Category Archives: love

Savage Love Re-Answer: My Wife Got Fat!

This question was originally answered by Dan Savage on November 22, 2007. It’s not particularly special as questions go, Dan Savage always answers questions like this the same: tell your partner to lose weight because you think they are ugly. What a load of crap. Content note for fat-shaming, cancer and surgery. Also, there may be some cussing.

Question: I love my wife. We’ve been married 10 years. Young punk-rock love turned into adult debt-ridden love. She’s been there for me, helps me achieve my goals, all that. But she’s let herself go, while I’ve gotten myself into better shape.

I pride myself on being a good husband. I’ve been 100 percent faithful, I clean, I tell her I love her. I don’t want to hurt her. I love her. I just don’t lust for her anymore. My wife’s skin is a mess, she has dietary issues that cause gnarly gas, she eats bad food that causes her to gain weight. I always thought I was against the society-imposed, magazine-model, porn-star look girls are supposed to have. So it’s hard for me to admit that I’m not cool enough to think my wife is hot the way she is.

I’ve started stoning to dull the fact that I’m hating on myself for not being hot for my wife. She’s picking up on all of this, which is affecting her mood, self-esteem, and energy levels. And since she tends to eat more when things aren’t going well for us, this is creating a hugely negative feedback loop on the weight-and-lust fronts.

When almost any girl you see is hotter to you than your wife… what the fuck do you do? When the desire to be with someone who actually turns you on is overwhelming… what the fuck do you do? When people you find attractive, women and men, hit on you all the time… what the fuck do you do?

Hawt And Royally Depressed

HARD, you knew what Dan was going to say when you wrote him, didn’t you? You knew that he would validate your disinterest in your wife, didn’t you?
You’re both assholes.

You claim to love your wife, and you claim to be a good husband. And yet, you say terrible things about your wife and expect her to change for you so you can get laid. That’s not a good husband, and that’s not love.

I mean, do you really expect her not to fart? Or to somehow be able to change the smell of her gas to make her more attractive to you? That’s incredible, and completely unrealistic.

What’s also unrealistic? Expecting your partner’s body to never change in the course of your relationship. Every one of us goes through physical changes in our life, many having nothing to do with our level of fitness or what we eat. Most of them are about getting old, which is better than the alternative.

Or, maybe we change because of illness.  If your wife suddenly became ill with breast cancer, and she lost her hair from chemo and had mastectomy, would she be unattractive to you then, and would you feel comfortable making demands on her about her appearance? If the answer is yes, you are a shallow dipshit.

I don’t want to imply that being physically attracted to our partners doesn’t matter, I know that it does for most folks. But, we don’t fall in love with a body. We fall in love with a person.

Dan Savage gives the same advice to questions like this over and over: tell your partner you aren’t attracted to her/him anymore because s/he is fat now, and unless they lose weight, the sexytimes are over for good, and maybe the relationship too. He focuses on the weight gain as the problem, rather than the inability of the partner to continue to find her/his partner attractive, which is likely as the result of diminished connection. He tries to cushion his fat hate by saying things like, “Of course fat people deserve love and sex, but that doesn’t mean we’re all required to be attracted to them!” Which, ostensibly, is true. We’re not required to be attracted to anyone, but when we’re talking long term relationships, advice like “Don’t ever let your body be different from the day you fell in love” is ridiculous.

That’s just shitty advice, and Dan Savage is also a shallow dipshit.

The problem is not your wife’s, HARD, it’s yours. Lots, and I mean lots, of relationships lose the sexual spark as time passes. And that’s true even if everyone stays at the same weight, shape and size as the day they met.It happens for a lot of reasons, some of them natural and some of them situational. Some of them can be worked out, and some of them can’t. Most of the time though, it has more to do with the connection the people feel toward each other rather than physical changes. Do you feel connected to your wife? Does she feel connected to you?

You are looking for excuses, and it just so happens your wife has gained weight and farts sometimes. Give yourself a break, but more importantly, give your wife a break. It’s good that you love her. Love her enough to evaluate what you’re bringing to the table in your relationship. Love her enough to understand that she is more than her body, but that her body is beautiful just as it is. Maybe you aren’t putting yourself out there in a way that’s attractive to her, pal. Maybe you need to put the toilet seat down, pick up your own dirty socks and stop wearing tightie whities. Show her some respect, and let her know you love her.

Work on feeling connected. Earlier this week, at work, we did the an exercise to establish connection with each other. It takes about 30 minutes, and is fairly intense.  Start out by sitting across from each other, and with eyes closed, focus on breathing. Eventually, you’ll work into having steady eye contact and  visualizing your partner’s life-beginning to end. Visualize her struggles, her triumphs, her birth, her childhood, her adolescence, falling in love with you, being with you, growing older, changing, dying. All of it. Ask her to do the same with your life. Then talk about how it felt, and be honest. The whole exercise can be found here, and if you can, ask someone to guide you by reading it as you go through it together.

Cardinal Rule: Don’t be a shallow dipshit, and work on being connected to your partner. If you aren’t feeling attracted to your wife, maybe it’s you that needs to do some work. Love is a verb, after all.

