Carolyn Hax’s girlfriend thinks kissing other women is ‘inappropriate’

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Dear Caroline: I have been in a committed, monogamous relationship with a woman for about a year. She had three significant relationships (a marriage and two longtime boyfriends), and each ended because of the man’s sexual infidelity.

She gets really upset when I kiss other women. She thinks cuddling is inappropriate because I’m in a relationship with her and should stop cuddling if I care about her feelings. Sure, I care about her feelings, but that feels like control to me, so I resist. I am totally confident in my ability to be monogamous and sexually faithful. Please help us solve this problem.

But the work that needs to be done is in it.

I say this with great sympathy; she’s been through enough pain to make anyone flinch.

But that doesn’t give him the right to control you or make him suffer someone else’s problem. She may ask you to do X or Y because she feels Z – we all have the right to ask – and, of course, you can agree to this voluntarily if that is okay with you and you wish. But you also have the right to say no to his request. It’s your body, your behavior, your calling.

And if you say no, she has no right to manipulate you or make you feel guilty or hurt your peace of mind until you change your answer.

When you decided not to change your behavior for her, her only valid, appropriate, and healthy choices were to either accept you on those terms or end the relationship. Just like you can do now with her.

The choices she’s made aren’t worthwhile: continuing to be “really upset” and emotionally blackmailing you (“You don’t care about my feelings!”), as well as threatening you but not making changes herself. You are absolutely right to identify this as a control.

It has nothing to do with whether kissing other women is “inappropriate”. It is an eye of the beholder standard that each of you must have and, if necessary, reconcile. It’s strictly about who has a say in whose behavior.

Every relationship is a matter of trust. We tend to think of it as trusting another person, but really, it’s about trusting yourself. Trusting our ability to judge someone’s character. Believing that what we think is good for us really is and will last. By having confidence, we will be able to say how it goes and read things accurately. By trusting, we will be able to handle it and eventually be okay if something goes (even terribly) wrong.

According to your description, your girlfriend is O-fer. And this is the fundamental problem. A person unable to trust each other is unable to sustain their part of an equal partnership, because the very foundation of intimacy is that you two let each other be yourselves.

Instead, she does the opposite, breaking into your business to try to change who you are and what you do in a joyless – and still self-destructive – act of protection.

It’s up to her to establish for herself a sense of control over her feelings, judgment, and circumstances through her own choices, not yours.

For all that column of reasons, you can’t make him do that. But you can ask and warmly suggest, for her own peace of mind, that she speak to a therapist. And if she holds firm to her belief that she’s right to shame you, cajole you, and cry you into doing what she wants, then you can gently say goodbye to her and walk away.

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