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How to See Coercion Clearly Through Love Glasses

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helovesme31 asks:

I have a boyfriend been dating for about a year next week. We are deeply and truly in love even though we're not even 16. People say you can't really be in love at our age, but I believe you can be. Recently, I said no to sex, so I guess I pushed all the wrong buttons and this is what he said:

"I'm so [f-word]ing tired, I don't want to climb a ladder. I just want you but I can't [f-word] you and I have no weed any more, and [f-word] why do we need to [f-word]ing wait? I feel like I'm 12. I'm a [f-word]ing caged lion. I mean, I'm just angry, you know I haven't had sex in a [f-word]ing year and I'm so horny! [F-word]!"

Heather Corinna replies:

helovesme31's question continued:

He used to smoke weed but he stopped cause I didn't approve. I'm thankful he made that change but now I feel pressured into having sex with him. I lost my virginity to a big ass sleazy guy and then kept having sex with other men, they really were mean telling me I wasn't good enough but with this current boyfriend, he is different. I made him wait 9 months to hook up in general and he actually did wait, and he also said this, which made me think:

"You said you had sex with your past boyfriends. Why am I different? I'm not trying to push you but I'm finding it hard. That stuff is only gunna bring us closer. It hurts me when you don't want to get close to me. I feel like you don't want me."

He thinks it will bring us closer, but really, it may physically, but I think it will screw us up emotionally. I just don't wanna have sex with him and then it to be bad and ruin what we currently have, but then I wanna have sex with him cause I love him and I feel like he is the one. I know you're thinking "Were those other men the one?" They weren't. I was different back then. I actually think before I do things these days: I was probably the age of 8 when I lost my virginity and I have come far from there, I haven't had sex in 3 years, I came back to god and I said I was sorry and repented extra. I don't plan on waiting til marriage but I don't want to rush things and just put out cause he tells me to. I seriously don't know what to do with this situation. Any advice?

I think that if you just take a good, long look at what you posted here, your own post and experience tells you all you need to know. I also think it's clear you already know what your soundest choice is here, and all you probably need from me is some support in making the choice it sounds like you already want to. Ideally, the people who say they love us would always be doing that. But I'm happy to stand-in since that's obviously not happening here.

I didn't edit some of your post the way I did, with those f-words changed from the original way you typed them, to censor you or to be a snot. I edited it because the way he was saying some of that was so aggressive and, in my view, violent, that I worried it'd upset a lot of other readers, and might trigger readers who had survived verbally abusive relationships, because this is some of what verbal abuse can sound like.

It's clear what he's said had an impact on you. My biggest worry is that it isn't clear enough. Given what my job is, it takes a lot to shock me, but when I read what he'd said to you? I found myself short of breath. My heart is still kind of pumping hours later, and not in a good way. In a way where I'm worried about you, and I'm feeling pretty upset on your behalf.

I don't think I can be delicate in saying this, so I'm just going to go ahead and blurt it out: this guy is being a huge jerk. In fact, if he often says the kinds of things he's saying here, he may not just be behaving like a jerk with this, he may be big time bad news, period. You said a previous sexual partner of yours was a "big ass sleazy guy." Based on this post, it's sounding to me like this person is, too. You say you've had sex with other men who were mean. This guy sounds pretty mean to me. I think he may be a lot less different than you think he is from those other folks.

This guy is not a "caged lion." While I'm a fan of all the animals in the animal kingdom, this guy sounds more like those monkeys you sometimes see in cages at the zoo who throw poop than he sounds like a king of the freaking jungle.

I think he's also feeding you some lines. Going back and forth between swearing at you then saying he wants to be close to you is likely just different ways he's trying to get you to do what he wants, seeing which way will work. I don't buy for a minute that he thinks sex between you will be about intimacy: that's certainly not the way he clearly feels about it. He made pretty clear, I think, that it's about him -- he is horny, he feels 12, he hasn't had sex when he wanted to -- not about you or both of you. I'm willing to bet that the yelling and swearing are more real than the business of him wanting to be lovey-dovey, and, for your own safety and well-being, I think you need to treat them like they are more real than other things he says.

