Polyamory, Hair-Pulling, and Responding to Compliments

by A Dude

What is the appropriate response to “you’re so pretty” etc., usually said in the context of making out? “Thank you” seems lame. “So are you” sounds weird because dudes aren’t “pretty.” No response also seems weird. I guess my broader question is how do you accept a compliment about your looks, right? (See also: “you’re so hot,” “you’re so sexy,” etc.)

I actually don’t think “thank you” is lame. Most likely he’s not fishing for a compliment. He’s complimenting you in the hope that you’ll make out with him/continue making out with him/make out with him more in the future. Saying thank you and doing any or all of the above will suit him just fine. It’s unnecessary to compliment him back, as that feels perfunctory. If you really want to compliment him on his looks (which guys do appreciate) and have it stick, do it when he hasn’t just said something nice about you.

I’d also argue that what you say is not necessarily more important than the way you say it. Just say whatever you say with earnestness (and maybe a dash of sultriness?) and get back to putting your faces on each others faces.

I’m writing because my oh-so-serious excavation of the last two Ask a Dude columns — yes, I know, my research is super, super-thorough — both turned up questions about dudes apparently cheating, and other men/women who see them apparently cheating and conclude that the guys are evil bags of weeks-old horse sputum.

There’s a whole movement out there called “poly” in which people in loving, committed, intimate relationships have permissions from their spouses / partners to also have other loving, committed, intimate relationships at the same time. Like most things, it’s a spectrum: some poly people I know are doing “don’t ask don’t tell” (although that’s widely disparaged in the poly community as being borderline-cheating), whereas other poly people disclose everything to their partner including # and type of orgasm with the new partner(s). And there’s everything in between. It’s a whole movement, including workshops, seminars, estate planning advice, summer camps, and conferences. It’s been around for a long time and (although I’m admittedly a bit biased), it is AWESOME.

My husband and I have been dating other people — doing poly, not swinging, they are very different! — for years. We have kids who don’t need to know any details, so we need to be respectful and discreet (and manage our time very, very well). Most people we know don’t know this about us. We fly under the radar. We have family members who would never, never understand and who don’t need to know, which is why we don’t tell them.

If those family members were to snoop through my private e-mail, they would find messages from lovers old and new, boyfriends and girlfriends, and kinky stuff that would presumably blow their minds, especially considering how prim-and-proper I typically present myself to be.

That’s why people shouldn’t snoop. Not unless they’re prepared to know that their friend / sister-in-law / whatever is also engaging in BDSM scenes… and that it’s not cheating because her husband signed off on it (and is busy getting his own on the side as well).

Short version: Just because a guy (or a girl!) is trolling for new partners doesn’t mean you can assume he’s an unfaithful cad. The only way to figure out is to ask.

Fair enough! I am totally down with you and your husband doing your thing, even though that’s not my style. In defense of the ladies or gentlemen in previous weeks who were coming down hard on guys they perceived to be cheating: I’m under the impression that polyamory is not a widespread practice, and to assume that someone who’s in a relationship yet seemingly on the prowl is doing so without their partner’s blessing isn’t totally unfounded. But it’s always nice to be reminded that our assumptions are exactly that.

P.S. I kinda wanna know how you meet a fellow polyamorous person. How long do you date someone before you bring that up? How do you bring that up? I assume this is part of the reason y’all have summer camps and conferences and what not.

I’m nearly 30 and and I’m five years into a relationship with someone I care for deeply and believe I am quite compatible with. Trouble is, one year ago I opened my computer and found an email he had left open saying he was thinking of breaking up with me. This was a huge surprise and I panicked. I’m not proud of this, but I then spent the next 20 minutes searching through his email, where I learned that he had shared the following with at least half a dozen male friends, often while we were sitting on the couch together enjoying dinner and a movie:

1) He made negative comments about my appearance and my body.
2) He’d gone out on a date with a random woman who gave him her number.
3) He rated me a ‘7’ compared to her.
4) He commented on how skinny she was (I’m average), her perfect skin, her youth (22).
5) He said he didn’t cheat on me, but wished he was single so he could just ‘bang her.’

