Advice – In a long distance relationship, fantasizing about strangers.

My partner (M27) and I (F21) are in a long distance relationship thing, we met in early 2019 and eventually got back together half a year ago. He is literally halfway across the world from me and due to this situation we have to wait a little bit more to see each other again in person (we haven’t seen each other for nearly 2 years). During the time we were apart, we had bf/gf and later realised that we should be together. I love him more than anything and we believe that we are made for each other.

The thing is I do have this “wild dream” that I want to have different sexual experiences with different people as “you only live once”, and I’m bisexual which makes it sound really promising. And I’m pretty sure that my partner has had way more fun in this field than I do, and I’m a bit petty about that. Not like I’m dying to have sex with any human beings, just I have always wanted to know everything, to live the typical “college sex life” thing that I don’t have. In the past, I have only had sex with less than 10 guys, and they were just.. fine, like nothing special about it, and I know that I wanted more. But also a part of me acknowledge that I love my partner and I only want him for honestly the rest of my life and we will for sure have a healthy steamy sweaty sex life.

So what should I do? I haven’t told him about this, I think I will when we are in person, but still this thought is stuck in my head.

KK Healing, Reddit.

Dear KK Healing,

As someone who has also been in a handful of long distance relationships, I can definitely relate to the difficulties that come with lack of physical intimacy in long distance relationships. Long distance relationships were already difficult enough as is pre-pandemic. And now with the added complexity of COVID risk management in addition to the uncertainty of the future, I can definitely empathize with how difficult it has been for both you and your partner. For the sake of the discussion below, I am going to assume that you have a traditionally monogamous arrangement with your partner.

In your case, it is further complicated by your perception of the “college sex life”, the assumed sexual experience gap between you and your partner, and your bisexuality. Each of those aspects adds a different wrinkle to your perception. So let’s unpack those one by one before we get to the actual advice portion of this post.

We are socialized and conditioned to envision an idealistic, hyperactive college sex life. But contrary to common beliefs, National College Health Association (NCHA) reports that in the spring of 2020, 40.2% of undergraduates have never had vaginal intercourse and 34.7% have never had oral intercourse. What is even more interesting is that that number is actually lower than what NCHA reported in fall of 2015, which indicates that less college undergrads are having sex today than five years ago. So the conditioning around sexually active college undergrads might be more rooted in fantasy than reality. The same 2020 NCHA survey further found that out of the 54.4% of the undergraduates who had sex in the past year, 15% had more than four sexual partners. That means only 8.16% of the college undergrad population maintains that perceived “college sex life” story we tell ourselves in our heads. And in reality, most folks – 82.5% to be exact – either never have sex in college or only have had one sex partner in the last year.

The Contemporary Group puts it succinctly – “Perceptions can often be distorted. When everyone in a small social group is engaged in a particular activity, it may seem as if everyone on campus must be doing the same.”

Then there is the COVID layer to add to all of this. Most people aren’t really seeking new sex partners while there is a global pandemic going around. Instead, more folks are turning to sex toys and established sexual connections to meet their sexual needs. And according to Dr. Justin Garcia of the Kinsey Institute, 71% of singles did not have sex with anyone since the pandemic started ramping up. So even if the “college sex life” perception were to be true, that sexual aspect would be even more depressed in the context of the pandemic.

“Sexual fantasies: our misperceptions about the sex lives of young people.” IPSOS. Aug 8, 2018.

Now that we have deconstructed the myth surrounding “college sex life”, let’s talk about your perception of the sexual experience gap.

According to this study from IPSOS, we perceive that others have three times the amount of sex than they actually do in reality. Bobby Duffy’s Perils of Perception theorizes that such a gap could stem from a couple different factors, such as misrepresentation of our sexual activities and misleading portrayals in popular media and entertainment. Duffy further hypothesizes that “part of it seems likely to be ‘social desirability bias’, where we give the answers we think are socially acceptable, which pushes men to inflate the reality and women to deflate it.

Let’s now apply this to your perception. Based on what you have shared, I gather that you and your partner never had a frank and complete discussion about your respective past sexual history. It could just be possible that you anticipate that he has been more sexually active than you were, even though it isn’t necessarily the truth. It is even more interesting to see you apply the word pettiness to the experience gap. That could be a reflection of your six-year age gap, in that you almost want to “catch up” to the perception of the sex life your partner has had before he met you.

Even if we assume that there is indeed a gap in sexual experiences that you and your boyfriend have each had, the number of sex partners – as you yourself experienced – is not at all indicative of the quality of the sex life that he maintained before you have. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had five sex partners or fifty. What is more important is the type and depth of those connections as well as what they can bring to the relationship you have with them now. And the question you should really be asking is if the type of intimacy you currently have in your long distance relationship (and will have when you two eventually close the distance gap) is satisfying enough for both of you collectively and each of you individually.

Now let’s talk about your bisexuality.

