Why Can’t I Talk To My Friends About Sex With My Wife?


Marcus Williams wonders if he can talk about his marriage and still be respectful toward his wife.

I consider myself a fairly introspective, in-touch-with-my-feelings kind of guy, but when it comes to talking about my relationships–and more specifically, my marriage—I find myself feeling isolated because there is no one I feel “allowed” to talk about it with. Talking about what’s good about about it is no problem—no one is made vulnerable by talking about the good stuff. (When’s the last time someone said to you, “Do you have a few minutes? I really need to talk to you about how connected I feel in my marriage.”)? It’s the vulnerable stuff, the rants I want to get off my chest, or the problems I’d like feedback on, that I don’t know who a loving husband is supposed to share with.

I expect the first obvious answer to be: “Your wife!” Fantastic. I’m all for communication being the foundation of a healthy relationship. That is not helpful, however, when the thing I want to discuss is about her, or when the problem is needing input on how to communicate about a touchy subject. The second obvious answer is, “A therapist!” which is also fantastic given enough time and money to afford one, but are those two obvious answers the only ones a man can avail himself of without disrespecting his wife?

I take it for granted that women are more likely than men to talk about their relationships, in intimate detail, and by “intimate”, I’m not just talking about sex. I assume my wife talks about me or our marriage with her close friends, and that they reciprocate, without me having to probe for details. Most likely, I would not be comfortable to know the details, but the fact that those conversations happen does not bother me. It even seems like a healthy thing to me. I don’t feel that same freedom to discuss intimate details with others, though, which feels…unhealthy.

♦◊♦

Here’s my breakdown of the different categories of people outside the relationship that I could potentially talk to, and why I find each one potentially problematic:

1. Family – They know me and care about me, but the problem I’ve seen with venting to family is that it can sour their relationship with your spouse. I’ve been on the listening end for a sister who eventually divorced, and remember how difficult it was to feel positive about her marriage or husband—even when she was having a good day—because I was accustomed to hearing so much about what was wrong with it. I was on the venting end during my first marriage, and think there was a similar effect. A little older and I hope wiser, I want my family’s support through ups and downs, but there’s a limit to how comfortable I am telling them about the downs, because I know how that can lead to an unintended (and undeserved) bias against my spouse.

2. Mutual friends, male or female –The mutual friends would seem to be a promising source of insight and understanding, since they know and care about both of us. Like family, though, that can make them too close. If I want to sound off about complaints or problems I’m having, I don’t want that to become the lens through which they view our marriage. I also don’t want to embarrass or disrespect my wife to people who know her.

3. Mono-friend, male — I don’t know of a word for “friend to one person in the relationship”, so I’m calling that a mono-friend. I can and have talked about relationships with male mono-friends, but honestly, they tend not to get very specific or go very deep. It’s not that we don’t care or can’t think about our relationships, but it’s just not the kind of conversation guys have, at least in my experience. If there are problems with our sex lives, for example, that may come out in a humorous complaint where we commiserate with each other (like Charlie Capen’s “Why won’t my wife have sex with me?”) but in a bona fide deep conversation with another man or group of men, I’ve never heard someone discuss in thoughtful detail a topic like how he can improve his wife’s fellatio technique. There’s a level of personal detail that guys just don’t talk to other guys about, especially if it involves their wives. I’ve had that level of conversation a couple of times when divorces were pending, but not about the day-to-day challenges of keeping a marriage going. Maybe it’s a thing about showing weakness, like there’s some evo-psych reason for not wanting to reveal any weakness in the bond you have with your mate to another male. Or maybe it’s patriarchy. I’m always fuzzy on which one to give the credit.

4. Mono-friend, female — This is the most awkward category for me, because honestly, it’s the most appealing choice when it’s available to me. I have some guy friends and my best friend is a guy I’ve known since the first grade, but not being an especially macho kind of guy to begin with, I have gravitated more toward women as my close friends. That entailed some unreciprocated crushes in my single days, but sexual tension notwithstanding, I’ve usually connected more easily with women than with men. For relationship talk, they’re more likely to be interested, usually more at ease discussing it, and importantly, more likely to give me some insight into the female mind than my man friends, who are mostly guessing like me.

The drawback of turning to a female mono-friend to vent or seek feedback about my marriage is that it is, by it’s very nature, intimate stuff. It’s not like having sex, but if the conversation is going well and it’s not a one-time thing, it makes for an emotional connection with someone who is not my wife. I don’t think we (all humans, not just men) are only allowed one intimate, emotional connection, but I honestly don’t know exactly where the line is. I used to think I did, because to me the line was sex, but I’ve heard enough stories from women now to realize that at least for some, an emotional connection outside the marriage can cross the line into cheating territory. In particular, it’s the sex talk I don’t know what to do with. I doubt my wife would mind me griping to someone she doesn’t know about…making something up now…how long it takes her to get ready to go out; if I want to talk about…making something up…her pole dancing technique, I don’t feel like I have the same leeway. But what if I really want to talk about her pole dancing?

5. Strangers — Hi, Readers! I don’t know most of you, but are you enjoying this glimpse of my soul, nicely filleted and spread out, ready to be salted with comments?

But seriously, it can sometimes be easier to be vulnerable to strangers than to people I know, especially on the Internet where I have the option of hiding behind a layer or two of anonymity. It can feel better than staying completely bottled up, but it usually falls short of that real connection I’m after. When I’m lucky and connect with someone that leads to some one-on-one contact, that’s great, but then they usually move to Category #3 or #4 above and inherit the same problems. One terrific woman went from Category #5 to #4, to Wife #2 (my favorite!), but I was already done with marriage #1, so that’s a different story.

♦◊♦

Back to the point—who am I, or men generally, supposed to talk to when we have complaints or problems about our marriage? I don’t feel like it’s my wife forbidding me to talk about her or us outside our marriage, but it’s one of those things that I just feel is expected of me as a man. Maybe I’m imagining it, though, so I’m interested to hear in comments — from both men and women — about what you think the boundaries are, and why? I’m specifically asking about men talking about their relationships (e.g., sex lives, communication gaps, parenting conflicts, ruined anythings, etc.), not women. I’d love to hear from Josie and Eli of SheSaidHeSaid on this, but I don’t think I could fit all that into a 3-sentence question, and if I did, they’d get the byline instead of me.

 

—Photo, main: alexis nyal photography/Flickr, inset lovelornpoets/Flickr

NOW TRENDING ON GMP TV

Super Villain or Not, Parenting Paranoia Ensues
The Garbage Man Explains Happiness
How To Not Suck At Dating

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Marcus Williams

Marcus Williams writes what he knows, which is a lot about a little and not much about everything else.

Comments

  1. Just an observation:
    In your setup, you mentioned “needing input on how to communicate about a touchy subject,” but in your breakdown of relationship types you used words like “vent” and “sound off” repeatedly. This seems inconsistent, and I think it’s an inconsistency worth digging into.

    • Marcus Williams says:

      Brad, I think it would be an inconsistency worth exploring if I was describing the same need two different ways without realizing it. However, I’m openly acknowledging two different kinds of communication needs I (or men who feel similarly constrained) struggle to find outlets for: 1) The need to vent or sound off, where a sympathetic listener is wanted, but not really seeking advice or guidance; and 2) Wanting the kind of feedback that could be considered advice or guidance. I think the difference is worth noting in case it makes for different boundaries, like if people think it’s okay to seek counsel from friends, but not to just rant to them. If you still think there’s an inconsistency there, I’d be interested to hear more, because I’m not seeing it for myself.

    • Your wife will be discussing intimate details regarding her relationship with you with her friends and confidants, why the double standard? The ‘who’ you should speak to is your decision, I speak with close friends who I know will give me good advice. I particularly value the friend who will give me the unalloyed, if brutal, truth as he sees it.

  2. It reminds me of Granny Weatherwax, a character from Terry Pratchet’s Disk world.

    “the start and finish is helpin’ people when life is on the edge. Even people you don’t like. Stars is easy, people is hard.”

