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Author Topic: seeking peace
amarra
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I posted on this message board before with a relationship problem, and got some really good advice. At the moment I have more of a personal issue... I don't feel that I can really talk about it completely frankly with anyone who I know.

A little background about me. I'm in my late twenties. I'm female, in an open relationship with one of my best (male) friends - but the dynamic is not that of a romantic couple, it is that of a deep, loving and emotional friendship, with sex. It's been this way for about 4 years.

I guess I identify as asexual. But unlike many (most?) who describe themself as asexual, I do like and enjoy sex. I can't say that I 'fancy' either gender. I can appreciate visually that someone is good-looking or has a great body, but it stops there. That doesn't translate into an attraction or an urge or desire to do anything with them. On the other hand if I feel love for a person (which I do quite easily if I have known them for a while and like them), then I will start to desire intimacy with them. That doesn't have to include sex of course, but it could. I enjoy sex for its physical pleasures, boost to self-esteem and mood, bonding. As I get older I find I can have better and better orgasms. I exercise a lot and as a result I have a really fit body at this point in my life. I masturbate very occasionally and very occasionally I look at internet porn, focusing on the physical depictions of the intercourse rather than any fantasy scenario.

My friend, I'll call him J, is a heavy smoker of cannabis. This has led to erectile dysfunction and he therefore uses medication to achieve erection. Although smoking less spliffs corresponds to an improvement in his erections, and although there are alternative healthier ways to consume cannabis without clogging the blood vessels, he is not prepared to change his usage. In fact a while ago he said to me that he had essentially already made a choice between spliffs and future sex. Seeing as that future sex could be with me, that was not so nice to hear. It has caused a few problems recently. Just recently I have on occasion not felt particularly aroused at bed time. Me and J have spoken about this. I think our sex is becoming a little routine in its format, partly because he is now physically limited in some ways through deterioration of his erection and abilities. There tends to be a pattern which repeats. I know this is normal after time and is the subject of endless magazine and internet articles on how to 'spice things up', but it can make me feel a little like I am carrying out a servicing function. He is still able to satisfy me very much in terms of orgasm (orally for example) and he assures me that he is happy with things, and we have both tried to discuss is there's anything that we'd like to change or do differently, but neither of us can think of anything. One feature of my asexuality is that I have no fantasies whatsoever, other than being with someone physically fit! J doesn't seem to have any suggestions either, there are a couple of things that he knows I would not really be up for (cheesy outfits etc) which he is welcome to do with others who might be into that. Anyway, there is no issue with us going to bed to cuddle and not have sex some nights... BUT with his medication, he has to take it an hour before intercourse, so sometimes he has done so, only then for me not to really be feeling it... then it becomes almost monetised and a resource issue (sadly he once even used the phrase 'more bang for your buck)... He's asked me if I can say in advance if I'll want sex or not so that he doesn't take it if it won't be needed. Which goes against my understanding of sex as a semi-spontaneous way of communication. I know that's a bit idealistic and sometimes it has to be planned. But the truth is - sometimes I can't say an hour in advance!

Anyway, onto the other issue, which is a mental/philosophical thing that is more exclusive to me. J and I are both happy with the open relationship arrangement and that works very well for both of us. However. About my sexual history. I'm not in anyway forward or proactive about initiating sexual contact. I'm not flirty AT ALL. Not because I am shy, far from it. I think that I have very healthy self-esteem. I just do not feel that way inclined or have that urge to interact in that way with people. I go out of my way to be consistent with all that I meet, and not treat those who are physically 'attractive' any differently to those who are not. So any sexual interactions that I have had have always been reactive. Basically somebody has found me attractive and I've thought 'I'd better take advantage of this, it doesn't happen often' 'beggars can't be choosers etc'. To illustrate, I lost my virginity at 17 (was desperate to lose it and went with the first person in my whole life to ever show an interest) in a tent in a car park at some gig with a hideous man. So (excluding J) my few partners have all been some combination of the following. Unattractive, inappropriately attached in some way, much older, or with mental health issues. After J and I negotiated our open relationship I realised that if I wanted to have any more good sex (and I do), then I would have to be proactive. So I have joined a dating website. I'll be honest, I find the entire concept of dating bizarre. I've tried (met one partner but he was very mentally ill). Also gave my number to another very good looking man at work (a first for me!) who let me know that he liked me, only to find out he is in an unhappy arranged marriage. But I'm coming around to the realisation that it goes against my natural inclinations to pursue sex. I never ever give off a 'sexy' vibe (what is considered sexy by seemingly everybody else in the world anyway!), that attribute is just not a part of me. I want to be true to myself. I think at this point in my life I know myself well, I am grateful for that and I want to honour it. Yet I want to have good sex. I fear looking back when I am older and sex is no longer likely, and regretting a lack of sexual experience. It seems I must choose between being my true self, or making sex happen, but that I can't have both.

I've got one part of me saying 'why have sex for the sake of it, what's the point. There are many other things in life just as/more important than sex.' But another part recognises that sex is a big part of humanity, for good reasons, and an important part of the human psyche. This starts to make me feel that I am in some way defective. I have one asexual friend and she understands this feeling too. The feeling is quickly dispelled thanks to my good self esteem. I think I'm a good person, good enough anyway, interesting in lots of ways, good company, I would find me attractive if I was somebody else! So what then persists and lingers instead is strong anger. I feel like 'HOW DARE this messed up world make me feel defective when I'm not?!' I wish I could just dismiss it but I can't. It's been bothering me lately, hence why I've decided to post here.