Based on what you have shared, I gather that you have had no or very limited same-sex sexual encounters. And because you are currently in a monogamous long distance relationship with an opposite-sex partner, there isn’t an opportunity for you to experience same-sex relationships, which is feeding into your fear of missing out. You commented in a later thread that you and your boyfriend have discussed having threesomes so that you can still experiment with and experience your bisexuality in a space that is still safe for your relationship with your boyfriend. But threesomes are really only a small subset of the whole bisexual experience and expression of your sexuality.

Let’s first separate your bisexuality from your desire to sleep with others.

Bisexuality probably does not exist in a gender-scarcity vacuum where bifolks need to have two partners of the opposite-sex in order to be satisfied. Bisexuality and monogamy often does exist in the same space, in the same way that heterosexuality and monogamy exists in the same space. Straight monogamous folks can still miss sleeping with other people of the opposite sex too. Monogamous bifolks that happen to be in opposite sex relationships are still bisexual in the same way that bifolks in same sex relationships are still bisexual. Your fantasy/desire to experience a wider spectrum of your sexual expression is actually independent from your bisexuality. Bisexuality just happens to be the medium through which your desire is manifesting.

Many bifolks feel that they are not “bisexual enough” simply because they have not yet had an adequate amount of same-sex encounters. But in honesty, there is no quota or expectation around how many people one need to have slept with in order for that person to be qualified as a sexual being. Your bisexuality does not need first-hand experience in order for your sexual identity to be justified; it is justified in the mere virtue of your existence.

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

So let’s finally put it all together.

You asked what you can do with your desires.

Fantasy is healthy, even when the fantasies themselves are not viable in reality. If you find yourself frequently fantasizing about sleeping with others, think of it as a result of your current sexual headspace instead of feeling shame or guilt about how promiscuous you want to be. In your current absence of sexual and physical intimacy, finding creative solutions and outlets for your sexuality is not only sane but necessary for your survival. Lady Vivra wrote a great piece about embracing your sexual fantasies here that might be worth a read.

Dare to be more sexually honest with yourself.

Allow yourself to freely indulge in the kind of sexual headspace you need to be in in order to survive this current long distance aspect of your relationship with your boyfriend. Many find fantasizing about the unreality to be very challenging, especially if it deviates so far from what is deemed possible. Self-acceptance will come with the self-honesty.

Once you feel more comfortable with expressing your desires by yourself, you can then use this opportunity to connect with your boyfriend at a more vulnerable, foundational level. Since it has been two years since you last shared the same physical space, I am sure he too is feeling the sharp longing for a physical reconnection with you. And it is very possible that he too has fantasized about sleeping with others the same way you have. Even if exploratory non-monogamy is off the table, being able to connect with your partner about the honest desires that you two have will lead to greater enjoyment in your current intimate connection.

Don’t just wait until the distance is closed; do it now. A great way to start this conversation is by sharing how you have been feeling and the challenges you have been facing. This will give your partner an opportunity to empathize with the sharp longing that you have been experiencing, to share his own experiences with his own longing for you, and to work together for a solution – even if temporary – that works for both of you collectively and each of you individually as you weather the long distance portion of your phenomenal relationship. That will help you both get to that healthy, steamy, sweaty sex life not just when the distance is closed, but also to ensure that you two keep having healthy, steamy, sweaty sex life.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – I regret relocating with my fiance.

We started dating 6 years ago. 8 months into the relationship I finished my internship, moved to the state where he was living and working, left my family and friends and started a new life for the first time. It was difficult for me – I hated the new state, felt people were unfriendly, aggressive, and short in conversation. I’m introverted and that made it more difficult to gain whatever sense of belonging could be achieved in a state full of bedroom communities and highways. His job paid twice as much as mine, he came from a wealthy family and I came from a poor one. His role as breadwinner was obvious from the start. I didn’t hold much resentment, because I was just starting off in both my career and our relationship, and I did end up finding a fantastic job in my field where we lived.

I lived there for 4 years. Last spring (just over a year ago) we bought our first house, and we were set to be married in April 2020. 4 months after the home purchase, my fiance was laid off from his job, and was unemployed for 8 months while looking for work. Financially, we were able to maintain the house, but I never got to “move in” or make it mine in any way. I kept most of our things in the boxes we moved in with because we didn’t know if/when we’d need to sell the house and leave. I worked at my job for 3.5 years, which I had to quit when he was finally offered a job in a new state.

The job is a great move for his career, the relocation package was good, the cost of living in the new area is lower. This was the first offer he’d received since being laid off and in the middle of pandemic we felt lucky that he found *anything*, and it didn’t feel like there was much of another option for us. We put our house on the market, and I felt like I was the only person saddened by letting it go. I left my job, after months of not seeing any of my coworkers or patients because of the pandemic, and I didn’t get to see anyone before I left. My goodbyes were all done over phone calls.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to find work in my field in the new state, as my field really only exists in/near larger cities, and our new location (and an hour drive in any direction) is all rural. Fortunately, we live in a college town with a small state school, but that’s all there is. I’ve been here for 3 months, have been trying to make the most of my “time off” by getting outside/hiking often. Before the move I’d been considering changing careers (wanted more opportunity for career growth and higher salary), but it was far too late for me to apply for a program by the time we moved, and now I have to wait to apply for Fall 2021. As I said, I have zero chance of finding a job in/related to my current field as it is extremely specialized and there’s no market for it here.

