed conversations to).
Fast forward to the end of high school, and I now saw Kevin less. I came into my own more as a person and my friend group grew larger, which was great. Kevin was still around of course, having not made friends in high school. His mother seemed to sense a distance growing between us, and would often invite Kevin to events or excursions I was planning without my permission. For example, Kevin was dropped off by his mom at a hike myself and some friends were about to start. As it wasn't TV or video games, Kevin complained during the whole hike (admittedly, he wasn't hugely active either, having zero interest in sport or exercise). This reached boiling point when one of my pals said to his face "shut up r****d". I was so embarrassed.
This brings us to now. I am currently attending college in Ireland. I love it over here (despite the constant rain) and my roommates (who are all Irish) are probably the friendliest people I've ever met.
Recently though, I started getting messages from Kevin's mom. They started harmless enough, asking me what it's like in Ireland, what my accommodation is like, etc. However, Kevin's mom started asking questions I didn't like. "Do they offer games coding courses in the college?" "I heard there's a spare room in your apartment, is that right?" "They have a games club on campus don't they?"
Kevin's mom wants to send her son all the way to Europe just to bunk in with me and my roommates. I did not leave the Midwest just to end having to deal with Kevin again.
I haven't responded to these messages, but even my own mom agrees that this idea is beyond ridiculous.
How do I respond? What do I do? I'm not Kevin's babysitter and he's not my friend. I want nothing to do with him anymore, and he needs to find his own friends, and not follow me around the world.
All the best,
* * *
You are clearly a kind person, being so tolerant of Kevin all this time and being so sympathetic to his situation. As you know, autism is not a mental handicap but, really, an emotional one in which the autistic person has a hard time dealing with social situations. They also don't like unfamiliar places and they don't like change. You represented familiarity because your mothers were friends, and so that felt comfortable to him. I am, frankly, amazed you allowed this to go on for years even though the two of you have nothing in common. His mother foists Kevin on you because she wants her son to have a friend, even an unwilling one.
You are under no obligation to be Kevin's friend. Kevin's mother is extremely rude and presumptuous to try and keep pushing Kevin on you. The proposal that he should follow you all the way to Ireland is worse than absurd. It's completely outrageous. You should, frankly, get a medal for putting up with this for so long, but at this point, they are using you so hard that it is almost criminal. You have a right to your own life and your own friends (and kudos to you for finally getting that in Ireland).
I had something similar to this happen to me in high school when this dorky kid with whom I had nothing in common followed me around, making me quite uncomfortable. What I did was, basically, ignore him and refuse to acknowledge him until he eventually got a clue. I didn't do this very gracefully (being young and inexperienced), but it worked.
I don't know if you have ever said "No" to Kevin or his mother, but it is time you start. You don't have to say anything so inept as, "I don't like Kevin. Bugger off." But what you can do is simply say things like, "There is no room for him here." Do not offer any contact information or, Lord knows, addresses. Tell your mother not to give out such information. If that doesn't work, it is time to start ignoring him and his mom. Don't answer phone calls or texts. Give them deafening silence. If you don't put your foot down now, you will be living with Kevin for the rest of your life. He is not your responsibility. And you are 100% right that he needs to start making his own friends back in America.
Don't let them push your sympathy button. Don't allow them to make you feel guilty. Kevin's happiness is not up to you. You deserve your own life, friends, career.
If your mother tries to guilt you, tell her what I said. Tell her to not give Kevin and his mom any of your contact information. If that causes a rift in the friendship between moms, then so be it. That is not your problem either. Kevin's mom is a user, and users are to be avoided at all costs because they can seriously destroy your life and happiness and make you feel guilty while they do it. It is the worst kind of passive-aggressive behavior.
I think you already know this. I hope it helps you that you have a bear here who agrees with you and is telling you that you are not a jerk for finally being free of Kevin.
The Furry Fandom: Nirvana of Love and Acceptance or Cesspool of Perverts, Trolls, and Losers? (Editorial)
I have been a furry since I was a little kid growing up in the 1970s (yes, I have moles on my back older than most of you reading this), and I first became aware of the fandom around 1990 (these are separate things, as I will later explain). Yesterday, I stumbled upon this YouTube video by Beta Eta Delota with the title The Furry Fandom Is Toxic. Just reading the title made me cringe (provocative title meant to draw clicks, no doubt), but I did my duty, which is my continuing effort to learn about all things furry and to keep taking the fandom's temperature every month or two to see if it is feeling well, and watched the video. (It's not long, so you can take a few minutes and watch it yourself.) Basically, he makes two points: 1) that furries too often excuse bad people in the fandom (and by bad, he means things like pedophiles, zoophiles, and Nazi furs) either because they have cute fursuits and/or have been nice to the person who is excusing them and who feels their bad behavior doesn't affect them, or 2) because furries use the fandom as an unhealthy escape from reality.
Now, he has some points here, and he is the first to stress that not all furries are this way. But, like everyone who criticizes the fandom, he makes two mistakes: 1) saying the fandom "can be better" without offering any suggestions or solutions as to HOW it could improve other than vaguely saying that furries shouldn't tolerate haters and pedos (well, no shit); and 2) somehow believing that a fandom consisting of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people should somehow be different than humanity in general. Everything he points out that is wrong about the fandom (tolerating bad people, escaping too much into fantasy) is also true of humanity in general. The fandom isn't bad because it is a furry fandom; there are bad people in the fandom and there are people who tolerate that because that's what human beings do. Furries are no different than anyone else.
Beta's vlog is just one of quite a lot of such videos blorping around on YouTube and social media. There are long diatribes from people droning on about "why I left the fandom" and whining how toxic it is all over the place. Most of them are either criticizing the furporn element or the, sigh, drama.
