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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » I could use some advice here, please.

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Author Topic: I could use some advice here, please.
ConfusedDragon
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Nor am I sure if this belongs in this category (first post), or if that's even an issue on this site; feel free to move it if necessary. I also apologize if it's too long.

So, I've been dating my current boyfriend for 5 1/2 months now, and I think we're having problems. Well, I'm having problems, anyway, which all seem to revolve around sexual activities.

Background: I'm 21, and I would like to say that I'm rather inexperienced with sexual activities and sexual relationships. If this is relevant at all, I do masterbate, and do sometimes feel sexual attraction/desire toward my boyfriend. I'm thinking that the problems I'm having in my current relationship might have some connection to a few unpleasant past experiences. I've only had one other boyfriend, about a year ago, and the relationship only lasted two months. In that relationship, I was frequently pressured into doing sexual activities I did not want to do, and I broke up with him because he kept badgering me to have (penis-in-vagina) sex with him, which I was really, really not ready for at that time. But before that, I had been sexually harassed(?) by the first guy I had ever been friends with; we'd been friends for years and then senior year of high school he started acting really weird and started publicly touching my breasts and butt and crotch (all outside of clothes) and capture me in "hugs" that I couldn't get out of because he was so much stronger than me.

Problem #1: Sexual activities, especially new ones, are completely terrifying. I'm thinking the original fear around it may have had something to do with the unwanted touching experiences. But what's also been happening is that I've been giving in to pushy boyfriends because I was afraid they'd leave me (I have a lot of issues with loneliness; making friends is not easy for me), and with my current boyfriend, I feel really guilty because he gets so upset if I don't participate in the activity. But after doing that activity, I usually really regret doing it. Eventually, I become accustomed to the activity, and may even come to enjoy or want it. It's just that I've always been completely terrified the first time doing it, and I know I shouldn't be doing it if that's the case, which brings me to my second problem.

Problem #2: Communication with my boyfriend. It's a bit difficult for me to talk about sexual topics, but I'm getting better at it, but talking about sexual things with my current boyfriend can be tricky, especially when it comes to my not wanting to do some stuff. I'm not sure where he got some of his ideas about sex from, but they really just don't feel right to or for me, especially after reading many articles on this website that I do agree with. For instance, he's voiced the opinion that the person who doesn't want to do stuff should go along with the person who does so that that person doesn't feel frustrated. And he's always talking about making "progress," which follows the "bases" model of moving from one activity to another, which I don't agree with because it lessens the importance of some activities I do enjoy doing. And I don't think he means it like this, but he has this way of repeatedly asking for more "progress" a few days after just doing something new (that I still may or may not be comfortable with at this point) that makes me feel like the new thing we just did was not good enough for him. When I tried to explain all this and some of my fears about sexual activity to him (using lots of "I" statements), he said I was being selfish for not considering his feelings when I was really just trying to explain my own. Also, he's a very logically minded sort of person, so it's difficult trying to get him to understand my feelings because feelings aren't always logical.

Also, he's said more than once that he'd let me be in charge of initiating new sexual activities, because then I'd obviously want to do them, but he hasn't kept his word about it. Which is exactly what my ex said and did and that used to upset me quite a bit, and it does again with my current boyfriend. And now that we've been dating for a while, it seems like he's getting more upset by me still being unwilling to do certain things, like I should get over it already, though he's never said anything like that.

But I'm starting to think that at least some of his reactions may have something to do with his own insecurities. Which I think are related to his first ever girlfriend cheating on him. He's always really concerned that I'll break up with him over little, irrelevant things like his parents having crazy rules. So maybe he gets upset when I don't feel ready for sexual things because he thinks it means I don't like him or want to be with him, even though that's not how I feel?

This is not how I wanted this sexual relationship to go; I wanted to feel more in control of this stuff, control I hadn't had before, with the other guys who didn't really respect me, control I still don't feel I have. I'm so tired of feeling sick and anxious and sad and frustrated about all of this. I know it's supposed to be fun, but that's not how I feel about this sometimes and it's not what I'm feeling every time we do something new because it doesn't feel like I had much choice in the matter.