I have the “luxury” of staying home, and not needing to find an income immediately, and keeping myself safe from the virus. I have been struggling with mental health (for many years, but currently more than ever), have some other issues that need medical attention, and I have no health insurance after leaving my job. I’m currently waiting on a Medicaid decision. My fiance will have to pay for any care that I need. My fiance will need to pay for everything else once my savings have run out. I expect that to happen during the next few months. Right now I feel like I have to make a choice between getting a low-paying job for some small semblance of independence or staying sheltered while avoiding unnecessary risks. I’m upset because while I can focus on getting into school for Fall 2021, it’s an entire year away and it’s difficult to imagine an entire year feeling this useless and dependent. My fiance hasn’t been very understanding of my feelings – about the loss of our house, my career, our friends, the wedding. He is ecstatic about his new job, receiving tons of recognition and praise, and has already made some friends at work that he hangs out with on the weekends. It just feels like he’s winning at life and simply can’t see how much I’ve sacrificed/lost this year because of his situation, can’t understand the depression I can’t seem to climb out of because “we have it so good” and “I have nothing to worry about”. I’m happy that he’s happy, but I’m going to end up feeling like a “kept wife” very soon, and I’d rather have reasons to feel happy for myself. This isn’t it.

I want to make this work, and care about my relationship deeply, but I’ve been feeling so worthless that I’ve considered applying for my old position (it was recently posted) or applying for schools in my hometown where my family lives just to give myself a better shot at success. I know neither of these things are good solutions, but I’m just desperate to stop feeling so stifled.

Anonymous, /r/relationship_advice.
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Dear Anonymous,

There are several underlying issues at hand here. Each issues are both independent and interweaving, as the sources of the issues arise from the same spot but manifest in many radically different ways. We will first talk about processing loss as part of leaving your old state behind. Then we’ll get more into why there seems to be such a communicative disconnect between you and your partner. After that, we’ll discuss how you can amend that disconnect and lay out your potential next steps.

Let’s first talk about your headspace in this new transitional phase of your life, especially as it pertains to your professional career.

I gathered two of your core needs: a need to belong and a need to be self-sufficient. You first moved to a new state to be with your partner only after 8 months of dating, leaving behind all the support network you’ve built around your family and friends in your home state. And because of your introversion, it took you almost four years to foster and establish your own connections again in this new state. And just as you have found your own footing in this new state in a career that you feel deeply passionate about, you had to relocate yet again to start anew from scratch. That is a lot! It is no wonder you are going through a heavy mental load.

There is a real sense of loss and grief in the connections that you’ve left behind in the state you purchased your first house in. And because of your partner’s happenstance, you never really got an opportunity to nest in your new home to make it your home. Almost as if you were stuck in a state of transition. And the worst part is, you’re still stuck in this exhaustive, perpetual state of transition in yet another new state.

And that “stuckness” extends to the process of loss and grief, which leads to my next point.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Relationship bids and communicative disconnect

The only way we can become “unstuck” is to express and process our feelings.

In the previous state, you likely had friends and coworkers who you depended on for emotional and social needs beyond what your fiance could meet for you. And when you and your fiance moved to this new state, the numerous channels all funneled into one singular person: your fiance. That is a Big Ask for one person, when in the past you’ve had a whole support network to rely on. In short, you’ve become isolated in your romantic entanglement.

Ury, Logan. “Want to Improve Your Relationship? Start Paying More Attention to Bids.” The Gottman Institute. February 11, 2019.

In this short video above, Logan Ury explains in detail about Gottman Institute’s ideas about turning towards or away from relationship bids. In short, relationship bids are micro moments in your relationships where you make a verbal or a nonverbal request to connect to your partner. Your relationship satisfaction is hinged on how many of those bids your partner responds to, and how many of your partner’s bids you respond to.

So when you approached your fiance to process your current state of depression, he instead failed to acknowledge your headspace, discredited why you were feeling down, and got lost in his current career development. In this particular incident, he either could not or chose not to hear your bid. In rejection of your bid, your partner also rejected the substance of your reality and dismissed your feelings. That is a very troubling sign from your sole connection in your new state, as it continues to perpetuate your “stuckness”.

I also want to touch on the privilege of the neurotypical.