So, if the fandom is so toxic and shameful, you might wonder why there are droves of furries padding about in it with an "oWo" here and an "uWu" there. Well, the other side of the coin are the furries extolling the virtues of the fandom, arguing what a happy-pappy place it is full of people who will love you unconditionally and accept you for who you are and that it is all about fun and creativity.
While this is, in part, quite true, it is also--like the myth of the American Dream--in many ways a heaping barrel of horse manure. If the fandom were Nirvana, I wouldn't see many letters in my "Ask Papabear" inbox and everyone in the world would be scratching at the fandom's doggy door to get in. There is considerable drama, and yours truly has been on the defensive end of troll attacks and jerkwads on several occasions. But! There are many many wonderful furries, too! Just look at the over three dozen nominees for this year's Good Furry Award and you will learn about just a few of them.
So why is this an issue at all, and why do furries get their tails in a knot about it? Well, for one thing, the fandom has become a place to which many people escape because they are looking for the acceptance they did not receive in mundane society. While certainly not true for all furries, many furries come here because they are LGBTQ or because they have emotional or mental issues such as autism spectrum disorder (I've lost count of the number of furries who have written to me saying they have Asperger syndrome or OCD or some other anxiety disorder or depression). They are seeking a place of acceptance and have been told that the fandom is it. But what often (sometimes inevitably) happens is that when they come across some bad characters among their new social group, they find themselves rejected, say, by their local furmeet, and they feel utterly betrayed. So, they lash out at the fandom as a whole because of this, blaming everyone for their experience.
Another phenomena is Usurper Syndrome (my name for it). This happens when someone who may have felt like an outcast in mundane society suddenly finds too much acceptance in the fandom and rises (or misappropriates) a leadership role in a local furry group. Now finding themselves on the top rung of the ladder, they proceed to use their footpaws to kick people out to make a point: "I'm going to do to you what others did to me as a salve for my bruised ego." Doing this maneuver usually involves devious shenanigans to remove a group's previous leader and assume the throne for themselves. When this happens, the dethroned furry either announces that furries are all trash or says that they are "leaving the fandom."
Next, there are Furry Posers. These are people who join the fandom for all the wrong reasons (e.g. they think it is a cool way to be rebellious or to shock people) and end up causing trouble in the community because they aren't genuine. These are the people who steal art or fursuits (because they have no skills), are hungry for attention and want to be popufurs, OR, even worse, they see the fandom as a gateway to release their sexual deviancies and prey on people. These are not true furries, and I agree with Beta that they should not be tolerated within the fandom.
Finally, there is the Prude Patrol. Some of you who know furry history will recall the Burned Furs, who, from about 1998 to 2001, went on a rampage to tell all furries they couldn't have adult art (rather like the American Puritans). Of course, this worked about as well as Prohibition in the 1920s. But there are many furries out there still who get their undies in a bunch because there is furporn. My reply: if you don't like it, don't look at it. Prudes are upset because they feel furporn will be a reflection on them, so they demand it be extirpated completely from the fandom. Such people also are overly sensitive to criticism and satire from nonfurries (a famous example is the Furry Force cartoons from CollegeHumor that are just hysterical). If you can't laugh at yourself, you either need to work on your self-esteem or not take yourself so seriously.
Because of people like the above (and there are other cases, but these are some of the major ones), furries tend to be their own worst enemy. This results either in furries posting videos like Beta Eta Delota's to complain about themselves, OR! they do exactly the opposite and idealize the fandom as something it really isn't: a perfect, loving place where all are welcomed and one can indulge in a fantasy life free from real-world troubles like bigotry and social hierarchies.
Years ago, I got it into my head that the solution to all of this was to create a regulating organization that I called The American Furries Association. I even got so far as to get some volunteer staff members, hold some meetings, and commission a logo. The idea was that it would serve as a way to screen out bad furries (you would have to apply and you could be kicked out for bad behavior), prevent fursona stealing (by creating a fursona and fursuit database), and be an information resource and support group for both new and experienced furries. I had to shut the doors on it before it got off the ground because, even with some volunteers, I quickly found out it would be a full-time job to lead the AFA, and I simply didn't have the time to give it that it deserved. But a second reason was that furries simply don't want to be regulated. One of the features that makes the furry fandom unique is that it is not associated with a franchise or regulated by a nonprofit or corporate entity (unlike, say, the Trekkies or Star Wars fans). Furries tend to bristle at the suggestion they have to adhere to rules of conduct or apply for a membership (other furries have sometimes tried to create such groups and issue membership cards to little effect).
Hence, here we are: a HUGE fandom of millions of people without a cohesive, organizing body to oversee them. The furry fandom more closely resembles a Mad Max world than it does Earth under the United Federation of Planets. It's a Wild West of chaos and adventure where you find both Outlaws and Lawmen, Showgirls and Trollops, Gunmen and Healers, Christians and Native Spiritualists. You can't put a leash around it's neck and rein it in. And don't expect to produce a vlog commanding everyone to behave and expect furries to suddenly say, "Ohmahgerd! You're right! How could we have been so foolish! We will all behave now."
Beta ends his vlog by saying that the fandom could be better. Sure, everything could be better. It could also be a lot worse, just as this world could be a lot better or worse. But without any supervision--which will never ever happen--it's going to be what it is: a crapload of people goofing around in fursuits or making art, or playing games. A lot of these people are wonderful, creative, and compassionate furries, but some of them are, well, assholes. Hey! Whaddaya know! Just like the real world!