    In many ways it does not matter if you break down the options one to five as to who it is best to speak to.

    The one thing missing from your analysis is a person who can hear what you are communicating. That means finding someone who is able to understand where you are coming from – and that is not always where you think you have been.

    You mention with some apparent frustration “bona fide deep conversation”. That all most sounds like digging a hole. Problem with holes is when they get deeper you see fewer stars.

    Often it is the unexpected and even unguarded comment at an unexpected time that is the key. That can come from anyone, even out of the mouths of babes.

    • Marcus Williams says:

      That means finding someone who is able to understand where you are coming from – and that is not always where you think you have been.

      I love that insight. Looking at it sort of dispassionately, I see the wisdom in it and have no trouble agreeing. In any given conversation where it matters where I’m coming from, though, I tend to think no one can possibly understand my own background or perspective better than me. I don’t mean that I therefore shut out all input or insights that come from others, but I consider myself the leading expert on where I’m coming from. I can see how that might keep blinders on because I agree with your eloquent insight, but they’re really hard blinders to remove when it matters most.

      Often it is the unexpected and even unguarded comment at an unexpected time that is the key.

      Also agreed, but also part of the problem, in that I have seen that kind of unguarded comment either made or described here (at GMP), and be met with such hurt and ferocity that it reinforces the instinct to keep that guard up. It’s not like GMP is the first time I’ve seen that – it’s a lifelong pattern – but it reinforces the impression that women say they want men to be vulnerable and unguarded, but when given examples of what that looks like, beat the men back into their shells. I don’t think it’s an intentional hypocrisy, like they’re literally telling us to STFU, but reacting with feelings of deep hurt and betrayal sends the same message: STFU. Not just to STFU directly, but also to anyone that would hurt the woman I love if she knew what I was saying, because I don’t want to hurt people I love.

      • “it reinforces the impression that women say they want men to be vulnerable and unguarded, but when given examples of what that looks like, beat the men back into their shells. ”

        I see this too, and it makes me furious. You know I write about this. I really can’t stand the hypocrisy of it, and the mixed message it sends to men. Someone (you? me? someone else?) should write a post on this. Not only do I not like this behavior personally, I don’t understand it. I mean, I can look at it psychologically, sociologically, anthropologically…but at the end of the day, it’s a choice, and I really wish women could see this behavior and how counterproductive it is. I’m talking about the women who do it, not the ones who appreciate male emotional expression.

        • Lori, I think your powerful and beautiful piece about the reaction of your husband to his brother’s suicide did explore the constricting bind that alot of men can find themselves in, when it comes to being able, being allowed to show vulnerability.
          Also Lori, I tip my hat to you, as you are one of the few that actually live your belief, that men should be able to be vulnerable and unguarded.

      • Marcus – when it comes to solving a problem the biggest hurdle is acknowledging that it exists. That is at least 90% of the solution. You then look at the problem, understand it and ask questions about it and that gets you 99% of the way. The word problem can itself be a problem as it’s seen as negative. In eastern philosophy the word problem really does not exist. It should be translated as opportunity for change. You see when you get to grips with a problem you find that the answer and solution is in the heart of the problem and that is why the 99% is important – it gives you the solution.

        We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
        Albert Einstein

        As for unguarded comments – who said it was you making the comment?

        Blinders are like that! P^)

      • Grey Aiken says:

        I don’t buy this idea that women are somehow responsible for coaxing a man’s feelings out of him. They have a right to react to what you’re putting out there, especially if how you act and present yourself on a daily basis is very different from how you feel inside. That can be shocking to a person and very hurtful if they haven’t been able to pick up on it at all.

        I think it’s your responsibility to present yourself honestly. Even if the other person’s response to you is negative that can still be productive on your way to aligning your perception of yourself with that person’s perception of you. You’ve gotta accept that the person you really are may not be the person other people bargained for and that they will either embrace that person or not be able to deal with them.

  3. Truthfully, I can’t relate. i have at least 10 or more male friends who i can talk to graphically and intimately with about this subject or anything else. Maybe you haven’t cultivated your male friendships sufficiently? Or met the right guys?

    • Marcus Williams says:

      I envy that, Eliezer, and yes, it could very well be something about how I cultivate (or don’t) those friendships, more so than “society’s expectations”. To bring up that best friend again, though, we’ve been very vulnerable and unguarded to each other over almost 40 years we’ve known each other, but I can’t remember either of us ever going into graphic, intimate detail about our wives. The relationship is strong and the trust is there, but it’s like there’s an unspoken rule against that, which for me, is at least partly due to being couples friends now, not just two guys who have known each other since the first grade.

      • Sometimes “unspoken rules” are imagined. After 40 years of friendship, you and this guy should be able to have the type of conversation you want to have sometimes. You might both want to talk about it but have both assumed the other guy doesn’t want to have that conversation. Someone needs to take the first step to cross that boundary.

        • I agree with Donna. Rather than only considering women for conversations about sex and relationships, take the risk of starting a conversation with a man whose opinion you would value. Your old friend is probably a good choice.

          You can also cultivate friendships online with people whose opinions you appreciate. If the question is truly just about “pole dancing” or oral sex technique, that’s not the kind of question that your answerer needs a lot of backstory on. It’s a “how to,” and there are many communities online where people just loooove to answer this kind of question.

  4. Marcus, first of all think it took courage to publish this. I am of course curious if your wife knows!

    I think men have a harder time with this than women because women have each other for these long, deep, intimate conversations, and I hear men say all the time how other men don’t tend to “go there.” I have sometimes said that “women are things together, while men do things together.” I hope that does not come across in a way I don’t intend. But women frequently get together, have a glass of wine, and talk. Men do that (ok, maybe it’s beer instead of wine) but they are in front of a flat screen watching a game, which is doing something together as opposed to being something together.

    I do have one idea for you, but some people make think it’s very weird, random, and hard to orchestrate for yourself. However, if you think about it, you may already have it. Here goes:

    When I started blogging, I “met” all kinds of people. I got a window onto humanity that was different than what I had living in my small, liberal New England town. I got exposed to other writers and commenters who were incredibly bright or incredibly stupid; very open-minded or very narrow-minded; liberal or conservative; feminist or horribly sexist; nice or downright scary; at peace within themselves or seething with anger; fair/civil or unfair/uncivil. And of course, everything in between!!!

    This is not news to you. But out of all of it came one online friend (so far) who feels like a sister to me, sometimes even more so than my real friends in the real world. We got to know each other through blogging and facebook, and gradually, daily emails and phone calls maybe once a week. We live 1000 miles apart, have never met each other (but plan to soon), and yet, it is uncanny how much we are sympatico and how much we can talk about. t’s a bit like how I met the perfect husband on match.com! It happens! :-)

    My friend and I share the same politics, values, educational levels, parenting styles, views about men and marriage, and so on. In some ways, if I had a problem with my husband I might be better able to talk to her than casual friends who live right here in my town and I can see face-to-face but I have less in common with, or have less *depth* with. (pardon the poor grammar–I save the good stuff for blog posts)

    Maybe the geographical distance of this online friend the fact she is NOT known by/part of the circles of my friends and family would even make that easier. I am one of those people with a few good friends, not a lot of friends, and the reasons are: 1) I’m introverted and 2) there are things I really *need* in a close friend that are hard to find in the people who I come into contact with in daily life. I need female friends who are intellectual, not always talking about their kids or shopping or tennis, curious about the world, well-versed in current events, politically active, etc. Because *I* am picky about who I get close to, I tend to have just a few go-to people in my life. But one of them I met online.

    So…do you have a friend like that?

    • Marcus Williams says:

      Marcus, first of all think it took courage to publish this. I am of course curious if your wife knows!

      Thanks, Lori. I’m making it personal because it is, but I’m also hoping to start the conversation for other men out there who might feel the same way, because aside from that freak of nature, Eliezer (j/k!), I have a feeling I’m not unusual.