Chronic depression is near impossible to explain to someone who has never been chronically depressed or hasn’t had a clinical background to understand depression. That could be why your partner cannot understand why you feel so depressed. It is not within his agency to dictate whether or not your depression is legitimate, especially if he hasn’t had a personal experience with depression himself. Really, the only role he has in that particular type of exchange is to be supportive and understanding. To accept that you are having a difficult time with this transition. You cannot move forward with your next steps if there is no acknowledgement and a self-driven desire to understand.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Bridging the gap

Part of the resentment you are feeling toward your partner stems from that initial disconnect. A big part of it also arise from viewing the transition as an action that was implicitly out of your control.

There are two different decisions at play here. First is in his decision to accept his offer and relocate. Even if we assume that he would not have gotten an offer in the state you were residing in at the time, the inherent risk in this job going well in addition to you both being able to find your respective and mutual footing in this new state were immense. Fortunately, he was able to find his new footing and re-establish his self-worth through his blossoming career. So that risk might have paid off from his end.

The more impactful decision was in your choice to give up on your career and follow your fiance to this new state. You said that “it didn’t feel like there was much of another option for us” other than for your fiance to take this career opportunity in a different state. And I’m curious to dig deeper and consider if that really is true. Why did you feel so compelled to surrender your definite security at a chance at his? Based on your writing, I get the sense that you have a deep knowledge of the your own internal headspace as well as your partner’s.

It is true that you had a Big Ask when you asked your partner to be your sole source of support in this new state. But that was nothing compared to the Biggest Ask in assumed relocation to a brand new state where he would have to be your sole source of support.

And so, it might be beneficial for you to envision this transition not as a decision he made on your behalf but as series of implicit decisions that you two made together about each other. This is very important.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Luxury” of convenience

Being able to take mutual responsibility for your respective decisions means that you two can make mutual plans that you two can proactively agree on.

If your career prospects are indeed dire and your next year is devoid of plans, why not go back to work at your old workplace? Almost everyone I know is currently working from home. And as you said, you haven’t seen your coworkers or patients since the pandemic started. Maybe you can reach out to your former employer to see if you can return to work from your new state. It is worth a shot, and the worst you’re going to get is a No at a place you already don’t work at anymore. Upsides seem immense as you get to keep working at a field you feel passionate about with income and health insurance you can use to support yourself.

Another option is to consider a temporary long distance relationship. I’ve been in a handful of deep and rewarding long distance relationships myself, and heard from many others who have survived long distance transition phases of their relationships. If you strongly believe that your professional development and career pursuits are integral to your own survival, temporarily relocating to a larger city where there is a demand for your field of profession might not be a bad option for you to consider. At the very worst, it’ll only be for a year. And depending on where you find your job, you and your partner can even make weekend trips to see each other. Otherwise, thanks to apps like Marco Polo, Netflix Party, and Between, facilitating relationships over long distance has never been as easy. Back in the day, I had to settle for grainy Skype calls with my girlfriend from London!

Developing and creating new connections also seem necessary. Everyone is sequestered in their own bubble at this moment, so most people can use a new friend in you. Your eloquence and thoughtfulness will bring something new and fresh to the table for most friend-seekers. Penpalling might not be a bad way for you to develop and forge platonic long distance connections, especially in times like these. Even if you don’t fully commit to a personalized stationery and colorful envelopes for snail mail penpals, email penpalling will help you get started.

In terms of the relationship with your fiance, perhaps have him explain to you what he thinks your current circumstance is like. Even if he isn’t you, being able to step into your situation and empathize with how you feel trapped in your current circumstance will help shine a light into what you two can work together on going forward not just in this transition, but for many more transitions to come in the future.

Good luck.

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – My boyfriend broke the rules of our open relationship.

“My boyfriend and I did long distance for 5 months. Before those 5 months we had been together for a year and it was seriously the best year of my life. We had an amazing relationship. We were honest with each other, he was so incredibly supportive, and we were so in love. Because I was so happy and confident with our relationship I decided to give him 5 passes to have sex while we were apart. He agreed and thanked me and told me the 5 passes applied to me as well. However, I told him there would be some rules. The rules were: no cuddling/sleeping with the other person, can’t sleep with a same person twice and the biggest rule of all was that we must be honest about it. I told him multiple times this rule was extremely important and it goes hand in hand with the pass. No honesty, no free pass.

About a month into the long distance, he told me he doesn’t want to use the passes. I was secretly a bit happy because I thought it was since he was just so in love with me.

Fast forward to Christmas. I went to visit him for three weeks and we had an amazing holiday travelling around his home country. I was always a little shocked that he didn’t use his passes because before me he had slept with quite a few women and was (still is a little bit but I don’t mind) quite flirtatious. So I asked him once or twice to give him the chance to fess up in case he didn’t have the heart to do so before. Both times I asked he said no.

