Long Distances, “Terribleness,” and the Skin-Crawly Feeling

by Lindsay Miller

1. So, I have an emotionally confusing situation I’m hoping you’ll be kind enough to help me with.

I’m dating this girl, we’ve been together for almost a year, and are currently doing long distance, as she’s still in high school and I just started college. College has been a bit tough for me, in terms of making friends, but about a month ago I met this girl at a show and we’ve been hanging out together on the weekends a lot since then. I find her really attractive, but never planned to do anything because I love my girlfriend and am happy with her. However, I have also not told new girl about my girlfriend because of weird emotional things related to telling people about my girlfriend and also because I’m a terrible person, apparently.

About a week or two ago I was at a party with the girl and she started dancing with me, and we danced together for the rest of the night, but she hasn’t made any other moves since. I also danced with a different girl at a party at another college recently. My girlfriend and I have never explicitly said no dancing with other people, but I’m not sure how she would feel about it. What’s worrying me is that I do seem to be attracted to so many other people and don’t know if this bodes badly for the relationship.

How do you know when long distance isn’t working? I love my girlfriend, but I’m not that sexually attracted to her, at least compared to other people. I’m worried I can’t do a closed relationship right now, and if that’s so, should I talk to my girlfriend about an open relationship, or realize that maybe the relationship isn’t working?

Also I don’t know what the protocol is for my college friend … how much of a jerk am I being by not telling her I have a girlfriend? Should I just bring it up some conversation? Do I apologize for not telling her? I don’t know if she considers dancing a casual things or an indication of sexual interest.

I’m so confused, queer chick. Have any advice?

My advice is that you should break up with your girlfriend.

I know that sounds harsh and mean and awful, but listen, long distance relationships are so hard. They take so much work, and so much trust, and such an enormous amount of selflessness and love. They take practice, months and years of practice of being with someone, thinking of them when they’re not around, making choices for the good of the relationship when something else would be so much easier and more fun and right here, and who would ever know?

Most people do not have what it takes to maintain a successful long-distance relationship. I don’t. I’ve tried. Almost no one has what it takes to maintain a successful long-distance relationship right out of high school, when they have almost no experience with relationships of any kind. If things aren’t working out with your girlfriend — and from where I’m sitting it looks like they’re not — that doesn’t say anything bad about you. It just says that your high school romance couldn’t make it outside of high school. That’s sad, but practically everyone goes through it. The only people who don’t are the people who weren’t getting laid in high school at all. (“God, Lindsay, why do you make everything about you?” — the world.)

Open relationships are sometimes proposed as the cure for an ailing long-distance love, and while that makes some surface-level sense — you can have sex with someone in your zip code, yay! — non-monogamy is not a panacea for dissatisfaction. It tends to introduce new levels of complication, and if things are already shaky, not knowing where your partner is or who she’s doing will probably just make things worse. An open relationship won’t solve the fact that you aren’t as attracted to your girlfriend as you are to other people, or that you can’t talk to her about something as harmless as dancing with someone at a party because you’re afraid she doesn’t trust you, or that you’re hanging out with attractive women and never mentioning that you’re dating someone. It sounds like you and your girlfriend simply don’t have a strong enough foundation as a couple for the challenges that long distance relationships present. End it as cleanly and kindly as you can, and make the most of your slutty college years.

2. Hey, A Queer Chick! I enjoy your columns as a straight chick, because new perspectives, etc., but I never thought I’d actually have an opportunity to write in. However, now I do. My boyfriend who I normally live with is absolutely wonderful, and we click in every way when it’s just the two of us. However, we’re into D/s, M/s, and other kinky fetishy business. Part of what he wants is to experiment with exhibitionism and other people being involved to varying degrees. That gives me a skin-crawly feeling, but I’d like to be a Savage-approved GGG partner and reach some compromises. The only problem is, I can’t get aroused around naked women. I just can’t. It’s a turn-off. There is some jealousy involved, but mostly it’s just a generic feeling of NOPE. Disclaimer: I don’t hate women — I have female friends, and I can appreciate an aesthetically beautiful woman in a non-sexual context, naked or clothed, no problem.

For some context, I entered this relationship as a poly person. When my primary partner threw me out of his apartment, current boyfriend took me in, and we developed this wonderful thang we have now. However, I’ve discovered that I wasn’t actually poly. I was just lacking affection in my main relationship, so I had to go elsewhere to supplement. Ironically, now that I’m truly happy and fulfilled with him, my poly-urges have poofed. He is still decidedly poly. Also, he had an expectation going in that I would be okay with threesomes with women. This summer, he told me a month and a half in advance that he invited his female friend from a different state to stay at ours for a week. In my naivete, I thought that meant general couchsurfing. About a week before she arrived, he mentioned casually sexual things “we” were going to do all together, and I was blindsided. But I took a deep breath and decided to try. I couldn’t even deal with all three of us cuddling at the same time without getting all sorts of negative Feelings, and the only way that I could get into sex with him while she watched was to close my eyes really tightly and pretend she wasn’t there, which was probably a huge ladyboner killer for her. And when I got really drunk and we all went skinny dipping one night, I tried kissing her and letting her touch me, to determine once and for all by giving it the old “college try.” Big mistake. Big NO NO NO feeling.

