Thursday, September 20, 2012

Email from a young guy with boyfriend problems

Early last month, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I’ve been following your blog for a while and your insight has been very helpful for me at various stages in my life. Recently I’ve been feeling a little confused about various aspects of my relationship and I was hoping to ask you for advice.

I’m 21 years old and I’ve been with my boyfriend for about five months. This is my first real relationship and certainly my first sexual one. As such, I get a little confused sometimes when we come across obstacles in our relationship. My boyfriend is a little older than me at 26 and more experienced in both relationships and sex. Honestly, I was a little bothered when I found out just how sexually experienced he was. I guess I was both disappointed that he had been so active and a little insecure that I wouldn’t be able to perform as well.

Since then I’ve become more confident and the first few months of the relationship were amazing. We’re now at the point where we spend a lot of time together and stay together every night of the week. I do enjoy being with him and whenever I offer to give him space he is adamant that he stay with me. The problem is I’m still a little insecure and I’m having a difficult time maintaining a high level of trust in the relationship. My boyfriend thinks I’m paranoid or self-destructive and honestly I do agree to a certain degree.

Firstly, he has asked me on a few occasions if I would be interested in a threesome and on one occasion even went so far as to find a willing participant. He’s also told me that he doesn’t mind if I have sexual encounters with other guys, although I’ve never asked or even hinted that I wanted such a thing. At first I thought he was joking but after a while I explained that I wanted a closed relationship at this stage and that I thought it was too early in the relationship to start including other people in our sex lives. I know you talked about not having a platform to talk about such things with your ex-boyfriend so I thought it was a good idea to let him know that he could discuss it with me in the future if he wanted and he agreed. To be honest, I don’t think that I’m great at sex and it is still relatively new for me. His suggestions made me feel a little insecure and I felt that I wasn’t pleasing him. Anyway, we’ve discussed my lack of experience and I’ve explained that I’d like to ‘practise’ with him. ;)

He told me that he used gay social networking sites like Grindr and ManHunt to meet guys when he was single. I thought he might still use the site to email friends so I didn’t mind him using them at first. After a while I did start to get a little jealous and I asked if he would stop using those sites. He understood completely and deleted his account straight away. A few weeks later I noticed he was using one of those sites again. I did some snooping and found out he had been messaging a guy, exchanging nude pictures and doing some flirting. They had discussed sex and talked about possibly meeting up but nothing actually happened. I honestly do still believe that he wouldn’t have met the guy. I’m sure that it was just a bit of naughty fun. I still feel bad for looking into his personal things but I just had to know. Anyway, I confronted him about it and he explained his intentions were simply of a jocular/playful nature. I asked him to delete his account and I’m fairly sure that he hasn’t used any of those sites since then.

My main problem now is that I find it hard to trust him sometimes. Even when we’re walking in the street and he looks at guys I get jealous. He thinks I’m paranoid and overly-jealous and I do feel myself getting jealous uncontrollably. I don’t really think he’s done anything wrong and he is generally a very sweet guy and a great boyfriend.

I’m also concerned about the lack of frequency of our sexual encounters. We used to engage in activities almost every day but now he very rarely comes when he’s with me. I always initiate any activity and usually he just ‘helps’ me then goes back to whatever he was doing. If I try to involve him more he just says he’s tired or not in the mood yet he’s very often looking at porn. Looking through his browsing history, I’ve noticed him looking at porn a few times a day. I feel myself turning into a crazy person having to look at his browsing history! I can’t believe I’m so petty. But my main concern is that he would prefer to watch porn than participate in sexual activities with me. Very often he’ll tell me that he’s tired then when I wake up from a nap or come back from uni he’ll tell me that he came while watching porn when I was away. I am a guy as well so I understand the appeal of porn and of course I watch it myself. I have no problem with him watching porn; I just wish he would want to get intimate with me as well! I talked to him about it and I explained that I wanted us to be more intimate. I don’t need sex every day but I just wish he would get involved even once or twice a week. I explained that I felt he was more turned on by porn than me sometimes. I also suggested that we watch together (although I know it’s probably a private thing for most guys). Anyway, he told me that he understood and reassured me that he loves me and is still attracted to me. Buuuuuut, literally 10 minutes later while I was eating he took the opportunity and rushed into his room to watch porn! Then when we were laying in bed together a little while later I noticed he was hard and while he was cuddling me I suggested we ‘help’ each other but he was ‘too tired’ again. We do have different schedules and I think that sometimes he is genuinely tired and we’re usually horny at different times.

