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I need advice on how to get over/get my mind off of something that my boyfriend did before we were dating. My boyfriend (male, 24) and I (male, 22) have been dating for five months. He just recently told me that he has sent nudes (pictures and videos) to over 100 people. This is in a span of a few years before we have been together, up to right before we started getting serious. He told me this less than a week ago, and it’s something that I have not been able to stop thinking about. It is changing the way I view him and act toward him.
I knew he had sent nudes in the past. Right when we became “official,” he scrolled past a folder in his phone that had countless nude pictures and videos of other men. He deleted the folder, and I trust that he is not sending nudes anymore. What bothers me most is that 1) so many people have seen such a sensitive part of him; 2) if he sent it to that many people, odds are that there is some content of him online and still in the hands of many people; and 3) these people still follow him on social media, know who I am from his posts, and know that we are together.
I have never been one to openly send nudes to people, so I just don’t understand why he would want to do that to so many, even when single. The other day even, I scrolled past a nude photo of someone I don’t know on Twitter, and it turns out he has exchanged nudes with that person. That made it settle in for me how many people I might or might not come in contact with who have seen him like that. I really want to continue this relationship. He makes me happy, he is patient and understanding with me, and I believe I can trust him. I want to continue this relationship, but I don’t want to keep being miserable and keep thinking about how many people he has sent nudes to.
Before you and your boyfriend got serious, he was a single adult who enjoyed sharing photos of his body with other adults. I can understand how relationships can bring up fears and insecurities for anyone, and I don’t want to suggest the only possible response to your feelings is to berate yourself and get over it. But yes, strangers have seen your boyfriend’s naked body, and you cannot wipe their memories just because you are dating him now. It is also likely true that some of these strangers do not know he has a boyfriend. Some of those strangers may go on to post pictures of their own nude bodies. None of the people in question are doing anything wrong or seeking to get in the middle of your relationship. If you need to set stricter boundaries for your own Twitter/Instagram use in order to keep yourself from spiraling, please do so. If you want to tell your boyfriend that sometimes you feel insecure and that you need attention from him, please do so. But trying to resolve your own insecurities by attempting to clean-wipe his sexual history will never work; it won’t actually make you feel any safer, and it will only make him resent you. My fear here is that you believe your boyfriend has “too many” sexual options and as a result can’t really want you, and that your best course of action is to try to make him feel guilty for having enjoyed sending nudes so that he’s less likely to leave or cheat on you.
If the thing that bothers you the most is that “so many” people have seen him naked, I’m curious—what number of people that have seen him naked would have made you feel comfortable? What’s the correct number of people he should have sent nudes to? And what’s wrong with the number just above that? How is it changing the way you “view and act” toward him, and what are you hoping to get out of this new, changed behavior? Talk to him about your fears, certainly. But you’ll need to find a way to let go of your desire to control his past. —Danny M. Lavery
From: “Help! Way Too Many People Have Seen My Boyfriend Naked.” (Dec. 31, 2019)
I have now been with my lovely, wonderful, and smart girlfriend for nearly three years and I love her. We started dating as we were nearing graduation at different colleges. She has settled successfully into fashion merchandising, her area of study, while I have struggled to find a footing in a creative field after studying liberal arts. We enjoy each other’s company immensely and I am mostly content. But there is one thing that undermines my full contentment: She is uninterested in pursuing intellectual hobbies and interests outside her work and social life, while I am committed to discovering and pursuing cultural and intellectual stimulation. She has a naturally high intellect, but it would seem she has a lazy mind. She rarely reads anything but online articles, displays no interest in developing an ideological or political viewpoint, and ignores most news. I have encouraged her repeatedly to seek out books, hobbies, and pursuits of more cultural relevancy rather than shopping and being social with friends, but this is met with a shrug. Am I crazy for wanting to raise the bar of my intellectual entanglement as a necessary part of my romantic relationship with this girl? Or have my liberal arts studies and well-adjusted, progressive middle-class background made me a pretentious blowhard? Her family background is one of economic hardship, divorce, and no higher education.
The question you pose has an inherently paradoxical nature. It is perfectly reasonable to want a partner you feel shares your intellectual bent; you’re also a pretentious blowhard. You say your girlfriend has a lazy mind, but your being unemployed (and apparently not having to worry about student debt) leaves you with many hours to devote to perfecting your intellect. She’s actually busy with her career, which must be as satisfying as it is necessary since you say she comes from a family with no financial resources. You put her down for enjoying shopping and hanging out with friends. But since she’s in the fashion industry, shopping is part of her continuing education and a professional necessity. Maybe she also has more friends than you do; I’m liking her better than I like you. However lazy you say her mind is, I bet your girlfriend understands that though you can transform someone’s fashion style, you can’t remake someone else’s mind. If you wish you could totally do over the way your beloved thinks, maybe you need to apply your own intellectual firepower to the question of whether you really love her. —Emily Yoffe
From: “Help! My Husband Tried to Record My Friend Undressing.” (Nov. 7, 2013)
My wife just completed her Ph.D. program after almost eight years. I’m so proud of her, and she is really happy to have finished and defended her dissertation. She’s used the same laptop since at least a year before her program started. In that time it’s gotten a new battery and a new hard drive because she couldn’t afford a brand-new computer. My wife has said for the past year or so that it seems to be on its last legs and that she’ll be sad to throw it out. Well, the time came, and it stopped functioning. The thing is she’s gotten increasingly upset about her laptop’s “death.” When she wiped the hard drive, she cried a little. We took it to a tech store for recycling, and as the guy took it behind the desk, she watched it like it was a dog about to be euthanized. When the guy disappeared with it and we heard a “clunk,” she turned to me and said, “I know I sound like a lunatic, but I feel like it’s hurting,” and sobbed in my arms. She’s usually so calm and collected. I know transitioning out of her program has been a big change, but I don’t know what to do about her feelings about this laptop. She already sees a counselor. What’s going on, and how can I help?