      My wife knows about this article. She hasn’t read it yet (but probably will soon), but I described it in detail last night over a good date night conversation. She knows about everything I write here, because I couldn’t have it otherwise. It can make it tricky depending on what I’m writing about, but I don’t publish behind her back.

      I have had some very good online friends. My wife started as one of them. The guy who created the discussion board I met my wife on was my Best Man, and is still a good friend though we don’t have as much contact as we used to. I’ve already started some promising friendships with people I’ve met since I started blogging here, and in fact, a couple of those are a driving force behind this article. No one told me to write it, but as I find myself getting more intimate (again, not talking about having sex), with my mind soaking in stories of how emotional intimacy can be “cheating”, I’m pondering where the boundaries are. I think my article history so far here shows that I don’t find it all that difficult to express my vulnerable thoughts, but I struggle with feeling that it’s okay to connect with specific people – as opposed to an arm’s-length general auidence – without hurting or threatening my wife. I can express it, but I haven’t figured out how to feel safe expressing it.

  5. I like Lori’s idea about an online, long distance friend. And I also agree with Eliezer that there are plenty of men who are OK with talking about these subjects, so maybe you want to broaden your circle of male friends a bit.

    But, regarding your preference for female friends and your desire to discuss these things with them – I’m someone who is on the other side of that fence. I’m a woman whose friends are mostly men. I work in a couple of “male dominated” fields so it just naturally happens that I have more in common with men and meet/interact with many more men on a daily basis than women. As such, I’m privy to all sorts of intimate discussions and a lot of my friends who are married or in relationships like to bounce things off me for the very reasons you stated: I’m willing to talk about it, and I can provide a female point of view.

    I do understand your concerns about where to draw the line in terms of intimate boundaries. Like you, I never used to think it was a problem so long as we weren’t doing anything sexual, but particularly in times when my friends have been vulnerable because their relationship was in a bad patch (especially if I was vulnerable myself), becoming very emotionally intimate with someone else of the opposite sex can definitely complicate things. I had to go through this a couple of times before really realizing where a line was being crossed, but now I know, and on balance I still think that WAY more good than bad has resulted from these friendships, including in our respective relationships/marriages. My married male friends and I have sexually and emotionally explicit discussions and it’s no big deal, so long as both parties are mature about it. If you don’t feel that your feelings for your wife are being diminished or supplanted by these conversations, then it’s not very likely you’ve crossed any boundaries.

  6. Marcus Williams says:

    LF, thanks for sharing your similar perspective. Even though it’s sort of flipped gender-wise, you can relate to the dynamic I’m describing, so if nothing else, it’s nice to have company. :)

    And I also agree with Eliezer that there are plenty of men who are OK with talking about these subjects, so maybe you want to broaden your circle of male friends a bit.

    Great advice. Hard to follow. I’m not laying the responsibility to make friends on anyone but myself, but I’m an introvert (to some people’s surprise, because I can be very outgoing when I’m at ease), and have always been slow to make friends, especially men. (Well, maybe not always, but at least since I was 13.) In groups of men, especially, I have much more experience feeling like the outlier than of fitting in. That’s a whole ‘nother article, though, so I’ll save my stories of sports and a college fraternity for another time. It’s not all sob story, though – I overcame enough of my childhood insecurity about not fitting in on sports teams to take up hockey as an adult, and that’s been a very positive male-bonding experience for me, even if I’m not talking about sex in the locker room.

    • That is cool Marcus, and again I can relate, because I never fit most of the female stereotypes either. If you’re something of an outlier, it’s harder to find people that you have something in common with, but you have to remember there are other outliers – they are just harder to find and harder to become friends with for all the same reasons YOU have a hard time. :D But I can definitely tell you, there are men who are perfectly OK with talking to each other about very intimate subjects, but it doesn’t just happen overnight. I have a wonderful circle of friends, but it took awhile to break through their shells (and my own). Turned out to be well worth the effort for all parties, though.

  7. This is where older women can be invaluable to you, Marcus. You’re not going to be sexually attracted to them, or maybe you will, but most likely not and you can get your talk on.
    Joining a book club or reaching out to people in a nursing home can be very very helpful. There might be some older men there too that you could talk to. Although, the women, even being older could be more open about the sex stuff. Remember Dr. Ruth?
    As a society we don’t tap that resource of wisdom enough.

    • Very good point! Older women are often very bawdy and hilarious in their conversations about sex! As well as being able to offer good, and experienced, advice. Older men too, I’d say.

    • Marcus Williams says:

      That’s a really interesting idea, Valerie! It could even be giving something back if I tried the nursing home approach. I’ve never sought out older friends with that kind of conversation in mind, but I’ve gotten along swimmingly with older folks on cruises and such, so it’s not weird to me to think of having friendships from older generations. I’ll be giving this idea some thought, so thanks.

      • Julie Gillis says:

        We used to have villages right? you’d have been able to seek counsel from elders. One day you’d be an elder.

  8. I’m also a woman (also very introverted) who has vastly more male friends than female friends. I believe nuance is very important when it comes to this situation. You can’t just say–this is the type of person I can talk to about this and this is not. The people I consider my very best friends are a guy I dated for over one and a half years, a guy I lived with for a while and have seen naked, and a guy who once had a very big crush on me for a very long time. My husband is surprisingly trusting and understanding of these relationship. I do know the boundaries in talking to them, though. Am I going to tell these friends that I feel like he isn’t lasting long enough in bed (made up story, but that kind of thing), tell them the weird and creepy secret he told me when he felt he could trust me, whine when can’t get it up, or complain when the love handles have finally stopped being ‘cute’? Probably not. I do go to them when I’m fighting with my husband or have insecurities/problems that my husband can’t address. When going to them after fights, I don’t simply bad mouth him either. It’s an intimate conversation, and one of them is willing to outright tell me when I am in the wrong (which I appreciate). I just keep in mind that there’s a difference between an intimate conversation and a backdrop for flirting. A lot of people go very far to be willfully ignorant about this.

    He *has* outright forbidden me to speak with about 4 of my male friends when he felt that the conversations crossed a line. That’s where the nuance comes in. It’s not that they were male and friend, but that he saw something inappropriate with the conversations– whether it was the feeling that the guy wanted to be more than friends, that he was trying to talk negatively about my husband, that I was attempting to hide conversations, or that the friend had mistreated me. I believe respect for your partner comes first. There are points when a partner can go too far with insecurity and jealousy, but keeping them comfortable and happy should be a reward in itself. You’re in sync with your partner. You know what makes him/her uncomfortable, happy, or angry. You should do exactly what you’re trying to do here, Marcus. When you’re unhappy about something with your wife, try and find a way to solve the problem that doesn’t disrespect her or her boundaries.

  9. Julie Gillis says:

    Such a great post, Marcus. All people need a safe haven to talk. Venting once or twice is great,and I’ve been a place for that to happen with some of my friends, male and female alike. My general rule with vents is this: Once or twice is nice, three times is avoiding the conversation you have to have at home. If you pick someone to triangulate with, then you wind up with a triangle.

    For friendships? I get how difficult it can be to find that person or people you can really let go with. I’m not sure why many men seem reticent to actually discuss needs etc, but it’s clear from this post (and conversations with other men) that they need each other. So find some, I suppose. (easy to say, right?)

    As for men talking with women, it can work. It takes ethics on the man and friend to be very honest about feelings that might develop, and it takes honesty and trust on the part of husband and wife to let that relationship be what it is (the friend one). I think it’s normal to love more than one person, even if it’s not sexual in nature. Romances happen. It doesn’t always mean there is cheating. But I also think men and women can care for each other without sexual feelings getting in the way. I know, I know, no one believes me! (cue comments filling up).

    I love that Granny Weatherwax quote. It’s genius. We all need each other.

  10. i’m like LF as a woman with more male friends. i have had very frank discussions with some of my male friends about their/my situations. it just takes a good knowledge of where our boundaries lie and then keeping the conversation etc within those boundaries.

    i have another very good friend who says that he’s the gayest straight man around (he has many gay friends in his hometown). i have found his support to be invaluable as she can look at what i’m talking/venting/ranting about from both male and female points of view.

    good luck in your search to finding that person you can have good discussions with, as i definitely believe that it’s important to everyone’s mental and emotional health.

