gaslighting, flirting, open relationships - oh my!

Q. How should I react when I feel like my partner is gaslighting me?  I often get defensive and it only escalates.

A. I’m not a psychologist, but if you feel like you are being gaslighted, then it is possible you are, or there is at least some manipulation going on.  The following suggestions require your emotional labour, so firstly I invite you to consider: is it worth it?

If so, during a peaceful time, send your partner an article (about gaslighting) that resonates with your experience. Explain that when you’re in conflict, you feel like this is happening.  If the gaslighting is unintentional - some people legit don’t know they’re doing it - chances are they will want to work on themselves to stop.  

But, if your partner is unresponsive, defensive, or the gaslighting continues, it may be intentional/there probably isn’t a healthier way to engage without a mediator or counsellor. Lastly, if counselling isn’t an option, you can always take the advice of the great comedian Amanda Seales: “When you see a gaslight, don’t try to cook with it. Fucking bounce!”

Q. I identify as straight but can’t stop flirting with a new friend of mine (who is a lesbian).  Is that bad?

A. Flirting can be totally healthy and harmless - regardless of sexual or emotional availability. It’s still important to see others as whole, and be responsible/respectful while we are getting our kicks.  Also, don’t assume because your friend is sexually attracted to your gender, that she is interested in more than just harmless flirting too!

A general guideline for flirting: regardless of the participants’ sexual orientation, be present to your intent (what am I seeking?) and be accountable to your impact (how do my actions affect others?)!

Q. What do you do when your boyfriend won’t stand up for your relationship with his parents?  ie. we are 23 and he is not allowed to stay at my house when he wants and won’t ask if I can stay at his.

A. Sometimes people can have family dynamics that are hard to understand, or empathize with.  Still, you feel frustrated, and that’s ok. Are you spending (adequate) time together otherwise?  Check in with yourself about what you feel this inaction says about your relationship - ex. I’m not worth fighting for. My feelings don’t matter… etc.  Are you more frustrated with that, than the not staying over?  Is it both?!

You may have to accept this is a boundary he isn’t able/willing to cross at this moment. A possible solution is to come up with ways that he can show he cares and is invested in the relationship, that makes you feel like your needs are being met.  Maybe set up a schedule to check back in about it - 3 months, 6 months or whatever makes sense for you, feeling pressure isn’t usually ideal, and some people can shut down even more.

How everything else is going in the relationship is a factor for how to proceed, but if everything else is feeling good, try to find empathy for how the scenario makes both of you feel, and come to terms you can both agree makes your needs feel seen.

Q. My partner and I are exploring a sexually open relationship and it’s brought us closer and also been hard at times.  How do you overcome things like jealousy while you’re exploring?

A. Open relationships are definitely a journey, not a destination, so lots of navigating ahead! Jealousy is a perfectly normal reaction, even at different intervals throughout an open relationship beyond the beginning.

Jealousy (or any other emotion) serves a purpose. I invite you to look inward at what the jealousy is showing you - are there boundaries to clear up/reevaluate/redefine? Are you simply adjusting to new circumstances? It’s possible that jealousy is part of a learning curve/growing pains.  Find ways to support yourself and each other through it - a schedule of some kind, weekly check-ins, daily reassurance… Chances are, when it’s served its purpose it will pass.  And come back!

Develop a practice of self-care specific to when this feeling crops up, and remember: love and sexual desire is something you have in abundance.

Q. How do you spice things up sexually after being together for a while? (cont.)

A. Bringing jush back into a relationship is very personal, because it can be the most surprising things which can turn people on.  At sex and relationships Q&A, we talked about the importance of communication and consent when introducing new ideas to the bedroom.  There is ultimately no quick fix, but some tried, tested, and true options include: dirty talking, sexting, mutual masturbation, read erotic literature to each other, or fooling around with no intention to orgasm.  Practice having the time between sexy times, also be sexy times.  

Have a question for bitty bits?!  Holler at me here!    

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