Hello all you frightening sin warts, and welcome to Ask Dr NerdLove, the only dating advice column to visit every singles bar in The Witcher 3. This week, we're talking about honesty in your relationships.
How do you explain to your partner that you were faking at least half of your orgasms while you've been together? Can you trust someone who lied about a particular event in their past? And is it even lying if that part of their past no longer exists?
It's time to grab a beer and deal out another round of Gwent. Let's do this.
This one is a bit atypical, so I would appreciate some advice. I am a guy and I've been seeing this girl for about four months. We were friends for a couple of years prior and one night it just clicked after a couple of drinks (naturally). We already got along really well prior, the difference now being that we simply spend more time together and have added sex to the equation.
Our sex life has been fantastic, as we're both in our 30s and know what we want and how to communicate effectively in the bedroom. I can honestly say this has been the best sex of my life (and she says the same). There's just one problem: I don't always orgasm.
I have always had a hard time orgasming in my life. I am not sure of the reason behind it (I am circumcised; perhaps there was an error there that led to sensation loss?), but have come to terms with it. Over the years I have found that most partners seem to take it as an insult/ ego hit if they can't make me orgasm. As such, I have faked it on numerous occasions in order to spare hurt feelings.
For example, with my current partner we used condoms for the first few months of the relationship. I initially tried to explain that I had difficulty achieving orgasm but it didn't seem to register with her, plus she seemed anxious anytime I didn't orgasm after substantial effort on her part. Therefore whenever we had sex that lasted quite a while and she enquired if I was close to orgasm, I would just say yes and then fake it in order to end things on a satisfactory note for her as I could tell she was getting sore. Since we were using condoms, it was easy to get away with.
A little over a month ago she decided to switch to birth control, as we have sex almost daily and she was concerned about the efficacy of condoms. This is where the troubles arose, as it's nigh impossible as a man to fake an orgasm under such conditions.
Because I hadn't been honest in the past, in her mind she went from giving me an orgasm 100 per cent of the time to 50 per cent of the time. I tried to explain to her my lifelong problems achieving orgasm, I tried to use current medication as an excuse, or current work stress as an excuse, but I could tell she still felt hurt and that she was inadequate in the bedroom. After a couple of weeks of this, she started suggesting we try all kinds of new/exotic/weird things in the bedroom. She has never indicated an interest in any of these things before (nor have I), so I'm pretty sure she was suggesting them because she thinks they might interest me and help finish more often.
I love her for trying to come up with solutions to a "problem" that she perceives, but the reality is that this is just my biology and you can't fix that. I love having sex with her. I am perfectly fine not orgasming every single time, as it's still very enjoyable to me and I also love making her feel good.
How can I reassure her that I am more than happy with our sex life and that we don't need to explore weird fetishes in order to fix something that is only a problem to her?
Don't Always Need To Orgasm
The problem isn't your dick, DANTO (well, not directly), and it isn't your arousal/orgasm response. It's in how you rolled it out to your girlfriend. Have you ever heard the phrase "It's not the crime, it's the coverup?" That's what's going on here.
It isn't that you were faking orgasms occasionally. A lot of guys have faked it; it's an occurrence common enough that Seinfeld made jokes about it. Sometimes it's a case of having had too much too drink, being too tired, to distracted, or just not getting whatever stimulation you need to get off. In those cases, it can be easier to just make some familiar noises, fake a flex and a shudder, and dispose of the condom before anyone gets wise. Shit happens and women have been dealing with it since time immemorial.
The problem is that not only did you lead your girlfriend to believe that you were getting off every time when you weren't, but you let the lies spiral out of control.
Now, in fairness, the fact that you weren't orgasming is going to be unusual to her. After all, around 98 per cent of men achieve orgasm during penetrative sex while only 68 per cent of heterosexual women do. So the fact that you're a coin-flip between o-face and no-face is something that's going to be a novel experience - and something that she might well take personally.
What you should have done is have a brief conversation before you had sex for the first time: Lay out like "Hey, just FYI, I don't get off every time. It's just how my dick works, it has absolutely nothing to do with you, and I don't need to orgasm to enjoy sex. So, how about you? What gets you off, what turns you off?" As with many quirks of life, laying it out as a matter of fact instead of a hideous, shameful secret would keep her from thinking that she just isn't performing in the bedroom the way she should be.