When I tried to talk to him about this, the first few times went “You’re my submissive. This is what I want.” This may sound cold, but I accept that I have a tendency of being a whiner, and he might have thought I was just whining. Finally, with the help of the girl talking some sense into him (she’s totally awesome and understanding, by the way!! Nothing against her whatsoever!), he finally realized that I was being serious and emotionally not okay, and he finally agreed that I wouldn’t have to touch another girl sexually again. However, I have this creeping fear that he resents me for this. I recently was brave enough to tell him that I also really wasn’t into seeing any other girl touch him, and I think that led to more resentment, too.

I guess my real question is, how do I deal with the fact that I feel defective for NOT being bi or wanting to watch other girls bang my boyfriend or other men? I feel like everywhere I turn, whether it’s my boyfriend or other members of the kink community, it’s expected as par for the course that a woman will be bi, like bisexuality goes hand-in-hand with sexual liberation, and you’re a big ol’ intolerant prude if you’re not bisexual and might as well just give up on all the freaky stuff and go stand with the Westboro Baptist idiots. I’m having huge amounts of guilt about this, and I just kind of want to shout at everyone that if people are born gay (which I believe they are!!), then I’m sure as hell allowed to be born straight! But what is a more constructive way to deal with this? I’m spending a semester in England at the moment, so boyfran’ and I have suspended all Serious Relationship Talk until we’re face to face again in a couple weeks, and I feel like I have the sword of Damocles hanging over my head. Thanks!!!

I don’t even know where to start with this one except oh my sweet gay Jesus you have to get rid of this dude, like, IMMEDIATELY.

The level of manipulation and guilt-tripping and passive aggression and general emotional fuckery you are describing would be nigh intolerable in a roommate or coworker. In a romantic partner, it is a huge red flag. A huge red flag being waved by a T.rex shooting lasers of “I DON’T THINK THIS RELATIONSHIP IS VERY HEALTHY” out of its eyes.

You described your guy as “absolutely wonderful,” but a wonderful boyfriend does not put pressure on you to do things sexually that make your skin crawl. A just-okay boyfriend doesn’t do that. There are lots of crappy boyfriends — boyfriends who watch TV loudly when you have work in six hours, boyfriends who leave the milk on the counter, boyfriends who are rude to your mom — who would look at what your man is trying to pull and be like “dude, really, not cool.”

This has nothing to do with you being kinky, either. Any responsible kinky person will tell you that kink is about having weird sex that is fun for you both, not doing what you’re told no matter how miserable it makes you. Good tops negotiate in advance to make sure they don’t give their partners “big NO NO NO feelings.” Good tops care about their partners’ pleasure as much as their own. Good tops do not say “you’re my submissive so you have to do what I want.” Good tops do not announce, with no discussion whatsoever, that they expect you to have threesomes with your houseguests. Good tops do not accuse you of whining if you’re not into the things they’re into. Basically, picture a person who would do the opposite of whatever your boyfriend would do in any situation, and you’re in the ballpark of a pretty good top.

A relationship in which you’re not able to say “no” to sex that you don’t want has more in common with a hostage situation than a romance. You shouldn’t have to justify to your boyfriend why you’re not attracted to women (and you don’t have to justify it to me, either, just so you know) — you should be able to say “I don’t want to have sex with women or watch women having sex,” and that should be the end of the conversation. Being straight doesn’t make you flawed or uptight or homophobic, but trying to pressure you into sex you don’t want does make your boyfriend coercive, manipulative, and more than a little creepy. Break up with him. Then build a time machine so you can travel to when you were still together and break up with him again.

3. I am a straight man who may accidentally be in a gay long distance relationship. My questions are A) am I?! How does one tell? Does that happen? B) How to I get the F out of it without undue embarrassment and tears?

This situation seems to have sprung up between me and my best friend from school (we’ll call him M). M and I were very, very, close. We spent almost all our time together and I loved him very dearly. I should mention at this point that our relationship was not entirely platonic … there were quite a lot of kisses and cuddles, but we always stopped short of what I would consider proper sex. This wasn’t unusual in my circle (UK boys’ school — some of the stereotypes are sometimes true!) and M is a rather extraordinarily beautiful human being (and maybe a little bit girly?) so he was quite in demand. I know he hooked up with at least four other dudes (but no girls that I’m aware of!), so I didn’t really second guess it. Until now!