  11. Hey there, how about talking to people anonymously on forums and online communities like DINKlife and others?

  12. Don’t overanalyze or overintellectualize too much. When you realize you need those kinds of people in your life then they come. They are very few, but all it takes is one or two good confidantes in your life to get you through. Sure, not everyone can go to therapy each week, but it’s a good starting point initially. To organize your thoughts and feelings, to get used to talking to someone else and receiving feedback. Personally having these people in my life never became a process with categories. There’s a certain amount of risk we have to be willing to take, even on people we think won’t ‘go there’ with us. You’d be surprised. Men are just adverse to risk when it comes to presenting our vulnerabilities. I think our fear of putting ourselves out there with others is the biggest hurdle for us.

  13. Marcus Williams says:

    I appreciate the many comments and suggestions – there’s a lot of wisdom shared already. Most of the feedback has focused on getting comfortable myself talking with someone else, and that’s important, but finding a person I feel comfortable confiding in is only part of the challenge. The other part is my wife being comfortable with me confiding such things, and the category breakdown was intended to show what I see as some of the potential pitfalls with each.

    Ideally, a man and wife are so secure and trusting in each other that having confidantes outside the relationship isn’t emotionally threatening in any way. Just hypothetically, though, let’s say a man believes his wife is the kind of person who would feel very hurt or disrespected if he confided to a friend that motherhood ruined his wife’s tits. What is a loving husband supposed to do? Suppress his own need for outside confidantes? Ignore his wife’s feelings because his need to talk is greater? Advice directed at me is fine – I did ask for it – but I’d be interested to hear more what other people’s boundaries or comfort levels are for husbands talking about intimate marital stuff outside the marriage. In particular, I’m curious how well the men’s expectations line up with the women’s expectations, because that’s where the potential conflict is. From the women in particular, I see many supportive voices here encouraging me to find a suitable confidante, but in those threads where delicate marital stuff was discussed between guys, the female response was overwhelmingly hurt and angry toward the man who confided in a friend. That’s the tension I don’t know how to solve.

    I could just go and talk about whatever I want to whomever I want, with or without being sneaky about it, but care about my wife and marriage, not just my need to talk.

    • My husband and I actually discussed your piece last night over dinner. We both agreed that each spouse should be able to discuss–even “vent”–to trusted friends outside the marriage. We felt that what would be hurtful was gossip and blabbing all over town, but that if done in confidence and with care taken in who the chosen confidante is, there should be no differences in the expectations of the husband or the wife. If the wife is free to talk to her friends, the same goes for the husband, and it is not right for one spouse to expect “do as I say, not as I do.” In the case where one spouse feels it is wrong for either of them to ever talk to anyone, I think couples therapy is needed, because I don’t think that kind of repression and those rigid boundaries are healthy if both do not agree to them. I do know women who talk about their husbands, but would be outraged to know their husbands talk about them. This is patently unfair. Personally, within my own marriage, we each communicate well and talk about everything, but have the mutual understanding that from time to time, either or both of us ight want someone else to confide in, and that this is ok.

      • Hey Lori, my wife got very upset when she found out that I talk about some of our situations with one of my best friends (whom she knows). I told her that I never speak poorly of her and only talk to vent, gain perspective, or seek guidance. She says friends of hers talk sh*t about their husbands. I told her this is not the case with me; that I love her and have no reason to speak about her in a negative way. She wouldn’t understand my point of view that it’s good to open up; said that I could do whatever I want but that it changed the way she thought about me and told me I was the last person she thought would “do that” (talk about her behind her back). She wasn’t there to defend herself yet I insisted that there was nothing that she needed to be there to defend, I wasn’t ragging on her.

        Do you have any advice for this situation? She has never really opened up to any friends of hers, never discusses what she calls “private issues.” I, on the other hand, think it’s incredibly healthy to release some of those pent up thoughts to a confidante who isn’t judging her (something she thinks is happening). She says if I have a problem to talk to her about, completely missing the idea that it’s good to have that’s not emotionally involved. Just trying to figure out some resolve.

        • “She has never really opened up to any friends of hers, never discusses what she calls “private issues.”

          Spencer, it sounds like this is the problem. If she can’t relate to it and doesn’t do it and has not experienced the benefits, she doesn’t want you to do it or understand why you might need to. It also sounds like she feels insecure or threatened and worried about what you might say. Have you ever asked her about that? Maybe if she could tell you what she’s afraid of, and you could air that out, she could be less uptight about you wanting outside perspective? It’s also about two different people with different emotional and friendship needs, which seems like a foundational thing you need to work out first. Hope you guys can work this out!

    • I think the intense negative reaction to the “motherhood ruined my wife’s tits” story had a lot to do with how it was presented. First, it didn’t sound like a conversation where a guy was asking for help dealing with a difficult situation in his marriage, i.e. his loss of his sexual attraction to his wife. Instead, it was presented as a guy who was callously insulting his wife’s body and denigrating her sacrifices while using it as an excuse for visiting strip clubs and fantasizing about sex with teenage girls. As a woman, my response to that was a huge YUCK. I don’t think any reasonable woman has a problem with the idea that their husband/significant other might want to confide in a friend or seek advice. But no woman wants to think about her life partner “venting” to his buddies about how disgusted he is by her post-baby body (which she is probably already very sensitive about). The thing is, she can’t help what motherhood did to her breasts. It’s totally out of her control. It’s not like he’s venting that she let herself get out of shape (which might be hurtful, but at least it’s partly her responsibility) or that she’s turned into a raging bitch or refuses to have sex with him anymore. He’s complaining because he’s disgusted by a physical change she was helpless to prevent (except by refusing to breastfeed her babies, which is not considered an acceptable reason to forego breastfeeding anymore). In other words, he was just being mean. (Or that’s how it came across in Tom’s story.) You can confide in friends in a way that’s respectful to someone you love. He could say, “I’m just not physically attracted to my wife anymore, what should I do? Should I get a divorce? I don’t want to have an affair, but I can’t stand the idea of never having sex again with an attractive woman. Should I ask her to get breast implants? Is our relationship doomed?” Those are tough questions with no easy answers but maybe something a friend could help deal with. That’s a far cry from, “My wife is ugly and ruined so I’m spending all my free time at a strip club.”

    • Marcus,

      I think the uproar over the “motherhood ruined my wife’s tits” comment was not so much that this guy confided this privately to a friend, but because the thought itself and the way he expressed it (not to mention his proposed “solutions”) was so callous and disrespectful.

      Even if he’d simply said “Ever since my wife gave birth, her breasts aren’t the same anymore and I miss how they used to be. I feel really guilty about this, because I love my wife and don’t want to hurt her, but it affects our sex life and I don’t know what to do about it,” I doubt any woman would have objected to that.

      And that’s really the important thing: thinking about how I personally would feel about this, I’m fine with it as long as he makes it clear that we’re still on the same team, that his priority is to make things work with me and he makes that clear to his friend – not that he is “giving up” and ready to deal with his problem by having an affair with a teenager. And when I’ve confided with friends about relationship problems, it’s always in that context. Saying I’m not into some sexual technique that he likes and that it drives me crazy, and asking for advice about how to talk to him about it, no problem. It would benefit both of us if we could find a way to discuss that respectfully. But I’m not going to say, make fun of his dick size or erectile dysfunction to my friends. Ever. What good could that possibly accomplish?

      To me, that’s all that really matters – basic kindness and respect. That doesn’t mean you never get mad at your SO and they don’t drive you nuts at times and you might not need to “vent.” But that is still in service to a greater good, namely that if you talk to a friend about it you’ll be less likely to take it out on your SO and more likely to have calmed down by the time you actually talk to him/her, and maybe have gained a little perspective.

      That’s my 2 cents anyway…

      • anonymouswoman says:

        I am astounded that this isn’t obvious.