All that said, in every other aspect, he's a really wonderful and supportive guy, and I don't want to break up with him, and I know he doesn't want to break up with me. I just don't know how to talk to him about this stuff and explain this stuff to him without upsetting him again.

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Heather
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Welcome to the boards! [Smile]

You know, right off the bat, my gut feeling on this situation is that it sounds like all of this may be a bit too fast.

In other words, it sounds like for you, you probably need more time to build trust and a feeling of comfort, and for things to be paced much more gradually. For him, I am hearing what sounds like a need to develop some more maturity 9and perhaps sensitivity?) per what it means to be sexual with other people before doing it is probably going to work well.

For your relationship, it sounds like, too, you might need to first spend more time working on communication before engaging in anything sexual together again, or at least anything sexual you both don't feel 110% good about doing, and like either of you has just as much room -- and easy, no-big-deal room, not someone-is-going-to-pout-or-act-crappy room -- to nix as say yes to.

I would say some of that communication is also going to involve making sure either of you are ready for this stuff sexually AND it's even a great idea. For instance, someone who gets upset when a partner doesn't do or want to do what they want sexually, or who feels a partner should just go along with what the other wants? Those are not frameworks for healthy, consensual sexual interactions. If that's really how he's thinking and acting, then it's hardly surprising you don't feel comfortable with that, because you shouldn't.

In truth, I find some of the things he has said to you -- like you being "selfish," for voicing where you are at -- and ways it sounds like he has behaved troubling. It's sounding to me like this is probably not someone it's a great idea to be sexual with until and unless they evolve their thinking and behaviour in a few ways, and that is likely to take a good deal of time. And of course, the interest in doing so in the first place.

I also hear you doing what sounds to me like second-guessing the way you feel and have felt with this, but I see no reason to do that. Your feelings and thoughts here strike me as very sound, and as things I'd encourage you to trust.

So, how can we help you from here? What steps would you like to take next?

[ 04-17-2014, 06:10 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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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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ConfusedDragon
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Thanks for the support, Heather!

I know I need more time to be comfortable with sexual activity, especially more time without feeling pressured. And I need patience and understanding regarding my feelings about sexual activity, and right now I don't think I'm getting that from this relationship. But I don't think my boyfriend is incapable of those things or else I would've broken up with him already.

I think I'd like to talk to my boyfriend about not doing anything sexual for a while until I feel more comfortable about it and until my boyfriend understands what I need for our sexual relationship to work, but I'm not sure how to word it so as to lessen the emotional impact on him. And then he'll ask why, because he always does. I want the reason I give to open more discussion about this rather than upsetting him in a way that closes the discussion. That's the part I would like help with, the what to say to make that happen part.

I would also like to maybe see if I can help him to change his attitude about this stuff. I know it may be impossible to do, but I'm rather patient and I think it's possible he'd be willing to try. I won't attempt it, if he's unwilling to try. Do you have any suggestions on how to approach it?

Also, is it possible my boyfriend and I could be sexually incompatible, on top of all the other problems? I know he has a higher libido than I do, but I'm not sure how much more because mine is frequently rendered nonexistent by stress from a variety of sources, especially from him pressuring me for sexual things. What does sexually incompatibility mean in practical terms and how can you tell if it's happening? This last part is just a curiosity.

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Sam W
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Ho confusedDragon,

We have a few great pieces on talking to partners about sex, readiness, and consent. I'll link you to them below:
Yield for Pleasure
Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You're Moving Too Fast
Yes, No, Maybe So: A Sexual Inventory Stocklist
Driver's Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent
When you say change his attitude about this stuff, what in particular are you referring to?