Beta IS correct that we should not excuse bad furries just because they "have a cute fursuit." And someone who is guilty of a crime such as pedophilia (someone with a criminal record for this) or other crimes such as animal abuse, domestic violence, rape, or theft, should be banned from furry events. (And, if you didn't know already, there is actually something called the Furry Convention Leadership Roundtable consisting of furcon organizers who discuss issues such as this.) He's also correct that it is unhealthy to immerse yourself in the fandom completely as a way of escaping the responsibilities of reality.
But the furry fandom in and of itself is not toxic. The furry fandom is not a kumbaya community, either. The furry fandom is what you make of it. If you bring drama to it or create drama, if you insist on associating with the bad eggs, you're going to have a bad time. Learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. Don't admire a furry because you think their suit is awesome or they are a talented artist. Get to know them as people, and be discerning in your choice of friends. Don't expect the fandom to change to suit your needs. That's like kicking a brontosaurus in the toe and telling it to change course. it's too big. It's grown exponentially from a small group of friends meeting at a sci-fi convention to a worldwide phenomenon. And it is not only growing, but it is changing as well. And it will continue to change because it is a living, breathing social movement.
I'm a furry because I love anthro art in film, TV, comic books, graphic novels, and online. I was a furry since I was about 6 years old, pretending to be Chip from Disney's Chip and Dale, not having a clue why I did it. I just enjoyed it. When I discovered that there were others like me by stumbling upon the Furry Nation website back around 1990, I was thrilled. I love the fursuits. I love the art. I love going to furcons and donning my own fursuit and being Grubbs Grizzly. I adore it. And while I am very aware of the bad posers out there and do not tolerate them, I am not going to allow them to ruin my good time.
I am not part of a "toxic" community, and labeling an entire community in this way is irresponsible at best, an invitation to hate at worst. If I thought the fandom was toxic, I wouldn't be writing this column and I wouldn't be running the Good Furry Award.
I'm not a furry because I found the fandom; I participate in the fandom because I'm a furry. The community that is the fandom and the fact that I am a furry are two separate things. Like oil-and-vinegar salad dressing, they can taste good together, but unless you shake them up together occasionally, they will separate out and reveal themselves as quite different from one another.
So, don't worry about "fixing" the fandom. It's fine. If you want to improve something, just work on yourself. We all need improving, myself included.
[Papabear Note: This letter is from a furry with whom I have spoken before, so I know his history, including that he has OCD]
So … do you sometimes ever just have very dark thoughts of doing something that you would never do for no apparent reason? Cuz, I did just now and it’s really disturbing me. Something to do with doing something really bad with animals that I would never do. I love and care about animals, I would never want to hurt them in any way, shape or form.
* * *
This is a topic people don't like to talk about, so kudos to you for being brave and honest about such a disturbing thing.
Everyone has dark thoughts. I've had them myself. Sometimes, I have even wished death on a person. I'm not proud of that, but there it is. The difference between someone who thinks dark thoughts on occasion and one who acts on them is the difference between a normal human being and a psychopathic murderer. You see, a normal person has something in their brain (call it a conscience) that is a wall, a sign that says STOP!, that prevents them from acting out that aggression. You have that wall, so you're okay.
There is a difference between you and me, though, which can cause you to have recurring thoughts of hurting people. There is a subset of OCD called "Harm OCD," which is the fear of harming someone or yourself. You obsess about objects that might serve as weapons and worry constantly that you might harm someone either consciously or unconsciously, not even knowing you're doing it.
These are obsessions that are symptomatic of your particular form of OCD. They do not reflect on your moral character as a human being, and they do not mean you will actually carry these actions out. They do not make you a bad person. Can't stress that enough.
To treat your Harm OCD, you need therapy. Therapists use a form of behavioral therapy called Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) in which you are continuously exposed to objects that trigger your Harm OCD until you become resistant to them. Repeated association with something and not acting out on it eventually establishes pathways in your brain that tell you that your fear regarding that object will not become reality. For example, say you are afraid you will take a kitchen knife and stab a person or animal. The therapist might instruct you to carry a plastic, dull knife around with you everywhere until you realize that you will never use a knife as a weapon.
Here is an excellent summary about Harm OCD you should read.
Please seek the guidance of a professional to treat your condition.
Dear Papa Bear,
I am the mother of a 21-year-old transgender child. He has in the past few years gone through many different identifications in his sexuality, and I'm starting to get a little concerned. When he identified as female, he told me he was a lesbian. This was when he was about 16. Then at 18 he told me he was trans. About 6 months later he said he was straight (still trans). About 6 months after that he decided he was gay. Most recently I asked him if he would like me to make him a trans flag blanket and he said he would prefer a non-binary flag.
Now I have absolutely NO problem with him being any sex or sexuality that he identifies with. What is concerning to me is how quickly he has been bouncing between identifications. I know everybody goes through periods of finding themselves and I'm very happy that he feels comfortable enough to share with me what he is feeling. My question is, is it happening too fast? Should I be concerned that he is changing his mind a couple of times a year for the past 5 years? Or am I just being an over-protective mom?
* * *
Dear Mama Lion,
I'd like to heap praises on you for being a fantastic mom. Your child is lucky to have you!
To the point: based on what you have written, I think your child could be described as "gender-fluid." Gender-fluid is a term describing someone whose gender identity shifts over time--and yes, the time elapsed can be as short as a single day. Gender-fluid people can identify as a man one day, a female the next. They can even identify as asexual, bisexual, transexual, nonbinary, straight, and on and on.
There is also something called "gender-queer." A gender-queer person doesn't tend to shift identity (although they might); they identify as not exclusively male or female. And, yes, you can be both gender-fluid and gender-queer.