Instead… you lied. First, you lied about how often you were orgasming. Then you lied about why. It isn't stress, it isn't meds, it's just how you are. Even though you had the best of intentions, the fact that you were blaming a permanent issue on temporary situations meant that eventually those lies were going to fall through and she was going to realise you gave her a load of crap to spare her feelings.
Now, it's great that she wants to help - and hey, she should talk to All Your Butts from last time; a little prostate action can trigger an ejaculatory response - but this is coming from a place of "I'm not enough in bed" and not "hey, this is just what he needs".
You're going to have to just sit down and have a talk with her about all of it - the fact that you lied, why you lied about it, and reassure her: This is just how you are. It's nobody's fault, there's nothing really to be done about it, and you don't need an orgasm to enjoy the sex you're having with her.
It's going to take some time - and a lot of reassurance - to undo some of what you had inadvertently taught her, DANTO, so get started now. And next time, if you're dealing with a new partner? Be up front about it from the start. It's unusual, yes, but it's not bad. It's just you and how you work, that's all.
First off I am an avid reader of your column but I have found myself in a situation that is so messed up I am almost unsure of where to start.
I met this girl online and we ended up getting very close, a relationship that lasted almost two and a half years, we never met but skyped regularly. When the relationship started she told me a few things about her past she said she wasn't proud of, something about an ex posting videos of her online of a pornographic nature. I told her I was OK with it and did not care as it was in her past.
Shortly after she told me this I discovered that the videos in question were actually posted by her. Basically, my girl was a camgirl. I decided to not confront her about it as I didn't know how to approach the subject, figuring she would eventually come clean. Fast forward two years or so and she never does and I finally confront her about it. Now I had confronted her before subtly and she told me it wasn't her in the videos, but she finally decides to come clean when I confront her again.
Here is where my issue lies. I am not only a person raised in a way where honesty is important, I am also a National Guard member where integrity, (honesty) is a vital part of my core values. As a result I was devastated by the confirmation that she was lying to me all that time, and even more devastated by how she felt I should just let it slide. I responded that I could forgive her eventually but she would have to work to regain my trust, to which she said I should break up with her cause she would not do that. As a result the whole thing blew up and we are no longer together.
I guess my real question is, was I out of line for how I reacted or am I justified? The wounds are still extremely fresh and I am so confused as to what happened or even how it all went down. Am I the arsehole for not just looking the other way, or is she to blame for it by not being honest and covering up her lies with more lies?
Broken hearted and confused as fuck
Here's my general thought on radical honesty in relationships: It's severely overrated. The idea that lying is always, always bad is far more black and white than I find to be reasonable. I'm a believer that there are lies that are ultimately harmless, lies that are ways to bridge over awkward situations, and lies that are damaging.
Some white lies about a polarising but ultimately harmless topic that buy enough time for someone to see the humanity of your situation instead of having a knee-jerk response? I'm not opposed to those, as a general rule. Serious lies that completely change the context of a situation, leading someone to believe a completely different reality? That's pretty damn shitty, and a good reason to be upset at someone. You and your girlfriend happen to fall smack dab in the middle of those two options.
Let's start with why your crush lied to you. Even in 2018, our culture is profoundly sex-negative, especially when women are involved. There is a lot of ugly baggage that gets attached to women and sexual expression, especially when it seems to touch on any form of sex work. You only have to look at the conflict and backlash surrounding "boobie streamers" on Twitch , or the reaction that people had to Christie Mack being beaten half to death by her ex.
Your girlfriend, in all likelihood, had a not unreasonable worry that you would judge her negatively if you found out that she was a cam girl. And in an era with Reverse Image Search, amateur porn subreddits and the like, there was the non-zero chance that you'd stumble over evidence of her camming.
Now the problem was the way she went about telling you about this. Revenge porn is a very real issue that many, many women deal with on a daily basis. Claiming to have been the victim of a malicious ex to cover up any evidence you may have found was a shitty thing to do. It completely changes the tone of the situation and your relationship to it. In trying to bridge the gap she led you to believe her to be the victim of a crime instead of someone who chooses to express herself sexually this way. Coming up with a new lie about it after she'd been found out? Yeah, that wasn't helping either, and only made things worse.