I don't know about you, but while I totally get that we all feel frustrated sometimes, the way your boyfriend is talking to you? I want to do my darndest to be sure I NEVER get into bed with anyone who'd talk to me like that, to anyone I care about like that (which includes myself), or who'd talk about sex that way. I don't even want someone who talks like that within 50 feet of my house. When I hear someone talking like that, I feel I can get a good idea of how they will treat sex if we were to have it, and talk like that makes it pretty clear sex with them would probably be seriously awful and be something I'd feel awful with myself about. Personally, I'm also always going to opt out of having sex with someone who's angry: sex with angry people is a really easy way to get hurt, physically, emotionally, or both.

You don't owe this guy sex because you had sex with anyone before: no one is entitled to sex with you, even if you slept with everyone on earth except them. You don't owe this guy sex because of how long you've been going out. You don't owe this guy sex because he's horny. You don't owe this guy sex for any reason at all. Sex, of any kind, isn't something we owe someone, ever. It's something that, when there are times it feels like the right thing for everyone, freely and gladly -- not out of pressure, guilt, fear or anger -- we make and share together that's about the physical and emotional pleasure of everyone having it, not just one person. It's obvious this person does not have that to offer and that's also not what this person wants. You didn't "make him" wait for sex. You put a limit on when you were willing to have sex, and are still holding that limit. He has chosen to be with you with that limit. He could have chosen and could still choose to be with someone without that limit: these are his choices he willingly, freely made and makes.

He's saying sex will bring you closer, but I think that's hooey. Sex doesn't automatically bring us closer to anyone: when it does, and when it can, everyone needs to be coming to it in a very different way than he is. That includes recognizing that sex with someone else isn't just about getting your rocks off or about getting someone to do something you want them to so you can feel better for or about yourself.

I can absolutely see why you don't want to have sex with him: good call. I can see why you feel pressured: that's because he is pressuring you. I also can see why you think it will screw things up for you emotionally: I'd agree, that seems very likely. I'm not sure how much it would ruin your relationship, because I'm willing to bet it isn't so hot to begin with. But I certainly don't see any reason to do anything, like having sex, that will dig you into this deeper, put you at new risks or could make things any worse. I also think just staying with someone at all who is talking and acting like this is something I'd suggest you reconsider. I agree with you, sex with him -- including any kinds you're already having -- seems like a very bad idea. But I also don't think it's a good idea to stick with him at all.

You seem to be saying that your current religious beliefs and values might not fit with having sex right now or in this context. We're always unlikely to feel good about sex when we make sexual choices that aren't in harmony with our values, so that's one more good reason to nix this. Of course, I hope that when sex even fits on those terms alone for you, you still won't choose to be sexual with -- or marry -- someone who acts like this.

I understand you probably feel very backed into a corner. I'm willing to bet this guy is going to keep pressuring you no matter what you do, and no answer you give him is going to be one he'll like or really accept. When we choose to be with someone who backs us up against the wall, there's really no way to not constantly be backed up against a wall. The only way out of that situation tends to be to get away from that person, for good. I don't see you being able to feel differently than you do with this guy right now around this because to feel differently, you'd need to be with a very different person. For sure, you can try one more time to draw a hard line and be clear: you're not going to have sex with him, and he needs to deal with that and choose not to be with you if that's not cool with him. But I'm not feeling confident he'll do that: it seems more likely he'll just keep pressuring you.

I don't think people can't have romantic feelings at your age nor that you can't love someone because of your age. However, I think at your age, just like at any age, people can have those feelings for someone who isn't safe, who doesn't truly return or can't handle those feelings, and that you have the ability to misplace those feelings or assign them to a lousy person, just like someone 10, 30 or 80 does.

When you're with someone in relationship that's healthy? You won't feel pressured for sex. They won't get angry with you, yell at you or swear at you when you won't do what they want so they can get off or feel better about themselves. They won't try and guilt-trip you into having sex. And you will feel a lot more confident in your own gut feelings about your choices, in part because a good partner is going to support you in them, not try and talk you out of them. If and when a healthy person wants a sexual relationship and someone else doesn't? They don't push. They don't nag. They don't talk about how much you're making them suffer. They don't swear at you. Instead, they just kindly suggest you part ways, maybe being friends instead, so they can seek out a partner who wants what they do and so you can seek out a partner who wants what you do.

Usually, we have more than a "one" in a lifetime, but if you feel pretty strongly about you having "The One," please know I'm sure this guy can't be it. That'd just be way, way too sad: I think your heart deserves a much better place than this. One big love, if and when there is one, should really be a big love. I'm strongly doubting big love is happening here, not because of how old you are, but because of how crappy it sounds like this person treats you.