This Summer I moved to New York for university (yay!) and M was obviously gutted when I left. I was sad to leave him too, but also really excited to start my new life. We’ve been keeping in touch … emails, phone calls, Skype on the weekends, etc. He calls me every night at the same time to chat (he’s still in school this year, so he has a pretty set routine …), but lately his letters and emails have been getting waaaay more, uh, romantic? He writes me songs that explicitly use the word ‘love,’ and not as in ‘I love you, man!’ … His letters are flowery and poetic and talk about how much he misses me, and while not specifically sexual, there was this bit where he was saying how he falls asleep thinking of me … It started to worry me, so I tried to back up a little, but when I didn’t take his calls for a couple of nights he send me a bunch of really desperate and sad emails that made me want to cry! He is talking about coming to visit me this for the Christmas holidays, and while I would be happy to see him again, I can’t help but feel that it’s going to be VERY uncomfortable for both of us. And how do I introduce him to the girl I’m seeing if he’s in love with me? Do I tell her? (Side question; does this make me bi? I don’t feel bi. Just resourceful!)

Ah I HATE myself for letting it get this far, because as I said, I do really love him. It makes me feel like a complete bastard to think that he might have built a whole emotional relationship on what was, for me, just something to do when I was horny and/or bored. But then on the other hand, I think maybe I am reading way too much into it. He has never said ‘I love you as a boyfriend’ explicitly, maybe he just misses me as a friend? I don’t even know if he’s gay!

Oh GOD what do I do? I can’t bear the thought of hurting him, or worse — embarrassing him. If only there was a way of saying “do you gay love me? Because although I’m not so into guys, I still want to be your friend! Also don’t call me as much (but do call me)” without being awful. Help!

I’m gonna start with the easy question: no, fooling around with one dude (especially when there were no girls to be found) doesn’t make you bisexual. You can chalk it up to youthful experimentation. If you never make out with another boy again, I give you leave to have “100% Totally Straight Forever” carved into your tombstone.

On to the more complicated part. First of all, if you’ve never had the “is this a relationship, check yes or no” discussion, I’m inclined to say that you are not in a relationship and are under no obligation to have a Big Gay Feelings Talk. On the other hand, you care about him and want to protect his feelings, so you may want to handle this with some delicacy — which means you can’t just introduce him to your girlfriend and hope that gets the point across.

Because there is definitely something going on between you two. You’ve fooled around, you talk on the phone every night, he writes you songs, he’s planning to visit you for Christmas (um, that probably already happened, sorry, we have some lag time). If he doesn’t gay love you, he’s at least gay working up to it. Also, the fact that you’re this involved but you’ve never mentioned it to your girlfriend raises the question: Are you sure you don’t have some kind of fuzzy feelings you’re not willing to address? It’s hard for me to imagine how things got to this point without at least a little involvement on your end. (Whichever end you prefer.)

Anyway, if you’re going to extricate yourself from this quasi-romance, you need to face the facts: He is going to see it as a breakup, and it is going to hurt him. Approach the conversation with that in mind, and aim to let him down as gently as you can while still telling the truth. You have to be direct, let him know that you don’t feel the same way, and accept the fact that he might not want to talk to you for a while … or possibly ever. Gay breaking up is hard to do, but remind yourself that you’re doing him a favor by freeing him up to search for a new guy who will gay love him back.

4. I always end up dating assholes. Sometimes they even tell me at the beginning of a relationship that all their exes despise them, which should be a pretty big red flag. But even still, some of them don’t expose their bad side until much later, such as after we’ve moved in together and signed a lease/adopted a cat. I have been cheated on an embarrassing number of times, even while I was being puppyishly devoted to the cheater. My most recent ex cheerfully confessed she was just using me for sex and money, which kinda stings. Clearly, I am the common denominator in the everyone-I-date-is-awful problem, but how do I vet people for terribleness early in dates? Are there specific questions I should ask? Situations I should run by them, to give me an idea of what that person is really like? I like to believe people have good intentions and are generally nice, but that’s not working out for me. Is there a time-tested jerk-sorting device?

Well, you’ve already identified one clear indicator: Anyone who is loathed by all of her exes is a bad investment. Slightly more subtle but still true: Anyone who has nothing but bad things to say about her exes — even if she doesn’t tell you that they hate her — probably has some issues she needs to work on. This is something to look out for when you’re getting to know a new lady, but it’s also something to look out for in yourself. It’s possible that there is some deeper reason you gravitate toward cheaters, and it might be beneficial to your future sexy times if you talk through your brain problems with some kind of professional brain-problem-talker.

Whether or not you decide to consult with a shrink, you definitely need to consult with your friends. It is a truth universally acknowledged that people love discussing the personality flaws of their friends’ partners; now is the time to turn that to your advantage. Sit down with your bestie or besties and ask them to be completely forthright with you about the women you’ve dated in the past. Optionally, this can be preceded by a couple rounds of drinks to make sure they’re really speaking their minds. You probably won’t even need the alcohol, however. As soon as you make it clear that the library is open, your pals will leap at the opportunity to read your former lovers to shreds.

I can’t tell you exactly what red flags you’re missing or what self-destructive patterns you’ve fallen into, because I don’t have enough information. Your friends, however, have been around you and your girlfriends long enough to see whatever it is you’re not seeing — and once they tell you what it is, you’ll be less likely to miss it in the future.

Previously: Secondary Relationships, Tequila Fumes, and the Lesbian Internet.

Lindsay Miller is also on Twitter. Do you have a question for her?

Photo by Anna Sedneva, via Shutterstock