Every day, porn star and University of Southern California journalism grad student Tasha Reign wakes up to a curious string of emails from her fans, a devoted group of men and women she lovingly refers to as “Reigndeer.” Said Reigndeer ask her questions — so many questions — about her perspectives on sex, love, relationships and life itself, and as someone who’s had more firsthand experience in these areas than four average adult women combined, she’s become uniquely up to the task of answering them. Every Friday then, Tasha will select a few of these questions and grace us with her insight, advice and expert wisdom in the hopes that she can help you fuck long and prosper, too.
I’m currently in a relationship, but there’s this one girl that I’m starting to have feelings for. I love my current girlfriend, but I can’t stop thinking about the other girl. I feel so guilty. I haven’t done anything with her sexually, but there are flirtatious things that we say to each other. I don’t know what to do. Can I have your advice or opinion?
First of all, stop feeling guilty. There’s no reason to! The situation you’re in is as common and mundane as sunshine in July, and it doesn’t do you any good to beat yourself up about it. That doesn’t mean I’m excusing you — what you’re doing is textbook emotional cheating — but it doesn’t do you much good to buy into the shame and guilt around your less-than-monogamous desires. Instead, use your energy and brain space to figure out what you’re going to do about this, because it seems like you’re in a place where you need to make some hard decisions: Either you stay with your current girlfriend, explore things with the new girl or take this experience as a sign that you might do better in a separate, ethically non-monogamous relationship where it’s okay to have feelings for multiple people like you’re saying you do now.
But before you even get to the point where a decision has to be made, it’s probably a good idea for you to buy yourself some time to carefully consider this situation so that you can make the choice that’s best for you. In order to do so, you need some distance from the other girl so that your lust and attraction for each other doesn’t cloud your judgment. To create that distance, I’d have a conversation with her in which you acknowledge your attraction to each other and discuss in pretty blunt terms what each of you wants from it so you know what you’re working with. Then take a mutual break from each other. Set some very firm no-contact boundaries, slap a time frame on it that you think sounds reasonable (I’d say a month or so is good) and use that time to really think about whether she’s someone you want to leave your girlfriend to be with.
Keep in mind, however, that while crushes and emotional affairs are almost always intoxicating, invigorating and electric in a way established relationships tend not to be, they’re also very good at blinding you to the flaws of the person you’re crushing on and obscuring the sober reality that they might not actually be a great match for you. What you’re feeling for this new girl might seem real, but chances are it’s nothing more than run-of-the-mill lust, jitters and butterflies you get when a hot, novel human wants to bang you.
Don’t ignore these feelings, though — just be sure to ask yourself what you’re getting out of them. Is it validation? Confidence? Feeling seen? Do they put you in touch with your sexuality in a way that you’re lacking in your current relationship? Focusing on what you’re really getting from this other girl can help put you in touch with whether you’re really interested in her, or just what she provides for you. Hopefully, having some space and making a temporary no-contact rule can give you some objectivity to reflect on that.
During this time, I’d also recommend you start making lists to help you process these feelings (or work on them with a therapist). The first one you make should be what you want out of a relationship. Really be honest with yourself, too. Is it passion? Companionship? Stability? Adventure? Flexibility? There are no “right answers,” but whatever they are, be very clear with yourself about what you want and need from both a partner and a partnership. Next, make some pros and cons lists about your girlfriend and this other girl. Compare these to your own list of wants. What stands out? Do one of these women meet more of your needs? Do neither of them? Pay attention to how you feel in your mind and your body when you weigh each of them against what you want. Listen to your gut — chances are, you already know what the right answer is, even if you don’t want to admit it.
Honesty is always the best policy though, so I’d also recommend having a talk with your girlfriend about how you’re feeling. In an ideal world, she’ll be understanding and want to process it with you in order to strengthen your relationship (it’s even possible she’s had similar feelings and can connect with you over that). It’s possible as well that she’ll be furious, hurt and blindsided, which is a fair reaction that she’s totally entitled to. Only you know whether this other chick is worth making her feel that way. If she’s not, well, you got your answer.
In any case, it’s definitely true that a new person can give us a valuable perspective on our existing relationship and the current partner we’re with. In that way, sometimes crushes like this act as a catalyst to make you brave enough to leave a partnership that no longer suits you. Other times, they make us more grateful for the partner we already have. Either way, it’s never easy, but then again, nothing good ever is.
I know you should bring up things like condoms and contraception as early on as possible in a relationship, but when should you start talking about abortion? I think it’s important to know where each other stands on the topic, but it also seems a little presumptuous and intense to instantly launch into such a serious conversation. I want to be on the same page about this with my partners, but I also don’t want to scare them away. Help?
Thank you for bringing this up, because this is something a lot of people are thinking about right now with the recent rollback of women’s reproductive rights in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Missouri. The questions of abortion and how to communicate about it with our partners are always ones we should consider whenever the possibility of pregnancy is involved, but talking about this stuff really does feel more pressing and important than ever.
I’ve been in the position where I’ve had to bring up these things many times, and I’ve experimented with many different methods of doing so. I’ve gotten mixed results, but do you want to know what the one thing I’ve learned is? It’s almost always awkward. It just is! Talking about your personal views on hot-button issues like abortion and family planning with someone you’re still getting to know is incredibly intimate, often more so than feels proportional to the seriousness of your relationship. Having these conversations also isn’t terribly fun, flirty or any of the things new relationships are “supposed” to be, so I completely understand your hesitation in bringing them up right away. It just feels so… heavy.
