‘My girlfriend is sexting another man’
Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au's weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred. This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie tackles a man who is suspicious of his girlfriend's "friend with benefits", a woman who is bored with her husband's sexual repertoire and a woman feeling rejected by her boyfriend's late night porn habit.
MY GIRLFRIEND IS STILL TEXTING HER 'FRIEND WITH BENEFITS'
QUESTION: Hi, I have a new partner now of seven months and we have moved in together. I have been previously married and there is a 12 year difference in our age (I am 41 and she is 29). My partner has a friend that she has had casual sex with over the years and she has not had a partner for around five years.
Early in our relationship she was still talking to her friend via text message for around a month which included some sexual pics. Okay, I realise we were not a couple at this stage but this occurred without my knowledge while we were getting to know each other which included me sleeping with her. She was not sleeping with him during this time to my knowledge.
When we became official I asked her to tell him that she is now with me and that she does not want to see him. She refused to tell him as she said that he will know when she stops responding to his messages or contacting him. She also said she felt embarrassed to tell him. I asked her many times to tell him as I knew it would cause an issue later on in our relationship and by her not telling him meant I was unable to fully trust her and that she was committed to our relationship. My fear was the messaging could be occurring and she would not tell me.
Recently while away on a holiday, she received a message from her friend while we were at dinner. She did not tell me about this until a few days later when I asked her if she had received any messages. She told me she had not but I knew something was not right and she finally told me she did receive a message.
She lied to me and I continue to feel I cannot trust her because of what she has done. Please help.
ANSWER: OK, let's talk through these issues one at a time.
She shared pictures of herself while you were dating. It isn't uncommon in this current age for someone to date or have sexual encounters with more than one person at a time, whether we like it or not. She wasn't breaking any agreements between you by not telling you about this.
You said when you became official you asked her to tell her friend that "she does not want to see him". Is this what she wanted? Or was this what you wanted?
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I hear you've made clear requests about what you'd like her to do, but have you reached agreement and understanding together on this?
Have you been able to have a conversation with her about what this person means to her and what she wants from their relationship?
This person is her friend and has been part of her life for a while. It's understandable that she might have some attachment to him or want to continue their friendship.
I'm confused about why she would feel embarrassed telling him that she's in a relationship though. I'm wondering what's really going on for her there.
It's disappointing that she lied to you about the message - and it isn't a good sign for a relationship.
However, there may be many reasons she didn't tell you about the message - potentially it was out of fear or your reaction or perhaps because she wants to remain friends with him.
I say this lightly, because I don't know the full story, but your heightened emotion around this may be contributing to her unwillingness to be open and honest.
You said you felt like you wouldn't be able to trust her if she didn't honour your request, but you've continued with the relationship anyway.
I'm interested in how you ended up living with someone after just seven months of relationship if you've never fully trusted her?
You also mention you were afraid she might be messaging him and not telling you. Messaging someone doesn't necessarily lead to something further.
Is there something in your history that makes you so uncomfortable with this? Has infidelity or unstable relationships been part of your history? There might be something for you to look at here.
You're right that this will continue to be a problem - because you have emotion around it and you seem to want different things. You're lacking clear understanding, communication and agreement between you right now. If you want to continue this relationship, you'll need to start with open, honest conversations.
Ultimately, you might have to ask yourself if you want to continue in a relationship with someone where trust is lacking or consider if you're both willing to put some work into enhancing your communication, trust and connection.
I LOVE MY HUSBAND BUT OUR SEX LIFE BORES ME
QUESTION: How do I gently suggest to my husband that I'd like to try something new in the bedroom? He's very sensitive but I'm a bit bored of our routine love life.
ANSWER: Frame wanting to try new things in a positive way. Share what you want instead of discussing what you're unhappy with.
Begin with a positive statement.
Let your husband know how much you enjoy your sex life or how much it means to you that you can still be intimate in that way.
Then use a phrase like:
I'd love to see what we could do to make it even more enjoyable for both of us.
I think we could make things even more fun by trying …
I've been thinking that I'd love to try x. I think you'd be great at it.
Then ask if he's interested by asking something like:
Are you open to exploring it with me?
HOW MUCH PORN IS TOO MUCH?
QUESTION: How much porn is too much porn? My boyfriend is often up well into the night watching porn on his laptop, even after he's turned down real life sex with me. What is going on here?
ANSWER: It's not the amount of porn (or anything) that's really the question - it's how it's impacting us.
It sounds like your boyfriend's porn use is impacting his relationship with you - and if he's staying up late watching it, other areas of his life too. I want to be careful because it doesn't mean that pornography is the cause of these issues, it may be something he's using to make himself feel better about issues that are already there.
There are many reasons someone turns to pornography like this.
Firstly, I'm wondering about his history with sex and relationships. Has porn use been an issue for him before? Does your partner have a history of having difficulty with intimacy (emotional or sexual) in his relationships?
Sometimes porn is described as "a sure thing", in that the user doesn't feel rejected or inadequate using porn. My guess is that he might be experiencing some issues around intimacy and communication. Are you currently experiencing other issues in your relationship together?
Whether porn is inherently addictive is the subject of debate, but watching porn does appear to have a real impact on the reward system of the brain.
I think you need to have a conversation about this. You have a right to share how you feel when he turns down sex with you. You'll need to do your best to remain open and non-judgemental to hear his responses. Ultimately though, he needs to be willing to look at what is going on for him around this and take steps to address it or it will continue to impact his relationships and life.
Isiah McKimmie is a Couples Therapist, Sex Therapist and Sexologist. Download her free ebook 10 Powerful Ways to Connect with Your Partner and follow her on Instagram.