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How Do I End a Perfectly Fine Relationship?

Hi Yana,

How does one respectfully remove themselves from a relationship that in fact does not have any huge problems?

I’m with a righteous man who checks a lot of boxes but doesn’t get me excited. I enjoy his company, we have a great time and do a lot of cultural things. The flip side is there is no passion, there is no tingle. As someone that is used to the old fade out move, how do I end a relationship respectfully and with integrity? And where are my balls to do this?

— Fan of the Fade

Dear Fade,

One of my favorite “celebrity” relationship therapists is Esther Perel. She’s famous for her work with couples and infidelity (check out her awesome TEDTalk “Rethinking Infidelity”) meaning, she knows a thing or two about the hard work of relationship repair and its tragic opposite: the break-up.

In a recent article titled Relationship Accountability, she details four break-up styles: ghosting, icing, simmering, and power parting, which are on a scale in order of least direct/brave to most direct/brave.

Ghosting, as we know, is a vague-yet-transparent drop-off-the-face technique, while power parting grabs your break-up by those balls you mention and says straight up, “This relationship has been great for XYZ reasons, but now it’s time to end it.”

The other two (icing and simmering) exist luke-warmly in the middle. Sounds to me like you’re somewhere in the simmering department: reducing the frequency of dates and communication while you silently plot your exit, assuming your BF is none-the-wiser — though, he likely is, but just doesn’t have the concrete proof he needs to call it out.

The most interesting part of Perel’s commentary about the four break-up styles is her reflections on what our break-up style says about us. While power parting is often easily done by the self-assured, the other three tend to highlight within us some shadow sides of our sense of self: we’re terrified to hurt our partner so we stay; we’re anxious that we can’t handle being lonely or sad, even just for a little while, so we stay; we like the security of sure companionship, but want to be able to browse other options whilst buffered by a safety net.

The reality of a break-up is that no one will come out of it unscathed…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: I’m a Queer Woman in a Hetero Marriage

Dear Yana,

I’ve been thinking about writing to you for a long time. My husband and I are about to celebrate 11 years as a couple and we’ve been married for six. It’s been amazing and so much fun to spend all of this time on planet Earth with such a soul-mate dreamboat of a life partner.

And also: I just keep wanting to hook up with other people.

Five years ago, I hooked up with someone. And then I hooked up with someone else a couple years later. I told him and we went through a harrowing process of separating for a while, talking/crying for a million hours, bringing all of our shadows out of the closet, and reaffirming our commitments. The last several months have been really healthy and strong. And now I have a crush on a woman. This time I told him first and things have been really hard ever since.

We seem to have arrived at a fundamental schism: I feel like the truth of the person I want to be in the world is polyamorous, and his truth is monogamous. How do we reconcile that?

I don’t want to hurt him. But I also don’t want to not live my truth. But then, I’m like, should I just be going to therapy or something so that they can implant in me whatever mechanism he has inside of him to make him fine with monogamy? Ugh.

— Too Late to aPOLYgize

It takes a lot of emotional muscle to do the heavy lifting it sounds like you’ve both done to move through your transgressions and into your new relationship. And that’s exactly what this is: a new relationship.

As Esther Perel talks about in her amazing TEDTalk “Rethinking Infidelity,” after an affair, no matter how long-lasting or fleeting, the old relationship as you know it needs to be deconstructed and rebuilt anew with the raw material you now have in front of you: your self-assuredness in your queer and polyamorous identities; his new understanding of how/if/when to trust you; what he’s willing to forgive, forget, or hold onto; and what you’re willing to put aside or prioritize for yourself.

Relationships don’t thrive because we squash our differences, they thrive because we learn to integrate, tolerate, and celebrate what makes us different from each other. They thrive because we can support one another in our personal growth process while still remaining connected to each other.

This almost flies in the face of what we’ve been told — that relationships are about being more similar than different, and are more about compromise than self-definition. This is especially true for the monogamous ones.

