I’m a bi girl about to turn 30. I’ve faked my way through my first five-year relationship, a fact I am not proud of. (I partially blame my strict protestant upbringing.) Since then I’ve been better about sharing with new partners that I don’t come easily "with company." I have achieved orgasm with the occasional partner since, never as easily as I come alone.

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For the past few years I've dated people for just a few months. Usually, I wound up breaking up with them due to a lack of chemistry or the fact that they were assholes who didn’t text me back. But I'm pretty sure I'm afraid of commitment and that I've been subconsciously pushing people away based on trivialities. Also, I suspect that not climaxing with my partners has something to do with the same inability to surrender. I mistrust my feelings, as they can flip suddenly from attraction to repulsion. It's currently happening with a guy I’m seeing now. I’ve opened up to him about being scared of commitment, and he’s responded kindly and patiently. I find him attractive, intelligent, and funny, but I can be suddenly find myself repulsed by how he kisses me (too much tongue), how he touches me, and how hovers over me. I get past those feelings by fantasizing about him manipulating or "forcing" me (something I’m turned on by in porn) or by taking control of him myself: pushing him down, removing his grabby hands from me, "using him" by riding him while refusing to kiss him or touch him in any other way.

I felt safe enough with him to express my fear of commitment but I don’t want to tell him I feel repulsed by him sometimes. That sounds so harsh! Yet I’m tired of questioning my own feelings and feeling alienated from people I thought I liked. Am I sabotaging myself? Should I trust my feelings as they occur, or endure the flashes of aversion while opening myself up to someone and “treat” my fear of commitment through exposure?

Hopeful Exposure Alleviates This Heated Emotional Nerve

If you don't say something, HEATHEN, this relationship—your relationship with this attractive, intelligent, and funny guy—is doomed. Because the more times you endure his touch (or his tongue) when it suddenly repulses you, the likelier it becomes that any and all touch (or tongue) of his will come to repulse you.

Which means you have literally nothing to lose by leveling with him.

But I don't think you should say, "There are times when your touch and/or tongue suddenly repulse/repulses me," as 1. no one wants to hear that and 2. he'll be too self-conscious to ever touch you again after hearing that. And you don't want him never to touch you, HEATHEN, because you aren't always repulsed by his touch, right? It's only sometimes and only suddenly. Presumably there are times when his touch/tongue feel good and you don't want to deprive yourself of those times. But you can't quite predict when you'll enjoy his touch/tongue and when you won't.

So... instead of telling him that he literally repulses you at times, HEATHEN, try telling him that at times you want—you need—more control over when and how he touches you. Where he puts his hands, how he kisses you, how close he gets to you. Don't pathologize yourself ("I'm broken!") or shame him ("You're doing it wrong!"). Instead frame your need to occasionally shut something down or redirect it as a very real need but something that two can playfully incorporated into your sexual dynamic. Basically, HEATHEN, ask him how he feels about following orders now and then. And if he's into it, great. Then make telling him what to do—or what to stop doing—a low-key part of your erotic script.

To be clear, HEATHEN, this isn't about making it a game to entertain him. This is serious—you need the ability to redirect or suspend physical contact for your own sense of comfort and to preserve your desire for him. Making it playful doesn't mean it isn't important. And to be clearer still: If you don't like something or something that felt right yesterday is making you feel bad today, you have an absolute right to shut it down at any time, and you don't have to make it fun for the other person.

But if you're with someone you could see making it fun with...

When he's kissing you and you're into it, great. He can keep kissing you. If he's touching you and you're not feeling repulsed, great. He can keep touching you. (And you can keep kissing and touching him.) But when you feel repulsed when he's kissing you, you can pull away and say, "I don't want to be kissed right now," or, "I'd rather to be kissed like this." If he's touching you or hovering and you start to feel repulsed, you can tell him that right now he can look but he can't touch—in fact, he's not to touch you until you give him permission to touch you. And there may be times when you want to—and get to—touch him but he doesn't get to touch you. (With his consent to be touched, of course, and blah blah blah.)

My guess is that having an out when those feelings of repulsion suddenly come on—if you could direct or redirect or suspend the action at those times without it being a big deal or maybe with it being a sexy deal—those feelings of repulsion would come on less frequently and be less intensely felt when they did come on. It's like a bottom having a safe word during a BDSM scene: knowing they can redirect the action or end the scene with a word paradoxically makes a sub less likely to panic and want to end the scene when things get a little intense.

As for your fear of commitment issues... yeah, I see them at play here in the false choice for set up for yourself: you can endure your boyfriend's physical attention when it (or he) is making you uncomfortable is you can end the relationship. To not try something else—like, oh, leveling with your boyfriend instead—you are essentially sabotaging the relationship.

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