As with DANTO above, it ain't the crime, it's the cover-up. It'd be one thing if she just omitted that part of her life until she thought you might be ready to know. Hell, it wouldn't have been so bad if she'd come clean the first time you found out, especially if you had told her earlier instead of waiting to see if she'd say anything. It'd be awkward to explain - and again, kind of a shitty thing to have let you believe - but owning up to it sooner meant that the two of you might have avoided a Relationship Extinction Level Event.
Now, don't get me wrong: I don't think she was hiding this to hurt you. I think she was trying to avoid a painfully awkward conversation, especially considering that the two of you were strictly Skype buddies with no physical component to your relationship. And to be perfectly honest, I don't think this was a crime that couldn't be forgiven, and not one worth ending a relationship over, in my opinion. I think it's something that could've been worked through. But that's just me. Your dealbreakers are your own and only you get to decide what they are.
What's undeniably true is that the way she went about it was a bad decision and caused unnecessary pain, and I certainly don't blame you for being hurt. I'm sorry this happened to you, man. I really think it could all have been avoided. For now, I think the only thing to do is move forward, a little sadder, but a little wiser, too.
Dear Doctor NerdLove,
I am writing in hopes you can provide some insight into a disagreement I am having with my wife about defining what it means to be open about our past relationships. We recently watched a silly romantic comedy in which the premise involves a man repeatedly travelling back in time in an attempt to change the past to end up with the woman of his dreams. He eventually realises he's really in love with her best friend, and after one more trip into the time machine, he is starting a new romantic relationship with the friend. His many failed attempts at love with the other woman are erased from the the current timeline of reality, even though he remembers all of it.
Assuming the new relationship becomes serious, and they are the type of couple that is open about their past experiences, I feel that the man would be obligated to tell his new love about his time travelling adventures, which involved a sexual relationship with her best friend. Otherwise he would be lying to her, since this is definitely a relationship in his personal experience. The experience is a part of him, even if the events were erased from the current reality via a magical time machine.
My wife disagrees, and is adamant that she wouldn't tell me if she had slept with any of my close friends in another version of reality. I can't help feeling a little hurt and confused by her unwillingness to share her non-existent inter-dimensional romantic experiences. If someone tells you their past, but don't include experiences which violate the laws of physics, are they lying? Is there some "alternate timelines don't count" rule to sex I don't know about?
Thank you for your time, no pun intended.
If this TARDIS is rocking, don't come a-knocking
First of all: Relationships aren't depositions. People have a right to privacy and to their secrets, even in long-term committed relationships. And that's before parallel timeline wonkery gets involved.
Second of all, it depends on how time travel functions in this case. Are we're talking alternate Earths, alternate timelines or retcons? Does each visit to the path retroactively erase the previous visit a la 11/22/63, or does it create a branching divide in the timeline that runs parallel to the other choices? Or, alternately, does it take you to a parallel world where the timeline is playing out as it would if you had been there? Does returning to the future leave you in a world where you remember the original past, but everyone else has different memories a la Life Is Strange?
If that other world or timeline still exists, then those experiences still happened for everyone involved. If I get portaled into another world - one where I could've seen La Revanche Du Jedi, for example - have a relationship with that world's version of Kat Dennings, then get sent back home… that's a thing that happened. If I could theoretically return to that world somehow, then that would legitimately be part of my past.
On the other hand, if that timeline was retroactively erased, then so did the event. If my life as a private detective in Gotham City who had a torrid affair with a gangster's moll got retconned because The Anti-Monitor collapsed the infinite universes into one or Kang altered the timeline and I woke up as a dating advice columnist in Texas instead… well, it may have been real to me, but to the rest of the universe it was functionally no different than a weird dream I had after too much Thai food.
Doesn't mean that it wasn't real and valid to them - just read "The Nearness of You" by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson - but it literally never happened, except as the memory of a dream or a movie seen long, long ago. And honestly, getting mad at someone over a dream they had is kind of a waste of time, in my experience.
That's just me, though.
Did your relationship survive a revelation about your partner's past? Did you escape the anti-matter wave only to find your entire existence had been wiped from the multiverse? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. We'll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.
Ask Dr Nerdlove is Kotaku's fortnightly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr Nerdlove.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove and the Dr NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr Nerdlove is not really a doctor.