Fast forward to March where we finally close the gap and he moves to Canada (where I live) permanently. The second day he arrives he tells me he used one of his passes while he was away. My initial reaction was surprise but I really wasn’t that shocked because I was more shocked by the fact that he had the opportunity to sleep with other women and didn’t use it. I wasn’t hurt as well because he told me it was very mechanic and he respected the rules (she left right after the act and he never kept contact with her). But then I started wondering…..”if he used 1 of his tickets why wouldn’t he have used more?”. So a few days later I asked him if he was being completely honest and he finally admitted he had used all of his passes. But then he told me that one girl slept over and another girl he saw twice (and on the second time she slept over). I was so saddened by this. He told me he was scared to tell me when we were apart because he wouldn’t be there to comfort me while he was away and he didn’t want to tell me at the Christmas break because he didn’t want to ruin our small amount of time we had together. I trust him on this because he is a really really nice guy and I know he hates the idea of me being hurt. Every time I cry he cries.

He’s apologized and I know he feels sorry for what he did but I just can’t get it out of my head. For the first month he arrived we talked/fought about it a lot and every time he apologizes but I still find myself thinking about it. I feel like the relationship isn’t the same and I don’t feel the same about of security and love that I used to feel.

Does anyone have any advice?”

Canadian Dumpling on /r/nonmonogamy.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

Dear Canadian Dumpling,

I am really sorry to hear that you experienced such a betrayal in trust. It sounds like you’ve done your best and gave him many opportunities to be honest with you about what happened. It is truly heartbreaking to hear how many times he has neglected to be honest with you about what happened.

The “ethics” portion of ethical non-monogamy compels every participant to seek consensual and mindful connection with not just new connections but also to maintain strong connections with our existing relationships. As you have outlined as one of your rules, honesty is absolutely crucial for any relationship – not just ones that are ethically non-monogamous – to be successful.

And let’s talk about honesty. You said that honesty was one of the core rules in which your non-monogamous agreement functioned. And even as you’ve repeated so, it was something that your partner should have understood was important even without the reminder. His failure to disclose his other experience appears to be a firm agreement/boundary violation for you, as would be for many other non-mono folks. His failure to communicate put you at a level of emotional and sexual safety risk that you did not consent to. Even if we give your partner the benefit of the doubt that the timing of his revelation (i.e. waiting until March after he moved in with you) was benevolent, I’m afraid that his behavior would fall under cheating.

What is infidelity but a misguided act of deceit?

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

It is important to first acknowledge your pain that stems from these continued acts of betrayal. He failed you in multitude of ways. He failed to communicate with you which put you at a risk of contracting STI from an unknown vector. He also failed to uphold his own agreed boundaries with others by sleeping with a same partner more than once. In addition, he also failed to fully disclose to what extent his violation of your boundaries has been. Instead, he opted to drip and drip little revelation one after another.

It could be possible that his inability -if his failure to communicate is indeed his lack of ability – could stem from a sense of mono-normative guilt. That for him, he could see his sleeping with others felt unethical and wrong, even with your direct consent. Many of us do have to actively deprogram several beliefs hammered into us from early age. But I don’t really know if that is a price of admission that you need to pay for on his behalf. And if he did have such a difficult time revealing to his girlfriend that he slept with other women, it could also be possible that he also struggled or failed to disclose that he had a girlfriend when he slept with these four women. So in essence, he didn’t just cheat on you; he cheated on five total women by failing to disclose his sexual/relational risk profile in a timely manner. No amount of apology is going to be able to bring him back to the first person he slept with post-agreement. The damage is already done.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

There are several different ways this can play out.

Closing the relationship (if you haven’t already done so) would be the most obvious first step. Trust has eroded to the point of no return. So take this time to get tested for STI risk then assess where your relationship stands.

Dig deep and discuss what led to this constant miscommunication. If it is something internal to himself, you’re going to need to see some indications of progress. Whether that is through self-improvement or therapy to resolve guilt, that improvement will need to be initiated and committed to for and by himself.

Work little bit at a time to re-establish trust. With what has transpired, you and your partner are going to need some time to heal and rebuild something anew. It could be possible that the next phase of your now-local relationship could look a lot like what it was prior to your long distance experience. But it is in no way assumed or guaranteed in the same way that a garden after a replanting consists of wholly different plants. Even if you end up picking out the same plants, it won’t be the same garden. And it won’t be the same relationship.

I’m really sorry that this happened to you. My heart really goes out to you and I sincerely hope that you and your partner can find some healing, either individually or as a couple.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – My boyfriend watches too much porn [NSFW].

“We [25F] [23M] are in a long distance relationship and about 3 months in while staying at his parents house for a week I walked in on him watching porn while he said he was packing for a trip. Ever since then I noticed a pattern of him watching porn or looking at explicit photos of women behind my back. I say behind my back because I told him that while we are apart I don’t care if he watches porn but to please not do it while we are together in person. He agreed to this. Almost every time we had/have sex it is initiated by me. He often can’t maintain an erection during sex either. This worried me and I made the mistake of checking his internet history to find he had been watching porn while I was in class, at work or sleeping. Every time I bring it up he tells me he won’t do it or blatantly denies it. I’m not really sure what to do at this point anymore. The people I confided in told me that they think it’s best to break up but is there another solution?”