As for sexual incompatibility, it might help to consider that most partners are not going to have perfectly in sync libidos. Even if they average about the same level, there will always be days when someone really wants to have sex and someone else is so not in the mood. Part of being a couple is learning how to balance and respect each others desires around sex which, while it does take work, is totally doable. But it goes without saying that the partner with the "higher drive" should never, ever, push the other person past where they want to be. So, before you two can work out any kind of balance between your libidos, he has to stop doing that and needs to demonstrate that he can and will respect your boundaries. Until then, it is sound to put all sexual activities on hold. Is that something you're comfortable with?

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ConfusedDragon
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By change his attitude, I mean getting him to understand that what he's been doing is not okay and to let go of some of his not so good ideas about sexual relations.

And I'm pretty sure I've read those articles. But I'll be sure to reread them and look for the stuff I need right now. And I would be completely okay with not doing anything sexual until my boyfriend and I can work through these issues. I'm just having trouble with what to say to him about it.

I think I'll begin by telling him something like this:
"Before I explain, I want you to know that this is not about breaking up with you. I do not want to do that. I want to work this out. And I'm not trying to upset you. I really don't want to do that.

But I think that doing sexual activities is not the best thing for me right now. It's causing me way more stress than I think is healthy. And that not doing it is the best choice for my sanity. I'm not trying to disregard your feelings here. But I cannot continue to do these things and still be happy. And I need you to respect this decision because it is important to me."

If he asks why I feel that way or why it stresses me out, I don't know how to tell him about how his behavior has been making me feel and how I want it to stop because he didn't really get it the last time I tried to explain.

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Molias
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There's only so much you can do to change his mind, here. Talking to him about how you feel, and explaining all this to him is a great idea; it sounds like you've done this already and it hasn't worked out, but if you tell him that this really is a serious issue, maybe he'll listen.
I think having him read some of those articles Sam linked would be great, too. I'd say the Navigating Consent one is the best place to start.

Those things might help! But ultimately, you can't make him change his mind on this. I'm hoping that he can spend some time really thinking about consent and reframing how he thinks about it. But if he's still stuck, I don't know that there's much else you can do. =(

In terms of explaining how you feel to him, I think giving him some of the articles we have on consent will help. But really, you can just boil it down to something like "I only want to have sex when I'm enthusiastic and excited about it, and being pressured into sex I'm not ready for or comfortable with feels terrible and stresses me out. I need you to respect me and the limits I'm setting and not try to push past them."

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ConfusedDragon
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Yeah, I know it may be difficult or even impossible to change his mind on this stuff. But I'm still going to try because I don't want to give up on him quite yet. I'll suggest those articles to him to help explain how I feel. And I guess I need to take time to figure out what I do want sexually as opposed to what I already know I don't want to do or in what circumstances (besides a lack of pressure) I could potentially want something that I currently don't want. As I think I might be demisexual (a recent thought of mine), this may be a more complex problem, not that it isn't already. It also doesn't help that I've never really been sexual with a partner without there being some sort of pressure.

Going off on a rant here:
Sometimes I feel like I missed out by not being in a romantic/sexual relationship in high school (I'm in college now), the sort of relationship where the couple could date for years before gradually moving into sexual activities together. I'm not saying that that's definitely what would've happened had I dated in high school, but I feel like that sort of pace (which just sounds nice to me, whether or not it's actually what I need in any given sexual relationship) is easier to have in high school, when almost everyone is inexperienced with sex, than in college when sex in relationships is more common or more expected. I guess I'm just afraid that I won't be able to find a partner who is okay with that kind of pace and that I'll have to wait a really long time to experience the sort of relationship I've been wanting to have for a really long time.

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Jacob at Scarleteen
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Hi Dragon,

A welcome to the boards from me too!

I'm thinking that a lot of this could come down to a question of what for you 'is a partner' or 'is a relationship' and so on.

I get that at college (or many environments) there can be really strong messages of what's normal or expected in a relationship, or a partner. But as far as I've seen, people's real relationships and wants still vary tremendously. I even think that often when these messages seem strong, it can be simply because people are so different from each-other and often away from friends and family. They may be, for these reasons, more nervous and more susceptible to promoting forms of sexuality that don't even suit them. College can be a scary place, it's no wonder that folks create a rather rigid 'college student' persona to cling onto.