        Glad you and Jill explained it. Very, very sad that it had to be explained. :(

        • Ditto.

          • Julie Gillis says:

            Yeah, I”m surprised too. I felt like we all deconstructed the “tits” comment pretty thoroughly. It’s not about the need for advice and support Marcus. Everyone should have that. But the person in Tom’s piece (at least the way Tom framed it) wasn’t going to get support, but to say some pretty difficult things. And as the ladies have explained again above, I think you’d see our point there.

            • Marcus Williams says:

              To this branch of women responding here – I have read your thoughtful comments and respect your voices. I often agree with them.

              You are not hearing me. Or if you are, you aren’t saying the things that make me feel understood.

              I acknowledged more than once (in other threads) that Mr. W’s sneaking around behavior was not a good or respectful thing. The point I keep trying to come back to and that you’re reinforcing here is that women have a problem with some thoughts, and any expression of those thoughts outside a man’s head is apt to be felt as “talking shit to buddies”, or “denigrating her sacrifice”, or similarly unloving things.

              If a man’s vulnerable thought is, “My wife’s body is not as attractive to me as it used to be,” that can be a serious, difficult feeling to confront. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his wife, or respect her, or have an awareness of contributing factors beyond her control. It’s a thing he might want to express to a trusted friend, either to vent, or maybe because that guy is someone he expects to reply with some wisdom. Telling one person doesn’t mean he’s spreading it around town, and while it’s possible Mr. W from Tom’s story was going around putting his wife’s breasts down to all his buddies, all we know for sure is that he told Tom. We don’t even know if it was a direct quote, or if Tom was paraphrasing to be provocative, in which case he did a great job. You keep presenting it as a given that Mr. W wasn’t confiding in Tom for support, but I don’t know why. To me, it sounds like a man who could be doing exactly that.

              Mr. W has been thoroughly deconstructed—in the worst possible light. Where’s the acknowledgement that between guy friends, maybe he was looking for a sympathetic, “Yeah, motherhood is tough on tits. I know what you mean.”? Or that maybe he was disclosing behavior he was ashamed of and a sympathetic friend might redirect him with, “I know what you mean, but sneaking the porn and strip clubs sounds like a recipe for disaster. You gotta do something different.”? Or, “I think you’re exaggerating, but an affair with some teenage hottie would be awful on many levels.”? This kind of conversation can’t happen between men if one man doesn’t start it off with a comment about ruined tits. Tom’s article wasn’t (intentionally) about Mr. W, so there’s an awful lot we don’t know and I’m not trying to give him an unconditional pass, but the reaction from women has consistently assumed the worst about every aspect, inventing details that were not in the telling (e.g., telling all his buddies), and generally making it out like no matter what else happened, the tits comment was deeply offensive and inappropriate. Women seem to be the ones equating “ruined tits” with “ruined wife”—not men.

              At any rate, I didn’t want this article to be about Mr. W again because he carries too much other baggage with him, but a point I’m trying to make is that if guys are going to talk to other people about their wives, sometimes “Motherhood ruined her tits” is what that’s going to sound like. Even from the good, loving ones. Not everyone is a poet or master of polite phrasing. I’m sure that when women discuss their men, they don’t always soften it with gentler language and disclaimers. People talk about someone differently when they’re not there— it’s not a gender thing or a disrespect thing. If you tell me women don’t do that, I will consider you delusional or a liar. It’s human.

              So, when I see women—women I respect—expressing surprise that men need to be told how hurtful it is to tell another man, in confidence, that his wife’s tits are ruined, what I’m hearing is a loud and clear, “Men, don’t talk about your wife! Ever!” Forget the other stuff that Mr. W. did, because I’m already in agreement, but the reaction that ” the thought itself and the way he expressed it (not to mention his proposed “solutions”) was so callous and disrespectful” is the reaction that tells me, as a man, it’s not safe to talk about my wife or marriage outside the marriage. [Emphasis added.] It barely even matters if I talk to a man or a woman, because either way, it’s saying my wife would be wronged by: 1) Me having the thoughts, and, 2) Expressing them “wrong”.

              It’s a no-win situation. You want us to talk, but not really. In the abstract, I don’t see you having any problem with it, and in fact you encourage it. When real-world examples are given of men talking like men about their wives or marriages outside the marriage, though, it never fails to evoke a hurt and disapproving response from the women. That’s why men are afraid to do it, or at least, why I am. I see this reaction at GMP and elsewhere, and if it’s that common among women who aren’t my wife, it seems reasonable to expect the same reaction from her. The equation works out to “Talking about wife = hurting wife”. The math is pretty straightforward.

              Please understand, I’m not blaming this on women, misandry, feminism, or some as-yet-unnamed conspiracy against men. I don’t even think it’s some universal man-woman thing, but in the culture I live in, and I think most of the readers here do, too, it is driven home to me again and again that good men don’t talk shit about their wives or marriages—especially anything related to sex or lust. That’s the female perspective I see, especially when it gets away from the abstract and into actual examples of how men communicate. You might say the solution is to talk about it without talking shit, but that’s answering the question, “How do I talk about stuff that might hurt the woman I love?” with “Don’t.” Maybe that’s actually the most loving answer there is, but if so, I don’t get the impression that women are expected to abide by it, too. Rather than feeling embittered toward women by that, it just makes me feel more isolated and on my own. Suck it up and deal. That’s what loving men do.

            • Marcus, :-(

              This is a lot to take in, but I feel I want to respond. I stand by the comment I made above in this thread that was about how I feel each spouse should be able to confide in a friend. I do not think that within a confidential private conversation, language needs to be policed. Say “ruined tits” if you want to, etc.

              Ok, so now leave this statement to stand alone.

              Another, completely separate statement is that the conversation around the ruined tits was hurtful to think about. Not that he SAID it to a friend, but just thinking about men feeling that way.

              I think you should be able to say whatever you want about your wife to a friend. That is not mutually exclusive with having my own personal feelings about men being disgusted with how their wives bodies change with age and motherhood. If a man feels this way, YES, he should confide to someone. But I can still feel sad that “ruined tits,” which I consider shallow, can be so upsetting to a man who loves his wife.

              So you see? Two separate things. Does that make sense? I hope so. I truly, truly do empathize, Marcus…

            • Marcus Williams says:

              I just saw this (and Julie’s reply) and I can’t reply properly because I’m about to go to bed, but I want to acknowledge and thank you for your replies. I’ll reply more later, hopefully tomorrow.

            • Julie Gillis says:

              Well, all I can say is, if dudes want to talk sh#t they can, but they shouldn’t hate on women if they do too. I’d wish all of us would be more “I’m worried about my partner’s body as I’m less attracted to it now.” than “His d%ck is saggy.” or something.

              I suppose everyone talks shit about each other, but it seems so useless. So mean.

            • Hi Marcus,

              I’ve been struggling to come up with a response to your comment because I think I get what you are saying, but I’m not sure. I think what you are saying is this (please correct me if I’m wrong). “Feelings are complicated. People are complicated. I’m complicated. I love my wife yet at times I have passing negative feelings about her anatomy — she’s getting older, her breasts sag since she had the baby, whatever. I still love her. But I might look at her changing body sometimes and feel turned off, even grossed out. Even revolted. I might look at her sagging tits and think they are ‘ruined’. But I don’t want a divorce, she’s still the love of my life. Is it ever safe for me to be honest about those negative feelings? Do I have to worry about hurting her by expressing my feelings to a friend or confidante? Am I betraying her or insulting her just by thinking these thoughts? If she really loves me, can’t she love and accept and tolerate all of me (including all my occasionally negative thoughts and feelings about her?), without getting angry, or insecure, or threatening me with divorce?”

              I think you are expressing a fundamental psychological truth. People are complicated and no one has 100% positive feelings for another person all the time. We have to accept that about others in our lives, and learn to tolerate it. Maybe every relationship is a love-hate relationship at some level (especially long term relationships). But I guess my answer to your question whether it is “safe” to express deeply negative feelings about other people we care about is, well, no, it’s never really completely safe. That doesn’t mean you should bottle your feelings up and never talk about them, just that there aren’t any guarantees that openness is always better, or healthier, or more conducive to good relationships, than the opposite. I think it’s a fine line.

