Hi Jake—

I fell in love with a man and we’ve been together for 11 years. Recently, I happened to look at the messaging on his iPad and found that he was frequenting MassageRent, and had made multiple attempts at scheduling a massage. These text messages included requests for nude pictures, inquired about mutual touch, and nudity on the part of the masseur. The text messages were in fact pretty descriptive with photos of the masseur nude and included photos of my partner. He actually booked 2-3 different massages. When I found these, I was devastated. What bothered me most was I could determine based on the dates that these occurred a few days after our anniversary, or after weekends that we had been together and enjoyed our time together. When I confronted him on the situation, he initially denied it, but as I showed him the screenshots I had taken, he had to admit that he had in fact had a massage on a couple of occasions and had been jerked off. He stated it was in response to my negative, depressed mood. Needless to say, I asked him about the dates and timing, such as after our 11-year anniversary, but he basically defended it with, ‘He just needed physical touch, and it was nothing.’ So my question is—am I being crazy by having difficulty letting all this go?

Please advise,

Rubbed But Not Tugged

Dear Rubbed But Not Tugged,

Finding out that your partner had any kind of sexual contact outside of what’s supposedly a monogamous relationship will feel like a betrayal. It makes perfect sense that you are having trouble letting this go, and that you are looking for help understanding it more fully.

As far as “cheating” goes, some people might say that getting pleasured in a massage is a fairly benign infidelity. After all, there’s not a lot of actual intimacy happening there, such as might happen in a romantic affair or even a regular hook up on the DL. With erotic massage, the purpose is really about physical touch for the sake of getting off (hence your boyfriend’s “defense”).

However, that doesn’t necessarily make it feel any easier for you. The fact that your partner is doing this behind your back is likely what hurts the most. On the one hand, he’s saying to you how much he loves you by celebrating your 11-year anniversary together, yet he obviously feels he can’t be truthful with you about his deepest physical and sexual needs. That’s confusing and painful.

Being in a relationship for over a decade is a long time. While you may have a great relationship in many ways, clearly there is a lack of communication. You might have felt a lot different if he had come to you first with his desire for the “ma$$age” and a more “monogamish” relationship. While you still might have been surprised, and maybe taken it personally at first, you would have respected him for letting you in on his emotional life, and it would have given you the chance to work through it.

Trust is the number one ingredient in a healthy relationship, and trust is built by communication and generating a safe, non-judgmental space to bring forth all feelings and desires, no matter how difficult or complicated. This lack of communication was not just coming from his end, but yours as well. The fact that you were going through your partner’s tablet could feel to him like a betrayal and a lack of respect for his privacy.

It takes working together lovingly to create a safe space to bring up difficult subjects–without taking them personally–and you might want to consider couples counseling if you can’t talk this through as part of an ongoing discussion.

It didn’t feel good to find out that that your partner’s massage was about busting a nut more than kneading a knot, but I encourage you to use this experience to examine the communication style in your relationship.

It may need a little deep tissue work.

Jake Myers is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of Gay Therapy Space, an LGBTQ-owned and operated online therapy platform for clients and therapists marketed directly to the queer community, launching today in several states during Mental Health Awareness month.

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