I am a 28-year-old woman. For six months I have been involved in a sexual relationship with a man who does not value me. He is in the same social circles, so I see him frequently, and we only ever go home together when we’re out and have been drinking until the early hours with the wider group. Before I slept with him, he was much more interested, attentive. He’d be in touch. Now we are never in touch until I see him out and then find myself in bed with him later that night. I have told him repeatedly I don’t want to do it any more. I fancy him and want there to be an opportunity for something to develop. But he has said he does not feel the same way. I want to move on from this, but why do I keep putting myself back in this situation with him and expecting a different result? To make matters worse, he’s not particularly nice to me and takes great joy in telling people that he has slept with me, which really offends me. What can I do to put an end to this? I will still see him in a social setting and don’t want to excise myself from my other friends.
This letter appeared first in the Observer.
It sounds very much as though you are sleeping with this man precisely because he’s not very nice to you. There seems to be something addictive about the apparent chance of ‘finding yourself’ in bed with him, as though neither of you takes any responsibility for the event -it’s all part of being young and fun. And yet…
It is interesting that you say ‘touching’ means that you are less ‘in touch’. You say he has made himself clear, but this is not the case – he is still going to bed with you, however much he says he is not interested in you. And you have not made yourself clear to him either. You have told him ‘repeatedly’ you want to stop, yet you carry on. Your bodies are expressing your unconscious desires while you vocalise the opposite. The fact that you both have to be drunk to have sex suggests that you need to remain totally oblivious to your motivations and in denial about them.
Then, perhaps when you are sober, you lie to each other. You would like to blame him for somehow seducing you after drinking and then being cruel to you in public, but you are not buffeted by fate in the way you suggest. You go to bed with him because you have chosen to, not because you ‘end up’ there. You are getting something out of the situation and you will find it hard to leave unless you understand what makes you stay.
The group dynamic is interesting – that you are both part of this group that goes out on the town, drinking late and, at least ostensibly, having fun. I wonder whether he is the most immediately attractive member of the group? I suspect he is and that in some way you are invoking the envy of the rest of the group by sleeping with him. Perhaps you feel less a fundamental member of the group than the others and envy them – therefore you are trying to turn the tables. This, of course, is just a guess.
If it is right, then I wonder if you are perhaps replaying something from your family life. Did you feel left out of your parents’ relationship, or your siblings’ relationship with your parents? If so, then sleeping with the alpha male (father figure) in your group, might well be something you partly want to keep secret from them and partly want them to know. It sounds as though you are shouting to the group – ‘I am desirable and important!’ But this abusive man is saying to you – ‘No, you’re not!’
There is a sadomasochistic element that can’t be ignored. You are allowing yourself to feel abused, telling him you don’t like it and then doing it over and over again. The cruelty seems to be part of the attraction, something you can’t let go of. I suspect that you ignore or accept cruelty as part of an intimate relationship because you are not familiar with relationships from which cruelty is completely absent. As I say, it is not the downside to what is going for you, it is the attraction itself. Why you invite someone to abuse you is what you need to ask yourself.
You say you want the relationship to develop but I doubt that’s really true. In fantasy, maybe, but if he were keen and committed I suspect you would be very fearful. This is a relationship without intimacy and one in which you are not ‘in touch’. That suggests that being truly in touch with someone might be very unfamiliar and therefore frightening for you.
From this point of view your age is perhaps relevant. You are perhaps thinking about fertility and a stable partner. Given the emphasis you put on the group’s party atmosphere it sounds as though you are trying to prolong your youth and ignore (denial is very key for you) the aging process. The longer you go on having casual sex with someone who doesn’t like you, the longer you put off thinking about stability and possibly children. Your behaviour, and his, of course, is a defense against annihilation (inevitably futile).
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