That’s why I usually wait until we’re a couple of weeks in to start talking about religion and politics (which are directly related to abortion). I like to keep things light in the beginning and believe it’s always a woman’s right to choose; so for me, there’s just not much to talk about right away — if I got pregnant by some guy I don’t want to have kids with, I’d get an abortion regardless of his thoughts on the matter.
That said, I’d totally respect someone who wants to jump into the abortion conversation right off the bat. While that isn’t my style, I also know that if a particular topic is important to you, it’s always okay to bring it up, even if you’re not totally sure what kind of reaction it’s going to get.
Assuming abortion is an important issue for you to discuss early on and you’re having the kind of sex that leads to pregnancy, I’d imagine the best time to discuss these things is as soon as possible, preferably before anything sexy happens. Yeah, it’s awkward and maybe even a little presumptuous to say something like, “Just so you know, I’m not ready to have kids so I’m definitely getting an abortion if CVS is out of Plan B.” But you know what’s more awkward? Getting someone pregnant, and having to go through the process of abortion together. Or if that’s not what you want, being thrust into parenthood before you were ready, with a person you didn’t necessarily choose to do it with, all because you were too worried about scaring each other off and seeming too “serious” to have what should be a perfectly healthy, normal conversation. That’s awkward. And that’s scary.
Besides, so what if it is? If you scare off someone by making it clear what your feelings on abortion are, that person probably isn’t a great person to be giving your energy to anyway. If they jet at the idea of a mere conversation, what are they going to do when something like an unintended pregnancy happens? It’s the people who stick around to have that conversation that are worth your time.
None of this is sexy, I know. However, there are some conversational tactics you can use to make having this conversation easier. For one, you can use a lighter version of the abortion question to get at where your partner may be at. Personally, I like to ask, “So, do you want kids?” It’s still a pretty serious inquiry, but it’s not as pointedly political as, “So, do you believe in abortion?” And it can give you an idea of whether they’re gung-ho about reproducing or not in a place in their life where they want to. It’s also pretty open-ended and can lead to a deeper conversation you might be able to use to segue into your feelings on abortion, contraception and family planning. You can also use articles and news you come across as conversation starters if you don’t want to come out swinging with your abortion views.
But again, there’s no harm in being as upfront about your feelings as you can.
Recently, a guy was very obviously hitting on my girlfriend when we were out a party. I went over to make sure she was okay and she seemed fine, but then I got sidetracked by another conversation. She got super pissed at me afterwards and asked why I didn’t do anything — it was like she was mad I wasn’t jealous “enough.” What was I supposed to do in that situation? Punch the guy? How angry do women want you to get at guys who hit on them?
This question really hits home, and I battle with it more than I probably should because I’ve been assaulted in the past, and I’m still dealing with PTSD from it today. Because of that — and because I’m often seen as nothing more than a sex object due to my work — it’s especially important for me to feel protected by my man. If another dude was creeping on me and making me uncomfortable like what happened with your girlfriend, I’d hope he’d stand up for me, both to show me he cares and to make sure I’m safe. I can’t speak for all women, but I’m sure many of them would agree.
That said, feeling protected and feeling lorded over by a jealous guy who freely punches other dudes for talking to us are two completely different things. I’m guessing that, like me, your girlfriend isn’t so much asking for you to fly off the handle and pummel every Chad, Dick and Gary that gets close to her, but to simply be more aware of how men are acting toward her and intervene responsibly in situations where she may be unsafe or uncomfortable.
Let’s talk about what that might look like so this doesn’t happen again. Personally, I like when my boyfriend makes periodic eye contact with me from across the room to sort of wordlessly check in with me and make sure I’m okay. That way, if I’m uncomfortable or need his help in some way, he can physically see it (sometimes I’ll even flash him a little signal like a wink or a wave if I need to make it more obvious). It’s also pretty effective when he just comes and sits down next to me all casual-like, says hello to the other guy and starts being affectionate toward me in front of him.
More often than not, that’s all you need to do — just be collected, friendly, present and peaceful, while also making it clear that you and your girlfriend are an item. Nine times out of 10, most guys will back off once they see this, but in the off-chance they persist, you can always say something like, “Hey, this is my girlfriend, would you mind not hitting on her?” That’s not you being jealous per se — which again, I don’t think your girlfriend is asking you to be — it’s just you being aware, reading the situation and relieving her from having to talk to someone she doesn’t want to.
Admittedly, though, that’s just my personal preference. And so, it’s important to note that there are plenty of women who feel their partners intervening in conversations they have with other men is overbearing, infantilizing and pathologically jealous to the point where it just makes the boyfriend look crazy, or like he’s irrationally insecure and threatened by other men.
Because of the variation in how people see this issue, I’d highly recommend you have a conversation with your girlfriend about what things like jealousy, protection and security mean to you — in which situations are they appropriate, and in which are they uncalled for? Where do you draw the line? It’s also important you ask your girlfriend what she’d like you to have done differently. If she could wave a magic wand, how would she have preferred you act, and why does she feel that way? If she’s been assaulted or has PTSD like me, that’s important for you to know so that you can react with more empathy, tact and attention to her needs in the future.
It’s okay that you got sidetracked, but try to use this experience as an opportunity to do better next time. Make sure you know what your girlfriend’s expectations of you are, that you understand why she has them and that you’ve discussed how you can both be there for each other when you need to be. This might just involve turning on your awareness a little bit more, making eye contact with her every now and then and reading the situation and her body language so you can step in when a creep is talking to her. And as always, let her know how important she is to you by showing and telling her, too.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s column! Feel free to send me your sex, love and relationship questions at firstname.lastname@example.org!