Have a headache yet? That might be because many humans (even furries!) suffer from something I call "labelphilia": the desire to stick a label on, identify, and categorize everything. This started all the way back to Adam, when he was putting labels on all the animals.
Adam: I'm going to call you ... an "antelope."
Animal: Excuse me, Adam, but I identify as a lion, sir! And sometimes a giraffe (sticks out tongue and stalks off in a huff).
When we can't categorize everything, we tend to develop anxiety because labels and IDs offer a sense of stability and comfort in a crazy, chaotic world. This is a problem because one of the most complicated things ever invented is human sexuality and gender identity. This kind of anxiety is why many people are homophobic, and it is why most homophobes are simple-minded people (or politicians and clergy using homophobia to manipulate). Homophobes and anti-LGBTQ derps can only see things in black or white; they can't grasp complicated or subtle concepts. They can't believe that not only are there nearly infinite shades of grey in between black and white, but! there are also all the colors of the rainbow. AND! People don't have to be just light-grey or purple, they can be green and orange with a dash of striped grey-and-white thrown in.
Now, being that your child is 21, it should be noted that when people are young they tend to experiment a lot as they try to figure out who they are. This might mean that, as your child ages, the shifts could get less frequent as they settle into something they find comfortable. It might not mean that, but it could.
You can save yourself the trouble by simply not trying to label them at all and not worry about their gender identity so much. You'll save money on antacid purchases. We are much more than our gender and sexual preferences. I don't, for example, go around introducing myself as gay. I introduce myself as Grubbs or Kevin. This should not be too hard for you because you are such a loving and supportive mother, and bless you profusely for that. I wish you were common instead of the exception in this world.
If you still wish to make them a flag blanket, then you could ask them if they would like a gender-fluid one (yes, there is a flag for everything). Below is an example you can use as a model.
Lately, I've had an issue on my mind. It's not exactly pressing, but it is something I'll have to confront and decide on eventually. But given I've been stuck for months on it, I figured it's time to reach out to a third party who's totally uninvolved. I remembered hearing about you on an old podcast, so I thought I'd give you a poke. I hope you don't mind giving me your opinion.
I'm in a happy, long distance relationship. The problem, is that we have a very good mutual friend, us three hang out pretty much all the time.. and well, the thought of becoming a poly relationship is always lingering. My partner is, presumably, willing, and our mutual friend has expressed interest in it.
Trouble is, I'm not sure if I could handle being in a poly relationship. I mean, with how close we all are we might as well already be in one.. but I'd have to come out as poly to my dear mother (my father's not in the picture, if that has any relevance). She's not one of those super strict and traditional parents, but I really would worry about if she'd think of me differently, as well as the rest of my family. I'm a lot more open to things, but my family, while they're relatively progressive, they were all raised on traditional values. I don't think they'd insult me or anything like that, but disappointment still hurts.
In addition to family stuff, I would worry about if we could give each other the attention we needed. Like, the last thing I would want is for one of us to feel like a third wheel or to get jealous. I don't *think* it would happen, but, I worry. Especially because, if our relationship were to fail, our mutual friend would have left their current partner for nothing.
Lastly, and this might sound odd, but I have several friends who would likely be upset that I'd be a poly relationship for this friend, but not them. They're definitely "would date if I were single" for me, but, well, I just don't think a poly relationship would work with them in the current situation. That probably wouldn't stop them from being upset, though.
The current status quo is nice, but.. I know I can't, or at least shouldn't, delay answering this question forever. As much as a definite do or don't would be nice, mostly I'd really like to know your thoughts and reasonings, maybe what you would do.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for reading.
* * *
As I've told others who write to me, traditional, two-person relationships are tough enough without complicating things further with a third or fourth person. So, no matter what you do, you are in for a challenging time.
There are two important things you need to do here. First, you must realize that this is your life and your relationship choice. What your parents, family, friends, and coworkers think about your personal life should not factor into your decision. If we all let others rule our lives, we would die having never lived true to ourselves.
The second thing is communication between you and your two partners. For polyamorous relationships to work, everyone everyone everyone has to agree to what the rules are. You must all be sensitive and giving to each other's needs. There must be ZERO jealousy involved. No selfishness. Once jealousy creeps into any relationship, there is trouble a-brewing, and that goes triple for poly relationships. If you are uncomfortable or unsure about being poly in any way, then my recommendation is this: Don't do it.
All that said, I'm curious about the living situation right now. You say you are in an LDR with the first BF, but is this true with the third person? Are you all living at a distance that makes it impossible to live together? If so, then I would say right now that a poly situation is not feasible. To have a true poly relationship with three or more people, you need to be living together. There are furries who read this column who will disagree with me, but I stand firm on that point.
Until the time you all three are together in the same home, the entire issue of being in a relationship is moot.
Let me know if you have further questions.
Heads up this is a bit sexual, but my research doesn't seem to be turning much up at all so I'm hoping you can help.
I have recently been exploring my sexuality on multiple levels, and have discovered that I erotically enjoy furry art, and more recently have found I enjoy imagining myself as an anthropomorphic animal - but only for sex purposes, and I often feel disgusted with myself afterwards. I still have not fully got a handle on why. I have no desire for a fursuit, or to engage with the fandom as a lifestyle in any way. But the more I engage with anthropomorphic erotica in this way, the more cemented my idea of my own sona(?) seems to get, though it's something I only associate with sex.
