My partner and I have been together for over five years. We have a happy, satisfying relationship. But whenever we go out, he’s always commenting about other guys who are hot, with comments like “What a cute ass!” He never says things like that to me.
Our sex life is fantastic, and he never has complained about that. He seems very happy to be with me and tells me all the time how much he loves me. Should I mention his comments to him, or just be satisfied that he’s my lover? –Confused in Grafton, VA:
With gay male couples, it’s a common dynamic for one or both partners to tell each other how hot another guy is (or isn’t, for that matter). Some couples are comfortable with this, while others are not. Although straight couples sometimes ogle others of the opposite sex and talk about their attractiveness, most don’t—and would find it hurtful if their partner brought it up.
In his research on straight and gay couples, marital therapist John Gottman found that in general, gay and lesbian couples feel more at ease talking about the good looks of someone outside their relationships than do heterosexual couples. His research showed that lesbian and gay couples take this “other approval” less personally and find it less threatening than do their straight counterparts.
With that preamble, I must admit that when I met my partner, I felt just like you. At the time, he was just coming out. Wherever we went, he was interested in—and talking about—all the eye candy around us. I remember feeling insulted and inferior and hurt, even though deep down, I knew that he wasn’t comparing me to those other guys. His conscious attraction to men was all new to him, and being able to talk about it was refreshing and liberating. Nevertheless, I didn’t like it one bit.
Gay or straight, the biggest danger any couple faces is not communicating. I told my partner that I didn’t appreciate his admiring other guys out loud around me. I recommend you do the same, because if you don’t, you’ll probably resent him for it, and that unspoken resentment will come out sideways with you “punishing” him in negative ways that he can’t possibly understand.
I would begin the conversation by acknowledging the wonderful: Tell him how much you appreciate enjoying a good sex life and his constantly saying how much he loves you. Then you can tell him that whenever he comments about another guy’s “cute ass,” you feel [fill in the blank with your honest reaction]. When you tell him this, don’t accuse him or act defensive, because that only makes a partner defensive right back. Restrict your comments to yourself and your feelings, letting him know that kind of talk hurts you. If he indicates that he wants to keep on talking about other hot men (as in “Hey, what’s wrong with that?”), I suggest you ask him—with genuine curiosity—why doing that is so important for him. Again, without making him take it personally.
I met my partner when he was 37 years old. He told me that he’d waited until he was 37 to talk to anyone about cute guys, and that even though we were partners; he hoped that he could do that with me. For my part, I tried to understand. For his part, he tried to refrain from telling me about hunky-looking passersby. It wasn’t a total victory for either of us. But as time went on, I became more comfortable with his comments, and he needed to make them less and less.
To keep your relationship lively and well, the most important thing is to keep your lines of communication wide open. When a problem comes up, talk it through as much as you both need to.
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