              I think that good relationships depend, to a large extent, on what psychologists call “healthy idealization”. That is, it’s important to believe that the people we love have more positive feelings for us than maybe they really do. And it’s important for us to have more positive feelings for the people we love than perhaps they really deserve. Most people want their relationships to be a refuge from the cruel realities of life. They don’t want to come home to radical honesty. In fact, what is the difference between radical honesty and abusive criticism? My father like to criticize me harshly when I was a child, then when I cried, he’d tell me he was just being “honest” and “helping” me. Who needs that kind of help?

              To give another example, the guys at work might see me as nothing but a frumpy 40-something woman with limited sex appeal, but when I come home, I want my boyfriend to think of me as super sexy. Yesss! Similarly, the young women at my boyfriend’s workplace probably dismiss him as just another paunchy geek living in the back of the cube farm, but in my world, he’s incredibly hot and the most wonderful person I know. Even though, realistically speaking, he’s no George Clooney. But our relationship is a place for us to feel good, not dwell on our flaws. The world out there loves to dwell on our flaws. Our little world in here should be safe from that.

              So back to your question. If someone has a lot of negative feelings about their partner’s body, I realize they probably can’t help those feelings. Maybe talking about it with a friend could help give some perspective (as long as the friend isn’t a blabbermouth, like Tom!) At the same time, it’s probably not fair to expect that one’s spouse/partner/significant other would be totally okay knowing the depth of those negative feelings. Your partner’s feelings are just as valid as yours. If your wife knew that you thought her tits are “ruined,” it might be very hard for her to accept, or tolerate, those feelings, because it would just be too hurtful. That doesn’t mean she has a right to tell you to change your feelings — obviously you can’t — but you can’t ask her to change her feelings about your feelings, either.

              This is also just a very difficult subject because most women have a deep fear of aging and of losing our sexual attractiveness, BECAUSE we know how incredibly important physical attraction is to men. Deep down, we believe that if a man stops feeling sexually attracted, he will inevitably cheat or leave us (and often that’s exactly what happens). So you are really playing with fire with this subject here. It’s a very emotional topic for most women.

            • Julie Gillis says:

              What a great amazing comment.

            • “This is also just a very difficult subject because most women have a deep fear of aging and of losing our sexual attractiveness, BECAUSE we know how incredibly important physical attraction is to men. Deep down, we believe that if a man stops feeling sexually attracted, he will inevitably cheat or leave us (and often that’s exactly what happens). ”

              Yes. And this did happen to me after 21 years of marriage.

              I still feel that any man with these feelings should be able to confide them to someone privately, but I feel that the above quote is its own separate topic worthy of greater focus and writing.

              I don’t want to speak for men, and I’m not a man, but in my experience, many men cannot fathom the depths of despair women feel about their bodies being flawed, especially as we age, and the ways men feel about that. It runs so deep, so very deep. And even when men are empathetic and sensitive, they simply do not face the same message from society as women do. And what we need to further discuss is how we can all, as a human species– capable of thought, reflection, and compassion–become less shallow and callous about the outside, and more focused on the inside.

              I understand that physical qualities account for attraction, but as they say, the biggest sex organ is the brain. I wish we could have a less pornified mainstream culture, and a greater focus on seeing women as whole human beings worthy of being considered sexy at any age, and without perfect tits…or anything else. So, again, I’m advocating a parsing of the issues here.

            • anonymouswoman says:

              Consider me delusional or a liar, then. I don’t use hateful words about people I love.

              As for “men talking like men,” I call BS. You can consider the men that I know who prove that comment is sexist BS to be delusional / liars as well.

              To talk about a loved one in that manner is not ‘human’ IMO, it is contemptuous. This may be the reason why I don’t associate with a large number of people. People seem not to expect all that much consideration from each other, nor themselves. I do.

  14. wellokaythen says:

    I think you would be on safer ground if your conversations with others stayed focused on your individual perspective more than complaining specifically about your wife. (I’m not saying you don’t have valid complaints.) Like, saying “there’s this thing going on between my wife and me that I just don’t understand.” That’s different from saying “there’s this thing she does that is totally insane!” I’d say there’s a difference between saying you’re going through a rough patch and saying your wife is making your life miserable. And, I think asking for advice from friends or commiserating with friends is probably more okay than just venting stuff about your spouse. “What do I do in this situation?” is much better than “Why the hell is she acting like this?”

    Confiding in a friend of the opposite sex about problems in your marriage is just begging for trouble. Maybe if one or both of you is gay, or if you’re asking her sister what to get your wife for her birthday, otherwise it sounds like playing with fire.

    Maybe it would be helpful to ask your wife her thoughts about sharing with outside people. She might have some clear requests for you.

    • I agree with most of this, except that I disagree about confiding to a friend of the opposite sex, since (as I mentioned above) I’ve had lots of good experiences of being on both sides of that equation.

  15. Here you go, Marcus, your very own She Said He Said response!

    LOCKER ROOM LOCKOUT

    Dear Sexes: My wife and I have a great relationship and we love each other very much. However, I do find myself wanting and needing someone to talk to about my marriage. Sometimes I want to vent, sometimes I want advice, sometimes I just want someone to listen to the intimate details of what we’re going through. Talking to my family is bad because I don’t want to change the way they see either of us, and the same goes for our mutual friends. I have a best guy friend, but when I talk to my guy friends, I feel disrespectful of my wife, because I’m not the type of guy who engages in locker-room talk about conquests. How can I talk about my marriage without being disrespectful to my wife?

    SHE SAID: First, let me say how cool and stand-up it is of you to think first about respecting your wife! And just so you know, I know a lot of guys who wonder the same thing. There is a double standard as far as what women are “allowed” to confide in one another and what we allow husbands in our society to talk about. You wouldn’t believe how my girlfriends and I dish about sex, love, fighting and body hair! Everyone needs an outlet, everyone deserves an outlet.

    I would go to your most trusted guy-friend and just lay it out. “Listen, man, I have some things going on with my wife, and I’d love to run them by you. You know I love and respect my wife, but I’m hoping I can just sort of shoot the shit with you and that I can trust you to give me advice, but also not to judge her or me. Would that be cool?”

    If you have a female friend, it could be dicier. Sometimes these conversations become a little more intimate than the ones we normally have with same sex friends. If you do choose a best female friend to confide in, just be sure you’re clear with your boundaries and you never infer that you think your friend may be “better” than your wife in any way.

    HE SAID: Your thoughtfulness for your wife and her feelings is great (it really is), but you shouldn’t feel badly for taking care of yourself. It isn’t cheating, nor is is (necessarily) disrespectful to talk to others about your marriage. There’s bragging and there’s venting. If you’re just bragging about you and your wife’s private lives, then you could have something to be concerned about. But if you’re venting, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

    True, it may be difficult to find the right avenue for your needs, and you have to choose wisely, but there are viable options out there. The right professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc…) may offer you a safe environment to vent. But if professional advice isn’t your thing, I promise there are regular guys out there who can honor your needs to talk, without dishonoring your wife or your marriage.
    It’s true, guys like to engage in crass locker-room talk – but not all guys, and not all the time. From the sound of things, you just need to find more guy friends like yourself – considerate and thoughtful. When you find those dudes, vent freely and confidently. In the end you’ll feel much better, and your wife and marriage will reap the benefits. Talk on!

    xo Josie and Eli ;)

  16. Hi there,
    I just wanted to point out that there ARE things that are taboo for women to talk about with their confidantes, too. Someone already pointed out that you don’t diss penis size or e.d. I would add that no one discusses issues of male obesity and its effects on our sex lives. Not to mention hygiene issues and what housewives must put up with in the laundry from their husband and sons. And lastly, few people are aware that men have hormonal fluctuations that affect their irritability, sex drive, and mood, check out the book “Irritable Male Syndrome”. My point is, yes, good wives keep certain observations RE their husbands to themselves, and likewise should good husbands refrain from word choices such as “ruined”. It’s really not that catastrophic. How do you think people who’ve had masectomies would feel about healthy, child-feeding glorious breasts being referred to as “ruined”?