My understanding is that just sexual interest/association is not exactly the common experience for furries, and I'm feeling a lot of shame around having this... honestly it kind of feels like a fetish? and worrying that furry art etc. isn't being made for me, and engaging with it erotically is kind of violating the intent of the creators and the deep connection of many people with their fursonas, and possibly could help perpetuate negative stereotypes about the furry fandom. (In the interest of respect, I've mostly been sticking to explicit erotica).
On the other hand, I have a therian friend who is telling me to relax and engage with an open mind to slowly discover myself, but it always seems to come with the implication that the experiences I'm having are a gateway into other engagement with the furry fandom, which would be fine, I obviously have nothing against furries, but what if it doesn't, and I'm only interested in essentially a fetish? It feels like then I really would just be the disgusting sexual deviant both furries and the mainstream have no use for, and also still have no good framework for understanding why I'm like this when I don't even like sex with other people and get turned off by my own body at times.
It's just a lot, and if you have any advice for how to navigate this I would be incredibly grateful for it.
Thank you very much,
Mae (age 21)
* * *
It's very natural for someone your age to be exploring their sexuality (hell, I'm still doing it at 55 LOL, but I digress). Let's clear up a couple inaccuracies in your letter, first. Furporn is quite common in the fandom, and many furries enjoy it. While it should be acknowledged that being a furry isn't about sex, because many furries are young and sexually active (or, at least, interested in sex), this naturally transfers into a lot of art in the fandom. Many furries are not at all interested in this aspect of the fandom. That's fine. Many are just interested in it as part of a multifaceted culture that includes lots of other stuff, and THAT is fine, too. And many furries, frankly, are pretty much only interested in furporn. That is fine, too.
Don't feel disgusted with yourself or feel like you are insulting the spirit of the fandom by enjoying the adult art. You are not. You can certainly find plenty of furporn online and enjoy that (not sure who made you think "that just sexual interest/association is not exactly the common experience for furries," but that's just not correct; it is quite common, though not omnipresent). And you can find lots of artists who draw it and you can commission them, and they will appreciate your business. You can also buy furry sex toys from Bad Dragon, and they, too, will appreciate your business.
Being furry is not necessarily a fetish, but you can have a fetish for furry stuff. And you don't have to be a furry to enjoy furry art. There are many people who are connected to the fandom who are not necessarily furries. I often like to give the example of my fursuit maker, Beastcub. She is not herself a furry, but she loves costuming and creating fursuits as an art (and it definitely IS an artform, in my opinion). Similarly, there are many artists, writers, and filmmakers who create stories that many of us would call furry but the creators are not themselves furries.
Your therian friend is correct that you need to chill and not overthink or worry about your sexual interests as long as--and this is important and key--you are not hurting anyone (and you are not, in your case). Whether or not you wish to become more connected with the furry community is entirely up to you. There are a number of social media groups you could join, and, of course, sites like FurAffinity and e621 contain a lot of what you are looking for.
As for your last comment, well, there could be a lot going on with you psychologically that you don't mention in your letter. A general comment I might make here is that there are many people who, for one reason or another, are more comfortable sexually if they put up a façade of some sort. Perhaps you experienced others body shaming you, or perhaps you had a bad sexual experience when you were younger. This has led to an antagonistic relationship with your own body and even the human form, but you still have sexual desires. Therefore, you cover up the human form with an anthro character, and this allows you to express your sexuality again. Of course, this is pure speculation on my part, but perhaps it has some relevance for you.
I hope this helps. Bottom line: just be yourself, as your friend said, and it is completely healthy to explore your sexuality. Anything is okay, as long as everything is above board, consensual, and not hurtful.
Hope that helps. Write again if you have further questions.
My letter is part question, part concern. I know I ask a few questions in the latter, but can you try to answer them, or try to answer the general underlining question I am trying to ask?
Given the state of the world, you constantly hear how bad things are: poverty, rape, corruption, killings, etc. It seems nowadays that the only way to thrive in society and be successful is to put yourself first, to the exclusion of anyone else, and if you do not, you will get stepped over in life and miss out. Either be corrupt in your life and put yourself first, or live your life by what other corrupt people want you to do as they are in charge of society. There seems (from my experience, I could be wrong) to be no real benefits from serving others selflessly because no one writes about it any longer.
Here is an example. My dad is very self centered. He is the type that worked his butt off his whole life, was given no natural talents, his parents divorced when he was in high school, to which his dad left the family and his mom had to raise all of her sons, an environment that required dad to take an active role in helping supporting himself and his mom at a young age. He never talked about his life at all. I only know him during the years I was alive and with him. Today, his success seems to show: he has a rewarding job, money, his health, a girlfriend, lives in CA (his favorite place in the world), and I think he is happy; he even divorced mom because he thought he deserved better than her. The only thing that seems to be wrong in his life now is he has to work 60 hours a week to keep up. (He manages the entire development and production of medicine.) In other words, he looks, acts and more or less is the example of "work hard and success is yours."
However, he is a narcissist, self-centered and very egocentric. He acts like everyone who is not above him can be treated like an inferior and he can act however he likes. Including his family (old and perhaps new). To the point I want to believe that all the wrongs he has done will come back to get him one day, but now I am starting to think that this is life, and you can and will get away with wrongdoing. He is the reason I think karma does not exist that much.
When I was living with him and was working (I was living with him as he provided free rent and help when I was taking collage classes), I live with my mom because I thought college would be better with Mom. But at the moment, I dropped out and work full time as a delivery driver for a pizza place. He would outright discourage or forbid me from tithing. He says what money I make at my job I should save, spend it on myself, help pay for groceries, and, in his words, "If you want to tithe you can tithe to the house." Even if I did all he requested, he still says to keep what I make. When I asked him why not give money, he said it is unnecessary. (I can see his viewpoint: it is not essential to give to those in need as their lives will not affect your life in any way, and what good you do for them will not give you anything, and therefore it is not worth doing.) Though it does help them, it is not a requirement, is what he thinks.