I’m finding it very hard to look at the situation objectively because I feel that I’ve become paranoid and it’s impossible to know whether I’m overreacting or if something is actually wrong. I’m sorry this is so long but I’d really appreciate any advice you have for me!

Cheers :-)

I thought that it was a very well written email, because I felt that it contained all the relevant details so that I didn't need to ask him any important questions about his situation. However, the fact that the reader's boyfriend was so uninterested in sex with him seemed rather ominous, so I sent him a reply which included the following paragraph:

My quick thoughts are that the situation sounds quite bad :-(. Guys your age are usually quite horny, and the information that your boyfriend has suggested threesomes in the past suggests that he has a strong sex drive. So the fact that you have so little sex together isn't at all good, and it might even be that your relationship is getting near the end. However, with luck it can be saved :-). My best guess is that just talking to your boyfriend about what's going on is unlikely to help much, unless you can change your attitude. Your email exhibits a lot of insecurities, and my best guess is that it's the corresponding kind of insecure behaviour that is turning off your boyfriend. However, I don't want to put the blame on you because a relationship is between two people, and perhaps if your boyfriend had given you more of what you need then this situation wouldn't have arisen. Does any of that make any sense?

That was about six weeks ago, and unfortunately the reader never sent me a reply. Reading that paragraph again, perhaps it was a bit too brutal, however I still think that the broad sentiments are correct. So, assuming that the reader is still in a relationship with his boyfriend, what can they do to save their relationship?

As I said in the paragraph that I sent the reader by email, my guess is that his lack of confidence has been affecting the relationship. I always say that confidence is important when trying to find a boyfriend, but it's equally important in maintaining a relationship as well. A needy boyfriend who lacks confidence is quite an unattractive proposition. Unfortunately, it's not possible to tell someone to become more confident, because that can only happen over time as experience grows. But faced with the likelihood of the relationship ending anyway, it puts the reader in a "nothing to lose" situation, because whatever he does I can't see the situation regarding their sex lives getting any worse. Thinking about it like that, maybe the reader will be able to relax a bit, and be a bit less paranoid.

One important point is that the reader shouldn't fear the end of this relationship. He's only 21, so he's got almost his whole adult life ahead of him to find a life partner. He's already learned a lot from this relationship, so if it does come to an end, he can use that experience to help him in any subsequent relationship that he ends up in. Bearing this in mind should also help him relax, and knowing that he would eventually be able to find another boyfriend should also give him confidence in his current relationship.

The reader seems worried by his lack of sexual experience compared to his partner, but he shouldn't be. For me, someone is bad at sex if they have no or little empathy with the sexual needs of their partner. However, it's clear from his email that the reader does try and satisfy his boyfriend, so it's inconceivable to me that he's bad at sex. It's also completely natural for his older boyfriend to be more experienced, so there's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

In my relationships, I've never found it much of a turn on if a boyfriend says "let's have sex", and it sounds like that's what the reader has been doing. Instead, it's much hornier to initiate sex starting with e.g. a kiss, a cuddle, fondling him, etc. As I said in my email to the reader, sex is a vital part of any relationship, so perhaps he can think about better ways of initiating it. For example, he used to have a lot of sex with his boyfriend, so he knows how it used to be initiated and he should know what makes his boyfriend horny.

A few months ago, I posted an email from a reader who's boyfriend was intending to go and work in another country. As I said in that post, in fact that reader did split up with his boyfriend, but it turns out that the story has a happier ending. A post on that reader's blog tells us that in the end, the two of them got back together. So even if this reader does split up from his boyfriend, if they still love each other it doesn't necessarily have to be a permanent split!

Anyway, do any other readers have any thoughts about this reader's situation?

Update 21-Sep-2012: Posting this reader's email yesterday has prompted him to send me an update, which I've pasted below. All comments welcome.