    Whenever I’ve gone through bad patches with my husband, it turns out that I am supposed to be doing personal growth myself. So when his beer belly bums me out, I get on my bike more often and invite him to join me. If I feel like my boobs are getting saggy, I get him to treat me to sexy new push up bras. Adversity is opportunity for transcendence.

    love and light,
    cat

  17. Thank you, cat!

    You have to look at it on a situation by situation basis and make the choice that best respects the person you love more than anyone in the world. Say I developed cancer. I know you need to talk to someone, but maybe don’t tell one of our mutual friends until I’m ready for it to be known Say I had a kid and breast feeding ruined my breasts. Maybe don’t talk about it to your gorgeous female co-worker or your male friend who likes to steal glances at my breasts or enjoys objectifying women. Or please–just go to strip clubs and leave me out of it. Say I tell you my big secret (I was abused as a child, my first relationship was homosexual, I did porn in my past, etc..) Don’t tell your friend unless you’re sure he can keep his mouth shut. I told it to you, not to the world. Also, assume that whoever you tell will tell his/her significant other. If we tried out some weird thing in bed, make sure I’m comfortable with being open about my sexuality before you tell someone in our lives about the experience. Otherwise, discuss it online or talk about it with strangers who don’t know me.

    Vent, but unless I’ve done something really awful to you or talked about you in a very negative way, try not to use words like ruined, cu*t, ugly, slut, b*tch, gross, stupid (you can talk about something I *did* being stupid or gross, of course) when describing me. Isn’t all of this just human decency when it comes to your lifemate? I understand the desire to brag or vent, but if your need to gab and moan a certain way exceeds your desire to keep the love of your life comfortable and happy, it’s not really something I can respect. Another example from this site. Whatever your views on airplane porn are, is the need to watch it then and there really more important than not upsetting the 8-year old and her mother next to you–who have no place to escape?

    Sure, we’re at a time when we’re tweeting about bowel movements, coming out of the closet in blogs, and discussing our PAP smears on TV. I think it’s great, because it takes the stigma away from a lot of these things, but I think it’s up to the individual to choose what he/she is comfortable disclosing. My best female friend is my sister, and I see her and her partner a lot. It would make me uncomfortable to hear whether or not his butt sags, what they do/don’t do in bed, the color of his pubic hair, or how long he lasts. If he has a good sense of humor and can joke about his body, great–but that’s up to him Say my partner’s cocktail weiner will never measure up (something that he wouldn’t be able to change), so instead of cheating on him, I’ll moan to my friends that I’m going to local hip hop clubs on our dime and giving lap and booty dances to appreciative guys? That’s normal now? It’s not a problem to talk, and our culture is getting more and more open and accepting to discussing things instead of hiding them away. That’s great, just try and be as respectful about it as possible when you do talk.

  18. Thank you, cat!

    You have to look at it on a situation by situation basis and make the choice that best respects the person you love more than anyone in the world. Say I developed cancer. I know you need to talk to someone, but maybe don’t tell one of our mutual friends until I’m ready for it to be known. Say I had a kid and breast feeding ruined my breasts. Maybe don’t talk about it to your gorgeous female co-worker or your male friend who likes to steal glances at my breasts and enjoys objectifying women. Or please–just go to strip clubs and leave me out of it. Say I tell you my big secret (I was abused as a child, my first relationship was homosexual, I did porn in my past, etc..). Don’t tell your friend unless you’re sure he can keep his mouth shut. I told it to you, not to the world. Also, assume that whoever you tell will tell his/her significant other. If we tried out some weird thing in bed, make sure I’m comfortable with being open about my sexuality before you tell someone in our lives about the experience. Otherwise, discuss it online or talk about it with strangers who don’t know me.

    Vent, but unless I’ve done something really awful to you or talked about you in a very negative way, try not to use words like ruined, cu*t, ugly, slut, b*tch, gross, stupid (you can talk about something I *did* being stupid or gross, of course) when describing me. Isn’t all of this just human decency when it comes to your lifemate? I understand the desire to brag or vent, but if your need to gab and whine a certain way exceeds your desire to keep the love of your life comfortable and happy, it’s not really something I can respect. Another example from this site. Whatever your views on airplane porn are, is the need to watch it then and there really more important than not upsetting the 8-year old and her mother next to you–who have no place to escape?

    Sure, we’re at a time when we’re tweeting about bowel movements, coming out of the closet in blogs, and discussing our PAP smears on TV. I think it’s great, because it takes the stigma away from a lot of these things, but it’s up to the individual to choose what he/she is comfortable disclosing. My best female friend is my sister, and I see her and her partner a lot. It would make me uncomfortable to hear whether or not his butt sags, what they do/don’t do in bed, the color of his pubic hair, or how long he lasts. If he has a good sense of humor and can joke about his body, great! But that’s up to him. Say my partner’s cocktail weiner will never measure up (something that he wouldn’t be able to change). Instead of cheating on him, I’ll moan to my friends that I’m going to local hip hop clubs on our dime and giving lap and booty dances to appreciative guys? That’s normal now? It’s not a problem to talk, and our culture is getting more and more open and accepting to discussing things instead of hiding them away. That’s a very good thing. Just try and be as respectful about it as possible when you do talk.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      Yep, i can’t see how anyone could disagree with this. Venting (while honoring your partner) is one thing, being actively contemptuous is another.

  19. God, at 30 I must be an old lady here……..lol. Really. I’m married, married w/in the RC faith-both of us. The RC’s view marriage as a sacrament. The vows are serious as all get out. While I know divorces happen, etc…..the ultimate goal w/vows w/God w/in the relationship, is to view marriage as an organic, fluid, LIVING, breathing, unique entity. For me this means, I’ve left my old world w/my girl friends and guys that are nonsexual friends, behind in the ways that is was. Meaning no sharing of what belongs, what energies sustain our marriage. We have those same feelings as before, however we are now ‘called’ to shape our lives around the sacrament and all that means. This to me is the difference btwn a ‘secular’ marriage vs. a ‘religious’ one.

    If in my heart I’m not up to evolving and honoring the container that marriage presents, can require-to in fact distinguish it btwn marriage and friendship, then I should not have married. Now, it’s about sucking it up, growing up, finding dignity in holding my own counsel w/in my own heart, and husband, and if we can’t get beyond something, we go to our hip priest and if he doesn’t get it, find another, and take on some marriage counseling if needed and individual therapies if we have our own issues.

    I’m not interested whatsoever in a man who is naive enough to know having kids doesn’t change a woman’s body………really? is this a fecking shock to him? I need my husband to be a husband, a friend, lover and father, and if he has some ‘tit’ issues, well to me, that sounds like he needs some personal therapy for growing up and into maturity. Do ppl have this feelings/thoughts? Hell yes. They’re just thoughts, not absolute truth. I no longer will talk to my friends about my intimate feelings and details about being married to my husband, the problems that arise, the fleeting feelings………..won’t dishonor him this way and don’t expect it from him. Whenever info is shared outside these boundaries-there is another w/a form of ‘power’ over the one who wasn’t included. This creates an imbalance of power and opens all sorts of doors to unconscious abuses. Marriage is not dating, not exploring the differences btwn the sexes.

