Dear Prudence

Help! My Boyfriend Says I’m “Only an 8.5.”

He says he’s happy to settle, but I don’t know how to feel about it.

A woman with her hands covering her face.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence

I’ve been with my boyfriend for about six months. He’s been wonderful with my 4-year-old son (who has started calling him daddy!), and we recently started living together. The problem is he just told me he considers me only an 8.5 on the hotness scale and doesn’t think our sex life is the best he’s ever had but that he’s happy to settle based on the whole package. I think we’re very well-matched (hotness-wise), but I don’t compare him to other men in that way. I’ve also tried to improve our sex life, without much luck. My question is: How should I feel about his revelation? Do I deserve more from a partner, in terms of feeling sexy and loved? Or should I stick with it for the sake of my son?

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I’m trying to imagine how this came up in conversation. “Darling, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I’m so happy to be able to tell you … you’re a solid 8.5 out of 10. Very nearly a 9. I understand if you want to take a minute and call your parents. Also, I’ve had better sex in the past. I won’t bother you with the details but … it’s been better. I’m not going to dump you over it. It’s definitely good enough for me. Anyhow. An 8.5. A solid 8.5.” I don’t think it’s a requirement that a happy, fulfilling relationship also provide the best sex of all time, but I do think it’s incredibly odd and casually cruel that your partner thinks it’s necessary to a) rank you on a 10-point scale of hotness, b) inform you of your ranking, and c) describe your sex life as something he’s “happy to settle for.”

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It sounds like your boyfriend is interested in making sure you feel like you’re not quite good enough and that he’s doing you a favor by overlooking your physical and sexual inadequacies. These are some deeply damaging and manipulative games he’s playing. Meeting your child and moving in together at six months is awfully fast. I don’t think it should be a point of pride that your son has taken to calling him “daddy” so quickly. You deserve more from a partner, and your son deserves more from a potential co-parent. A longer screening period will go a long way towards protecting both you and your child from guys like this.—Danny M. Lavery

From: Help! My Boyfriend Is Great to My Son but Says I’m “Only an 8.5.” (March 15, 2016)

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Dear Prudence,

My amazing girlfriend of four years has been told that she will never have biological children. It was devastating to both of us. She is coming to terms with it and saying things like, “We can look into adoption.” While I’ve been trying to support her, the truth is, I’m now wondering if our relationship can make it. The more I think about adoption, the more uncertain I feel, and it would be unfair to adopt a child without being sure. I’ve researched a bit on surrogacy and donor eggs and all, and it sounds very complicated and expensive, and there’s no guarantee. I know this sounds cold and callous, but the whole infertility issue is beginning to look like a deal breaker for me. Am I being a jerk?

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If you were married, would you divorce her? If you would, there would be general agreement that you were quite the cad. If the situation were reversed and you both discovered you will never be able to father children, would you understand if she said adoption or donor sperm wasn’t for her and she was moving on? Despite being together for four years, you two apparently aren’t engaged, even though you’ve discussed having children, so you’ve left it ambiguous just what your articulated intentions were to your girlfriend. You’ve both just received devastating news, and the blow is infinitely heavier for her. If you do love her, you will take some time to absorb this news and slowly explore the consequences for both of you. This is made easier by the fact that you’re a guy, so you have more leeway to ponder questions of reproduction. Your girlfriend needs to find a support group so that she can talk about what’s happened to her with others who have been there. And before you run off you should honor your relationship by going together to a therapist who specialized in these issues. But you are entitled to your feelings and though you recognize they’re not noble, they are understandable. Pretending you don’t have them won’t do either of you any good in the long run. But with more knowledge and time, you may find this is not the fatal blow to your relationship it feels like now. Do keep in mind that if you leave her for more fertile pastures, you won’t actually know about your ability to have children with someone until you start trying.—Emily Yoffe

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From: Help! Should I Leave My Infertile Partner? (March 19, 2012)

Dear Prudence,

I have been with my boyfriend for four years, and he is my best friend as well as the man I love. He has a friend of 10 years who is extremely flirtatious, a massive womanizer, handsome, and charming. I had no interest in him, although we got along really well. A little over a year ago, he appeared at my apartment door drunk one night. He said he couldn’t afford a cab. I let him in so he could call my boyfriend to pick him up. After I rejected several of his advances, he raped me in my apartment. Before he left, he said if I told anyone, everyone would think it was consensual, given his reputation and my friendship with him. I never told anyone, and my boyfriend has never found out. The friend has since moved away. Over the last year, I have had repeated nightmares and panic attacks. I’m haunted by the other women this man may assault. My boyfriend only knows I’ve been going through a “rough patch,” but he doesn’t know why. He’s still in touch with this friend. I love my boyfriend so much, and I know he adores me, but I can’t tell him. He will believe his friend over me, and I will lose him forever. Not to mention that I was the one who let the man into my apartment. I feel I am close to cracking all the time. Since that night, my body won’t respond sexually at all. Although we have sex sporadically, I often have to go to the bathroom to cry afterward. My boyfriend is understandably frustrated and has offered to come with me to see a doctor. I’m horrified of the idea of anybody, therapist or otherwise, probing into my sex life. It would be kinder to finish the relationship so the wonderful, kind, and funny man I’m with can find somebody who can make him happy again, but I don’t want to lose him. I don’t know what to do, and I’ve paid a high price for my stupidity. Please help me.

