In a new twist on Lalalaletmeexplain 's hit column, readers ask for her expert advice on their own love, sex and relationship problems.
Here, she offers advice to a reader who's partner is chatting to women on Only Fans site.
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My backstory is that I was previously married and cheated on, so red flags now stand out a mile. I am currently in a happy relationship with a different partner. A perfect, kind, caring, loving gent. Honestly I thought he was so different.
He has mentioned Only Fans a few times and made jokes about it. My suspicions rose and I decided to check if he had an account – whilst 7 months pregnant. Turns out he did, and he was subscribed to several women’s fan pages. I read everything, all the conversations between him and the women. I saw all the things he had asked for, including requesting their used underwear and asking them if they did meet ups, and offering to take them out for dinner.
I confronted him and he admitted it, he couldn’t not. He said it was just a fantasy online that went too far. He has apologised repeatedly and said that he understands that it will take time to trust him again. I just can’t get my head around it. He’s always been the same loving person before and after I found out, but now I look at him differently. I don’t trust him. It’s all come to a head today and I’ve told him to go for a couple of days whilst I get some space.
To me, Only Fans is just a different level of porn. It’s personal, he paid for specific women and exchanged messages with them (I understand it’s their job), but it’s affected my confidence – all whilst I was pregnant! He says it was a fantasy and not like anything he would carry out in real life but to me he’s crossed a line big time, so, I’m currently at home alone with our 4-week-old. It’s eaten me alive.
This is such a horrible situation to be dealing with when you are only 4 weeks post-partum. It would be horrible at any time, but in these weeks and months post-pregnancy with a new baby, when your hormones are already all over the place and you’re likely to be exhausted and drained, it is particularly rough. The fact that you found out during the late stages of your pregnancy when you really needed to trust him and feel cared for and loved just makes it so much worse. I completely understand why you are finding this so difficult to deal with.
The fact that your previous marriage was ruined by cheating means that you are likely to be particularly sensitive about any form of infidelity. You have been through this pain before, and it destroyed your marriage. You have every right to feel nervous about any type of betrayal. I would imagine that if you had found out that he was having these interactions with women who he wasn’t paying, that it would be much clearer for you.
I’m assuming that you are in a monogamous relationship. An interesting difference between monogamous relationships and polyamorous relationships is that often, the boundaries within polyamorous relationships are set out much more clearly. Poly people are likely to have healthy communication with regards to how other people can be part of their relationship, and boundaries differ. Some poly people will encourage partners to find love with others, some will only be OK with their partner engaging in meaningless sex. Whatever their boundaries are – they are usually made pretty clear, though that doesn’t mean that boundaries aren’t ever crossed, poly couples often run into problems when that does happen!
With monogamous couples, boundaries are often assumed rather than set out. We enter into a relationship, and we may have a discussion about being exclusive, but that’s usually where it ends. We rarely discuss what we feel constitutes as cheating. Is flirting cheating? Is leaving heart eyes on your colleague's picture cheating? Is masturbating to porn cheating? Everyone is going to have different answers to those questions, yet we don’t always set the boundaries on those things before we commit. I guess because it would seem a bit odd to sit down at the point of starting a relationship to list out your boundaries, but not doing that can leave us in these grey areas. Like, is subscribing to Only Fans cheating?
I spoke to someone, who wishes to remain anonymous, who has run her own Only Fans page for two years.
She said: “ I can promise you that the women who her partner was speaking to did not see him as anything other than a man who was paying their wages. While we respect our subscribers and sometimes have regular communication with them, we have very clear boundaries. We wouldn’t want to risk our income by developing real life relationships with these men. Of course, some OF girls do escorting and will take things further, but it is still a transactional relationship. We are there to earn money, not to fall in love. Some girls who are particularly busy have administrators working for them, so he may not have even been speaking to the woman he thought he was speaking to, in some cases, their boyfriends reply to messages pretending to be them. We offer a fantasy, not an affair.”
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Both porn and Only Fans are ways of stimulating a sexual fantasy within the safe realms of your own computer/phone. Accessing them does not necessarily mean that you would want anything to happen with the people you are watching in real life. I know this probably doesn’t make you feel any better, but on a moral level, it is far more ethical for men to pay women on Only Fans than it is to exploit porn actresses by accessing mainstream porn on free sites. I get that this probably doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to you, but it does fit in with the narrative of him being a good bloke more than it would if he was constantly accessing free porn on sites like Pornhub .