 

I Owe, I Owe, So Off to the Bedroom I Go? Nope.

content notes for sexual coercion, sexual assault, disregard for autonomy

Melissa and I snuggling.

Melissa and I snuggling.

My friend Melissa McEwan, of Shakesville, has asked me to address…well, here’s her question:

One of the positions Dan Savage has taken which has received widespread criticism is that romantic partners essentially owe each other sex.  Can you address that assertion, and why it’s a total piece of shit?

One of Dan’s oft-cited rules is the “GGG”: a partner must strive to be good in bed, be giving of equal time and attention and be game for anything (within reason). There is some science out there that has been interpreted to back up Dan’s rule, and ostensibly, GGG is about being caring and open about your desires with your partner, and as such, is reasonable advice.

But it doesn’t stop there. Dan Savage is, as Melissa pointed out, in the habit of dishing out this advice to mean that we are obliged to have sex with our partners/dates, and we are obliged to indulge all of their fantasies and fetishes without regard to our own comfort.

To be frank: this is bullshit of the highest order. Melissa brings up the very real harm that Dan Savage’s crappy advice can do. The way Dan presents it, GGG means that no one has a right to say no to their partners, and if we want to be a good partner with a lasting relationship, we will acquiesce to all of our partner’s sexual desires. He is saying this without regard to the ways that abusive partners use language like the GGG rule to manipulate and control their partners, and without regard to a rape culture that privileges the sexual desires of men to the point of entitlement.

We are never under any obligation to have sex with anyone, at any time, for any reason. Nor are we under any obligation to have whatever kind of sex our partner wants to have.

To put it another way, my body belongs to me. I will choose how and when I am sexually intimate with anyone, including my partner. I am not being selfish if I don’t want to have sex. My partner’s body belongs to her, and she will choose how and when to be sexually intimate with anyone, including me. She’s not being selfish if she doesn’t want to have sex.

When I do relationship education with young people, one of the exercises I use is a collective brainstorm of the qualities we want in a partner. The lists are long and varied. Funny, kind, ambitious, smart, hard-working, etc. I help them see that we all have different lists, different qualities that are most important. But there are three that are non-negotiable: Respectful, Trusting/Trustworthy and Safe. If we want a partner to bring these things, we must also give them.

Expecting that our partners owe us sex is not respectful, and it’s not safe. No one is entitled to sex.

Repeat, for effect: SEX IS NOT AN ENTITLEMENT.  Not even when you’re married, living together, have had sex 8,345 times, or you’re just really, really randy.

The other aspect of the GGG that disregards consent and autonomy is the idea that we should be game for anything our partner has in mind (which Dan adds a “within reason” to, but who is he kidding? I am sure a lawyer told him to add that.). Any kink they want to try, we should be open to trying.

I am not one to yuck someone else’s yum, unless it’s coercive, illegal or whatnot, but that doesn’t mean I am obliged to try out all the yums my partner might fancy. We are not obligated to participate in sexual activity that we do not want to, period.

A better piece of advice is to be game to listen to your partner’s desires. Be open to hearing what turns your partner on in his or her fantasy life. Don’t judge, but be honest with your desires. Express them, and respect your partner’s response. That’s safe, and trusting, and respectful.

Cardinal Rule: Sex should be fun, safe and consensual EVERY SINGLE TIME.  Sex is not an entitlement, nor an obligation.

Tanked Desire: Does No Sex = The End of My Relationship?

Content Notes for sex, juvenile humor, and medical issues.

Question: Other than a recent, brief and dissatisfying encounter, my SO and I haven’t had sex in a very long time. At the beginning of our relationship, we were very sexually active but my desire over the course of the last few years has completely tanked. I still very much love and am attracted to my SO, but I worry about our future. How do I regain my mojo and how do I know if this is a sign that our relationship is reaching the end?

Signed,

Worried About The End

Dear WATE,

Oh, man. I wish I had a magic pill for you to take, or a guaranteed to work recipe. This is tough, and I am sorry.

First, are there any physiological or psychological reasons for the decline in libido, like perimenopause, actual menopause, or even depression or other illnesses? You might want to investigate the side effects of medication you are on. Many common anti-depressants, for example, can cause a decrease in libido.

Second, are there environmental reasons? Did a new little person join your family in the last few years? Are you super-stressed out because of work or school or money? These things can all change our sex lives, sometimes dramatically.

And sometimes, we’re just in a rut or we just don’t want to have sex. Or,  we don’t want to have sex with the person we’re with. All of these things are okay, you are okay, and it’s normal. As far as I know, this is the least freaky thing about you. Probably.

If you’re in a rut, I suggest starting with a conversation with your SO. Does ze feel like something is amiss right now? What are the other ways the two of you find intimacy with one another? Can you identify what barriers you see or feel?