Now, maybe this guy isn't a jerk, he just has a LOT of his own stuff to sort through and a lot of growing to do. You're both realy young, and having certain feelings doesn't automatically give us the maturity to be able to handle them. He might just need a lot more time to develop that maturity and to work out the anger he's got which may or may not have anything to do with you or sex. But if this is just about him not being mature? Then he's got a LOT of his own stuff to sort through and a LOT of his own growing to do before he's going to be able to be a good partner to you or anyone else for quite some time.

So, if you feel really strongly this guy is your big one? How about you let him go and do that work on himself, then check in with him in a couple of years to see if he isn't like this anymore. I mean, if this is The One, it's not like it's going anywhere, right? And if this is The One, then you probably don't want to risk being involved at a time when this relationship is likely to tank or be horrible rather than when you're both way more likely to be good to and for each other, right? So taking time away for at least one of you to do more growing so this is awesome should be something you'd both want to do if you both really want this to be your super-big lifelong love relationship.

It sounds like you've recently started to make some major changes in your life, and like you've also bounced back from being in some really rough places. If you started having sex when you were eight, chances are good that wasn't consensual and that you were sexually abused in some way, since it's uncommon for 8-year-olds to be able to fully and freely consent to intercourse with people, and also uncommon for 8-year-olds to be doing so with other 8-year-olds (or for people to refer to other children they were consensually sexual with as "big ass sleazy guys."). I also honestly don't know what anyone could do at the age of 8 that they'd have to "repent extra" about, and if things have been like they sound, I'm guessing the people who need to be sorry about things that have involved you and sex are not you.

If you were sexually abused, that takes time, help and good support to heal from, and also requires not being surrounded by yucky people so you can heal without having new troubles to deal with at the same time. If you were sexually abused back then, and you feel that is something you have to repent extra for or feel sorry about, that suggests to me you haven't had good support in healing or even getting started by acknowledging you were abused. Even if you were not abused, it sounds like you've been around a lot of creepy people, and made some choices you don't feel good about now. It also sounds to me like you're not yet solid when it comes to figuring out who is safe and who isn't, who's a good guy and who's not.

When any of that is or was the case, we often need a good deal of time and space before we can seek out relationships again and have them be healthy: it tends to take a good deal of time and some work to unlearn patterns of choosing things or people that are bad for us and to learn new, healthy patterns. I know you said you took some time away from sex, but I think you should consider taking some more time away from sexual or romantic relationships, period, maybe for another year or so. During that time, I think you'd deeply benefit from some help and support from healthy people you can trust. I'd be happy to help you find good youth services or counseling in your area if you'd like: just toss me an email.

When you give advice for your job, to do it well, you really need to try hard not to tell people what to do, even when you really, really want to. That can be awfully disrespectful, and it can take people's power away: you deserve to own and get the credit for your choices, not me. It's important you figure out the right thing to do for yourself, rather than doing what anyone tells you to do, whether it's your boyfriend or someone like me.

So, I'm not going to tell you what to do here, even though I really, really want to. I'm going to leave you with two last things to think about. First of all, I am absolutely certain you're a wonderful person who deserves to only have other wonderful people around you, especially the people closest to you. Think of your heart as your home. Then give some thought to who you'd let into your home off the street, and how you'd decide who to let in, who to keep locked out, and who to call the cops on if you saw them walking near your door. Think about who you'd feel safe in your home with: how would they talk to you? How would they treat you? How would you need to feel in order to feel totally safe in your house with them, sure they'd not hurt you in any way? How would you figure out who wasn't safe?

Second, sometimes it's easier to figure these things out if we take ourselves out of the situation, and imagine that someone we cared about in the world very deeply -- like a parent, a sibling, a best friend -- was in our shoes. If someone like that was with someone like this, someone talking to them this way, treating them this way, what would you want for them? How would you feel about that? What would you suggest that they do? Whatever it is, know that you're someone to care about just as deeply, and whatever you'd feel wasn't good enough for them? That shouldn't be good enough for you, either. Whatever you feel the people you look up to the most, love the most, value the most deserve? You need to remember that list needs to include you, and whatever you think is what they deserve -- and nothing less -- the same needs to always go for you.

I'm going to leave you with a few extra links I think might help you out:

written 28 Mar 2011 . updated 21 Jan 2014

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