/u/nvbii, /r/relationship_advice.

Photo by Huỳnh Đạt on Pexels.com

Dear NVBII,

There is a major communicative and sexual disconnect taking place in your relationship with your boyfriend. The fact that he is dishonest with you about his porn usage actually reveals a bigger issue than whether or not he can maintain an erection. At least his inability to maintain an erection can be explained away by his porn usage. His inability to be honest with you about how his porn usage is impacting your sex life is very concerning. I wonder to what extent that hesitation is a manifestation of social conditioning that porn usage is to be ashamed for and how much of that is determined by your personal perspective on his porn usage.

And let’s talk specifically about his porn usage. Different folks masturbate differently. But a lot of guys do masturbate because there is a lot less pressure to perform in masturbation. You only have to please yourself and your eyes and hands are basically doing all the work. Adding more pressure around his performance is only going to drive you further and further apart. I get the sense that you’re very bothered by his dishonesty as much as how his usage affects your sex life with him. If this is how he likes to conduct his own sexual headspace, then this might just reflect mismatch on sexual chemistry. You’ve already communicated your expectations around his porn usage (“Since we are in a long distance relationship, please limit your porn usage so that we can have more intercourse when I’m in town.”), so the next steps might be to reiterate your agreement. Have him recommit to the agreement you’ve made and hold him responsible for breaking your agreements.

I also don’t think you made a mistake in checking his browser history. Dan Savage often says snooping isn’t wrong when the act of snooping is justified (even retroactively). You found what you needed to find – evidence of broken agreement – and the best thing to do is to address what you found.

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I strongly disagree with your people that you need to breakup. So I’ll provide a couple alternative solutions in place of a breakup.

It is always surprising to hear to what extent male sexuality is linked to the ability to maintain an erection. That if we cannot get or stay hard, then we are somehow less of a man. Truth is that male sexuality is much more than just our genitals, just like female sexuality. We have larger erogenous zones that isn’t just our penises, despite what mainstream porn claims. We are much more than our penises. We have fingers, tongue, lips, and other body parts to which we can augment with sex toys.

Your boyfriend is much more than his penis. If your boyfriend really cannot maintain an erection during intercourse, he has fingers, tongue, lips, and other body parts to which he can augment with sex toys to help please you. If you feel that genital penetration (or at least simulation of) needs to happen in your sexual intercourse, he can always wear a strap on to simulate penetrative intercourse. If he refuses to wear a strap on, he can always hold a dildo with a flared base near his pelvic area to simulate the same sensation of penetrative intercourse. You might have a deeper issue if he further disregards your sexual needs by refusing to please you in other ways – orally or digitally – while he pleases himself through masturbation.

If none of these alternatives above work for you and your boyfriend, kindly remind your boyfriend that long distance relationships are hard enough without that sexual disconnect even in close proximity. If your boyfriend continues to disregard your sexual needs in place of his own immediate satisfaction, ask yourself if all of this is a price of admission worth paying to be in this long distance, sexually dysfunctional relationship with your boyfriend.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – Do I trust what he has posted online?

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/u/confusedandfurious writes on /r/relationship_advice…

“My [25F] boyfriend [28M] “met” on /r/r4r. We’ve been talking all day every day for the past 2 months. Lots of FaceTime calls. He is visiting for the first time at the end of the month. We are in different states. He’s on the West Coast and I’m on the East Coast.

Now, to the advice I need. I never went through his history on Reddit. I never had the urge to. He gave me his main account and the throwaway but I never bothered checking through his history until today.

Almost everything he has told me is a contradiction from his posts. Examples: -He told me he wanted 2 kids, max. The history from like 2 months ago states he doesn’t want kids. -He told me had a friendship that he felt a romantic connection back in the summer with but hasn’t dated anyone in a while. Several posts mention his “lady,” as recently as 4 months ago. I’m scratching my head as to who his “lady” was.

I don’t even know how to bring that up to him. I’ve had months to go through it and I didn’t. And now, I’m starting to feel like I don’t even know him.

Last, but not least, all of his conversations with me are turning sexual. We’ve talked sexual in the past, but this is literally almost every message he sends to me. He’s told me in the past that when he visits (next week) we don’t have to do anything I’m not comfortable with. But, the messages he’s sending now states otherwise.

He dropped close to $1k for the visit here..flight and hotel. Now, I’m worried that I don’t know him. Now, I’m worried that he’s only coming here for sex. But, surely he wouldn’t spend that kind of money to get laid right?

So, please fellow Redditors. Give me advice. Do I trust what he’s posted online or what he’s told me? Do I believe that he’s truly coming here for me or just for sex?

I’m doubting everything right now. I’m positive I’m just in my own head.”

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Dear Confused and Furious,

The first thought that came to my mind was that two months is an awfully short amount of time, even if you spoke for every single day. Clearly, you have discovered things about his personhood that is questioning the idea of who he has been with you for the past two months. But then again, I’ve had my fair share of intense two month flings and strong long distance connections that I could confidently claim to know all the important things about my partners at that point.