Oh, this is sweet and endearing! I think you should ask this exact question (“How can I help?”) of your wife. She knows that she’s anthropomorphizing this laptop and that there’s something a little absurd about the situation, so I don’t think you have to worry that you’ll be encouraging any sort of reality-denying tendencies if you engage with her feelings on the subject. This was a very loyal companion during a huge, consequential, likely stressful part of her life. Millions of people saw Wall-E and cried over a drawing of a robot (see also The Brave Little Toaster), so I don’t think there’s anything especially unusual about your wife forming an emotional attachment to a laptop. People like to imbue objects with emotional significance! It’s a big part of being human! And it’s right and proper to try to engage someone on that front!
I think it’s lovely that you want to help, just be sure to stress first that she doesn’t have to try to downplay her own feelings: “I know you know that a laptop’s an inanimate object, so please don’t feel like you have to call yourself a ‘lunatic’ or beat yourself up for having an emotional response to losing it. I want to help support you in this. Do you want to talk at all about what that last recycling appointment felt like for you? What you loved about the laptop, and what you’ll miss?” Make her a cup of tea, listen, talk her through it. I don’t think you’re going to have to do anything more challenging than smiling sympathetically and nodding when she talks about saying goodbye to something that helped her get through grad school. —D.L.
From: “Help! My Wife Fears Her Laptop—an Inanimate Object—Endured a Painful Death.” (Nov. 5, 2019)
I am the middle of three boys and we are all in our 20s. Our parents separated shortly after my younger brother was born and eventually they went through a bitter divorce. Recently, my father, brothers, and I went to a camping-style family wedding together. The facilities were spartan and we all ended up in a communal shower. I’m sure this was the first time all four of us were naked together, and it was certainly the first time I’d seen my younger brother naked since he was little. In the shower, there was a definite “one of these things is not like the other” moment. While my older brother, dad, and myself have fairly similar, if modest, endowments, my younger brother’s male parts were noticeably different (and “better”) than ours in almost every way possible: size, shape, even complexion (!). It was like seeing a great white whale breaching alongside dolphins. None of us look strikingly like our parents, but we are clearly brothers, except for this newly discovered alien appendage on my younger brother. At the reception, my older brother brought this up to me immediately, and we worked out the theory that mom had an affair that gave rise to my baby brother, and his decidedly different genitalia, and the divorce. I don’t think full brothers could have such variation, and the fact that my younger brother’s package is a definite upgrade plays into the theory that maybe mom was shopping around for a better deal. We’d really like to get to the bottom of this, but we’re not sure how to broach this already difficult topic with either parent when our only evidence consists of this sensitive observation.
It’s the Johnson brothers, Willie, Peter, and Rod! You and your brother got quite an eyeful of baby bro’s one-eyed wonder. I wish I knew what you meant by the superior “complexion” of your brother’s endowment. I’m just supposing that his Moby-Dick gives off a rosy glow due to excess blood flow. There are several ways to approach your central question: Did your mother give your father the shaft? First of all, you seem to be of the opinion that sexual characteristics are inherited only from the parent of the same sex. But genital size, like eye color and height, are traits inherited from both parents. It’s perfectly possible that your mother comes from a family of three-legged men and you and your older brother got the short end of that genetic lottery. You have one ambiguous (though substantial) piece of evidence for your theory that your parents’ divorce was due to your mother’s infidelity. But maybe your mother discovered that while she was gestating your father’s third son, he was the one cheating on her. Despite the nastiness of your parents’ parting, they have kept the reason quiet all these years. Since all of you boys appear to have been happily incurious about their split these many years, it’s probably a good idea to remain that way. You want to establish that your baby brother isn’t really a member of the tribe. But pursuing your hunch will only make a cock-up of things because nothing can change the fact that your father has always embraced all of you as his three sons. —E.Y.
From: “Help! My Brother’s Giant Genitals Make Me Doubt We Have the Same Father.” (May 16, 2013)
More Advice From Dear Prudence
My dad has just bought a house with his girlfriend, who is half his age, and moved in with her and her two elementary school–aged children. I have not met them, as they have been together less than a year. I will meet her over the holidays (while thankfully staying at my mom’s). I do not have a great relationship with my dad, but I love him and want to preserve the relationship we have, especially for the sake of my own young children.