The first step to getting anywhere near a place of seemingly contradictory-yet-connected co-existence is to define yourselves, for yourselves. As Perel waxes so damn poetically — Can you turn the crisis of infidelity into an opportunity?…continue reading…

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Is Being Basic in Bed a Bad Thing?

Dear Yana,

Recently my partner and I have talked about sexual exploration- or lack thereof – in our relationship. I don’t have any fetishes or kinks or fantasies. At least, I don’t think I do. I’ve never even owned a sex toy. Not that this is a problem, but I sense from my partner that he wishes otherwise.

He finds my “vanilla” preference for the sexual experience “interesting”- his words. Read: boring. Now I’m questioning if I’m suppressing a desire to expand my sexual horizons or if I really just don’t get off from a sexual experience separated from reality. I guess the only way to know is to try exploring or I’ll never know, but I wanted to hear what you have to say and what you recommend for proceeding.

Sincerely,

Basic in Bed

 

Dear BinB –

There are a few reasons why I tend to use the term “pleasure-positive” to describe my work rather than “sex-positive” (though I’m truly a mix of both): on the one hand the “sex-positive” movement has been really, well – positive! Sex-positivity counters slut-shaming, casts sex as a natural, albeit complicated part of our lives rather than inherently risky or negative, and has opened many doors for people that had been previously barricaded by shame, stigma, and repressive social norms.

Pleasure-positivity is sex-positive. However, it’s more heavily focused on what brings us pleasure as unique individuals. The reason I bring this up, BinB, is that while sex-positivity may help your partner feel empowered and excited about his kinks and fetishes, it may feel simultaneously disempowering to you as someone who finds pleasure in what feels, as you describe as, based in reality and/or vanilla.

Though your sexual pleasure may present as vanilla in comparison to his triple-chocolate chip with whipped cream, cherries, sprinkles, and handcuffs, your unique experience of sexual pleasure is just as valid as his. For some, intimate pleasure has nothing to do with sex at all!

Kate McCombs, MPH, my sex education colleague, states so gracefully; “There’s a huge variety of what’s ‘normal’ when it comes to sexual desire. Often people with lower desire for sex feel broken or weird. If that’s you, you’re not alone. In my opinion, prude-shaming is just as problematic as slut-shaming. As I like to say ‘I’m sex-positive – not sex-mandatory’”. Similarly, being kink- or fetish-positive doesn’t mandate it be a part of your sexual experience.

Of course, there are always two sides to every coin and endless sides to the complex shapes our sexual and romantic lives can take. If you would like to explore some other sides, there are a couple places to dig into.

You seem overwhelmed at the idea of exploring this wide realm of other-than-vanilla sex – understandable! A simple Googling of “kinky sex” can lead you into quite the overstimulating rabbithole, to say the least. Sexual exploration can be an extremely personal process and may look like fantasizing about something new for a few minutes while you masturbate, taking a vibrator for a spin, or diving headfirst into the porn pool. Some feel safe and comfortable exploring with their partners present and others need some solo space to process, feel awkward, or to just throw that new vibrator on the floor and swear them off for life.

For others, sexual exploration can mean a deeper process of unpacking what makes us feel hesitant about moving beyond the sex we know or the sex we’ve been granted social permission to have. I’m particularly interested in what you might discover by thinking about what makes reality-based sex feel good and safe to you.

Your partner has a responsibility to not pressure you into any kind of sex that you don’t feel consensually and enthusiastically YES about and also if you do decide to explore new sexual things with him, to be patient and supportive if certain things just don’t float your bangin’ boat.

Some suggested reading includes When Your Sex Drives Don’t Match by Sandra Pertot, Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, and Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel.

No matter what, keep in mind this mantra by sex writer & educator Emily Nagoski, PhD: “Pleasure is the measure”; not your kink-o-meter, not the flavor of your freakiness, but your genuine pleasure.


This sex column appears in print on the back page of The Valley Advocate every week!

Email me your sex & relationship questions to be anonymously answered in the V-Spot!