I will point out that neither of the things you pointed out are contradictory to what you’ve discovered about him. He could both have not wanted to have kids two months ago as he was talking about children online, while still wanting one or two kids with someone like you. And he can still feel a romantic connection with someone and refer to that person as a lady without explicitly dating. Stepping away from the specifics of what he is representing on his online persona and recognizing if the broad strokes of his online persona matches with his offline persona would be much more important in assessing whether he has been truthful with you.

What’s more concerning was the general tone of the messages leaning a little too heavy on sexual aspect. I am assuming that the “end of month” you referenced is the end of this month which is in a couple of days. And while I do think that there is a minor difference between “not doing anything you’re not comfortable with” and expecting sex when he comes into town, I think you should vocalize and communicate if you do want to set a specific boundary on not having sex the first time he comes over. It doesn’t matter how much money he has spent on the flight to and the stay at where you are staying; he is not “owed” any sex for visiting you. Sexual consent is proactive and continuous. And you are wholly within your own ethics to not pursue or stop pursuing any sexual relationship with anyone ever.

If he is the type to balk at actually not doing something you don’t feel comfortable doing, then your initial feelings of concerns are justified. Seeing him and interacting with him in person should give you a better idea of what you saw on his reddit profile than anything online strangers can tell you. You do know him the best out of all of us since you’ve talked to him every day for the past two months. So at least allow him an opportunity to be who he claims he is.

Good luck!

Advice – How can I get over my cheating ex?

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/u/pineapple1715 writes on /r/relationship_advice…

“[She [34F] and I [24F]] were together for three years, lived together for two. We were amazing and everyone loved us together. We were so happy and she planned to propose and took me to try on rings 6 months ago.

Due to immigration reasons I had to go home for 5 months. After 3 months of her being amazing she suddenly got distant and then she came to visit me in my home country and I caught a text between her and one of my friends.

I confronted them and they admitted they started seeing each other behind my back. She told me she “fell out of love with me” but yet was planning my move back and living together and looking at apartments with me.

She brought this girl home to our apartment. Someone who used to be my friend. They both betrayed me. I was so in love with my gf and she destroyed me. Now they’re “talking” and my ex friend blocked me on everything.

Now my ex is telling me she loves me and just dealt with the distance badly and she just convinced herself she fell out of love at the same time she’s still texting my ex friend she cheated with.

I don’t know how to let go of this. I don’t know how to get over this. Please help me. It’s been a month and I have barely slept, barely eaten and I have anxiety all the time. “

Dear Pineapple 1715,

I am really sorry to hear you are having such a difficult time. It sounds like you’ve had a very intimate and intense relationship with this person when it all came crashing down. I really feel for your history with this person, your pain, and the loss of not just the relationship but also the friendship you had with the ex-friend your ex-partner cheated with.

Let’s start with this. You did not do anything wrong in this relationship. You are not responsible for your ex’s mistakes and infidelity. You are also not responsible for your ex’s emotions. Long distance relationships are just really fucking hard to do. I’ve been there. I’ve had a handful of long distance relationships as well. But long distance is NOT an excuse to cheat. I need you to accept that you do not have any personal responsibility in the end of your relationship here.

What you do have a personal responsibility for is to continue to look out for and take care of yourself. Take some time to treat yourself, forgive yourself, and absolve yourself of any guilt you might have over this experience. One of the ways you can take a better care of yourself is by distancing yourself from this incredibly traumatic experience, and allowing yourself patience & time to heal.

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It is time to establish some very firm boundaries regarding your ex. Your ex was not the person you initially fell in love with. If there is a future space for a friendship to develop, it will be a completely new one devoid of any past pains. It’ll be akin to a total transformation, built back up from the barest foundations. Until then, you need to determine if these interactions with your ex are hurting you more than helping you. If you decide that they are doing more harm than heal, consider at least a couple months of complete no-contact while your open wounds close up. If you receive a text, ignore it. If you get an email, set it aside. You will not be held hostage to a series of mistake someone else made. You’ll know if you ever feel ready to get back in contact with your ex. Until then, keep her at a distance.

But mostly, you need to allow yourself time and patience to heal and recover. You might never be the same person you were before this happened. The way your ex has completely and dispassionately taken advantage of your trust is something you are going to have to work on recovering.

You might never truly get over this experience. And that’s okay. Baggages are necessary part of human experience. How else are we supposed to travel through life without our belongings?

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – Should I date even if I am not settled yet?

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Anonymous writes…

“I [25F] want to move to a big city sometime next year, because I want to change companies. Right now I live in a small city, and don’t like this company. I’ve been mostly single for a while now, and have interest in dating.

But how would this work if I know I may move? I’m probably someone who will always want to move jobs at least every couple years. Is it worth dating at all, or worth dating someone who doesn’t like big cities to settle in? What if he doesnt want to live in a big city?

