A couple months ago, my mate cheated on me. He went to stay with a friend, who I knew he had intentions to have sex with, but when I confronted him about it, he denied it was true. Then one night, he told me he'd gotten drunk, but had just cuddled. Then he admitted that blowjobs had occurred; this upset me, but I ended up calming down, and discussing the requirements I would need to start opening up our relationship, since it was clearly something he wanted, and I could either try to control how it happened, or know it would happen.
I tried listing a situation where I would be all right with somebody else f***ing him; he simply said there was somebody there who he could have gotten f***ed by, and wanted to, who was larger than me (I'm a bit above averaged size down below, but I still feel self-conscious about it, since I know my boyfriend likes playing with large toys), which upset me greatly; it wasn't something I was ready for him to even say. He said it in a really insensitive way, and he made it clear I was absolutely powerless to stop it from happening.
Then, the next day, he admitted he had been f***ed by this guy. My mate proceeded to, when I made it clear just how upset and hurt I was, tell me that I don't know how to have fun, because the guy he was visiting, and their friends, know how to, and like to, have fun. Overall, he made me feel powerless, unwanted, unloved, betrayed, disliked, and alone, and then further proceeded to blame me for this. He later insisted that he was just wording things badly, but since then, as we've been trying to patch things up, he switches between getting annoyed at me if I get introverted and upset but refuse to tell him why ... and getting upset at me for bringing him up if I DO tell him why, and telling me that he's done everything he can to fix things, and that I need to fix it if I want this relationship to continue.
He's also mentioned since then that he did it because he's already waited since around when we first got together to sleep around with random guys, telling me that he was never that interested in monogamy, despite telling me he was (he later said that that was badly worded; apparently he ACTUALLY meant threesomes involving me, though that seems unlikely since he explicitly said he'd been waiting three years to do what he did, which wasn't anything involving me) and that he didn't want to wait until I was ready and confident enough to say we could have an open relationship, since he was scared of losing his sex drive and friends....
Meanwhile, a combination of stress and medication side effects have given me plenty of difficulty performing in bed, and I've had most of my friends simply stop talking to me; many of them continue to talk to my boyfriend all the time, though. All in all, this entire situation has massively harmed me, since it hit all of my doubts and worries and fears: my worries that I'm not good enough, despite him saying I am; my worries that people don't like me or want me around; my worries that if I did agree to an open relationship, it would mean he'd get fucked by a bunch of people, while I'd rarely have anybody to play with; and my deep fear that I am absolutely powerless in every single aspect of my life.
Another Bear (age 21)
* * *
I didn’t really see a question, per se, in this letter, but I assume it to be something like, “What should I do about this relationship?” At any rate, I suspect this is one of those letters where the writer already knows the answer in his heart but just wants a bit of a backup response to assure him he is thinking logically. Readers of this column know that, while Papabear asserts that sex is not the only aspect of a healthy relationship, he knows it can be a very important one. And if partners are not compatible in this area, it can definitely cause a lot of grief of the kind seen here.
Having someone you love tell you that you are inadequate in bed can wreck a person’s self-esteem, as it has yours, but when you say you have a “deep fear that I am absolutely powerless in every single aspect of my life” I have to stop you there. First, the obvious: we are talking about just the issue of sex here, and sex is not every aspect of your life. Take a deep breath for a moment and get a grip. I’m sure you have many other wonderful qualities about you that make you a well-rounded and interesting person. I’ll bet there are other parts of your life that you do have control over and are doing well in.
Second, judging by your letter, your partner is being very insensitive to you. Unlike the sexual aspect alone, insensitivity to one’s partner poisons every aspect of a relationship. I would venture to guess that he has said hurtful things to you on other issues besides sex; am I right? Likely, he apologizes lamely for what he said later, but we both know he really meant what he said. An active sex life with many partners is more important to him than you are; this is clear.
Now, I’m not sure if there might be another reason you stay with him other than your professed love. Sometimes couples stay together because one is financially dependent upon the other; sometimes because they are just used to each other and comfortable in the arrangement; sometimes there is a severe codependency issue that has not been overcome (I suspect codependency on your part, but could be wrong). The question I must then ask is whether you have self-esteem problems and feel you can do no better than this guy.
When it comes to sex, there are three kinds of relationships: 1) compatibility, in which both parties are happy in the sack; 2) platonic, in which neither party, for one reason or another (usually age, though you certainly can be an active senior!), cares about sex much anymore and a good snuggle is all that’s needed to make them happy; and 3) open relationships in which it is recognized that the partners are either not fully compatible or that they both have appetites that a one-course meal cannot satiate. You’re trying for this third option, but in this scenario it must be clear to both parties what is going on, and both parties must respect the other person and treat them with love at all times—otherwise, what is the point of the relationship?
