Moments of discomfort are an inevitable part of our existence.
Discomfort is particularly unavoidable in romantic relationships. Maybe you don’t like that your partner hasn’t purchased new underwear in a few years, or your partner likes to shop at Whole Foods and you’re a loyal Trader Joe’s patron. In situations like these, we typically compromise because we aren’t perfect either.
But what if the discomfort roots from a bigger issue? Walking the line on what we’re willing to compromise on is a delicate and personal process, especially when sex is involved.
Over the summer, I took an internship. My program makes students take an accompanying seminar with the internship, which was where I met someone – let’s call him Cole. Cole, a Kentucky transplant, had been in multiple classes of mine in previous semesters and had always asked provocative and intelligent questions. After the last class of the seminar, I asked him out for a drink.
We met up at a neighborhood dive where we drank Bacardi and diets and shared flirtatious banter and playful competitiveness in games of pool. I felt a magic with Cole that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Our dates always ended with hot and heavy makeout sessions.
Cole had pushed for sex a few times, but I like to hold out for a while with someone new. Cole graduated after the internship seminar and decided to take an extended vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where his family has a vacation cabin.
A few days into his stay he texted me, “I have the craziest fetish.”
Curiosity piqued and I responded, “Tell me.”
After an annoyingly long and drawn out guessing game, Cole finally told me, “I like taboo roleplay.”
I considered what he said and asked, “Like, power dynamics? Teacher and student type of stuff?”
“No,” Cole replied, “like brother and sister, or father and daughter type stuff.” Oh.
Because Cole was up north, I had time to debate over what I was going to do. Cole would text me throughout the day, sometimes conversational and sometimes dirty. Long, typed out fantasies and raunchy incest sex gifs were texted to me sporadically throughout the day. I’d respond, without acknowledging the brother-sister dynamic.
When Cole arrived home, he was anxious to get together. We got together and ended up at his house by the end of the night. I thought that having a buzz would help with the imminent, bizarre sex I was about to have. It didn’t. I was edgy even as we took our pants off.
Cole whispered, “I hope mom and dad don’t walk in,” I felt my skin crawl and I jumped up.
“I, uh, I can’t do this,” I said as I started quickly pulling my clothes back on. I left and we haven’t spoken since then.
Relationships are full of compromise. However, there are lines and knowing where yours lie is important.
We find out where our boundaries lie when we go through experiences like this. It’s easy to over-compromise yourself for someone you’re in a relationship with, or even just romantically interested in. Even thoughts that seem innocent like, ‘he seems to like blondes, maybe I’ll dye my hair’ are dangerous and damaging.
I’m encouraging you to not remold your values, morals, or appearance for another person. Sometimes, we tend to overcompensate because we want to have control over our romantic situations. We think that if we’re easy going or ‘down for whatever’ we’ll be more easily accepted by our partner.
This kind of thinking and over-willingness to put a partners’ needs before our own is toxic for the relationship, but more importantly, it’s toxic to ourselves.
I’m not saying to be stubborn and never change anything about yourself, we all have annoying habits we’re probably not fully aware of. I’m saying that it’s important to know the difference between conflicting habits and conflicting characteristics.
Understanding these differences can help us better navigate ourselves, our relationships, and our sex lives.