I confronted him about this. He apologized, but his real only response was that he loved me and that he was really depressed. He said that this is just, “how guys talk.”

This was all a year ago. We have a nice time together still, but my mind constantly wanders back to the things he said about me, how I have very little confidence in my appearance (I never worried about being fat or old before), and how I don’t know if I trust him. I don’t really know how to find a sense of resolution. He would prefer to ignore things and move on with our relationship, but that isn’t really working for me.

My questions are, can a person behave like this and still be a good guy, or am I just deluding myself into thinking this can work out? Any advice on how to resolve the issues I still have with self-confidence and trust? I feel like an absolute fool when we are around people he said these things to. Is it reasonable to just never go out with them when they are in town?

Good Lord.

OK. Before moving on to the part where I list the reasons your boyfriend is a dick, I am going to get on you, as Past Dudes have, for checking his email. Ladies and gents: Don’t do that. Everyone deserves the right to have private correspondence with their friends. Everyone has doubts about their relationships, and he’s allowed to discuss those doubts with his friends. The bulk of what he wrote is pretty shitty, but the manner in which you discovered it is also not cool.

Nonetheless, you know what you know, so let’s keep movin’.

It’s hard to know when to break up with someone you’ve been dating for years but I’d say you’re approaching that point (if not well past it). Your story is littered with red flags, the most glaring being the fact that HE WENT ON A DATE WITH ANOTHER WOMAN. Different people have different definitions of what constitutes cheating, but I don’t care what label you put on it. It’s a selfish, dishonest, and hurtful thing for him to do. You probably should’ve dumped him then and there.

And bullshit that’s “how guys talk.” Saying “I acted like a piece of shit but it’s no big deal cause boys will be boys” is no excuse. I don’t say things like that about the women I’ve dated and neither do my friends. What kind of asshole says negative things about his girlfriend’s body to his friends? What kind of asshole directly compares his girlfriend’s body to another woman’s? Plenty of men manage to talk about the difficulties they’re having with their girlfriend, and even the temptations they feel, without being so flagrantly disrespectful.

Both men and women tend to have slightly racier conversations when alone, and there’s honestly nothing wrong with that. But there’s a big difference between a nice guy who says something a little crass to his buddy and what your boyfriend said.

My biggest concern might actually be the fact that, when your boyfriend of several years was going through a tough time (he described himself as feeling depressed), he responded by shitting all over you rather than relying on you. And since that time, his preferred way of handling the situation has been to ignore it. These are both selfish, unhealthy responses. The only way you can resolve the trust issues you have with him is by talking about them. Explaining to him why what he did is so unsettling, and the amount of love and reassurance he’ll need to provide in order for you to get back to a place where you’re genuinely comfortable with this relationship. If he’s unwilling to even talk about that, I don’t see how your relationship can survive. Avoiding his friends sure as hell isn’t gonna do the trick.

Do you know about hair pulling? Do you pull ladies’ hair? Did you know that a lot of ladies really like that? When their hair is pulled? Not all ladies, but a great, great many of us. Tell me your thoughts about hair-pulling. If I say hair-pulling enough, will someone pull my hair? I mean during sex, obvs. Not like, out.

Hair pulling, huh? Sure, ya, I’ve pulled women’s hair. Plenty of y’all seem to like having your hair pulled! And I get a kick out of it too. (For all the fellas out there, my preferred way of going about this is to give her hair a slight tug while running my hands through it, and then gauge her reaction.)

I tend to think that a lot more people enjoy skirting the line between pleasure and pain (hair pulling, spanking, etc.) than they readily admit. I’d encourage women to be direct when you want something along those lines. Men want to please you (we really do), but have some anxieties about pushing things too far. Clear communication alleviates that. Hair pulling.

By my count, we said some version of the phrase “hair-pulling” eleven times. Has someone pulled your hair yet? If that’s what you’re into, I sure hope so!

Previously: Long Distance Flirting, Lonely Moms, and the Politics of “Dibs.”

A Dude is one of several rotating dudes who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Dude?

Photo by Joanna Laznicka, via Shutterstock