Thanks for your reply. Firstly, thanks so much for your advice. I really appreciate it! I’m sorry that I didn’t get around to replying to your email. Actually, I did intend to work on the relationship and then get back to you once things had stabilised a bit. But unfortunately, not much has changed.

Anyway, I’ll do my best to update you on the situation. My boyfriend and I are still together and we’re actually living together now. I’m not so sure that was a good idea given the circumstances, but we had already started the ball rolling when I sent you the last email. Living together hasn’t resulted in any other problems and I still enjoy his company and I still love him so everything is fine in that respect. However, it has put a little more pressure on me in terms of deciding whether or not to end the relationship.

To sum it up, we’re pretty much in the same situation as before. Not much has changed. I think my boyfriend can sense I’m not totally happy and he’s tried to talk to me a few times but I feel that he just doesn’t listen or doesn’t act to work on the issues. He doesn’t think we have any problems. Things have been pretty turbulent in the past month and I’ve been very close to leaving at least once or twice but he always does the right things at the right time to comfort me and convince me to stay. At this point, I think we’re still together because we both love each other and we don’t want to lose that bond.

I absolutely agree with you that lack of confidence is unattractive. I think this is my worst problem. This is also the reason I think I should stay and work on the relationship. I know that I can find another boyfriend, but I’ll probably just have the same issues so there’s no point in breaking apart a loving relationship to start anew and have nothing change.

The reason I’m worried about my lack of sexual experience is because my boyfriend has directly told me that he’s turned off by my lack of experience. This is very frustrating because it’s impossible for me to gain experience unless we have sex! It’s a cyclical problem. This is very awkward to write, but I didn’t mention in my last email that I don’t actually know if he wants to top or bottom. He’s told me that he’s versatile and personally, I don’t really have a preference for either. In the beginning, he always tried to top but I wasn’t ready so I generally topped. I should point out that we haven’t had anal sex many times (or at least successfully!). Anyway, he thinks I’m too inexperienced to top well so we swapped. But I was always very cautious because of the pain and I stopped him a few times while we were trying. Anyway, 1e got there eventually but now he seems to think that I’m not willing to bottom and he doesn’t want me to top so we do nothing. I find it very embarrassing to talk about this stuff. To be clear, I don’t care so much about anal sex, I’d be happy with any activities.

In regards to initiating sex, when we connected sexually in the beginning of the relationship, it was very often initiated by him. Now I always initiate but I don’t usually ask directly. Actually, I don’t have any problem getting him horny. I usually give a massage, kiss, cuddle or fondle and I can feel him getting hard, but he stops me there. I’ve thought about taking a break but I don’t know if that would be helpful. I’ve also thought about trying some more interesting stuff, like allowing the threesome he asked about. I thought that might allow him to see me in a more sexual light but I’m still not totally comfortable with it. Anyway, I’m sorry for the long email again and I’d appreciate any advice.


InItsGrip said...

From the reader's email, it sounds like he wants a closed, monogamous relationship, and that's not what's happening here. If it were me, I would try your solutions for a little while. And if no change occurs, I would break up with him. I would be bothered that my boyfriend is distancing himself from me sexually, yet looking to other people and places (dating apps, for example) to get it. Moreover, having my boyfriend claim I'm "paranoid and overly-jealous" after all this is unhealthy and wrong, especially when he's overtly flirting and exchanging nudes with other guys. There are plenty of other guys I can find who will comply with my desires to be monogamous.

Anonymous said...

I think the partners in this story are in completely different places. Different level of experience, different level of self-esteem, different state of mind. I don't think it often happens that someone can successfully work on self-esteem problems while in a relationship. It leads to misrepresenting problems in one's mind. In any case, some counselling sounds like a good idea if the guy asking the question is determined to keep the relationship..

GB said...

Thanks for the comments :-). One further idea that I had this morning is that if the boyfriend is watching lots of porn and not having sex with either his boyfriend or other guys, then perhaps he's become addicted to porn?