There is one other minor problem... I live with my younger sister. At the moment she is being all about the sex. She is hooking up with people with ease, she is now seeing a couple, she finds it painful to sit down, just got her tongue pierced etc... I'm genuinely happy if she's happy. Also, I do not want her life. We are different. But having that happening while I am having these thoughts, it seems to be adding to my momentary thoughts and feelings of defectiveness. She knows I'm kind of bothered about sex stuff at the moment, and it's creating a very unhelpful false dichotomy within the household, as if she is the fun liberated one, and I am some kind of jealous/envious/prude/I don't know... whatever, but it's not true. I'm none of those things. But I guess my own concerns are just impacting on how my sister's behaviour makes me feel when really it should have no impact on me whatsoever.

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Robin Lee
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HI Amarra,

If it helps to hear this from someone else (even though I know you know it already) you're not defective. While there is a certain trope (or set of tropes) in our society around what people should want in terms of their sex life and how they should go about getting it (those magazine articles you referenced are a perfect example) people's realities are much more diverse. It might not seem that way, since most people who are talking about sex are voicing something at least close to those tropes. Here's the thing though: People will say what they think others want to hear, or what they think is going to get them acceptance, more sex, etc. Were people to talk more openly about what they really want and enjoy, we'd get a much broader picture. Plus, there are plenty of people who want and enjoy things outside of the typical picture who feel no need or desire to talk about them.

IN terms of J expecting you to tell him when you're going to be wanting sex so he can plan accordingly, if that doesn't work for you it doesn't work. He's ultimately responsible for his own body, including when he chooses to take his medication and, if there's no intercourse that night, how he chooses to get himself off. It's also worth mentioning that there are other kinds of sex besides intercourse (oral, manual, etc), and that again, he has the option of masturbation.

What I hear you saying with the second topic you address is that you enjoy the physical aspects of sex, that you don't like the idea of a future without those, but that you feel at a loss for how to have that in your life without following the prescribed norms for how people tend to do so. From what you've said here, you need to connect with people on an emotional and intellectual level in order to have that interest sexually. Am I understanding that correctly? If so, what do you think about, instead of using a dating site, trying to meet people who share your interests, connecting with them around those interests, and then seeing if there's an avenue for sexual connection?

In terms of your sister, what do you think would be helpful to you with that? Would it, for example, be beneficial to ask her not to talk to you so much about her sex life--teling her that you're really happy for her and support her but it's just really hard for you right now because of the emotional space you're in?

--------------------
Robin

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amarra
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Hi Robin, thanks for your reply. I totally agree with your first paragraph.

Yes, J has masturbated in the past when I've not felt like being sexual. I've not liked the feeling of with-holding something I am totally capable of doing myself. Like, I have been lying there just thinking, well I could be doing that for him, why am I not? It seems a bit messed up. It's good that we do talk about this stuff and he's said that he's cool if I maybe just touch him a bit in an affectionate way while he masturbates. That's useful to know. Although I am more concerned overall with what the possible reasons for my (possible?) slight decline in interest are, and whether they can be addressed. Is it the changing nature of the sex that we do have? Just for information our sex is very often oral and manual due to the aforementioned decline in abilities on J's part.

It's not so much that I need to connect with people emotionally and intellectually to feel sexual. I like to do that anyway and I see that as kind of a different thing. In my opinion sex in those circumstances is probably the best kind. But I could imagine being sexual with someone who was purely physically attractive... the thing that feels completely alien to me is *everything leading up to being naked*, all the actual mechanics of how you get there, the 'game' as it were. I've been advised by J that seeing as I'm not a fan of 'the game' I should just be direct in order to initiate things. That again does not feel right for me either. I guess I really prefer to just let whatever's going to happen, happen, without forcing things. The only problem is that with my past track record and incredibly non-flirty persona, that makes sex a very unlikely prospect. Sure I'll have a good life with lots of good friends, but a very slim prospect of sex. Like I said I worry that I'll regret not having more sex now, at this time when my body is in a great condition.

I spoken to my sister. She doesn't know what to advise me (it's my problem really, not hers). She doesn't talk about what she's up to in too much detail, it's just there and I'm aware. The couple are coming over next week. When the guy from the couple came over last week it triggered me to be really quite upset and he probably thinks I am a freak now. I don't know what would help. Me sorting out my head I guess. That's why I came here, for some help with that.

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Heather
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Well, I think the "why" of why we are masturbating, when we are, rather than engaging in sex with someone else when we have the opportunity is that we want to masturbate, not have sex with someone else.

In other words, those things tend to be pretty different in a lot of ways, so wanting to do one of them doesn't mean we want to do the other, or want to do the other equally.

I also don't think that electing not to engage in sex with someone is the same as 'withholding" sex from them. Especially when we remember that sex isn't something we have someone else can only get if we give it to them, if you catch my drift.

How people progress to any given kind of sex, and what happens beforehand varies. A lot. Even from day to day for a given person sometimes. It sounds like J has his own ideas about what that involves, but his ideas about that shouldn't be taken as any kind of universal.

