VIA: COSMO

I am living with my boyfriend of three years and we had our son last August. When I was five months pregnant, I found out he was still talking to his ex-girlfriend, and a week after I gave birth, when my son was in the hospital, he preferred to see his ex. I wanted to leave him, but his parents convinced me otherwise. Every time I ask him if he still talks to her, he gets defensive and mad at me. He also started calling his baby mama “doll” every time he texts. Every time I say something, he just gets mad and shuts down. Lately we barely talk. We used to have sex almost every day — now we only do it once a week. I can’t speak to him without him going off or just trying to put me down. I’ve been thinking of leaving him, but I don’t want to be selfish and not think of my son either. But it’s just gotten to the point where I just ask myself if it’s all worth it. There are times that he can be very loving and all, but there are other times that it’s just unbearable. And the way he talks to his baby mama makes me think he still has feelings for her, especially since when I was pregnant he made a comment once. He said that if he wasn’t with me, he would have tried working things out with her. I really need advice. I don’t know whether to leave him or continue trying.

I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having such a rough time. Bringing a baby into the world is hard, even with the help of a supportive father. The stress of a new child is tough on everyone, but it sounds like your boyfriend is acting in some awfully destructive ways — and taking his feelings out on you.

Your boyfriend is withdrawing. He’s pushing you away by getting “defensive and mad” and insulting you. Right after you gave birth to his son, he was spending time with his ex instead of you. He’s doing all of this at the very moment when you most need to support each other, in order to support that little baby.

As for the other woman, there’s honestly not much you can do. She’s the mother of his other child and he should be a part of her life, as the parent of their child. That’s going to be an ongoing stress for you, but it’s not going away. I understand that this feels threatening, but forget about the dumb thing he said about what he’d do if he weren’t with you. I bet he wishes he could take that back, because he did choose to be with you instead of her. Focus on your relationship, not theirs. However you move forward, your boyfriend has crossed some lines, and you should be very clear about your expectations and what you find unacceptable.

You’ve got a difficult decision to make: as you say, to “leave him or continue trying.” As you weigh this decision, I’ll suggest that you not make any rash decisions and give yourself some time to think this through: How much of your boyfriend’s bad behavior feels temporary? And how much is revealing a dynamic that was there before the baby arrived? Will he make a genuine effort to change? Can he treat you well?

I worry that he’s shutting you down when you express your concerns. Tell him that he doesn’t have to agree with you, but you do expect him to hear you out and care about what you have to say.

Obviously, your boyfriend needs to shape up if you’re going to repair your relationship. I would never excuse his inexcusable behavior, but I will note that plenty of couples hit a rough skid in the months after the birth of a new baby. It’s a damn hard time and new parents react to the stress in awful ways before they settle down.

I’m sure you’re already thinking a lot about the kind of role model you want to be for your son and what decision will be best for him. I hope you always remember that it will be easier for you to be a great parent if you’re not stuck in a miserable situation. Sacrificing and suffering through a bad relationship often isn’t the best thing for a kid. You’re going to love this kid and be a great parent, no matter what. Your son’s going to look up to you and his father. What is he going to see?

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years, and our sex life up until the last month has been great. Our relationship in general has been great, and we are both very much in love. However, over the past month, I have found it very difficult to reach an orgasm during oral or vaginal sex. This has made us both very frustrated. I feel awful because I don’t know why I can’t get there. We’ve tried different positions and techniques, but nothing is helping. His frustration became very clear to me the other night when he told me I need to focus on concentrating better. I’ve tried concentrating really hard, I’ve tried imagining my celebrity crushes, and I’ve tried completely not concentrating at all, and nothing is working. I usually masturbate regularly, but I haven’t felt the need or want to lately, but when I have, I still can’t reach an orgasm. This is clearly putting a strain on our otherwise healthy relationship, and I can’t figure out why or how to fix it. I have been very stressed recently from work, and I don’t know if this is making an impact. Any suggestions?

First, I just want you to know this is maybe the most common question I receive. Most women don’t orgasm on demand or in the same way every time, and nobody’s sex drive is the same every day. Cosmopolitan‘s “The Orgasm Deficit” report offers some important context that might help you feel less alone, including the Kinsey Institute stat that 20 to 30 percent of women never orgasm during intercourse. Also, I always recommend touching base with your doctor about a dramatic change in sex drive, since it never hurts to consult a physician about any physical complaint. Your sex drive can be affected by medications, diet, sleep loss, stress, and other factors that your doctor can explain in detail.

But let’s talk about your boyfriend, because he’s part of the problem.

He actually told you to focus on concentrating better? You should almost always tell your partner what you want. But no dude should ever tell you how to come. I mean, where does he get off telling you how to get off?