For example (one of countless, this just demonstrates his personality), one point, when he tasked me with selling the garage refrigerator that was unused, I had a potential client, but rather than picking it up herself she wanted us to send it to her via delivery. She sent enough funds to pay for the fridge and a few extra hundred to pay for shipping, which we had to set up ourselves. Dad thought she was taking advantage of me and told me to decline her order and find someone else. He also read my emails to her and noticed how nice I was to her, expressing patience and understanding about her current situation. (I forget what it was now). He did not like that in the slightest, and several days after he said, "It is not your job to be nice to others, they will take advantage of you. You should only be nice to your family" (blood family, that is).
To summarize, my dad is who inspired me to give and be as selfless as I can. Not because he showed what good helping others can bring, but because he set such a bad example on what success is. I realized I did not want to be successful. The pleasure of success is not worth the price it costs others.
But as of now, I am starting to doubt being selfless is better. I feel like what I do is not enough. Currently, I am working full time at a job to raise money for the sake of helping someone with debt and living expenses, I ask for additional hours at work to increase what I can give as well as be of service more at work. (I try to go with the attitude of "what can I do for others, and what I make goes to my friend" (I keep almost none of what I make; I only take money for gas and occasionally $50 to treat myself, but everything else goes to my friend as I do not have any expenses for myself atm).
Is this a sign that I need to expand my efforts to other things and other people?
So on to my questions.
What good things have you experienced in life that was a direct result of serving others? Not just small things like feeling good for donating money or helping, but real treasures from sacrificing lots and giving lots? Is living selflessly instead of selfishly worth it?
What can you tell people who try to take active effort into serving others, when they feel like their work means nothing in the end, like what they do to serve others is fruitless in the sense of what they do does not help enough to make any real difference, and those who try to do good for others (selflessly without expecting anything in return, not out of wanting something back) that fear that they will wind up with nothing in the end. In other words, do you think that living self-centeredly (if not immoral and greedy) would be best?
What do I do?
PS: I am aware that the law of generosity also says "give one season, receive another season" as in what works you do will not have any immediate rewards, it takes time. I am not writing out of distress.
* * *
These are profound questions you are asking. Let's take it a step at a time, starting with definitions. What does it mean to be "selfish"? What does it mean to be "selfless" or "altruistic"? Selfishness means to only do things that benefit you in some way (financially, materialistically). Your dad seems to follow the path of selfishness, although even he will say that it is okay to help one's own blood family, so he's not 100% selfish. On the other hand, it is not selfish to make sure you are not being used by someone, and it is not selfish to make sure that others do not harm you in some way, or that by helping them, you hurt yourself. This is to say that you need to be sure you are financially secure and physically and mentally healthy first, because when you are not, you are of no use to anyone, including yourself. So, if you, say, don't give a few dollars to a beggar on the street because without that money you would go hungry, that is not necessarily selfish. But if you are well-to-do and have more than you need, then hoarding your money and refusing to help others is selfish. Your dad, apparently, went through a rough childhood, a very scary one in which he struggled to make sure he and his family could survive. This likely planted the seeds for his current attitude.
So, what is being selfless or charitable mean? It means to realize that you are not the center of the world, that the human race and, indeed, the world benefits when people work together as a community, helping each other to build a better world. It doesn't mean that you have to do this to the exclusion of your own health and well-being, but it recognizes that no person is an island. Selfless people give to their fellow humans and to their communities not in the hopes that there will be a payback someday but, rather, because when we create a better, kinder, more loving world, we all get to live in it and enjoy the benefits of that world.
A perfect example of the above is the United States of America. The current capitalist system and influence of conservative politicians has created a world in which the 1% have 90% of the country's wealth. They don't share this wealth; they hoard it for themselves. The idea of the "trickle-down economy" in which giving tax breaks to the wealthy and letting them build huge hoards of gold like dragons in caves does not work, as proven by numerous economists. What IS the result of such hoarding? Well, we now live in a country where people are literally dying from lack of money and health care, where the infrastructure that everyone uses is crumbling, and where there are high crime rates and drug use because people are desperate, depressed, and without hope. This lowers the quality of life for everyone. And it also creates political unrest and destabilization. Furthermore, on a worldwide scale, it has led to global warming, which is going to destroy coastal cities and lead to mass migrations, war, and water shortages that affect the wealthy as well as the poor.
When your dad tells you that being kind and generous to others offers no payback, that is because he is thinking in financial, materialistic terms. Will volunteering to plant trees earn you money? No. Will donating clothes to a charity buy you a new wardrobe? No. Will helping a roommate get through a difficult time in their life by helping to pay their bills or giving them a shoulder to lean on get you a job promotion or a university grant? Of course not.
The rewards of being a good, kind, generous, and selfless person are largely intangible. Imagine the kind of world we would live in if everyone followed kindly principles? We could literally eliminate hunger if billionaires decided to use their excess money to feed people. We could get rid of pollution and make the fear of climate change a memory if corporations were not so profit-driven to pollute so they could please their stockholders. There would be no war if no one tried to take over other countries or deny others their religious beliefs or ethnic background. Students wouldn't be buried in school loan debt if we made college education free, and this would lead to an economic boom, too. Yet, none of these acts would benefit the donors financially, materialistically.