How you get there, and how you feel about how you get there, in general, or at any time, is up to you. There's no one route or way of going about that, just what feels like the things to do to a given person, and within the specific dynamic of a given experience.

I do think, though, that the idea that any kind of sex can just "happen," is something to try and let go of. Sex doesn't "happen." It's something active that everyone involved -- when it's consensual -- makes active choices about, even if the choices one person makes in that sometimes is to choose to be passive and let someone else take a driver's seat.

I'd also put effort into not stressing yourself out about not having sex now "when your body is in great condition." It's not like, after all, those of us who are much older people can't still have sexual lives we enjoy, or bodies that aren't just as much fun to be in as they were when we were younger. Putting a stopwatch on when you have to have sex in that way sounds pretty stressful to me, and also really unnecessary. Sex is something a person can potentially enjoy (or not) at any time of life, not just when they're young, I promise. [Smile]

Can I ask if you might be up to talking about why you think you got so triggered last week? What was it triggering for you? In other words, when we use that term, we're talking about a post-trauma response. What trauma do you feel like that ruffled up for you and why?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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Hi Heather,

I'm not sure what you are saying in your first two sentences... I was wondering why I was leaving J to masturbate when I was right there and capable of manually stimulating him myself. I know it's OK not to be sexual, I guess I'm sad that I'm feeling that way sometimes (not the case in the past, this is a new development) and want to understand it.

I do get what you're saying about sex not being a commodity to 'get', it's an activity that people do together.

You're also right that people progress to having sex in all different ways. Even if the more 'textbook' scenarios are what you see most often (probably because those models are frequently portrayed in our society).

So you are saying that sex doesn't just happen? That's what I thought. That's what making me sad. Because it has to be made to happen, and that's where I lack any motivation. For example, there are friends who I have strong feelings of affection towards, who are physically attractive. But I prefer to just let the friendship develop than push or steer it towards any kind of sexual thing. If that is how I go through life, then I will not be having much sex. This assumption is based on past experience and an honest assessment of what behaving in a way that is true to myself would look like.

OK I could just try and not worry about having sex at this point in my life, but rightly or wrongly the fear of regret later on is bothering and upsetting me.

Apologies if I mis-used the word triggering. I guess prompted is more appropriate. I don't have any trauma, just a crappy sexual history and now an unhelpful feeling of anger as I described in my first post. Really I should just try and let go of all that but it's easier said than done. There's nobody I can speak to fully because they all know J so I don't want to betray his confidence on the issue of the ED.

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Heather
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I assume that happened because you didn't want to engage in sex with him at those times?

It's really typical, in sexual relationships, for the frequency of sex and people's desire for sex to start out more high-key and become less so over time. That doesn't always happen, and it's often not this line on a chart that's just a slow decline to nothing, but more like times of higher frequency and desire offset by times of lower, but that is very common.

At the same time, I'm seeing some dynamics in this sexual relationship that I'd imagine also might make sex a lot less appealing. Having addiction be part of any relationship also tends to create real problems and issues for people. Something like having someone need some very specific things per sex with you because they have made their recreational drug use their primary, basically? That's a pretty big deal, and, to say the least, not something that is going to be comfortable or healthy for people on the whole.

Sex doesn't just "happen," just like, say, jogging or eating doesn't just "happen." Sex is something that we do, if we do it. By all means, with sexual violence or assault, we're talking about one person doing thing TO someone else, so that's different. But no, consensual sex doesn't "just happen."

I'm not sure I understand why this is making you sad. People have a right to choose, if that's what they want, to be more passive in their sexual interactions, like leaving it on someone else to initiate, or ask if there's sexual interest, etc. On the whole, someone who ALWAYS does that is probably going to have a tough time, for sure, creating sexual experiences and partnerships with others, and I'd say the dating pool of people who would be happy long-term with only them initiating will probably be small.

But none of that is a death sentence: if you would prefer to learn to be a little more active around this, but still in ways that feel authentic to you, it's likely that you can learn to do that over time. This is a process for everyone, really, learning what kinds of dynamics with sex really fit us and our sexuality, and learning sometimes to step a tiny bit out of our comfort zones to learn how to do things to help us get what we want while still feeling right for us.

That anger you were feeling meeting that guy in the couple: what do you think that was about? You think it was about the erection issues J is having because of his marijuana use?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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Yes, J's choice to prioritise smoking joints has made not made me feel great. To me it signifies a lack of willpower, and not being prepared to go outside the comfort zone of the addiction pattern. I say that as someone who used to smoke joints and has made myself completely switch to vaporising. I also am very moderate in my use of whatever drugs I do use. That takes effort. I value effort.

I guess I see examples of 'better' sexual relationships around and obviously I feel like what we have has room for improvement. Although talking about it still seems to be a limited solution when neither of us have any great ideas. I'm thinking of suggesting a yes no maybe chart to maybe take that discussion further.

I have consciously tried stepping outside my comfort zone to make sex happen. I joined the dating website and have messaged people on there. I met someone and that went pretty well for a short time, it was a valuable experience, although due to serious mental health problems he's not going to be a good partner for me. Then there was the guy from work. Making a move there by giving him my phone number was one of the most scary things I've ever done. As it happened that came to an abrupt end on the first date (the date went well by the way, it was comfortable) when he revealed he was married, but had it not I would have felt - 'so what the hell happens now'? It just seems all so alien, I feel like an idiot. I feel ridiculous. It's also not in my nature in the rest of my life to be passive, very far from it. So if I was being sexual, I would want there to be balance in who was initiating.