I’m therefore not troubled so much by your partner having a more-driven libido than yours as I am by his obtuse insensitivity toward your feelings, especially when factoring in that you are on medications that apparently affect your performance; also, people should never underestimate the power of stress to ruin your health, including your ability to sleep and have sex. I’m wondering why he is with you at all if he feels unkindly toward you. He seems to feel that he will do whatever he wants, and if you don’t like it, tough, and that on some level it is even your fault. Why would you want to be with a person like this?
I will leave it there for now. Take some time to consider why you are with this man, and work on your self-esteem. You are deserving of better treatment than this. Believe it or not, there are other people out there whose sexual appetites are more suitable to your own and would probably love having a mate like you in their life.
* * *
Thanks for your response, Papabear. I would like to clarify, when I said I felt powerless in every aspect of my life, I meant more than just sex. I know sex isn’t the only thing in my life. And he says plenty of hurtful things to me; he always apologizes, but he still says them. or he doesn’t apologize, but instead says I misunderstood, or that he worded it badly, but he says this even with things that are clearly worded and in a context where they can’t really mean what he claims they do (although that might be because of his infuriating habit of speaking as if everybody knows what he’s thinking, without any consideration for how others might interpret his actions and words).
And yes, codependency is an issue here. You hit it right on the head; I feel like he’s the best option I have, since I don’t have many friends. The only people who seem to like me are people who have never met me irl, which in combination with years of bullying and exclusion as a kid, leaves me feeling like I’m unlikably in the real world.
And honestly, I don’t want somebody with a libido as low as mine, I’d rather have a libido that matches that of all the people I know.
* * *
Hi, Again, Bear,
Okay, now we're really getting somewhere. You recognize that he is bad for you, but the problem isn't him so much--it's you. You will not get out of situations like this until you improve your self-image and sense of worth.
Step 1 in doing this is to oust the negative people in your life, including this A-hole, and surround yourself with more positive people. Now, you say you have trouble forming actual friendships in the real world. I suggest that a big reason for this is your negative self-image, which likely was formed during your childhood. So...
Step 2 is to work on your self-esteem. Here is a very good, concise article on how to work on that: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/10/30/6-tips-to-improve-your-self-esteem/
Step 3 is to set goals and dreams for yourself and make a plan to achieve them. Don't just "settle," and don't just "get by" in life. You only have one life, and, as they say, this isn't a trial subscription. This is the real deal.
Step 4: While you are working on your goals, don't neglect living in the present. Pardon a cliche, but happiness isn't a goal, it is a journey.
As for the libido issue, I understand. As noted above, your problems were stress and medication affecting your sex drive. Are you diabetic? Type 2? If so, there are things, you know, you can do about that to actually lose weight and recover from this disease. If it is something else, I hope it is not a permanent, chronic problem and you can eventually overcome it. If you are taking stress/anxiety medications, for example, those can, a bit ironically, have a negative impact on your sex drive. Same is true if you are on antidepressants.
There are many hormones and neurotransmitters coursing through your body that affect libido. Testosterone (and estrogen) are the most familiar, but also hormones generated by your thyroid gland (If you have a thyroid issue, that could definitely be a cause). Low levels of serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine also have a role in sex drive. If you haven't already done so, it might be a good idea to have a blood test to measure some of these chemicals in your system. Talk to your doctor.
And as to the stress, you are probably putting that on yourself by fretting over the boyfriend and such. By getting rid of that problem, you'll go a long way toward alleviating stress and feeling better, and when you feel better, your libido will improve.
At age 21, you should have a raging libido. Taking care of this problem will also help your self-esteem. Everything in the body and psyche is connected, so fixing one difficulty will, by necessity,
Good luck, bear!
* * *
Thanks for that link, Papabear. It’s almost scary how well it seems to describe my self-esteem situation. And thankfully, I’m not diabetic, though I am a tad overweight (and slowly working on fixing that, though things like anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues make motivation for that difficult). As far as I know, I don’t have any thyroid issues, though serotonin is likely part of it; unfortunately, the antidepressants I was on gave me negative side effects in bed, and then I ended up in a situation where I had to quit them faster than recommended, which can cause some of those side effects to last a long time.
I probably should get a blood test done, but I’m horribly terrified of needles, and also scared that blood test might not give any useful results for my sexual problems, or my emotional problems, leaving me still trying to deal with "invisible" problems. Plus, one of the things that’s kept me from seeking help for some of this stuff is fear that people will think I’m making it up.
Thanks again for the excellent reply :)
* * *
There are two possible causes for your libido problem: physical or mental. I would recommend trying to overcome your fear of needles to do the blood test. Check to see if it is physical first. If not, then you could probably benefit from some therapy to overcome your anxieties and fears.
You're kind of getting yourself into an endless loop: you have fears, but fear that checking on those fears will cause people to judge you for your fears, so you end up not getting help, which results in the continuation of your state of fear.
Take charge of this problem, rather than letting it take charge of you, and you will be able to feel better and find the happiness you desperately need.
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.