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You did nothing wrong. Let me repeat: You did nothing wrong. Anyone in your situation would have let in a friend. But it turns out this man is a stone-cold rapist, a woman-hater, and likely a psychopath. You were violently assaulted and traumatized by this monster. But now it’s time for you to stop blaming yourself and get the professional assistance that will help you heal. First, call the hotline at RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. They will put you in touch with a local rape counseling center, where you can start the process of talking about what happened and finally being released from the state of trauma you’ve been in. You say the idea of talking about your rape is horrifying to you. But you wrote to me because you realized you could no longer carry this burden alone. Of course it will be painful to discuss, but it will be the beginning of feeling you’re getting your life back. Think how much it will mean to have professionals reassure you that none of this—none of this—is your fault. Next, you should talk to the police. It may be that it’s impossible now to prosecute your assault—again, that is not your fault—but the police should look into what happened, and at the least a file will have been opened on this man. You’re absolutely right that you weren’t his first victim, and he will strike again until someone is able to stop him. You also have to tell your boyfriend. If this prospect seems too overwhelming, a counselor can help you explain to him what happened. As horrifying as your story is, there will be a kind of terrible relief for him in understanding, finally, what’s been going on with you. If your boyfriend is the wonderful, caring person you say he is, he will be devastated to think he unwittingly brought this criminal into your life and you were too afraid to tell him what happened. If he doesn’t believe you and thinks you had some kind of consensual encounter with his creep of a friend, then your boyfriend is not the man you thought he was, and it’s time you moved on. You were attacked by a beast. Let’s hope he can be stopped so he won’t hurt anyone else.—EY

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From: Help! I Was Raped by My Boyfriend’s Friend. How Do I Tell My Boyfriend? (Oct. 10, 2013)

Dear Prudence,

I recently moved departments at work. My previous department had a traditionally masculine, “business bro” attitude that I was not comfortable with, and I was excited to move to my new department—it’s not ENTIRELY because my new department consists of primarily women (which will become relevant), but the environment in this department is much more focused and efficient, more supportive, progressive, friendly, and just generally a great place to work. The problem is that I’m a man, and although I absolutely love this new environment and fit in well with all of my colleagues who are women, there are one or two other men in this department who are constantly trying to befriend me because “It’s nice to have another guy around with all this estrogen,” and other similar (and, I think, insulting) reasons—particularly, one who makes a lot of effort trying to hang out with me or monopolize conversation with me at group meetings or events. I don’t want to be mean or overly dismissive to this co-worker, but he represents everything that I intentionally left behind in my old department. He’s rude, aggressive, insensitive to any but the most blatant problems that anyone else is having, and so on. I don’t want to judge him too harshly (maybe he’s a nice guy at heart!), but I really don’t want to get sucked into being his work buddy when, to be honest, I would much rather caucus with the women and the more thoughtful men of the office and help put an end to this type of behavior. I’m worried I’ll have to deal with him aggressively seeking me out at group events to the point that others in my office might start to associate me with his behaviors and not with my own efforts to blend into this department’s status quo. What can I do to separate myself from the few old school “business bro” men in my office?

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It’s a delicate proposition, declining to take a co-worker up on his offer of friendship, because the type of person who insists upon becoming chummy despite your lack of enthusiasm is also, often, the type who takes offense when you try to stay professional. Your best bet with this man, I think, is to become a blank wall, upon whose surface he can find no purchase. When he says things like, “It’s nice to have another guy around with all this estrogen,” smile blandly and say, “I’m sorry to hear that. I have no problem with estrogen.” When he seeks you out, answer his questions, but don’t ask any in return beyond the polite bare minimum, and don’t encourage his conversational gambits. Always be the first to excuse yourself from your talks with him: “Excuse me, but I think I see Sandra over there, and I’ve been meaning to ask her something. Nice talking to you.” Decline any requests he makes to socialize outside of work, and remain as neutral as possible whenever he speaks to you. Whether or not he gets the hint is outside of your control, but allow yourself to cut conversations with him short as often as necessary. It’s not rude to refuse to become besties with an overeager co-worker.—DL

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From: Help! I’d Rather Hang Out With the Women at Work Than the Other Men. (Nov. 8, 2016)

More From Dear Prudence

My friend is pregnant with her first and probably only child. This was a complete surprise, as she thought she couldn’t have children. The father is someone she dated for a few weeks. She has decided not to tell him about the pregnancy based on his behavior when they were dating. He made comments that she was dirty because she wanted to have sex. (He was OK with them having sex, however.) He talked creepily about how he wanted to protect and save her. Then she went on a camping trip with a group of friends, which included some guys, and he got very jealous. He called her a slut, said he wished her puppy would die, and hoped one of her friends got cancer. She ended the relationship then found out she was pregnant and she’s having the child. Her family supports her decision not to ever tell the father. But she asked my advice, and I’m torn. I think the guy is crazy, but she could use the financial support. Also, in the future the child will have many questions, and my friend will have to say she barely knew the father of her child. What do you think she should do?

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