He was literally mansplaining how your orgasms work — to you. Does he really think he understands your body better than you? That you can just will yourself to come, as if you’re some mentalist bending spoons with your super-focused brain waves? That the problem has just been that you’re not trying hard enough?

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Odds are, focusing too much — worrying more about orgasming than overall pleasure; thinking more about the mechanics of sex than the feeling of being with someone who turns you on — is actually getting in your way. When you’re in bed, you’re not just enjoying yourself; you’re stressed.

I suppose your boyfriend means well in his own chauvinist way, but I bet his stressful sex coaching is part of the problem: Now, you’re not just worried about feeling good and pleasing yourself. You have to worry about following your boyfriend’s instructions and potentially disappointing him. The bizarre dynamic he’s creating implies that you’re doing it wrong. Which is crazy for all sorts of reasons, but particularly since most people come more when they’re relaxed, rather than stressed. (He may be blaming you to cover up his own sexual insecurities, as if this is your problem and he has nothing to do with it.)

The idea here should be to reduce your stress levels, not increase them. That’s hard to do when your partner is telling you how to feel. So tell your boyfriend that you very much appreciate his concern, but you’d very much appreciate it if he would lay off while you’re getting laid. Tell him that adding more pressure is only going to make your orgasms less likely.

You’ve tried different positions and techniques, and I bet you’re right that the stress from work, compounded by the stress with your boyfriend, is a factor. So ask your boyfriend to offer support and patience, not motivational speeches or pressure-packed instructions. Remember that sex can be plenty fun without an orgasm — and try to enjoy everything else that feels good. This isn’t a crisis and this isn’t your fault. Plenty of us go through sexual slumps and ruts. Relax, be patient with your body, and soon this will pass.

Before my boyfriend and I actually became a couple, we were hooking up on and off for about a year and a half. He had told me multiple times that he wasn’t hooking up with anyone else and that there was only one other person with whom he had been with since his ex. I waited until we were in a relationship to actually have sex with him because I was a virgin and didn’t want to rush anything. He told me he was always safe, but when I went to get my annual check-up, they found pre-cancerous cells from HPV. When I told him about it, I found out that he had also had a relationship with a guy and the other girl was more involved than he had told me. Since finding out, I have been stressed out over the fact that he had slept with other people when he told me he wasn’t, and it bothers me that one of these two people (along with my boyfriend) are the reason I will have HPV for the rest of my life. I love my boyfriend, but I haven’t been able to get any of this out of my head for the past three months, and I’m starting to question whether staying with him is good for me mentally or not. How do I move past this?

Your boyfriend lied about his sexual history and that’s not, in any way, cool. I’ll take on the trust issues that undoubtedly raises in a second. But first, let’s talk a bit about HPV because it’s very, very common.

You can find plenty of authoritative info at the Center for Disease Control, but I’ll just point out a few things: HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, usually through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, with 79 millionAmericans currently infected by one of the more than 150 viruses we call HPV. According to the CDC, “Nearly all sexually active people will get human papillomavirus (HPV) at some time in their life.”

Most of the 14 million people newly infected each year don’t even know it. (This is why the HPV vaccine makes so much sense.) A pap test is often how women discover HPV, but there is no currently approved test for HPV in men. In the vast majority of male cases, men experience no symptoms at all. (For all this info and much more, visit the CDC’s explainer site.)

I just want to spell this out because your boyfriend likely had no idea that he was carrying HPV. Does that in any way excuse the fact that he lied to you about his sexual history? Of course not. But I just want to be clear that HPV is both extremely common among all sexually active adults and particularly invisible to guys.

In other words, I know you’re angry and upset over contracting HPV, but you knew your boyfriend had another sexual partner, and even if he had been tested for STIs, his HPV wouldn’t have shown up since there is no reliable test. The bigger issue here is that you made a decision about sex with this man partly based on a lie about his sexual history.

Now let’s talk about the lie: He told you he’d been with both his ex and one other woman since her, but he did not tell you about other encounters. That’s not cool, but it’s not particularly connected to your HPV. The fact that he has a sexual history with several more partners is not a huge difference, particularly when HPV is so common. (Oral sex partners count too.) You don’t mention whether or not you and your boyfriend were having safe sex, but, if you weren’t, that would be a much more significant factor.

HPV aside, your boyfriend basically lied to you about his number. Most people round their “number” down — and I can see why your boyfriend might have been skittish about admitting a gay relationship early on, particularly if the two of you had not discussed his bisexuality. He might have been worried it would scare you off.

Still, he lied. If that’s simply a deal breaker for you, walk away. But if you love him and think you can forgive him, keep talking. Tell him that he hurt you, that you’d wish he’d told the truth, and that you won’t tolerate lies going forward. Tell him he’s going to need to earn your trust all over again.

Rebuilding trust is a slow, gradual process, but people do it all the time.

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