The key to being selfless is not expecting a payback. It's not charity if you expect money or favors in return (and it's not being a good Christian if you are only nice to people because you expect to be rewarded in Heaven). How would you feel if someone gave you a birthday present worth $50 and then said, "Okay, that cost me $50, so now you owe me." Would you think that was a good friend or family member? Now imagine yourself giving someone a present that they truly didn't expect and that they totally love. Doesn't that put a big grin on your face?
Oh, and guess what? When you feel joyful for making someone else happy, that improves your mood and this, in turn, improves your health. Studies show, too, that happy people live longer! Isn't that payback? And that one is actually quite tangible! (Note: this benefit requires that the giver have empathy; some people lack empathy, sadly).
All this is not to say you should allow yourself to be used. No. This seems to be your father's fear, and perhaps comes from personal experience. He sees everyone out there as a potential user, and so he has built walls around himself to prevent outsiders from using him. The problem with this is that now he lets no one in and he has, frankly, become a big douchebag. He might look happy and materialistically successful on the outside, but it is rare for such people to have loving, caring relationships. They tend to have trophy spouses, have family that resent them, and are in constant fear of losing what they have (which is why he works 60-hour weeks). This is what engenders conservative politicians. It is the same mentality that creates dictators. Sure, the dictator is all-powerful, but he is in constant fear that he will be assassinated or overthrown and put in prison. That is not a happy life.
As to your concern that helping others won't make a difference, you are incorrect. I can understand why it might seem so. When we are overwhelmed by the media reporting wars, poverty, pandemics, global warming, political corruption, and on and on, it can be discouraging. What can one person do?
A lot, actually.
When you exert acts of kindness in the world, it has a cascading effect, the results of which you might not see or realize (at least, not right away), but they are there. Being nice to others can make the people you are kind to say, "Hey! There are good people in the world! This makes me happy, and now I want to pay it forward!" Like a pandemic where one person can infect three or four people, and those people infect three or four people, and on and on until millions are sick (maybe not the best analogy), so, too, do acts of kindness spread around the community and the world. And those acts of kindness can be seemingly tiny. For example, compliment a coworker or a restaurant server. Take the trouble to tell the boss at a fast food place that you thought Sarah at the cash register was very kind to you. It doesn't have to cost money to be nice and to put a lot of good vibes out into the universe.
You ask me, directly, in your letter, "What good things have you experienced in life that was a direct result of serving others?" The letter you are reading is an example of what I do selflessly. I don't get paid for writing this column. I don't get awards or even, really, any recognition. Yet, I feel like it has done a lot of good for many people (cf. https://www.askpapabear.com/testimonials.html). You added, "Not just small things like feeling good for donating money or helping, but real treasures from sacrificing lots and giving lots? Is living selflessly instead of selfishly worth it?" Again, in this question, you are looking for evidence that selfless people get back "real treasures" for their acts, although you don't really specify what qualifies as such a treasure, though you assert that "feeling good" is insufficient reason.
Other than what I have noted above, writing this column gives my life a sense of purpose, and that is a profound reward. You see, I started writing this column right about when I was in my midlife crisis years, wondering what the hell my life was all about. It wasn't enough just to be doing okay, making money enough to live. I wanted a purpose, and writing this column gives me that. It is the most rewarding thing that I do in my life other than helping my disabled spouse and other family members. What is, after all, the purpose of life? Is it just to exist? Is it just to hedonistically pursue pleasure? I, for one, don't believe so. I have concluded that the only thing that truly brings me happiness is not material goods or money or even sex. It's making the world a better place as much as I possibly can.
I hope that answers your questions.
I am having some complex issues with my long term relationship, and I was hoping you might give me your opinion or perhaps your advice. Sorry in advance for the length.
First, I want to say I love my partner James. I’ve never loved anyone more in my life. He was the first person I came out to, and he told me on the spot that he “wasn’t sure if what [he felt] was love just yet, but there is definitely strong attraction [towards me].” We promised that if we were ever single at the same time that we would date. I went through several traumatic relationships that left me with more baggage than I could imagine. But he was always there for me, he helped me feel like me again. After a particularly nasty break up he put my shattered pieces back together, and in that moment I felt like I finally wanted to try with him.
It’s necessary to mention that when James and I started dating it was as a closed polycule of three; James, myself, and my existing partner Rile. Things went well for a while, the three of us even started living together when Rile’s home was undergoing renovations. Everything was great until Five months into dating, when James woke me up to break up with me. Much, much later he told me that he was frustrated by being in a closed relationship. Two depressing months later we got back together under two stipulations, being an open relationship, and having his privacy. We agreed, being poly it was easier to understand certain needs. For me I just wanted my two boyfriends and nothing else.
Rile started spending a lot of time away from home after we all moved back in together. He thought I started falling more in love with James than him. Much complication aside Rile and I parted ways, and I felt myself shifting more towards closed monogamy. All I wanted was James, and for him not to slip away from me. I started to think that him finding someone else would drive a wedge between us, and I would end up feeling just like Rile had towards me. I spoke with James about it, he promised me time to figure things out, but being closed was only temporary as it was one of the conditions of us getting back together. It was appreciated but not the reaction I hoped for or needed in that moment.
He seemed genuine about giving me time to figure out my sexuality, that is until I heard a notification and wanted to bring him his phone. That’s when I saw all of the dating app notifications. You name it, he had it. I just fell to the ground and stifled a pained moan. He had been cheating on me. He promised me that he never did anything in person, but that he did cheat by talking to others and leading them on sexually. He told me that leading people on gave him a sick kick, but it wasn’t entirely sexually motivated. He even admitted that doing so behind my back gave him a thrill. (This was 10 months after getting back together Nov 4th.)