The point I'm making here is that there's a whole lot more out there than it seems, and hanging onto a partner because no-one else seems like they could ever be compatible might really be the wrong bet.

And that's what has me thinking about what you think a relationship could be for you. For me it's something about compatibility, an overlap between the things all partners want and the way we find that out.

I'd call consent a way of negotiating that overlap, i.e. the beginning of working out what you guys can or can't be together.

From what you're saying that consent is something on which you're looking to build your relationship too. So I can only really think that a conversation with him about consent is also a conversation about whether or not you want this relationship.

What would you think of 'giving up on him' (or rather the relationship as it is) until you make headway with how he approaches consent, rather than wait til after? Otherwise, I can see a lot of mixed messages.

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Jacob at Scarleteen
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(Hey Dragon, I just re-read my comment, and I have written things in a pretty complicated way!

Does it make sense?

I can reword stuff if you like? Sometimes things I write do come out a bit oddly.)

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ConfusedDragon
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It's okay Jacob, I get what you're saying (maybe), and I have the same problem sometimes (like my own last comment).

By giving up on him, I was referring specifically to breaking up with him, if that clarifies things. Though I'm not so sure I get what you mean by giving up on him before breaking up with him. Taking a break from the relationship in general? Giving him an ultimatum?

As for what a partner or relationship is for me, I'm still working out my definitions because I still feel inexperienced in this area because I'm still trying to balance the ideas of the perfect partner I've dreamt up with the realities of dating a real person, or more simply, what I want vs what I could have.

About the college statement, I wasn't trying to say that I'd not be able to break up with my boyfriend if I felt I needed to (which I did with my last boyfriend) or prolong a relationship I didn't think was working (or possibly fixable) or that I would never be able to find someone else. I was saying that it seems like it would be difficult to find the ideal partner (in terms of sexual pace) in that environment based on the attitudes of people I know. Now, I know people are different, but it just feels like I'd be looking for a needle in a haystack (or more like a bit of hay in a stack of needles). Nor would I want to settle for anyone less than the ideal after this debacle. But I'll worry about that issue if I can't work things out with my current boyfriend.

On that note, my boyfriend was talking yesterday (while I was still trying to figure out what to say to him) about how much he enjoys the time we spend sexually together. Which, of course, makes me feel guilty about wanting to take a break with sexual activities (I'm not changing my mind that I need it, though). So, breaking that news to him is going to be harder than I thought. Also, (I'm not sure what to make of this) after I declined doing sexual things yesterday (I said I was stressed out), he asked if I was punishing him for the pressuring incident earlier this week (that I regretfully gave in to) which I later told him had upset me. I was not punishing him at all. I'm just wondering how he could've came to that conclusion (should I ask him?).

I'm also coming to understand that communication (in general) is something we really need to work on.

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Heather
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You know, if YOU have not been enjoying yourself - on any level, including emotionally - then a partner who both cares about you and also really gets and feels, in general, that sex with someone is not just about them - they are not going to keep enjoying things when you are not. And they are also not going to want to keep doing sexual things with you unless you, too, are earnestly enjoying yourself.

I have to be honest, something really sounds off to me here with this guy as far as him really seeing the other person in this (you), and having the kind of mindset we need to have to have a mutually beneficial, healthy sexual relationship.

So, personally, I think this makes setting serious limits and stepping way back even more important than it seemed fromthe start. You are right, he may react poorly. In fact, it unfortunately seems likely he will.

But you need that information to know where to go with this next. Because if he does, then between that and everything else yiu have posted here, then I think you will have a lot of information that tells you this guy, perhaps even more than you, is just plain not ready or willing or able to be in a sexual partnership with someone else and really have it be about both people, rather than having it primarily be about self-gratification on his part.

And if that is the case, and again, I think it is, then this is not someone sound to be sexual with, period. Not until or unless they take some real time - not days or weeks, probably more like months or years - to do a lot of personal development and growth in this area first, anyway.

