We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today’s topic: what to do if your partner is into something sexually that you're not.
Q: I’ve been dating a girl for about six months, and it’s starting to get serious. We recently started talking about sexual fantasies, and she mentioned that she’s really into the idea of using a strap-on and pretending to be a guy. I have to admit that I was totally shocked when she said it. I’m only interested in women, and I’m not at all into the idea of pretending to be with a man. It was such a turn-off that I feel like I should walk away, but my feelings for her are so strong. What should I do?
A: Thanks for your question! The predicament you’re in boils down to a question of compatibility. The issue is whether or not her sexual desires will fit with yours. I don’t think you have enough information yet to make that decision, so let’s go over seven steps for what to do when your partner is into something that you’re not.
1. Don’t Judge
First, I want to encourage you not to judge your girlfriend for her desires. Sex researchers don’t understand why people develop certain fantasies, but having fantasies is a perfectly normal part of human sexuality. As long as it’s happening between consenting adults, what she likes in bed doesn’t say anything about who she is as a person. Her desires being different from yours doesn’t make them “wrong” or “bad”.
Talking about fantasies is incredibly vulnerable. She showed you a lot of trust by sharing hers, and you should treat her disclosure with the respect it deserves. Tell her, “thanks for opening up to me the other day. I’m sorry if I didn’t respond in the best way. I needed some time to think about it on my own, but I’m ready to have a more open conversation now.”
2. Ask Questions
At this point, you don’t really know all that much about this fantasy other than the fact that she has thought about it. You don’t even know if she actually wants to act out this fantasy! Lots of people have fantasies that they enjoy talking about, but don’t necessarily want to try in real life. If you’re still interested in seeing her, you’ll need to make sure you understand what she’s looking for.
Ask her, “the other day when you were talking about that fantasy, is it something you want to try out in real life? Do you want to try it with me?” Ask her to describe the specific details of what turns her on about this fantasy. Try to keep an open mind and be respectful as she shares, even if you’re still turned off by the fantasy itself. Having more information about her desires will help you decide what your next steps should be.
3. Explore Your Resistance
I know you said that you’re not interested in enacting this fantasy with your girlfriend. We all have the right to our own sexual boundaries, so it’s perfectly OK if you’re not interested in that particular fantasy. You should never feel pressured to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing.
At the same time, I still think it’s useful for each of us to regularly examine and question our boundaries. The point is not to change your own mind, but to be curious about yourself and your own desires. Is there something specific about her role-playing a guy or her using a strap-on that triggers you? Does it evoke memories of another experience or relationship? What specific feelings come up for you? Is there anything you can learn about yourself?
4. Find Out If This Is A Deal-Breaker
Everyone has different relationships with their fantasies, and some fantasies feel much more important than others. As I said above, many people like talking about their fantasies, but don’t want to act them out in real life. Some people would be thrilled to live out their fantasies, but wouldn’t be crushed if they never turned into a reality. For others, their fantasies are such a crucial part of their sexual identity that not participating in them would feel like betraying themselves.
Once you’ve learned more details about your girlfriend’s fantasy, you’ll want to get a sense of whether or not this is a deal-breaker for her. Say something like, “I’m trying to get a sense of my own comfort level. I respect your desires, but I’m not sure it’s something that I can be a part of. I really care about you and don’t want you to feel like your needs aren’t being met, so I want to get a sense of how important this fantasy is to you.”
5. Try To Find Middle Ground
If you and your girlfriend don’t want to end your relationship over this fantasy, one option is to see if there’s a way to compromise. Together, can you brainstorm any ways to play with her fantasy while still maintaining your comfort? For example, maybe you wouldn’t mind using a strap-on, as long as she’s not role-playing a guy. Maybe you’d be fine playing with the strap-on as long as it’s not penetrating you. Or maybe you would be willing to call her a boy’s name as you’re having sex. There are lots of possibilities.
6. Consider Letting Her Explore Elsewhere
If you can’t find any middle ground with her fantasy, another option is to consider letting her explore her fantasy outside of the relationship. Is there a way for her to get what she wants without you having to participate? Maybe she can play with her strap-on by herself, or film herself masturbating. Can she watch porn of other women using strap-ons, or role-playing? Or would you feel comfortable allowing her to hook up with someone else? In that case, you could consider making it a one-time-only thing, or creating a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. Again, there are lots of options!
7. Be Willing To Walk Away
At the end of the day, there’s a very real possibility that the two of you may not be able to make this work. If this fantasy is really important to her, and if you feel strongly about not participating, the best thing to do is part ways. You don’t want to wind up asking her to betray a part of her identity, nor do you want to force yourself to neglect your boundaries.
I know it’s hard to end an otherwise good relationship, but it may be the right thing to do for both of you.
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