He told me that if I wanted to break up it was entirely understandable. He also offered me a proposition; though it would be hard for him, he would try to be monogamous for me. That I would be able to look through his phone anytime I wanted to, that I was encouraged to for us. He showed me proof that he had deleted every dating app and his entire camera roll. This was after promising to show me every message he sent another person. Somewhere along the way he decided to change that and delete everything before showing me the phone. Probably to save me from my own anger, and increase the likelihood of me staying with him.
All of this sounds terrible and makes him seem like an awful manipulative person, but I do have genuine romantic feelings for him. Through our years together in and out of relationship, we have shared so very much, and I would be honored to call him my husband one day. For a while after that we were fine, and monogamy was followed through on as promised. I still wanted to check his phone, but I never found the courage to overpower the social awkwardness to ask.
When I did finally check up on him using his Facebook and Twitter accounts. I saw countless RP’ing convos, and more "lead on" conversations as he claimed them later. In particular there was where he told an old friend “I’m stuck in a relationship I can’t get out of.” When I confronted him he said that was mad that he made that promise to me initially [Nov 4], but had grown to support the decision since then [Dec 1], and that this whole thing was a slip up. Again he promised to let me see each convo, and instead blocked and deleted them, before I could see everything. We agreed that he could still RP as long as he told me or asked me.
I checked his open phone another night and found many more RP sessions he didn’t tell me about. In particular I found a conversation where he texted/rp’d? about cuckolding me by having sex with someone else in front of me. This seemed to be (out of character speak) too, he and Vlad constantly specified about talking when I wasn’t around which made it all worse. He claimed that it was just RP, not real, and not sexual, even though he sent messages about riding his dildo to the convos with Vlad. He promised me that he RP’ing with Vlad in particular was off limits, which I know now didn’t stand. I keep seeing messages from Vlad on his phone.
There was even a time where I made an RP account to test him, he took the bait and started RP’ing me while laying in bed next to me pretending to sleep. When I confronted him and told him it was me, he immediately refused to RP with me, and still refuses today.
Lastly, there is the issue of his sex drive. The first and only time we have had sex, aside from two botched attempts, was our very first date years ago. James has been going through a dry spell as he calls it, where he wants desperately to bleed me dry every day, but now is embarrassed and unmotivated due to his lack of a sex drive not aligning with his desires. I have always tried to be understanding of this issue when poaching the idea of sex. But the way he has shot me down countless times now makes me feel disgusting and unwanted. My will to try having sex with him is completely broken, to the degree that I openly fear discussing any of my own sexual desires with him. On top of that is that I am a switch, he is a firm bottom. The few times I slip into a submissive mindscape I want or need him to take on the role of a Master. Recently, I slipped and called him Master, to which he promptly refused to ever accept the title. Hearing him say that broke something very deep inside me, and I haven’t been able to think of him the same since. I love him with every part of me, beyond anything or anyone I have ever known.. and yet, I don’t trust him.
I can’t stop invading his privacy, I am constantly checking his phone, Facebook and twitter. It constantly seems like he’s covering up his mistakes as soon as I find them. I feel sexually unwanted, due to his “dry spell”, and constant RP sessions with everyone other than me.
I feel disregarded and hurt for my occasional need for him to take on a “Master’s” role. Some nights I go to bed distracted by how much I love him, or from us just having a good day. But there have been just as many times I have stayed up unable to sleep next to him.
I don’t want to leave, I don’t want a break, I don’t want to be broken up with.
I want him all to myself.
I want to stop feeling like the bad guy.
I want to stop feeling ashamed of what I want out of this relationship.
I want to be able to trust him again.
I want to be able to call him Master when I need to.
I don’t know how to tell him any of this. I don’t know where to start at this point. I constantly fear that I’ll reach his limit of how willing he is to work anything out, and that he’ll break up with me again. I fear that he will see the real depth of how much he has hurt me, and how much he continues to hurt me, and that he will panic. I’m so scared that one day he’ll wake up and think how much better I would be without him. I’m utterly terrified.
Please let me know what you think, and how you think I could move forward.
Thanks for listening,
* * *
Your relationship with James is severely broken, as you know. This is a case in point in which, when two people are not sexually compatible, it can easily spell doom for that relationship. This just happened to someone very dear to me who is now getting a divorce after a long, monogamous marriage because the other person wanted to suddenly go poly and began ignoring her spouse in favor of the new third party. Poly relationships can work. Open relationships can work. But ONLY if everyone is on the same page and there is no jealousy and mistrust. Reading your letter, there is mistrust all over the place; there is lying; there is cheating; there is bad communication; and there is sexual frustration because you are, frankly, incompatible in the bedroom.
The biggest mistake that people in an incompatible relationship try to do is make the other person change or (incorrectly used) "grow as a person," which just means, "change so that they do what I want." Look, Lindell, you have four choices here:
Of these choices, the only one that has a chance of helping you and James to find a satisfactory sex life is the fourth one. Now, is sex everything in a loving partnership? No, it is just one facet, though a big one. Sometimes sex is not a factor at all, but that is usually not the case with young, healthy couples such as yourself. The reason you are fighting this inevitable conclusion is that you want to keep James in your life because other than this one issue, you love him. I can certainly understand that you don't want your partnership to change. For the most part, it's comfortable and familiar and cozy.
I wish to stress that you are not the "bad guy" and you shouldn't feel "ashamed" for what you want. There is nothing wrong with the things you want; it's just that the things you want do not coincide with what your partner wants.
Your letter likely helped you work out some of the thought processes and emotions running through your head. Hopefully, my reply will help you wrap that process up and finally come to a conclusion as to what you should do.
Hope that I've helped you figure it out.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.