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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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Heather
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Btw? Sexual relationships can be something people build gradually at any age. There is no age at which pacing things in a way that works for both people is a no-go.

In fact, as people gain maturity and a greater sense of others versus self, which is a big part of growing up and maturing through life, that actually usually gets easier to do and make room for, rather than harder. I think this feeling harder for you is not so much about your age or the age of others you may connect with, as it is about this particular person's limitations.

See, even if and when someone wants a much faster pace than another person? Someone has the ability to just not continue to pursue a sexual relationship with someone who clearly wants a very different, slower, kind of pacing. Same goes the other way too, obviously. Pressuring or someone having to go way faster or slower than they would like is not necessary, because everyone has the ability to just screen around this stuff and only choose sexual partners, or choose to remain sexual partners with someone, when there can be a fit in this regard. Know what I mean?

[ 04-20-2014, 10:23 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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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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ConfusedDragon
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Sigh. Heather, you're probably right. My boyfriend has maturity issues in some other interpersonal areas, too. I think I'll talk to him tomorrow about wanting to stop doing sexual activity. It's going to be extra difficult because his birthday and our 6-month-iversary are both in a few days and I know he'll want to do stuff to celebrate. I'll let you know how that goes. I'm just hoping my nervousness doesn't get in the way of what I have to say.

quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
I think this feeling harder for you is not so much about your age or the age of others you may connect with, as it is about this particular person's limitations.

It's not just him, my last boyfriend did the exact same thing. And as they've been my only partners, my view is probably influenced by those experiences. A perhaps rhetorical question here: is there any way to predict or prevent this sort of behavior in the beginning of the relationship? I'm assuming not, but I'm thinking discussing it and establishing boundaries early would help? I'm just tired of dealing with those behaviors.
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Heather
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I absolutely think you can screen for a lot of this!

Want to brainstorm some approaches to do that together? If so, more than glad to do that with you. [Smile]

And if I can help you, at all, to get your courage up about this upcoming discussion - including talking through why it feels like you even need it - I am happy to do that as well.

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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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ConfusedDragon
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After I talked to a mutual friend, who thinks it may all be a misunderstanding and who gave me advice (and practice) on what to say, I feel a bit less nervous about it because I won't have to deal with my usual problems with "winging" any sort of communication when I'm nervous.

I understand why the pressuring is bothering me. But I think I would like to discuss, in order to understand, why sexual stuff freaks me out so much or if it's just because my partners have been less than helpful.

I would also like to do the brainstorming about choosing the right partner, even if I won't be needing that skill soon; I think it'll help me understand what I've been missing.

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Heather
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I would say that I would be wary of anyone saying all you have talked about here is about a misunderstanding. Pressuring someone into sex is rarely about misunderstandings, and people saying it must be often are either dismissing coercion as a real abuse and problem, or just have not yet experienced a lack of pressuring themselves to know it isn't okay.

I mean, pressuring SHOULD bother you. because it is not okay. If it did not bother you, I'd be much more concerned about you, you know?

But yep, happy to talk about any of those things more with you. [Smile]

You might, perhaps, want to start by reading something like this, first, so we can start on the same page: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/abuse_assault/drivers_ed_for_the_sexual_superhighway_navigating_consent

Or this: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/in_your_own_words/rescripting_sex

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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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ConfusedDragon
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Well, I talked to my boyfriend, and he reacted badly, as predicted. He said that he would be miserable but he would go along with it. Then I told him what I needed him to do (or not do) to fix the problem. What I told him was straight out of the Navigating Consent page. In his reply, he called the things I felt I needed stipulations and said that only highly religious people (neither of us are religious) would wait to have sex for the length of time I need. Then he went online to loveisrespect.org and chatted with one of their people, who told him to either be okay with not having sex or break up with me. He doesn't want to break up, so he's decided to go along with the lack of sex for now.