Even though this wasn’t an affair in the traditional sense, within the confines of a monogamous relationship it is reasonable to feel that having sexual conversations with anyone except your partner is a massive crossing of boundaries and a huge betrayal, even if the other person involved is a sex worker. I’m certain that he would have felt crushed at finding you asking another man to send you his dirty pants.
And you would probably grimace at the thought of getting some man’s skid marked boxers in the post, which makes it very hard to take a partner seriously after finding something like this. It can make you perceive them not only as a sneaky cheater, but also as a pathetic weirdo. There is something very off putting about imagining them communicating desperately with an Only Fans account. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with men subscribing, and it doesn’t actually make them pathetic and desperate, but it is very hard not to perceive your partner as being pitiful and embarrassing after knowing that they have engaged with sex workers on fan accounts.
I also completely understand why this would knock your confidence, especially at a time when your body is changing so much, and it feels like it’s not your own. It is very easy to slip into comparing yourself to the women he has been talking to, and to feel inadequate in comparison. I think it is really important to remember that body make up, filters, and special lighting is nearly always used. You must not compare yourself to women who are professionally glammed up. Him fantasising about them does not mean that he fancies you any less, or that he wants them more than you. I can’t guarantee much, but I feel pretty confident in saying that he would likely choose you over any of them any day of the week. What you have with him is so much more than w**k fodder. He loves you.
I think the other thing that is hard to get past is the sense that he was hiding something from you. Had he been upfront from the start about his desire to subscribe to Only Fans , then it is something that you could have discussed, and maybe understood in the same way as you might understand him watching porn. But the sneakiness of it is obviously going to make you feel worried about his ability to hide other things in future. I think the fact that he kept referring to it is probably a sign of a guilty conscience. I think he knew how much it would hurt you to find out, but also, the secrecy may have also been part of the turn on and excitement for him.
I say all of this to say that I understand how hurt you must be, and how much it must feel like your relationship is destroyed. I understand why your confidence has been knocked and why you feel betrayed. But I also believe that this is something that you may have a chance of getting past and working through. I think that the fact that you have such a young child together is likely to be a huge motivating factor in trying to see whether you can start to rebuild trust. Seeking couple’s therapy could really help. I spoke to Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari, senior couples and family therapist.www.kalanitbenari.com , Instagram @Dr_Kalanit who said:
“When someone discovers their partner has done something upsetting behind their back, whether it is an emotional or sexual connection, it is like pulling the rug from under their feet. For many, it is experienced as a relationship trauma, and professional guidance can really help with understanding the underlying issues within the relationship, processing the emotional impact, exploring the unspoken contract between them (expectations, boundaries, and perceived window of tolerance), helping to recover trust, and developing a different quality of relationship.
"The fact that it already happened to her once before might raise some questions for her to explore:What are the messages and experiences about trust that she learnt about (directly and not directly) from her childhood? Were her parents trustful for each other and of her? How did they manage and repair trust issues? What message did she get from this? We learn about love and relationships in our early childhood and unconsciously replicate those issues in our adult relationships. There is so much for both sides to explore with a relationship therapist, as they are both suffering and in pain right now, and given that they have a young baby, they probably feel very lonely with that pain. I would also recommend her to strengthen and expand her social support now.”
You might be thinking ‘What does my childhood have to do with the fact that HE has done this?!’ but I think that for both of you, thinking about how you got here is really important. The wonderful Esther Perel ( @estherperelofficial ) says “Tell me how you were loved, and I’ll tell you how you make love.” Our early experiences of love, trust and bonding play a huge part in how we show up in relationships and how we handle relationship issues. Listening to some of Esther Perel’s relationship therapy podcasts may really help. She covers lots of situations similar to yours. But seeking in person/online couple’s therapy together is likely to be the biggest help.
He is still the perfect, kind, loving, caring gent who you fell in love with. And as you said, he hasn’t changed. It sounds to me like he got swept up in the dirtiness and excitement of it all, and whilst I understand why it is so crushing, I don’t think it sounds unforgivable, especially because he has been so remorseful. However, you must do what feels right for you, though I don’t think that you should make that decision without at least trying to learn how to rebuild that trust first. We’re all human, we all mess up. It sounds to me like he’s worth at least one more shot.
Follow @Lalalaletmeexplain on Instagram for more advice on sex and relationships. Have a question for Lala? Email [email protected]
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