Come on, baby, make it flirt so good

How can you deal with an excessively flirtatious partner or one who wants to experiment with other sexual partners? Our sex columnist, Sasha, answers your questions.

Dear Sasha,

I really hope you can help me because I am starting to feel totally crazy. I have a boyfriend who is an all-star flirt. I know what you’re thinking: Flirting is healthy and fun. And if you are thinking that, I totally agree with you. I love a playful rapport in my relationships, and, being bisexual, it does excite me to be involved in these connections or watch them go down. It’s nice to have a partner that people find sexy and attractive, and it’s fun to be part of a flirty couple.

The problem is, I feel a lot of the time my boyfriend goes too far. It almost seems like a compulsion for him, to have everyone think that maybe, just maybe, he’s going to fuck them. Often we’ll be at a social gathering and there’s several ladies giving me massive shade because, presumably, I’m the one standing in the way of them and Mr. Hot Action Jackson.

He is someone who has a lot of female friends, and while this was something I respected so much about him when we met, it has become a source of conflict because they seem to always have to have some flirtatious quality to them. To be honest, I would almost prefer they actually did have sex and get it over with, rather than continuing to perceive me as this mopey slag standing in the way of their smoldering chemistry. The worst part of all of this is that I’m actually a pretty social and friendly and flirty person myself, but now I’m just feeling like a shrew all the time.

I’ve talked to my boyfriend about this, and he always shuts me down and tells me I’m jealous and that he can’t go anywhere with me without me ruining the fun and making people uncomfortable. I’m feeling really low. What should I do? 


Dear Gen,
Can I first suggest that you not address this problem by getting very, very drunk and doing lots and lots of drugs so that sharing the same space as your boyfriend while he’s fostering these emotionally precarious dynamics is tolerable? Because that always ends miserably, doesn’t it, with you saying things that make you feel so small and stupid and, by extension, providing your boyfriend with legitimate reason to carry on with his chicanery (i.e. of course he’s flirting with everyone! He needs some respite from you, also known as Gena Rowlands in Opening Night, for chrissake)?

Also, I know it’s tempting, but try to resist upping the ante. That is a slippery slope you don’t want to go careening down with a broken heel, smeared lipstick and a skid mark up the back of your panties, let me tell you. If you haven’t seen Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? yet, may I suggest you do for an unembroidered look at how this game can end? Or, more appropriately, not end. Ever.

The real and truly hurtful problem with all this is that you never actually end up having a relationship because the needle is always skipping at this point in the record. You are forever apologizing for/making up for your own pathetic and repugnant behaviour because you are always reacting to situations that are emotionally charged for you. You dread going out with your boyfriend because you know that every social exchange might end in hostility. You dread seeing certain people your boyfriend has been toying with, and you are often forced to prostrate yourself to these people because of your ostensibly unreasonable behaviour. Everyone becomes a possible nemesis. The once fun, flirty and open you has become a trembling, cross-eyed harridan.

Ask yourself this: Am I in this relationship because I love this person, or am I in this relationship because I am trying to recover my dignity and prove that I’m worth being with? Whatever the case (and it’s probably a little of both), you do have some agency and responsibility in all of this. And how that may play out is by simply acknowledging that this fellow may not be the partner for you. Maybe you’re just not meant to be the fall girl for someone who enjoys this kind of attention and drama.


Dear Sasha,
My wife of 17 years has recently opened up to the possibility that she might be interested in sleeping with another woman. Before you start judging me for being a horndog, let me tell you that I am one of the three men in the world that doesn’t find this possibility exciting. I am not turned on by girl-on-girl exchanges in porn; in fact, despite my clear heterosexuality in my “real” life, I spend some time jacking off to male-on-male porn. I’ve been reading your column for years and have noted that you often talk about lesbians who like to watch gay male porn. Perhaps I am a lesbian trapped in a man’s body, and I don’t like the idea of my wife being with other women because it threatens me.

Still, we have been together for long enough that the idea of any sex, even if I’m not there to witness or participate, feels like a good idea. We have reached somewhat of a crossroads with each other, though we are fairly generous when the need comes up. Louis CK’s World’s Saddest Handjob does not seem to be looming on our horizon, but our sex doesn’t set the sheets on fire like it used to. The commitment we once made to each other seems a charming and idealistic notion, though we still are great companions. Nobody makes me laugh like she does, and vice versa. So what now? 


Dear Augustine,
When we don’t like the idea of our partner being with someone else, what are the feelings that are speaking to us very directly? On my end, I find the crisp Technicolor, Dolby and smellovision mental images of my lover engaged in the same can’t-keep-my-hands-off-you, bodice-ripping embraces I once shared with them utterly demoralizing.

We understand that our relationship has changed, but actually confronting the reality of that is an adventure in ego-bashing we did not anticipate. Nor, frankly, is it one that we feel we deserve. Being with someone we’re supposed to be fucking who now wants to fuck other people the way they fucked us? And still be in a relationship with them and support them through this exciting personal change? FUCKING AMAZING.

The books on non-monogamy call this phase NRE, New Relationship Energy. I like to call it No Real Esteem (for anyone but yourself). You know how annoying it is when one of your friends gets involved with someone and they have to make out and practically screw in front of everyone all the time? Bad enough, but now it’s your partner. Suddenly there’s a teenager in your house, swanning around, singing off-key selections from Songs in A Minor by Alicia Keys. And oh my God? Did they trim their bush? When was the last time they did that for you?

Asking someone to be respectful during this time is a little like trying to get a 14-year-old boy to stop touching his penis. But there it is, Augustine, the beautiful, horrible truth: You got involved with someone, and now things have changed. Brace yourselves. Be humble. Prepare to be even more humble. Remember your sense of humour. It will often be your greatest ally. ■

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