I guess it's healthy to be reflecting on my efforts and just accept, like you say, that it's a step by step process, learning how to do this in the best way for me.

I just need to sort my head out a bit as I'm really pretty upset just now and I want to move beyond that.

No the anger was not about J and the marijuana and the ED. I didn't actually meet the guy, I just knew he was here, saw my sister afterwards with sex hair etc. I just felt really crappy, like a failure, there she was having all this really adventurous easy sex and there was me who has loads of things going for me but am totally stuck on this one question. And I was mad because I should in no way feel crappy or like a failure, I am not that at all. I like myself. I feel like I deserve to have good sex. I was just mad at the world that I feel so like I don't fit into how things work for seemingly everybody else. (And I know that the truth is there is infinite variety.) But what I'm seeing in my flat, in my sister, is the very epitome of the successful sexual hunter who gets what they want with ease.

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Heather
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Well, it may not be about a lack of willpower so much as an expression about what he has decided is most important to him.

For sure, this sounds very much like thinking like an addict, as someone who isn't one won't tend to put a recreational drug ahead of things like the people in their lives and relationships they feel are important.

Do you get what I mean?

Can I ask why this is the person you're choosing to be in a sexual relationship with right now?

I'd say that two tries at dates with both, for different reasons, resulting in a choice not to pursue anything further isn't at all unusual. Exploring who we might and might not want to have any kind of relationship -- sexual or not -- with tends to often involve a lot of trying and exploring before we choose people we want in our lives.

I, personally, would also say there's often something about the whole thing that DOES feel ridiculous, to be sure. Some of my funniest stories in my life come from dating. I'm wondering if maybe there might be some expectations you have around this -- perhaps also around ideas you might have that this goes very differently for other people? -- it might help to explore and unpack.

I think the "seemingly" you put in front of "everyone else" in your last paragraph is critically important. Because I do think it sounds like a lot of these feelings are coming from ideas or perceptions about people's sexual lives that aren't really grounded in the reality of how great that diversity is.

It sounds like it might be that your sister (I'm going to choose not to use the word hunter: not one, as a vegan, I like, but also it seems to present being proactive about sex as being predatory, which I don't think is sound) is in the midst of a bit of a sexual awakening and a sexual relationship she's enjoying. It also sounds like she might be more extroverted in how she approaches her sexual life, whereas it sounds like you're more introverted. And if that's the case, there's no better or worse here; no winner or loser. There are just ways that we're all different.

What do you think you might need in order to let go, at least some, of resentments and other hard feelings around your ideas of how sex goes for "everyone else" so that your feelings are in better alignment with what it sounds like you know already about the diversity of sexual realities? And in alignment with what it sounds like you already know per one person's way of having a sex life not having some kind of universal primacy over another way?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Well, it may not be about a lack of willpower so much as an expression about what he has decided is most important to him.

For sure, this sounds very much like thinking like an addict, as someone who isn't one won't tend to put a recreational drug ahead of things like the people in their lives and relationships they feel are important.

Do you get what I mean?

Can I ask why this is the person you're choosing to be in a sexual relationship with right now?

I'd say that two tries at dates with both, for different reasons, resulting in a choice not to pursue anything further isn't at all unusual. Exploring who we might and might not want to have any kind of relationship -- sexual or not -- with tends to often involve a lot of trying and exploring before we choose people we want in our lives.

I, personally, would also say there's often something about the whole thing that DOES feel ridiculous, to be sure. Some of my funniest stories in my life come from dating. I'm wondering if maybe there might be some expectations you have around this -- perhaps also around ideas you might have that this goes very differently for other people? -- it might help to explore and unpack.

I think the "seemingly" you put in front of "everyone else" in your last paragraph is critically important. Because I do think it sounds like a lot of these feelings are coming from ideas or perceptions about people's sexual lives that aren't really grounded in the reality of how great that diversity is.

It sounds like it might be that your sister (I'm going to choose not to use the word hunter: not one, as a vegan, I like, but also it seems to present being proactive about sex as being predatory, which I don't think is sound) is in the midst of a bit of a sexual awakening and a sexual relationship she's enjoying. It also sounds like she might be more extroverted in how she approaches her sexual life, whereas it sounds like you're more introverted. And if that's the case, there's no better or worse here; no winner or loser. There are just ways that we're all different.

What do you think you might need in order to let go, at least some, of resentments and other hard feelings around your ideas of how sex goes for "everyone else" so that your feelings are in better alignment with what it sounds like you know already about the diversity of sexual realities? And in alignment with what it sounds like you already know per one person's way of having a sex life not having some kind of universal primacy over another way?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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I'll have to come back to this discussion... I'm going out tonight with J and my sister! I'm really upset and I need to cheer myself up and get ready, My sister knows I am sad and knows what it's about and she feels bad because she can't really do anything to help. It's not a good dynamic. Thanks for your help so far.
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Heather
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No worries: feel free to come back whenever is best for you. We're around. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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Hi again, thankfully I can keep this brief. I've done some more thinking and found that I am able to let a lot of this unhelpful stuff go. I was in what could be described as a bit of a brain loop. It happens now and again. Some things in the world are worth trying to change, other things cannot be and so it is very much worth reaching a point of acceptance of how things are (people are different, not better or worse). I will find comfortable ways of behaving that suit me with experimentation over time. Also the universal truth that 'people are weird, deal with it!' I tell myself that a lot [Smile] And of course, I am a person too, so I am also weird.

