Dear Dan: I’ve been in a relationship with a wonderful guy for the past year. The only problem is that he works with a girl he used to fuck. It wasn’t just sex — they would go on dates and even went on vacation together. He kept this little “detail” to himself for six full months before giving himself away by mistake. He then apologized, said he hadn’t told me so that I wouldn’t worry for no reason, and that he no longer has any feelings for her whatsoever. Disclaimer: I’m an extremely jealous person with huge trust issues, so knowing he kept all this from me is devastating. I no longer trust him. Just thinking that he’s seeing — on a daily basis — a woman he used to sleep with is driving me nuts! I repeatedly asked him to let me meet her in person, at the very least, but it didn’t happen. So one night, after giving him a heads-up, I showed up at their workplace. He had said it would be OK for me to stop by sometime but once I got there he freaked out. He accused me of not trusting him! My question: Am I being crazy and overreacting — I’ll admit I’ve been agonizing non-stop about this — or is he acting like an asshole with something to hide? I’ve been struggling to curb my anxiety about this, and I’ve even had a few panic attacks he’s not aware of. Him changing jobs is out of the question.
—I’m Terrified About Losing It And Nuking Everything
Dear ITALIANE: How long were you dating this guy before you outed yourself as an extremely jealous person (EJP)?
I’m guessing at least a few weeks, ITALIANE, if not a few months. Because as you’re no doubt aware — as all EJPs are aware — it’s not a desirable trait, which is why very few EJPs disclose on the first date. (“I grew up in Milan, I have two sisters, and I’m the type of person who’ll show up at your workplace and cause a huge scene if I think you might be fucking someone else or have ever fucked someone else.”) If you’re anything like EJPs I’ve dated and dumped, you didn’t show your boyfriend this side of yourself until long after he’d developed feelings for you, making it harder — harder by design — for him to end things.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess he found out his new girlfriend is an EJP before you found out your boyfriend works with a woman he used to fuck. At some point before the six-month mark, ITALIANE, you blew up at him about a waitress or someone he follows on Instagram. And at that moment he realized he couldn’t tell you he works with a woman he used to fuck. Because now he feared — because now he knew — you would lose your EJP shit over it because he’d seen you lose your EJP shit over far less.
The only thing more exhausting than being with an EJP is dealing with an EJP who resents you for hiding something from them — something like working with an ex — that would set them off for days or months. I get it, I get it: he kept this from you. But if the last six months (!) are proof of anything, ITALIANE, they’re proof your boyfriend was right to keep this from you. Since changing jobs wasn’t an option and since he can’t jump in a time machine and go un-fuck this woman, what other option did he have? Given a choice between telling you and spending the next six months dealing with your bullshit or keeping his mouth shut and hoping you never found out, he quite understandably chose the path of least bullshit.
If you can’t see how your own behavior may have contributed to his omission — and if you can’t forgive him and you can’t take, “No, I’m not fucking her now,” for an answer and you refuse to see this as your problem, not his — then do your boyfriend a favor and dump him. If you don’t and if you keep this shit up, if you keep saying you can’t trust him one minute and then complaining about him accusing you of not trusting him the next (?),be prepared to have your ass dumped. Because there’s only so long a person, guilty of wrongdoing or not, will put up with an EJP’s bullshit.
And finally: your boyfriend was under no obligation to disclose the current location of every girl he’d ever fucked at the start of your relationship, ITALIANE, or at any other point, for that matter. While some people can be open with their partners about their pasts and their partners can be open with them, it’s not compulsory. And if someone wants to try and make it work with an EJP, it’s not a good idea. I don’t know why anyone would want to make it work with an EJP, ITALIANE, but there are people out there who do. Your boyfriend might be one of them. But don’t push your luck.
Dear Dan: I’ve been with my partner for a year and a half and have been long distance from the start and she’s working towards moving closer to me in a more permanent way. But I’m worried about the sex as I feel a lack of desire for her. I believe it could be my newfound awareness of “patriarchal gaze,” which I wasn’t conscious of before meeting her. I used to enjoy kink but I no longer consider it sexy. I used to have a lot of sex with my ex-boyfriends and used to feel some conflict but power games were a turn-on. Loving care has replaced dirty games and I feel wrong for now if I try to watch porn and I no longer enjoy touching myself because I cannot get off without thinking in sexist ways. I’m feeling pretty confused. Although I love my partner in a very special and deep way, it’s quite confusing. Please advise on how to feel sexy again without being destructive.
—Still Horny Deep Down Somewhere
Dear SHDDS: There’s nothing wrong with objectifying someone who wants to be objectified by you and there’s nothing wrong with being objectified by someone you want to be objectified by. (That’s what you mean by the “patriarchal gaze,” right?) In addition to being three-dimensional human beings with wants, needs, agency and autonomy, we are also physical objects, SHDDS, and sometimes we want to be appreciated for the objects we are. (Or the objects we also are.) So long as the person you’re objectifying — so long as the person on the receiving end of your gaze — enjoys receiving that kind of attention from you and vice-versa, there’s nothing wrong with it. To gaze at someone who desires your gaze, to touch them and play dirty games with them, isn’t inherently sexist or dehumanizing — so long as it’s consensual and mutually pleasurable, which I realize it all too often isn’t, particularly for women. But we shouldn’t let assholes (mostly men) who can make people (mostly women) feel unsafe or uncomfortable with a look ruin what isn’t just enjoyable when consensual, but affirming and at times transcendently pleasurable.
To be perfectly frank, SHDDS, I’m concerned about your relationship. If you feel so awful about your sexual desires and sexual history that you’re incapable of enjoying sex anymore — if you can’t even masturbate anymore — and those awful feelings entered your life at roughly the same time your partner did… maybe your partner is part of the problem. If you were evolving in a different direction with her sexually, if you were moving away from power games — which can be very loving — and toward something else, I wouldn’t see a problem. But you aren’t opening up to something new in this relationship, SHDDS, you’re shutting down. Even if your partner hasn’t said or done anything to make you feel ashamed of your sexual desires or history, SHDDS, I’m not sure she’s right for you. And I don’t think it would be right of you to let someone you don’t desire move across the country to be with you.
But whether you decide to stay in this relationship or not, you would benefit from speaking with a sex-positive/kink-positive therapist about your conflicted feelings.
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On the Lovecast, Emily Bazelon from Slate’s Political Gabfest. www.savagelovecast.com