My opinion on this is, well, I'm angry at him because he still doesn't get that the problem is his own actions, and he doesn't understand why I'm not okay with what he's doing. His reaction was very immature. And I'm not sure how much longer I can put up with this or if it's even worth it. So, now I'm considering breaking up with him. Sigh.

Also, after telling my friend about his reaction, she realized that he was very wrong about this in his reactions. I just don't think she was originally aware he felt that way.

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Heather
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Glad to hear it sounds like your friend is being more supportive.

I really wish I could say I felt surprised he responded this way, but given the history you posted with this, it was not sounding like consent, and his partner actually being as enthusiastic about sex as he is, was mattering very much to him. I am sorry, however, he reacted this way, as obviously that is very rough on you.

How about giving yourself a committed week or two to process all of this, marinate after that conversation, and figure out what you want to do from here?

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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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Redskies
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Hi, ConfusedDragon.

His latest reactions strongly suggest to me, too, what Heather was mentioning earlier: that this is a person who, at least currently, does not have the minimum requirements for a sexual partnership. I know you were talking about your own uncertainties about sexual partnerships above, but truly, you seem to have a much better grasp than he does.

In case you were wondering, there are many reasons why all kinds of people want to wait for sex, or certain kinds of sex, or don't want to have certain kinds of sex. Personally, I don't object to people's boundaries and limits being referred to as "stipulations", but in the context with him, it sounds like he's trying to make your boundaries sound unreasonable, and that's not ok. Just because he doesn't like your boundaries doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them!

His fundamental options are indeed to accept - truly accept - your boundaries, or to break up with you. It doesn't sound like he's happily accepting your boundaries, though. I think you're right to be wary and to consider your options. Someone staying in a relationship but being resentful or unhappy about the conditions within the relationship - ie, him being unhappy about keeping your boundaries - is likely to result in an unhappy and poor experience for both people.

I think you're right to centre your own wants and needs, too, at this point. He's repeatedly shown you where he's at regarding sex and consent, and you get to decide whether this is a relationship that meets your needs and where you feel safe, respected and happy.

The bottom line is, no-one ever needs to understand WHY a partner doesn't want to do a particular sexual thing. That's not the important part. All anyone needs to grasp is that the person Doesn't Want To, or Doesn't Feel Good about it. Partnered sex is about both people making, sharing and enjoying the sex together; if one person isn't into it, then the other person by definition can't have real partnered sex. If the other person doesn't want to, then partnered sex is already impossible. If someone continues to try to push for it, they either aren't mature enough to grasp what partnered sex is - that the other person has a mind and desires separate to their own! - or what they're actually wanting isn't partnered sex but instead something that's pushing over into abusive and assaultive.

I know you've seen a lot of our material already, but if you haven't seen this one: Should I Stay or Should I Go? it might help you out when you're thinking about whether to continue this relationship.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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ConfusedDragon
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So I did not break up with my boyfriend after we talked it out. Our friend was somehow able to explain my dilemma to him in a way that he understood (I'm still not sure how that happened), and afterward we had a nice long talk about it. We are taking a break from sexual activity, and I'm enjoying the relationship more without it, or at least without the pressuring. He said he will try to change his behavior when we become sexual again. If he doesn't seem capable of changing his behavior, I'm going to reevaluate the relationship.
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Sam W
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 108189

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Hi confusedDragon,

Glad to hear that the conversation went well between you and your boyfriend. Have you talked to the friend in question about what, exactly, they said?

I think holding him to his promise when/if you decide to be sexual again is definitely a good plan, as it sounds like your decision to stay together was based around that promise (and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on that). At this point, he needs to actively demonstrate that he will respect your boundaries, not just that he will try. Making the promise to try is the easy part. Actually doing the thing is the hard part (sorry, I don't mean to play the pessimist here, but I just want you to be aware of the possibility that the promise might not translate into actual improved, sustainable behavior, and that you need to have a sense of what you'll do if that happens).

For right now, is there anything in particular you'd like our help with?

[ 04-29-2014, 10:13 AM: Message edited by: Sam W ]

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