Thank you for helping me to reach this point. I wonder if it would be a good idea to delete this thread given as it shares potentially identifying and personal information?

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Robin Lee
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HI Amarra,

One truth of life is that things rarely remain the same over time. So how things are right now certainly doesn't reflect how things will always be.

I'm glad to hear you've found some peace with this. We're always happy to listen.

Can you fill me in on what parts of this thread you feel are personally identifying? We don't make a habit of deleting threads unless they directly pose a threat to someone's privacy, safety, or both as doing so takes times (we have to delete everything manually) from our limited resources.

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Robin

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amarra
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Hi Robin. Quite simply I'd not want my sister to come across this... I know she visits this site and the info about J's health is not common knowledge. But I wanted to talk to somebody about it as I can't discuss it with friends.
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Robin Lee
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HI Amarra,

Yes, it often does feel good to talk to someone about things we find difficult.

There's nothing here that puts you in danger and very little that is identifying, and we really have to hold fast to not making a practice of deleting posts unless, as we clearly state in our guidelines, someone is in danger in some way. What I can do, though, is go in and change any names if you think the names you used would be familiar to anyone readng this.

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Robin

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amarra
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OK I respect your policies. I'll just have to hope that my sister does not look for my post (I have a feeling that she may have done so with a past post is all).

Unfortunately I think I spoke too soon and have not quite resolved this yet. I was upset again today. I'm annoyed that something that in the scheme of things is not that bad is taking up so much mental energy for no good reason. My sister is having the couple she is seeing over on Tuesday, and I really want to just be able to mind my own business and have a normal evening.

Heather, me and my sister are also both vegans. I didn't mean to use hunter in a derogatory sense, only the literal sense of seeking something.

I know that rationally and intellectually I really have no grounds to feel bad. I get the infinite diversity thing. But somehow on some level I still do.

Can I just ask, not in a defensive way, if my sister is going through a 'sexual awakening', then what does that mean about me? That I am somehow asleep?

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Heather
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Hey, amarra: I'm taking a day off today, but just in checking through things before I did that, I saw this post and your last question in it.

quote:
Can I just ask, not in a defensive way, if my sister is going through a 'sexual awakening', then what does that mean about me? That I am somehow asleep?
I'd say it doesn't mean anything at all about you. Because your sister's sexuality and sexual life is about your sister. It's not about you.

Really, I think that's the most important thing to perhaps sit with, because it sounds like a lot of where you're feeling conflict around her, and maybe other people, is by comparing their sexualities or sexual lives to yours, or making them somehow be about you when they aren't.

But if you just can't let go of that just yet, then no, I'd not say it's this dichotomy where some people are sexually awake and others are asleep.

Rather, I'd say that there can be times in all of our lives where our sexuality is something we're exploring more, or feeling/experiencing/discovering more than at other times. And times where we also might be in a phase of finding out what we really like and enjoy. At other times, our sexual lives or sexualities may take a back seat to other parts of our lives or who we are, or not be in a phase of growth or big discovery.

For sure, those times of discovery often do tend to be enjoyable -- though for some people they're not; it can instead feel scary and stressful -- but that doesn't mean someone in a time of life like that is the winner, and someone who isn't is the loser.

Honestly, it seems to me that right now, you have two things you're struggling with: these general feelings around the sexualities of others, and feeling like yours isn't right or isn't as good, and a sexual relationship that in some ways, sounds like it just really isn't a good one, and wouldn't be for anyone. For sure, those things obviously have some overlap, but I wonder if the second part isn't being a bit eaten up by the first, which perhaps is keeping you from seeing that the kind of relationships you've described here isn't one likely anyone is going to feel great about, and is one I think it's safe to say most people would be feeling pretty crummy in.

So, I'm wondering if you might make some more progress here really trying to get a good look at the relationship you're in, and how it seems problematic at best, and emotionally unhealthy at worst, and making some different choices around that. I just strongly suspect a lot of your bad feelings here are stemming from that relationship, and perhaps are kind of leaking out unto things like your relationship with your sister and your feelings about her sexual life right now.

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amarra
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Thanks Heather. You are right that the thing to do is not to compare. It goes for sexuality but also some other aspects of life. I've known that for a while now, and I'm usually pretty successful with managing to not to do that. This is some kind of temporary blip in my mood and I'm sure that with enough clear thinking I can get back to that 'I'm OK You're OK' place. I'm just having to tell it to myself more frequently in the last week or so, and for some reason the emotional part of me is not listening too well. But I'll persevere.

As for my sexual relationship with J. You asked me why I am in this relationship. You have asked me this before on a different thread and each time I have given your question careful consideration. On balance I am sure that the relationship, although not perfect (as no relationship can be), has more upsides than downsides for me. Really, many more. I've read bell hooks and others' definitions of what love should consist of and they ring true to my relationship with J. The relationship involves knowledge, respect, care, tenderness, comfort, consideration, effort, enjoyment, company, patience, support, mutual pleasure. We are actively working to make our communication more continuous and useful. Sure, I have been disappointed with his health choices (and I have tried in a supportive way to help him make better ones, he has tried with varying success) and the perhaps irreversible outcome of these choices. But I don't see this as grounds for ending the relationship as it is. I guess I compare it to if someone's sexual abilities were damaged through medical treatment. I'd be interested to hear what you think the problems are as an outside third party. Has my description changed your mind?

