My surfer dude is one of my few callers who has ever referred to his partner in our conversations, not in a sexual way, but in a “hey, this person exists in my life, and she’s amazing, but I couldn’t tell her the sorts of stuff I do with you” way. That’s a direct quote. So, since he was being really up front about this, I asked the logical follow-up question: why can’t you tell her? And he said simply, “She wouldn’t understand.”
I did not press, because that is not my job, to be a consciousness-raiser and sexuality coach. (Maybe it could be? I’ll get back to you on that. But definitely it is not something I do for my callers.) As far as I know, Surfer Dude is still with his girlfriend, and he obviously hasn’t told her, because he’s still calling me at least once a month, so that I can pretend to be a sexy female UPS driver delivering a new dildo and I catch "Wendy" watching porn and we can do some sweaty, hot, girl-on-girl frottage and pussy eating..
But that one sentence has remained emblematic for me, of the dilemma that so many people face when talking with their partners about their desires: “They wouldn’t understand.”
First of all, we don’t know that "they wouldn’t understand." When it comes to sharing our deep-down sexual truths with a partner, well, we hopefully have a good sense about our lovers’ general open-mindedness and adventurousness or what-not, we don’t know for a fact whether or not they will understand until we share our thing, until we open that door of mystery and see what's behind it. Self-disclosure always carries a risk. Someone who seems strict or uptight may be totally down, and someone who is otherwise very chill may have a private trauma in their past that they are reacting with. Or maybe it is just very strongly Not A Thing for them. We don’t know, so, strictly speaking, “they might not understand.”
And anyway, them not understanding is not the actual fear, is it? There is nothing to fear in someone looking at you blankly, or asking for repeated clarification, or finally, after 30 minutes of careful back-and-forthing, shrugging their shoulders and saying, “I just don’t get it.” Unspoken in that sentence is what we fear what might happen after, if they don’t.
What lies there, in that heart of fear? What might my surfer dude actually be afraid of? What are we afraid of, when we imagine our partners’ incomprehension or non-acceptance of our desires or fantasies or kinks?
- They might leave us, too disgusted by our revelation to be in our presence for one more day, one more minute.
- They might laugh at us, and share our secret with others so that they may laugh too.
- They might report us, if our fantasies are very extreme and on the other side of the taboo line.
- They might look at our life together as a lie, if they believe, as many people do, that fantasies must mean something in real life.
- They might look at our life together as a lie, if it turns out that our fantasies actually do mean something in real life.
- They might look at us as a liar, someone who cannot be trusted because what we reveal doesn’t match up with who they thought we were.
When you look at the array of possible outcomes to sharing our deepest scariest sex secrets, even with someone who loves us, then yes, Surfer Dude's trepidation makes total sense. As it is, he gets by with 10 or 15 minutes of phone sex every three or four weeks, and obviously feels that getting caught in it is something he's willing to risk more than what might happen if he told his girlfriend. We all have to make these judgment calls about our own lives. Sometimes things aren’t safe, emotionally or even physically. I won’t make that blanket judgment call for anyone.
But if you are facing one of these dilemmas, where you think someone “won’t understand,” I hope you’ll sit with it a while, and really think about all of the possible outcomes if they don’t understand, and then… well, what happens if they do?
Is opening that door worth it? Only you get to decide. But that decision should be a conscious one, which you revisit every now and then.
Living life in fear, even little fears, isn’t the best way to live.
I'm no sexuality and relationship coach, but I think about them a lot. It's just one of the many things I do in my writing work, which you help make possible when you become a patron of mine over on Patreon!