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

It always saddens me to read this kind of post. From what the reader says, it's very clear to me that the boyfriend doesn't care about his feelings. Telling him that he's turned off by his lack of experience, withholding sex and deliberately frustrating him, going to watch porn 10 minutes after they discussed the issue... these are not the actions of a caring lover. What the reader has is not insecurities, but perfectly valid concerns. He's absolutely right that he lacks confidence, but staying in this relationship won't help him build it - on the contrary, the longer things continue this way, the more his confidence will be eroded. What he needs to do is to find some confidence, stop putting up with this treatment and trust his instincts, which are right. This situation isn't his fault at all, and he needs to have enough confidence in himself to realise that instead of falling into the trap of blaming himself. Sadly, there are guys out there who like to keep a partner in a state of permanent frustration and confusion because it makes the partner desperate to please them, e.g. by supporting them financially, doing favours and so on. And when the boyfriend threatens to walk away, they'll say anything to make him stay, otherwise they lose control.

I know this isn't the advice the reader wants to hear (believe me, I've been there, done that and worn the T-shirt so I know!) but he needs to understand how people behave when they're in love. If you love someone, you want them to feel good about themselves and be happy. His boyfriend is deliberately doing the opposite, it's clearly not accidental. So it's a question of how long the reader wants to go on being made unhappy, and my advice is that he should find the confidence to stand up for himself, walk away from this insensitive, cold-hearted guy and find someone who cares about him enough to make him happy. Believe me, I know how hard it is to do that! But better now rather than later, before things get worse.

Anonymous said...

I agree entirely with the last comment but this also strikes me as a relationship where the two people are in such different places that it's going to be very difficult to salvage this relationship - and it may not even be a good thing to do so.

I suspect that if your partner suggests that he is happy for you to see others, it means he is wanting permission to do so himself. If you are not comfortable with that, that is a problem for you both.

Lack of experience is clearly a problem for both of you. However, I suspect that it is quite difficult to get that experience from a monogamous relationship - it's very easy to fall into a rut. He may also be suggesting that you might gain and bring more to your sex life from some experience with other guys. Understandably, you may well not be comfortable with that, which again is pointing to a parting of the ways.

Either way, this situation cannot go on for ever and you have to do something about it. One option might be for you to have some fun with other guys and let him know after you've done so. That might well have the effect of getting his sexual interest back. If it doesn't, then you have to work out the options from there: at least you'll be getting some fun and you can decide whether you want to remain in a platonic relationship with him or not.

If you're not comfortable with that, then I suggest that you work out what practically needs to be done for you to stop living together (find yourself a place or work out the best time for him to have notice to do so), make the arrangements if you need to and then let him know that you're ending it because, ultimately, actions speak louder than words and there hasn't been enough of the right sort of action to back up the words.

You're 21, there are many more fish in the sea and getting rid of him will do wonders for you self-confidence.

Anonymous said...

To sum up: the relationship does not click sexually (for whatever reason). It should not be that complicated to figure out how to fix this in your 20s.

I suspect it is a combination of the boyfriend being addicted to porn, being put off by lack of confidence, and the reader not letting loose and allowing himself to enjoy the sex. The boyfriend shows that he is semi eager to fool around with other guys so it may be that he gets bored easily.

Either way, he is insensitive and not alert to the reader's needs so he is best off walking away sooner rather than later. It is clear the reader needs to build his confidence and experience and I think at this stage he should start seeing other guys. It will be hard to let loose as it is his first boyfriend but he will soon look back and realise it was for the best.

Anonymous said...

My mystical insight - your boyf is really a bottom, but perhaps after some unsuccessful attempts with you topping (pure speculation, not meaning to be rude or insinuate anything) he has switched to being the top in the relationship being the older, more experienced one. But he isn't a top and he simply doesn't enjoy it. I know because I have felt the same thing...

But, my opinion is that sex is not everything in a relationship. So long as you have a healthy physical relationship, that is you are playful, you cuddle, hold hands, kiss sweetly... to me that's a good relationship. Sex itself is often something that people "think" they should do rather than actually desiring it themselves. I'd happily spend my life with the man I love and never have sex with him, so long as everything else was cool.

And if it isn't meant for the two of you to be together, it isn't meant to be. Maybe you'd be happier apart or just as friends... I can't really say, only you know that; but certainly there's no shame in ending a relationship if both of you feel that something isn't right.

Anyway, hope it all works out for you both.