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Robin Lee
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HI Amarra,

What do you think is leading to or causing this blip in mood? Is it a reaction to something that happened externally? Or in your thought process? Or is it just one of those mood shifts some of us experience from time to time? Something else? perhaps you don't know?

I can't speak for Heather's concerns, but based on this thread alone I'm seeing that, from your list of traits, I'm seeing a lack of consideration, and perhaps a few other things, in the incongruities between your sexual needs and J's seeming insistance that you be ready sexually when he is.

I'm seeing a sexual incompatibility between the two of you which certainly doesn't mean the whole relationship should end, but might require some negotiation, and perhaps even a change in the relationship, either now or perhaps sometimes in the future.

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Robin

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Heather
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Just checking in with you, amarra, to see how you are and if you want to talk anymore about any of this.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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Hi, sorry for the late reply, been a bit busy. I've been varied - was sad and upset again on Wednesday, but normal today. I had a good chat last night with a close friend which is always helpful. I'm just going to have to keep on thinking over all the stuff which I know is true until it sinks in/overrides the irrational stuff.

Heather, I responded to your point about examining my relationship with J above, with some of my thoughts on the features of the relationship. I missed out 'trust' from my list of descriptive words for what the relationship consists of... I think it's fair to say that excitement is not a regular feature. However I strongly believe that no one relationship can be all things. I have other sources of excitement, and sometimes excitement can simply mean drama and instability.

Robin, I can assure you that J is in no way 'insist-y'. I would NOT be with somebody who was like that! He is in fact very patient and understanding and to be honest I feel bad for being weird and irrational and perhaps hurtful to him, unintentionally. To be clear, this is 100% my interpretation, not his. J says it's fine for us to just cuddle or whatever, or even just go straight to sleep, he just asked if I could let him know if I wasn't going to be feeling in the mood before he takes any medication. I'm not sure if I can do that every time and we've talked about that.

So I'd be interested to hear if either of you still see any other problems based on my descriptions?

Robin, I don't know what is affecting my mood. I guess comparing myself to my sister is not helping, I know this and I should not do this. Particularly as I don't wish to have the life my sister has and we are two different people. I usually have really good, resilient self-esteem so I'm not sure why it's taken a dent just now. Maybe feeling a little run down?? I'm going away by myself for a few days in the first week of Jan, something that I do every year and which helps me to get some good space in my head.

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amarra
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The other thing to acknowledge which I spoke about with my friend is that my sister is in a rare minority in the extreme ease with which she is currently conducting her relationships [Smile]

The truth is that a lot more people out there actually find it hard to find partners, or to find good partners, and/or have low confidence or self esteem.

Also my sister has had relationship troubles herself in the past, and mental health troubles which absolutely dwarf my own blue spell... Sexual relationships are not the be-all and end-all of life and as an asexual person I should obviously be aware of this.

I really just have to try and get some perspective back here...

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Heather
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Hey, amarra: sorry to hear you've still been up and down.

I think the place where I feel/get a little confused around the relationship and issues with J, and how you describe the relationship, is where loving someone, and them loving us, still doesn't mean a given relationship is the right one for us, or the right one at a given time.

I also think it really sounds like a sexual relationship with this person right now might not be such an awesome thing, period. I hear you comparing the impact of his choice to smoke a lot of weed to the impact of someone with a medical issue, but I really don't think that's at all sound. After all, this is something he chooses to do, and not, to my understanding, as a medication. (In other words, his use is recreational, not medical). The fact of the matter in my mind is that it still sounds like, for all intents and purposes, you're trying to have an intimate relationship with someone who already has one they have chosen to make primary: an addiction. And this might, and I suspect it does, have an impact on other areas of your relationship, too, but it sounds like most of the problematic sexual dynamics, or at least, many, are related to this.

I'm a bit rambly this morning, but is that making sense for you?

Maybe let's try this on: how do you think you would feel in a sexual relationship where a partner was NOT having sexual side effects from a recreational drug, and side effects they expected you to live with because they really want to use that drug.

Or maybe this: why choose THIS sexual relationship, specifically? Why have this relationship as a sexual one right now? I understand, and it's clear, that one big why for you is likely that you feel very emotionally connected to this person, but it's not like this is the only person you could possibly be emotionally connected to in a deep way.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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amarra
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Lots of things to think about in response to your questions. I'll reply more fully when I get a chance to use a computer as I'm away from home for a few days and writing on my phone is tricky.

On reflection looking back over recent weeks I feel like I am losing the sexual feelings I have had with J before this point. I had thought it was an occasional thing, but perhaps it is progressive. The cannabis may be playing a part in this, but it might not just be that alone. I'm not happy about this realisation.

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Robin Lee
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HI Amarra,

It's disappointing when one's strong feelings for someone (whether friendly, romantic, sexual, etc) change, weaken in intensity, or go away altogether. Often this change, whatever type of change it is, can be disorienting. I hope you'll give yourself permission to have these changed feelings, and to act on them should you so choose.