Sex is just one of the many possible ways to express and experience intimacy with a significant other, and we are all different.  Try exploring some other avenues to intimacy. What you may find is that a lack of intimacy is why the sexy times have been hard to come by. Heh. Sorry.

birds2For real, though, look for opportunities to be intimate every day. Cuddle before bed. Have dinner by candlelight, share and listen. Give each other back rubs. Play a board game. Hold hands while driving or walking around. Run errands together. Ask “getting to know you questions”, even if you think you know everything about each other.

Many of us have these romantic visions of what our sex lives are supposed to be like: spontaneous, plentiful, void of drama or misunderstandings, and perfectly matched in libido to our partner(s). That just ain’t reality, especially for the long haul. I say this as preamble to my next suggestion: plan it.

Plan a date, full of whatever is romantic for both of you, as elaborate as you want or can afford, and that you both agree to. Of course, the date may come and one or both of you is not into having sexy times, and that’s okay. But still have some romance, and keep trying. It might not be super-organic, this jump starting process. That might not feel good. Then again, maybe scheduled sexy times is just what you both want most of all! Just always keep it consensual, knowing that either one of you can change your mind or the calendar any time.

If you are really concerned that this might be the end of your relationship, what else is going on to make you feel that way? It’s quite possible to love and be attracted to someone and not want to share your life with them, or even have sex with them. A partner is so much more than an attractive person to have sex with, a partner is a complement to our lives, a companion, sometimes a co-parent, and a lover (by which I mean a person with whom one has intimacy which may or may not include sexy times in the traditional sense). A relationship is over when it is deficient in multiple areas and the efforts earnestly put toward repair don’t work.

Cardinal Rule: Prioritize intimacy over sex, and be sincere in your efforts. If  the end is nigh, you probably already know. Be gentle with yourself.

Good luck, my friend.

Savage Love Re-Answer: “Double Trouble”

Dan Savage originally answered this question at Savage Love on October 21, 2010, and he did a piss poor job of it. His answer was fraught with victim-blaming, shaming and unnecessary judgment. I have a policy of not linking to his site, but you can do an archive search at Savage Love if you really want to see the original.

Question: My husband and I have had an open marriage for the last two years. Up until five months ago, it was working beautifully. At that point, however, I was sexually assaulted by a former partner. Since that incident, I cannot stand sex with my husband. I completely flip out when he tries to initiate sexual contact. My skin crawls. I become panicked and feel repulsed. I just cannot handle it. Those times when I go along with it anyway leave me feeling enraged and disgusted.

I don’t think this is completely unheard of for someone who was relatively recently assaulted, and I am considering therapy to help me work through it. The immediate “problem” is that I have no difficulty having sex with my boyfriend. In fact, the sex with him is amazing and leaves me feeling loved and whole and wonderful.

This is breaking my husband’s heart. He has become incredibly jealous of my relationship with my boyfriend. He’s depressed. He’s angry. He accuses me of no longer loving him, and he wants me to stop sleeping with my boyfriend until our marriage is back to normal. I feel like a horrible person, but I just can’t do that. I need that outlet. I need that support. And I admit I have a hard time heartbelieving that my husband and I will ever be able to go back to the way things were before.

I feel like I’ve already lost my former partner (fucked-up though that may seem) and my husband. It kills me to think about cutting out the one positive relationship remaining. On the other hand, I do love my husband—very much—and watching him suffer like this is unbearable.

Potentially Traumatized Sexual Deviant

Dear PTSD,

Wow, I am so sorry. This all sounds so difficult, and it’s great that you are asking for help.

First things first, I strongly encourage you to seek out a trained sexual assault counselor to help you start the journey to healing. Most sexual assault service agencies provide counseling that is based on an empowerment model, and best of all:  it’s usually free for survivors. You can find out what agency serves your community through RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE. I’m not 100% in support of all of the things RAINN does, but they can connect you, immediately, to the local sexual assault service agency.  Even if you don’t have time to sit down with a counselor, you can use the crisis and support hotline.

For the affiliated troubles, it sounds like you have some hard decisions to make about your relationships with both your husband and your boyfriend. It also doesn’t sound like your husband is being very supportive (and perhaps your boyfriend is), and maybe he is feeling wounded because his wife was sexually assaulted. I have no patience for that. It didn’t happen to him.

It’s reasonable that he would have feelings like sadness or anger about the sexual assault, but it’s not reasonable for him to hold you responsible for those feelings, as if you did something to him. What does he hope to get  if you stop the sexual relationship with your boyfriend? Does he think it’s a magic fix? If you are feeling repulsed by the idea of having sex with your husband, that doesn’t have anything to do with your boyfriend. It has more to do with your husband, and his reaction to your ex sexually assaulting you.

There are  places he can seek support as the SO of a sexual assault survivor, FYI.

CARDINAL RULE: You don’t owe your husband sex, but you should probably be honest and direct. If you are feeling unsupported, say so. Let him know what might be supportive. If you are committed to staying married to him, being honest about how his demands make you feel might just be a good start to a new chapter in your lives. Maybe there is room for compromise on your sexual relationship with your boyfriend, If he’s not willing to hear it, then it may be time for some marriage-related navel-gazing for both of you.

Good luck, and again, I am so sorry that this happened to you. Keep me posted.

Cristy