    I can’t see being married to a man who would really feel the need to ‘share’ his oh so all important thoughts of how my tits got ruined, while bringing the fruit of our loving marrage into being. If he’s at the level of sagging tits while I need a man who’s committed to doing the work–the hard tedious needed work to allow our child to evolve into an independent thoughtful, moral, ethical human being, and/while loving me-having our love evolve and mature…….I guess I just feel somehow this sort of man would have shown me prior to marriage clues, that let me know he wasn’t ready for the brutally but beautiful hard, wonderfully challenging work of marriage. A committed one anyway. Someone that enters marriage knowing that after 50 years and grand kids etc…if we are blessed enough to be healthy and intact, I’m going to be a sagging everything, and w/wrinkles………..as he will be too, and that there will be so many unexpected joys and delights on the way to this. All the while having a multitude of issues: resentments, disappointments, expectations-many lost, but new ones that transform him and me and our marriage we honored and created. It’s hard work—marriage—not a series of loses while grieving tits. Suck it up or get some professional help but do not take middle school, high school sh*t, to a buddy or buddies. It’s no longer buddy talk, just like how my husband may not last very long one day is girl talk either anymore. Why? Because we are now men and women, and have to rise to what this means and not vent or disclose whatever ‘feels’ good/right/etc………..again, if it is a real problem where her tits are making many things go south=pun intended, get prof help. Don’t expect a friend to have it. Which leads me to my last point:

    I learned this during my clinical training as a social worker. There is such a thing as the average person not possessing the knowledge/assistance/training/experience to be able to respond in a way that fully, truly addresses what the friend is saying, trying to say. Because when a friend comes to another friend–and assuming all are over say, 25 or so, and ‘vents’ about his wife’s sagging ‘tits’–it’s not about sagging tits. This is a loaded question covering personal/cultural/psychological/marital/relational/even spiritual, aspects of this persons’ life. He’s wanting a response that is not served by an untrained friend who loves him and just wants the ‘best’ for his buddy and his buddy’s wife. Believe me on this. It opens Pandora’s box on many issues and truly truly deserves to be explored in all the ways that allows this seemingly small issue to be addressed AND w/in the context of the man asking the ?’s life/ and experiences. i.e.: did he remember seeing his own mom’s sagging tits and how this made him feel then, and how/what kind of relationship-respectful, or not, etc..his dad and mom had. Sagging tits don’t turn ALL men off, in fact is not an issue w/the woman they love. So it is a question worthy of a third party prof. person, w/hopefully the wife being in on it, maybe not, whatever…..Just know ppl that most friends do not have sophisticated experience/training and how they answer you and how that answer influences you, influences your wife, your kids, all of it. And it gives the 3rd party a power “over” the wife, the family. It is a secret most likely and secrets aren’t typically healthy at all. Esp. secrets on any level outside your primary relationship.

    Everything I’ve said about men and unloading is the same for females and their ‘sharing’ w/gf’s etc..which I think is overstated. Not all women are ‘out there’, emotionally venting, sharing, emoting, there every feeling or insecurity. I think this is a stereotype frankly. I certainly left that avenue around 13 or 14 and began the process of keeping my own counsel for the most part, and when finding myself obsessing or stuck, sought some counselling-pastoral=typically free or a bit of therapy, or moderated support groups. Thanks for letting me share my grossly old fashioned pov’s. LOL.

  20. I think a close male mono-friend is the best answer. If you talk to a woman, it could be perceived as an emotional affair. A mutual friend might make your wife feel betrayed, or uneasy with that friend in the future.

    Family is a can of worms I wouldn’t personally delve into, but yours may be less gossipy than mine.

    Nobody, not even your wife, has a right to censor you. But it’s important you respect her when you talk about her. I think the fact you’re thinking about this so much shows that you care for her feelings.

    This may be annoying, but I would suggest talking to your wife (sorry!), showing her that list of possible chat-mates you came up with, and asking her what would make her most comfortable. I would hope that she would understand that you are your own person, and sometimes you’ll need to talk to a 3rd party about your relationship, since it’s likely the most important relationship in your life, or close to it.

    As long as you can keep things respectful of her, not divulge personal specifics that you two consider innappropriate, and you can trust the person you talk to not to gossip, I think it’s only fair you have that outlet. That may be another thing to discuss with your wife (sorry again!): boundaries. She likely talks about you to her female friends when she needs to. Maybe together you can come up with a general idea of what is and isn’t ok to take outside of the relationship. For example, she might not want you bragging about specific sexual acts, or she might not want people to know about an embarrassing physical reaction she’s had when sick, or she might just want you to talk to her first if the topic is something she does that makes you crazy.

    Either way, it’s your right to talk when you need to. If she doesn’t understand, maybe there’s a larger issue, but I hope she will understand your need to communicate with others about things weighing heavy on your mind. Best of luck.

  21. I see what you mean Marcus, It is a difficult one. I have a boyfriend and we have many close mutual friends. I don’t think he talks too much to our friends about our sex life. But our guy friends are rather jokey. I did often worry and wonder if he talks about our sex life. i.e. our body, positions, lack of, abundence, what we do, preferences, deficiencies etc. It does seem a bit personal, telling shared friends details, that you have only felt comfortable sharing with the person you love. There is the double standard, I feel, as male sexuality seems more often friendly joked about and accepted, where as female sexuality is less so. Also women may feel less comfortable about sharing. I probably would feel worse about mutual friends knowing these intimate and personal things about me, that I haven’t chosen to share with them, via my boyfriend. I think a ‘mono-friend’ might be okay- feels more ‘annoymous’ for your wife, ‘so I have this friend who has a wife..’ Also there is the hard work of having the talks with your wife (which , in wanting to talk to others, they are likely difficult and avoided subjects) to ask her what she would be ok with you sharing or not sharing with others. But, I don’t know!

  22. Anonymous says:

    My perspective is that it is never ok to talk about private sexual issues about your wife to anyone, and vice versa.
    For example, if you want to talk about improving your wife’s fellatio technique, then the person to discuss this issue with is her.
    You aren’t going to magically improve it by divulging graphic details about it to a third party.
    This pretty much goes for any sexual/personal issues in a relationship.

    Also if your problem is something as disgustingly shallow as you think your wife’s breasts are ruined due to motherhood, then you are an immature, naive, vapid, and generally stupid person who probably should have thought of that before committing to getting your wife pregnant. (I know this wasn’t your complaint, but similar complaints like it are just as shallow and repulsive.)

    It also angers me that some people seem to think it’s ok for women to discuss intimate details between friends while claiming it’s wrong for men to, this is obviously a gross double standard, and as a female I have never discussed details about my private life which I know would hurt, betray, or make my SO feel uncomfortable about.

    If I have an issue with something personal in our relationship, I talk to my SO about it, as this is the only way we to communicate and ultimately find resolution to whatever the issue may be.

    I would feel extremely hurt, disgusted, and betrayed if my SO explicitly detailed sexual or personal problems to other people outside our relationship.
    I realise this is a personal feeling though, and the only way to truly know where each other’s boundaries lie in relation to discussing relationship details with other people is to discuss this with your SO first, and to trust each other to respect the boundaries set.

  23. My perspective is that it is never ok to talk about private sexual issues about your wife to anyone, and vice versa.
    For example, if you want to talk about improving your wife’s fellatio technique, then the person to discuss this issue with is her.
    You aren’t going to magically improve it by divulging graphic details about it to a third party.
    This pretty much goes for any sexual/personal issues in a relationship.

    Also if your problem is something as disgustingly shallow as you think your wife’s breasts are ruined due to motherhood, then you are an immature, naive, vapid, and generally stupid person who probably should have thought of that before committing to getting your wife pregnant. (I know this wasn’t your complaint, but similar complaints like it are just as shallow and repulsive.)

    It also angers me that some people seem to think it’s ok for women to discuss intimate details between friends while claiming it’s wrong for men to, this is obviously a gross double standard, and as a female I have never discussed details about my private life which I know would hurt, betray, or make my SO feel uncomfortable about.

    If I have an issue with something personal in our relationship, I talk to my SO about it, as this is the only way we to communicate and ultimately find resolution to whatever the issue may be.

    I would feel extremely hurt, disgusted, and betrayed if my SO explicitly detailed sexual or personal problems to other people outside our relationship.
    I realise this is a personal feeling though, and the only way to truly know where each other’s boundaries lie in relation to discussing relationship details with other people is to discuss this with your SO first, and to trust each other to respect the boundaries set.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This question comes from a piece by GMP contributor Marcus Williams. [...]

Speak Your Mind

*