I feel like I get so ahead of myself- I want them to fit my life the moment I meet them. Do I continue dating, or no?”

Dear Anonymous…

I’ll start by telling you something personal about me.

Majority of my relationships have been long distance. There was a point when I was dating someone in London while I lived in Chicago and New York. My girlfriend back then had very little intentions to come visit me in the States. But we still made that relationship work. In between long emails and frequent Skype calls, we made it work somehow.

What I am trying to say is that relationships will always take work, but you can make it work with the people that matter to you. Short-term dating that is a grade above NSA hookups but a tad below serious relationships could be the grey area that you might find yourself swimming in. Establishing firm boundaries and expectations and keeping your partner included in the decisions you are making will be instrumental in helping you build the relationships you want to build. Not everyone wants to have a “forever” relationship. So be on the look out for those people. Allow those relationships to build up organically and naturally over time without too much structure. And eventually learn to let those relationships go.

If you decide to pursue periodic phases of long-distance relationships, there are websites like Kast (formerly known as rabb.it) that allow you to watch shows or movies in real time. There are apps like Marco Polo that allow you to send video messages to each other without being present at the same time.

You love the people you think you deserve. One of the most satisfying and emotionally rewarding relationship I have ever been in only lasted a couple months. And just because it ended doesn’t mean it wasn’t a worthwhile time investment for each of us.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – My friend is dating someone much older.

/u/SelectStand on /r/relationships writes…

“…They’ve been dating long distance for about 2 years and they live in the same state, but roughly 8 hours apart. He [21M] never talked about her [33F] voluntarily, and I [26M] never really pressed it. However, our friends and I enjoy conspiring about it out of curiosity since he’s so hush-hush. He’s definitely private-person over-all. But one night, we were hanging out and I asked him point-blank about his semi-secretive relationship because the topic had come up. He admitted she’s 12 years older and the dynamic isn’t perfect. He sounds like he likes her a lot (seemed a bit shy about saying ‘love’), but he’s having a really hard time adjusting to the fact that they never see each other and that maybe he’s being naive dating such an older woman. Which to be frank, I think it IS a bit naive…but is it crazy that I think it’s a horrible idea? I mean, they live far apart, she’s 12 years older and is in a completely different place in life. He’s in his 3rd year of university and she’s been working as a lawyer for several years now. I don’t understand why a grown woman, who has explicitly stated she wants to settle down and have children one day, is interested in a 21 year old university student. I’d say he holds himself quite well, and when we met I figured he was older – sure…but the ‘maturity’ of someone is really subjective so.

Since then, he confides in me frequently and always asks me what I think. I try my best to be impartial because I don’t think he feels comfortable talking to anyone else about it and I don’t want to pass judgment. Probably because he’s reserved in general. But he’s able to articulate the situation well and seems to have a good understanding of the underlining problem….so I really don’t know how to express to him how weird I feel about the situation (or if I even SHOULD give him my opinion), but I’m not entirely certain if I have a right to tell him I think it’s strange. Is it the correct opinion to believe he’s being pressured by an older partner and he’s risking ‘growing up too fast’ and ending up in a situation he really doesn’t want to be in. It seems unusual to me, and maybe there’s more to the story than he’s letting on. I mean…if the gender roles were reversed, how would I feel, right?

What do you think reddit? Should I tell him to get out now or maybe just let him work it out and just be there for him?”

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Dear SelectStand,

You are a great friend. Your friend is lucky to have you. But I also think that there are some obvious ambivalence and cognitive dissonance in your post that stand out to me. On one hand, you are looking out for your friend’s best interest. But on the other hand, you can also recognize that you are a bit removed from his relationship to know if your perspective is really that unbiased here.

So let’s start with that. I have personally seen a lot of men – myself included – struggle with the different skill required for one-directional listening compared to providing fundamental advice. When your friend decided to come to you to talk about his relationship, he could be asking just for a sympathetic ear because you have been so nonjudgmental about his relationship so far. Forming strong platonic bond among other guys can be tricky, especially in support of their romantic relationship. So please do keep it in mind to not take advantage of this safe and vulnerable space that you two have co-created together.

I also believe that you are within your own rights to feel discomfort on behalf of your friend. Obviously, your friend is much more romantically and emotionally entangled with his partner. If you are seeing obvious warning signs (i.e manipulation on her part, taking obvious advantage of her age gap), then you should stand up and say something. But short of obvious abuse signs, your opinions are just that – your opinions.

I do not think that it would be a fair assessment to flip the genders here and expect the same results. I strongly believe that the differences here are too wide to apply the same logic. There are couple really great things here to support their relationship. The length of their relationship is a good sign. His relative maturity compared to his age – that even you recognized – is another good sign. And it honestly sounds like she has been doing her best to communicate her expectations and needs pretty well and fairly without disregarding your friend’s place in life.

So continue to be there for your friend, as a support. And celebrate his happiness.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!