Understood that typing on your phone isn't easy; no pressure to respond. I thought I'd just put that thought out there. [Smile]

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Robin

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amarra
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Thanks Robin. I agree with what you say. I am accepting of my feelings, although I might wish that they were different, and perhaps they could be in different circumstances/conditions.

Heather, I think I would feel better in a sexual relationship like you describe. However, that is an option open to me as we are not sexually exclusive to each other. (As it happens no other sexual relationship is currently taking place.)

The reason why this relationship is a sexual one is simply that it has been and has continued to be. J is not the only person I have a deep emotional connection with, far from it. I have many deep emotional relationships. I think from what he has told me that I am his only deep emotional relationship though. I think this is a shame. J has said that he doesn't particularly expect to be with anyone else sexually now. In some ways we are close to most people's idea of partners (although I prefer to think of us as friends, not to minimise the relationship but because I prefer that term/concept), and, well, in this culture and at this stage of our lives partners are sexual with one another unless they are not able to be. I know that J would not be happy thinking that his chosen partner who he is in love with does not feel like having sex with him. I feel also that sustaining a sexual relationship requires effort and as such I am willing to put this in.

I do very much want to be affectionate and physically intimate with J.

I think the cannabis is a key issue. I spoke to my sister about my changing feelings. She advised to perhaps sit on it to determine whether it has just been an occasional variation in desire rather than a decrease. But I'm thinking that I should start a conversation, saying that (as he is aware) my sexual feelings have been lessened recently and that i think the cannabis has something to do with it. And see what he says to that.

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Heather
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quote:
Heather, I think I would feel better in a sexual relationship like you describe. However, that is an option open to me as we are not sexually exclusive to each other. (As it happens no other sexual relationship is currently taking place.)
Since J isn't the only person who is an option for you *as* a partner, I'm not sure I understand this. Perhaps I'm missing something?

quote:
in this culture ... partners are sexual with one another unless they are not able to be.
I'm not sure what culture you're referencing, but I don't know of any large culture where that's true. In nearly every culture I know of, with the exception of cultures who literally require sex in marriages (though typically only for one party, who is usually a woman) under threat of severe violence or lack of necessary things for human survival, sex is optional, and there are partnerships made of people who opt not to have sex together even if they are able to engage in sex together.

Maybe this is something else where I'm missing something?

If you feel like the big issue here is the weed use -- and I can certainly see how it could be, and perhaps even more so, addiction behaviours -- then by all means, I see no reason not to lead with that conversation.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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Perhaps we are both misunderstanding each other. You asked me how I would feel about a sexual relationship without these issues. I answered that I would feel better about one like that. I guess I thought you were asking me to compare this imaginary relationship with my current real one - what I was saying is that it's not an either/or situation, as J and I are not exclusive. So being sexual with J does not preclude me having a better sexual relationship with someone else. So I'm not totally sure how this question helps me to think about sex with J. I might have really missed your main point.

Yes, partners CAN opt not to have sex with one another, of course. BUT... what that would mean for us - as in truth we are like friends, in love, who have sex - would be reverting to purely friendship. Now in my mind that is no way a reduction in status. But J feels differently to me about the concept of what a friend is. He hopes that we will be life partners, spending an increasing amount of time together. I know he would be very upset to think that sex is missing out of that equation.

And honestly I would also like to see if this can be fixed, via some changes. If we were able to have a sex life together of some shape or form, even if quite a minor one, that suits us both, I would be happy with that too.

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Heather
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I understand: sorry that it seems like I kind of skipped a spot.

I hear you talking about how J would feel about you two not having sex. And what he hopes for. But he's only part of the picture here, and I'm asking about what *you* really want and think would be best for *you.* I particularly think that in this situation, what's ideal for him here is also a bit iffy, since he's also making some choices and asking you to make big adjustments. Choices that seem to make clear to me that you really come second, particularly sexually, to his marijuana use, basically.

So, I also can't help but wonder, given that this is so apparently important to him, why it also sounds like he's made clear that if the choice is sex or weed, he picks weed. Know what I mean?

It sounds like you got to what you want in your last sentence there. Do you feel like you have some places to start talking with him about all of this now?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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Hello again. Sorry for my delayed reply - it was Christmas, then it was new year, and I've been busy with stuff... but this has been on my mind. I had a talk to J after new year and let him know that I felt my sexual feelings had changed, or were changing, as in - reducing. J was not surprised about this and felt it had been happening for a while (perhaps he even noticed it before me).

I also raised the addiction. J said he wants to continue to try and reduce his usage. I counterposed to him that although cannabis is pleasurable to use in moderation, with an addiction it is a yes/no question. Do you want to be addicted or not? So that option of cutting down but continuing may not be compatible with breaking the addiction.

J is quite accepting of what I've said about the sex. He says that he has made a choice not to feel too upset. In some ways changes like this are natural. I accept this too. But I feel sad that I may be causing J to feel rejected.

Also is it now the case that we have shut up shop on that front as it were?? Or should I keep persevering and making an effort to feel some arousal?? I'm a bit unsure. For example, we had a really really nice time one evening recently where we had a bath together (had not done that before) and it ended up as being sexual. But that is like an exception to the rule.

I still feel like I could use a little guidance from you, but I am a bit stuck for how to put what I need to ask you (what are the main things that are bothering me) into words... Maybe you can help with an outsider's view?

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Robin Lee
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HI amarra,

It sounds like, over all, your conversation with J was productive.

I'm not hearing anything here that sounds like you rejecting him. You communicated (pretty clearly from the sounds of it) where you are with the physical side of your sexuality right now. If he feels rejected by that, that's really about him, not you, as it's pretty clear that if he insisted on sex right now, that would be against your will.

You know, in terms of experiencing your arousal and sexuality, I think it might be helpful to remember that, unlike addiction, it doesn't have to be a yes or no decision.

Sometimes, sexual experiences unfold naturally, as you found when bathing together the other night. How comfortable do you feel just letting things unfold like that? Is sexual activity something you believe you have to prearrange, or is it okay for you to engage in intimate things (bathing together or massage, or anything else you find intimate) and just see where things go?

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Robin

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amarra
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To be honest what you describe is sort of my ideal, for there not to be any expectation, just enjoying company and intimate activities, with any sex as a bonus. But as I described earlier, in our case an element of planning has been part of our sex life, due to J's need to take medication to support erection.

Last night he said to me that he had decided that he would stop taking the erection meds as a default. Recently our incompatible arousal has led to a few nights where he has masturbated next to me and I have cried.... not a good look [Frown] he doesn't want to make me sad.

So now instead he will come round with only the expectation of cuddling before we sleep. He has put the ball in my court and asked me to let him know if I want to do anything in which case he will take a pill.

My friend very wisely said that humans are creatures of habit and that is clearly what had become of our sex life. I have suggested that a better way than all (most times we are together) or nothing (never) would be treating sex as more of a novelty, having it occasionally but investing it with a bit more..... well, everything, if that makes sense?

At present I can't imagine a circumstance where I would know an hour beforehand that I want to be sexual... I almost feel like since I verbalised my feelings I have been even more blocked from feeling aroused than before. I'm not even able to arouse myself at present. I'm not very happy about that and don't quite understand it.

I know that he is very very sad about developments and so am I. I feel that these may be natural life changes and maybe it is OK for us both to feel sad. One the one hand I want to show him care and tenderness, but I feel like on the other hand my actions are cold and harsh.

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Heather
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I want to suggest that you wouldn't need to know an hour beforehand you want to be sexual. After all, your being sexual together doesn't hinge on him starting that time with an erection.

I think you know already how I feel about this medication and such being presented and accepted as a need for him, rather than a want.

However, particularly if your aim is to have sex be more holistic, more present, and more like you say in your first paragraph, even if that sex involves activities that involve an erection, taking an hour to be sexual or affectionate BEFORE that erection isn't some massive amount of time. In fact, it seems to me that having that kind of time might be just the thing.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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amarra
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Hi again, sorry for all the long gaps in this conversation... been busy here.

Yes, you're right Heather. But I think there are some gaps between what might be good for the relationship as it is, and what my body and mind want to do.

We are being very occasionally sexual now (I can't really put a finger on what the circumstances are that create those times), but mostly not. I'm not feeling any excitement. Returning to the question of is this generalised? Mostly. But I did feel a twinge of something watching a good sex scene on tv last night.

I know that he is sad at the loss of what he has described as the best part of his life. I know he is stressed with his job and that our sex was something that helped him to cope with that stress. But I also know that he can take responsibility and find other things that can also help him to cope with stress.

Funnily enough, although I'm obviously not displaying desire towards J, I don't actually feel a massive amount of it coming my way sometimes. I feel that mentally, for me, it's to do with the kind of tired out, unfit (on his part) nature of the sex. I have expressed that I've felt we were getting into a bit of a rut/formulaic habit, but J said in response that he was pretty much happy with things as they were.

As for the addiction, J recently got an electronic cigarette, which I was really really happy about. He has been using it for a few weeks now. But last night he came over and made a tobacco roll-up. He also had two spliffs. I offered him an alternative but he still opted to have them. So that doesn't display a lot of will to make good health changes for himself.

I know he is stressed so I tell myself not to judge too harshly. A lot of people find it hard to change. Also I used to smoke myself and I know that nagging is absolutely not the way to go. So his choices are up to him. In some ways I'm quite a driven, passionate, energetic and ambitious person. Those are my standards and traits, not J's. But overall I feel the sexual relationship has well and truly run out of steam and I'm at a loss as to whether I should make an effort to fix it again, or even how to do that.

Sorry if I am rambling.

[ 01-30-2013, 05:45 PM: Message edited by: amarra ]

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Robin Lee
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HI amarra,

You're describing some pretty significant differences in need and desire between you and J. You're both allowed to want what you want and need what you need, but I'm not hearing a lot of effort or expressed desire on his part to meet you where you are or to respond to your expressed needs for the sexual part of your relationship. Does that sound about right, or am I missing the mark?

Honestly, it sounds like there isn't a lot of room in this relationship for you to explore your sexuality, but there is plenty of room for J to do what he feels he needs to do.

I certainly understand your desire not to judge. There is a big difference between judging and knowing what one does or doesn't want in one's life or what does or doesn't work for one.

Thinking primarily of your own needs, what do you feel like you need or want right now? How does the idea of things staying as they are feel?

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Robin

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